Kale salad tossed in a cider and honey vinaigrette, topped by squash caramelized with brown sugar.
The celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah are behind us; the hustle and bustle of the New Year not quite here. In between, lies the gift of a few days of quiet; a natural pause, to exhale, and slip inside myself to reflect over the past year, and to think about the year ahead. Hardly revolutionary. In fact, this tradition is thought to date from 153 B.C. with the placement of Janus at the beginning of the Roman calendar.
Janus, a mythical early Roman king, was depicted with 2 faces: one looking forward to the coming year, the other looking backward at the one just completed; and over time came to represent the concept of making resolutions for the new year with newly gained wisdom.
This isn’t the start of a post filled with New Year’s Resolutions I’ll never keep. I don’t even make a list anymore; not because I’ve given up, but because it makes me feel bound to yet another list before I’ve even launched into the new year.
Instead, a number of years ago, I began the habit of setting a single Intention to carry me through the year, with the thought that surely I could make ONE change in my life if I have a entire, freeking year to do it.
This year, as I was thinking about the one I want to carry with me in 2012, I began to think about the core beliefs that we hold, consciously or not, that define our lives. Beliefs that become, over time, a reference point for our relationships, goals, dreams and fears; a prism for how we define what’s possible for us.
And the consequences for the prism we choose.
For example, if a self-defining core belief is to shrink from life in order to feel safe, because someone took advantage of our trust 20 years ago; we may miss opportunities to be open to relationships built on trust.
If we are focused on fear, failure and loss as a result of being fired or losing a business; we may never see the possibilities that exist for us around the corner. We stop taking chances. We stop pushing the boundaries of our lives.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I traveled back east for a wedding that was packed to brimming with the warmth of family, connection and community. At a brunch, I was struck by a conversation I shared with a cousin’s wife who is valiantly fighting a serious form of cancer. It has not been an easy path, but between extensive surgeries involving long recoveries, she enrolled in a Master’s program for counseling. After her last round of chemo, she painstakingly began to train for a sprint Triathlon with her husband and a close friend, which she proudly finished with flying colors. There are still battles to fight, but instead of her life being defined by cancer and loss, she has chosen hope, faith, triumph over adversity, and a determination to embrace life instead.
I’m still thinking about that New Year’s Intention I’ll be setting for the coming year, but one thing I know for certain: it will be strongly affected by that single conversation.
In the meantime, I was inspired to make a lunch for champions with this nutritiously delicious kale salad with caramelized acorn squash to eat while I look forward to the coming year. Happy New Year to everyone, and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2012.
Caramelized Acorn Squash and Kale Salad
- 1 bunch of kale (about 20 leaves)
- 1/2 acorn squash
- 1 apple
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon water (or enough to dissolve the brown sugar)
- pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons apple cider
- 2 tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Cut the acorn squash in half; and cut one half of the squash in half again. Reserve the remaining squash for another purpose. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon, and slice the squash in 1/2" thick slices. Toss in just enough olive oil to coat them, and place on a baking sheet. Lightly salt.
Roast for 15 minutes, or until just tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash is roasting, make the caramelizing sauce by combining the brown sugar, butter and water together in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Continue to heat until the butter is melted and the brown sugar dissolves into the water and butter. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 seconds.
Dip the squash pieces in the caramelizing sauce to coat, and place them back on the baking sheet. Move the oven rack up to the top rung, or the rung you use for broiling, and turn on the broiler. Put the squash back in the oven and broil for 5 minutes. Remove and allow to slightly cool while you make the rest of the salad.
Place the kale on a workspace, lightly salt, and massage the kale until it becomes slightly limp and very moist. Dry by squeezing it with paper towels and place in a bowl.
Cut the apple in quarters, remove the core, and slice thinly. Place in the bowl with the kale. Add a handful or two of pumpkin seeds, and then the caramelized squash slices.
Combine the honey and apple cider in a bowl, and mix with a fork to completely dissolve the honey into the apple cider. Drizzle half of it over the kale salad and lightly toss, being careful not to break up the squash pieces. Add more dressing as desired.
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