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Kale Cranberry Salad with Mandarine Orange Vinaigrette – Vegetarian and Paleo

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I may or may not have purchased a huge bag of mandarin oranges at Costco under the assumption that they were clementines in a bag instead of a box. Okay, so I didn’t really read the label, but it was the weekend and I was just trying to make it back out of the store in one piece! Costco in Hawaii is crazy, even more so than on the Mainland, because it’s so much more affordable than other places to shop. Sure, the container yogurt costs more, but it’s 4x larger, too! I’ve done the math, and Costco is actually less expensive for some items than the Commissary.

Kale, Cranberry, Almond Salad_

Because we’ve started making so many smoothies, the farmer’s market and Costco have definitely become our best friends! Between sending Papi Chulo to work with a salad for lunch most days and making at least one smoothie a day, we go through a lot of produce. That’s good, though – I’d rather shop more often and stock up on fruits and veggies than eat out all the time. It costs less and is far more healthy.

Some kale is pretty tough, but other kale is hearty without being overwhelming. You’ll just have to test yours to find out which type it is! Either way, you’ll want to take out the stems. Do to this, simply fold each leave in half “hot dog style” and cut out the tough stem.


After you do that, you can chop it up to your heart’s content! If you have tough kale, don’t worry. Instead of just dressing it at the end like a lettuce salad, massage the vinaigrette into the kale leaves for about 3 minutes, or until the kale starts to wilt, and let the salad sit in the fridge for about half an hour before serving. That will tenderize the leaves and make them easier to chew! I really love fresh kale, though, so if you can find kale that doesn’t need to be massaged into submission, use it.

chopped kaleOnce your kale is ready, you can add your cranberries and almonds. Yum!

kale, cranberries, and mandarin marmalade

Kale Cranberry Salad with Mandarine Orange Vinaigrette
Prep time: 
Total time: 
For the dressing
  • Two mandarin oranges, washed and scrubbed but not peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small spring of fresh time (I used about 3") or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme.
For the salad
  • 5-6 cups of kale, washed and chopped/ripped into chunks
  • ⅓ cup of dried cranberries (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup of almond slivers (or to taste)
For the dressing
  1. Rip the mandarin oranges into a few chunks, but leave the peel on.
  2. Process the oranges in a food processor until they are almost pureed. There will be chunks, and maybe even a couple bigger pieces of peel - that's okay.
  3. Transfer the purred oranges to a microwave safe dish (but don't throw the food processor container in the sink yet!). Microwave for one minute, stir, then continue microwaving in 30 second bursts. Stir after each 30 seconds and stop microwaving when the orange puree has reached a watery marmalade constance, about 1½ - 2 additional minutes.
  4. Combine the marmalade, olive oil, honey, vinegar, and thyme in the food processor and pulse to combine. Taste test and adjust the ingredients, as needed. If it's too thick, add more olive oil. Too tart, add more honey. Too sweet, add more vinegar.
  5. Transfer the dressing to a container with a lid and refrigerate for at least half an hour to allow the flavors to meld.
For the salad
  1. Test a piece of your kale. If it's tough and chewy, briefly massage the dressing into the kale and allow it to sit, refrigerated, for an additional half hour. If it's fairly tender, you can skip this step!
  2. Toss the kale, cranberries, and almonds together, add as much marmalade dressing as desired, and enjoy.

Because kale is so hearty, this makes a great packed lunch. Lettuce tends to get pretty gross when it sits in dressing, but marinading in the dressing can really help this salad out! Pack it ahead of time and it will be delicious at lunch.

Kale, Cranberry, and Almond Salad with Mandarin Orange Vinaigrette

With nuts, dried fruit, and hearty kale, this is the kind of salad that leaves you feeling full after a meal!

What’s your favorite non-lettuce green to use in salads?


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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Kimberly July 23, 2017, 05:48

    Hi, I’m curious about the use of the mandarin peel. So it stays on the entire process? It never gets strained out?

    • Natashalh July 23, 2017, 08:04

      Because I pureed the dressing in the food processor, I left the peels in. They do add some texture to the dressing, but it’s a similar consistency to several dressings I’ve had at Japanese steak house restaurants. If there are any large chunks after processing, you can just pull them out or puree some more!

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