The snow has melted, the sun is staying out a little longer and my favorite food season is here — spring! I’ve been enjoying delicious comfort foods all winter, but I’m looking forward to something a little lighter, like a salad. Here are a few ideas on how to bring spring to your plate with light, fresh, flavorful salads.
Think about texture.
Texture and flavor work together to make our palates happy. Think about healthy crunch: sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, wasabi peas, radishes or carrots. You can also try a crisp salad with chickpeas, cucumber and celery. To indulge a bit, make Parmesan crisps. All you have to do is grate Parmesan onto a non-stick pan liner or parchment paper placed on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 F for 5-7 minutes. It’s a great way to add crunch and a gourmet touch.
Vary your protein.
How many salads with grilled chicken have you eaten in your life? If you’re like me, you’ve eaten quite a few. Upgrade your protein and try a salad with grilled steak. Or, use your imagination and give your salads an exotic flair. Use chickpeas in an updated take on the Caesar salad. Black beans go well in in a Southwest salad, and Great Northern beans add delicate, delicious flavor to an Italian salad. You don’t have to cook canned beans, and they provide both protein and fiber to keep you full.
Make your own dressings.
Store-bought dressings are tasty and convenient, but if you want to customize your dressing to your salad, it’s easy enough to make your own. This basic recipe will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Use a 3-1 ratio of oil to vinegar. (So, for a half-cup of salad dressing, use six tablespoons of oil and three tablespoons of vinegar.) Here is where you can get creative: Use your favorite oil (vegetable or olive both work well), along with your favorite vinegar (balsamic, rice wine, sherry, Champagne, raspberry or even citrus juice). Then add seasonings, like minced onions or shallots, fresh herbs, a little Dijon mustard, soy sauce, honey — the choices are endless. Just use what you or your family likes, whisk it together and have fun.
Pack them to last.
I think we’ve all pinned recipes before and wondered how they’d work out. I can tell you that the Mason jar salad is one recipe that does work. In fact, it’s not even a recipe. Just layer your salad in a Mason jar in this order:
- Salad dressing
- Chopped vegetables, meats, beans or fruits
- Salad greens
- Crunchy ingredients (nuts, croutons, etc.)
Top with the lid, and you’re ready to go. You can stick this in the refrigerator at work and have a delicious, still-crispy salad to shake into a bowl when you’re ready to eat. Even better? Make up to three Mason jar salads at one time, and they’ll keep beautifully — giving you three convenient lunches during the workweek.
Sunnier, warmer weather definitely requires lighter, brighter meals. Toss together a salad any time you need a quick, healthy lunch or dinner during these beautiful spring days.