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Cook: How to Make Salad for Dinner

It’s Monday, and I ate Chinese take-out and pizza this weekend.  It’s Monday, and aside from a glorious apple picking excursion yesterday, I spent the whole Sunday on the couch watching football.  It’s Monday and I need a salad.

I enjoy a good salad-for-dinner night, but find it hard to trick myself into thinking it’s a filling entree without loading it up with calories and inevitably defeating the purpose of salad-for-dinner.  I’ve come up with a few guidelines that include all of my favorite things and some healthy add-ins that are filling but don’t ruin your whole day.  Or in my case, make up for two nights of take out and the subsequent leftovers that are taunting me from my refrigerator.

A good no-cook, throw together meal that is healthy and filling is perfect for a Monday.  Of course this is endlessly customizable and can be made with whatever you have leftover in your refrigerator.  I’ve provided lots of options below to get you started.  Let’s push the reset button and start the week off right.

This is a guideline and it starts with some basic ingredients.  Greens, nuts, a little something sweet, cheese, protein, fresh crunchy vegetables, and a homemade dressing.  Combine these things and you’re well on your way to a healthy, fresh dinner.

As I said, the recipe below is really just a guideline.  You’re favorite greens, topped with something fresh and crunchy, something nutty, something sweet, and some protein to round out the meal is, in my humble opinion, the perfect formula for a satisfying salad-for-dinner meal.  The protein leaves you feeling full, while the other components like the tangy goat cheese and the sweet dried fruit balance each other out and provide all the components of a full meal.

Start your week off with salad, and finish it off happily with mac and cheese (ahem…coming soon to a blog near you.  I’ve spoken to you about moderation, right?)

Here’s the recipe, formula:

How to Make Salad for Dinner

What you’ll need:

  • Greens
    • Options include: Arugula, baby spinach, romaine, spring mix, kale, cabbage, or, in a pinch, iceberg. Remember, the greener the greens, the more health you’ll get out of them!
  • Nuts, or some other good-for-you fat
    • Options include: Toasted pecans (my favorite), walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, or half an avocado if you’re nut-averse.
  • Crunchy fresh vegetables
    • Options include: sliced radishes, carrots, broccoli, fresh corn, bell pepper, sliced red onion (a little goes a long way, here) or tomatoes.
  • Sweetness
    • Options include: dried cherries, dried cranberries, raisins, a touch of honey in your vinaigrette, sun dried tomatoes (drain the oil off), or a honey roasted version of any of the nuts above.
  • Strong cheese*
    • Options include: feta, blue cheese, goat cheese, parmesan, or pecorino romano.  *The idea is that if you choose a strong-flavored cheese, you won’t need to use as much, thus cutting down on a lot of the fat and calories that load up a typical salad.
  • Protein
    • Options include: diced hard boiled egg, grilled or roasted chicken, turkey, ham, tuna, some grilled salmon, black beans, chickpeas, or forgo the nuts or cheese and fry up some bacon.  I won’t tell.
  • Homemade vinaigrette
    • Options include: Balsamic vinaigrette, red wine vinaigrette, apple cider vinaigrette, lemon–you get the idea.  Bottom line, add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a couple tablespoons of olive oil to a jar.  Add mustard if you’d like, or honey if you’re looking for something sweet (see above).  Season with salt and pepper.  Put the lid on the jar and shake it up.  Taste and adjust as necessary, being mindful of how much olive oil you are using.  Olive oil is a “good fat” but it’s still a fat.
What you’ll do
  1. Prepare your ingredients as needed.  Slice any vegetables, clean your greens, prepare your protein.
  2. Assemble your salad using all of the different components above.  Keep in mind your ratios–I find that I always over do it with the nuts and cheese, and by the end of my salad all the greens are gone and I’m left with just that–nuts and cheese.  Not that I’m complaining.  Just keep in mind how much stuff  you’re putting in versus how much greens are there.  You’ve made a salad before, what I’m I telling you for.
  3. Enjoy!  Try variation after variation–salad for dinner shouldn’t be a punishment or seen as deprivation.  It’s delicious!  And healthy!  And we’re having mac and cheese on Thursday, remember?

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