It’s officially barbecue & potluck season! As I prepare for my potluck dinner this week, I’m pondering how many ways there are to make a salad. This is the third salad I’ve made and they’ve all been slightly different. I was crunched for time for one potluck, so I stopped for sushi, which is always a good back up plan. As I washed and prepped veggies for yet another salad, this blog post popped into my mind, and I thought it might make people’s lives easier.
Here are five tips to keep your salads interesting and packed with nutrition. The goal here is to have such delicious EPIC salads that people can’t stop talking about them and you get to take home a nice clean empty bowl instead of soggy salad leftovers that you feel guilty chucking out.
Tip #1: Think local, fresh, and seasonal
Check out your local farmers’ market, or make a point of looking to see where produce comes from in your local grocery store. If it comes from your province or state, there’s a good chance it is IN SEASON right now. It makes sense to eat things that are in season for so many reasons… it’s more sustainable to buy local produce, things that are in season are the freshest and packed with health benefits, and you can find inspiration by choosing ingredients that are readily available (even if you’ve never cooked with them before). I also love adding fresh herbs like basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, or fennel, depending on the flavours of the salad, and fresh fruit or berries are also great additions to summer salads. Here is a cool resource that I stumbled upon for figuring out what’s in season, and finding farmers markets! http://www.bcfarmersmarket.org/fresh-market/what%E2%80%99s-season
Tip #2: Break up with lettuce
Lettuce is … well, kinda dull. There are so many super greens you can build your salad with to mix things up: spinach, kale, arugula, endive, chard, mesclun mix, to name a few. If you want to increase the nutritional profile of your salad, start with a solid foundation! Even if you ease into it by starting with a combo of lettuce and kale, or lettuce and arugula, you’ll be on the right track. Funny fact: something I’ve always avoided in my salads is iceberg lettuce. I’ll be honest, I haven’t really done any research on it, but my best friend growing up had rabbits and we were told NOT to feed the rabbits iceberg lettuce – I decided at that point that if rabbits couldn’t eat it, why would I?
Tip #3: Get creative with how you cut your veggies
Somehow, when you change the shape, size or texture of veggies and fruit, it makes them way more enjoyable to eat AND they look cool. Examples: spiralized beet noodles, shaved cucumber, grated carrots and beets, julienned apple… etc. Presenting common vegetables (or fruit) in a fun new way makes your salads way more appealing.
Tip #4: Make it a meal by adding protein
Adding a protein source turns a salad into a great meal! Besides hormone-free, locally raised meat, chicken, or sustainable seafood, here are some of my fav protein sources: hemp hearts, chick peas, goat cheese, almonds (soaked almonds are easier to digest and have a great texture), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, or walnuts. I will even occasionally top a salad with grilled tofu. Other nutrient-dense salad favs in our house include: avocado, dried fruit (currants, cranberries, goji berries… etc, unsweetened preferably). Tips for using nuts and seeds: almost all are more delicious when lightly toasted. You can do this by heating a pan on medium heat (I use cast-iron) without any oil, and sprinkle in your seeds… shake the pan periodically and watch the seeds or nuts turn a golden brown. Pumpkin seeds puff up and are delicious when toasted!
Dressing can make or break a salad. I’ve always made my own dressings and I’ve noticed I get mad props for doing so. Granted, I’m not a mom (yet) or uber busy so convenience isn’t my #1 priority. If health is a priority for you, like it is for me, than store-bought dressings aren’t the best way to go. They almost always have added sugar and other mysterious ingredients. I’ve been falling in love with amazing dressings lately (all made from scratch) and they include fresh healthful ingredients like ginger, cold-pressed virgin olive oil, lemon juice, mint, apple cider vinegar, garlic, cayenne, sea salt, black pepper, dijon mustard, basil, etc. I’m not suggesting you use all of these ingredients at once 😉 , but maybe a couple of them will get you excited and you can experiment with flavours.
So there you go! I hope this provides inspiration for epic summer salads! If you’d like to receive healthy recipes, tips for improving your well-being and maximizing your freedom – sign up to receive my semi-monthly newsletter. And I’d love to hear from you – what are your favourite salad ingredients or methods? Share in the comments!