I used to be a junk-food junky! I used to think: “salads are boring, they just don’t fill me up.” Fast forward a few years later and I eat salad almost everyday for lunch! Woohoo!
I have a big appetite so before I was converted to the ways of salad, my vegetarian diet consisted of a lot of heavy starch foods (bread, pasta, potatoes). I wanted to eat healthier but I was busy and on a budget. It seemed like the majority of store-bought salads were just plain greens. BORING! There were trendy salad bars offering interesting options but they were really expensive. When you’re on the run and choosing between a $10 salad or a $2 slice of pizza, which do you think would win?
So what happened?
First of all, I re-defined my own ideas about salad. I learned that salad doesn’t always have to have lettuce. In fact there are many salads that don’t have any lettuce at all (bean salads, quinoa salad, beet salad). For me, a great salad meant having a little more than just raw veggies in order to fill me up. It also meant integrating protein to make my meal complete. I learned that dressing is the most essential part of making salad tasty and I wasn’t going to leave that job up to Kraft. Finally, I realized that the only way I would eat salad regularly was if it was easy! Easy for me meant having the ingredients at hand and having the right kitchen tools.
A few of my fun and simple salad combos:
Mediterranean style: Arugula, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, quinoa. Dressing: Olive oil, balsamic, honey.
Summer fruity: Baby spinach, strawberries, blueberries, walnuts. Dressing: Olive oil, balsamic.
Asian: Baby spinach, mango, red onion, peanuts. Dressing: Sunflower oil, lime juice, hot sauce.
Mexican: Black beans, bell peppers, green onions, avocado, tomatoes, cheddar cheese. Dressing: Sunflower oil, lime juice, hot sauce.
Mexican quinoa salad: Quinoa, bell peppers, green onions, cherry tomatoes. Dressing: Sunflower oil, lime juice, hot sauce.
Italian style: Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, radish, endive, parmesan cheese. Dressing: White wine vinegar,olive oil, lemon juice, garlic.
Grilled veggie salad: Grilled or roasted bell peppers, onions and zucchini on fresh baby spinach and topped with goat cheese. Dressing: Olive oil, balsamic, honey.
Romanian style aka The Adriana: Lots of tomatoes, green onions, soft bulgarian feta. Dressing: Sunflower oil and lots of freshly ground pepper.
1. Salad spinner. No more soggy salad! This just makes washing and straining your veggies way easier.
2. Bowls with lids. Tupperware style bowls with air tight lids are essential for me. When it comes to dressing a salad, I am all for shaken not stirred. Put the lid on your salad bowl and shake it up! It really helps distribute the dressing and all the flavours. These bowls are also good for easy storage and lunch containers.
3. Mason jars. These jars have changed my life! Mason jars are the cheapest jars on the market ($0.50 – $0.75 a piece).
You can buy them at Canadian Tire, Maxi or your local thrift store. They are especially easy to find around pickling season ( September-October) RIGHT NOW! I use them to store all my dried salad goods ( nuts, beans, seeds). I buy everything in bulk and store them in these jars. That way I have ingredients readily available to sprinkle onto a salad at any moment. They are also amazing for for making salad dressings since they are spill proof and easy to clean.
I don’t like store bought dressing because I don’t think they taste as good. Plus, why consume those extra preservatives when a simple vinaigrette is really easy! About two parts oil to one part vinegar with a dash of whatever third or fourth ingredient that you like to integrate. Toss everything into a mason jar and shake it up. Salads with soft cheese don’t always require much dressing at all. There are more complicated dressings made with a food processor but I’ll cover those in a different post. For those who love their creamy salads, try my recipe below for a low fat creamy dill dressing made with greek yogurt.
Low fat creamy dressing: **Makes enough for 2 salads** 3 tablespoons of light mayonaise 2 tablespoons of 0% fat greek yogurt 2 cloves of minced garlic 2 tsp of white wine vinegar 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 pinches of fresh dill or dried dill
Choose your favourite dry ( non perishable) salad ingredients and keep some in your cupboards at all times. Buy your fresh ingredients for the week and try to dedicate a little time to prepping them. Pre-wash your fresh veggies in a mild vinegar bath and store them in containers. Pre-cook your grains or beans for the week and store them in the fridge. Prepare a jar of salad dressing for the week. If you’ve done all that, assembling a salads everyday will be easy peasy lemon squeezy!