creamy kale salad

The other night, when Tim and I ate this salad, we’d just come back from a few hours of driving through neighborhoods. Tim and I do a lot of driving through neighborhoods. You could say driving through neighborhoods is our thing. I guess that’s good—that there’s a thing we have, you know, together. When my friend Julie got married in 2006, I remember the pastor saying something in his homily about how every couple ought to share a hobby of some kind. “Tennis or cooking or sports,” he’d suggested, right there at the front of the church filled with people and flowers and music. I hadn’t yet met Tim that day, standing up there with three other girls in blue dresses with cap sleeves, but I still like to think about the hobbies we were already sharing, even so.

In 2006, for example, I was baking batch after batch of biscotti for favors at that friend’s sit-down wedding reception. Meanwhile, the Ohio man I would someday marry was rolling out and topping homemade pizza crusts to keep in the freezer on hand. “Like frozen pizzas, but better!” he still says to me, describing that long-ago process in step-by-step detail.

Indeed, since we’ve met, Tim and I have had plenty of things, from loving the kitchen to loving quiet nights on the sofa to getting excited about properties we could dream to call home. And so, the night we ate this creamy kale salad, we’d just returned from spotting one particular 1920s treasure of a foreclosure, with cedar shake details and original stained glass. (Too bad it’s already sold!) And when we came back home, to the work we’d abandoned and a house growing dark, big plates of this salad were the kind of thing both of us had in mind.

kale and glutenfree book

The recipe for the salad comes from a new-to-us cookbook, The Complete Guide to Naturally Gluten-Free Foods*. I like the idea behind this cookbook so much. As the title suggests, it emphasizes recipes for naturally gluten-free foods: fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, certain gluten-free grains. I like this because it focuses on all a person can have while being gluten-free instead of all the things he or she can’t. I find I need more of this approach in all of life. In fact, I think that’s why the diet changes I started making in 2010 stuck so well: I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

I mean, sure, I could bemoan the fact that I haven’t had [insert some processed food] in years. But I could also look at the colorful salad on my plate, both creamy and crunchy, a blend of almost-guacamole and leafy greens and seeds, and I could think of all I have instead. I could celebrate the beauty that is fresh produce, morning smoothies, pastured meat, homemade popsicles on hot summer days. It’s hard to feel disappointed when your plate is full. I suppose that’s a metaphor if ever there were one. And, as we’ve been seeing lately, I could spend my days thinking about all the houses we won’t be buying and moving into (the “ones that get away!”), or I could be excited about the possibilities for other available homes in other available places, instead.

Bowl of Creamy Kale Salad

Years ago, when I was college senior, a friend of my mom’s asked me how student-teaching was going. Whatever I said was something akin to “good and bad.” I think I meant that I was surviving (good!). But I was also exhausted (less good!). But I never forgot her response.

“Eh, that’s all of life,” she said to me, wiping her hands with a towel. That’s all of life.

The truth is, Tim and I didn’t really care about the foreclosure being taken. We don’t miss most processed foods. But there are other losses—friends far away, dreams that have died–that take more thought to see the good in. Every beginning means an ending. Every choice towards something means a choice away from something else. This is life. This is good.

And so, we look at the full hands before us instead of the abandoned treasures beyond our reach, and press on, one step, one bite, one drive around a neighborhood at a time.

Creamy Kale Salad
Adapted from The Complete Guide to Naturally Gluten-Free Foods
Serves around four

If there’s one tip I’ve clung to in the realm of kale salads, it’s this: Massage. Massaging the kale (I like to use my clean hands) helps soften and tenderize it. Likewise, while most salads are best immediately after being dressed, kale salads like this one get better with a little time to marinate. Feel free to mix everything together and let it sit with the dressing a while—it will only make it better.

for the dressing:
1 clove of raw garlic
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper to taste

1 large bunch curly kale, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 apple, cored and diced

Start by making the dressing. Place a clove of garlic in the food processor (or, I suppose, blender) and pulse until fine. Add in the avocados, lemon juice and a little water, along with dashes of salt and pepper. Blend. You want it to be a sort of thin guacamole texture—or a slightly thick dressing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper; feel free to add a touch more water to thin it out if you like.

In a large bowl, combine, kale, carrots (I scooped the dressing out of the food processor and threw the carrots in next, without cleaning it first—easy!), pumpkin seeds and chopped apple. Pour the dressing on top and massage everything together well. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes or more in the fridge. Enjoy!

*We received this cookbook as a review copy; as always, all opinions expressed are our own.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Kathryn

    I find it all too easy to focus on what I’m losing by every choice I make, every change in my life. This is such a good reminder to focus on what I’m gaining. Thank you Shanna.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I know exactly what you mean, and I need constant reminders. Thank you for your ever encouraging voice, Kathryn!

  2. Madison

    Even though we just bought a new home a few months ago, Joe and I love to go on long walks in nearby neighborhoods and look at homes, house colors, door colors, etc. and just daydream, similar to you guys! And Sunday nights we have started a tradition now that the weather is warmer of getting frozen yogurt and driving around with Nutmeg looking at homes. It makes the end of the weekend much sweeter.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I love this! It’s so fun to dream together. : )

  3. Ruthy @ Omeletta

    This was beautiful, Shanna! I loved every line. I have a few quiet traditions with my husband as well, and they are more dear to me than anything else. The wonderfulness of life is in those quiet moments. Loved the salad.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Such sweet words, Ruthy. Thank you!

  4. Pia

    Shanna, what wonderful blog you write. There’s such hushed beauty in your words. It’s so nice to have found you today.
    My husband and I love taking long walks together; that’s always been our thing. And cooking together, and spending quiet evenings on the sofa, talking, reading, planning a travel.
    And over the years, our walk has walked us towards things we love, and away from things we love. To a whole new country, a little away from family. And that’s all of life; so true.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, Pia, what a wonderful comment YOU write! I’m thankful for your sweet words.

  5. Lindsey @ Pas de Deux

    Massaged kale salads are the best–especially with avocado!

    I love what you said about thinking of the hobbies you and Tim shared even before you knew one another– I hadn’t thought of things in this way, but can’t wait to daydream on this in the near future. And, I love the way you ended this post, Shanna. “And so, we look at the full hands before us instead of the abandoned treasures beyond our reach, and press on, one step, one bite, one drive around a neighborhood at a time.” YES!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thank you so much, sweet Lindsey!

  6. felicia | Dish by Dish

    you always amaze me with how you bring the reader into a completely unexpected avenue of thoughts, and I really believe its a gift that’s god-given.

    I loved hearing about how you and Tim drive through neighborhoods – it’s something Juan and I do, not as often, but every once in a while, and we stop and park the car for a couple of minutes outside the houses that charm us. between us, Juan and I love visiting new restaurants and trying different cuisines (I more so than him), and I’m not sure if that counts as a “thing”. but while Juan is Argentine, and I’m Singaporean, with our homeland cultures being as far apart as the distance between both countries, there are things that I’m thankful we have in common. things like the love of travel; the shared pleasure of silence and a good book; and deep conversations punctuated with humor. thanks for your thought-provoking post today (as always) – a handy reminder of how important it is to do things together with your partner.

    have a good weekend dear!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Felicia, It’s so fun to hear about the hobbies and interests other couples share! Thanks for letting me in on your world. : )

  7. Bethany

    This looks like the perfect salad to clean out my CSA basket. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Yay! (I can’t wait for our CSA to start up again!) Hope you enjoy!

  8. Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom

    Love this! Looks fresh and delicious!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks, Alice!

  9. Jessie V

    YUM. i love kale. my brother just sent some chinese kale seeds – can’t wait to grow them! i also love looking on the bright side. 😉

    1. Shanna Mallon


  10. Marie @ Little Kitchie

    Love this dressing with avocado! And that book looks great — going to check it out!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Would love to hear what you think, Marie!

  11. Pingback: Sweet Potato, Mushroom + Radish Slaw Tacos | Food Loves Writing

  12. Carrie

    The roomie and I were looking for a good raw kale recipe tonight so naturally I thought of you! This was AMAZING. New dinnertime staple! You are awesome, friend :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Aw, Carrie! This makes me so happy.

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