I’ve eaten a lot of salads in my day. Okay I’m only 22, but regardless I’ve eaten a shit ton of salads. You go out to eat or you go to a party and for the most part, you see the same salads. You got your house, your caesar, your spinach, maybe a pear walnut, if you’re lucky. Ugh, it gets boring. Lettuce, cucumber, tomato, boring salad ingredient, boring salad ingredient, boring salad ingredient. Where’s the inspiration? Where’s the creativity?
Listen, I’m all for salads. I pack a salad for lunch everyday. But if you’re packing the same, boring salads, void of excitement, every single day… well, you’re going to end up hating it. Not only that, but you’re probably going to stop doing it and write off healthy eating for a little while or develop a deep seated hatred for any green vegetable resembling a salad. I don’t want that. I want you to look forward to your salads as much as I look forward to mine so here are my tips for upping your salad game:
- Leftovers are always fair game. This is where I get most of the proteins in my salads. Did you have flank steak for dinner? How about some pork chops? Maybe bbq chicken? Whatever the case, it’ll probably make for a bitchin’ salad ingredient the next day.
- Not much left over? No worries. Throw in a hardboiled egg with your leftovers. It’s basically a little package of protein AND eggs have this really cool ability to tie your salad all together when it’s all mixed up. You’ll get it.
- Ditch the iceberg and limit the romaine. Iceberg lettuce is nothing. It’s just not worth it. There are so many choices out there for nutrition packed greens. Used mixed lettuce, spinach, baby kale and collards. The options are endless and so are the benefits of a diet packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Cook some stuff. This is my FAVORITE way to spice things up. I roast or sauté veggies like zucchini, asparagus, eggplant, and sweet potatoes either right before or the night before. These are DEE-LISH-US salad toppers, even cold the next day. Throw them in and you’re getting a whole other level of flavor. Also, kale can be hard to stomach. Let’s be honest… it tastes like dirt. Guess what though? It tastes a lot better sautéed in olive oil and garlic, then sprinkled with salt. Kale can be your friend, just give him a chance.
- Use whole nuts in your salad. I’ve got this weird thing for roasted, unsalted cashews and almonds. I throw a little handful of them in my salad and get so excited when I come across them come lunch time. Those good fats, the ones we’re not afraid of anymore, are good for keeping you more satisfied and fuller longer to get you through those long days.
- Play around with fun fruits. Buy a mango or some kiwi. Dice those babies up and you’ve got a salad that’ll make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation. Use a vegetable peeler and shave in slices of apples or pears. This is another one of those ingredients that really pulls a salad together.
- Last, but not least, keep your dressing simple. You want your flavor to come from your salad ingredients, not a heavy dressing that’s gonna weigh you down all day. I was never into buying salad dressings, but I recently found a very simple vinaigrette that I’m into. Check the ingredient list and stay away from anything with sugar listed as one of the first 5 ingredients. That shit’s no good. You don’t want to put in the time making a kick ass salad to just smother it in something gnarly.
Here’s a recipe for the salad I made today that inspired this post.
Kale & Sweet Potato Salad w/ a Tropical Twist
1/4 sweet potato, chopped
1 handful kale, rough chopped
1 large handful mixed greens
1 large handful baby spinach
1/4 cucumber, sliced
1/4 mango, chopped
4-6 oz rotisserie chicken
small handful roasted, unsalted almonds and cashews
dressing of choice
Take your sweet potatoes and throw them in a hot sauté pan with some olive oil. Let them cook until nice and golden brown on all sides and sprinkle with some course salt.
While those are cooking, prep your salad. Throw the mixed greens and spinach, cucumber, mango, chicken, and nuts all into a large bowl. My salad was pretty big, so feel free to adjust the ingredients as needed.
When your sweet potatoes are done and cooked through, toss them in there. Throw your kale in the same pan and splash a little olive oil in there. Throw in some minced garlic and let that stuff cook until wilted and fragrant. sprinkle with that salt and throw that in your salad too. I like to eat them still hot. I’m all about that hot and cool mix, but if you’re not, feel free to cook these ahead of time and let them cool in the fridge. You can even cook them the night before for easy prep on a weekday.
Drizzle with your dressing, toss, and enjoy. Eat this one slow. It’s the first of many tasty salads to come.