Collard Green Salad with Cornbread Croutons, Beets & Buttermilk Dressing

This collard green salad with cornbread croutons, beets, black-eyed peas, and probiotic rich buttermilk dressing is proof Southern food is more than fried chicken and biscuits! 

Collard Green Salad with Cornbread Croutons and Buttermilk Dressing
Collard Green Salad with Cornbread Croutons and Buttermilk Dressing

I've got a special treat in store for you today - a guest post from my lovely dietetic intern, Sallie Vaughn. We spent a few days together where she got a glimpse into the crazy life of a private practice dietitian/food blogger and a look at all the different career options for dietitians.

When we first met (after my 130 lb Saint Bernard was done pretending to be a lap dog), we chatted about her career goals. She told me as someone who grew up in a small town, she was passionate about people in rural areas live healthier lives. She then told me all about her grandma, or Grom as she calls her, and even shared an article she once wrote all about the healthy lessons she learned from her. Grom sounds like the epitome of a Southern grandma! At ninety years old (I think I got that right - apologies to Grom if I aged you!), she credits her health to savoring food with the family she loves. That's certainly something I can get behind! The dishes she cooked are a great example of how real traditional Southern food can promote health, a fact I love to share with my South Carolina clientele!

Cornbread Croutons for Collard Green Salad
Cornbread Croutons for Collard Green Salad

Alas, I'll turn it over to Sallie!

Hi! I am Sallie Vaughan, a dietetic intern through South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to write a guest blog post for Rachael. I am soooo excited to share my story with everyone! My blog posts talks about growing up as a child surrounded by southern food and how easy it can be to incorporate traditional southern food into everyday, healthy dishes!

Collard Green Salad with Beets and Black Eyed Peas
Collard Green Salad with Beets and Black Eyed Peas
Collard Green Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Collard Green Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Some of the best memories I can remember as a child were spent sitting around my grandmother’s kitchen table. No matter if it were after church or on a holiday, my grandmother would have a home-cooked meal ready for anyone eager to come to her house. Her kitchen often smelled of warm cornbread right out the oven. On a snowy day, you could find snow ice cream in her freezer and vegetable soup on her stovetop. Homemade chex mix and chocolate covered peanuts would sit in the living room for folks to nibble at before dinner was ready. When it was time to eat, an entire spread of food covered her kitchen table. Nobody was allowed to dig in until she blessed the food!

Gron, as we call her, has a passion for cooking and entertaining family and friends. Her house is where family gathers for all holidays and celebrations. It is rare to find cousins, uncles, and aunts all together without the presence of her good, southern cooking. If you ask anybody in the town, they could tell you how much her chocolate meringue pie is to die for. And I bet they have been invited over to her house for a meal, too! Nobody is a stranger to Gron.

I was the lucky granddaughter, though, because I lived right next door to her for 18 years! When it was just Daddy and I at home while Mama was out of town, we didn’t have to think twice about who was cooking us dinner. We just waited by the house phone until Gron called to invite us over. “Y’all hungry?” she would ask, “well come on over”.

Her kitchen table is where many stories were shared and laughs were heard. It is where we sat for hours upon hours stuffing our face until we couldn’t take another bite. It is where we gathered as one big family. And lastly, it is where my love for food and family originated. It’s no surprise to me that I am pursing a career that revolves around food. Perhaps I could blame Gron for that or thank her. I’ll go with the latter.

Since I grew up on southern food, I know how much of a bad reputation it can get. But, believe it or not, a traditional southern cuisine has great amount of benefits. Unfortunately, you can’t expect to get these benefits from cooking with loads of bacon grease and butter. You can, however, use simple substitutions to make southern food healthy.

Southern Collard Green Salad
Southern Collard Green Salad

Rachael and I spent a day together and created a healthy, southern dish that incorporated many of my grandmother’s favorite ingredients. We created a salad that included collard greens as the base and topped it with beets and black -eyed peas. We used cornbread for croutons and drizzled the salad with buttermilk dressing. Everything was made from scratch - Yum Yum! I told you southern food could be healthy!

Beets were my favorite in this salad because of all the memories I can attach it to. Gron always served beets and I was never a fan as a child. My daddy would lean over and say “you know beets make your eyes pretty, that’s why I’m so pretty”. As a nutrition student, I now know that he mixed up the health benefits of beets and carrots, but beets do have amazing benefits. They contain immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber to keep you full, and potassium/magnesium for nerves, muscles, and organ function.

The other ingredients in our salad offered many rewards, too!

COLLARDS // Provide huge antioxidant benefits. Excellent source of Vitamin K for anti-inflammatory and omega-3 fatty acids.

BLACK EYED PEAS // Our protein source of the salad. High levels of fiber and iron.

CORNBREAD // Corn meal is actually a whole grain! Whole grain=fiber! Calcium, iron, magnesium, B-vitamins, and the list goes on. Rachael and I replaced sugar for honey in the recipe!

BUTTERMILK // Doesn’t contain all the extra fat in store-bought dressings. Buttermilk provides probiotics, healthy bacteria for your gut. Provides calcium, phosphorus, and even protein.

Collard Green Salad with Beets and Cornbread Croutons
Collard Green Salad with Beets and Cornbread Croutons

I enjoyed spending the day with Rachael and reminiscing on my childhood. Who knew southern food could be so healthy. The key is cooking from scratch and knowing exactly what is in your food. In today’s world, everyone is so busy and often grab fast food or warm up a frozen meal in the microwave. Instead of eating together at the dinner table, many families sit in front of the television. Food has a huge impact on fueling our body, but it also brings people together for happiness. Just think of all the stories I would have missed out on without Gron’s kitchen table.

Sallie, best wishes to you in all that you do! You are smart and passionate, a surefire recipe for success! Wherever life takes you, I know you'll be inspiring others!

Crispy Cornbread Croutons

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ cups organic buttermilk
  • Olive oil spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, egg, buttermilk and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until combined.
  3. When oven is hot, place 1 tablespoon olive oil in an 8-inch cast iron skillet and place skillet in the oven for a minute to warm. Pour batter into hot skillet and place it in the oven. Bake 15 minutes until cornbread is golden and edges have pulled away from the skillet. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. When cool enough to handle, remove cornbread from the oven and cut into cubes. Spray with olive oil and bake 10 minutes until toasted.

Collard Green Salad with Cornbread, Beets & Buttermilk Dressing

Serves 4

Here are directions for how to roast beets. You could also purchase precooked beets or even pickled beets would be great here.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of collards, thick stems removed and cut into thin ribbons
  • 4 medium beets, roasted or purchased precooked
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, from dry or canned
  • Cornbread croutons

Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together collards, beets, and black-eyed peas. Top with cornbread croutons and drizzle with buttermilk dressing.
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