meatless monday and lunchbox life duo: kale salad with roasted butternut squash, blue cheese, pomegranate, and pecans

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…and quinoa, and citrus vinaigrette. For both Meatless Monday and Lunchbox Life this week, the plan is to detox! Alex and I had an awesome time visiting New England this past weekend for my cousin’s wedding. We flew to Boston and drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Thursday, explored coastal Maine on Friday, walked around the city of Boston on Saturday morning, and celebrated cousins Jessy and Doug on Saturday evening. We had a wonderful time, but after lobster rolls, clam chowder, airport snacks, and more locally brewed beer than I care to count, I’m feeling the overindulgence. What do I always crave after a vacation full of rich food? Broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and other members of the cruciferous family.

Since today was a professional development day and I’ll be in Athens for a conference on Thursday and Friday, I just needed two school lunches this week, so I decided to make a double batch of this kale salad. There are many variations of kale salad, but this version is perfect for fall (despite the warmer-than-I’d-like temperatures this week). The kale is the base, the butternut squash is a great meat replacement because of its heartiness, the pomegranate seeds provide sweetness and a pop, the pecans provide the crunch, the quinoa is there for the whole grains and fiber, and the blue cheese is there for saltiness, tartness, and creamy texture. This is really a non-recipe since you can add or subtract anything you like, but I am proud of this combination and think that it really works!

Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, Pomegranate, and Pecans

2 bunches of kale, torn into bite-size pieces

2 Tbsp. olive oil, separated

1 butternut squash, seeds and skin removed, small dice

1 cup dry quinoa, prepared as directed (should yield 2 cups cooked quinoa)

2 navel oranges, zest and juice separated

1 pomegranate, seeds removed

4 oz. blue cheese

1 cup roasted pecans

for the dressing:

use the juice from the navel oranges

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Toss the butternut squash diced pieces with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes. While the squash is cooking, massage the kale pieces with the other Tbsp. of olive oil and the orange zest. Add the quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pecans, blue cheese, and roasted butternut squash to the massaged kale and toss to combine. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad, and toss to combine.

Note: You can eat this salad right away and store it (already dressed) for lunch the next day. Kale is hearty enough of a green to not wilt under the weight of the dressing, so save this step the next day and enjoy your already dressed salad!

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