Nicole Gaffney is South Jersey’s very own local celebrity chef. Best known for being second runner-up on season 10 of the Food Network Star, Nicole (who cheerfully goes by Coley) has been maintaining her cooking blog and YouTube channel where she posts easy, healthy and tasty recipes.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, Gaffney shared one of her favorite dishes with us: Brussels Sprout, Kale + Apple Salad. From her experiences, first-time triers are hesitant to dive fork-first into a bowl of kale when traditional Turkey Day dinners are loaded with meat and carbs. But she reminds us that, “This salad is packed with flavor and is a very welcomed addition to the Thanksgiving spread.”

“Among the stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, it’s nice to have something that’s green, fresh and crunchy,” she said. And since there’s bacon and cheddar cheese involved, the dish is able to hold its own at the table.

Sign Up for Bordentown Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

This seasonal salad has become a staple in Gaffney’s household.

“I've been making this recipe for Thanksgiving every year for the past several years and everyone always loves it,” she said. “Tons of my friends make it for their families now, too.”

Brussels Sprout, Kale + Apple Salad with Sharp Cheddar, Bacon + Pecans

For the salad:

1 lb. brussels sprouts

1 large bunch kale, any variety

a glug of olive oil

generous pinch of salt

1 Granny Smith apple, julienned

1/3 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries

6 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small pieces

5 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled, bacon fat reserved

For the vinaigrette

1 small shallot, minced

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. honey

salt + freshly cracked pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

reserved bacon fat (warmed up to liquify if solid)

Clean and remove any brown or yellow leaves from the brussels sprouts. Use a mandolin to slice them very thin (alternatively, you can do this with a knife, but a mandolin makes the job much easier), then add them to a bowl.

Remove the tough stems from the kale, then stack the leaves and roll them up like a cigar. Run your knife through them to make nice, thin ribbons, then add them to the bowl with the brussels sprouts.

Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, then use clean hands to squeeze and massage the greens until they’re fully coated with oil and have reduced a bit in volume. Add the julienned apple, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, cheddar cheese and bacon.


In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Slowly stream in the olive oil and bacon fat while whisking until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss until everything is thoroughly combined. Serve immediately.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

More on NJ Flavor:

New Jersey Date Night: Hey, Pumpkin!

Hanging on by a Thread, Some NJ Restaurateurs Fear the Worst This Winter

New Jerseyans Say ‘Cheese!’ (But Hold the Dairy) with Vegan Cheese

To sign up to have NJ Flavor and other great sections sent straight to your inbox, click here. Follow NJ Flavor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Got a story you'd like to see on NJ Flavor? Email Jackie Lieberman at