Yesterday morning I was enjoying a champion breakfast of tea, cold pizza, and a backlog of low-quality advent calendar chocolates, when it occurred to me how unbelievably close to Christmas we are.
Between a run of epic thanksgiving dinners thrown by my American expat friends, the company Christmas party, festive drinks happenings, and holiday potlucks, I’ve been well immersed in holiday eating (and drinking) for a few weeks now.
I have two policies regarding holiday eating. The first is that I try to eat as healthy as possible as often as possible in between the parties and the dinners. The second is that I refuse to beat myself up about it. So you had a couple of rum and eggnogs. So what? The holidays are a finite period and it’s not like you eat and drink like this all the time. Right?
I try to eat as healthy as possible about 80% of the time and indulge in treats about 20% of the time. This time of year just happens to be tipped more to that 20%. But I do believe in balance, so when I’m not eating brown sugar shortbread, I’m cramming in as many kale salads as I can.
This kale salad is a meal in its self. Kale, lightly steamed, is tossed with roasted butternut squash and a tangy dijon vinaigrette. I added some chickpeas and a handful of wheatberries in order to make it into something more substantial, but you can leave them out for a lighter salad if you prefer. Topped with some toasted squash seeds (you know, the ones you scraped out of the middle of that squash) and a crumble of salty feta, this is one excellent meal. It’s a great breather between holiday meals, or, I dare say, good enough to serve on your holiday table. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Kale and Butternut Squash Salad Recipe:
Cooking the wheat berries and roasting the butternut squash are the things that make this recipe time consuming. If you’ve done that in advance the salad will come together in a flash. I like to keep cooked whole grains in my freezer in 1 cup portions for exactly this reason.
Serves 4-6 as a main.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 bunch kale (400g / 5 cups) washed and de-stemmed
1 cup cooked wheatberries
1 cup cooked chickpeas
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
crumbled feta, toasted squash seeds for serving (optional)
Preheat your oven to 200C / 400F.
In a large bowl, toss the cubed squash with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. Spread the squash out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven to roast for about 15 minutes. The squash should be tender, but not mushy.
While the squash is roasting, get the kale ready. De-stem and roughly chop it, then place it into a large pot with a small amount of water. Place over high heat, covered, and steam for 2-3 minutes. The kale should be bright green and slightly wilted. Drain the water from the pot, and set the kale aside to cool slightly. You may need to squeeze excess moisture from it before adding to the salad.
Whisk the remaining olive oil together with the balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard to make the dressing.
To assemble the salad place the cooled kale into a large bowl with the roasted squash, chickpeas, and wheatberries. Pour the dressing over the top, and toss well. Top with toasted squash seeds or crumbled feta if desired.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse! It is extraordinarily rich in micronutrients, dietary fiber, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and cancer fighting glucosinolates. Kale is a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and contains nearly twice the vitamin K (essential for blood clotting and also an important anti-inflammatory agent) than any other cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cabbage, etc). Iron, magnesium, vitamin E, folate, and phosphorous are among the complement of vital minerals found in kale. The dietary fiber in kale is known to reduce blood cholesterol levels. One recent study showed that this benefit may be improved by lightly steaming kale for about 5 minutes before consuming.
Winter squash are rich in carotenoids, a precursor to vitamin A, and are a good source of vitamin C. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber. The seeds, when consumed in moderation, are a great source of healthy oils including linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil).