Today is a very exciting day in the world of Cowgirls & Collard Greens! And, it might just have something to do with my friend and vegan megastar, Kittee Berns being a guest on my blog (can you see me blushing through your computer screen!?!). I met Kittee earlier this year whilst exploring all the vegan eats in the City of Roses– Portland, Oregon — where Kittee lives. While I haven’t known Kittee long, I have heard of her for years, followed her on social media and of course knew of her vegan Ethiopian cookbook, Teff Love, when it launched last year. While all of her foodie creations make me wish I spent more time in my own kitchen, it was her vegan King Cakes, not to mention her psychedelic aquafaba meringues, that won over my heart (and my eyes). After getting to know Kittee this year, I am honored to call her a friend. She’s a longtime vegan (26 years baby!), an accomplished blogger, author, zine creator, vintage collector, garden maven, sewing diva and, her style in both her home and her clothing is notably one-of-a-kind! I am honored to share this space with the Kittee Berns today. Welcome to Cowgirls & Collard Greens Kittee!
According to the vegan manual on my desk (and probably also my ND), I should be living, breathing, and eating kale all-the-time, non-stop, even in my sleep. It’s nutrient-dense (lots of iron, calcium and vitamins), superfood-tastic (fights inflammation with EFA), low in calories, high in fiber and has zero fat. So please tell me why I’m so lazy about making it regularly?
Probably, it’s because I’m a big fan of super flavorful, tasty foods, and sometimes kale is just a little TOO green for my taste. I don’t think this makes me any less vegan tho, I think it makes me more of a connoisseur…
When I do rally, my favorite kale preparation is to eat it covered in a thick, tangy cashew sauce and then either devour it right on the spot, or dehydrate it for a crunchy snack. Kale chips are pretty wonderful things to have tucked away for afternoon adventures or long car trips. Plus, if you snack on a bunch before dinner, no one can accuse you of spoiling your appetite, because KALE!
When choosing kale for this recipe, you can pick whatever variety you like the most. For a long while, I only purchased dinosaur/lacinato kale, ‘cuz I love it’s spiky, dark-leafed looks. Lately though, I go for curly leafed kale, because I feel like I get more bang for my buck size-wise, and its got better crannies for sauce to cling to.
BKT (Bacon-Kale-Tomato) Happy Hour – Salad or Chip Form
Makes a large salad, or a medium bowlful of chips.
BKT is equally yummy eaten in salad or chip form–depending on whether you’re in need of quick gratification, or have time to wait around for some crunch. The truth is, I usually attempt these as chips, but end up eating about half before they get crunchy (I “check” on them frequently as they’re drying).
If you don’t have a dehydrator, I recommend just sticking to the salad version (baked kale chips aren’t as flavorful or nutritious as dehydrated), but since I know folks will ask, I’ve included oven directions below.
Just so ya know, the cashew sauce in this recipe also makes a great Russian-style dressing for Reuben sammies, or is great drizzled over tofu scramble or bowls. It will thicken a bit in the fridge.
What You Need:
1/3 cup raw cashew pieces
3 sun-dried tomatoes, about 2 tablespoons minced
½ cup water
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion granules
1 small clove garlic
½ teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
1 bunch kale, washed well and stemmed (7 oz)
3 tablespoons vegan bacon bits, divided (see note below)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
What You Do:
If you have a regular strength blender, into a medium bowl put the cashews and sun-dried tomatoes, and cover with boiling water. Place a plate or lid on top, and soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain and mince the tomatoes.
Into the jar of a blender, put the soaked cashews and tomatoes (no need to soak if using a high speed blender), water, 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion granules, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika, salt and liquid smoke. Blend until smooth.
Into a large bowl, tear the kale into bite-sized pieces. Pour the cashew mixture over the kale, using a spatula to scrape out as much of the dressing as possible. Add 2 tablespoons of the the vegan bacon bits, and toss well to combine. The kale should be well dressed. Season to taste with salt, and toss again.
Massage the dressing gently into the kale leaves, and sprinkle with the remaining nutritional yeast, vegan bacon bits, smoked paprika, and a few grinds of black pepper. Consume immediately.
Divide the kale between 2-3 dehydrator trays and arrange the pieces in a single layer. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining nutritional yeast, vegan bacon bits, smoked paprika, and a few grinds of black pepper.
Dehydrate at whatever temperature you like, until crisp, flipping the chips a few times to help them dry.
Preheat the oven to 200 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the kale on the prepared sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining nutritional yeast, vegan bacon bits, smoked paprika, and a few grinds of black pepper.
Bake for about 2-2½, or until crisp, flipping the chips every 20 minutes the first hour. At first the kale will wilt and become quite wet. As the chips begin to dry, keep a closer eye on them, flipping them more frequently to prevent burning.
Note about vegan bacon bits:
In my experience, imitation bacon bits are usually vegan, but don’t take my word for it–check labels to be sure! I like Frontier’s Bac ‘Uns, ‘cuz they’re organic and have less additives. Plus, I can sometimes find them in bulk.
Kittee Berns has been an ethical vegan for 26 years. She’s also an award-winning cookbook author, blogger, and has recipes tucked into a litany of vegan publications. Besides muddling in her Portland kitchen, she enjoys petting all the dogs, organizing bakesales, sewing and collecting vintage patterns, thrifting and digging through estate sales.