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Fall Harvest Salad with Cider-Citrus Vinaigrette

Fall Harvest Salad with Cider-Citrus Vinaigrette

It's fall, ya'll. No doubt about it.

Time to pull out all the traditional fall recipes to celebrate the harvest.  Butternut squash soup.  Brussels sprouts seared in butter and garlic and topped with almonds. Mounds and mounds of garlicky kale and collard greens.  Maple syrup-drizzled roasted sweet potatoes.

Although I'm not usually one to tout American classics when it comes to food, fall vegetables are a different story.  Since they can be done deliciously and healthfully, and they come with a good old dose of comfort and sentimentality (two of my love languages), I get giddy about fall food. 

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However - since there is more than one way to skin/serve a vegetable, let me clarify that not just any fall food ushers me into Eden.

Because we are Americans, we tend to un-health-ify even the most nutrient-dense edibles that are native to our soil.  Let's be honest... no Pilgrim ever ate the pancreas-taxing, adrenal gland-burdening concoctions that appear on the average Thanksgiving dinner table. 

Yet, for some abstract, semi-religious conviction that we all hold, their position as a "traditional" food is sacrosanct.  And their table tenure is like that of my college algebra teacher... perplexing, to say the least.

But never fear! It is possible to nourish yourself with living, colorful vegetables without compromising on the comforting, hearty flavors of the season.  This side dish is bursting with bright flavors in a delicious apple cider vinaigrette which dresses up a few traditional fall-y food staples. 

DON'T dismiss this because there's lots of kale in the picture. It's way more dressing-y than green-tasting, with way more rice than you see in the pictures.  I just put more kale on top because I'm a fake-it-til-you-make-it photographer, trying to implement newbie picture-taking tips of lots of color contrast.

Be warned though - this recipe omits the multiple cups of corn syrup, marshmallows, bacon grease, or gluten bombs that grace your average fall dish.  You'll have plenty of access to those ingredients in the other side dishes which, year in and year out, refuse to budge from their place at the holiday table, no matter how much enlightenment you and yours have experienced in the health arena this year.

I am greatly indebted to Oat&Sesame for the original recipe. This salad has brought such a breath of fresh air, inspiration, and simplicity to my attempts to health-ify Thanksgiving potlucks!

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This pretty side dish has a testimony.

I spent last Thanksgiving with 29 of my in-laws in the history-rich tiny town of Greensboro, Alabama. It is a time-honored tradition for the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of my 91-year-old grandmother-in-law to gather at her southern home. She's lived in the same house for decades, and it was in my grandfather-in-law's family for decades prior to that.  Quite the dose of nostalgia when sometimes up to 38 people, spread across 4 generations, gather together from all across the country for this sacred tradition of "Thanksgiving at Grandmother's". The same activities have endured throughout the decades: painting the fence, picking up pecans, walking the trails, painting the barn, carving new family members' names in the "family tree".

I opted to prepare this side dish for all 29 people as a supplement to the Thanksgiving fare.  Since "Kale" used to be in the title of the recipe, my husband was skeptical that anyone but his sweet and supportive mother, and maybe a few Californian or GF siblings would try it. But I insisted on making a quadruple batch anyway.

 courtesy https://www.wikihow.com/Shell-Pecans

courtesy https://www.wikihow.com/Shell-Pecans

And oh how fitting of a topping for this family gathering's location!  For a native Alabaman, the under-foot crunchy offcasts from tens of towering pecan trees are quite the nuisance for one who tries to maintain a tidy front yard. To a foodie from anywhere else in the country who has to pay $14/lb for these nuts, that crunching sound is as obnoxious as stepping on gold nuggets.  Toppings from front yard to table in just 6 hours, for free, thanks to the collecting, cracking, and shelling of 6 helpful cousins and siblings.

AND... when the pecans were mistaken as an afternoon snack by the other 22 family members who didn't get the memo about saving them for the side dish, two faithful siblings-in-law came back to scrape up and shell yet another round for me.

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After serving up this salad, to my surprise, all 24 cups of this kale-based dish was GONE in a day and a half. Moreover, I received more compliments on that dish than I have on any other dish in my entire life.

"Ok, I think it's good, but they're probably just being nice and commenting on it because you're the new-ish in-law," my husband said.  

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Enthused approvals from 20 adult in-laws being nothing more than politeness? Possible.  But from an 8 year-old boy second-cousin-in-law?  Quite improbable.  

Not only did said 8-year-old agree to try it after watching me make it (what can be so dangerous about a bright orange vegetable and apples and nuts, right?), but, with cookies, pies, and cobbler in full view on the buffet table and vying for room in his stomach… he asked for SECONDS.

I mean, we had bonded a bit that day. I figured that it may just be my inner child resonating with him, wooing him to take the plunge… "If she likes vegetables, and she pretty much acts like a kid, maybe I will like them too."  (I do have that effect on some kids, I'll admit. One of my top five life-callings is to reform the eating habits of American youth.)

But when this 8-year-old boy asks his mom (with me nowhere nearby to impress for at least the next year) on the long car ride back north if she can stop at the store so they can make it when they get home? Something’s going on here. And when she makes the dish, and both he and his little brother asked for more of this kale-based vegetable dish as a "bedtime snack"?  

Ladies and gentleman…we have...a miracle.   And again - all credit where credit is due: thank you, Oat&Sesame for your contribution toward saving the health and immune systems of the next generation!

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