I don’t know about you, but I used to think eating salad was a punishment. It was a bowl of lettuce that I would drown in ranch dressing until that was the only thing I could taste and I settled with that. Because who would want to eat a bowl of limp strange-tasting green leaves that everyone said was good for you? However, now I cannot imagine my life without salad.
My appreciation for the dish grew once I figured out a way to make it the way I liked. This is arguably the most transformative food that you can make while being healthy and light! There are an endless amount of ways to toss up these leafy greens the way you want, whenever you want it. Say goodbye to forcing yourself to eat vegetables as a punishment and learn how to savor it as a reward. Eat a good meal while being healthy, creative, delicious, and fun!
1.) Lett-uce get started!
Let’s get started with the basics. You have to pick a good base to end up with an above average meal. What’s your style? Do you like crunchy? Cabbage? Arugula is the main base of most salads, with a thin stem and petite leaves. Romaine lettuce is a bit stiffer and crunchier for those of you who lean more towards that texture– Iceberg lettuce is good for this texture as well. Spinach (and baby spinach leaves) has a sweeter taste to them, which is good to try if you hate the bitter taste some lettuce has to it.
Other suggestions to try are: Kale (really leafy), Green Leaf lettuce, Red Leaf lettuce, Cabbage, and Collard greens (very similar to cabbage and said to be one of the healthiest lettuces). As you can see there are so many to choose from, and you haven’t even scratched the surface. If you have been sticking to one lettuce that you aren’t particularly fond of, then take my advice and upgrade. If you’ve read this far, you’re already on the right track.
2.) Spice it up
Spices are actually a key part to a fun salad. Different kinds of spices can add a bit of flavor that no other seasoning can. A bit of cracked black pepper, oregano, basil, or garlic can go a long way to make your taste buds go wild. If you love spicy, add just a bit of crushed red pepper. If you want a lighter flavor, add some mint or cilantro.
Another really good spice is Mustard Seed or Dill Weed. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t knock it until you try it! They pair really well with cucumber so if you like the fresh taste of cucumbers, maybe think about giving those a try. Any of these will give you a whole new taste you haven’t tried.
3.) Veggies on veggies on veggies
I know the word “vegetables” might make you cringe, but you might see as you’ve grown, your taste buds have to. Give new things a try before you shake your head at them. For everyone who loves vegetables and those who are willing to push your comfort zone, there are so many great combinations for you to try! My favorite is cucumber, bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange), and avocado, all chopped up into small pieces.
They all add their own unique flavor that compliments each other. I had to play with a couple of combinations to peg this as my favorite, but that’s the whole fun about salads! You get to play with it and make a different taste every time. Other vegetables you can add are broccoli, green beans (yes you can), mushrooms, radishes, onions, and carrots (chopped or shredded).
4.) Juicy fruits & nuts
If you like a bit of a sweeter salad taste, definitely find your favorite fruits and throw them on top. Strawberries, sliced oranges (no peels unless you’re into that), green apple slices, mango, and grapes go great in any salad, especially if you don’t like vegetables. Blueberries, raspberries, bananas, and even pineapple can also add a tropical and light feel to your homemade salad.
Sliced or cherry tomatoes can give you a heartier taste. Adding nuts is another addition that a lot of people don’t think of. It can add a crunchy texture with a down-to-earth taste. Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, peanuts, and even pumpkin seeds. Each adds its own unique nutty flavor, and these fruits and nuts together with a sweet dressing and you’ll be good to go!
5.) Let’s be CHEESY
There are several cheeses you can add to your salad to make it more your style. I usually add shredded mozzarella because of its lighter, but still rich, flavor. Feta cheese is really good for a Greek-style combination of ingredients because it adds a salty flavor, and you can even find different styles of the crumbly cheese– I personally adore the Mediterranean Herb feta cheese. Parmesan is a crowd favorite, either sliced or grated and can add a nutty taste. Cheddar will add that sharp tang you crave, jalapeño pepper jack will be your spicy indulgence, and an aged gouda for a smokey treat.
6.) Dress your meal
Dressing is what ties the whole meal together. If you are adding fruit, maybe you’ll want to go for something lighter and sweeter like a vinaigrette. Good examples of this are Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette, Honey Dijon Vinaigrette, Fresh Herb Vinaigrette, Lemon Vinaigrette, and Ginger Lime Vinaigrette. Italian is a fruity and lighter taste as well if Vinaigrettes aren’t your style! Buttermilk Ranch and Caesar are good for a thicker and creamier taste. Taste test what you like and switch it up!
7.) Crazy add-ons
These are only a few options of some good, fun foods to top your salad with, but take my suggestions and run with it because your salad can only be as good as you let it be. Here are a couple more suggestions of what you can add, but feel free to try anything in your pantry or fridge.
Meats are a good way to add protein, so if you want more out of your salad, chop up some chicken, shrimp, steak, or fish and toss it in. Also, BACON! Dice it up and devour it if you’re wanting that extra flavor. Croutons add the nice crunchy texture with the taste of bread without all the carbs! Some people like raisins, so give that a whirl for a bittersweet combo. Chickpeas (smashed up or regular) will give you some hummus flavor without the pasty texture. Last but not least, cut up some lemons or limes and squeeze them over your masterpiece. Find your favorite ingredients and make the best salad you’ve ever had!