26 shows up in the middle of coffee one morning and hands you a freshly printed memo that reads: “You’re going to get old one day and die. You’re cool for now, but it will happen. You’re officially on notice. You won’t be young forever.” And then 26 struts out of your office, like an unconcerned dick, having nonchalantly just changed your entire perspective. - Jessica Blankenship
I tucked that quote away into my Evernote earlier this year. It didn't resonate with me in that moment, but my 26th birthday was around the corner so I packed it where I could find it just in case. For the first time in my life, I feel my age.
By this I do not mean that I literally feel age in my body: while I have aches and pains I do not feel 26 years weighing in my knees. I am reminded of this when we climb and I drop from the top of a bouldering wall--my knees bend and pillow my fall without complaint. But I feel 26 in my mind. (Or debatably 25.5, if you want to split hairs).
An old soul by nature, this is a new feeling. At sixteen I felt eighteen, and at eighteen the youngest friend I hung out with regularly with twenty-two. When twenty-three came I accidentally told someone I was twenty-five (an earnest mistake). This has been a life long theme.
But twenty-six arrived last month without much warning. Twenty-six? I'm not twenty-six, am I? Twenty-six. It's not old. But my years have, perhaps, finally caught up with my soul. It's gone both ways I believe: the years have grown shorter all the while my heart has grown younger, freer, looser.
But, enough about me and onto today’s creative creation:
Butternut Squash & Kale Caesar Salad
This salad is designed for the months when farmers markets are less plentiful, and the sun stays behind the clouds. Butternut squash and dino kale are good all year long, and it uses both liberally. An when you're feeling like you need a pick me up, this salad will do the trick.
It’s heathful and cheesy, at the SAME TIME. That’s why everyone loves caesar salad anyways, right? This caesar salad variation is EXTRA everything, because:
We’re using kale instead of romaine. Read: extra flavor, extra crunch, and yes — extra nutrients. Romain is mostly water 😉 (It’s also great, but I’m rooting for kale today)
Butternut squash cubes (roasted, golden) are swapped for croutons. I KNOW some people will think this is a tragedy, but I FREAKIN’ LOVE squash, and double love it when it’s roasted. And by making this simple swap you’ve made a salad that’s “clean,” gluten-free/grain-free, and seasonal. Win, win, win!
Homemade dressing. This is the extra mile that makes a difference when it comes to flavor. If you have store-bought dressing and are in a rush — go for it. But if you’re feel up for a few extra minutes, you will be rewarded by making your own dressing! Caesar dressing traditionally have sardines in it. Personally, I prefer a mellower flavor, so I use a dash of Worcestershire Sauce. It’s also way easier to keep on hand!
Parmesan!! You can’t make a caesar without this key ingredient. It goes into both the dressing and the salad.
Serves: 1-2 | Total Time: 30 minutes
For the Salad:
- 1 pound diced butternut squash (1-inch cubes)
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 bunch dinosaur (lacinato) kale, stems removed
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon finely grated parmesan For the Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use this brand)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
- Juice 1/2 lemon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (according to your tastes)
- 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Pre-heat oven to 450°F. Spread cubed butternut squash out on a sheet pan, and drizzle with avocado oil. Stir until each piece is until coated in oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place in oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until squash is golden on edges and tender through. Allow to cool 5 minutes.
- While the squash cooks, prep the kale and salad dressing. First, chop the kale into bite sized pieces and place in bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and add 1/8 teaspoon salt. Then, rub the kale with your fingers until it is tender and bright green (This makes it easier to eat and digest the kale raw). Set bowl aside.
- Make the dressing: combine all ingredients for dressing, and whisk until creamy. Pour dressing over kale, and toss kale until evening coated in the dressing. Then, plate the kale on serving plates. Top with parmesan and roasted butternut squash. Serve.