I’ve wanted to do a series of posts on salads for several months now. I’m not a picky eater and there are many foods I love, but I have to honestly say salad is one of my favourites. I used to say I enjoyed salad, as long as someone else made it. I always felt that by the time I chopped all the veggies and got it ready, it was some how disappointing. However, over the last few years, I have made a few discoveries which are primarily based on my own personal preferences. I can honestly say that salad is not only one of my very favourite foods, but would rank pretty high for my whole family. My 16 year old son will often request salad when asked what he wants for dinner. Here are a few tips to help you jump on the salad band wagon.
How To Really Get Hooked on Salad:
- Find a variety of salads that you love! DO NOT stick to the same old salad every time! We probably have at least 3 completely different salads each week.
- Make salad your main course and use meat as a salad topping. Although we are not vegetarian, I can say that we have definitely moved away from red meat. We still enjoy a steak, pork tenderloin and ground beef for burgers and spaghetti sauce, but it is much more limited than it used to be. We will often have meat as a salad compliment and chicken and fish are much more present in our regular diet than they were in the past.
- Be creative and try a variety of add-ons. For me salad is mostly about a great dressing. Once I find a dressing I like, I will often play with the other elements and change it up. Lately, one of my favourite salad additions is chopped brussel sprouts!
- Be creative in your presentation….I will often spiral, shred or ribbon cut my vegetables to add interest. A salad that looks amazing often tastes great too!
- Think colour! I often see a salad as art…I always try to add a splash of colour!
- Use a variety of greens to create different textures, flavours and colours in your finished salad.
- Cheese please! Although we don’t always add cheese to our salads (especially when we are being mindful of calories), it is a great way to add flavour. Some of our favourites include feta, Swiss, manchego, aged cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano!
- Double the recipe! We definitely have a few staples when it comes to salad dressing. I find that making a double batch will often last a week or more in the fridge.
- Be mindful! Although a salad is often packed with veggies, don’t fall into the same trap that I did several years ago. I would eat a delicious homemade salad for lunch at work every day. I always felt like I ate well and a list of the foods I was eating would have most people agreeing. However, despite what I felt were healthy choices, I noticed that I was starting to put on weight. Be mindful of what you are adding to your salad if weight/calories are a concern. Nuts and seeds are a great source for nutrients and healthy fats, but they are also extremely high in calories. After months of eating my “amazingly healthy salad”, I did a calorie count and discovered that my lunch salad was often exceeding 700 calories! Although they were seemingly healthy calories packed with nutrients, a calorie is a calorie and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I seemed to be gaining weight. I still eat nuts and seeds, but I am just more aware of what I’m adding to my salads and the overall caloric impact.
Sensational Salad Add-Ons for a Typical Lettuce Salad:
The fruits, vegetables, meat and other ingredients I add to a salad are often determined by the type of salad I’m making and whether the dressing is sweet or not. I will follow a salad recipe pretty close the first time, mostly to see if the dressing is a hit or not. After that, I will often use the dressing, but adapt the salad ingredients based on what flavours I think will meld nicely with it and what I have on hand. Below are some of our favourite salad fixings that go beyond the basic carrots, celery, cucumber and tomatoes.
- beets (I often spiral cut them with this inexpensive Starfrit machine I have)
- mushrooms (I like to slice mine paper thin)
- brussel sprouts (chopped)
- peppers (red, green and/or yellow)
- chopped artichoke (canned)
- red cabbage (and/or regular cabbage)
- granny smith apples
- fresh homemade salsa (fruit based is especially good and often means you can eliminate the dressing altogether)
- Nuts (pistachio, pecan, walnuts, peanuts, slivered almonds, pine nuts, etc. – I usually opt for raw nuts, but also love candied nuts with some salads)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, etc.)
- Cheese, freshly grated
- Meat (pork tenderloin, steak, taco meat, salmon, chicken breast/rotisserie chicken)
When I first started making more gourmet style salads, I really just sought out a few dressings that I loved that became my “go to’s” for a basic salad. I have actually posted this recipe a few times already, but it is definitely one I use regularly.
Lime Agave Vinaigrette – courtesy of Lyn Genet-Recitas (The Plan). I love this dressing because it is simple to make and the lime flavour gives it a very fresh taste. I will often add green apple or pear to this salad just because it goes so nicely with the lime flavour. (If you don’t have Agave, use honey or one of my favourites…maple syrup.)
Stay tuned as I will be posting several new salad and dressing recipes over the summer, but until now, here are some links to previous posts that highlighted some of our family’s favourite salad recipes.
- Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Poppy Seed Dressing (When strawberries are in season, we have this at least once a month – the dressing is great with other fruit as well.)
- Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing (Oh My!! So delicious!)
- Autumn Chopped Salad ( a perfect side salad)
- Island Pork Tenderloin Salad (courtesy of the P90X cookbook) I have to admit that we sometimes have this pork tenderloin without the salad….this is an absolutely delicious meat recipe!!
- Olive Garden House Salad (copy cat recipe)
- Yummy Greek Salad