Kitchen Classics: Kale Salad, Fully Loaded

[With added hemp seeds, sprouts, radish, apple and chopped pecans]

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here in the DDD household, what with mega-marking for my classes at the college, a whirlwind trip to Montreal (more on that anon), the regular array of doctor’s appointments, a quick visit for a dental emergency (my molar is fine now), evening visits to the Vet emergency clinic (Chaser is fine now), weekday visits from the emergency plumber (the toilet is fine now), and long-deferred evenings with the HH (our relationship will be fine now).  So thank you all for your patience in waiting for this next recipe!

Before I get to the recipe, though, I’m going to make you wait just a wee bit longer (am I terrible, or what?) so I can share a little from our trip to Montreal last weekend.

After spending time with my dad to wish him both both a Happy Father’s Day and a Happy 91st Birthday (yes, you read that right!), I knew exactly where I wanted to dine:  Aux Vivres, one of the most popular, hippest vegan spots in that city.

Despite driving over an hour before we found the place (which was quite the feat, considering we were only 15 minutes away when we started), we were thrilled to finally ease into a parking spot and run across Boulevard St.-Laurent into the bright, bustling and (thankfully) bilingual café.

After a heavy (if yummy) brunch that morning, the one thing I really craved was a green juice.  I started with the Popeye, while the HH went for a Mango Lassi:

[The HH’s Mango lassi on the left, my green juice on the right.]

For dinner, the HH (of course) chose the closest thing to meat on the menu and ordered the Portobello Burger, about which he raved.

[Manly Portobello Burger. Look at the size of those fries!]

I sank my teeth into a Buddha Bowl with grilled tempeh (which reminded me that I also need to make these types of bowls at home more often!):

[Vegan Happy Meal–apologies for the blurred photo!]

All in all, a wonderful meal, as always.  We had hoped to get to Crudessence as well, but ran out of time!

Once back in Toronto, I decided to get serious about cooking up some healthy fare. I don’t know about you, but after the Chai Ice Cream, Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes, Raw Fudge-Topped Brownies and Lemon-Kissed Blueberry Ice Cream in quick succession, I think I am all “desserted-out” now.

Naw, kidding! 😉  (I honestly can’t imagine such a thing. . . ).

[Vibrant with additions of grape tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, spring mix and cucumber.]

So, despite the fact that I *could* continue sharing an indefinite number of desserts until, oh, 2042 or so (to me, nothing is ever as interesting as dessert, so I tend to lean–heavily–in that direction), I have chosen to take a break from the sweet stuff and begin to share all the other stuff I eat on a daily basis.

When I posted what I considered to be a fairly basic kale salad the other day on Facebook and got a resounding response from readers (in fact, that little update got more comments/likes than anything else I’ve ever posted on the page), I realized that regular food deserves its moment in the sun, too! (Well, not really “in the sun,” of course, since we all know that would be bad for its health and increase its chances of skin cancer–but you know what I mean).

[A blend with purple cabbage, green apple, and pumpkin seeds]

In a way, I think of this salad as  the culinary counterpart to The HH. (What? The salad is going a little bald at the top?).

Let me explain.

Like so many other couples who’ve been together for some time, the HH and I have established routines in our lives.  He’s the one who gets up in the morning to walk  The Girls; I’m the one who feeds them their dinner.  In the evenings, we walk them together.  When we prepare our own dinner, I’m the kitchen director and the HH is my sous-chef (well, chopper, at any rate). He’s in charge of the lawn mower and I’m in charge of the food processor. Et cetera.

As a teenager, I remember glancing at my parents sitting across from each other at the dinner table and thinking that their lives were unbearably dull and routine, devoid of amy spark or novelty. They just seemed so. . . . blasé with each other.

[With cherry tomatoes, green cabbage, sunflower seeds and chopped pecans]

These days, though, I’ve come to appreciate that there is comfort and security in familiarity. It’s like sliding into the car seat each morning with everything already adjusted, so there’s no need to fix the rear-view mirror or move the chair forward; or that beloved blouse you’ve worn so many times you recognize the faint aroma of your favorite perfume when you withdraw it from your drawer. Or like that old wooden spoon you got as a gift when you moved into your first apartment, the one that’s stained and glossy with the nuance of oils and sugar and cookie dough batter that have worked their way into the wood grain over the years, the handle having shaped itself to your grip over time with so many uses.

Life with a long-term partner is like that, too: the steady, repeated drum of your daily life like the constant flow of water from a stream, engraving its pattern into the rock; eventually, the rough edges are all smoothed out, the water’s groove etched permanently.

It’s the daily, quotidien habits that provide a sense of harmony and contentment, even when we begin to take them for granted. Sometimes, it takes an outsider’s comment–“Wow, that HH is so funny!” a friend might remark after we’ve all had dinner together, or “I can’t believe that the HH knew who Robert Bussard was!” or “Seriously? The HH painted that??”–to startle us back into appreciation.  And at times like that, I remember exactly why I was so smitten to begin with, and what it is I still love.

[A perfect summer lunch plate.]

So, okay, maybe it’s a stretch, but I think we go through the same dulling of appreciation with familiar foods, too. Anything that you eat regularly–part of the “routine”–can be taken for granted, and you may lose sight of how remarkably great that food seems to someone who doesn’t consume it on a regular basis.*

That’s why I was so taken aback by your response to this salad on Facebook. Ever since I first encountered a similar recipe in Kim’s recipe calendar, we’ve eaten a variation on this dish at least once a week in our house; to me, it’s as familiar as my fingerprints.  At the same time, the fact that it is so common offers a sense of regularity (and–ahem–I mean that in both senses of the word). Your reaction made me wonder if perhaps there was more here than I realized–had I been taking my quotidien Kale Salad for granted?

Well, thanks to all of you for recasting my perception of this salad. To me, it had become a pair of comfy PJs,  a favorite hairbrush that’s softened with years of use, a constant, steady and familiar companion whose presence was so ubiquitous it almost receded into the background.

But now, looking at it with new eyes, my heart jumps again when I gaze in that direction. And I appreciate him it more than ever.

*I’d say this principle is true of every food except chocolate, of course. I am still just as besotted today as I was the first day I encountered it.

What’s your kitchen staple–a dish that’s common in your kitchen, but might seem new and tantalizing to someone else?

[The photo that started it all. . .. ]

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I’m also thrilled that for once, I haven’t missed the deadline to participate in the monthly Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free event! This month, the event is hosted by Danielle of Against All Grain, and the theme is “Seasonal Salads.”  There’s still time for you to enter, too (up until June 30th), so head over to Danielle’s blog to read the guidelines and submit your own salad recipe! I’m also sharing this at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday , Allergy Free Wednesdays and Fresh Foods blog hop.

Last Year at this Time: Raw Chocolate Almond Butter (gluten free; ACD all stages)

Two Years Ago: Sweet and Sour Chickpeas (gluten free; ACD all stages)

Three Years Ago: Blog Break

Four Years Ago: Secret Ingredient Tropical Lemon-Coconut Muffins (not gluten free; ACD maintenance)

© Ricki Heller

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]



  1. Oh, I absolutely adore Aux Vivres! I visited Montreal for a four-day weekend earlier this Spring, and my friend and I ended up eating at Aux Vivres twice–what an amazing eatery. I, like you, enjoyed the Buddha Bowl, as well as the Macro Bowl. Boy, do they sure know how to pile veggies on top of brown rice and smother it in a lip-smacking sauce. Mmm, I can’t wait to go back.

    • The Macro Bowl was the other one I eyed before choosing! It was really difficult to pick something. I’ve had their brunch before (swoon) but never one of the bowls. I agree–such a great place!

  2. Wow Ricki, that is one GORGEOUS salad! That’s taking “eating a rainbow” to a whole new level! I can totally see why it got such an overwhelming response on FB — it’s beautiful AND delicious! kudos!

    • Thanks so much, Caralyn! The funny thing is, it’s really easy to make, and once you chop everything it really lasts a long time (we put leftovers in the fridge and eat for 3-4 more days). I just love this salad. And I hadn’t even thought of the “eating a rainbow” idea–but so true!! 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for entering this mouth watering salad to GAHIGF June! I was hoping you would when I saw it on FB! 🙂

  4. what a great post about things we take for granted. I am constantly changing the food I make though there are some things that come up again and again. Right now I just want a big bowl of salad – this is fantastic – I make a salad of what is about more often in summer but in winter I roast vegies much more – esp pumpkin. Glad you had a great visit to Toronto – your salad bowl sounds lovely.

    • You know, I do make roasted salads in the summer, too, but for some reason I seem to forget about them too often. Will have to go back to that! And I’m like you with cooking. Blogging has opened up a whole new world of food and food variety, but we do tend to make certain things over and over (like this salad!). 🙂

  5. What a wonderful salad!

  6. Despite travelling to Montreal fairly regularly, I have yet to eat at a vegan resto, there. I will definitely have to check these gems out next time. 🙂

    I love, love, love citrusy kale salads. It definitely helps to tenderize the greens. 🙂

    As for exotic, yet normal to use simple recipes, it would definitely have to be dal bhat. So delicious, so simple and we make ti all the time:

    • Thanks for the link, Janet–I adore dal, yet it is one of those things I seem to overlook far too often! And yes, you *must* go to Aux Vivres. Totally worth getting lost during the drive over there!! 😉

  7. Ah Ricki – you had me all teary. Pete and I have been married 11 years and this weekend someone asked if we were newlyweds 🙂 I consider myself so blessed. Blessed with routine (and so much more)! And I love it when people rave about him, you’re so right about that part! This salad looks simply amazing (pun intended). xo

  8. Courtney says

    I am eating that very salad as I type this, lol! I love my kale salads. They are definitely a kitchen staple for me. This one is full of cilantro, kale, bell peppers, jicama, mushrooms, tomatoes, and the whole rest of my produce drawer and farmers market purchases which are too many to list! SO good.

    Happy Birthday to your dad! 91–wow. I am sure he was thrilled that you were able to celebrate with him. I hope you had a nice visit!


    • Thanks so much Courtney! So nice to see your name pop up here again! 😀 Yes, my dad is quite the guy. . . a late bloomer (I take after him in that way, anyway–lol) and he just keeps on going. He dances every weekend, he walks an hour a day, and just discovered the elliptical machines at his retirement residence. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next! 😉

  9. Not only is that the most gorgeous kale salad I’ve ever seen, it’s the most romantic kale story I’ve ever heard! Thanks for sharing your heart. xoxo

  10. Hi Ricki,

    What a delightful post.

    I just celebrated my 10 year anniversary with my husband on Saturday (together 13 years). And I just can’t agree more. I never thought routine would be so comforting and safe. I was a free spirit when we met, but as he tells me, he knew I was the “one.” And here we are now, playing house everyday, growing and learning everyday…and with two awesome children. And life couldn’t be more lovely, predictable, safe, and fun. 🙂

    I’m glad to see such a wild response about this salad. It seems just the sweets get all the attention. But here we are with an incredibly healthy dish (kale salad no less) getting all this talk. I love it. And I love kale, but it doesn’t love me (unfortunately).

    I really enjoyed your post, Ricki. Thank you for sharing, and keep those healthy vegan summer recipes coming! 🙂

    Be Well,

    • Congrats on your own anniversary, Amber! Sounds like you’ve got just the right balance of romance and routine, too. 🙂 And so sorry that kale doesn’t treat you well–I can’t imagine! Are you okay with other dark leafy greens (like chard, etc)? They can easily be replaced in the salad.

  11. I absolutely adore this post! And to think I would admire the pictures of your salads even more than the pictures of your desserts. I have a few favourite shots of my own kale creations. 🙂 But your rainbow bowls are truly inspiring! ..Oh, and I love hearing about your HH. 🙂 So sweet and romantic.

    • Thanks, Lynn! I agree–there’s something really beautiful about the simplicity of brightly colored veggies all tossed together in a bowl! I’m glad you liked the pics (and the story). 🙂

  12. This salad is SO beautiful. I can’t wait to try it out. I love all the options you provide too. What is the combo in the first photo? That one definitely “had me at hello.” I also love your phrase, “vegan happy meal”!

    • Thanks so much, Kate! The first photo is the same bowl as the last photo–but in the last photo, I had added sprouts and more hemp seeds on top. Who knew salad could be so pretty? 😉

  13. I love this post. I love this post in all the ways. The first paragraph made me laugh out loud whilst simultaneously wishing I lived nearby so I could dash over to give you a great big squeezy hug.

    My grandma is 92, so hurrah for men in their fabulosu 90s; I too could post about dessert til kingdom come; I dream of that familiar humming-along relationship; last but not least, I also dream of kale, for I cannot find it here.

    Much love, Ricki dear!

    P.S. You look gorgeous in that photos 🙂

    P.P.S. I also can’t stop giggling over the fact that you identified which was the lassi and which the “green juice”. 😉

    • Hannah, your comment made ME laugh!! That last PPS–I have to tell you, totally unintentional, but now that you mention it, ha ha ha ha!! Silly me. 😀 And so glad to make you laugh. Laughing is good, no? 😉

  14. Once again, it’s clear that you and I are two peas in a pod! I love me a big kale salad loaded with colorful veggies (carrots, beets, cauli, red peppers, tomatoes, red onion and cukes are my go-to.) Just ignore the fact that I have to throw some tuna on there 😉

    • Ha ha! The beauty of this kale salad is that it’s open to anyone and almost any ingredient. . . we are an all-inclusive salad over here! 😉

  15. I definitely would have preferred the mango smoothie and the Buddha bowl. The bowl looks like it would have suited me well. But, really, your salad trumps anything available in a restaurant! Fully loaded, indeed. You must have been really hungry when you made the salad. 🙂

    • Well, we are half the same then, right? I got the juice and the bowl. 🙂 And yes, I was hungry. . . but aren’t I always?? 😉

  16. Oh Ricki, I just love your prose. It’s at once funny, honest and frank, and always speaks truth. Thanks for writing such a great blog (oh, and your recipes are pretty awesome as well). 🙂

    • Geanna, thank you so much! That means a lot to me. So glad the writing resonates. Reaching readers is what it’s all about (whether with prose, recipes, or both!). 🙂

  17. Great post and a great story as well. We just celebrated our 13th anniversary and I try to appreciate him every day. I SO want to visit Aux Vivres. I make their brilliant coconut bacon bits regularly!

    • Stephanie, you’d love Aux Vivres! I had no trouble finding stuff to eat there. Is the coconut bacon recipe posted somewhere?? 🙂

  18. Hi There Ricki,

    Well, I couldn’t pass up featuring this salad on my June monthly-round up!! 🙂

    This month’s theme: Backyard BBQ Recipes. If you get a chance, come on over and check out the other inspiring dishes!

    Be Well,

  19. Loved this salad. It was a great way to use lots of veggies from my garden and local CSA. I added some quinoa and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette that was already in the fridge. It is even better the second day. Thanks for sharing a recipe that mixes all the “routine” foods in our house into something spectacular.

    • Thanks so much, Patricia! This is definitely one of those meals where the sum is greater than its part. 😉 And adding quinoa is such a great idea! 🙂

  20. love raw kale salad in anyway…I usually eat it with cucumbers, radishes, sunflower seeds and feta with either just lemon or I may add a tad of balsamic dressing…am gonna try some of the above variations-thanks!

  21. Ricki, you know I come back to this recipe over and over again? I made a huge batch of a version of this for my Memorial Day party and so many people were excited about it. I’ve sent a few your way since then! 🙂 And now I’m craving it again.


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