As a mostly vegetarian, you would think that I love anything green and healthy. Salads, juices, veggies... and to be fair, I do love all of those things but I'd rather eat pizza and chips and tacos.
Anyone else out there relate?!
But to offset cold/flu season, live long and prosperous lives, and in general care for our bodies, it's important to add some green in with the salt/fat/caffeine we consume.
In the summer eating fresh, green ingredients is so much easier! (Especially since Mr. Lemmon is a gardener as a hobby and grows some of the most flavorful veggies I've ever tasted.). BUT. I made this beauty in frigid, snowy January with ingredients from my local grocery, so it is possible to make a sensational salad any time of the year.
Ingredients to keep on hand:
Throwing together a salad is easier when you have salad ingredients in your fridge. And while yes, the bag of premixed lettuces is my go-to, I avoid the bags that have the salad and croutons, etc. included with the package. For one, the lettuce always tastes funny and secondly, it's typically pale green with age. Plus, it's much more economical to stock the ingredients and throw them together yourself. I often make two or three salads at a time and grab and go throughout the week.
Along with my greens, I like to keep some or all of the following in stock:
nuts & seeds
avocado or cheese
How to put it together:
You'll notice the variety of ingredients I listed above. Some fats, mostly veggies. That, I feel, is the key to any successful salad. My husband used to force himself to eat through a mountain of greenery until he adopted my rule of "the more stuff the better." But the challenge was having on hand those salad bar fixings. Not so much any more. Now that we have them on-hand, we are able to throw together a quick salad while dinner is baking in the oven.
The greens. Arrange a bed of greens in a bowl. Fill it to the top! We prefer a hearty mix of greens like baby kale, spinach, and collards. Feel free to mix some lighter fare like spring mix, bibb lettuce, or romaine.
The veggies. In the picture above, I cut the carrots and cukes into sticks since I was feeling too lazy to chase discs around the bowl, but you do you! If tiny minced carrots are easier for you, go for it. I also added sweet peppers, which I sliced into rings.
The crunch. This step, in my opinion, should never be skipped! Forget stale, hard, over-seasoned croutons that tear up the roof of your mouth. Add a seed or nut on top instead. I chose pepitas (which are a variety of pumpkin seeds). They're filled with iron and magnesium. Pro-tip: Buy raw. I used to only buy salted, roasted nuts but over the years I've grown accustomed to raw nuts which are much better for you and are a taste I prefer now.
The fat. Make that salad last. A bowl of vegetables will make you hangry in record time if you don't add some staying power to the bowl. Nuts and seeds help provide some fat and protein, but you can give your salad a boost by adding avocado slices, goat cheese crumbles or even a boiled egg. Pro-tip: Skip the bacon. As a society we've convinced ourselves that it's good for you, but they're not. While you may be able to life-hack your waistline, your arteries are not happy about it.
The sweet. (Optional) Chewy cranberries, sliced strawberries, whole blueberries, tomatoes... Add fruit if it's ripen and in season for a sweet bite.
I do not count salad dressing calories, but I try not to glug on a gallon of it either. My theory is this: I won't eat it if it doesn't taste good. The benefit of a hearty bowl of veggies outweighs any salad dressing sin. Here's my simple salad dressing recipe that you can tweak to your liking. There are only 4 ingredients (plus salt & pepper), and you probably have them in your pantry right now. It's also absolutely delicious.
Maple Mustard Dressing
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with a lead that seals tightly and shake until combined. Dressing lasts 2-3 days in the fridge and it's thin enough that you should only need a Tablespoon or two for your salad.
This week when you're at the grocery, stock up 2-3 of your favorite fresh (organic!) veggies, a container of pre-washed greens (convenience is everything), and some raw nuts and favorite cheese or a ripe, green avocado. Now you're all set to have salad on any day--whether the weather is cooperating or not!
Stay healthy, my friends!