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Massaged Kale Autumn Harvest Salad

Can I let you in on a secret to actually liking kale? MASSAGE IT.

Honestly. Truly. It’s the best way to enjoy kale. I have a confession. I’m an almost dietitian, and I don’t really care for kale. It’s pretty bitter and strong. Which makes it great for tougher dishes, where you’re gonna cook the heck out of it, like pastas or soups. But when it comes to salads, I would try to use it sparingly. Then I discovered massaging it. It’s as simple as it sounds. You take your kale pieces in a big bowl, drizzle with EVOO, and then get to work massaging your kale–just like you would someone’s back. The kale will turn a very vibrant green and become softer. It also releases amazing flavors!

I was just waiting for the next opportunity to make a big massaged kale salad. And then, the interns had a Friendsgiving! I mean, really… Were some graduate dietetic students going to pass up on a chance to make and eat fun fall foods? Nope.

We had our Friendsgiving at Michaela’s house in Huntington. Since I don’t live in Huntington, I wanted to bring something that required minimal cooking. I signed up to bring a massaged kale salad, but had no idea what I would put in it. The morning before heading out to work, I grabbed some stuff from my kitchen that sounded good (apples, pecans, pumpkin seeds, kale blend, cranberry white cheddar cheese) and threw it in a cooler bag. After work, I went to Kroger on my way to Michaela’s house and got some more stuff to go with it (kale, dressing, butternut squash, pomegranate seeds). Whenever I’m coming up with a recipe this is typically how I go about it. I don’t really sit at a table and make a list. I just let my current pantry and what’s in season (or available/on sale) at the store inspire me.

I also wanted to bring a salad because Thanksgiving foods can be a little heavy, and I wanted something on my plate to help balance that. This dish was perfect! It had all the fall flavor with none of the heaviness.

This is what happens when you get a bunch of dietetic interns together in the same room as food.

Madeleine made a turkey for the first time ever, Liana made her mom’s recipe for stuffing, Michaela threw together a recipe for sweet potato casserole, Taylor made mac and cheese, Megan made her mom’s recipe for broccoli casserole and made apple cider, Kelsey made a huge amount of mashed potatoes and an oreo dark chocolate sea salt pie that was to die for, Sam made his mom’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and Lauren made a pumpkin roll. I was so proud of everyone’s dishes. We all had so much fun making our food and sharing it with each other.

I had to try EVERYTHING because it all looked so good. Plus I’ve learned over the years to never turn down food from a dietetics person.

I mean, just look at these desserts. DROOLING. I had to get one of everything.

Massaged Kale Autumn Harvest Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 20 small side salads or 10 large salads
  • 8 oz. kale greens
  • 12 oz. sweet kale salad kit
  • 3 medium honeycrisp apples
  • 5 oz. pecan halves
  • 8 oz. pomegranate seeds
  • 8 oz. cranberry white cheddar cheese
  • Enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil to coat kale
  • 22 oz. roasted butternut squash
  • Enough dressing of your choice
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut butternut squash into bite sized chunks. Place on baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Use your hands to push around the squash and coat in the EVOO. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes, until softened.
  2. Your kale will most likely already be cut up. If not, cut it into manageable salad bite pieces. Either way, you want to make sure you're cutting off the steam. This piece is edible, it's just pretty tough (even for kale).
  3. Put all your kale pieces in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with EVOO. Massage your kale, working the EVOO on all pieces, until it turns a vibrant green and softens. It should only take a few minutes.
  4. Add in the entire bag of sweet kale salad mix. This should be triple washed, so no need to worry, just dump it in.
  5. Slice up your apples into thin, bite size pieces. Add to bowl.
  6. Make sure your pecans are cut into bite size pieces and add to bowl.
  7. Add pomegranate seeds to bowl.
  8. Cut cranberry white cheddar cheese into small chunks. Add to bowl.
  9. Add in roasted butternut squash.
  10. Toss salad and serve with dressing of your choice.
Kale: I used Nature's Greens brand of 16 oz. bag and only used half of it. You can use any kale, as long as it's 8 oz.

Sweet kale salad kit: I used Eat Smart brand. It has cabbage, kale, chicory, and brussel sprouts. It also comes with a baggie of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. I added those to the salad. It comes with poppyseed salad dressing and I just saved this for later.

Cheese: I found this cranberry white cheddar cheese at Aldi, from the Happy Farms brand (Aldi brand). I just thought this would be a fun seasonal option. They don't offer this year round. You can use regular white cheddar cheese.

Pomegranate: I purchased a container of pomegranate seeds ready to use. I wanted to save on time for this recipe.

Dressing: I purchased a Panera Fiji Apple dressing and a Marzetti Simply Dressed Vinaigrette Pomegranate dressing. I love the Panera dressing. It was my first time trying the Marzetti and it was super tasty!

Pecans: I used regular pecans because that's what I had in my pantry. You'll need to chop them if that's what you use. When I went to purchase ingredients to remake for actual Thanksgiving I purchased the pecan halves because less work and they were cheaper. You could also sub pecans for walnuts.


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