I love spinach.
Really I do.
I just have one teeny little problem with this amazing green.
It wilts easily, doesn’t travel well and needs some extra loving to make it come to life.
While this is ok on some days, most of the time I need a sturdy and forgiving green. Something that can withstand an airtight container in my purse, a two hour late lunch or an overnight stay in my refrigerator.
Fifteen years ago, spinach was the next best thing since sliced bread. Everyone was raving about this nutritional powerhouse, as they should have been. It beats romaine and iceberg lettuce in every vitamin and mineral category there is, and it quickly became my go-to for salads and a quick side dish.
The problem is its durability. At that point in my life, I was taking my lunch to work every day. I remember numerous times opening my spinach salad only to find it wilted and mushy and unappetizing.
I tried taking my dressing on the side. This helped the texture issue, but created a new stress in my life around how to transport dressing to work without it leaking.
I never quite figured that one out.
Then eight years ago kale came on the scene, and my life has never been the same.
One cup of kale has only 36 calories and contains 5 grams of fiber, which helps with digestion and detoxifcation. It is high in iron, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, Vitamin K, magnesium and antioxidants (source).
Eating one cup of dark, leafy greens a day has been proven to help lower cholesterol, decrease the possibility of eye damage, improve your energy through B vitamins, and even decrease the risk of colon cancer.
The icing on the cake? Kale is a workhorse. It’s sturdy and resilient and stands up to any food abuse I throw at it.
It’s kind of my best friend.
If you haven’t tried kale yet, welcome to the party!
If you have tried kale and decided you didn’t like it, I’m here to convert you.
There are many ways I like to use kale in the kitchen. I throw it in smoothies and juices, wilt it in soups and saute it in olive oil, lemon juice and salt/pepper.
The most common way I use it, though, is in salads.
It keeps the kale raw, which helps it maintain the most nutrients, and it is quick and easy to throw together.
This is the only salad base I’ve found that you can make and it actually tastes BETTER the longer it sits!
You can easily add this to your food prep routine for the week because it really does keep beautifully for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
The step that you can not skip when making a kale salad is the massage.
Not for you, unfortunately, but for the kale.
While the toughness of kale is what allows it to be such an awesome base for salads, it can be too tough if you don’t go through this step.
(If you’ve ever had a kale salad that was too tough and bitter to eat, this was most likely the problem!).
By actually massaging your dressing into the kale, you help the kale’s cellulose structure break down. The tough and bitter leaves turn soft and become the perfect base for your salad.
While you can in theory massage your kale without any dressing, I find doing it with the dressing allows the yumminess from my vinaigrette to get into every nook and cranny of the leaves. The roughness of the salt and acidity of the lemon juice help to soften the leaves even more.
Because of it’s durability and resistance to wilting, this kale salad is also the perfect side dish to bring to a dinner party. I have used it twice in the past week and received unanimous approval both times!
The first time was a dinner party I was hosting for two good friends and their son who recently moved away. I made some chicken and veggie skewers to grill and roasted potatoes. My friend brought a delicious grain salad and I rounded out the meal with this hearty yet light summer salad.
Two days later we headed to my friend Gina’s house for a casual BBQ. Her husband grilled burgers and Gina made an appetizer spread, sweet potato fries and an unbelievable guacamole. The salad was the perfect compliment!
Even my three year old daughter was reaching her little fingers into the bowl to find the last few bites. (She was going for the cranberries, and she luckily ended up with some kale as well.)
I’ll do ANYTHING to get greens into that girl, so if it takes kale salad every day, so be it!
This version of my kale salad includes a tangy vinegar based dressing, with some dried cranberries for sweetness, carrots for color and toasted almonds for crunch.
You can truly add anything that sounds good to you! If I was using this as a lunch for myself, I would add some avocado for healthy fat and goat cheese or a hard boiled egg for protein.
You can easily use it as a base for a hearty dinner by placing a grilled chicken breast on top as well!
I hope you love this salad as much and me and my family do. Please let me know if you try it out!
The Perfect Kale Salad – Work Lunch or Dinner Party
- 4 cups raw kale clean and torn into pieces
- 1 cup raw shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- juice from half a lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk all dressing ingredients together in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Add the kale and massage the dressing into the kale for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients on top and let sit for a minimum of one hour before serving. Enjoy!