Winter Power Veggie Salad

My phone rang while I was on the bus home last night.


It was Matt.  “Hi love.  Can you give me some recipes for salads?”

“Salads?”  I repeated.  Matt will eat a salad if I make it but I have never known him to prepare a bowl of leafy greens on his own.

Matt just started school again last week.  He is in a program to get his bachelor’s in nursing.  He and his new classmates, all nurses who have their associate degrees,  have been tasked with putting on a party for the Ronald McDonald House.  It’s a lesson about service and nursing, I think.

Anyhow, they are making a meal for the families staying at the house.  Matt signed up to be on the salad committee.  “I wanted to make sure we have a really good salad, not just a bag of iceberg lettuce with a few carrots,” he explained to me.

I offered a few suggestions, along with the warning that the type of salads we like (say, spinach, bacon and tomatoes or arugula, grapes, macadamia nuts and feta) might not be crowd-pleasers.  And they cost a lot more than what the program had likely budgeted.

“Got it. Thanks!” he said as he hung up the phone.

Later than night, I asked how it went over.  He admitted it had been a hard sell.  His groupmates were a bit taken aback by the spinach idea.  They were unimpressed by Matt’s passionate plea for serving nutrient-rich foods.

Once he got buy in from his groupmates, he told the teacher that he estimated the salad would cost $100.

“Oooh,  how’d that go over?” I asked.

“She said, ‘$100?!’” Matt said.  “Then I explained to her that if we were feeding 50 people, it was not unreasonable that we might spent $2 per person on a salad.”  Good point, I had to admit.

I really admire Matt’s commitment to sharing the good food word.  Often times in situations like that, I don’t like to make waves.  If I had been in the class, I probably would have just okayed the pale green iceberg lettuce with bottled ranch dressing that makes up the typical party salad – and made sure to eat before I showed up.   I am not one to push – or even mention – paleo to people who do not explicitly ask me about it.

But I think it’s awesome that Matt did.  I told him I was impressed.

“I’m a nurse,” he pointed out.  “I’m in nursing school trying to help sick people.  I at least have to let people know there are more healthful of foods out there than what people consume in the standard American diet.”

Very good point, I conceded.  Then I thought – Dang, if I had known his goal was to serve the most nutrient-rich food, I should have suggested my Winter Power Veggie Salad.  That would have really rocked the boat for a crowd expecting iceberg.

Winter Power Veggie Salad

Lacinato Kale, 1 bunch (about 4 cups sliced)

Olive oil, 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons

Juice from ½ lemon

Brussels sprouts,2 cups chopped

Butternut squash, 2 cups, peel removed, chopped into ¼  inch cubes

Cooked chicken, 2 cups

Walnuts, ½ cup

Balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper

  1. Remove the stems from kale.  Then roll leaves into a tight roll.  Starting at one end, slice into ¼ inch or so slices, so you end up with strips of kale.  Toss kale in large bowl with lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Use your hands to massage kale for a minute or so.  Refrigerate while you are making the rest of the salad or overnight.  (Here’s a great video of that starts off showing how cut and massage the kale.  Well, it actually starts with an annoying commercial, but it’s still worth watching if my description leaves you confused.)
  2. In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts and squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Then, spread mixture evenly on baking tray and bake in oven at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Remove tray from oven and let cool.
  3. Chop apple into small cubes.
  4. Toss together the kale, sprouts, butternut squash, chicken, apple, walnuts and balsamic vinegar.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. This makes quite a bit, maybe four big servings.  If you want to refresh any left overs, just add a little more olive oil and balsamic vinegar before serving.