recipes

The Trick to Making a Delicious Kale Salad

salad plate

How do you really feel about kale?

If you’re making a bitter face after reading that sentence, I understand. The No. 1 complaint I hear about kale is that it’s soooo bitter. And you’re right. Eaten completely raw the stuff is absolutely disgusting. There, I said it. But when kale is properly prepared, that bitterness mellows and can even (dare I say) turn slightly sweet, and that, my friends, is when kale becomes absolutely delicious!

If you take nothing else away from this post know this: Eating healthy does not mean force feeding yourself bitter green things. No one does that. Or at least no one does that for more than a day or two without coming back to reality. I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to kale beyond it’s bitter rap. The trick is just knowing how to prepare it.

Here’s a fun fact. Did you know chopping kale in a food processor sort of smells like freshly cut grass? It does… but if your salad tastes like your lawn there is a problem…

chop greens

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Bitter is Better
The darker the green, the more bitter the taste. But don’t let that scare you. Dark leafy greens are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, chlorophyll and oxygen. They help detoxify, purify the blood, oxygenate your cells and can even lift your spirit. All these benefits and yet dark leafy greens have so many of us stumped. Once you know how to prepare them though, they’re easy to add to any meal.

Banish the Bitter
Now that we’ve appreciated bitterness for what it means nutritiously, let’s talk about how to get rid of it. Kale is a hearty plant with a tough exterior so that it can endure the harsh winter months. To enjoy it raw, you have to get it to soften, because behind that tough exterior is just a sweet vegetable. It’s all in the approach. And it starts with lemon. The acid in lemon counters the bitter flavor and helps to break down the leaves. Combine lemon juice and olive oil in a 1:1 ratio and season with salt and pepper to make a simple dressing. Pour dressing over the chopped greens and (this is the real trick) get in there with your hands and massage the kale. You read right… massage – deep-tissue style – both hands. in there. working it. This breaks down the cellulose structure of the plant so that it wilts and softens. Pay attention as you massage and notice the leaves turn a more brilliant green and shrink up a bit. And just like that the kale is transformed from lawn clippings to a delicious salad…. Magic!

dressing

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add nuts and fruit

Massaged Kale Salad

Ingredients

1 bunch kale
1-2 lemons
1/8 cup EVOO
salt & pepper
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
1 cup dried fruit (currants, raisins, cranberries, etc.)

Directions

Wash kale well and tear leaves away from stem. Tear leaves into pieces and place in food processor or blender to chop. Pulse until  finely chopped (you’ll have to do this part in a few batches). Transfer to a large bowl.

Next, make the dressing. In a small bowl combine juice from lemons and EVOO. Season with salt and pepper and whisk well until combined. Pour over kale and massage the dressing into the greens using your hands.

Mix in choice of nuts, fruit or other salad toppings. If kale still tastes bitter, add more lemon and continue to massage until no longer bitter.

recipes

Red, White & Blueberry Salad

red, white and blueberry salad

Happy Fouth of July, everyone! I just couldn’t let the holiday go by without contributing something red, white, blue and edible. Now, I realize there’s just no topping last year’s American flag tart (gluten-free and dairy-free), so I didn’t even try with the desserts. I decided to go in a completely different direction instead… salad. Before I go any further, let me explain my philosophy on salad. It’s simple: Lettuce alone does not a salad make. A salad should be packed with all sorts of different flavors, textures and colors. It should look exciting, fresh, beautiful… almost like art. The taste should of course match. And the process should be fun! No more boring old lettuce and dressing salads. Blah. OK, I’ve said my piece.

Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about how to make a truly satisfying salad. If the idea of making something without a recipe totally freaks you out, I have lots of tips, tricks and how-tos for you here.

salad prep

So, this salad just so happens to be what’s for lunch today. You’ll have to pardon the bowl. If I was planning ahead I would have put it in something a little more photogenic than the plastic container I use to cart my lunch to work pretty much every day. Not the prettiest, but it sure is convenient, and even has a seperate contraption in the lid for dressing (Martha Stewart does it again!). I digress…

What makes this festive are the strawberries and blueberries of course. It just wouldn’t be the Fourth without those guys. And to get some white in there I’ve added radishes and hemp seeds. Not familiar with hemp? Here’s what it looks like in seed form…

hemp-hearts

Hemp seeds (also called hearts) are an excellent vegetarian source of protein. They’re easily digested and absorbed; high in important nutrients like iron, magnesium, essential fatty acids; and a fantastic source of fiber. Hemp seeds are a great pantry staple to keep on hand to turn any salad into a complete meal. Here they’re totally optional. If you want to make this salad to bring to a BBQ or 4th of July picnic, you can take em or leave em.

Also, you’ll notice the recipe below doesn’t say exactly how much of everything to use. Just go with amounts that seem right to you. You really can’t go wrong. I’ve never heard anyone complain of a salad having too much avocado or fruit.

Whatever your plans are for the 4th I hope yours is a fun and relaxing one, complete with good company and great foods. God Bless America. 🙂

salad

Red, White & Blueberry Salad

Ingredients:

mixed greens
red onion, thinly sliced
radish, thinly sliced
avocado, diced
strawberries, chopped
blueberries
basil, thinly sliced
hemp seeds (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
lemon
salt & pepper

Directions:

In a bowl combine greens, onion, radish, avocado, berries and hemp seeds. To make the dressing combine EVOO and lemon juice (2:1 ratio) and add a little salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad and toss.

recipes

Simple Slaw Salad with Salmon

simple slaw with salmon

Meet my new favorite meal for spring. This plate has so much good stuff going on I’m not even sure where to begin. You’ve got your omega-3s in the salmon, and an extra anti-inflammatory boost from covering the fish in curry powder. Pair that with a slaw of raw veggies in all their glory, pure and unwilted delivering enzymes, nutrients and a delicious crunch. Oh, that crunch…

simple slaw

Raw foods can be so refreshing this time of year and adding them to your meals adds a whole list of health benefits including improved digestion. Foods that are raw come with enzymes which help to get the whole digestion thing started. That means your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break the food down all on its own. And you know what that means? More energy for you!

Healthnuttiness aside, what I love about this is you can make the slaw salad ahead of time (it’s actually even better the next day) and, if you plan it right, have dinner and lunch (or lunches) covered. Cook once, eat twice!

salmon

As for the salmon, it doesn’t get any easier than sprinkling on a little curry powder and sticking it under the broiler. I said this is my new favorite meal for spring for a reason… no cooking. no clean up. no reason not to be outside playing!

Simple Slaw Salad and Salmon

Ingredients

1/2 head of Napa cabbage, grated
6 carrots, grated
1 bunch basil, thinly sliced
3 limes, juiced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 salmon filets
curry powder
salt and pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, basil, then toss with lime juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To start the salmon, heat the broiler. Place filets on a foil-lined baking sheet skin side down and dust the tops of the fish with curry powder to just cover the filets and sprinke with salt and pepper. Broil salmon 6-8 minutes.

Serve slaw topped with salmon and enjoy!

recipes

Spring Quinoa Salad and the Four-Hour Vacation

quinoa-picnic

I decided something a few weeks ago. “Nothing” deserves a much higher place on my priority list. Recently we were given a rare gift – an extra weekend day, with no set plans and nowhere to go. Sure, the ever growing to-do list was still there. But the hubs and I decided to set it aside, pack a picnic and a deck of cards, and head to the park to check out Dallas’ new social oasis in the city – Klyde Warren Park. Side note for Dallas residents: If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend making an afternoon out of it. It will make you excited for Dallas. Just go, you’ll see…

We parked it for about four hours. We ate lunch, listened to music (they were setting up for a concert that night), people watched, took silly pictures, played cards and just veged. It was like a little four-hour vacation. And it was for no reason other than to spend some time together doing nothing. It was awesome.

picnic

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IMG_3191park-trip

I decided to make a spring resolution to take more four-hour vacations. I realize resolutions are typically made at the beginning of a year, but I’ve always found the change of seasons to be the best time for a shift in routine or perspective. It’s a time for cleansing, renewal and starting fresh.

Speaking of fresh… I’m excited to share this delicious spring quinoa salad I made for our picnic. This was the first really springy-tasting dish I’ve made this year. I love that transition when you first have those foods and flavors that tell your taste buds its time for a change. What are your favorite spring meals to make?

Spring Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Radish and Basil

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 in. pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
juice from 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus and sautee until tender. Add radish slices and corn and continue to cook 2-3 minutes until heated through. Stir in quinoa. Remove from heat, add basil.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir to mix evenly with dressing.

recipes

Sweet Potato, Kale and Quinoa Salad

veggie-kale-quinoa-saladAs I sit down to write this, it feels a little like calling an old friend you haven’t talked to in years. There’s some guilt for having let so much time go by, a bit of awkwardness getting to where you left off, and oh, where to begin….

I must say, it’s good to be back in the food/health region of the blogosphere. I think I mentioned, we’ve been renovating our new house over the past two months or so now. In that time, I’ve been orbiting, lost in the home design section of the Internet – obsessing beyond control over very important things like differences in white paint. Now that I’ve successfully memorized Benjamin Moore’s entire collection and learned all there is to know about kitchen appliances, I think I’ve had enough…. it’s time to come back.

Side note – I must say, I have a renewed appreciation for the way we communicate online today – being able to share and find information with some keystrokes and a click. I feel as though I’ve learned another language – mostly from people like me just across the blog-o-pond. As I return to my own neck of blog-land, I’m excited to contribute what I know and love –  oh-so-good-and-good-for-you food – so others may enjoy and benefit.

We got our knives, bowls and other kitchen tools out of storage a few weeks ago and I found myself itching to get back into the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed having the excuse not to cook and letting others (my mom) do it for me while I pinned planned. I really didn’t think I missed it. But I did. I really did. This salad here is one of the first meals I’ve cooked in months. And oh, it tasted so good.

It’s good to be back.

veggie-kale-quinoa-salad2

Sweet Potato, Kale and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
2 cup water
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 red onion, thickly sliced
4 kale leaves, removed from stems and torn
sunflower seeds, toasted
extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/4 a lemon
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt
black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse quinoa well. In a medium sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil (add a pinch of salt), then add drained quinoa. Cover pot, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Once all the water is absorbed and you can fluff quinoa with a fork, remove from heat and transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl. Set pot aside – you’ll use it later to toast the sunflower seeds (one less pot to clean later… right, Ross).

Place sweet potatoes and red onion on baking sheet. Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper then toss to coat with oil. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes. When slightly golden, remove from oven and set aside.

While the vegetables cook, prepare the kale and sunflower seeds. In a medium bowl, marinate kale with a pinch of salt, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix well, massaging the kale until it begins to wilt.

Next, get your pot you used for the quinoa. Place over medium heat and drizzle a bit of olive oil into the pot. Add sunflower seeds and toast, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown slightly. When toasted, remove from heat.

To your bowl with the quinoa, add the roasted vegetables and marinated kale and sunflower seeds. Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and serve.

recipes

No-Mayo Chicken Salad

I’ve never been much a fan of mayo (I was always more of a ketchup girl when it came to condiments), but boy do I love me some chicken salad just as much as the next girl. Who says chicken salad has to be made with mayo? This no-mayo chicken salad uses creamy avocado and tangy lemon juice to bring all the ingredients together.  Creamy, meaty, crunchy… it’s got all my requirements for a tasty chicken salad. And to top it off it’s full of healthy fats…

As a Matter of Fat
I’m not really one for labels and generally try to avoid labeling a food as “good” or “bad.” [That is unless we’re talking about anything that ends in “tos,” which is not food to begin with so the point would be moot.] Anyway, there was a time when people actually thought margarine fell into the “good” category. Knowing what we know now about processed “trans” fats, that’s crazy, right? Point being: Things change. We’re all learning as we go here in this ever evolving science of nutrition. So until we have all of the answers (which will probably never happen) I say the best expert to trust out there is none other than nature.

And nature sure out did herself with the avocado. A sort of freak of nature, the avocado is actually a fruit. And it’s the only fruit that is also a fat.

Fats are like the oil to the machine that is our body. Their oils lubricate our cells, inside and out. That’s why we say foods like avocados, olive oil and nuts are great for your skin. Their oils help to hydrate the skin from the inside out making it look supple and glowing. Fat is also critical to nutrient absorption. Without it most of the vitamins and minerals in our foods would go straight through us. In particular, avocados help our digestive tract more efficiently absorb nutrients. They’re a source of carotenoids, which help prevent free radical damage, and are considered to be an anti-inflammatory food (two more points for skin care). Avocados are also a good source of folate and have been linked with women’s health and fertility. How about this for a sign from nature: You know what else takes exactly nine months to develop? An avocado.

Add sliced avocado to your salad, mash it into a dip or mix it up with the other ingredients here for a totally different take on a classic that’s just as delicious and uber-healthy.

No-Mayo Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 apple
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Poach chicken breasts in a skillet with about 1/2 inch simmering water, about 4 min per side. When chicken is cooked through, remove from pan and shred. Smash avocado in a medium sized bowl, add chicken and mix. Add apple, walnuts and raisins. Squeeze half a lemon and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on top of mixed greens.

You can even eat this while spring cleaning! Check out my Spring Clean Your Body program to reboot your body and get ready for spring.

recipes

Apple and Pecan Salad

I eat a lot of salad. Like, a lot a lot. I have one most days for lunch and usually a side with dinner. People will ask me, “Do you ever get sick of salad?” And you know, I really don’t. Sure, sometimes (especially when it’s this cold!) a salad just won’t cut it and I need something that’s gonna stick. But most days I find myself looking forward to my salad (call me crazy). It’s almost like the more green things you eat, the more your body craves them. They’re addicting. It’s like your body’s speaking up for itself saying “hey, I needed that, you should eat more of it!”

When I make salads with dinner they usually get thrown together in the three minutes before we sit down to eat. Sometimes there’s rhyme or reason to the combo, other times not so much. My approach to salads is anything goes! And the more the merrier. Lettuce is just one ingredient mixed in with all sorts of stuff.

I love salads with crunch, which I got with the apples and cabbage here. And the pecans and pumpkin seeds make it heartier. I added some hemp seeds for protein. Yes, hemp, as in the hemp bracelet you had in 1995. Turns out the seeds from that same plant are one of the best and most complete sources of plant protein around. They’re also one of the easiest for our bodies to digest, absorb and assimilate. Three tablespoons have 10 grams of protein.

I’ve listed everything I used, but don’t feel like you have to go by this exactly. I didn’t use measurements because I really did just throw things in a bowl. Just wanted to give you the gist. You could pare it down to greens, apple, pecan and red onion, and you’ll still have something totally crave-able on your hands.

What I used:

mixed greens
red cabbage, shaved
apple, chopped
pecans, chopped
red onion, cut into thin crescents
currants
pumpkin seeds
hemp seeds

For the dressing:

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

recipes

Emerald City Salad

This recipe comes from one of my favorite IIN cookbooks  – Feeding the Whole Family. I love it because it’s full of simple basics like how to cook different grains, beans and simple blanched vegetables. And then it builds on the basics to create delicious, simple whole food meals. I’ve mentioned before that I love salads with lots of stuff in them. When I make a salad, lettuce is just one ingredient in a mix of lots. You gotta keep it interesting. And this Emerald City Salad certainly is. Kale by itself is… well, I’ll be honest, it’s not good. But when prepared correctly it can be absolutely delicious. I’ve never been much of a fan of it raw, but in this salad it works. The difference is in the combination of flavors and lemon to soften it. Plus it’s so colorful – really bright and vibrant. When it comes to food, the more colors the better! And all that color makes for one gorgeous side dish… and a great way to get in more greens.

Emerald City Salad

What you need:
2 1/2 cups water or vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp sea salt, divided
1 cup wild rice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove  garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fennel bulb, core removed
1/2 red or yellow pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 cups very finely chopped dark, leafy greens
salt and lemon to taste
Pecorino or Gorgonzola cheese, for garnish (optional)

What you do:
Bring water to a boil. Add butter, 1/2 tsp of the salt, and rice. Bring to a boil again, cover, lower heat, and simmer 60 to 65 minutes.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt in a large serving bowl. Add fennel, red pepper, cabbage, parsley, and greens and toss thoroughly.

Once the rice is cooked, cool until it stops steaming but is still warm. Place it on top of the dressed vegetables. Allow rice to cool and then toss with vegetables. Adjust to taste, adding salt or lemon according to preference. Garnish with cheese if desired.

recipes

A satisfying salad.

People tend to think salad = lettuce. The word conjures up images of rabbits and skinny, unhappy people. No one wants to eat lettuce. And no one can possibly be happy just eating lettuce. So, for now let’s forget the word “salad.” It’s just too negative. “Bowl of stuff” is a more accurate description here. You think I have a problem with salad bars? It’s impossible for me to come in under double digits. I go for the heavy stuff. And it adds up. But loading up your plate with lots of stuff is the key to making it satisfying. Lately I’ve been making my lunch at home to save a little cash. This was lunch on Friday:

It’s got butternut squash, raisins, garbanzo beans, carrots, radishes, avocado and sliced almonds. This was so delicious and satisfying because it had a lot of heavy stuff and covered the taste spectrum: sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy. That’s the trick. And then change it up from day to day.

Here’s a DIY checklist you can follow to make your own…

*Change it up. Play. Be creative. Don’t be scared. It’s just a bowl of stuff.

  1. lettuce: spinach, romaine, mixed greens, etc. (the greener the better!)
  2. veggie/fruit: carrots, bell pepper, radish, broccoli, onion, snap peas, cauliflower, pear, strawberries, oranges, blueberries…. (you get the idea.)
  3. protein: chicken, shrimp, beef, salmon, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, edamame, tofu
  4. dry ingredients: walnuts, sliced almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried cranberries
  5. leftovers: quinoa, brown rice, pasta, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, vegetables, avocado
  6. dressing: use your favorite dressing or make your own by just combining olive oil and balsamic vinegar (1:1)
  7. crackers (optional)

More tips:

  • Keep your pantry stocked with dry ingredients. Things like nuts, raisins and seeds add a lot of flavor. They’re also easy to keep in stock because they stay fresh.
  • Chop your veggies in advance. Every week I say I’m going to do this, but never do. I should. Chop them up and keep them in containers in the fridge so they’re ready to go.
  • Use leftovers. Whatever you had for dinner the night before could go in your bowl of stuff. Chicken. Rice. Broccoli. Roasted potatoes.
  • Vary the tastes and textures. Cover the spectrum: crunchy, smooth, salty, sweet.
  • Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try something that may seem a little out of the ordinary. If you like it by itself, there’s a good chance it will taste even better combined with something else.

Keep reading for recipes…