Midwinter Kale Salad

In the midst of the confinement or dreariness of midwinter, few things perk us up at meal time like something fresh and green! Those summer days of fresh vegetables coming in straight-from-the-garden, or farmer’s market to our tables are still many months away for most of us. And while most grocery stores are still full of a wide variety of vegetables, the winter months, and especially the holiday season we have just come out of, can have us moving towards the heavy and warm foods to keep us feeling cozy during these colder months.

But January always sparks a zest for fresh beginnings and cleaner eating. I don’t think that it is simply our newly-plotted-out resolutions though, that have us yearning for a good salad and fresh greens. But rather the restlessness of midwinter as we yearn for warmer days.

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In December, I needed to make a salad for a Christmas potluck at church and I will be completely honest, I was so swamped the week of the party that it wasn’t until a couple of hours before that I found myself standing in the produce section of the grocery store, frantically trying to decide what I could cobble together to make a salad that could serve a crowd, not be too complicated, and not look wilted and sad upon arrival.

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I will also admit that kale was probably the last leafy green on my radar. My previous experiences with kale were … meh. But as I held the bag in my hand, inspiration struck. And as often recipes come together, I wondered if kale and cranberries would go together nicely, maybe with some blue cheese? Some nuts for crunch. Some shredded carrots for colour and texture. A little bacon?

I did what most of us do these days, I quickly Googled blue cheese and cranberry kale salad to see if such a thing was actually a thing, and it turns out yes! I read up some tips on dressings for kale, swept through the store grabbing my ingredients, and off I flew, home to assemble.

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In the meantime, I also read a tip about kale which I thought was brilliant, if a little unexpected. Massage the kale.

Yes, that’s right, massage the kale … with the dressing of course, not merely for the fun of it. But the minute I read it, it made perfect sense! Kale with its curvy and curly leaves needs a little extra love to help soften its bite. “Massaging” the kale, helps coat all the nooks and crannies.

My other takeaway from the countless recipes I studied was that kale lends itself to dressings that are more acidic in nature. They help to break down the kale better. I found this gorgeous Parmesan & Roasted Garlic dressing at Kroger. It is a beautiful dressing! But I think that anything with a citrus, or a traditional vinaigrette-style dressing would work well too.

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What I love about this salad is that it takes under five minutes to assemble. Honestly, even less if you want to get really technical. It is also a great make-ahead salad that improves with flavour the next day or two, so it’s perfect for taking on the road, and to work for lunch.

It’s a wonderful salad for winter, but can easily be modified for all seasons with whatever is in season! And this salad has been a hit with my family! Kids and adults alike!

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Ingredients:

6-8 cups of Kale {If you are making a large batch or for a family. You can use bunches of kale OR buy the bags of chopped kale. If you use the bagged kind, remove any large stems; keep the leaves, remove the stems. Use more kale than you think you need, because it will shrink. Also if you use the bag, I used half a bag and it yielded enough salad for about 6 large individual salads for my family.}

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup cranberries & walnuts

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup crumbled bacon

6-8oz dressing (about a cup)

Combine kale and carrots. Add dressing. Gently, using your hands, work the dressing into the kale. Massage yes, but gently!

Transfer to serving bowl, top with cranberries, walnuts, blue cheese, and bacon. Serve and enjoy!

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Other tips:

You can so easily modify this recipe any way you’d like. Honestly! Can’t eat blue cheese? Leave it out. Hate walnuts? Try pecans or sunflower seeds. Or leave them out all together. Want to keep it strictly veggies? Leave out the bacon. Dried blueberries are also a great addition if you want to change it up. You know what else goes beautifully with kale and blue cheese? PEARS! Since December, I’ve made all these variations, and they have all been a hit. Don’t be afraid to experiment or adjust the proportions to your own liking!

Have fun! Savor! And share this delicious meal with the ones you love!

Warmly and With Love,

Magdalena

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