Kale Pesto and Smug Salad: Beyond Kale Chips

Tonight I had one of those “Oh crap, what can I make for dinner??” moments…long after the time I should have already started cooking dinner.

I am meal planning these days and have been using Six O’Clock Scramble but recently switched to eMeals (review coming soon!!), but even so, this week things fell apart. Last night I made boxed mac-and-cheese (Annie’s, at least) for the kids. I NEVER make them boxed mac-and-cheese. It’s absolute emergency food, in my opinion. My special snowflakes only eat wholesome fresh dinners made from organic scratch.

Except, you know, last night.

And then my husband, when he got home, suggested that he go pick up burritos or maybe order from our favorite Szechuan place, and I pointed out that now that we’re sending one child to private school, I’m going to be the budget bitch. I pointed to the can of Trader Joe’s Turkey Chili on the counter.

Granted, they could really brighten up their label. It’s dismal, black and dark red, like something you only eat if you hate yourself and it’s raining out and you’re in a sad motel room alone with a plastic spoon. He promised to keep our Szechuan order in check, but I got too hungry to wait and opened that can.

The chili, once heated, was pretty good. I added the kids’ leftover frozen-but-heated-now-cooled veggies (sorry, at this point are you wondering why I ever claimed to be a locavore foodie or a one-time chef in a fancy restaurant? I promise, I am the former and was the latter. It’s just that these days, sometimes I just have to cope, like last night).

Tonight, though, I rocked it so hard in the spontaneous dinner department. Once again, the afternoon got away from us, so I left the kids out in the yard* and went up to cook.

I took some kale, put it into the blender with plenty of olive oil, added raw pumpkin seeds and some nutritional yeast, garlic, and salt, and blended away. The resulting kale pesto was spectacular.


I ate this for lunch today, spread on bread.


Then, I was determined to cook out of our cabinets (since it was way past dinnertime and I had to think fast and there was no time to thaw anything) and ended up making food that the kids loved. Why have I bothered with “fancy” recipes for tomato ragu (“I hate this pasta! I want spaghetti, not fettuccine!”) or lemon chicken and couscous with spinach, feta, and pine nuts (“What is this gross stuff?? Get it off my plate!”**) when I could have been tossing hot dogs at them all week?

Meanwhile, I cooked whole-wheat shells, adding frozen peas and corn near the end. I drained it, added canned salmon and olive oil and grated Parmesan, and served it, holding my breath.


They loved it so much Ben ate it for lunch today, too…as did I.

They LOVED it.

As Max asked for his third plateful, he said, “Mom, you know what would be really good with this? That green sauce.” He meant standard basil pesto but I offered him some kale pesto. Unfortunately, he got a big chunk of raw garlic (“too spicy!!”), so I offered him basil pesto instead.

Ben wanted both kinds of pesto and ended up eating the kale pesto with his hands (this is how the child gets away with everything–because if you are willing to eat raw kale pesto by the handful, child, you are the winner).

I, of course, doused my plateful of pasta with the kale pesto and later ate some remaining kale pesto with a spoon. WHAT??

So here is the basic rule: If you have kale, you need olive oil and some salt. Cooked, raw, roasted, whatever– with those three ingredients, you rule the world.

We get olive oil in big jugs. I really think we should buy the gallon cans, except I worry about BPA.

We get olive oil in big jugs. I really think we should buy the gallon cans, except I worry about BPA.

I also made what I’m calling Smug Salad: raw kale, half a red onion, the old red cabbage from the lower left produce drawer (chopped), sliced scallions (because don’t you just feel smug using kale and the tired veggies from your fridge…plus nutritional yeast??). Massage chopped kale leaves with olive oil. Add the other stuff. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and sea salt and raw pumpkin seeds. Spritz with fresh lemon juice and serve, knowing you are an acai berry and some pomegranate away from Utter Superfood Salad.

kale cabbage

[One other confession: This kale was from a bag. Whole Foods sells these 16-oz. bags of washed, torn kale. It’s awesome if you haven’t made it to the farmer’s market in a while and you want kale in a hurry and you just can’t deal with washing it because your sink is full of dishes.]

Why didn’t I take a picture of the finished salad? I don’t know! But it is beautiful.

*This is kind of a huge deal if you live in the city and your yard isn’t fenced. But I could hear them the whole time and occasionally popped down for surprise checks. They, as directed, stayed in the backyard and did not kill or blind each other with sticks. And I got to make dinner. Win-win-win!!

**Oh yes, that got sent him away from the table IMMEDIATELY.

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