One reason why I love salads so much is that they are so easy and quick to make (no pans to wash!), and they are nutrient-packed as well. However, a common dilemma especially for those just beginning to make their own salads at home is that they get bored with having the same ingredients in their bowls. I mean, lettuce-cucumber-tomato combo all week long is definitely not as appetizing to me either.
I am here to tell you that salads don’t have to be bland, tasteless, and monotonous in terms of flavor. Here are just some ways I spruce up my salad bowls. And I hope that this will also further whet your appetite to eat more of these healthy goodies. The key idea is to experiment with flavors, texture, and colors. And just like anything else… practice makes perfect!
STEP 1. CHOOSE YOUR LEAFY BASE.
There are lots of options for you here–lettuce, rocket, spinach, romaines, purple cabbage, kale are just some of my favorites. You can also pick two types of leaves to add more texture. When buying your greens, make sure to pick the freshest ones you can find in your local supermarkets. Organic is preferrable but if it’s not, then rinse it very well to take out as much pesticide residue as possible. Also, use a salad spinner (if you have one) to drain excess water. Otherwise just pat them dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen cloth to remove as much moisture. We don’t want soggy greens in our salads, do we? This also lets the salad dressing stick better on your greens.
STEP 2. PICK YOUR FAVORITE VEGGIES.
This is where the fun begins! Ideally I would have at least 3 types of vegetables in there. You may also add fruits but I suggest to keep it to a 1:3 ratio with more veggies than fruits. My top picks are carrots, asparagus, capsicum, onions, beets, cucumber, mushrooms, celery, tomatoes, raddish. Cauliflowers and broccolis are great when roasted with a bit of paprika or turmeric. While for grilled options, I would go with pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and zucchinis. For fruits I also like to add mandarins, apples, grapes, and even mangoes when in season. I also love sundried tomatoes and olives for that mediterranean twist.
Don’t be afraid to try out new flavors. And go for as many colors as you can. The deeper the color, the more nutrients it has. So get those bright reds and purples in there! You can even play around with the texture when cutting them. You can have them julienned, cubed, grated, or have them in thin strips using a peeler for that fine dining kinda look. We eat with our eyes, so make it as pretty as you can.
STEP 3. ADD YOUR PROTEINS and HEALTHY FATS.
I usually add soft-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, prawns, and cooked chicken into my salad bowls. I love to grill my seafood and chicken or bake them with different seasonings like smoked paprika, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, or just with a squeeze of lemon with sea salt and pepper. You can meal-prep your proteins, and cut them up in advance too so you just top them up on to your salads.
Proteins don’t always come in meat form. Beans are a great source as well. Think black beans, red kidney beans, chick peas, edamame, garbanzo beans. And even grains such as quinoa is packed with protein as well. For vegan options, you can go for tofu or tempeh which are really flavorful too.
Healthy fats is another key component when I make my salads. I LOVE my avocadoes and I usually add half an avo per serving. You can also add your favorite cheese like feta, parmesan or bocconcini which pairs perfectly with the olives and tomatoes.
STEP 4. ADD SOME CRUNCH.
Remember I mentioned about texture? This is where the whole nuts, seeds, and dried fruits come in. My top picks are walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds. Make sure you activate the nuts if you buy them raw by either soaking them in water (overnight preferrably) or toasting them in the oven or on a pan. Try not to add flavored nuts or those that come with too much salt. This also goes for dried fruit like sultanas or cranberries. Read the labels and pick the ones which has less or no sugar at all. You can also add croutons if you like those. Again, experiment what flavors you like and see what works best for your palette.
STEP 5. MAKE A WINNER DRESSING.
A salad is as good as its dressing! Although you can easily buy one from the supermarket, most store-bought ones have so many preservatives and artificial ingredients in it. Homemade and natural is always best.
So what makes a really good dressing? I only have 4 key ingredients. First is a good quality extra-virgin olive oil. It may come a bit pricey but if you’re the type who doesn’t put a price on good taste and good health, then you would invest in quality oils for your dishes. Next is your acidic ingredient which could be fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar. If you have a cup of olive oil, you would want 1/3 the amount for the acid you are using. The third would be your basic seasoning– salt and pepper. And the 4th is optional which could be your sweetener like pure honey, or dijon mustard if you want to add a layer of flavor. I normally prep my dressing in advance and put them in little mason jars which I store in my fridge and have them ready when needed.
If you wish to have creamy dressings, you can use greek yogurt or sour cream instead of the usual heavy cream for a healthier twist. Add some fresh lemon or lime juice and zest, salt, pepper and a bit of extra-virgin olive oil to get that Ceasar-like dressing but with less calories!
So there you go, 5 easy steps to making your delicious, nutritious salad at the comfort of your home! As a last tip, you can also meal prep your salads by pre-washing and pre-cutting them in advance. Leave out the dressing first and only add them right before you consume the salad.
Now who’s ready to make some smashing salads? Did you find this post helpful? Leave your comments below or share this with your friends.