Lemons and Basil

Delicata Squash & Barley Kale Salad + A Very Special Thank You

With the holidays come so many wonderful things – time with loved ones, traditions, festivities, reflection, giving, and food, just to name a few. And when it comes to the food, there is SO. MUCH. FOOD.From the turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie, to the ham, mashed potatoes and cookies – not to mention all the sweets and appetizers, this is certainly not the season for cutting back. But between all the indulgence and celebration, I find myself craving something simple and healthy, and this Delicata Squash & Barley Kale Salad is exactly that. Simple, yet hearty and full of flavor.

I love roasting squash, and with their inherent sweetness, adding a bit of cinnamon enhances that sweetness and brings in a lovely autumn flavor. In the case of this salad, the creaminess from the goat cheese, paired with the sweetness from the squash, perfectly balances the slightly bitter flavor from the kale. Then the garbanzo beans and barley add great texture, along with some much-needed protein and fiber to help keep you full.

As for the dressing, it’s a blend of balsamic and apple cider vinegar {tang} + almond butter and honey {sweet/nutty} + a little pumpkin pie seasoning {spice} that combined, equal the perfect light topping to bring all these flavors together.

So if you’re anything like me, and just needing a good salad to help balance all those cookies, I highly recommend giving this one a try!

Before I go, I wanted to take some time to bring a little awareness to National Family Caregiver Month, it was actually November and I had hoped to share something then, but I couldn’t seem to make that happen. Many of you who have followed along for a while, likely know of the hurt and heartache my family has faced the past two years with my mom’s health. If you are new to Lemons and Basil and would like to know more of what I’m referring to, you can search the site for “mom update” or “mom’s story” to read past posts where I’ve shared.

Because it has been a very long time since I’ve posted about my mom’s health, I’ll go ahead and share a somewhat brief update. A little over two years ago, my mom had been a vibrant, healthy woman. She was 63, working full-time as a LPN in private home healthcare, a lively grandma to my niece and nephew, a wonderful partner and companion to my dad, and an incredible friend and mother to my sister and me.

We started noticing that my mom was becoming easily confused, having what they called “brain-fog” and she seemed to be overly frustrated when things didn’t go the way she was accustom to them going. When we tried to talk to her about our concerns, she insisted she was fine. She wasn’t experiencing headaches, blurriness, or anything that made her feel concerned about the situation, in her words, she was just aging. But as time went on it became clear things were not right. Her speech and gait, along with nearly all her motor skills began to change, and rapidly. We started seeing doctors, having her tested for vitamin deficiencies, hormone levels, sought out an MRI…nothing came back with any sort of result that would shine light on what was happening in her body. But her health continued to decline, and at a speed that was extremely alarming.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with the early onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Our hearts were broken, but we coped the best we could. This was right about Christmas time, two years ago. She lost her job, she could no longer drive, and within a month of the diagnosis, we were overly concerned about her being home alone, afraid she might accidentally hurt herself, or wonder outside and not realize where she had gone. My sister had worked the last several years in a Geriatric Psychiatric unit for a local hospital, and was all too familiar with seeing patients struggling with Dementia – it didn’t feel like the right diagnosis to us, it was all to rapid…It’s been some time since I’ve recounted all of this, it brings back so much pain.

In an effort to not dwell on that pain, I’m going to skip forward to today. After more than a year of seeking doctor after doctor, both in the conventional field and the holistic side, we still do not have a clear diagnosis. She’s had blood work, an MRI, cat-scan, spinal tab, along with a full body workup and other more specialty testing, still no definitive diagnosis. The conventional doctors believe one thing, while the holistic believe another – but with all the results, our family believes my mom has Lyme’s disease in her brain. We’ve tried so many different treatments, but without success, and her health has continued to decline. Today, and for more than a year, my mom has become completely bed-bound. She is unable to communicate with us or do anything for herself. We have prayed and prayed, along with so many dear friends, for the Lord to heal her. But He has not, and I’m not sure we have much time left with her here on this earth.

I share all of this because I want to say a very special thank you to all of those who have been caregivers to my mom and our family. You have given us a gift that is priceless – your time, your love, and your skills and abilities. Your kindness will stay with us for all times, and has forever impacted our lives. So many people have been the hands and feet of Jesus to our family, loving on us in a way that embodies the love of Christ. Thank you to each and every one of you, thank you for giving of yourselves.

And before I go, a tremendous thank you to my dad. He has been my mom’s full-time caregiver this past year, and has given her better care than she could have received anywhere else. He has shown a love and a commitment to my mom and their vows, that truly humbles and inspires me. To be a caregiver to someone who is unable to do anything for themselves if a very difficult job – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Especially when that person is your wife, your former companion and best friend. So please, if you know someone who is a caregiver, a nurse, or a volunteer, take the time to love on them today. Do something special for them, and take the time to thank them for giving so much of themselves to someone else. Thank you Dad for the way you love Mom, thank you for all you do for her on a daily basis, and for showing her such selfless love. {Final update on my mom here}

Delicata Squash & Barley Kale Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This Delicata Squash & Barley Kale Salad is simple, yet hearty and full of flavor.
Recipe type: Lunch/Salad
Serves: 2
  • 1 medium delicata squash
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup uncooked barley
  • 4-6 cups chopped kale (or greens of choice)
  • ½ cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 oz goat cheese
  • ¼ cup spiced pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spray baking sheet with coconut oil cooking spray, then slice delicata squash in approx ½” slices, remove all seeds and sprinkle with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.
  3. Bake ten minutes, remove from oven, flip each piece, and bake additional ten minutes.
  4. Cook barley according to package directions. The ten minute barley from Trader Joes has you add the ½ cup uncooked to 1-1.25 cups water, bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes.
  5. While squash and barley cook, add all items for dressing to NutriBullet or food processor and blend 5-10 seconds or until all items have combined to create a thin, creamy consistency.
  6. Once barley has cooked, allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, then add kale to two large bowls and top each with barley and garbanzo beans.
  7. Then layer each salad with cooked delicate squash, goat cheese and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with Pumpkin Almond Balsamic Vinegar Dressing or dressing of choice and serve!