“Eat more vegetables” is frequently heard advice, and green, leafy varieties are usually ranked at the tippy top of the good-for-you list. Getting the recommended daily servings, however, tends to be far easier said than done, so I have a few tricks to help me get there.
Adding a cup of baby spinach to any smoothie will go practically undetected. (Correction: it will change the color but do little to the taste!) This is all well and good when I’m on a smoothie kick, but I go in waves with them.
Eating a salad every day for lunch or dinner is good advice, but as simple as that sounds, too many other options offer stiff competition.
As obvious as it may seem, my “trick” for getting everyone to eat more vegetables in the course of the week is to simply buy one or two vegetables beyond the necessities on my grocery list. These items tend towards what looks fresh, appealing, and familiar–and for which there’s no game plan. I hate to waste anything, so if you’re like me, the extras will be consumed one way or another.
That big head of broccoli that didn’t really figure into my weekly meal plan might be a quick side of steamed broccoli one night or an easy broccoli salad to enjoy for weekday lunches. (Recently, I served broccoli salad as a last-minute side dish with our favorite mac & cheese recipe and my husband declared it an awesome combination. Who would have thought?) Another favorite way to up the veggie intake is to purchase a bag of coleslaw mix to make super simple (and kid approved) Fall Slaw.
Because of it’s versatility, a bunch of kale is often one of my “extras.” Kale is available year round and it actually tastes better after the first frost. It can be combined with refrigerator and pantry staples to create a plethora of wholesome meals (like this ridiculously easy egg and kale skillet meal or this flavorful frittata). Or add it to soup (Tuscan Lentil Soup is a favorite) or melt one big bunch down into an effortless and wholesome side dish. (Note: if you glance at the linked recipes, two of them call for pancetta, which can be omitted for a vegetarian option or substituted with bacon. I will say that just a hint of either makes these dishes winners with my husband and two boys.)
The most frequent way I put a fresh bunch of kale to use, however, is in a salad. If you search this site, you’ll find several (this is a reader favorite), and I have plenty more to share. Possibly the easiest of them all is the one I’m sharing today. Aside from the requisite greens, all the other ingredients are long-lasting fridge and pantry basics. The light lemon vinaigrette is incredibly easy yet provides just enough flavor. Nuts and/or seeds add crunch. Dried fruit supplies a hint of sweetness to balance the bitter greens and tangy lemon.
You can call is a day with the basic recipe, or you can take a clean-out-the-fridge approach. Because broccoli is another veggie I often buy as one of the aforementioned “extras,” I’ll often use a bunch of broccoli and a bunch of kale. Lately, I’ve been buying enormous heads of broccoli with sizable stems from a favorite market stand. I’ve started saving the stems and shredding them to make a quick slaw. (It’s just like the store-bought broccoli slaw mix, only fresher. If inspired, you can shred carrots, cauliflower, and/or cabbage scraps and make quite a good mix on your own–the shredding disk on a food processor makes for best texture and quick work.)
Beyond that quirky idea, everyday options like chopped apple, crisp bacon, roasted root vegetables (leftovers are fair game here), and a protein of choice are all worthy add-ins. I’ve listed more options in the recipe card, but consider the recipe a blank canvas on which to paint and add what sounds good to you.
Because “quick and easy” is often the name of the game, don’t hesitate to keep the extras to a minimum. I frequently enjoy the basic recipe as an easy side dish or quick lunch. Unlike regular green salads, I love how kale salads keep in the fridge over four to five days. For maximum crunch factor when eating over time, I do like to sprinkle the nuts and seeds over top just before serving.
Yield: 6-8 servings (or 4 larger entrée servings)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 bunches (about 10 ounces each) Tuscan kale*, stems removed, leaves shredded or finely chopped
- 1/2 cup salted or roasted almonds, roughly chopped (may use pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or a combination of your favorite nuts and seeds)
- 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, pitted dates, dried cherries, cranberries, or a mix
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese**
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and optional pepper flakes. Set aside
Place the chopped kale in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt overtop and massage the kale for a minute or two, or until the leaves soften and become a deeper shade of green. If using the broccoli option (see notes), add the prepared broccoli now. Drizzle the reserved dressing overtop, and toss to evenly coat.
Stir in the nuts, dried fruit, and Parmesan cheese. Toss to combine, and check for seasoning, adding an extra sprinkle of salt or squeeze of lemon juice, if desired. The salad may be served right away or refrigerated until ready to eat. Leftovers will keep well for several days stored covered in the refrigerator. If refrigerating for more than two hours before eating, you may wish to add the nuts just before serving for maximum crunch.
- *As an option, use one bunch kale and one bunch (about 12 ounces) fresh broccoli. (A bunch with a long stem works well as opposed to just the crown.) Prepare the kale as directed. For the broccoli, roughly chop the florets into very small pieces, and then shred the stem to make a slaw. You may do this with a box grater but the shredder blade of a food processor tends to shred more effectively.
- **Nutritional yeast is an excellent vegan alternative to the Parmesan. Use an equal amount and an extra pinch or two of salt.
- More tasty options: chopped apple, cooked and crumbled bacon, crumbled feta or goat cheese instead of the Parmesan, or even roasted root vegetables or winter squash. For added protein and a filling meal, add baked chicken, broiled salmon, grilled shrimp, or crispy tofu.
Tuscan kale (also known as Dinosaur or Lacinato) is my favorite, and its tender leaves make it an ideal choice for those who may be new to or on the fence about kale. The slightly more fibrous curly kale may certainly used. Sometimes these bunches are especially large so one may be enough.
More kale salads you may enjoy:
Chopped Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (with an easy Meyer lemon substitute)