"So, what DO you eat...? Salads?"
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this.... while I may not be rich, I could probably fund a pretty sweet vacation. Being a vegetarian for 20 years (plus somewhat of a health freak), I've met this question too many times to count. So to answer? Yep...I eat salads.
I eat salads as meals. As full, substantial, satisfying meals. Usually for lunch, often for dinner and occasionally for breakfast, I'll eat salads 'round the clock, all year long. And I tend to switch things up all the time, so I very rarely get bored with eating salad. Sure, I'll slide into grooves where I crave the same thing every day for a week (like this Open Sesame Salad), and I'll get stuck in ruts where none of my old tricks appeal to me (that's when I find some Pinspiration), but for the most part, I'm pretty good with dumping different things in a bowl and calling it a salad. You see, my idea of a salad is faaaaaaar different than most.
Take restaurants, for example. [Blanket statement disclaimer!] Many, many restaurants throw down some iceberg lettuce and some wilted greens, mealy tomatoes, sliced cucumbers (by the way - peel those suckers if they're not organic!) and pass it off as a salad. Dressing is typically some gelatinous stuff - you know, like the rubbish that globs out of dressing packets when you grab a salad on the go. Not exactly substantial OR satisfying.
Another thing about restaurant salads: they don't fill me up. I have an appetite. And - especially when I'm out to eat - I want to eat. It's frustrating when fellow diners suggest I "just order a salad" because it's on the menu and I'm a vegetarian. Sure, I'll sit back and enjoy 46 calories of iceberg while you eat that Pasta Carbonara. Yum.
So, in summary, I really don't like ordering salads when I'm out to eat because I'm invariably disappointed (with the exception of some local hot spots). And really, I never want to order a meal out that I can make better at home.
The salads I construct at home are so far superior to what I can get out at restaurants that I don't even want to call them salads. They are huge bowls filled to the brim with high-quality produce, satisfying protein sources, satiating healthy fats, and a slug of super yummy homemade dressing. So really, they're more like bowls of bounty. Bounty Bowls.
Here's the basic format for constructing your own Bounty Bowl at home.
Green, Leafy Base
I always start my bowls off with a big heap of leafy greens.
Massaged Kale, Mixed Greens, Arugula, Chopped Swiss Chard, Romaine lettuce, Shredded Cabbage
Chopped Fresh Herbs
The best way to take any salad from ehhh to YUM. I always keep fresh herbs in the fridge for cooking and last minute add-ins.
Parsley, Cilantro, Dill, Basil, Mint, Thyme
Try to think outside the box. Yes - cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots will work. But what else can you throw in there?
Shredded Beets, Shredded Zucchini, Chopped Cauliflower, Radishes, Sprouts
This is typically where I root root around in the fridge and pull out any leftovers from the previous night. It's an awesome way to add taste, dimension and bulk to your bowl.
Roasted Beets, Chopped Baked Sweet Potato, Steamed Broccoli Florets, Roasted Brussel Sprouts
I try to make a large pot of grains at the start of each week, so I can reach into the fridge and spoon some out into my salad every day. I cannot recommend this enough! A precooked pot of grains saves you SO much time throughout the week - it's the best way to throw together a last minute meal!
Wild Rice, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Millet, Brown Rice
While the veggies and grains offer a bit in the way of protein, I usually add a little extra to really round out my bowl. I tend to eat a lot of beans, so I cook up a big pot at the start of the week so I always have them on hand. (See here for how & why you should cook your own beans.)
Hard boiled egg, shredded pastured chicken, ground grassfed beef, salmon
Vegetarian options: Sauteed Tempeh, Adzuki Beans, Black Beans, Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas, Lentils, Black-Eyed Peas
Different ways to elevate flavor, texture, and nutrition.
Dried Fruit (Currants, Dried Blueberries, Chopped Apricots, Dried Cranberries); Fresh Fruit (Chopped Apples, Pears, Berries); Raw or Toasted Nuts & Seeds (Pecans, Pistachios, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Almonds, Sesame Seeds); Chopped Avocado
Sure, you could buy it. But it just tastes sooo much better when you make it yourself. And you skip out on all the junk that most bottled dressings contain (like industrial seed oils).
So while a recipe isn't really necessary - get creative! dump in what you have! - here's a Bounty Bowl that I recently made for lunch.
Bounty Bowl with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Green, Leafy Base: Chopped Green Kale (massage with some dressing) + Shredded Green Cabbage
Chopped Fresh Herbs: Parsley + Dill
Raw Veggies: Cauliflower - pulsed in the food processor to create cauliflower "rice"
Cooked Veggies: Leftover Baked Sweet Potato, Chopped
Hearty Grains: Cooked Millet
Protein Source: Chickpeas (not pictured)
Extras: Toasted Pumpkin Seeds - toasted on skillet until fragrant
Homemade Dressing: Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
Zest of 1/2 Meyer lemon
3 T olive oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 small shallot, diced very fine - about 1 T
1/8 tsp sea salt