WIAW: The Ultimate Salad

It’s that time of the week again!

I must admit I’ve started to look forward to this whole WIAW ritual. I’m not sure how all my favorite healthy living bloggers take pictures of every single meal they eat, but for one day of the week, it’s kind of fun. Feels like a bit of a novelty if you will.

Every Tuesday, I put just a little more effort into my meals and snacks (must keep it real here – I DO try a littler harder than usual), so that I can post the on my blog Wednesday morning.

Last week, in honor of June being sensible snacking month, I shared some of my most useful Sometimes Healthy snacking tips. I’m no dietician (that is for sure), but I am a snacker by nature, so I feel that this qualifies me as an “amature expert”.

This week, I decided to use WIAW as a chance to share some tips for something else I happen to know a lot about: Salads. If you are a frequent Sometimes Healthy reader, you will notice that salads tend to make a regular appearance on the blog.

Nothing satisfies me more than a big, veggie/protein packed salad. Again, like snacking, this food habit can be traced back to my childhood days. Back then, I ate more than my fair share of chicken McNuggets, but unlike most children, I also housed my veggies and salads too.

What a dream child I was! (My mother may disagree on this point).

Anyway, as per usual salads will be featured in my WIAW, but this week, I’m going to share with you the method behind the madness of my monster salads.

Salad Collage

First, let’s do a quick run-down of the day’s meals:

Breakfast Repeats

Last week, I tried quinoa for breakfast for the first time.

I absolutely loved it, so I made the exact same recipe again, except this time I served it in a cup with blueberries in an attempt to make it more appetizing.

P1010198

Did it work?

Breakfast was followed by a super-sweaty workout, which included a 5 mile run and a 15 minute circuit that went like this:

Slide2

My clothes were literally sticking to my body after I was done, but in a strange way, this made me feel accomplished! I’m calling it a bikini body workout, because it’s bikini time, and I’m fairly certain this little total body workout is the perfect routine to get that body in shape.

Sun and Snacks at Sbux

The weather was beyond wacky yesterday: first it was rainy, then it was sunny, then it was sunny with rain, then it was stormy. Amidst all of the crazy weather, I got my quick fix of sunshine mid-morning outside at Starbucks.

P1010180

Nothing better than this.

I just can’t get enough of the Morning Bun with a Large Unsweetened Passion Fruit Iced Tea (Yes, I said large, not “venti,” take that Starbucks!). The Morning Bun tastes kind of like a cinnamon roll, but without all of the heavy icing. I usually eat about half of it, and it always tides me over until lunch.

The Usual for Lunch

I probably have a salad for lunch 4 days during the week. It may sound boring to some, but I never have the same salad twice! I love mixing different flavor combinations to see what will taste best.

More on that below, but here’s a picture of today’s salad.

mmmm...I make a mean salad.

mmmm…I make a mean salad.

Sweet n’ Salty Snacks

Our local grocery store is kind of amazing. It’s sort of a one-stop shop: there’s a gift store, a nursery, fresh produce from the area, a bakery AND a candy shop all in this cute little store.

On my last grocery run, I fell victim to THIS candy bin.

Oh no. I'm a goner.

Oh no. I’m a goner.

So, yesterday I snacked on these delicious treats: strawberry-yogurt covered raisins, cinnamon-yogurt covered pretzels, peanut butter-covered pretzels and chocolate-covered banana chips.

Come to momma!

Come to momma!

It tasted every bit as delicious as it sounds. Note to self: Do not shop at this store when hungry. I would probably dive head-first into the yogurt-covered pretzel bin.

At some point into the day, I also dug into my latest grocery store find.

Genius idea?

Genius idea?

I’m all for fruit in my cottage cheese, but the sides of fruit in these babies aren’t quite as good as the ones in Chobani flips. I’ll still eat ‘em though!

My last snack of the day was very Sometimes Healthy: blueberries!

A summer regular.

A summer regular.

Crockpot Surprise

For dinner, I reheated a crockpot creation from Monday, which included items I discovered in my pantry raid and veggies we had on hand. Into the crockpot went the following ingredients: 3 large chicken breasts, 1 carton chicken broth, 1 cup quinoa, 1 can diced tomatoes, 2 cups white and portobello mushrooms, a few chopped baby carrots, 1/2 spanish onion, 1 can diced jalapeños, kosher salt, dried basil, oregano and chili pepper to taste.

Crockpots are magical.

Crockpots are magical.

I set it on low and cooked overnight for about 8 hours.

Is it just me or does everything I put into this magical cooking device turn into gold?

I served it in sourdough bread bowls and sprinkled some mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top. Then I broiled it for a few.

Get in my belly.

Get in my belly.

Between the cheese, the warm bread bowl and the crockpot concoction, this dinner was a winner! And it only took 10 minutes to pull together.

But, back to the Salads

I promised you tips on how to make the perfect salad in this post, and I will deliver!

In NYC, there is a build-your-own salad joint on every block. It’s heaven for a Sometimes Healthy girl who loves her salads. But, it’s also very pricey, with each salad averaging about $12 – $14.

This place is like heaven for me.

This place is like heaven for me.

Here in the “stix,” these salad joints are nowhere to be found. But, that’s okay, because everywhere I turn, I can find fresh produce for building my own salad.

I have a salad for lunch everyday that is generally larger than any regular bowl and only fits into our mixing bowls or extra-large tupperware. Lesson #1: Just because you’re eating a salad, it doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the portion sizes!

We also have salads with our dinners, which again are usually huge, but don’t have any protein, since that’s usually in our main course.

Here’s how I do it:

1. Pick the Lettuce

If you’re looking for crunch, romaine or iceberg is the way to go. Mixed greens and butter lettuce have a much smoother texture and spinach will always be the most nutritional choice. Arugula is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a kick with your lettuce – if you choose this, you’ll probably want less toppings (goat cheese, cranberries, pine nuts go great with the peppery flavor of arugula)

Fresh, crunchy, romaine.

Fresh, crunchy, romaine.

I generally go with fresh hearts of romaine, which I chop up and throw in bowl. I used to buy bagged lettuce, but this stuff really is fresher (and it’s cheaper too!). The BF’s friend actually grows his OWN lettuce, so sometimes we use that too.

2. Pick your Protein

If you’re eating a salad as your main course, a generous serving of protein is a must! There are plenty of options for both vegetarians and meat eaters, including quinoa, egg whites, beans and fish.

Cod with a light cumin-lime butter sauce.

Cod with a light cumin-lime butter sauce.

We had leftover baked cod from Sunday night’s dinner in the fridge, so that was my choice protein yesterday. Another tip: use those leftovers! 90% of our leftovers go in my lunchtime salads.

3. Pick your Veggies

Here’s where the fun begins. I usually have at least 4 vegetables in my salad, and I like to be sure that they are very colorful! For yesterday’s salad, I chose cucumbers, tomatoes, snap peas, carrots and mushrooms. I chopped them all and threw them on top of the romaine.

Chop chop chop!

Chop chop chop!

There was no planning involved – just what I had in the fridge! We always keep fresh vegetables around, so that I can pull together a salad whenever we want.

4. Add Special Veggies

By special veggies, I mean the ones that take an ordinary salad over the top, such as avocados, sun dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. They’re not “staple” vegetables, but they will really kick up a boring salad.

Hello my pretty tomato.

Hello my pretty tomato.

Avocado is my favorite choice, but we had sun dried tomatoes in the house, so into my salad they went.

5. Add Cheese, Fruit and CRUNCH

Right now, you’ve sort of got a boring salad on your hands. The next three ingredients are what make your salad unique and delicious.

Yesterday, I chose parmesan cheese, blueberries and cornbread croutons.

Now it's going to get good.

Now it’s going to get good.

The choices are pretty much endless here, and trust me, almost any combination will go well together. My favorites include grapes, goat cheese and pita chips.

Almost done!

Almost done!

6. Dress It!

Without dressing, your salad is naked. I encourage out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to dressing a salad and often use marinara sauce or salsa in place of the dressing.

Try it. You won't regret it.

Try it. You won’t regret it.

Lately, my go-to has been the fig balsamic vinegar that I purchased in Newport. This stuff is absolutely amazing – thick, sweet and savory all at once!

You can also make a simple vinaigrette by whisking together oil, vinegar, lemon, salt and Dijon mustard. Play around with different ingredients, and chances are you’ll end up with a delicious salad dressing.

After all of the ingredients are in my perfect salad, I give it a few tosses, portion some off for lunch and store the rest for later in the week.

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

AND, just in case you have trouble making that perfect salad, here’s a little cheat sheet to help you out.

Slide1

It may not be exhaustive, but it’s pretty darn close!

Sometime Healthy, Sometimes Wacky

Of course, the above cheat sheet is the “tame” version of how I make my salads, because I wanted it to be useful to the ordinary person just looking for some help on making a nice little salad.

However, as you all know, wacky food combos are my specialty. Some things missing from the list included: Pretzel Goldfish (sweet, buttery extra crunch, YUM), bbq sauce (everything is better with bbq sauce), pickles (sometimes a girl just craves them) and crockpot concoctions (usually, if I have a crockpot concoction in the fridge, I’ll plop about 1/2 cup on top of my salad for extra flavor).

It's okay to put goldfish in your salad. seriously

It’s okay to put goldfish in your salad. seriously

I truly believe you can put anything on a salad, and it will probably taste just fine. But, if you’re new to the game, stick with the regulars ;-).

YOUR TURN:

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever put into a salad?

Anything missing from my list? (let me know and I’ll update it!)

14 Thoughts on “WIAW: The Ultimate Salad

  1. It’s always funny to think which pictures of my food look the most appealing to post :) oh I love those scoop yourself snack boxes!!

  2. Mmmmmm that morning bun looks delicious!! I may have to make a run to Starbs tomorrow ;) and love the salad checklist!! So using that for my next mix :)

  3. such a well-thought, thorough post! i am so craving fish now after seeing that picture of cod… salads can get crazy expensive, i can’t justify the cost of a $10 salad so i usually end up choosing another dish at restaurants. i don’t think i’ve ever ordered a salad at a restaurant, come to think of it…

    • haha thats funny and a good point. One place where I think you get your money’s worth is cheesecake factory. Those salads are HUGE and worth every penny (in my opinion ;-))

  4. steff on 12 June, 2013 at 5:37 pm said:

    cole slaw, saur kraut, hummus for dressing

  5. I love bringing my own $10+ salads to work, and I love even more that they cost so much less to make at home. It’s not that weird, but nectarines are great to add, and also leftover potatoes or sweet potatoes. I also do the hummus as dressing thing and I’ve even used pan juices from roast chicken as dressing (tres French bistro).

  6. Sweet and salty snacks are the BEST!! I could eat them for days! ;)

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