Need a new perspective? Eat a hearty salad

This simple recipe for Winter Kale Salad is flavorful, inviting and best of all a healthy addition to your quarantine diet.

Well, we did it — 2020 is behind us and in the record books for many reasons, with the pandemic at the top of the list. It’s now time not only to look forward but to look back and reflect on this extraordinary year.

In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” If 2020 were a box of chocolates, they would all be filled with sardines, stinky cheese and the occasional Brussels sprout. My box of chocolates mostly contained mashed potatoes and leftover spaghetti. It’s a carb thing.

We are all ready for some sweet relief, far removed from what we have been experiencing the last year.

We may be going into 2021 with a few more pounds, a few more gray hairs and a few more wrinkles. We also are going in with hope, resilience and determination.

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I say we be extra kind to ourselves and others by just doing the best we can. The extra gray hairs and wrinkles can be worn as a badge of triumph over what we faced in 2020. If you would like to take off those extra pounds that somehow crept up from all the bread baking, pasta making and sweets partaking, this new year could be the perfect time to change some of those quarantine eating habits.

Even during the winter, especially if I have been eating few vegetables and lots of carbs, I crave a good salad. Who says salads have to be cold? Adding roasted vegetables, hearty brown rice or even toasted nuts, can make a salad feel like comfort food.

This recipe for Winter Kale Salad ticks all the boxes – easy, flavorful, warm and healthy.

One of the tricks to making a good kale salad is to massage the leaves after stripping them from the tough center stem. Once the kale is a bit wilted by the massage, it will not only hold on to the dressing better, but will be more manageable to eat.

The addition of warm winter spices such as clove and ginger, along with chunks of roasted sweet potato makes this a winter meal that you can feel good about serving. Pomegranate seeds add the perfect pop of flavor and molasses brings a touch of sweetness.

Eating a hearty salad instead of a bowl of pasta or having fruit instead of a cookie may not change our life, but it could start the process of changing our perspective. I know I feel better and more energized when I make good choices.

Our “box of chocolates” still might contain surprise flavors and fillings that are unexpected and be loaded with nuts when we wanted cherries, but it doesn’t deter us from taking that bite. Who knows, this year’s box might be loaded with all our favorites.

Winter Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes (along with olive oil and sea salt for baking)

1 large bunch kale

1 cup red cabbage, finely chopped

½ cup red onion, finely chopped

½ cup dried cranberries (Craisins)

½ cup blanched almonds

1 pomegranate

Dressing

¼ cup orange juice

¼ cup molasses

3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch chunks. Toss lightly with olive oil and place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

While potatoes are baking, wash the kale and strip leaves from the stems. Massage the leaves then roughly chop. In a large bowl, add the kale, cabbage, onion, craisins and almonds, then toss.

Place the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together or use an immersion blender.

Toss the dressing with the kale salad and plate on a serving platter. Top with roasted sweet potatoes and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Kathy Nicarry, former chef at Bernheim’s Isaac’s Cafe, unites her passion for cooking with a love of the natural world. She can be reached at kjsh956@yahoo.com.

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