Let’s talk about salad.
Not because it’s January or because salad’s are “diet food” but because salads can be a magical trifecta of awesomeness in that they are:
- A delivery method for a TON of vitamins and valuable nutrients.
- Crazy tasty.
- Crazy easy to toss together.
Oh. You doubt items number 2 and 3 on that list?
I did too. For many years of my adult life salads were both dietary punishment and huge source of food waste in my kitchen. So help me, I used to need a recipe to make a salad.
My salad plot-twist came in the form of Amy. For many years, we met at Amy’s house for staff meetings and almost every time, Amy would open her fridge and pantry and with what appeared to be little or no forethought, would whip up a giant salad to feed all of us that would leave us oooooing and ahhhhing at the yumminess.
Amy would, I think, resist the urge to roll her eyes at us for fawning over her culinary prowess.
After awhile I realized that Amy had what I did not — a well stocked fridge and pantry.
Now, I’ve grown up a bit and have learned (and am still learning) this balance —planning meals but keeping a kitchen stocked with basics that work for my family and our habits.
One of those habits is salad eating.
After a lot of trial and error...and HATING myself for wasting fresh produce, I’ve landed on a way to stock my fridge and pantry so I can make a delicious salad anytime without going broke or wasting food.
My keeping an item or two from the groups below in my house at all times, I’m always ready to take whatever other fresh veggies I've got on hand (the standard carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers) and make a GREAT salad.
This is your salad foundation. Make it count. Make it nutritious and tasty...walk right on passed the iceberg lettuce. Tear or chop it up so it’s not smacking you in the face when you load up your fork.
- Mixed Baby Greens
SALTY / CRUNCHY
Texture is your friend. Salty ingredients bring out other flavors and the fats in these make your feel satisfied...no more feeling hungry an hour after lunch.
- Nuts (Pistachios, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Cashews, Pecans)
- Seeds (Pepitas/Pumpkin, Sunflower)
Add fiber, nutrients, and texture with these “sweet” ingredients. A little dried fruit goes a long way, so don’t be afraid of the sugar content when you look at packages...I usually stick with 1 Tablespoon of the dried fruits.
- Dried fruit (cranberries, mandarin oranges, cherries)
I used cheese sparingly and sometimes not at all, but this ingredient adds protein and delicious taste and is wonderful when you’re stuck in a healthy eating rut. Avocados/Guac are always a hit, but I’ve found that they don’t go with many of my “sweet” items, I like to keep my avocado for my savory salads.
- Cheese (Goat Cheese, Sharp Cheddar, Shaved Parmesan)
- Avocados / Guacamole
BIG FLAVOR VEGGIES
Fight off boring with delicious roasted veggies. Roast a big batch and toss them into everything until you run out!
- Roasted Beets
- Grilled Onions
Dressings can be tricky. Many are so full of sugar and preservatives that pouring them over your salad negates any nutritional benefit...I’m looking at YOU, Ranch Dressing. Read your labels and find your favorites. I keep one of each category below in my fridge and these are my favorites.
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L-R Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Citrus Vinaigrette, Trader Joe's Sweet Onion & Bacon Vinaigrette, Briannas' Home Style Real French Vinaigrette
A salad just isn’t going to keep me full unless I add some solid protein. Sure, I could kick up my protein with nuts and cheese...but too much of those and my tummy gets angry.
- Pork - grilled tenderloin, shredded, or carnitas (my favorite)
Grab a bowl and start your salad!
Here are my 12 Favorite Combinations:
Arugula + Spinach + Roasted Beets + Bacon + Apples + Pistachios + Grilled Chicken
Greens + Avocado + Tomatoes + Bacon + Grilled Chicken
Greens + Roasted Red Beets + Goat Cheese + Steak + Grilled Onions
Greens + Apples + Hazelnuts + Bacon + Guacamole + Grilled Chicken
Greens + Broccoli Carrot Slaw + Apple + Pork Carnitas
Greens + Tomatoes + Carrots + Asparagus + Kale + Broccoli Slaw + Guacamole + Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Greens + Red Bell Peppers + Kale + Guacamole + Grilled Chicken
Greens + Apple +Dried Cranberries + Goat Cheese + Pistachios
Greens + Grapes + Goat Cheese + Dried Mandarin Oranges + Pistachios
Greens + Cucumbers + Apple + Almonds + Sharp Cheddar + Bacon + Chicken
Spinach + Strawberries + Pecans + Goat Cheese
What’s your favorite salad combo? I’d love to hear it in the comments!