Throwing together a great salad is easy, right? Not necessarily. I tend get in a salad rut and I end up eating the same salad night after night. It's not that I don't have a big salad repertoire to pull from - it's just that I don't invest a lot of time (or thought) into my salads. I spend all of my time and energy getting the rest of the meal on the table and the salad is always the last thing that I throw together before we sit down to eat.
Maybe I don't invest a lot of time in my salad because I am really the only person who appreciates it. Don't get me wrong, Ben eats salad but he's a pretty simple salad eater - lettuce, carrots and ranch dressing - the basics. He's definitely not a fussy salad eater.
On the rare occasions that I do make a big salad for myself, I follow a few simple guidelines to make sure it's as nutritious as it is delicious.
Build a perfect salad guidelines
1. Start with a bed of dark green lettuce. I tend to alternate between spinach, romaine and soft Boston lettuce.
2. Layer on lean protein. If we have leftover chicken, I pile it on top. I also like to add black beans and chickpeas because I usually keep an extra can of each in the pantry.
3. I like to add lots of dark colored vegetables. The darker the better as far as nutritional value of veggies goes. Beets, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini and some of my favs.
4. A great salad has got to have some CRUNCH! I usually choose healthy nuts to add this texture to my salads - walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans.
5. I prefer a little sweetness to my salads. Fresh fruit is my preference - strawberries, raspberries, pears, apples. If fresh isn't available, I use dried fruit like cranberries, cherries or raisins. I even added canned mandarin oranges to add a nice citrus component to my salad.
6. Fresh herbs give a salad a nice brightness. Fresh basil and mint are my favorites but I also use parsley and thyme. I usually cut herbs from the herb pot on my porch for my salads.
(The purple basil is amazing.)
So there you have it - my recipe for a perfectly delicious salad. No problem. Maybe I need to dedicate more time to my salads - just blogging about it makes me crave a big, hearty salad.
If you still lack salad inspiration, check out this recipe for Harvest Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette from taste of home magazine. It will surely have you hungry for salad by the time you finish reading through all of the yummy ingredients in this recipe. I altered the recipe a little so I'll give you my version instead of the printed version.
Harvest Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette
3 medium fresh beets
1 package Romaine hearts
2 medium apples, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced
1/2 cup tomatoes, yellow and red
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup cherry preserves
3 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Scrub beets and trim tops.
Wrap in foil, place in a baking dish and roast for 50 minutes at 400.
Peel beets and cube.
Start with a bowl of Romaine lettuce.
Add veggies, fruit and nuts on top.
Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.
Drizzle dressing over salad just before serving.
So the verdict is in --- I am the only person in the Davis house who actually liked this salad. It was the beets who really turned everybody off. I made the kids try a tiny little beet cube and they were
absolutely disgusted. Ryan said they tasted like "dirt" and Courtney described them as "gross." I should have expected that. I wasn't really all that disappointed to hear their comments though because it left more salad for me. I really enjoyed this salad - despite what everyone else thought about it. It really is yummy despite what my family might think.