I’ve always had a place in my lunchtime-heart for salads. Quick. Easy. Full of flavor. Always different. And the best part: light enough to not give you a lunch hangover in an hour or two, but just filling enough to give you a burst of energy post lunch. (Remember… I like to eat about 5 or 6 times a day. I’m totally a snacker. So I’m not waiting from lunch to dinner to eat again.)
The trick to making salads an effotless meal is too remember that they don’t have to be super fancy and filled with a million ingredients, nor do they need to just be lettuce and ranch for your dinner side dish. In fact there are many way a personal salad an effortless experience.
1. Picking the ingredients. When it comes to the ingredients, it’s best to first look at what you have in your fridge. Pick out at least three vegetables. Can you find three vegetables that are three different colors? That’s always best because each color represents different vitamins and I know if you are making a salad then you want those vitamins. Plus it’s always prettier with more color. I’ve been making veggie bagel sandwiches lately so I have lettuce, tomato and onion. Perfect. Three veggies. Three colors. A nice base.
Don’t have lettuce? Who ever said lettuce defines a salad? My favorite lettuce substitute is an avocado! I most definitely have been known to use avocado, alfalfa sprouts and shredded carrots as my base. Luckily, when in season, avocados are usually a staple in my kitchen, so we have them a lot. I also like them because they are fatty! In the good way, meaning they keep you full longer! (I hate all the low fat options in our culture!)
2. Meat. Now unless you are vegetarian, this is pretty essential! Again look in your fridge. Any left overs? Lunch meat works too! I used it a few times in high school. I typically tend to lean towards a more vegetarian lifestyle, so I like to keep a simple meat option in my fridge or freezer. My favorite right now are spicy chipotle chicken sausages! Take one out, plop it on a frying pan and let it cook while you clean and chop your veggies!
3. Only wash and chop what you need. You don’t need the whole head of lettuce and you aren’t making salad for an army! So don’t overwhelm yourself by making a salad for the week. As soon as you wash your vegetables, they will no longer last as long in the fridge. So here’s what I did today: I took a few lettuce leaves, rinsed them, blotted them with a paper towel, chopped and placed them on my plate. I rinsed off the tomato and only chopped a few slices. Same thing with the onion. Tomato went in a zip lock and the rest went right back into their produce bags and back in the fridge. Super easy and not overwhelming. It’s kind of like making a sandwich minus the bread.
At this point, chop and add your meat. If you cooked it like I did then it should be done.
4. Find something extra. This is optional. I always like to find some cheese, or nuts or even use shredded carrots if I want something that looks like cheese but is lighter. It makes the salad a little more flavorful and fancy.
5. Make a quick individual dressing. Again you aren’t making enough dressing to fill a shelf at the grocery store, so don’t overwhelm yourself. I don’t have a specific recipe because I change it slightly every time, but here’s the basics. Start with equal parts mustard, olive oil and lemon juice. I would guess about a teaspoon or tablespoon of each depending on whether you like a lot or a little bit of dressing. Stir it, taste it, and add whatever ingredient you think it needs more of. Add a little bit of minced garlic. And that’s it! I usually stand in front of the fridge and make it in a cup. Way easy! And also a fun base to use when you mix it up:
- A Kick: I’ve been adding some hot sauce lately that Kevin and I got on our honeymoon in Jamaica. It gives it a fun bite especially with the chipotle sausage!
- Creamy: Add a squirt of Ranch to give it a little creaminess. And that can go with or without the hot sauce.
- For the Sweet Tooth: Leave out the garlic and add in a little bit of maple syrup. I love this when I’m making a salad on the sweeter side, for example with some fruit.