Make better homemade salads with this collection of simple tips plus an easy & good-for-you apple cider vinaigrette dressing recipe.
After a sobering swimsuit try-on session and a horrifying 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 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 basic components I look to incorporate into every salad whether I make it at home or order when I'm eating out to keep things interesting.
Start with a Green Base
This is a given. When you think salad you think of green. My daddy calls salads "plates of leaves" 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 lettuces 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. This massaged kale salad incorporates the goodness of dark, leafy greens but it's so tender!
Add Some 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. The pickled beets in this three-ingredient arugula salad provide the perfect pop of color.
Incorporate Different Flavors
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. This 5-ingredient salad is a great example of texture variety made easy!
Add in Crunchy Ingredients
While we're on the topic 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. This mostly-green kale salad is a good example of the right texture mix.
Pick your 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. This salad with grilled sesame chicken is SO good, y'all. 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 but a hard-boiled egg, chickpeas, and protein-packed grains all work wonderfully.
Dress it Up and Make it Real
Some view salad dressing as optional. Not me. 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.
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!
P.S. more ideas to make mealtimes easier:
Easy Apple Cider Vinaigrette Recipe
A simple yet flavorful salad dressing made with just five all-natural ingredients
- ⅓ 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
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.