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Spring is on its way and I am dreaming of a garden full of kale! And I can’t wait to use some of that kale in an amazingly tasty and satisfying kale salad!

I like to make a basic kale salad that I can add all kinds of different toppings to. I change it up quite a lot according to what I have on hand, but there are a few things that I make sure I always have on hand. So I thought I would share some of these favorite toppings with you.

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A super versatile salad

There really are SO many different ways to dress up a basic kale (or any) salad. But some of my very favorite toppings include pickled beets, BBQ tempeh strips, sauerkraut, red cabbage, toasted pumpkin seeds, hummus, avocado, and baked potato fries or roasted sweet potato chunks. The list goes on….

In this post I will be sharing my recipes for not only the basic kale salad along with my most-used oil-free dressing, but also my pickled beets recipe (a recipe that my mom made when I was a kid and I still make so very many years later!), BBQ tempeh strips, and how to make awesome baked potato fries!

Because these salad components are so versatile, you can mix and match to your heart’s delight or even eat them on their own. They are also great with other salads, sandwiches, burgers, or as baked potato toppings. But first things first. Let’s start with the foundation and work our way up. First up, the basic kale salad.

It’s so easy to grow kale!

I love the summertime when I have tons of kale growing in my garden! It is so easy to grow and it is one of those veggies that you can pick off a few leaves as you need them and more will just grow back in their place. It will also readily re-seed itself, so just let a little of it go to seed and soon you will have little baby kale popping up everywhere!

Kale fresh-picked from the garden is so amazing! Once you try it fresh like this, you will never want to go back to buying it at the store (although you will probably have to come winter). It has an incredible “nutty” taste and I swear I can just feel the nutrients absorbing into my body and giving me more energy and good health!

The basic kale salad

Okay, let’s get started! First of all, you’ll need a big bunch of kale, 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado (depending on how much kale you have and how much you like avocado). You will also need a tablespoon or two of the dressing that I will share with you in a minute.

If you bought your kale in a bunch at the store, this recipe will make two large servings (good for a meal), or four smaller servings (like a side salad). To make the salad, just cut your fresh kale into shreds and place in a mixing bowl.

Cut your avocado in half. While it still in the skin, score the avocado into cubes and scoop out with a spoon or knife onto your bowl of shredded kale. Add 1-2 Tbs. of the dressing (recipe below) and start to massage the kale.

Wait a minute! Massage the kale?! Yes, massage the kale!

One of the reasons a lot of people don’t like kale (and I admit, I used to be one of them!) is because it can often be kind of tough and chewy and even bitter. Massaging the kale helps to break down the cellular walls, softening the leaves and making it much more palatable and easier to eat. It also absorbs some of the flavors from the avo and the dressing in the process. It’s a little messy to do, but well worth it!

But if you really can’t stand all that mushiness and messiness on your hands, you can massage the kale prior and just add the dressing and avocado chunks later.

In general, this will reduce the bulk of your kale by almost half! It will keep for about 3-4 days in the fridge if kept in a sealed container, which is why it makes a great meal prep item! Once you’ve done this, you are ready to add your toppings!

Oil-free Maple Mustard Dressing

This is my absolute favorite dressing and it is SOOOO easy to make! All the ingredients are in equal portions so you can adjust the amounts very easily. I usually make mine in a 2 cup Mason jar by using 1/4 cup measurements. This amount will last for several salads and also makes a great veggie dip! If you want a smaller amount, try using 2 Tbs. of each ingredient.

You will need:

Put all the ingredients into a jar, put the lid on tight and shake! That’s it! This will last quite a long time in the fridge, but you will probably use it all up before it even has a chance to go bad!

Pickled Beets (and onions!)

To make the pickled beets you will need:

  • 1 bunch or 3-4 large beets
  • 1 medium-sized red onion
  • 1 Tbs. sugar (I use coconut sugar but any kind will do)
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1 or more cups apple cider vinegar (you can use any kind of vinegar except balsamic. I usually use ACV or unseasoned rice vinegar)
  • 1 or more cups clean water

Start by washing and cutting your beets in half. Place them in a large pot of boiling water and boil for about 20 minutes or until they are fork-tender.

Once the beets are tender, drain them and rinse with cold water or leave them to cool. Gently peel the beets with a paring knife. The peels will come off very easily. Compost the scraps if you can!

Thinly slice the beets (about 1/4″ thick) and the red onion. Layer the beets and onion slices into a large container with a tight lid. Each layer will be about one beet’s worth. Add the sugar, salt, and the cinnamon stick broken into 2-3 pieces.

The reason I said approximately 1 cup of each of ACV and water is because I really just eyeball it. It will vary according to the size of your container and how deep your layers are. What I do is pour the ACV in until half of the layers are covered. Then I fill with water until all the layers are covered. Then put your lid on tightly and shake it up to mix all the ingredients. Be careful not to spill!

Place the beets in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating. These will last up to several months in the fridge.

BBQ Tempeh Strips

This is another SUPER easy recipe that you can eat on its own or use to add to all sorts of things! I personally love it in a sandwich (like a vegan BLT) or as a topping on a baked potato. And of course it goes great as a topping for Kale Salad!

What you will need:

1 block of tempeh

Your favorite BBQ sauce

That’s it!

This first step is optional depending on your experience eating tempeh. A lot of people claim that tempeh has a bitter taste, but personally, I’ve never noticed it myself. So, one thing you can do to get rid of the bitterness is to boil the tempeh before using other methods to cook it. This has an added benefit of making the tempeh more readily able to absorb any flavors you put on it.

So, boiling it will help it absorb more flavor, but if you don’t mind the natural tempeh flavor, this step is totally optional. In fact, not boiling it will help it stay together better. If you do choose to boil it, about 10 minutes will do the trick.

Once it is done, drain it and pat it dry. Slice the tempeh into about 1/4″ strips.

Cover the bottom of a rectangular container with BBQ sauce and add a layer of the tempeh strips. Add another layer of sauce and tempeh until you have used all the strips. Make sure the strips are all covered with the sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.

When you are ready, preheat your oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Place the strips on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. This will be super helpful at clean up time!

Bake the strips for 15 minutes. Then flip them over and bake them on the other side for 10-15 minutes more. You can store these in the fridge for about a week.  

Baked Potato Fries

And for our last super-duper easy recipe we have Baked Potato Fries (or should we call them wedges because they’re not fried at all!). I like to steam my potatoes first because they are easier to cut, they will take less time to bake in the oven, and they get a bit crispier too!

But if you didn’t steam them first, no worries! They will just take a bit longer to cook.

Cut your potatoes (any variety, including sweet potatoes) into wedge or “fry” shapes. Lay them out on a lined baking sheet (these silicone mats are the best for easy cleanup!).

Spray or sprinkle with some olive oil (optional) and generously season with any kind of seasoning blend that you like. I love Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Blend. I use this most often,  but you do you! Even good ol’ fashioned salt and pepper will work.

Place in a 400 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping them halfway through. If you are not using steamed potatoes, you will need to bake them for about 40 minutes total.

Of course, these are great with ketchup, but I absolutely love dipping them in my favorite hummus! Combined with nutritious kale and other veggies, this makes for a perfectly balanced and satisfying meal!

Mix and match

And that’s it! Now you have a few go-to toppings that you can use on the basic kale salad as well as any other salad you may be eating. These components are all great on, or as a compliment to, sandwiches, burgers, and just about anything you can think of!

Enjoy mixing and matching these components, as well as adding any of your favorite go-to toppings. I frequently add tomatoes, cucumbers, sauerkraut, red cabbage, toasted pumpkin seeds or walnuts, or anything that is growing in my garden!

Have fun creating new combinations and let me know what your favorite is in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

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