Recipes

Kale and Butternut Squash Super Salad

I hated the idea of salads growing up. The first time I actually ever ate one was in high school when I first began trying to lose weight. I remember forcing myself to choke down a big bowl of iceberg lettuce under thick layers of cheese and ranch dressing (suuuuper healthy, right?) and feeling like a survivor of some unfortunate tragedy afterward.

Fortunately, as time went on, I realized there was no rule anywhere that said a salad must be boring, flavorless or a generally miserable experience to be “healthy”. The sky is the limit when it comes to all the possibilities for building a better salad and enjoying every bite along the way.

This salad, in its combination of equally tasty and nutritious superfood ingredients, is no exception. It’s simple and tasteful. I’ve seen it disappear in a hurry when I’ve made it for parties and family get-togethers in the past and is great on its own or rolled into a whole wheat wrap for a quick lunch on the go. With vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fat, protein and complex carbs, it will help you power through your day with pizzazz.

Kale And Squash Super Salad

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Medium butternut squash
  • 1//2 Cup Long grain brown rice (or Jasmine rice for gluten sensitivity)
  • 1/2 Cup Quinoa
  • 2 Cups of water
  • 4 Cups kale (finely chopped)
  • 4 Cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 Vegetable bullion cubes (or chicken/beef bullion cubes)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Container reduced fat feta cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

The Squash

Halve the squash, deseed and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle in olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and 2 cloves of garlic. Bake at 400° for 45-60 minutes. Once finished, allow to cool before peeling away skin and slicing the squash into cubes. If you like your squash a little toasty, coat a baking pan with cooking spray and bake at 350° for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cubes are a slight golden brown. (Feel free to work on the rest of the recipe while squash is initially baking, or even cook and cube the squash the night before.)

The Grains

Brown rice and quinoa have slightly different cooking times so you may want to prepare them separately. (Although I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t cooked them together many a time when crunched for time in the past; it hasn’t killed anyone thus far, so I have zero regrets on the matter.) If you don’t have time or patience for both the rice and the quinoa, you can just stick with the quinoa since it’s both a complex carb and a complete protein.

Quinoa needs to be very thoroughly rinsed before cooking to remove its natural coating of saponin, or it will retain a bitter taste after cooking. I like using a fine mesh straining bag to rinse it, but you can also line a regular strainer with cheesecloth or a thin dish towel to get the job done (and don’t be afraid to get in there with your hands to mix it around to make sure it’s good and clean).

Put rinsed quinoa in a pot and add one cup of water, one clove of minced garlic, one vegetable bullion cube and salt and pepper to taste (this will add an extra layer of flavor for your salad). Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat, cover with a lid and allow to continue cooking another 15 minutes (until water is absorbed). Remove lid and allow to rest off heat for another five minutes before fluffing with a fork.

For brown rice, repeat the same steps for cooking the quinoa, but allow to cook about 20 minutes on a lower heat (until water is absorbed) and allow the rice to rest 10-20 minutes off heat with the lid on (if you like you rice a little crunchier, you can rest it less, if you like it chewier, rest a little more).

Tying it all together

Once you have all the components ready, just layer them together in a serving dish and you’re ready to go! Kale first (and remember to really dice the leaves finely or you’ll find yourself choking down big, leafy chunks), followed by an even coating of rice, quinoa, butternut squash and feta cheese. Use your judgment with the cheese; you probably won’t need the entire container, just a nice even sprinkling.

For dressing, I like a good drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. But most any vinaigrette will pair well together with this salad.

All writing and images copyright © 2017 Rachel Elise Weems Woods

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