In the same the family as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage, kale gets gold stars in the nutrition department. Kale is packed with vitamins, calcium and cancer-fighting compounds. Although kale is available all year, it is especially plentiful this time of year which means that it is über cheap too. I picked up a huge bunch today in the produce department for under a dollar making kale a better buy than lettuce or spinach. Score!!
So, I’ve decided we should all add kale to our diet. But not if that means dressing it up with a ton of fat. Take, for example, the Chicken and Kale Casserole in Martha Stewart’s November issue of Everyday Food. What is there not to love about a casserole combining chicken and kale?? Well…how about the 48 ounce container of ricotta cheese that the recipe called for. Martha, Martha, Martha. What the heck are you thinking?? Seriously, who puts that much ricotta cheese in any dish unless its my brother-in-law’s 19 pound lasagna??
I really liked the idea of the recipe so I made a few changes. I reduced the amount of ricotta and added a white sauce made of milk and flour to meld it all together. My version (FTW) comes in at a third fewer calories and half the fat of the original.
- 1 large bunch kale (4 to 6 cups)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 12 ounces large pasta shells
- 12 ounces diced chicken
- 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Chop the kale into pieces, discarding the ribs and any woody stems. Place the kale in a large microwave safe bowl with a lid. Add about 1/2 cup water to the bottom. Cover and steam the kale for about 5 minutes in the microwave (see Kat’s tip below)
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook pasta according to directions. Drain and keep warm.
- In same pan, melt butter over medium heat
- Stir in onions and garlic; cook about 5 minutes until onions are soft.
- Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir well until flour disappears.
- Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add the ricotta and continue stirring until the cheese is combined and the mixture is smooth.
- Add the kale, cooked pasta, chicken, spices and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese to pan and stir well until everything is combined.
- Pour into a well greased 9×13 baking dish. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Kat’s tip: Kale is in season from December to April. To retain the most nutrients, it’s advised to steam kale. Hence the microwave cooking. I really wanted to get away with one pot but it didn’t work out that way.
Nutritional breakdown (Kat’s version):
Calories 335 Total Fat 8 g Cholesterol 46 mg Sodium 181 mg Potassium 452 mg Total Carbohydrate 43 g Protein 23 g
Nutritional breakdown (Martha’s version): Calories 563 Total Fat 22 g Total Carbohydrate 52 g Protein 40 g