Today may be one of the first official days of summer, however it's felt like summer in South Georgia for about 2 months now. During my dietetic internship a fellow intern scaughed at me one evening in the winter while I was eating a salad; stating that it definitely was not salad season. While this may have been slightly true, I'm happy to say that according to Lucy it is officially salad season. As I discussed in a previous posting, salads at restaurants can sometimes be the most expensive item on the menu; and much of the time they are not a healthy option. Today I'd like to encourage you to eat more salads! This does not mean they have to be made of just limp lettuce and mealy tomatoes, salads can be any combination of fruits and vegetables with endless numbers of toppings and dressings.
Lately I've started throwing together what I call "Kitchen Sink Salads." Because they contain just about everything but the...kitchen sink. I have a large glass salad bowl in which I toss together any combination of lettuces (spinach, romaine, spring mix, arugala...) and any cut up fresh produce such as peppers, squash, onion, and carrots. I keep the bowl covered with saran-wrap and store it on the top shelf in my fridge. Whenever I want a salad to take to work or eat as a side with dinner, I just grab the bowl and portion out what I need. Then to jazz it up a bit, I add whatever other toppings I want. Much of this depends upon what is in season and what I have on hand.
Today I topped mine with raisins, left over black beans, raw almonds, cherry tomatoes, banana peppers, and a little cottage cheese. Depending upon my mood I usually choose either store bought honey-mustard dressing (Bolthouse farms, yogurt dressing -pictured) or homemade balsamic vinaigrette(Half olive oil, half balsamic vinegar and any combination of spices/seasoning). I also added 1/2 a whole wheat pita topped with spinach/artichoke hummus that I whipped up last night. Other great additions might include: Feta cheese, grilled chicken, canned salmon, olives, strawberries, mandarin oranges, edamame, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus....you get the idea. I've even used breakfast cereal as extra crunch instead of croutons.
As I mentioned above, salads do not have to be just lettuce. My wonderful boss has a garden and was inundated with cucumbers which she is sharing with me.. Since Ryan likes dill, I decided to make a creamy cucumber dill salad. I used a recipe from my new America's Test Kitchens Best International Recipes book, but the link above will take you to Ina Garten's recipe which is almost identical. I will recommend backing off on the amount of yogurt/sour cream used, otherwise it will be overly creamy. Also try using low fat or fat free Greek yogurt to lower the fat and calorie content. This also negates the need to strain it. Over the past several days I've added fresh cut up cucumber to my mix for extra crunch. It's as if the bowl is never ending! Even Ryan who normally does not like this type of dish said it was pretty good.
Salads are a great way to try new fruits and vegetables. Much of the time they are colorful, flavorful, inexpensive, convenient, and as long as they are not drowned in ranch dressing; very nutritious.