Good Mood Food: Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad

Crispy kale, black rice and coconut salad is a healthy, fiber packed lunch, perfect for topping with seared tofu or roasted salmon. 

Did you happen to catch that article circulating facebook claiming kale is a "silent killer"? I know. Insert eye-rolling emoji.

When I saw it posted on my feed, I immediately dismissed it because, well, duh. Kale is kale. A few days later, I saw the rebuttal, which of course I clicked on. Gotta love a good science takedown! Basically, the research behind the whole 'kale is toxic' claim is flimsy at best, but more accurately, nonexistent. Read it yourself. How such horrific science was spun in a fairly reputable media source will definitely make you look at nutrition headlines differently.

Rest assured, kale is perfectly nutritious, and while theoretically, any food can be dangerous if consumed in excessive quantities, that's pretty low on my list of concerns. So go ahead, throw some kale leaves in your smoothie, saute it, whip up a big ole' kale salad. You'll be eating one of the most nutrient dense foods out there, and you may even feel happier for it! Thats right, because kale is a Good Mood Food!

Kale certainly has a cultish following among the health conscious and food lovers in general. It can be a bit much, but I must say, the reputation is deserved. Kale tops the charts when it comes to nutrient density. As one of the most nutrient dense foods, kale is rich is brain boosting nutrients!

MAGNESIUM // A deficiency in magnesium has been linked to anxiety, depression, ADHD and fatigue. Unfortunately, almost 70% of Americans don't eat enough magnesium. Magnesiums role in psychiatric conditions isn't well understood, partly because magnesium has so many complex roles in the brain - regulating neuronal function, optimizing thyroid function (an underactive thyroid can cause depression), reducing inflammation, as a precursor to neurotransmitters...I could go on. Or you could go eat some kale, which contains a hefty dose of magnesium and is one of the greens lowest in oxalates, a compound in many green leafy vegetables that can interfere with magnesium absorption.

CALCIUM // Calcium does more than build healthy bones! Calcium plays many roles in the regulation of neurotransmitters and the electrical impulses in our brain. There are many plant based sources of calcium, including leafy greens. A serving contains 9% your daily needs.

VITAMIN A & VITAMIN K // Two of those fabulous fat soluble vitamins we were missing out by following the low fat craze of the 90s. Vitamin A plays a role in creating the enzymes that make neurotransmitters while vitamin K makes fats called sphingolipids that make the structure of our brain. A serving of kale contains 200% daily needs of vitamin A and a whopping 600%+ daily needs for vitamin K.

I'm a huge fan of eating kale in salad form. The sturdy kale leaves won't wilt so you can whip up a kale salad that will last all week, dressed and all. To tenderize the leaves so I don't spend my entire lunch break chewing, I massage the dressing in. It can get a little messy and as much as I love to play with food, it's one task I'm happy to skip.

When I first tried this salad from Super Natural Everyday I fell in love, not just with the salad itself, but the ingenious method for softening kale leaves by roasting them with a flavorful dressing. Straight out of the oven, some of the kale leaves are nicely wilted while others get crispy. Basically, it's a kale chip salad. I know! And although you lose the crispiness with leftovers, it's still pretty fantastic.

To boost the brain power, I served this with salmon roasted in sesame oil, soy sauce and spritzed with a little lemon juice, but feel free to make it vegan with baked cubes of tofu or even extra hemp hearts, which are high in protein. You could also swap the black rice for more readily available brown rice, or other whole grains like farro, quinoa, or bulgur.

Crispy Kale, Black Rice and Coconut Salad

Serves 4-6

Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black rice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Couple pinches cayenne
  • 2 10-ounce bags of chopped kale or two bunches, chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with black rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 50-60 minutes until rice is tender and water is absorbed.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, sesame, soy sauce, garlic and cayenne.
  3. Spread chopped kale evenly across two large baking sheets. Toss with coconut. Drizzle with about 3/4ths of the dressing. Place in the oven and bake 12-18 minutes until the coconut is golden and the leaves are slightly crispy around the edges. You may need to swap the pans positions in the oven (from upper to lower rack and visa versa) halfway through cooking.
  4. Remove kale from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Add black rice, remaining dressing and toss to combine. Serve warm. Leftovers can be enjoyed cool or reheated slightly.