How to Turn a Simple Salad into a Super Salad!
Currently Listening to: Grimes
I'm not a super health nut, but I do appreciate healthy foods. Particularly since my health has been super crazy up and down lately; what else can I do but be better to my body any way I can?
On a side, personal note, I was recently put on Prozac for anxiety, and a month later had to drop it because of too much serotonin, which was extremely unfortunate, because I noticed HUGE improvements in my mood, attitude, energy, happiness, and --most of all-- my coping mechanisms when it came to stress and problems. Having to quit the drug, however, has put me on a super search for anything and everything that will (naturally) aid my body in any way possible. Homeopathic remedies for cramps, stress, and sleep, along with more exercise (when I finally can stand for more than five minutes at a time again...) and healthier food are all on my list, even if I have to find a new job to afford it.
So lately I've become obsessed with salads because they're easy, no heat meals (no microwave in my tiny new flat) that fill me up while making me feel healthier, and not smothering my salads with junk has been my first step to making improvements in my meals.
So! Here is my guide to turning a super simple salad, into one that's just plain Super FOR you!
1. Start with your greens. This can really be any greens, from iceberg to romaine to arugula, but for a Super salad, the more variety (and color) the better! Iceberg is really just water, and romaine is pretty much just a step above that, so go for whatever mixture you can manage!
I love starting with a good pre-mixed Mixed Greens salad. In today's bowl, it was a Baby Kale mix (kale is full of iron!) with a lot of different baby greens, most I didn't even recognize, but all tasty and probably super healthy!
2. Add some basic variety. My favorites? Nuts and Dried Fruit. I used to be a salad purist: greens only for me! I hated fruit, cheese, nuts, seeds, or anything not green on my salad. No more! I'm obsessed with Slivered Almonds and Dried Cranberries, both for texture (crunch and chew!) and for health (almonds= protein & good fats, cranberries = sugar, which is good in small quantities, & goodness like vitamin C and antioxidants).
Allergic or don't like? Try other crunchy/chewy combinations. Sunflower seeds and dried cherries? Apple slices and walnuts? Fresh blueberries and pecans? Just grab your favorites and throw them in!
3. Add some super food punch!! This is new for me, but when making my salad tonight I glanced in the fridge and noticed a container of cooked Quinoa I had made but not used. Salad ingredient?
Quinoa is a new thing for my household, but it instantly became a favorite. Grainy carb? NO! Soft but with a tiny crunch and a nutty flavor, this strange little seed is high in fiber and one of the ONLY non-meat complete protein there is!
When someone tells you lentils have more protein than, say, chicken, they're full of shit, because your body doesn't absorb all that protein because it isn't "complete". Quinoa, on the other hand, is a complete protein. Your body takes it all in and uses it up!
Not too mention a heap of fiber, fucking calcium, folate, AND it helps regulate blood sugar.
Fuck rice, people; eat this stuff!
Anyway. Two heaping tablespoons of cold yellow quinoa (or is it "white"? dunno, i prefer red) on top of the greens, nuts, and fruit.
4. Add protein of your choice. Anything will work, as long as it's lean and/or good for you. If your vegan or vegetarian, go for the stuff you'd normally use. Anything will work, from veggie sausage to tofu to tofurkey. Personally, I avoid un-fermented soy products, but, seriously; Whateves.
That stuff on mine that looks like dog food is actually a leftover hamburger patty from last night's dinner. 90/10 (somewhat local) fresh beef mashed with zucchini chunks, some spices, and nothing else. I think I've been low on iron, so I wanted something with nutritional oomph, and since everything else is low-calorie/low-fat, the leftover grease from the burger pan was no big deal.
5. Dress it up. Lightly, please. This is not the time to smother it in Ranch or Catalina. Go for something with that is low calorie but high in flavor and goodness.
I used a faux-greek dressing I always have a mason jar of on hand. It's super simple; 1 part Balsamic Vinegar or a mixture of half balsamic, half red wine vinegar -- 1 part Olive Oil (always use olive oil: good fats!), some dashes of any extra flavor liquid you'd like (lemon juice works good), and as many spices as you can lay your hands on. I use black pepper, Garlic Salt, dried parsley, dried basil, and a salad spice mixture i got from the international store that has a mix of things like turmeric, celery, onion, coriander, etc. I love it. Shake shake shake, and store in the cabinet (the fridge will turn the oil into a gloopey block).
Sprinkle over your giant salad lightly, until satisfied.
Don't saturate it, but if you can't taste your dressing, feel free to add more.
-- i did not add cheese to my salad. There is calcium in the quinoa, so why add the extra fat (and allergens) from the cheese. Occasionally I will add crumbled feta, gorgonzola, or fresh mozerella, but really, that's not necessary when I've got the quinoa (though it does absorb the extra dressing nicely).
-- Step it up! Another thing I love to do is add shaved veggies. Grab a potato peeler and shred up some carrots, cucumber, zucchini, or any other raw veggies that are pretty solid. Yay for more nutrients!
-- A note on quinoa. This shit CAN be expensive. I've seen it as high as $6/pound at the health food store, or worse, though I will say a little goes a long way. BUT, make the trip to your closest Trader Joes, and you should be able to find it for just over half that price. It's worth it to replace plain white rice and add that crazy boost to your nutrients in any meal.
-- Don't have or like quinoa? Add another superfood. Avocado, while mushy, goes wonderfully in salads and is so good for you it's not even funny. Or try chickpeas! Artichokes! The possibilities are endless.
-- Like creamy dressings? You could also make a simple, greek yogurt based dressing, such as with cucumbers or avocados, and dashes of lemon juice or vinegar. Just Google cucumber dressing and you're likely to find a light, quick dressing that will work wonders and still be good for you.
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