I hope you guys have enjoyed my healthy posts lately–as much as I hope you enjoy this Turkey Kale Salad! I’m kind of proud of myself that it’s nearly February and I’m still keeping up with my diet and other healthy habits. Sure, it was necessary. But I’m actually enjoying it! Eating healthier and living a more conscious life (health-wise) has made me feel better overall. So, I’m happy to continue sharing with you the healthier food I’m eating. But I do hope to expand beyond stir fries and salads, too! So today, instead of just giving you another salad recipe, I’m telling you how I make all my salad recipes. Presenting: How to Make a Salad [using my Turkey Kale Salad recipe].
To be honest, this likely won’t be my last salad recipe. But in an effort to stop myself from posting every salad I come up with, I thought I’d tell y’all how I make my salad recipes altogether. Throughout the post, I’ll also share my newest recipe–my turkey kale salad. It will be my example, if you will. And, of course, I’ll also share the recipe at the end! So let’s get to it.
1. A bed of greens: Kale
Everything starts with a great foundation. Salad is no different. This part seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, try to imagine a salad without some greens in it. That’s a different dish! But that’s what makes it the foundation; it makes up the center. Now, don’t get it twisted. Like all foundations, what you choose as your greens is just as important, and the choices are endless. Also, don’t be afraid to mix and match. It doesn’t have to be one kind of green!
For my Turkey Kale Salad, I obviously chose kale. This is a bit of a breakaway for me. I usually go for either arugula and spinach, or just plain spinach in my other recipes. To be honest, those are my favorite kinds of greens to eat. And kale can be a difficult green to eat, because they can be naturally bitter. Honestly, I don’t usually eat kale raw. But I figured if I’m going to eat healthy, then I should go big or go home.
Kale is a leafy cabbage. And that’s what I do love about kale. The leafy parts provide a great crunch and texture to any dish you use it with. I chose a green leaf kale with curly ends. It’s a thick leaf as well. So, when you’re using it in a salad, my suggestion is to cut it thin. I basically cut them into thin strips, and then shred them into smaller clumps. Additional bonuses: Kale is low-fat, low-cal and super nutritious. Read more on that here.
2. Add a protein: Turkey
For me, protein usually means some kind of animal. I’m a carnivore, as most Filipinos are. But that’s not the only way to get protein in your dish. Eggs have a ton of protein and are great as a salad ingredient. Beans and seeds–like hempseed or chia–are also great alternatives to meat. But I’m not quite at the place where I can completely give up meats and seafood, and maybe I never will be.
So, for my protein this time around I chose turkey–not ground turkey, but tender turkey breast. I am restricted to lean, low-fat meats only. And these were 99% fat free. I also love turkey as an alternative to chicken, because I’ve been eating a lot of chicken lately. Normally, I usually add chicken or shrimp as my salad protein. But I thought I’d give this one a try. Luckily, turkey is also a classic winter flavor, and it’s still technically winter (despite what Texas weather is).
For the turkey kale salad, I went simple with it. Proteins are the stars of their dish. But with salad, you’re thinking of how everything blends together. So, I tend to just stick to seasoning and quick searing. In this salad, I seasoned the turkey with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Then I seared it on both sides in a frying pan. That’s it!
3. Add veggie layers: Celery + Onion
You don’t really have to add extra vegetables to a salad. But I always like to add at least one or two other things because it layers flavors. Everything you add to any dish will affect the taste. Adding extra vegetables, then, increases your flavor profiles. Think about any other dish you cook. You don’t just go with one ingredient. There are layers of flavor–the seasoning, the textures, etc. And every component plays its part. Adding extra vegetables to a salad is no different. It also doesn’t have to be veggies–I loved adding mango to one of my salads!
Usually, when I pick what to add I go for contrasting flavors. I know that the kale will be thick and slightly bitter. The turkey is going to be savory and peppery. So, for these veggies I went with things that would both complement the existing flavors while providing contrasting tastes as well. I chose yellow onions and celery stalk. Onions are an aromatic so they just make everything in a dish feel brighter and more elevated. And I love celery. It has such a distinct flavor that plays really well with the peppery turkey breast.
Both can be eaten raw, which is appealing in a salad because you don’t want it to be too wilted. You still want that great texture. And both have an amazing natural flavor when served raw. So, that’s what I chose to do here. I simply just cut the onions into thin strips and spread them out on the kale. And for the celery, I just cut them in inch-long pieces and added them to the kale. Easy peasy.
4. Add contrasting textures: Dried Cranberries + Almonds
When it comes to food, I focus a lot on textures. I think it’s because when I’m eating, I look for textures in my food. If something has a weird texture, chances are I don’t want to eat it. For example, I hate tomatoes–as they are! But if you give them to me roasted, pureed, or chopped up tiny without that gooey slimy middle, I’m good. Equally, some of my favorite foods are the most textured, like tempura. So adding texture to my salads is important to me. Croutons and nuts are the best way to go about achieving this.
I’m adding two of my favorites for this turkey kale salad–dried cranberries and almonds. I usually add nuts to my salads. They are the perfect bite-sized crunch to break up some of the veggie taste. If you toast them, they add fantastic flavor to the dish as well. Just stick them on a baking dish or sheet with some oil and bake them for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Dried cranberries are a little gummy in texture, which is a great contrast to the nuts. And they are sweet, which complements other flavors going on very well.
5. Top it off: Dressing
Most of the acid for salads will come from the dressing. Most dressings are made made with some kind of acid, so that taste will shine through no matter what. And speaking of textures, obviously adding a dressing makes everything a little wetter, which is why it’s important to get as much crunch in your other ingredients as possible. Depending on what kind of dressing you pick, it will be something tart, or oily, or thick, or creamy. Whatever it may be, it’s the last little bit of your salad that pulls everything else together.
Normally, I make a vinaigrette to go along with my salads. But those can be rich with fats that my gallbladder-less body can’t process as well. Vinaigrettes are usually two-parts oil to one-part vinegar. Together, they make a thin liquid blend. As far as salad dressings go, they’re pretty healthy. But this time around, I opted for a ready-made option. You are free to choose and/or create your own dressings as well. Feel free to try any of my other vinaigrettes as well! But for my turkey kale salad, I went the easy route. I found a low-fat yogurt-made honey mustard dressing at my local grocery store that paired really well with this dish. If you’re not feeling like shaking something together yourself, I definitely recommend it!
And as they say, that’s all folks! My 5-step salad checklist for all my salad recipes to tide you over until I decide to post another one. For today, I hope you try my turkey kale salad. I also want to thank you for sticking with me through this health-crazed kick I’m going through. But don’t worry! It won’t all be salads and healthiness. The super bowl is coming up, and I’ve got a couple of cheat meal posts coming your way! But for now, I hope you realized what I did when I started eating better again: Healthy food is still good food that’s also good for you.
Turkey Kale Salad
- 1 large turkey breast chopped in small pieces
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 3-4 cups kale cut into strips
- 1/2 medium yellow onion thinly cut into strips
- 2 stalks celery cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
Season the turkey breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika on all sides. Set aside.
In a large bowl, add the kale. Add the yellow onion and celery stalk pieces on top. Then add the almonds and dried cranberries. Set aside.
Heat oil in a frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the turkey breast pieces. Lightly sear them on both sides, flipping after the uncooked side starts to turn white on the sides--about 3-4 minutes. Dry off excess oil.
Add the turkey breast to the bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients. Top with a dressing and toss before serving!