Have you ever met a salad fanatic? Someone who is so completely consumed with salads that they anticipate their salad at a restaurant the way most people anticipate steak? Someone who surveys the produce department like a cat surveys a bird feeder – looking for tasty morsels to light up their taste buds and, thereby, world?
Well. You’ve met one now.
Obsessed. I am completely obsessed with salads of all kinds – tossed, potato, gelatin, pasta, fruit, bean… you name it, I’m there. I am SO there.
My particular “problem” occurred to me recently when my husband took me out for lunch at a wonderful steak house. My reaction to and enjoyment of my salad equaled his reaction to and enjoyment of his steak.
Truth be told, if I could – at this very moment – either have my steak or salad magically appear in front of me, I’d take the salad. And his too if he didn’t mind. I’d trade my steak for it.
Not only are salads ridiculously beautiful (if done right) and ridiculously delicious (if done right) – they’re ridiculously healthy.
If done right.
I’ve always had a section on the food blog for salads, salad recipes, and good old-fashioned salad love, but I’m (even as we speak… okay, I’m the only one speaking, aren’t I?… make that even as I speak) throwing a lot more energy and emphasis into salads.
There are a number of reasons, a few of which are:
- We all need to eat healthier. Salads are, primarily, made up of vegetables and fruit – things we should eat A LOT more of. Salads are the IDEAL way to go about it. Ever stop to think how many servings of vegetables and fruits you can consume each day if you simply ate more salads?
- Salads are the perfect “side” to just about any meal. They’re inexpensive to make, healthy, colorful, and delicious. And don’t add a ton of calories.
- Salads can be the perfect “main” dish for any meal. If you add a little protein (hard boiled eggs, turkey, chicken..) to the vegetables, you turn a classic side into a classic main course.
- Salads are pretty! Okay, so this reason may be a “girly” one, but I don’t care. They ARE pretty and I like that.
- The options are endless. Honestly, you could, literally, come up with different combinations each and every time you had a salad.
- Salads are perfect for those of us with food allergies and intolerances. So many of us have food allergies and food intolerances these days – it’s a great comfort to know there are foods that are usually safe for all of us. You simply don’t add anything to your salad that causes you problems. Special note, if you’re gluten intolerant or have a wheat allergy – when you’re in a restaurant, be sure you tell your server that you don’t want any croutons. If, like me, you’re extra sensitive, let them know you can’t have any salad that has come into contact with croutons.
The tossed salad at the top of the post is a great example of combining delicious flavors with healthy foods. I love to use a mixture of greens in the tossed salads I make at home. Romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce (it may get a bad rep with food snobs, but I love the freshness and crunch it brings to the party) – any kind of lettuce you can find is perfect. The magic, however, is in combining several in one salad.
In addition to lettuces, I have gotten to the point that I simply do not make a tossed salad with strips of kale! Kale is uncommonly healthy and I’m crazy about what it adds to a salad. Same can be said of spinach, of course, but kale happens to be my personal favorite.
In addition to these, a few other personal favorite tossed salad ingredients are:
- black olives
- carrots (either shredded or sliced)
- tomatoes (but I have a strict rule with tomatoes in my salads – they can only be added at the last minute – otherwise, I don’t like the effect they have on the rest of the ingredients)
- canned baby corn
- mild banana peppers
- roasted red peppers
- green, yellow, orange, or red peppers
- green onions
- green olives
- green chilies
- hard-boiled eggs
- “mostly” thawed frozen green peas
- black beans
- kidney beans
- and on and on and on…
A few favorite Gluten Free toppings for tossed salads are:
- chia seeds
- sunflower seeds
- Frito’s Corn Chips
- dried cranberries
- crumbled potato chips
- small fried tortilla strips
- gluten free bread, butter, toasted, seasoned and cubed
- onion rings (coated with gluten free flour instead or all purpose flour)
- crumbled bacon
- freshly shredded cheese – experiment with different cheeses (cheddar, white cheddar, Asiago, Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Colby, Parmesan…)
- fresh cracked black pepper
- sea salt (or Kosher)
Chia seeds are a delicious way to sneak in a little extra nutrition. Kids will just think they’re fun, they’ll never suspect how healthy they actually are.
Tomorrow we’ll pay homage to the greatness that is a Wedge Salad. Beautiful, delicious, and oh so very, very cheap!
What are your own favorite salad ingredients and toppings? Share in the comments!
P.S. Whether it’s for salads or ANYTHING, don’t buy shredded cheese, buy the blocks and shred it yourself, as needed. It is SO much better this way – trust me.
One of the books I’d most recommend to anyone right now is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well on a Budget by Lucy Beale and Jessica Partridge. At a time when we’re all challenging ourselves to stay on a budget AND eat healthy, this is the book we absolutely needed the most. If you’re like me, you’d just about decided that eating as healthy as you wanted to was out of your budget. I was pretty much at that point when this outstanding book came along.
After arming myself with the knowledge and tips from these authors, I know that it isn’t just possible to eat well on a budget, it’s deliciously possible.
First, a few all-important facts:
- You and your family won’t gain weight if you each eat about 2,000 calories a day per adult.
- You don’t need to purchase more food than your target number of calories for the week.
- You won’t be wasting food or letting it rot in the refrigerator. If it rots because no one eats it, be wary if you consider purchasing that food in the future.
Throughout the book, the authors provide a lot of what I call “Roadblocks” – thoughts and circumstances that lead us to choose poorly while at the supermarket or restaurant. They offer ways around, or through, these roadblocks. There are also great tips on saving money, staying on a budget, eating healthier foods, and making each calorie count.
There are also a lot of wonderful recipes… we’ll get to them in a minute!
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well on a Budget has 21 chapters in all and is over 300 pages in length. I suppose you’d expect authors who are so budget conscious to give their readers even more than they paid for. I’m very grateful and you will be as well.
A Few of the Chapters From Eating Well on a Budget
- The Best Nutrition at the Best Price
- The Budget
- Food and Menu Planning
- Eating Out on a Budget
- The Shopping List
- More Ways to Save on Food
- Beef and Pork Main Dishes
The next time you dine out at a sit-down restaurant, notice the price of coffee, tea, and a glass of wine. They’re probably higher than you thought. You may choose not to order them again. – – Page 18, Eating Well on a Budget
I was really glad to see that the authors covered all aspects of dining – at home as well as in restaurants. They’ve included great tips on saving money each and every time we place a bite or drink into our mouths.
Chapter 2 includes a clear, perfectly laid-out plan for starting to budget. They tell you the tools you’ll need (receipts, notebook, calculator) to become a budgeting whiz and how you’ll need to go about the process.
Food Preparation is covered in Chapter 5 and includes…
- Cooking to save money
- Preparing in quantity, eating in moderation
- Making delicious use of leftovers
- Keeping prepared foods on hand
Here’s one of the great tips (“Kitchen Wise“) from this chapter: Keep sandwich fillings on hand for quick meals on the run. You’ll need bread, mayonnaise or mustard, and fillings, such as cheese, sliced meats, tuna, or peanut butter. Add an apple or other piece of fruit, and you have a balanced meal.
Some of the Remarkable Recipes in Eating Well on a Budget
The recipes the authors have chosen sound delicious! What’s more, they’ve included dietary information, cooking time, prep time, serving size, and “Tasty Tidbits.” Again, giving the reader far more than he or she expected.
A few of my favorite recipes from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well on a Budget are:
- White Chili
- Creamy Clam Chowder
- Nine Vegetable Soup
- Grown Up Peanut Butter and Jelly (YUM!)
- Baked French Toast with Honey Walnut Syrup
- Chile Egg Puff
- Savory Spinach and Bacon Bake
- Zesty Breakfast Burritos
- Just Right Cheese Omelet (made with Monterey Jack Cheese!)
- Hawaiian Ham Rollups
- Egg Salad with Red Pepper and Walnuts
- Ham and White Bean Soup
- Red Chili
- Quick Beef Fajitas
- Lemon Pecan Stuffed Chicken
- Herbed Salmon Cakes
- Lasagna with Meat and Cheese
- Fruit Glazed Carrots
- Raspberry Banana Bread
- Slow-Cooked Pudding and Fruit Cake
- Cookies Flavored with Tea
- Pear Cobbler
- Buttermilk Corn Bread
- Cheese Grits Casserole
- Many, Many more!
Since we’re all thinking about Easter meals and Easter recipes, I thought I’d include the Fruit-Glazed Carrots recipe in the review. Save this one (better yet, print it out) for your Easter meal. There’s also a great recipe for Mustard-Glazed Ham in the book. Order today and you’ll be set long before Easter gets here!
Fruit-Glazed Carrots Recipe
Page 246, Eating Well on a Budget
4 cups sliced carrots
2 TBS water
2 TBS fruit jam or jelly – peach, strawberry, or apricot
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 TBS olive oil
dash salt and ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place carrots in a microwave-safe bowl with water. Cover and microwave on high for 8 minutes. Drain well. Add jam, vinegar, and olive oil. Mix gently.
Transfer carrots to a lightly oiled 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inch baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes. Serve hot or chill 20 minutes before serving.
Variation: Try orange marmalade or chutney to intensify the flavor of the carrots. For a spicy taste, substitute 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce for the vinegar.
Kitchen Wise: The sauce for these carrots tastes great on other vegetables as well, such as broccoli, snap peas, and spinach. You can also serve the sauce on the side for dipping. – Page 246, Eating Well on a Budget
Hmmmmm, I just happened to think of another way to use this sauce. Have you ever made homemade fried jalapenos? This sauce (particularly if you use Red Plum or a berry-based jelly) would be outstanding to dip fried jalapenos in.
Do yourself, your family, and your budget a huge favor and head over to Amazon right now to order this wonderful book. I wouldn’t recommend it to you if I didn’t know 100 percent that you’ll love it as much as I do. Here’s the link to healthier eating and a happier budget: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well on a Budget
I’ve been trying to feed my family healthier foods for a couple of years now. When they’re on Fast Food Alley without me, I know full-well that they give in to temptation in the form of burgers, fries, and shakes – so there’s only so much I can do. BUT, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that when they’re at home, they’re surrounded by good food alternatives. Sure, I frequently make desserts and there’ll be occasional snacks that aren’t 100 percent perfect… but this is still a home, not a Health Food Retreat!
Fortunately, food manufacturers have really stepped up their game. There are SO many healthy foods and snacks that are good for you. I love the snacks that are so tasty, my family forgets all about the labels and doesn’t realize what they’re eating is actually nutritious.
The organic yogurts in this post fit that description perfectly. Pictured above are Stonyfield Farm Yogurts. They’re available in Fat Free, Low Fat, and Whole Milk. When I tried the different varieties, I fully expected to only like the Whole Milk – I was surprised when I found that I liked Fat Free and Low Fat just as well. In fact, if I HAD to pick a favorite, it’d be the Low Fat. It’s creamy and delicious, with or without fruit added.
Another favorite is Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt. Heavenly! I love the flavor of Oikos and Stonyfield Organic Yogurts so much that I’d eat them even if they weren’t nutritious. The fact that they’re good for my health as well as my planet? Creamy icing on the cake. They come in the following flavors and EACH is delicious: Blueberry, Strawberry, Honey, Plain, and Vanilla. Personally? The plain is better with granola and fruit, but the others are amazing right out of the convenient containers.
From the website:
Called “yiaourti” in Greece, Greek yogurt is creamier than regular yogurt. Authentic Greek yogurt like ours owes its extra creaminess to a centuries-old straining process that removes the whey (liquid) from the yogurt.
For hundreds of years, Greeks have prized strained yogurt for its richness and creaminess, and because it makes a wonderful cooking ingredient that’s less likely to curdle when heated. Before the time of mechanical refrigeration, Greeks also knew that yogurt stayed fresh longer with the liquid strained off. Today we know that straining makes Greek yogurt richer in protein than regular yogurt, and lower in lactose.
Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt has 0% fat, just 90 calories per 5.3 oz.-serving*, twice the protein of regular yogurt, and fewer carbohydrates. Because it’s organic, our yogurt is also better for the earth. And we think it’s better for you, too.
To read more about these healthy and delicious organic yogurts yourself, visit the links below. Try these organic yogurts on your next trip to the store – you won’t be sorry!
Oikos Organic Yogurt (You can EVEN get coupons! – Oh, I love them so…)
Have a Cow! (enjoyable and educational for children of all ages)