I love a salad so much you’d think I was part rabbit. They’re healthy, light, bright, colorful, crunchy, and oh so delicious. In fact, I’m munching on one at the moment – in between thoughts.
Everyone knows they should be eating more vegetables and a salad with (or AS) a meal is the perfect way to go about it. The problem is, a lot of people think that throwing together some cut up iceberg lettuce and a chopped tomato makes a true salad. No wonder they don’t have any more excitement for them than they do. If that’s the only salad I ever enjoyed, I wouldn’t get that excited either.
Now, having said that, let me point this out, I think iceberg lettuce and a chopped tomato makes a find, quick, simple salad and I’ve been known to serve up this simple little combination, too. But each and every time? No way!
Below are my Top 10 ways to add personality and pop to a tossed salad:
- Don’t limit your salads to iceberg lettuce. I LOVE leaf lettuce and often throw in a little bit of shredded iceberg for the crunch. Since I build my tossed salads with my eyes (which love bright colors), I also like the contrast of the greens.
- Experiment with different tomatoes, but remember, you don’t always have to invite them. I adore tomatoes as much as anyone, but they can really make a tossed salad lose its gumption. When I do use tomatoes in my tossed salads, I don’t add them to the bowl (that’s just asking for soggy lettuce). I serve them in a bowl nearby, so people can add as much or as little to their salad as they want. Also, some people are sensitive to tomatoes and would appreciate their absence. One of my daughters gets mouth sores when she eats too many tomatoes, so she never wants them on her salad. Also, remember to try different tomatoes – cherry, grape, roma, yellow, etc. Each creates a whole different eating experience.
- For extra nutrition and flavor, add baby spinach. Doing so not only creates more texture and color, it adds a great deal of nutrients. However, when using spinach in a salad, pay attention to the salad dressing you use. Personally, I think Ranch is the ideal partner for a salad with spinach. Bacon bits also pair splendidly with spinach.
- Speaking of Bacon Bits – get real! Using bacon pieces that you’ve made yourself is a delicious way to jazz up a salad. If you’re watching your weight, experiment with healthier bacon (or even imitation bacon slices) – microwave them as directed, tear them up and throw them in.
- Hard Cooked Eggs are delicious in tossed salads. I don’t throw eggs into my salads very often, but when I do – I’m always happy. They’re perfect, of course, with bacon pieces, tomatoes, green onions, and leaf lettuce. Croutons added at the last minute finish it off perfectly.
- Garbanzo beans , red kidney beans, and/or black beans are wonderful in salads. When making your salads, think outside of the produce aisle every now and then. Beans are nutritious and add a fun texture and splash of color. I always add beans to my Taco Salads – often several varieties. I use iceberg lettuce for taco salads, then I add ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning, chopped chilies, chopped avocado (sprinkled with fresh lemon), chopped green onions, cilantro, tomatoes (this is the one salad I make an exception for and allow tomatoes in the bowl with the rest), shredded cheese, and a little jalapeno pepper. I make a perfect dressing for Taco Salad by combining Mayonnaise and Mild Sauce. I shake them together until I get the flavor I’m looking for. I finish the salad off with crunchy tortilla strips.
- You’d be amazed at the wonderful things banana pepper rings do for a tossed salad. Delicious! In the same aisle, there are other treasures you’ll want to try out as well: Olives, pickled okra (I leave them whole and serve them to the side), baby corn, and pearl onions.
- Get creative with the way you serve salads. There are DELICIOUS tortilla shell bowls served on the market. You drape them over a paper mold and bake them. In no time at all, you have beautiful, crunchy, and yummy tortilla bowls to serve your salad in. I use them mostly with tex-mex inspired salads, but have also used them with regular salads – and a favorite, Grilled Chicken Salad.
- Don’t use the same salad dressings again and again and again. Experiment! Kraft makes a fascinating Green Goddess dressing that’s always a hit in our house. Ranch, Catalina, Italian, French, Honey French, French with Bacon, Raspberry Vinaigrette (surprisingly delicious!) – there are just too many to get locked into the same one again and again. Also, while in the dressing aisle, look at how wonderfully creative the toppings have gotten. There are croutons in a billion different flavors, bacon bits, Salad Toppings (I love the one with sunflower seeds, nuts, etc.) and a new obsession of mine: Tortilla Strips. Kroger has a few varieties – a regular one and a Santa Fe variety. They’re both amazing and they make the salad so much more interesting – to look at AND taste. Plain sunflower seeds also make a fantastic salad topper.
- Make a great Chef’s Salad! Done right, a salad can be a meal all by itself. Start with your favorite vegetables, then add little strips of ham and turkey. If you like pepperoni, throw some pieces of them in there as well. Don’t forget slices of green or red bell pepper for an extra great chef salad.
Last night, I made what proved to be one of the best tossed salads I’ve had in a long time. It was a simple salad, actually, but delicious. It included:
- Leaf Lettuce
- Carrot strips
- Chopped red bell pepper
- Slices of radishes
- Sliced green onions
I bypassed cauliflower and broccoli because the store had them priced so high, they must not have wanted to part with them. By contrast, they had little interest in hanging onto the radishes, green onions, or cucumbers – so I compromised.
While my daughter and I were slicing and dicing, we both noticed how great everything smelled – as well as how beautiful the colors all looked. The red bell pepper was an amazing addition and a perfect stand in for tomatoes. I just finished a bowl and, since there weren’t any tomatoes in the salad, everything was a crisp, fresh, and crunchy today as it was last night.
I tried a new salad dressing this time, too. I grabbed a bottle of Olde Cape Cod Raspberry Vinaigrette Light at Kroger yesterday and half-expected my family to laugh me out of the house. I’ll have you know there are only a few tablespoons of it left! It was a huge, huge hit and everyone loved it. You’d never believe how great it smells.
Have fun with salads and mix things up. Purple cabbage, red onions, and grilled corn (scraped fresh from the cob) are also wonderful salad additions. Experiment with different fruits, too – mandarin oranges, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries – they’re all as nutritious as they are delicious.