Quite a few of you have asked what’s on my lunch plate lately. The answer is always the same, and I can’t help but see the disappointment in your eyes when I share my mid-day eating rituals. The thing is, salads aren’t sexy, and food prep fails to elicit squeals of enthusiasm from anyone. Stick with me here though, I promise to change your mind and make your noon time meal more healthy, delicious, and convenient.
There are few things in life more tedious than making a salad; this from someone who feels most comfortable with kitchen knife in hand. The washing, the drying, the chopping, the mixing, ughhhh…not my idea of a riot. But I love a good salad and have been known to set records at the Whole Foods cold bar with my whopping, weighty leafy creations. By setting aside just a half hour a week, you can whip up a giant salad to take the guesswork, hassle, and expense out of lunch.
I didn’t realize that my salad making technique was a novelty until friends and family started to inquire what I put in my salads, what I like to dress them with, how I keep them fresh, and most importantly, how to I make them into something you actually want to eat.
I’ll start at the beginning by giving away what I think may be a family secret. When I was growing up, I was the youngest, and as the puniest runt in the kitchen, I always got stuck with the least desirable dinner-prep chores. Salads were my game even back then. After I finished washing, chopping, and mixing, my Mom always covered the salad with a damp paper towel and popped it in the fridge to “crisp up.” Ma’s method worked every time, turning limp soggy romaine into a fresh and crunchy salad we were excited to cover in Hidden Valley Ranch.
I’ve continued this tradition, and I think it’s the key to confining the salad-making ordeal to a quick, once a week chore. By making one giant salad, storing it in a large shallow container, and covering it with a damp paper towel and tin foil, your masterpiece will last all week long.
A few tips to snazzy up your salad and make it into a meal instead of a lack luster side dish: first, let’s agree that there’s no science to making one. Include the ingredients you love, ditch the ones your mom used to make you eat (peas, for me). The recipe below includes my favs; kale (because I hear it’s healthy), romaine (because I need a good crunch in a salad and feel too embarrassed purchasing iceberg anymore), carrots, celery, snap peas, and broccoli. This is just the base, my canvas on which I build my lunchtime masterpiece.
I skip adding peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes into the big dish. They get slimy after a couple of days and pollute the rest of the mix. Add these toppings in right before dressing and serving.
I don’t stop there. After scooping a handful of my pre-prepared salad mix into a large mixing bowl, I top it with a bean medley, chunks of roasted sweet potatoes, sprouts, and my favorite homemade dressing. Without these heartier ingredients, I’d get hungry and mean and probably eat a donut or two around 3pm. Find your own favorite combos, but let me suggest throwing in some grilled chicken, quinoa, or a veggie patty to make it a meal. Really, you’re only limited by your own taste buds and imagination.
2 small heads of romaine hearts (they’re crunchiest) or 1 full head of romaine, cut into 1-inche pieces
½ bunch of kale (I like the curly variety, but any will do), cut into ¼-inch ribbons
4-6 ribs of celery, cut into bite sized pieces
4 carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups of sugar snap peas, ends removed and cut in half
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
Wash and dry the romaine and kale. I love my salad spinner for this. Cut into bite-sized pieces and place in a 9×13 shallow, glass baking dish (such as a casserole pan). Top with the sliced veggies. Stir to mix. Cover with a double layer of damp paper towel and foil. Refrigerate for up to a week. If you’d prefer to package individual salads to take to work, just fill a single portion Tupperware with salad, top with a damp paper towel, and cover with its lid.
PS: if you’re looking for an amazing dressing to top the amazing salad you just created, check out one of my favorite blogs, Oh She Glows, for a vegan Caesar that will blow.your.mind. Here’s the link: http://ohsheglows.com/2014/11/24/crowd-pleasing-vegan-caesar-salad/.
Need a tiny bit more topping inspiration? Try some of these babies to spice up your salad game:
Crispy bacon crumbles
Nutritional yeast (vegan catnip, look it up!)
Roasted veggies (from last night’s dinner)
Etc. Etc. Etc.