Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

Kale! Oh, how I love kale.  I love it raw. I love it cooked. I love it in a smoothie.  I even love it in a juice.  To me, kale is simply magical.  But to a kid, kale is not always magical.  Thankfully, I have always found creative ways to cook it to make it palatable, so my kids have always eaten it.

Sautéing onions first

The thing about kale is that the leaves are really tough.  This makes it hard to chew when it’s raw, even if it’s been languishing in olive oil for a while.  Kids don’t really want to chew something for a long time just because you tell them it’s healthy, especially if it doesn’t taste like something kids particularly like, such as chocolate or bubble gum.  So the first rule for feeding kids kale (and getting them to love it) is to cook it.

Raw kale, sweet potatoes, and peppers added to the soup

If you’re going to cook it, you basically have two really good options for kids: boil it (to make it soft) or roast it into kale chips (to make it crunchy).  Because it can withstand being boiled really well, kale is perfect for soups.  My favorite kale soup has long been Food & Wine’s Island Kale and Coconut Soup.  This was the first thing I ever cooked for my husband, back before we even knew we were dating.  It’s vegan. It’s gluten free. And it tastes amazing.

When the kale and sweet potatoes are soft, stir in the coconut milk and heat through, then it is ready to serve!

When the kale and sweet potatoes are soft, stir in the coconut milk and heat through, then it is ready to serve!

I’ve been making this soup as a regular family favorite since the beginning of 2010, before we were even a family, and there’s been an evolution of sorts.  So my version is heavily inspired by, but not identical to, Food & Wine’s version.  I’ve added and subtracted to make it significantly healthier and possibly even tastier.  I’ve also omitted elements, like spicy peppers, that put kids off, so this is a more kid-friendly version.  I’ve also changed it to make it not only vegetarian, but vegan as well.  The best part? Not only is it healthy, but it’s also an entire meal served in one bowl!

How to clean kale

Kale leaves soaking in a salt water soak

Kale leaves soaking in a salt water soak

The first step when you’re working with kale – for any recipe – is to properly clean it.  Kale, whether dinosaur kale or curly kale (or whatever other name for kale you come across), has leaves that are dimpled or curly or otherwise adept at hiding bugs.  I always try to buy organic when I am buying leafy green vegetables because they are so heavily sprayed.  But whether sprayed or not, you are almost guaranteed to find at least a few bugs in your bunch of kale.  I’m really strict about not eating bugs, but if you don’t mind a little extra protein and crunch, that’s up to you.  For everyone else who, like me, doesn’t fancy eating bugs, make sure to wash your kale well!  My husband thinks the most effective way to do this is to first wash each leaf under running water.  You just want to rub your hands back and forth on each side (placing it between your hands accomplishes this well).  This helps dislodge any bugs that might be hiding there.  My favorite way to clean any kind of greens is to do a salt water or vinegar water soak.  I use a salt water soak, which means placing the greens in cold water, mixing salt in until it dissolves, and letting the leaves sit for a few minutes.  The cold shocks bugs, the water drowns them, and the salt makes leaves a bit slippery so the bugs come right off.  Then before I remove the leaves, I rub my hands along both sides of each leaf to help knock off any little bugs that might still be hanging on.  Then I empty my bucket of water and refill it to rinse the leaves, removing both salt and any remaining dirt or bugs.

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

1.5 cups brown rice

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch organic kale, washed well, stems removed, and shredded
2 banana peppers, seeds removed, sliced or diced
3 medium organic sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs or 3/4 kg), peeled and cut in 3/4 in dice
8 cups vegetable broth
1 cup organic coconut milk

 Instructions

  1. Add 1.5 cups brown rice and 3 cups water to rice cooker and press button to cook. Alternatively, follow package instructions to cook on the stovetop while you prepare the soup.
  2. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat to melt it.
  3. Add the onion and banana peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the sweet potatoes and broth, and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
  7. Add the kale and stir through, then simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the coconut milk and just heat through.
  9. Place a generous scoop of rice in a mound in the center of each bowl and ladle soup on top.
  10. Watch your kids enjoy eating kale!

Variations

  • If banana peppers are not available try using yellow or red capsicum/bell pepper instead.  It won’t have quite the same flavor, but it gives some extra vitamins and minerals.
  • If you’d like yours more “salty” don’t add salt, use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, All Purpose Seasoning to get a great salty flavor that complements the flavor of the soup and some extra nutrition at the same time.
  • For extra protein, try adding some black beans (rinsed well) or cubed tofu.

Akiva enjoying his kale and sweet potato soup

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