Kale Salad with Creamy Apricot Ginger Dressing

Kale Salad with Creamy Apricot Ginger Dressing | The Full Helping

I wish I could begin this post by telling you all how well my biochem exam went, but I’m afraid it was no better than Orgo. That said, the end is near, and rather than dwelling on the negative (finals), I thought I would focus instead on the positive: I was so busy this year that I forgot my four year quitiversary on April 19th. In honor of that, this kale salad with creamy apricot ginger dressing, which combines a ton of powerful phytonutrients on one plate.

If you’re new to my blog, here’s the deal: I was a smoker for about eight years. I blogged about quitting not long after I started CR, and I still like to commemorate my quitiversary in some fashion each year.

Kale Salad with Creamy Apricot Ginger Dressing | The Full Helping

Recently, a reader asked me about foods that might contribute to lung health and/or lung cancer prevention. This is a tricky question–there aren’t too many foods that have been directly associated with lung cancer prevention, but all color-rich diets that are high in phytonutrients are a good place to start.

When it comes to the prevention of chronic disease, I tend to think more in terms of dietary patterns (manage stress, move your body, focus on plants and phytonutrient rich, colorful foods) far more than particular foods or ingredients. So, whether for lung health or simply because it’s delicious, here’s a salad packed with leafy greens, colorful apricots and apples, and a dressing that features Omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory ginger.

Kale Salad with Creamy Apricot Ginger Dressing | The Full Helping

Kale Salad with Creamy Apricot Ginger Dressing
Recipe Type: salad, side dish
Cuisine: gluten free, soy free, tree nut free optional
Author: Gena Hamshaw
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 small servings
  • For the creamy apricot ginger dressing:
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • For the salad:
  • 1 large bunch curly kale, stems removed, washed, dried, and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked navy beans
  • 6 dried apricots, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (substitute hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 large honeycrisp or Fuji apple, chopped or julienned
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  1. Blend all dressing ingredients together in a powerful blender till smooth.
  2. Place the kale into a large mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over the kale. Massage the kale thoroughly with your hands, until the kale is very well dressed and soft. Toss in the beans, apricots, walnuts, apple, and cooked quinoa. Mix everything well. Serve.

Kale Salad with Creamy Apricot Ginger Dressing | The Full Helping

Sweet, crunchy, tangy, and tart, all at once. What more can you ask for? Oh, yeah: healthy, too.

You can serve this salad with a sandwich, a bowl of summery soup, or a whole grain dish. No matter how you serve it, I hope you’ll enjoy it. And if you’re reading this post because the theme of quitting speaks to you, please take to heart my words that anyone can quit. I know it’s hard, I know it’s painful, but if I can do it, you can, too.


Images for this post updated in January 2017. Images courtesy of Lighter.

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Categories: Salads, Side Dishes
Ingredients: Kale
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: Quick & Easy

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  1. I used a whole orange and a small piece of orange peel instead of orange juice and adjusted water to get desired consistency.
    Thanks for the yummy recipe.

  2. Wow Gena, this is so delicious! I may have just cleaned out the blender with my finger…! New favourite for sure 😀

  3. I think this might be your beat dressing EVER! And I’ve made and enjoyed many! Sooo delicious!

  4. Thanks, Gena! I was out of town for a week so I totally missed this post in answer to my question – thank you, and thank you for your candor about the smoking (which I didn’t know about, but how coincidental on the timing). I hope that all your years of healthy eating go a long way to healing your own lungs!

  5. That dressing sounds so great! I have never thought to use apricots as a base for a dressing, and I love that it subs for extra oil. glad to hear your semester is over!

  6. This salad looks so freakin good.
    Just wanted to reiterate: “In fact, one nice thing about the post-bacc is that it has proven to me that I can go through the collegiate experience again without returning to the coping mechanisms I used during my undergrad days: smoking and food restriction. That’s pretty cool.” —- YES, that is REALLY cool 🙂

  7. You are absolutely right, scholars have different opinions about the benefits of beta carotene these days, but we might just put all that aside and enjoy delicious carrots, sweet potatoes, etc., and get our Vitamin A!

  8. Gena, I appreciate so much how fervently and honestly you discuss your struggles with smoking, and that you celebrate it’s end proudly. I, too, have struggled with smoking in past years. I started in college and graduated with a full-fledged habit. I recently quit (5 full months), and it was not easy, or a clean break. The last 2 or so years were full of the on-and-off. I so much relate to your craving cigarettes when the stress of school, etc. rears its ugly head. I’m so much the same. I can be doing well with not smoking and finding other outlets, and then you have one of those days where the world just comes down on you, and I’ve found myself powerless. But I’m so happy to report that I was ready this time. I feel steadfast in my choice, and have no plans to succumb to stress. It really does just take the time and experience to flirt with quitting, and then knowing when you are ready. And when that time comes, you absolutely have the power to stay strong.

    Again, thank you so much for your honesty in a community that can at times make the reader feel ashamed of personal inadequacies. Although this of course, is not necessarily the intention, but as you’ve noted, it’s hard not to compare yourself.

    And I wish you luck with school! I’m also going back to get my MPH this upcoming fall- I’ll be going to NYU! I’m very unfamiliar with New York (I’m currently in Maryland), but I’m incredibly excited (and nervous) for the change!


    • Alyce,

      I was a blog reader before a blogger, so I know what it’s like to think bloggers are frustratingly perfect! I am so glad my honestly helped you.


  9. Congrats, Gena! I just passed my 1-year quitiversary of seafood! I had cut out most seafood for some time but had hung on to those occasional “treats.” Now it’s been a year without any (ok, a bowl of miso soup with fish sauce… oops). And much, much easier than I thought! It’s reduced my menu anxiety a lot- straight for the vegetarian, usually vegan, option. And I know the ocean ecosystem is (so slightly) less ravaged because of it. Not the same as a nicotine addiction, but food really is my form of addiction.

    • HUGE!!!!!! I am so, so, so happy for you!!! I think it can be *very* liberating to have a simple choice when it comes to finding the vegan/veg option. I look for grains and beans immediately, or request them, and then I take it from there. I am very proud of you, but mostly because you seem to have made this choice in an organic, natural, healthy, and self-caring way. xoxo

  10. Wow!! I made this salad tonight for dinner and it was SO yummy I ate the entire bowl! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  11. Gena,
    Thanks yet again for a lovely inspiring post. It’s encouraging to realize we’re not alone and even the smartest, most healthy-minded folks still struggle to be their best selves. I quit smoking about 7 months ago, and even though I’ve done the backslide a few times over that period of time, I am determined and finally getting there after 12 years of smoking. I had tried and failed many times before, but really getting super clear as to why it was important to me to stop smoking made a huge difference from my past thought process of “I should quit – smoking is bad.” And of course, that salad dressing sounds AMAZING!

  12. What a beautiful salad!
    Would you recommend soaking the apricots (maybe in the oj) if I don’t have a high speed blender?
    I hope you have a good weekend, when do the exams finally finish?

      • WELL DONE! It’s an achievement to have completed the year, regardless. So many people (myself included) drop out when the going gets tough.
        I look forward to the email 🙂 also, I ALWAYS toast my walnuts, I think it’s amazing how much depth of flavour and richness a quick bake makes. Any reason why you don’t toast nuts? X

        • Toasting removes nutrients from the nut. It’s much better to soak and dehydrate!

  13. Gena,
    Thank you for sharing your struggle with nicotine! I, too, have struggled with an ED and was a smoker WHILE I steadily gained passion for healthy eating and living… and I just quit on (yep, you guessed it) April 19! I’ve been following your blog for a few years and somehow missed that this was your quit date, but I am absoutely delighted that next year (when I’m still cigarette-free) I’ll not only be reminded of my own victory, but can celebrate in spirit with someone for whom I have a great deal of admiration! Congratulations – keep doing what you do; you are a great inspiration to me and so many others!!
    All the best to you during finals week…

  14. Congratulations on your quitiversary AND your exams being over!
    I am a former smoker as well, although I started b/c I had an ED and I was hopeful that it would make me thinner. Ugh. I am 6 years smoke free and I feel stronger than ever.
    I just started reading your blog not too long ago and I just have to say that I love it! You are such an inspiration to all of us. Thank you for all that you do for us. We are here encouraging you every step of the way.

  15. So many congrats girl! I am so happy to hear about how far you have come since your last educational experience. Amazing inspiration. I think it is also great to just to eat real, raw whole food, and just trust that it does amazing things for our bodies, even if we do not know exactly how/what they are doing!

  16. Congratulations on four years of not smoking! That is very admirable- and I’m so glad you’ve discovered you can get along in a school environment without seriously considering going back. I appreciate your honesty in writing about this.

    My boyfriend currently smokes and has for about 7 years. He claims he wants to quit and has tried a few times, but says he isn’t ready to finally do it for real. He hates when I “bug” him about quitting, but I’m worried he never will. Does anyone- especially if you have been a smoker in the same position- have tips for how I can be helpful and not annoying? Is there actually any good way to urge someone you love to quit?

    • It’s so hard, Skye. In my opinion, there is very little YOU can do to encourage HIM — it truly must come from within. What might help is to say “look, I know you won’t do this until you WANT to. But when you are read y — whenever that is — I will cheer you all the way.”

  17. Congratulations, Gena on successfully adopting new healthful coping mechanisms during the rigors of grad school through sheer determination. I so admire your bravery in revealing your imperfections/residual self-destructive habits in the spirit of helping your friends and acquaintances. These sorts of posts (coupled with your characteristic nutrition primer) make me adore you that much more! 🙂

    • And I you, Karen!

      It’s important to remember, I think, that residual and lingering self-destructive habits lurk within. That doesn’t mean we need to empower or obey them — we simply must be aware that they exist, be mindful of what trigger them, and learn to proactively work around them when they threaten us.


  18. Congrats, Gena, on your “quitversary.” I think it’s interesting that you referenced how this time around in school, you are using much healthier coping strategies. That’s pretty cool because it’s evidence of how much growth you have accomplished. I was just telling my husband that I feel like I am developing healthier habits nearly every day. Speaking of my husband, he has an intense smoking history (2 packs a day x 20 years) and that history is one of my biggest motivations in making healthy foods for us to eat. So far, he is doing great, though, he has some residual lung damage but no signs of cancer, thank goodness. The body is so amazing in its ability to adapt and recover. Keep up the good work!!! 🙂

  19. Happy Quitiversary! I too am a former smoker and know first hand what a battle it was to quit and to stay that way…no one is perfect, me included, I try very hard to stay healthy and strong, this is why i started my blog…to keep me motivated and to give me the strength to stay that way. I look at my beautiful family and I want us all to be healthy and happy, my love for them is immeasurable and that also gives me strength. I love your honesty and you are a true inspiration Gena..thank you for this, it really hit home…



    ps raw kale salads are my fav =)

  20. reading your blog has proven quite empowering and inspiring for me. i thank you for your honesty, openness, and approach…

  21. Congrats on your quitversary! I’m a former smoker so I understand the significance of this great achievement. That salad is indeed gorgeous. I grew purple kale in my garden last year and it’s a real favorite. Love the dressing ingredients.

  22. Beautiful Salad!!!! Love the apricots with the purple kale. Yeah for not smoking. Amazing the stupid stuff we do when we are younger, I constantly roll my eyes at myself & college years……stress…….

  23. oh my oh my oh my. I’m sorry to change the subject but I made your overnight muesli with sprouted buckwheat groats in place of oats! It was so good! I soaked sprouted buckwheat, chia seeds, dried mulberries, diced turkish figs and a sprinkle of cacao nibs in locally-made soy milk last night.
    It was really yummy this morning!
    Thanks for the inspiration and I highly suggest you give sprouted buckwheat groats a try in that recipe!
    Congrats on 4 years!

  24. I think its great that you share this part of your past and highlight the fact that none of us are perfect. I used to be a smoker too, thankfully since smoking has been banned in public places in the UK, giving up was pretty easy for me – it happened alongside me getting healthier too. That recipe looks fantastic, especially the dressing!

  25. Oh my gosh, you should just quit those pesky science classes and be a writer! This was yet another masterpiece of a post. You are turning your struggles into beautiful writing that inspires and connects us all! This post was super awesome because not only was it thought-provoking and inspiring, but also included fun nutrition facts and an awesome recipe! You covered all the bases! I have been looking for more healthy dressings and sauces ideas so I am excited about that dressing. I might try just using straight avocado instead of avocado oil! Thanks Gena for all that you do on here!

  26. I had this last night! Well, almost. I had a massaged kale salad and felt compelled to add apple slices to it for added sweetness. So good! I couldn’t stop eating it.

  27. Your insights into the human spirit continue to amaze and inspire me. I read this and “The Quitiersary” back-to-back and am literally sitting her with a dropped jaw.

    Don’t let this insightful side of you get pushed back in medical school! Your understanding of what makes us tick is so innate and is something we definitely need to see more of in the medical field. Healthcare and your patients will be incredibly lucky to have you and I know I’m exceedingly excited to follow along on the rest of your journey. 🙂

  28. I love this post–congrats on focusing on the positive once again!
    Things are a bit better here today too.

    Happy bday to your mom–and don’t you have a birthday coming up real soon too?

    I actually appreciated your talk about weight gain in this post. I found it the reverse of triggering: actually reassuring from my present position.

  29. That salad looks awesome! I’ll have to stock up on the ingredients next time I go grocery shopping.
    This was a really insightful post about smoking. My boyfriend currently smokes on and off. I’ve been trying to convince him to quit for good, but after many failed attempts I’ve realized it has to be something he wants and is dedicated to. But that doesn’t my I won’t still doing my best to persuade him!

  30. Wonderful, honest, informative post, as always. Though I’ve never been a smoker, family and friends certainly have, and I’ve watched (and encouraged) them in their struggle to quit, so I appreciate how hard it is. Four years free of a smoking habit is something to celebrate! The dressing sounds amazing, but I have a question about the salad. I’ve read advice not to eat raw kale, broccoli and such because it has a negative effect on bone loss. What do you think?

    • Not true at all. Pair them with lemon juice so your body can absorb the raw nutrients better.

  31. Gena this was a beautiful read! I don’t understand how you have time to write these eloquent blog posts. Congrats on four years – that is HUGE! And this salad looks divine. College seems to breed new smokers, etc, so it’s impressive that you’ve restrained from going back to it in such a tempting environment. It must be so hard sometimes – and thanks for the reminder about how even healthy living bloggers aren’t perfect and sometimes even have less than ideal habits – sometimes it’s easy to forget that.

  32. Gena –
    Thank you so much for being so honest about your previous smoking habit and your constant battle to fight the urges to pick it back up. As a recent (1/10/12) former smoker myself and as someone that is trying to live a raw and veggie packed life, people always look at me as if I am a walking contradiction. It’s nice to know that someone as revered as you in the world of health and nutrition is willing to be so open and honest about an old bad habit. Even though I’m sure a lot of people reading can’t relate, know that there are those of us out there that are going through the same struggles that you did/are and your story is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing with us!!

  33. Congrats on your 4 year quitiversary! That’s wonderful, Gena!

    Everything you said, no doubt, will help someone out there to put down the habit.

    For the food, the creamy apricot ginger dressing looks and sounds right up my alley. Love apricots and ginger in any form!