WritersButt Wednesday: Suffering Salads Batman!

Are your salads suffering unnecessarily at your hands? Are you condemning them to a life of humdrum mediocrity?

Just stop. Put your hands up. And back away from the iceberg.

Now listen to me. Salads do not have to be a boring torturous part of whatever ‘diet’ to which you are currently subjecting yourself. In fact salads are a fabulous opportunity to get creative and add in so many components of healthy eating on one plate.

I eat salads all the time. I’m a bit of an expert at this point and it’s the single most often requested thing I’m asked to bring to potluck parties. And I can tell you my salads aren’t made with iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes and a waxy cucumber, smothered in some crap dressing from a jar.

Do me a favor. If you are using dressing from a jar and it’s non-fat or low-fat, DO NOT TELL ME.  You will kill a part of my soul.

As I was saying, creating a healthy, fresh salad is like staring at a blank canvas with a rainbow of paints to play with – and you don’t even have to be an artist! Last week, I posted a picture of my dinner salad on Facebook and was inundated with requests for the recipe. I’m a little embarrassed because it’s not really a recipe. Because I promised, I’m going to tell you what this particular salad consisted of, but then I’m going to give you all the ingredients, like those rainbow paints, and you can mix and match to make your own masterpiece.

Ginger's Figgy Salad

Ginger’s Figgy Salad

Fresh Romaine lettuce – Fresh Figs – Honeycrisp Apple – toasted walnuts (toasted them myself) – small sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles. Dressing: Olive Oil, white wine vinegar, cracked fresh pepper. That truly is all it was. It tasted DIVINE!

Lettuce tips: I always have some form of fresh greens on hand. I will buy romaine hearts in 3 or 6 packs. TIP: When you go to make your first salad with your romaine, wash ALL the lettuce. Use what you want that night and then roll the remaining lettuce in a clean kitchen towel (or in paper towels), spreading out the leaves so excess moisture will seep into the towel. Store in a plastic bag in your fridge. It will stay fresh all week, at least! I will also use those pre-washed containers of greens like spring mix, field greens, spinach, etc. I do find I have to use them faster before they start to spoil. TIP: If you use those and they are particularly wet inside the container, roll a few paper towels around the greens to soak up extra moisture.

The Fixin’s: This is where you really get to have some fun and please don’t limit yourself to tomatoes and cucumbers. Not that there is anything wrong with them but there is so much more out there. Mix it up – Pun Alert!  Remember, not all of the ingredients have to be cold and raw. I often add in sautéed or grilled asparagus or thin green beans, or even roasted beets! They add a warm layer of something awesome, trust me.

Savory Stuff: If you’re making more of a savory salad, you can add in your tomatoes and cucumbers, but also peppers – yellow, red and orange are fab for the color, snap peas, jicama, broccoli, cauliflower … anything!

Sweet Stuff: Very often I make salads that have a sweeter side which comes from adding fruit, like berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries), mango, pineapple, or apples. In the salad I showed up above, I used fresh black mission figs.

Black Mission FIg

Black Mission FIg

The fruit itself is beautiful in addition to tasting delicious.

Food is beautiful

Food is beautiful

Yummy FATS: Y’all know how important it is to incorporate healthy fats into your diet. Don’t deprive yourself of them. I always dress my salads in olive oil. I love the flavor. I add in fresh avocadoes most of the time too as well as nuts. While I don’t eat cheese very often, sometimes I will indulge and when I do, it’s usually in the form of goat, feta, blue or Gorgonzola and it’s very, very little. Just enough crumbles to add that little zing!

Protein: Usually a salad is eaten as a side with some sort of protein, like a steak or grilled chicken. I’m known for making a one-bowl-meal, especially if I’m pulling together a quick lunch for myself, so I incorporate the protein into my salad. I’ve used deli meats, eggs – hard boiled, scrambled or fried, dinner leftovers like chicken, sausage, steak, turkey. This way I’m getting my protein, fats and all those fabulous carbs in the form of greens, veggies and fruits. Complete meal!

Now it’s up to you. Mix and Match, experiment, taste, toss and ENJOY!!

Tell me what’s the most unique ingredient you can think of to have in a salad.  If I haven’t used it before, and I can get my hands on it, I’ll make a salad with your ingredient and post the finished result and recipe here on my blog.

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About Ginger Calem

I never met a notebook I didn't want to buy. Pens speak to me. Sticky notes are dear to my heart. Some of my best friends are those clambering in my head trying to get onto the page. And when they have their stories told, and I release them to the world, I hope they'll be your friends too.

Posted on September 18, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Red beets, red cabbage? I’d have to scroll back up to see if you already included those.

    I’m from Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and one of my nana’s favorite canned recipes was pickled beet eggs.(Red beets canned with hard boiled eggs in a vinegar/sugar mixture.) Yummy and colorful on salads.

    LOVE a one big salad meal.

    I never, ever pre-dress salads. I love the taste of Gourmet Salad Vinegar on its own.

    Alternatively, if I get a creamy dressing (ranch or blue cheese), I order that on the side. It’s amazing how much flavor one gets from dipping the fork in the dressing, and then loading the fork with salad. The dressing hits the taste buds as if all the ingredients were coated with it.

    That side of dressing? It looks like it’s barely been touched. Indulge my love of those dressings, with miniscule hits of the bad stuff.

    • Having your dressing on the side and dipping your fork in is a great way to have a little indulgence! 🙂 I’m going to have to use beets a little more with my salads. We eat them a ton in the winter, roasted.

  2. So happy to see Writers Butt Wednesdays are back! Thanks for the hint about rolling romaine in towels. It’s my favorite lettuce but it gets so frustrating when it spoils before I can use it all. And I’m with Gloria. I’ve become a huge fan of salad on the side. You do actually get a more even distribution of the flavors.

  3. I almost never use bottle salad dressing. Hubby will use it, but I pretty much make my own. I use flavored vinegars that I make myself (tarragon, rosemary) and fresh lemon. I also love olive oil.

    I put beets in my salads. Use all kinds of greens. I make Greek salad with feta cheese, salad with tuna, and salad with chicken or turkey or cold flank steak (although Hubby is not a fan of the last two proteins.). I’ve tossed in chunks provolone or fontina cheese or shavings of parmesan.

    I use romaine, radicchio, red cabbage, baby field greens, spinach, or spring mix. Sometimes Hubby grows our own. I tend to use zucchini slices rather than cucumber because zucchini won’t wilt the greens like cucumbers do. Great if you want to make a huge bowl of salad to leave in the fridge for the family. I’ve put garbanzo beans in salad. We eat so much salad that I am always looking for ways to make it different. Celery, carrots, onions and a variety of peppers tend to show up with my tomatoes.

    I’ve used fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, apples, oranges, but I like your idea of figs. Hubby and I both like them, just never thought to put them in a salad before. So I plan to steal that.

    • Hi Pat! Great to ‘see’ you. You are doing a whole lotta RIGHT, especially with growing your own greens and making vinegars. I’ve always wanted to do that. You’ve inspired me to try! Ooh, I don’t think I’ve ever done cantaloupe in a salad. Great idea!

  4. Ginger, you know I am a fan! Hubby and I eat a salad almost every day. And yes, we may cheat once in a while with a salad dressing from Whole Foods, but we like to make our own preferably. What we discovered is how much we like avocado oil. We’ve been lovers of olive oil for years. Then our son came over and introduced us to the avocado oil and we’re a believer girlfriend. Wow, does it taste good. And guess what? Way less fattening. Oh yeah. And good for you too. I’m all over that one. Oh, and it can cook at a higher heat. But as I said on Facebook, I’m waiting for Jenny Hansen’s figs. She made a rockin’ salad for hubby and I last year with them and my mouth is still salivating. Great suggestion Ginger. Until next time, bon appetite! 🙂

    • Karen, I have GOT to find some avocado oil and try it. It sounds fantastic. Speaking of avocados, one of my clients mentioned this morning that she often eats them drizzled with a bit of honey and sprinkled with sunflower seeds. Now, I’m going to be trying that out ASAP! As always, I appreciate and love your comments. Thank you!

  5. I love to get creative with salads, but I am having a problem with them this week. They leave me starving an hour later! And, I am packing my salads with good fats and plenty of protein. But, still I am ready to rummage through the lunch boxes of small children for anything to eat about an hour later. Seriously, a few weeks ago I was so hungry I contemplated eating a paper towel just to take up room in my stomach. I know, but I was too hungry to actually think. I don’t quite understand why a hot lunch of quinoa, meat, and veggies will keep me full for 3 to 4 hours, but salads won’t. Maybe it’s something to save for the weekends?

    • Well, I don’t know for sure. I would have immediately suggested more protein and fat but you say you’ve got plenty of that. You could try some nuts or a spoonful of nutbutter. Have you recently stepped it up at CrossFit? Lifting heavier really ramps up my appetite. You might just need some extra snacks to fill in the gaps, like jerky, hard boiled egg, etc. Or — as you said, have your salad at dinner and have a heartier lunch. Might be a perfect solution.

  6. Emma, try putting quinoa in your salad.

  7. Oh I love salads and I love to experiment and throw in a bunch of stuff too. One of my favorite salads recipes is with spinach, oranges, walnuts sauteed in olive oil and garlic and that I make this orange juice, olive oil and some other stuff in the dressing and it is yummy.

    I love to use craisins and nuts in my salads. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are my favorite but I also use walnuts and sometimes pecans (best when candied). Hazel nuts are good too, but they’re harder to find at the store.

    Thanks for sharing your “recipe.”

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Ooh, that dressing (OJ) sounds intriguing. Might need that recipe! I’ve made a lot of salads with candied pecans. I always feel so naughty because of the sugar but they sure do add a special flavor! Thanks, Patricia!

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