Saturday, August 23, 2014

Build Your Own Salad

We have a local diner type restaurant that makes what they call a "sticky chicken salad". It is a good think it is a little bit of a drive and not right in my backyard or I would probably be ordering this nightly. It is actually a crazy thing, because I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make it myself. Isn't that something silly that we each do, enjoy something more because someone else made it. My kids that sandwiches are infinitely better when someone else makes them. 

Salads are a fantastic way to get creative and use up odds and ends from your fridge and pantry. The Food $ense Creates program has an amazing blue-print to help you make a fantastic salad. 

Step 1 - Choose a Base - You will probably automatically think to start with lettuce or salad greens, but you can also start with pasta, potatoes, or a whole grain like wheat berries or quinoa. 

Step 2 - Choose a Protein - You can use beef, chicken or fish (almost in any form!) Canned meat is quick and easy to use in a salad (like tuna fish or canned chicken). Beans add a delicious and inexpensive protein boost too. You can add Tofu or vegetable proteins. And hard boiled eggs make a great traditional addition to salads. 

Step 3 - Choose Vegetables - Anything goes here, you can add heaps of all different types of vegetables or you can spotlight one or two and use them exclusively. You can add them cooked, blanched or raw depending on what your prefer. Salads are a great way to use up those last few carrots sticks in the fridge or that half an avocado that is sitting on your counter. 

Step 4 - Choose Fruits - While fruits might not be a traditional choice for salads, they are delicious in them. Apples are a fantastic choice as are pears and plums. Any dried fruit can add a surprising sweetness and chewiness to a salad that will have you thinking fruits were made for salads. 

Step 5 - Choose Flavors - Look for ways to add flavors that you love to your homemade salads. Salsa is an easy to think of addition, but what about adding some freshly chopped herbs or flavored vinegar or oils. 

Step 6 - Choose a Dressing - Take it easy when it comes to dressing, you have assembled all these fantastic fresh flavors and ingredients - don't disguise them with a bottle of dressing ( You aren't making veggie soup!)  Homemade dressings are easy to whip up with a little fruit juice, vinegar or oil. Try just using plain lemon juice and some salt and pepper, that is one of my most favorite ways to dress a salad. 

Step 7 - Choose a Topping - Add a little bit of pizzazz and crunch to your salad. Homemade croutons are really easy to make and a great way to use up bread. Nuts and Seeds make amazing toppings and can add that special finishing touch. 

Building a salad is a great place to let your imagination run wild. You are only limited by what you are willing to put into your mouth! Let your family help you set up and prepare a salad bar for dinner and see what combinations they make - you may have a new hit on your hands.