Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Salads

I have a confession. Before this summer I really didn't make to too many lettuce salads. It's true. Salads were just not part of my normal repertoire. It's not that I don't like them. I do. Occasionally I eat them when dining out, but often I feel like salads in restaurants are overpriced and "I could make it for so much cheaper at home." But I usually don't.  I grew up eating a lot of salads. My mom made salad just about every night for dinner. She still eats at least 1-2 salads per day. When I worked in Billings, MT one of the perks of my job was that we could eat the food in the cafeteria for free. I ate loads of salads for lunches during those years.  I think lately for me, it is the purchasing, washing and cutting of some many ingredients. You can't just have a bowl of lettuce and call it good (well you could). You have to add other ingredients to make it pop and have texture and flavor. So, it takes some time and planning. I definitely plan for other vegetables, just not usually salads. Until now. I decided to challenge myself this summer and eat salad for lunch every day for a week. This would mean doing the washing and cutting the night before so that my salad would be ready to go the next morning. It took some preparation and time, but in the end I really liked it. Each day I made a different salad from whatever I could find in the fridge. They were the perfect lunch for these hot days. The most surprising result was that I not only made salads 4/5 days for 1 week, but I have been having salads at least 3 days per week since I started this challenge a month ago. I have been getting so many fresh vegetables from a local farm plus the farmer's market which has made this a fun project!

Day 1 is pictured above. It is a Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives, feta cheese and a few croutons along with a Greek vinaigrette from Trader Joe's. A few tips: use cherry or grape tomatoes over cutting up a larger tomato. If you cut up a large tomato and are making a salad the night before it was make your salad watery.  But by using whole cherry or grapes tomatoes, you don't have to worry about this problem. Another tip, package crunchy items in a small snack size ziplocks (I package my salad in a glass Pyrex bowl, place the little baggie of croutons along with a little container of salad dressing right on top of the salad and then put the lid on it so everything is together).
Day 2. Lettuce with strawberries, blackberries, celery slices, slivered almonds and goat cheese. I made a vinaigrette out of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper. The combination of the crunchy celery with the juicy fruit is wonderful on this salad. Package the almonds like the croutons in the above salad.

Day 3. I forgot to take a picture but it was a southwest salad with black beans, bell pepper slices, cherry tomatoes and a few quinoa tortilla chips for crunch. As a dressing I used salsa mixed with a little Ranch dressing. As you can probably tell, I like crunch with my salads, so I always have to add that component. When my parents quit eating bread and adding croutons to their Cesar salads >10 years ago, I would always have to sneak a few out of a package in the pantry to make my salad better.
Day 4. Lettuce with carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, croutons and edamame (not pictured). Shelled edamame are one of my favorite foods to add to a salad. They add some fiber and protein with more crunch then a black bean. They are very mild in flavor and just add such a nutritious punch to a salad. I just defrost them in the microwave and throw them into the lettuce. I ate this salad with a champagne vinaigrette from Trader Joe's.
Day 5. No salad! Not for lack of wanting one though. The truth is that I ate so much lettuce during the week that I ran out by Friday. My rule is to only go grocery shopping 1 time per week, so I had to substitute a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the salad. But, lesson learned, I now how much lettuce to buy to get me through an entire week.
Salads are what I am eating this summer for lunches. Are you eating more salads during these hot days? What are finding to put on them that makes them delicious? Please share your ideas so we can all be eating more salads this summer. Enjoy!

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