I usually have a large salad as one of my main meals each day. Sometimes it's in a bowl, sometimes it's in a tortilla, but the idea is that it's mostly green, fresh and raw.
It's part of the Girlbert's Pursuit of Ultimate Health with Minimal Effort Plan.
Summer (record-setting!) heat, having to handwash every dish I use, Boyfriend's preoccupation with Things Concerning How We Pay Our Rent, and my continuing monthly chemo regimen have me pretty well convinced that cooking or juicing three squares a day just isn't in the cards for us. So, one big bowl, a multitude of delicious, raw ingredients, maybe a knife and a cutting board - totally do-able!
And why not pass on a little of what I've learned from my Summer of Salad-Making, to you? Let's face it - most of us don't eat enough salad. We know it, but it seems an impossible hurdle, considering how programmed we are to cook every meal.
Instead of looking at it as, "I have to make a salad to go with dinner," why not look at it as, "what should I put with the salad we're having for dinner?" Make the salad the centerpiece - give it a little weight with some grains or beans, spruce it up with some colorful veggies or fruit, and suddenly it's a meal. And when done right, it's plenty filling, but doesn't keep you up all night with your body straining to digest a heavy meal.
So - get creative!
First, stock up on salad fixins you like, or would like to try. I try not to do the same thing too many times in a row, if ever, to keep myself from getting bored. I just pick up lots of salad greens (I love mixing arugula into my salads) and veggies when I do my grocery shopping and keep lots of things in my fridge to choose from.
And I've gotten over thinking that I have to cut up a million different kinds of vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, onions, etc, for every salad. That's way too overwhelming! The point is, lots of greens for the fiber and vitamins; and a couple of veggies for color, flavor, and interest. And a fun way to mix in veggies without having to chop, peel, worry about the size, etc? Shred veggies like carrots, peppers, cucumbers, radishes and zucchini with a cheese grater!
Go easy on the dressing - just lightly toss the greens and veggies to coat before adding additional ingredients. I usually stick with a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for every two people or three to four cups of greens. Lemon or lime juice is a nice raw substitute for the vinegar. And use sesame oil (topped with sesame seeds) for an Asian flair.
To make it a meal with enough weight to satisfy, I add quinoa or rice, and beans like garbanzos, black, kidney, or Great Northern (white) or edamamae. Toss these in just after dressing the salad, so they don't get too weighted down with dressing.
(TIP: Save time by using canned beans or frozen edamamae (thawed, of course). And I usually make a big batch of quinoa or rice at the beginning of every week and add to green salads as I make them. If I'm going to used beans and rice, I mix them together in a separate bowl first, so they're thoroughly mixed before adding to the greens.)
If you must add in some meat or tofu, might I suggest small pieces, thoroughly incorporated, to assist your tastebuds in savoring all parts of the salad. Otherwise, old habit may find you skimming the meat off the top, and being too full to eat much greenery, which is not really the effect we're going for! And to keep with my "Cooking to a Minimum Theme", might I suggest adding something simple, such as canned tuna or shrimp or smoked salmon? Or boil some eggs at the beginning of the week and dice into your salads throughout the week.
But don't forget about fruit, too. I love to add in tasty surpises like shredded apples, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, dried cranberries, figs (fresh or dried - yummy!), even orange slices. But don't add them until after you dress the salad - they're yummiest "naked"!
Finally, stick with whole, raw foods and top with corn, avocado, a scoop of guacamole or hummus, or some nuts or seeds, too. I try to stay away from too much dairy, but can't resist topping with goat, feta or parmesan cheese on occasion. Variety is key for your taste buds and your health!
For those of you still rolling your eyes - maybe you have children who have an aversion to all that which is green and uncooked. Where do you think they get that from? (hmmmm...) Try getting them to help you shop or help you in the kitchen (both is best!). If they're still hesitant, resist loading up on cheese, croutons and dressing to get the greens down. Try fresh fruit instead. Who doesn't like blueberries? Grapes? Oranges are fun in salads! Encourage them to try multi-colored versions of traditional salad fare: bell peppers come in purple (FUN!); sunny-yellow lemon cucumbers intrigued me the first time we were introduced; and tomatoes come in orange, yellow, and crazy shades of red - some even have STRIPES! And if all else fails, top your greens with fun things like Goldfish crackers, crispy Asian noodles, some whole grain pasta, organic cottage cheese or tortilla chips. They're better than the alternative: BACK, you fatty, oil-laden croutons!