Kale, Quinoa, Cranberry Salad

Guys. Guess what? I'm finally one week away from completing an 8 week health and wellness challenge (Whole Life Challenge)! It's been a whirlwind, and I haven't been perfect (read: deep dish pizza in Chicago), but it's definitely been worth it. I've noticed a lot of changes to my body, but what I've noticed most have been changes to my energy and changes with my relationship to food. Let's talk about the last one for a second.

I love food. Sure, sure...who doesn't, right? But seriously, I love food and am constantly thinking about it. Most of the time, the thoughts are positive and healthy- "How can I make pot pie healthy? What the hell is a durian fruit? WHY DOES IT SMELL SO BAD?! Do I really have to massage this kale?" And, sometimes they weren't so fun. I've always centered my day around what I was eating, down to planning my meals and making sure that what I eat is filling enough. I drove myself crazy with how worried I would get if my meals didn't have "filler food." Filler food to me is a carb of some sort, a food item that I associated with fullness (bread, potatoes, starches, tortillas, etc). If I didn't have something, I was convinced I would be starving in minutes.

The WLC level I chose is essentially Paleo, with the addition of quinoa and brown rice, and the removal of all sweeteners except stevia. It's forced me to remove "filler food" from my diet and embrace the fact that real, whole food can make you feel just as full (if not more so). It's completely changed the way I look at my day in regards to consumption, and I'm more at ease with my choices.

I'm excited to be able to enjoy some of my favorite foods again (avocado toast, Sriracha, honey, enchiladas, etc) and I probably won't adopt a strict Paleo diet. But I am confident leaving this challenge with a new standard of daily health. And maybe now I won't cry if my breakfast scramble doesn't come with a side of toast.

One thing getting me through these last couple of weeks is this salad. I used to make a variation of this in college and changed it up a bit recently to make it WLC compliant, and it's just as good. I haven't made it for awhile, but key to this challenge is creativity and variation!

Ingredients

1.5 cups shredded kale

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 chopped almonds

1/4 cup diced manchego or feta*

1/2 can white beans

2.5 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp red wine vinegar*

1 tsp dijon mustard

salt and pepper

Instructions

1. Combine dressing ingredients and whisk to emulsify.

2. Mix together salad ingredients, toss with dressing, and enjoy! I like to let this sit with the dressing for at least 15-20 minutes to help breakdown the bitterness of the raw kale.

Notes

- Omit cheese if dairy-free or vegan. I've been enjoying this without while I complete the Whole Life Challenge and it's just as tasty!

- I prefer my dressings more tart/vinegar-y, but if you don't simply reduce the amount of vinegar.