May 16, 2014

The "Gets Better with Age" Kale Salad

Those who don't know me well would be shocked to learn that I'll be 30 next month. I've always looked young for my age - thanks, mom, for the youthful genes! - which is nice now but was pretty annoying when I was 20. When I was old enough to go to the bar or go to 21 and over concerts, I often got a scoff from the bouncer at the door. One even shouted, "Pfft! What are you, 12? Go home.", in the most condescending little-girl-you're-not-fooling-anyone voice. Like I said, it could be pretty annoying.

It was when I entered my late 20's that I fell ill and spruced up my diet. My new and improved diet was comprised of beautifying foods that are known to halt and even reverse the aging process. Coincidentally, the late 20's are a time when a lot of women my age start to notice signs of age on their bodies which can induce anxiety in some people. Wrinkles may begin to wind out from the eyelid. A gray hair or two may sprout up. Those who were always tight and toned may find it harder to maintain their physique.

I've never been one to stress about wrinkles or aging in general. I care more about becoming a glowing, vibrant, agile, happy, and energetic older person than preventing the eventuality of becoming a wrinkly or saggy one. I've noticed some (small) wrinkles starting to form over the years, but I've also noticed that my skin looks much more supple and full of life than it did a decade ago. There's no escaping the aging process, but if you care for yourself, you're bound to age with grace. As someone who can have difficulty with change sometimes, I sure do welcome aging with open arms!

That being said, I know I have a while before the aging thing really becomes a hot topic among my peers. In the meantime, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and know that the future me will thank the present me for being so kind to myself. I plan on being amazing at 30 (Wow, am I really almost 30 already?!), even more amazing at 40, and by the time I'm in my 60's I plan on being another vegan living out their golden years with a zest for life, youthful in body and in soul and feeling even better than I did in my twenties.

This kale salad will not only be a powerful beautifying food to add to your age gracefully arsenal, but it will give you the immediate health benefits that come from a plant-based diet. And just as I plan to age gracefully, this kale salad, too, gets even better with age. On the first day, it will be a light and springy fresh accompaniment to any meal. On the second day, you'll notice the depth of flavor starting to develop. And on the third day, the flavors will have mingled and will be more mellow but bright all the same, and the kale leaves will still be sturdy yet delicate. When I grabbed the container of leftovers for lunch on the third day, the flavor blew me away. Kale salad doesn't last long around here, so I had never discovered until now how amazing it tastes after letting the flavors deepen with time.

Not everything gets better with age, but I certainly plan to. Caring for myself now will not only reward me with an ecstatic present, but will lead to a dynamic future, too.

"Gets Better with Age" Kale Salad

1/2 large bunch of purple kale (or 1 small bunch), destemmed and ripped into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
1 small carrot, grated
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp dried cherries, chopped

1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

For the salad:

-Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Allow it to cool before adding to the salad. (I cooked 1 cup of dry quinoa, so that I could have some leftover for other meals.)
-Wash the kale, destem, tear into pieces, and place in a large mixing bowl.
-Grate the carrot with a vegetable peeler and chop the dried cherries. Then, add the carrot, dried cherries, and pumpkin seeds to the bowl. Toss to combine.
-In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk well with a fork.
-Pour half of the dressing into the bowl and massage the kale with your hands until it is tender.
-Add the garlic, thyme, and parsley to the other half of the dressing. Give it a quick whisk and then pour it over the kale. Toss it with salad hands or other desired utensils. You don't want to use your hands this time because the herbs will get stuck to them.
-Plate and serve. 

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