After a sobering swimsuit try-on session and a horrifying (seriously!) facial break out, I recently committed to eating more greens. Fruits and veggies, especially dark, leafy greens, are not only kind to your waistline but also help do things like balance out your hormones. Another measure I am taking is cutting way back on my sugar intake. This has been HARD but something I’ve known I needed to do for quite a long time. I stopped adding sugar to my tea, oatmeal, etc. a while back but could not say no to a cupcake…or a pack of Starburst at the grocery store checkout. The list goes on and on. Am I eating sugar-free salads for every meal and washing them down with green juice? Boy, bye! But I AM taking baby steps to maintain some balance and not be powerless against the sugary sweet things in life. It’s been over a year since I posted my chopped southwestern salad here so when I decided to make a big meal salad for my lunch prep this week I thought I’d share with y’all my method for making restaurant-quality salads at home as well as a quick and [ridiculously] easy salad dressing recipe (at the bottom). These are some basic components I look to incorporate into every salad whether I make it at home or order when I’m eating out to keep it from being boring. Keep scrolling for a bit of each one.
Green base – This is a given. When you think salad you think of green. My daddy calls salads “plates of leafs” which, while technically true, is his way of disparaging and turning down the meal. Believe it or not, the type of green you choose is important to the type of salad groove you’re going for. Types like kale and chard are hardier and usually take a little finesse. You’ll want to let your dressing marinate on them for a little while. Butter and Bibb lettuce are softer (hence the names), while types such as romaine and iceberg are very crispy. Pre-mixed salad bags at the grocery store make choosing easier but buying the lettuce heads or bundles yourself is way cheaper. My favorites are spinach, kale, and arugula.
Color – It’s true that we eat with our eyes first. To me, any dish that is just one color is just not right. I look for a variety of colors in the form of produce and toppings, which also helps me add different textures. Win-win.
Flavor – I love adding fruit to my salads for sweet-tooth-related reasons mentioned above but sweet isn’t the only taste I employ. Things like Granny Smith apples or dried cranberries will add tartness, Citrus will add zest and acidity. Even different types of greens have different flavors.
Crunch! Speaking of textures, I always add a crunchy thing or two because a mushy salad is not only unappetizing but also boring. Consider nuts, seeds, croutons, pita chips, toasted coconut or crisp veggies like carrots or fresh cucumber for crunch and things like avocado or different cheeses for creaminess.
Protein – I’m clearly not a vegetarian so, for me, protein usually means it used to be alive. Chicken, fish, shrimp, and even the occasional piece of red meat are in my regular rotation. Of course, you can get your protein from other sources. This is just my preference. Adding meat makes a salad feel more like a full meal to me.
“Dress[ing] it up and make it real for me.”– Some view salad dressing as optional. Not this girl. Have I eaten dry salad before? Yes, but I was under duress. 🙂 A good dressing can bring all the flavors of your dry components together beautifully AND provide some added nutritional benefits. Put down the ranch. The basic components of any vinaigrette are oil and vinegar. From there, you can add your own flair. My easy apple cider vinaigrette dressing recipe is just below. It’s simple but delicious with a little kick.
Easy Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1 cup apple cider vinegar (I use the kind with the mother)
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 clove garlic, chopped
Dash of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Makes about 8 servings.
Combine all ingredients in a jar, zip-top bag, or other sealable container and SHAKE. That’s it! Store in the fridge and shake well before each use.
With the above in mind, I try to incorporate at least five different ingredients into each salad, which almost always guarantees I hit the flavor, texture, and color marks.
What do y’all like best in your salads? Let me know below. Thanks for reading!