A Kale Salad that Kids Will Eat

I actually love kale salads. They are crunchy and filling and will last for several days in the fridge. I’ve even cracked the code and found a way to get kids to eat kale salad: make it just a little sweet with either the dressing or toppings to counteract kale’s slight bitterness.

Here’s a super delicious kale salad I made last week.

kale salad
kale salad

Versatile Kale Salad with Grains

Salad

1 cup dry grains (such as quinoa, couscous, farro, barley, wild rice etc.)
about 8 oz. of Lacinato (also called Dinosaur or Tuscan) kale
1/2 cup nuts, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup dried fruit, chopped
optional additional veggies (cooked or raw), such as: green beans, sugar snap peas, cucumber, radishes, sweet peppers etc.
fresh herbs if you have them, minced

Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook grains and drain off any extra water.

Wash your kale and dry it well. Pull the thick stalks off of the leaves (I find this is easiest to do with my hands). Set the stalks aside. Stack the leaves and cut across them to make kale ribbons. In a large bowl, toss the kale with the grains (it’s okay if the grains are still warm).

Chop the kale stalks into small pieces. Sauté them in olive oil until they are tender. If you want to add cooked veggies to your salad, you can cook them along with the kale stalks. Salt the cooked veggies to taste and toss them in with your salad. Add the dressing and remaining ingredients and toss to mix.

Mind Blowing Kale Salad

mind blowing kale salad

Do you ever feel like you’re in a salad rut? You want to eat more salad, but you can’t motivate yourself to do all that washing and chopping. Today, I decided it was time to make some sort of new and exciting salad to go with dinner. I was super excited when I saw this gorgeous salad on Smitten Kitchen’s Instagram. I used Deb’s recipe as an inspiration for this completely different kale salad, because I had no green beans on hand and I don’t like onions.

mind blowing kale salad
mind blowing kale salad

Here’s how I made it:

Mind Blowing Kale Salad

a big bunch of kale
handful of chopped cabbage
handful of shredded carrots
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup raisins
bulb of fennel
1 or 2 stalks of celery
handful of sugar snap peas
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. sugar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Make the Pickles

Thinly slice the celery and fennel (this goes quickly if you have a mandolin). Wash and trim the sugar snap peas. In a glass jar, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar. Add the sliced celery, fennel and sugar snap peas to the brine. Let it sit in the fridge for a least an hour—or better, yet, all day.

quick pickled celery, fennel and sugar snaps
quick pickled celery, fennel and sugar snaps
The Salad

Begin by roasting the almonds on the stove top. I used a dry cast iron pan and it only took a few minutes to cook the almonds until lightly brown and fragrant. Let these guys cool.

Remove any thick stems from the kale and slice it into thin strips. In a large bowl, toss the kale with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Roughly chop the cabbage. I used white cabbage, but purple would be really pretty. Add the cabbage, shredded carrots, and raisins to the kale. Roughly chop the almonds and throw these in the salad.

Now, get some of those pickled veggies out of the jar with a fork and add them to the mix (you might not use them all; it depends how much you like that tart pickle taste). Spoon out some of that pickling juice and add it a little at a time to the salad. Mix everything up, season generously with salt and pepper, and taste it before adding more of the brine.

Dig into this crunchy sweet sour bowl of deliciousness.

2016: The Year of the Lettuce-less Salad and Getting Kids More Involved in the Kitchen

Iain's salad: Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint

People tell me all the time that I’m lucky that my kids will eat almost anything. I don’t know if it’s luck or that I’ve given the kids a huge variety of food to try from the earliest days—probably a combination of both. And, even though my kids are adventurous eaters, they don’t love lettuce. I’ll make a nice salad and they’ll eat everything in it, but the lettuce. Several months ago, I read an article on how lettuce is overrated. I didn’t agree with everything in this article, but the columnist raises some good points, and, it got me thinking: why not make more salads without lettuce?

So, I’ve deemed 2016 The Year of the Lettuce-less Salad. Why fight it? My kids like all kinds of fruits and vegetables—just not served on lettuce. In 2016, I’m also trying to get the kids both more involved in meal prep, and putting them in charge of making salads will hopefully make them more interested in eating them. A couple of nights ago, Iain made the salad. I told him that he could put anything in it that he wanted. This is the combination he came up with:

Iain's salad: Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint
Iain’s salad: Persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint

Cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, blueberries and mint. He decided that mint was too hard to cut, so he tore up little pieces and sprinkled them on the salad. It was delicious. I never would have thought to combine cucumbers and tomatoes with berries: genius!

A Kid-Friendly Salad and a Ham and Cheese Slider

lunch on 30 Oct 2014: chopped veggies with salt and pepper, grapes, and a ham and cheese slider
lunch on 30 Oct 2014: chopped veggies with salt and pepper, grapes, and a ham and cheese slider
lunch on 30 Oct 2014: chopped veggies with salt and pepper, grapes, and a ham and cheese slider

My kids are really good veggie eaters. They’re even decent salad eaters, although the lettuce is always their least favorite part of the salad. So, why fight it? Behold: the lettuce-free chopped veggie salad. I put all sorts of good things in this salad: baby cucumbers, sweet red peppers, carrots, tomatoes and kidney beans, because I always love a salad with kidney beans. The kids are rather ambivalent about salad dressing, so I just sprinkled some salt and pepper on the chopped veggies. That salad looks so colorful and delicious—I wish I had made enough for my own lunch today.

Kids Eating Salad

Make Your Own Salad Night, Lily style
Make Your Own Salad Night, Iain style
Make Your Own Salad Night, Iain style

As bizarre as this may sound, my kids love salad. It was not always this way. I kept trying to offer them a little bit of salad with dinner, and they’d say, “um, no thanks.” Then I changed strategies and told them they had to try a little bit of salad. I mean, they eat vegetables all the time, so salad should be easy. What would often happen is that they would pick the tomatoes and “good stuff” out of the salad, leaving a pile of greens on the plate. Hmm. That wouldn’t do. Learning to eat leafy greens is an essential life skill. So, yet again, I shifted gears. Since, Make Your Own Taco Night is a favorite kid meal, I decided to try Make Your Own Salad Night with tons of condiments, an assortment of dressings, and some tasty carbs. Bingo! That was it: salad need to be the star, the main event, the whole meal. It couldn’t be relegated to a shabby little corner of the plate. It needed to fill the plate.

Make Your Own Salad Night, Lily style
Make Your Own Salad Night, Lily style

The funny thing about Make Your Own Salad Night is that it’s not exactly quick and easy. It takes some planning or you could be chopping for 45 minutes. Especially if you start with greens from your garden that need to be picked and washed and dried in the salad spinner and then cut up into small, kid-friendly pieces. It helps to plan a Make Your Own Salad Night when you already have a fridge full of random leftovers—post-BBQ, perhaps.

How to have a successful Make Your Own Salad Night

You will need to gather some of the following items:

Really good leafy greens, such as, some combination of:
  • romaine
  • green or red leaf
  • dainty mesclun greens
  • arugula, if you have adventurous eater
  • iceberg (if you get it at the farmers market, it’s better than you remember)
  • herbs: cilantro, basil, etc.
A protein or two:
  • cold grilled meat
  • deli meats, such as smoked turkey or nice ham
  • oily little fish: sardines, herring, anchovies
  • baked tofu
  • tempeh bacon (surprisingly good in salad)
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • cheese, crumbled or cubed
Legumes, grains, pasta:
  • lentils
  • green peas
  • edamame
  • black beans, pinto bean, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc.
  • cooked rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries…
  • leftover cooked pasta/noodles tossed in a little olive oil
Hard/crunchy veggies:
  • carrots, sliced or shredded
  • cucumbers
  • roasted beets
  • steamed broccoli
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • corn
  • sweet peppers
  • fennel
Soft veggies/fruit
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • apples
  • stone fruit
  • strawberries
  • dried fruit, such as apricots, raisins, currants, cranberries
Marinated Stuff
  • marinated artichoke hearts
  • oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • olives
  • hearts of palm
  • marinated mushrooms
Nuts and Seeds
  • cashews
  • peanuts
  • sliced almonds
  • pistachios
  • walnuts/pecans
  • sunflower seeds
  • pepitas
Tasty Carbs
  • a crusty loaf of bread
  • dinner rolls
  • whole grain crackers
  • croutons
  • tortilla chips
Salad Dressing
  • homemade vinaigrette
  • Ranch or something creamy
  • salsa mixed with yogurt
  • soy sauce dressing (soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, lime juice)

Put things in little bowls or on little plates, so it’s easy for kids to serve themselves and pass things around. Talk about how awesome Make Your Own Salad Night is.

Lunch for the Parents: Salad in a Jar

salad in a jar
salad in a jar
salad in a jar

If you regularly read food blogs on the internets and peruse Pinterest, you have probably encountered Salad in a Jar. I’m not sure of the exact provenance of Salad in a Jar, but I do know that it’s a genius idea for lunch. You start by mixing up a little dressing in the bottom of a tall jar. I use a pasta sauce jar, but you can use a large canning jar: a wider mouth makes it easier to fill. Then you add ingredients that won’t get soggy and gross if they sit in the dressing overnight—things like cooked grains, pasta, beans, or raw kale. I also like to put something protein-rich at the bottom, so that the salad is hearty enough to fill me up (I’m pretty hungry at lunch). Then you pile in more heavy ingredients, such as: cucumbers, tomatoes, cooked potato chunks, roasted beets, edamame, etc. Next, stuff in as much leafy, green stuff as you can fit in the jar. Once I’ve packed in the greens, I like to put a little handful of nuts or seeds in the neck of the jar. When it’s time to eat the salad, turn the jar upside down, shake it up, and then pour your beautiful, colorful, amazingly healthy salad onto a plate.

In a perfect world, I’d eat a big salad for lunch everyday. But, what with packing kid lunches, cooking meals, making snacks, and everything else, I sometimes neglect my own lunch. I’ve read that Salad in a Jar will stay fresh for up to 5 days, but I’ve never tried making several jarred salads in advance. Maybe next week.

25 Jan 2013: Protein Packed Salad, Whole Wheat Roll and Fruit

lunch on 25 January 2013: protein packed salad
lunch on 25 January 2013: protein packed salad
lunch on 25 January 2013: protein packed salad

Last night I was feeling slight uninspired about making the kiddos’ lunches, so I put it off for a couple of hours. It the middle of watching the somewhat kid-inappropriate Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, I got the brilliant idea to made salads. Now, I know as well as you do that green salads can be a tough sell to kids. When I was kid, I only liked a green salad if it was loaded with non-salad items—i.e. meat and cheese. Oh yeah, and sweet canned kidney beans (I was funky on the corn syrup). I decided to take a protein packed approach to this salad: smoked turkey, gouda and edamame. The lettuce is romaine cut into itty bitty bite-sized pieces. I find that romaine is the best lettuce if the salad has to travel: it tends to stay crisp and fresh. There are also some sliced carrots and beets in there. I drizzled a little balsamic vinaigrette on top—just enough for some flavor, but not enough to make a soggy mess. I also included half a whole wheat dinner roll, some strawberries, and a date. This lunch is so pretty and colorful that it makes me want to pack more salads.