Nothing like a good vegan salad recipe in the middle of December to break up the deluge of sugar, eh? I made this shaved Brussels sprout salad for dinner on the same day I baked (and ahem, ate my fair share of) four dozen sugar cookies for my husband to take to school with him to treat his classmates during the final push of the semester. Balance.
I normally try to follow the middle path style of eating—a typical day of eating for me will have lots of veggies, lots of fruit, plus a moderate amount of butter, cheese, and bacon, and a few touches of treats (like a square of dark chocolate or a good craft beer). Eleven months out of the year, I’m pretty successful about staying on the middle path. December? Not so much. In December, I swing with wild abandon between to the two extremes—super healthy and super unhealthy all at the same time—and hope like heck that it all balances out in the end.
I used to get so mad at myself for derailing my healthy diet during December every year. Why couldn’t I just say no to my favorite chocolate chip cookies or that second glass of eggnog and amaretto (try it, it is life changing)? What was wrong with me? But a few years back, I decided I was sick of feeling so darn guilty about enjoying my favorite foods and drinks around the holidays. So I decided right then and there to stop feeling guilty. And I haven’t looked back.
The fact of the matter is, I enjoy indulging in yummy (and sometimes unhealthy) foods with my friends and family. Food is my love language, and around the holidays, I speak my language of love loudly and proudly and with whipped cream on top. Now, with a little bit of perspective, I will even tell you that this same behavior that I thought was gluttonous only a few years ago, I now think is actually pretty darn healthy. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
No, I’m not saying pounding back a dozen sugar cookies is going to win you any kind of praise from your cardiologist, but I do think it is a different, but equally important, kind of healthy. To me, eating the foods I love the most is good for my soul. And as much as I love a good veggie, you won’t see kale listed on my requests for a last meal. Honestly, I just flat out got sick of feeling guilty for feeding my soul. So I don’t anymore. It was one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.
So I eat those not-so-healthy foods (and sometimes a lot of them). Especially during this sparkly, glittering, love-filled, happy time of year. And I enjoy every bite. And never feel a drop of guilt. My soul sings the songs of the cookie goddess.
Sure, it means that come January, my jeans are a bit tighter, and I’m in desperate need of some veggies, but that ain’t no thing. Because the eating, drinking, and merriment I partake in with my friends during the holiday season is worth every single pound I gain. I see a lot of folks berating themselves for eating too much at the holiday party or challenging themselves to skip the cookies in the break room, and if those kinds of things are important to you, I wish you the best of luck in your goals. But don’t mind me while I’m happily sitting in the corner eating myself silly, drinking heartily, and laughing ’til I cry with my friends and family. Tomorrow, I’ll feed my body. Today, I’m feeding my soul.
So what does all of this have to do with a shaved Brussels sprout salad? Well, like I said, I do try to swing to the other end of the food spectrum during December on the more “normal” days of the month (feeding my body, if you will). It can feel like December is this marathon of parties and dinners and events, but there are still more normal days in December than special ones, and on those normal days—where I’m not partaking in a boatload of merriment—I try my darndest to eat clean and green to help balance out the half pound of fudge I plan on eating over the weekend.
I drink lots of water. I try to have a green smoothie every day. I slow down on the sugar. I slow down on the booze. I give my body a break so it can get good and excited for all the soul-warming it’ll be participating in later. And this shaved Brussels sprout salad is a great, seasonal option for one of my healthier days.
This salad is actually more of a slaw, where instead of traditional red or green cabbage, you use shaved Brussels sprouts. If you’re afraid of eating raw Brussels sprouts (maybe you just joined the Brussels sprouts bandwagon recently), let me tell you, you will love this. The sulphur flavor that a lot of people dislike about Brussels sprouts comes from cooking (specifically, overcooking) the sprouts. When you eat them raw? No sulphur flavor. They taste like super sweet cabbage! Perfect for this cool-weather salad.
Now, a word of warning about shaving Brussels sprouts. If you have really great knife skills and a decent amount of patience, you can do it by hand with a knife, but if you are lacking in knife skills like I am, you’ll want to use a mandoline slicer.
I always used to think a mandoline slicer was one of those annoying kitchen tools that chefs on TV always told me I needed to have but I actually didn’t. Until I got one as a gift. And then I totally fell for my mandoline (this is similar to the one I have, by the way). The mandoline makes such quick work of making pickles or potato chips or fries or anytime you need to thinly slice something. I love my mandoline!
Now that I’ve told you to use a mandoline to shave Brussels sprouts, you have to promise me something. Swear to me you will never ever even think about trying to cut a sprout on a mandoline without wearing a no-cut glove on your hand. Swear it to me. Right now. On the grave of all the Brussels sprouts that have come before.
I don’t care how careful you are, if you try to use a mandoline to slice Brussels sprouts without proper hand protection, you will (WILL!) cut yourself. And no, those little hand guard things that come with your mandoline don’t count (I swear I cut myself MORE when I use those things). Trust me, the $12 you spent on the no-cut gloves are well worth it to avoid the pain and suffering of getting your fingers sliced off on your mandoline. This salad is good, but it’s not good enough for you to lose any flesh. Just don’t, k? I care about you too much.
Now that I’ve sufficiently frightened you into never making this salad, let me tell you exactly why you should make it! This salad is such an excellent way to bring fresh, raw veggies to the dinner table in the winter without having to head out and buy $20 worth of out-of-season ingredients. You can nab almost all of the ingredients for this salad at your local winter farmer’s market (they have those where you live, too, right?). It tastes fresh and healthy, but still hearty and filling—just like food should be when the temps are low.
And the mustard maple vinaigrette that is on this salad? To die for. Great on this salad. Great on all salads, actually. If I were you, I’d just make up a big jar of the stuff and keep it in the fridge for whenever you need a cookie-balancing bowl of veggies. Enjoy!