A Return to the Joy of Salads

Nearly spring, when a no-longer-young-per-se woman’s thoughts turn to salads!

I had FORGOTTEN about salads. Literally forgotten. I think it was because last spring I was working: when I’m working, I like meals that are fast and portable. When I am instead staying closer to home base, what I like are meals that take an entire episode of The Good Wife to eat. For breakfast, I like vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, corn, and red bell pepper) mixed with scrambled egg, sriracha, and cheese: I make a nice big plateful, and it’s delicious, and it takes forever to eat. For lunch, though, I was stymied. UNTIL I REMEMBERED SALADS.

I had to look in my archives to remember how to make them. I was standing there at the fridge, thinking “Okay: spinach, dressing, and…I forget.” Thank goodness for archives:

1. the salad-toppings post from the start of my last salad kick, with a comments section that makes me so happy about blogs

2. a salad I make with kielbasa and banana peppers, a post I transferred over from the old blog platform and so now it clearly needs some tweaking but then I’d have to tweak alllll the old posts and I can’t imagine I’ll get to that anytime soon

3. a salad made with shredded bbq chicken, tomatoes, corn, cheese, carrots, sunflower seeds

4. a salad made with buffalo-chicken nuggets, couscous, tomatoes, cheese, carrots, sunflower seeds

5. cheeseburger salad, made with a hamburger, cheese, tomatoes, dill pickles, bacon bits, and crushed-up Doritos


Today I had the one made with buffalo-chicken nuggets (#4), minus the couscous, plus some cut-up apple and slivered almonds, and then I ate the rest of the apple on the side. I feel so pleasantly full! It took so pleasantly long to eat!

I think my biggest hurdle with salads is thinking of them as Sad Diet Food. My mental picture of a salad involves someone eating one sullenly as everyone around them has cheeseburgers and fries. It takes effort to think of them as they really are: Giant Bowls of Things I Like to Eat. It can be a cheeseburger-and-fries SALAD.

21 thoughts on “A Return to the Joy of Salads

  1. Suzanne

    Yum. Now I am in the mood for salads! I think mine will have grilled chicken, corn, avocado, mozzarella, bell peppers, carrots, just the thinnest slivers of red onion, and some balsamic dressing on a bed of red leaf lettuce.

    Ohhh! Or I haven’t made The Salad I Made All Fall Long So I Got Sick Of It in many months! Mixed greens with a maple balsamic vinaigrette, candied pecans, goat cheese, dried cranberries, and sliced pears. Mmmmm.

    Do I have any of these things in my house? No. But I do have taco meat and some shredded iceberg, so taco salad it is!

  2. Holly

    I thought this post was about SANDALS. And kept reading, wondering why there was all this talk about salads, and no footwear! Then I went back and saw the title for the FOURTH time and realized. Oh. SALADS.

  3. Celeste

    Last time I went to Penzey’s for spices, I bought several small jars of salad dressing mixes. They have so many, and you add them to your own dairy or oil. I will mix them up and put them in a small jar. I look forward to trying them. The first two on my list are Ranch and Green Goddess. The Green Goddess is supposed to be a really good oven sauce for chicken, too.

    Salads got a lot better for me when I figured out that crunch took away the sadness. If it’s mainly lettuce and wet things, it’s sad. Color and crunch really help.

    1. rbelle

      Yes! I like to put broken up pretzel sticks in my salads instead of croutons – much cheaper and they add some nice saltiness with their crunch.

  4. Angela

    During my second trimester this time around I wanted a salad EVERY DAY. But only this salad: http://www.innatthecrossroads.com/greens-dressed-with-apples-and-pine-nuts/#more-4848 which we made for a Game of Thrones 5 course Feast one Christmas and have been eating regularly ever since. It is expensive-ish (pine nuts are hard to find) and a little cumbersome (You have to toast the pine nuts and make your own dressing) but SO GOOD. We chop the apples and keep them in a tupperware for a few days at a time, and make a double batch of dressing in a tupperware (using POM pomegranate juice instead of seeds cause who has time for that) and enjoy. The goat cheese and toasted pine nuts are DIVINE. The dressing is just basically honey, basalmic, and pomegranate juice. It is amazing.

    Anyway, that’s my pregnant salad craving!

    1. Angela

      Ugh, their recipe on the site is harder and more difficult than I remembered. Here’s how I do it:

      Start with:
      Bowl of zesty/lemon arugula and baby spinach
      Sprinkle generously:
      Chopped apples (I like one red and one green)
      Toasted Pine Nuts (we get these in the bulk section/healthy section and then toast them at home)
      Chevre/Goat Cheese

      Dressing (Combine in a little bowl and warm in microwave for about 20 seconds):
      3 tbs honey
      1 tsp balsamic vinegar
      1 tsp pomegranate juice

  5. Melissa

    “My mental picture of a salad involves someone eating one sullenly as everyone around them has cheeseburgers and fries.” YES THIS! I will now try to forget that mental picture and embrace salads that i know I love. Thanks for the kick!

  6. Susan

    Maybe instead think of them as BOWLS!
    That’s way more fun. Personally, I’m pretty happy with chopped up Romaine, some broccoli slaw and then chopped nuts, Parmesan and dressing. I hate big leaves, so I will only eat CHOPPED salad.

    In the summer, when I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make a giant grain salad: cooked brown rice or quinoa, tossed immediately (while warm) with chopped kale and a lemon/olive oil dressing (I believe it helps to soften the kale if the grain is warm), then add lots of stuff such as : avocado, chickpeas, chopped red onion, chopped nuts and/or sunflower seeds, peapods, spinach or romaine if I have some around. Always serve with shredded Parmesan; it makes EVERYTHING better. A big bowl of that lasts for several days in the fridge and you can just keep dipping into it.

    1. Anna

      I would like to second the Romaine recommendation- it is superior in Crunch to spring mix. One Romaine heart, chopped, is enough for two green/side salads the way I make them. A whole heart would make for a generous meal size salad. Try it!

  7. Gigi

    I need to jump on the salad bandwagon. The problem with me is I am SO picky about things, so my salads tend to all look alike. Like fruit. I don’t “think” it belongs in a salad – but apparently a lot of people love it. I should probably venture out of my “this is the way food should be arranged” ways and try something new.

  8. A

    A recent salad revelation: you can make shredded chicken (or pork or whatever) in a KitchenAid or similar stand mixer by putting cooked meat in the mixer with the paddle attachment and mixing at slow speed until it’s at the desired degree of shreddedness. Sooo much easier than shredding with forks…

  9. Jd

    Also Costco sells pre-shredded rotisserie chicken in vacuum packs. Perfect for fast easy salads or soups

  10. Ruby

    I also used think I didn’t like salads, then I had a very, very delicious (and borderline healthy!) salad in a restaurant, and now I feel differently. I make salads according to what I have in the house, so they’re different every time, but I almost always include:

    -lettuce/spinach/kale/some other kind of leaves (obviously)
    -a protein (I’m not big on eggs in salads, but I will use chicken, sausage, tofu, whatever’s in the fridge. I find that if I skip the protein the salad isn’t filling enough.)
    -feta cheese
    -something crunchy/salty (croutons, crumbled chips, etc.)
    -a sweet component (Usually cut-up fruit, but Trader Joe’s has a raspberry vinaigrette that is also excellent.)
    -dressing (Usually just plain old oil and vinegar, or the raspberry vinaigrette mentioned above.)
    -I don’t always have avocado, but when I do I always put it in because yum.

  11. SIL Anna

    I love this!!! The “cheeseburger-and-fries SALAD” reminds me of our last salad: steak, and browned onions, and browned mushrooms, with blue cheese, on chopped spinach. It’s like we just chopped up our dinner plates and mixed it all together.

    Otherwise, for not-a-steak-salad, I like adding the bagged coleslaw mix from the store (basically shredded cabbage and carrots) to the chopped up baby spinach and tossing it all together. I like the crunch of it in there. (Plus: Pepitas, raisins, feta, & Bolthouse Avocado Cliantro yogurt dressing: yum.)

  12. rbelle

    So, I don’t make particularly healthy salads because I need a lot of saltiness and fat to get down all those greens, but my go-to salad a couple months ago was chopped chicken nuggets (I like the honey-battered ones from Target, but even dino chicken nuggets work fine if you cook them in the oven rather than the microwave, so they are crispy), sliced pepperoncinis, a sprinkling of shredded cheese, and broken up pretzel sticks (my children have decided they don’t like pretzels, and I have BAGS and BAGS of them, so). I add ranch dressing (I find refrigerated ranch dressing SO much better than the Hidden Valley style ones you can keep at room temperature before opening), and use baby greens without any lettuce (usually spinach, kale, and chard). My favorite part of salads like this is that even after working my way through all the greens, I still have a lot of tasty topping at the bottom.

    For healthier salads, I’ll do the baby greens mix with sliced strawberries, blue cheese or gorgonzola crumbles, craisins if I have them, candied walnuts or pecans, and some type of vinaigrette dressing. These aren’t as filling, so I don’t make them as a lunch salad, but it’s nice for a way of getting greens on the table for dinner. I’m finding that a strong, soft cheese (goat/feta or blue/gorgonzola) plus candied nuts is a really fantastic combination that makes it possible for me to eat salad with healthier dressing because there’s so much flavor in those toppings.

  13. Shawna

    I believe I weighed in on my favourite salad toppings last time, but since then I’ve added a variation: spring mix, toasted salted almonds, grape tomatoes, dried cranberries, chicken, commercial balsamic dressing + (this is the new part) feta or goat cheese and diced roasted beets (pickled if roasted aren’t available). I had a similar salad to this at a local restaurant, minus the almonds and cranberries, but with roasted peaches added, and it was quite good. It used goat cheese.

  14. Phancymama

    I love salads SO much. I think of them as deconstructed meals. Or bowls, like the above poster says. The California Pizza Kitchen BBQ salad is amazing. I love putting jicama on them because that gives a really satisfying crunch. Capers add a yummy saltiness, and those french’s fried onions a good crunch. Goat cheese with a raspberry vinegarette on spinach is also very good, especially with pecans and mandarin oranges.
    Also, I read this post before going to sleep a few nights ago and drifted off to sleep thinking of my top salads and that was so lovely.

    Oh, and an evening dinner of chef salad was a standard growing up and I love it for my kids. Building their own salad makes them eat it!

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