Bitter, Salty, Sour, and Sweet. Kale Salad with Roasted Kabocha Squash and Cauliflower, Candied Pumpkin Seeds, Goji Berries, and Turmeric Lemon Vinaigrette. My Entry to the Show Me Your Salad’Tude Contest!!

kabocha goji salad

Hey all! Thanks for the comments on yesterday’s post. I think Lia summed it up best by saying that the post was an illustration of the fact that health is about “so much more than food.” Wise words, and important ones to remember in the food blog realm.

I have not been as excited about a salad as I am about today kale salad with roasted kabocha squash and cauliflower, candied pumpkin seeds, goji berries, and turmeric lemon vinaigrette in a long time. I’m calling the salad bitter, salty, sour, and sweet to evoke the fact that it speaks to nearly all of our tastes. I also want to emphasize that this salad is incredibly whole—a meal unto itself.

So how did this exceptional salad come to be? It all started with Kathy’s Show Me Your Salad’tude Contest. As you probably know, Kathy Patalsky is both a good friend and the talented powerhouse behind Healthy, Happy Life. Reading Kathy’s blog, which is full of gorgeous photos, culinary creativity, and passion for the vegan lifestyle, teaches me how to be a better blogger. I am excited about her upcoming cookbook (365 Vegan Smoothies), but even more excited at how ably she brings vegan cooking into mainstream consciousness with her accessible and delicious creations.

Recently, Kathy was given the chance to offer one of her readers a free ticket to Napa Valley for a special salad event, courtesy of the folks at Dole, who are encouraging us all to embrace our “salad’tude.” The grand prize includes a trip to Greystone, the Napa Valley, Calif., campus of the Culinary Institute of America and a chance to meet Clinton Kelly of ABC’s The Chew, who will talk about how his childhood memories inspired a series of new Dole fall and winter salad recipes.

The last time I was in California, you may recall that it was for the Dole Summit, which is where I met Kathy! That was an exciting experience both because it was great fun, but also because it gave me a chance to see how a major food corporation is trying to spread enthusiasm for salad nationwide. Dole was launching a ton of new salad kits, and they were also expanding their organic program. The organic program is now growing, as is Dole’s ongoing mission to promote salad as way more than a side dish. The Dole mission statement for this event says: “Salad is more than just food. It is a form of self expression.” I could not agree more.

I was especially excited to hear that Dole, which is hosting this contest nationally, gave Kathy one individual ticket for a Healthy Happy Life reader who created a gorgeous vegan salad. I’d love to see a vegan dish represented among the winners, and I’d also love to see a vegan home cook make it to the Napa trip! A huge part of vegan activism is showing the world that vegan cuisine dishes can compete with omni ones, and also to voice the vegan ethos in the presence of major corporate tastemakers. Hurray for Kathy for making this happen!

The rules of the contest were to submit a photo with you and your salad creation, and to include in that photo a slogan that expresses your personal “salad’tude.” I knew right away what my salad’tude is: it’s the belief that salad is complete. It’s not a puny side dish, and it’s not a tasteless “health food.” As one of my favorite CR posts of all time shows, salad can be a whole, beautiful meal. I also wanted to express the fact that, for me, salad can enliven all of the five senses.

And that’s how this salad—my bitter, salty, sour, sweet salad—came to be!


Bitter. Bitter is the slight bite of raw kale, just before you “massage” it into soft, salad-worthy perfection.

Salty: Salty is the kiss of Himalayan crystal salt in a tangy vinaigrette.

Sour: Is freshly squeezed lemon juice, lip-puckering and tartly delicious!

Sweet: Is plump goji berries, maple cinnamon kissed candied pumpkin seeds, and velvety kabocha squash.

And finally, I should say that the turmeric lemon dressing is pungent, packing a vibrant and fragrant bite! But it was hard to make “pungent” rhyme, so it stayed outside of my title.


This salad is bursting with nutrition, starting with the kale, which may be nature’s most nutrient rich green. Vitamins A, C, K, fiber, iron, protein, antioxidants, calcium…the list goes on and on. Let’s look at the other sources of potent nutrition:

Goji berries: Rich in protein and powerful antioxidants.

Pumpkin seeds: A great source of zinc, as well as protein, magnesium, and iron.

Kabocha squash: Rich in beta-carotene.

Cauliflower: An excellent source of Vitamins C and K, as well as folate and vitamin B6, cauliflower is a powerful anti-oxidant and may have anti-inflammatory properties as well.

What a nutritional powerhouse!


If you want to create this amazingly hearty and delicious salad at home, here’s how you do it.

Bitter, Salty, Sour and Sweet: Kale Salad with Roasted Kabocha Squash, Candied Pumpkin Seeds, Goji Berries, and Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette.

Serves 4

1 medium bunch curly kale, washed, dried, and chopped into small pieces
1 small kabocha squash, halved, seeds, removed, and chopped into 1.5 inch pieces
1 small head cauliflower, washed and chopped into small florets
2 tbsp coconut or olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup maple cinnamon candied pumpkin seeds, crumbled a little
1/4 cup goji berries
1/2 cup hemp, flax, sacha inchi, or olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp agave or maple syrup
1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

1. Prepare candied pumpkin seeds, either by dehydrating or in the oven.

2. Toss the squash in 1 tbsp oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower in the other tablespoon and season with salt and pepper. Roast both veggies at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes (the cauliflower will cook faster), till golden brown and fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool.

3. Place the kale, goji berries, and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, turmeric, maple syrup or agave, ginger, and sea salt, or use a blender to emulsify them.

4. “Massage” about 1/4 cup of the dressing into the kale, gojis, and seeds. Add more dressing as needed–you may need about 6 tablespoons total. When the salad is well coated and taking on a soft texture, toss in the kabocha and the cauliflower. Serve!

As you can see, I was very happy with my giant bowl of green:


So, so happy…


And so, so ready for a whole meal.



As you can see, there’s nothing wimpy about this dinner bowl. Here’s my final submission to Kathy’s contest, which I hope summed it all up:

Gena Salad Tude Submission

If you’d like to vote for my bitter, salty, sour, sweet salad in the Show me Your Salad’tude contest, I would be so, so grateful to you! It’s a really easy, one-click process, and of course you’ll get a chance to peek at the other fine entries. I am #4. Click here to vote!

And I want to say that there were 15 other amazing, vegan salad entries submitted to Kathy’s contest, from such talented fellow bloggers as the wonderful Jenne (Sweet Potato Soul), Cailin (The Vegan Chickpea), and Sayward, who is one of my all time favorite people. If you like one of their recipes more, please feel free to support them. I’d love your vote, but I’m honestly just excited to see vegan bloggers rising to this fun challenge, and delighted to know that one of them will be traveling to Napa to share their talent and point of view Smile

Happy voting, and thank you!


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Categories: Meal Sized Salads, Salads
Ingredients: Cauliflower, Kale
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan

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  1. I made this salad tonight and it is delicious! I even have left overs for lunch tomorrow. The flavors are really wonderful!!! Thanks for creating and posting the recipe!!

  2. Wow! What an awesome salad! I gotta try this! Good luck on the contest and I hope you win! You deserve it. You work so hard, I don’t know how you have time to eat, let alone make awesome recipes. Oobertastic job!

  3. This looks yum! I’m making it tonight. But would you really not add any beans or avocado ir something? Maybe my bunch of kale is a bit small…!

  4. Gena, I was busy giggling to myself over here from your pics. You are just too friggin cute and fantasically pretty. <3. I'm not a huge fan of raw kale, but I'd love to try this combo with normal lettuce… The cauliflour looks bomb!

  5. This looks delish! I voted for you. I also must say that it’s nice to see your smiling, happy face on the blog once in a while – you should do that more often!

    I also appreciate your comment above about corporations. Sometimes it can be very hard to take a firm line “being against” or “supporting” a company, because most aren’t perfect or wholly evil. Often it ends up in the middle. I think it’s great that you’re trying to work with these corporations sometimes to help guide them in the right direction. Good luck!

  6. I voted for you, first because I am sure the salad is delicious, and also because you deserve to win a vacation after all that work ;). Your dedication to this blog and into your personnal life is impressive.

    By the way, your balsamic fig dressing is great over chard, fresh basil, roasted beets, sprouted lentils, tamari roasted sunflower seeds and mock feta tofu (another great salad idea) !!

    • Aww, Catherine, that is true 🙂 Thanks for thinking of that.

      I’m going to have to try that magnificent salad idea!

  7. Love that salad, love the pics of you even more!
    I agree with your slogan, I also love that the whole concept shows how pretty much any vegan salad ingredients are superfoods of one sort or another.

  8. Done and done! Best of luck to you Gena 🙂 It’s a gorgeous looking salad!

  9. Good luck! Your blog is what turned me on to meal-sized salads! Although I love to cook, I’m not great at making my own food combos and I hadn’t come up with a meal-sized salad I liked. You’ve given me not only recipes but also tips for coming up with my own yummy salads, so thank you! I have tried one of Kathy’s meal-sized salads too and loved it. This is a great contest, and I hope you win! 🙂

  10. Yum…this bowlful of deliciousness contains my all-time favorite foods – I’ve even warmed up to goji berries! Excited to make this tonight!

    I’m late to comment, but your words on the sustenance of friendships in yesterday’s post ring so close to home. The tendency to isolate myself during tough times is one of those nasty (self destructive) habit patterns that remains with me to this very day. You inspire me in this regard – though it seems to me that you’ve always surrounded yourself with close, loving and supportive relationships (such as your best friend from childhood, Chloe) whereas I historically have pushed loved-ones away. In my opinion, your sociability is going to make all the difference re. a lasting recovery, with minimal setbacks for you. This propensity to reach out vs. isolate is one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal against relapse. Go, Gena!

    • Karen,

      I was really happy that so many people seemed to resonate with the post. Isolation was a huge part of my ED in college (I went nearly a year of leaving my dorm room almost never), and so I’ve tried so hard since then to keep my connections to loved ones healthy and strong. Chloe is a great example–she’s my rock.

      Sending you friendship and connection across the ether,

      G xo

  11. thank you for mentioning me, gena! i love your photo, as well! good luck 😉 ps- that salad looks dreamy. i can’t wait to try it!

  12. This looks like such a satisfying salad!!! Can’t wait to make it 😀 Oh and I just voted for you!!! Woop 😀

  13. This salad looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it. I hope you win the contest for a much needed California break. It really would be nice to have a Vegan dish be the winner.

  14. Gena, this salad looks absolutely wonderful! I don’t think I could come up with anything I’d add, as you already have all of my favorites: cauliflower, kale, winter squash, and a killer dressing! I just roasted up a batch of kabocha squash and sweet potatoes tonight, so I’ll have to throw this salad together for dinner tomorrow! By the way, I love that bowl. Crate and Barrel? I think I have the same one!

  15. It was a pleasure to vote for you, Gena! You’re my all-time favorite anyway and already a winner in my eyes!!! This salad sure sounds like a super great one. Can’t wait to make it. And, your pictures in this post made me smile inside and out!!! 😀 You’re such a likable girl!!!

  16. I just voted for you! I hope you win =)
    If you win, I live not too far from Napa – maybe we can get together for lunch.

    This salad looks super fantastic and I can’t wait to try it out!

  17. This salad looks delicious! I do have to admit (and I had the same thought when I saw all the posts about the Dole Summit on Kathy’s blog) that I’m a little bit confused by the Dole promoting. Dole is not a particularly ethical company. They’re sort of vegan by default because they produce fruit, but they are certainly not a company that brands themselves as vegan, and they are still having ethical issues about people come up — like exposing workers in other countries to dangerous pesticides. I’m not saying nobody should ever buy from them; unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to make all buying choices 100% ethically, but I was a little bit disappointed to see them being promoted on blogs that I look up to as promoting ethical lifestyles.

    This is not a bit tangential to this post and not in any way criticism of you, but I wanted to bring it up because there was a connection, and I know that you do think about what you buy and what you support a great deal.

    • Hi Erin!

      I’m totally grateful to you for bringing this up, and it ISN’T tangential, so don’t feel the need to disclaim. I totally agree that ethics do not begin and end with something not having animal products in it, and that it’s crucial to discuss human rights and labor issues too.

      When I went to the Dole Summit over two years ago, I and a lot of other bloggers were asking questions about organic farming methods. In the time since, Dole has really expanded their organics program (which I hope also means reducing toxic pesticide use). I take this as a sign that a couple of bloggers asking questions and public demand in general could help to push a major corporation in a different direction. I generally support small companies whose practices are transparent and trustworthy, but I do think there is a very important argument to be made that we can’t always opt out of the corporate system altogether; we also have to try to influence it. And that means engaging in a dialog with it. So if I win, I promise you that I would try to connect, ask questions, find out more about practices and then ask whether a more global shift towards another model (like the organic arm of their company) is possible.

      I realize that Dole has problematic practices, but I do appreciate that they are trying to grow their organics program, talk to conscious bloggers about their priorities, and–most importantly–encourage more people to eat fruits and vegetables. They run a charitable program for schools and do a lot to get fruits and veggies into vending machines, which is something.

      It would be utterly disingenuous of me to say I have nothing to gain personally from winning this contest–I do, and that is a part of my motivation to enter–but I also see it as a chance to start dialog and explore the practices of a corporation that does some good, along with some harm. You may not remember, but I did take a critical stance on some of the nutrition info offered at the summit I attended. It felt a little tough to do that, but change has to start somewhere. So, as I said, if I win, I’ll do my best to ask questions and share my point of view. And as for you, please don’t vote if you find the whole thing off-putting; I do understand and appreciate your comment.


  18. Done and done! All the recipes look amazing (and I hope that they’ll be shared) but yours must be the winner! It got my vote.


  19. Gena, you are such a kind person.You always speak so highly of other bloggers and speak up for what’s fair. It’s such a great quality of yours!
    Your salad looks amazing! I always have goji berries and pumpkin together, match made in heaven 🙂

  20. Yum yum yum! We are all winners when you create such tantalizing recipes such as this Gena! Can’t wait to try it. And good luck with the contest! 🙂