One of my favorite summertime foods is salad. When temperatures are rising, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking dinner. Throwing a green salad together while our favorite meats are grilling makes for a quick and easy dinner. Some people feel salad making is an art, and it is, but it’s a simple art when you think of all the options you have. You just need to learn how to combine them. Here are the ingredients I use to make my salads special.
Pick the Salad
The best salads come from your own garden. Here is a resource for all things garden. However, if you can’t grow your own lettuce, salad bags/containers can be so handy on a busy evening. Our favorite choices really depend on what mood I was in when I grocery shopped, and oftentimes, what’s on sale. I will occasionally buy heads of leaf lettuce, especially if I can find chemical/pesticide free lettuce at the local farmer’s market. If I buy lettuce at the store I tend to go for the pre-washed organic options. Here are what we may have in any given week.
- Baby kale
- Baby spinach
- Spring mix
Pick your Protein
Every dinner needs some protein. I know if I just give my kids a protein free dinner they are “starving” in no time. In the summer we love to grill so throwing together the lettuce and any toppings we want while the meat is on the grill is so quick and easy. I also love to grill extra chicken and cube it for lunch or dinner salads the next day. There is nothing better than a Caesar Salad with that grilled chicken flavor. There are so many great ways to add protein to your salad. Oh, and flank steak with blue cheese crumbles? Well, you will be my hero if you serve me that salad. Here are different ways to add protein.
- Chicken breast
- Chicken leg meat, shredded
- Ground meat
- Tuna fish, white fish, or salmon
Pile on Fruits and Veggies
People have raved about my salads, but truly, I have never seen what makes them extra special. It comes down to the toppings. We love fruits and veggies on our salads, and this is a key part to making that salad just a little different.
- Sweet peppers
- Tomatoes (My local friends know just how good a Jersey tomato is. You have to choose tomatoes wisely.)
- Cucumbers (The “pickling cukes” are THE BEST!)
- Grilled eggplant
- Grilled zucchini or yellow/green squash
- Shaved and roasted brussels sprouts
- Sweet peas
- Fresh or grilled mushrooms
- Grilled Pineapple
- Fresh or grilled peaches
- Mango cubes
- Mandarin Slices
- Grapefruit slices
Add Dried Fruits, Seeds, or Nuts
Every salad is better with these sweet and crunchy additions. I love to pile on a little this and a little that, but I confess, my favorites are dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.
- Dried currants
- Dried peaches
- Dried apricots
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pecans (regular, or even better, candied)
- Dried soybeans
- Dehydrated corn
Drizzle on the Dressing
Let’s be real. The wrong salad dressing can break a salad. The right salad dressing, well that is the dressing on the greens, just like frosting is to cake. We moved away from buying salad dressing to making our own. My taste buds are watering just thinking about salad dressing. We definitely have our favorite homemade dressings, but I have yet to find a good homemade egg-less Caesar dressing. Is there such a thing? Clue me in if so. Here are our five favorite dressings. Some of them are super healthy and created by our kids.
- Avocado Lime Ranch (My absolute favorite recreation of a popular chain restaurant’s Avocado Lime Ranch. Theirs isn’t so good anymore.)
- 1,2,3 Balsamic Dressing (This is one of our homemade dressings that has the perfect bite for salad greens)
- Oil and vinegar – (I found a fig infused balsamic that is pure amazing-ness.)
- Banana Berry Dressing (my 8 year old son came up with this. Who knew banana worked on salad?)
- Berry Yogurt Dressing (My 6 year old’s signature dressing.)
- Maple Balsamic Reduction (Seriously easy! Reduce a balsamic vinegar with a little maple syrup. Done! Sweet and savory.)
Sprinkling on the Dairy
What salad is complete without cheese? I so love cheese so I am always trying new cheeses on my salad.
- Blue Cheese/gorgonzola
- Pepper Jack
- The sky is the limit
The Finished Masterpiece
So many options to choose from. What’s in your salad? If you are looking for ideas on how to combine these different ingredients for an amazing summer full of salads, check out this post for my quick and easy dinner salad suggestions.
Shared at: The Super Mommy Club