Adventures in Grocery Shopping: I am Kale Lady! [How do you eat your greens?]

by Charlotte on November 6, 2012 · 59 comments

Now this is a real kale lady. Thank heavens her grocery store carried more than four bunches or she’d be in a salad bikini… like all the rest of the PETA girls. Also? I find this guy strangely creepy. I hope she made him pick a piece from the bottom of her dress. 

Gasp. “It’s YOU!” The grocery checker stared at me with a look of both reverence and horror.

“It is… me,” I said tentatively. “Are you, you?” I was waiting – a little hopefully – for what was coming next. Message from Michelle Obama on Mars? Advice on transcendental meditation? A theory on life, the universe and everything? I’m telling you, the most entertaining people I meet are in grocery stores. That’s probably why I go shopping so often. (Yeah, that’s totally why. It has absolutely nothing to do with how much fun my kids and I have trying on neon-colored slap watches.)

“You’re the Kale Lady!” he exulted. Leaning over to the next lane he hollered at the girl, “Amy, it’s the Kale Lady! I finally got the Kale Lady!” She grinned and waved at me.

“I’m so honored?” I replied, still confused.

“Okay, so we each have our theory but I think it’s guinea pigs.” He looked at me expectantly.

“Guinea pigs…?” I asked, realizing that Jelly Bean was taking full advantage of my distraction and was now efficiently stuffing her pockets with packages of lip balm. (Holy crap that child loves her “lips”. And you should see the blissed out look on her face every time she indulges in a little Bonne Bell moment.)

“All that kale you buy. You must have a lot of guinea pigs, right? I mean, Joe in produce thinks it’s because you’re some kind of health nut really into juicing. But Maya in the deli is sure you’re using it as an herbal remedy – she read on the internet that it’s really good for your thyroid if you dry it and make it into tea. But me, I think it’s pet food.”

Kale tea? My brain tried to picture that one for a minute (It sounds awful, right? But maybe it’s good? I’ve drank stranger things.) and then I realized what they were talking about. A creature of habit, I always frequent the same couple of stores and 9 times out of 10 it’s Target because, hello, where else can you buy organic chicken, goat’s milk, dry-erase markers, windshield wipers and a bright blue Jason Wu clutch that will match exactly one outfit in my closet? (Note to self: stay away from the accessorizes department.) But deceptively cheap designer goods aside, my first stop is always the produce department where – every time – I clean out their kale section. It’s true. I buy however many bunches they have out there (usually between 4 and 6). I just grab the whole lot, shove them in a bag from the floral department (they’re bigger) and go my merry way to check out the Christmas lights aisle. (I am drawn to those new sparkly LED lights like Mariah Carey to Hello Kitty.)

I never thought much of it. But clearly the staff at Target had.

“Actually,” I said, turning bright red, “it’s none of the above. Although Joe-from-Produce is probably the closest.” Amy high-fived Joe who had wandered over to join the conversation. “I just eat it.”

“Who eats five bunches of kale a week?” Checker Guy yelled, clearly upset he’d lost the weird-customer bet of the day.

“I do. My kids do.” And while it was tempting to just leave it there and make them all think I was some ultra healthy mom-warrior who had so disciplined her children that they beg for leafy greens (never mind the little dirty one with hair in her face that had now moved on to shoving packages of fruit snacks down her pants), I clarified, “I make a lot of kale chips.”

“And those are good?” Joe-from-Produce asked.

I nodded. “So delicious in fact that I once took them to a dinner party and not only did the hostess love them so much that she ate every last one but she kept my bowl too.” (You know who you are! I keep waiting for a ransom note but in the meantime if it were to mysteriously appear on my doorstep full of kale – or a bright blue Jason Wu dress with exposed zippers – I could be convinced to forget the whole bowl-napping affair.)

“How do you make them?” Amy asked.

“It’s so super easy. Not even I can mess them up. And I’m the girl who once made cookies that came out looking like turds – from a person with a fiber fetish.”

1. Cut the rib out of the kale leaves.

2. Chop or tear the kale into medium-sized pieces.

3. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and sea salt – just eyeball it.

4. Bake at 350 until crispy. (Watch them closely as they go from green to burnt faster than Katy Perry changes hair colors.)

5. Eat and enjoy. (They get crispier as they cool.)

Bonus: You can doll them up in all kinds of ways! Vegan cheezy kale chips, chocolate coconut kale chips, primal kale chips, cinnamon crunch kale chips, baked parmesan kale chips, spicy kale chips… you get the idea.

Not only is this my favorite way to eat my kale, it’s about the only way I eat it. It’s not bad in smoothies – you stick enough fruit in anything and it will taste decent. It good sauteed or in stir-fries. It’s really not good in salads. It’s tough and chewy and adult kale (that is the opposite of baby kale, yes?) has a slightly bitter flavor when eaten raw. Unless you grow it in your backyard like my awesome gardening husband did – and then it fraternized with the habanero plant on those hot summer nights and you end up with ultra spicy kale. Yowza.

But this greens-into-chips process doesn’t work with everything. On a whim one day I tried swiss chard, mustard greens and beet tops. No dice. I just got a soggy mess. So those I usually stick to stir frying. So I need some new ideas! And quick, before I get any more crazy comments at the store.

Do you love the kale too? What is your fave type of greens? How do you eat it? What’s the strangest thing anyone’s ever said to you in a grocery store?

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Averie @ Averie Cooks November 6, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Well hello there long lost pal! Thanks for the kale chip linky love! This reminds me I need to make some – it’s been far too long! And yes, I do love kale! Salads, chips, in dips, you name it, I am a fan!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm

You were the first girl I thought of when it comes to kale chips!

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Jess November 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Haha love that you’re the kale lady! I love it too but I dont think I’ve reached that grocery store status… Yet!

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Alyssa (Azusmom) November 7, 2012 at 1:17 am

I LOOOOOVE kale chips, especially the vegan cheezy kind! Our local Whole Foods also makes a kale/avocado salad that is amazing. I’m not sure how they get the kale to be not-so-bitter-and-chewy, and they’re not telling, unfortunately. Otherwise I’d pass that recipe right along. (I’ll keep working on them!)
During my first pregnancy I was wearing some pain-splattered overalls that my husband’s then-boss had given me (she painted ads in store windows). The clerk asked if I was a painter, so I told her the story of the overalls, and she said “Let me give you some advice: the next time someone asks if you’re a painter, just say yes.” It was so rude and so condescending! I think I wrote a letter o the manager.
‘Cause really, if ya don’t wanna know, don’ ask! And, specifically, don’ ask a pregnant woman! :)

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Oooh – that does sound amazing! If you get your hands on the recipe def. send it my way! And I swear pregnancy brings out the crazy in other people. I got the strangest comments of my life when i was expecting!

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Erin November 7, 2012 at 1:28 am

Hey!! That picture is in my city- that’s Adelaide (South Australia), on North Terrace in front of the State Art Gallery. What a strange thing to see a picture of our sidewalk on your blog :)

On another note, I do love kale and I usually eat it in a salad with peanut dressing…mmmm!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm

NO WAY!!! That’s awesome! I’ll update the post with your comment under the pic! I found it on another blog and it was uncredited. Your city seems like a pretty fun place!

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Erin November 7, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Adelaide is pretty great :) It’s like a big country town where everyone knows each other, but it’s also got amazing arts festivals and our Fringe is one of the biggest and best in the world!

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Sue November 7, 2012 at 1:31 am

Great story! Grocery stores are really fun. We have a small one right across the street from our house, and I shop there at least once a week. So the ladies already know me. Once I bought a pair of small 2-lbs dumbbells there, and the elderly lady at the check-out commented on how heavy they were. I then explained to her that those were my lightest pair and that I have much heavier ones at home. She looked shocked!
It’s so sad that kale is so hard to find in South Germany! I want to make kale chips, too!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Two-pounders are heavy?? Oh my. Maybe you inspired that women to pick up weight lifting? And South Germany has so many other delicious foods there! Although all the sausage doesn’t exactly count as a veggie I suppose;)

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Karen November 7, 2012 at 1:55 am

Okay I admit I’ve never had kale – but am now determined to find some and make kale chips !

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Doooooo iiiiiiiiittttt! ;)

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Ruth November 7, 2012 at 4:28 am

I love homemade kale chips but I’m usually too lazy to make them. If you keep them too long (3 days?) they get soggy. I had hoped to make chips I could keep around all week. Although, I usually want to eat them all up as soon as I make them…and then realize I just ate a ridiculous amount of kale!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

So true. Ours get eaten in the first day, maybe two so we don’t have that issue. But you’re right, they do not store well!

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Heather @ Bake, Run, Live November 7, 2012 at 8:00 am

I made them once and really didn’t enjoy them- bitter tasting. I don’t eat any dark greens (other than raw spinach), so maybe I just need to get used to the taste?
Thanks for all the links. I guess I need to try making them again!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm

You know,I’ve never had the bitterness issue with the chips. I have with using kale in other recipes. What kind of oil did you use?

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JavaChick November 7, 2012 at 8:16 am

I’ve made kale chips a couple of times and they were good, but mostly I’m too lazy to do it. We have been buying a salad kit at Costco that includes Kale and it’s pretty good.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I love those Costco salad kits!

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Bethany November 7, 2012 at 9:04 am

I like kale chips but I think they’re a little overrated! Lately I’ve been sauteing them. Heat up a little olive oil, add some minced garlic, then add in the kale and a little vegetable broth. Once the kale has softened and soaked up all the broth, add in some balsamic vinegar, stir, and top with salt. It’s pretty tasty!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I’d totally eat that! Invite me over for dinner already;)

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Happier Heather November 7, 2012 at 9:11 am

I don’t think I have any good grocery store stories! Sounds like fun!

But, at one of my previous job, there was a Chinese place around the corner that I would order from once a week. Sometimes I would order Diet Pepsi and sometimes I would order Diet Coke, but always the same food order. Pepper Steak with garlic sauce.

After a few weeks, the employee (owner?) would answer the phone. He must have had caller ID because he would say, ” Pepper steak with garlic sauce, yes?” I’d say yes and he’d say, “Diet Coke or Diet Pecksi?” I’d tell him my beverage choice and he’d say how long it would take to be ready.

One day I ordered Diet Coke and they were out when I went to pick up my order so when I walked in he said, “No coke, I give you two Pecksi, okay?”

I miss him. He was SO nice!!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I love that story! I love all those little connections we make with people:) And… now I want pepper steak with garlic sauce. That sounds amazing.

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Emily November 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

I hear you re: salads, but let me tell you: it’s all about MASSAGING the kale. This transforms it into a texture almost like a seaweed salad. My favorite is to get bottle fattoush dressing and massage the crap out of a huge bowl of kale and raw broccoli– the volume decreases significantly, and the kale wilts. It’s soft and delicious and super tasty. MASSAGE!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Ooh that sounds delish! And kind of therapeutic too with all the massaging;) I will totally try it!

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Julie November 7, 2012 at 10:42 am

I love kale too, but I’ve only made the chips once. Usually I just sautee with garlic and chili flakes. Its great in omlettes, pasta, stirfry. To make it really good add a little of your favorite pork product(bacon, sausage, etc)
I don’t buy produce at the grocery store much anymore, but I used to love to stump the checker with as many odd herbs, peppers mushrooms etc. I would chuckle when they would have to look up every item.
Its funny that you would buy this at Target.. I have to admit that I did not understand why they sold groceries there until I had a kid.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Haha, I love playing stump the checker! And I was a checker!! Also, I’ve found that the quality of Target food totally depends on where you are. In Seattle I’d never buy produce there! It was subpar. But here in Minnesota, the heart of corporate Target, they can get downright swanky;)

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Nicky November 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

I love kale. I have my son and everyone at the gym addicted to kale chips (I do cheesy vegan ones in a dehydrator). I haven’t made them for a while, though, because organic kale (one of the few foods I insist on buying organic because it’s on the “Dirty Dozen” list) is really expensive right now. I grow my own in summer (although it inevitably falls prey to voracious slugs), so the sticker shock of the organic stuff is substantial. I may have to rethink the organic thing and just buy the regular stuff.
BTW, you should check out the website “Eat More Kale.”

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Ha – I didn’t even know there was a site dedicated to kale! I will check it out!!

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sara-hare November 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

Those sound tasty. Have to stay away from excess kale for a while though, because I’m on coumadin for six months for a blood clot. (Following an ACL/meniscus tear. Let me tell you, having a period started by getting surgery done, while on blood thinners, after going off birth control… floods of blood. Endless. My cramps were so bad by the second day they outranked the knee pain. Being a woman is SO much fun! ) (And ACL tears happen more often to women, too.) :/
PS. I wasn’t on blood thinners during the actual surgery, in case anyone’s worried – I was on lovenox pre- and post-, but stopped for that day, since it has a 12-hour window. (The stomach bruises from the needles made me look like some hard-core druggie, to my boyfriend’s horrified amusement.)

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Ooh good point about not eating too many cruciferous veggies if you’re on blood thinners! So sorry about all the side effects – I hoep the surgery worked?

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sara-hare November 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm

So far so good! I’ve started walking again (after ten and a half weeks on crutches… that’ll make you appreciate not only your legs but having free hands), with help from physical therapy. My new graft won’t have revascularized for another eight weeks, so have to be extra careful until then, but being able to walk is awesome.
Moral of the story is not to push when you know you’re too tired… I tore my acl jumping into a handstand. I’d been too tired to do them well, so literally told myself “Just one more” – but do it hard, make it count… I made it count, all right.
I know you tend to push yourself, Charlotte, so please be careful and don’t do what I did! (At least try not to do anything that could over-extend your knee when you’re tired.)
Hope you’re doing well after your rough week last week.

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Crabby McSlacker November 7, 2012 at 11:45 am

Kale freak here too! Addicted to the chips, toss it in stir fries and soups, and recently discovered the whole rub-lemon-and-olive oil-into it trick for making it usable for salads.

Kale rocks! Such a bonus that it’s so freakin’ good for you too.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Are you a kale massager too?! How did I never know about this before?

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Abby November 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Mmmm, kale chips. Except last time I had an upset stomach I’d eaten a bunch of kale chips with dinner the night before and let me tell you, tasting your kale chips 18 hours later is enough to make you not want them for a while. It’s been a couple of months and I still can’t face the thought!

I came to the same realization about arugula, it does not chip well either :)

And I feel you on the grocery store! I swear every time I get asked what some piece of produce I’m buying is. Sometimes I understand but last week it was an artichoke. Ummmm. I guess that’s why they only every have about 4 of them. Does make me miss CA! That never happened to me there.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm

I KNOW! When I lived in Seattle it was produce heaven and I never fully appreciated the bounty until we moved here where the only things that grow naturally are snow cones… Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve eaten a star fruit? Lychee nut?? Sigh.

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Nicole November 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Kale goes great in frittatas. It doesn’t get soggy and taste super strong like spinach. Some mushrooms, onion, kale and sausage sautéed with garlic and salt and then cooked into a egg and egg white frittata is heaven. I also like it in soup. The tough texture that makes it hard to eat raw makes it great for cooking.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm

This is brilliant! I love frittatas! I will totally try this one!

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Struggles with a fat A November 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I love that the various Target staff have guesses on why you need so much kale. I’ve heard about kale chips and never tried them, maybe I will have to!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Yeah I love living in a small(ish) town:)

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Geosomin November 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Love the kale chips. For regular eating Kale tho before I cook with it, it’s better and sweeter if you freeze it a few hours before you eat it. Breaks down the toughness a bit and adds more natural flavours to it…

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Oh I would have never thought of freezing! I love it! Thank you!

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Meghan@themeghamix November 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Not sure if this is an insult or a compliment…but I love reading your blog because you always make me feel less weird! We get a bag of pre-cut, pre-washed (we both work…what can I say?) kale at Trader Joe’s every week. I used to try to pretend I liked it sauteed with scrambled eggs, but recently we found this killer smoothie recipe and have it several times a week! http://www.petiteathleat.com/2012_09_30_archive.html

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I actually have guar gum!!! I am so totally making this one – it looks delish. And you can call me weird anytime, in my world that’s a compliment! Weirdos unite!

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Sabrina November 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I once had a checker at Costco ask me if I had a horse, or a juicer because I was buying carrots and apples. (I said neither). And someone at a health food store once asked me if I was shopping for a cancer patient because I was buying so much produce. I said no, we just like to eat a lot of produce so we don’t get cancer in the first place! People are funny. I add kale to soup, spaghetti, baby food and anything else I can get away with throwing it in.

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sara-hare November 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm

That’s really sad, that they thought you were shopping for a cancer patient because you had a lot of produce… I guess they don’t get much produce in their life. We live in a rural southern area, and it’s really, really hard to find vegetables around here. Some grocery stores don’t even have onions or potatoes. The poverty-stricken people around here don’t even have a choice whether to buy vegetables or not. So awful.

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I can’t decide if that’s more funny or sad… And I love that you make your own baby food! If people knew how easy it was they’d never buy the bottled stuff!

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Patricia November 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I burn kale chips :( Almost every single time. I’ve kind of given up and moved onto roasted chick peas instead. They are much more forgiving!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I’ve only tried roasted chickpeas once and I burned them, lol! I think you just inspired me to try again though

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Matt November 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I love Kale chips!

Although I’ll let my male ego take over and try and one-up ya.

I’ve recently become addicted to these seaweed snacks. They are very light (in weight and calories) but they satisfy like potato chips. If you’re at all a sushi lover you’ll love ‘em. Just don’t make the mistake I made and eat 3 packets in an evening. I was drinking water like a fish!

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Charlotte November 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm

So funny you should bring those up! My 8-year-old requested them since his Chinese friend at school always has them for snack. I found a box at Costco (go big or go home, right?) and have totally fallen in love with them too!

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Jody - Fit at 54 November 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm

OMG – the kale lady – so funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I really have to try it & the recipes. I just never have gotten there as much as I write & tweet how healthy it is… time for me to try.. we shall see – maybe in 2013! :)

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Jonathan Aluzas November 8, 2012 at 9:47 am

A great example of the depths to which the excitement level of my life has descended is the fact that I’m really stoked about growing my own kale this year. I used to be known for the speed with which I could beer-bong a six pack of Natural Light, now I get all “Christmas morning” over the greens I cultivate in my back yard. Sad, but good, I suppose. I’m old.

Not a fan of kale chips, I’m sorry to report. But I love to throw it into a smoothie or mix it into a salad.

The most embarrassing thing said to me in a grocery store was what wasn’t said. In my broke-ass 20′s, with a basket full of food, my debit card getting rejected, and re-rejected, and another card rejected, and the sad, silent look on the face of the checker as I re-holstered my wallet and slunk away, leaving all of the unpaid food at the register…..

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Rachel November 11, 2012 at 1:28 am

I am so surprised no one has mentioned soup! Kale is excellent in just about any soup. And in anything with a tomato base. I especially like it in minestrone. And I make a lasagna for my father with lentils, tofu and kale. I can’t leave the grocery store without at least three different types of greens. I also do an asian style stirfry with any type of greens: saute with garlic, ginger, add a spash of rice vinegar and soy sauce, and finish with a drizzle of dark sesame oil. I used to live in an apartment that had a weekly farmer’s market literally on our doorstep. I definitely miss that!

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AthleteAgain November 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

Awesome photo. Great story. Thanks for the recipe. I’ll be sure to try it.

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Ashley November 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

This is my favorite kale salad recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/oscars/bestpicturemenus11/recipes/food/views/Lacinato-Kale-and-Ricotta-Salata-Salad-236940.

I’ve converted more than one non-Kale lover with it!

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Charlotte November 15, 2012 at 12:50 am

Ooh thank you! I will def. try it! It looks delish!

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