In the colder months, I love to cook soup. It’s easy, and soup makes excellent leftovers. I can eat on the same soup every day for lunch. I know, for some people the idea of repeating the same lunch over and over is an awful idea. Thankfully, I don’t mind.
Now, as the weather warms up, I switch from soup to salad. Salad options are ENDLESS. And to make it even better, you can mix up your salads so it doesn’t always feel like eating the same thing over and over.
Sometimes it can be easy as changing up the lettuce.
Loose leaf Lettuce
Loose leaf lettuce, like red or green leaf lettuce are pretty flimsy and usually don’t last as long as other lettuce. Because of this, you’ll need to use it sooner rather than later, and keep it separate until you are ready to eat.
It isn’t a good lettuce to meal prep with in the traditional sense, but you can still prep it ahead of time.
Loose leaf lettuce should be washed ahead of time and patted dry. It’s also not a bad idea to wrap it in paper towels before storing it in the refrigerator.
Iceberg lettuce is probably what a lot of us grew up on as a kid. Now a days, iceberg often is looked down upon because there are so many more options that have more nutritional value than iceberg. Iceberg is still the go to for wedge salads as it can handle the thicker dressing without wilting, and for taco and burger toppings because of the added crunch factor.
You’ll often find butter lettuce used in restaurants in most lettuce cup recipes. Butter lettuce usually has a great bowl shaped design and very mild flavor. The leaves bruise and discolor easy, so use them with care! Butter lettuce is great with almost any kind of salad, and on sandwiches. Ironically, it’s the only lettuce my youngest will allow to grace his burgers.
Other Lettuce I Use
I love arugula and kale as well. I always have spinach on hand and sprinkle that in almost all my salads. Romaine is our go to lettuce for caeser salads.
It might sound silly and simple, but just switching out your greens can alter your daily salad.
Changing Up Other Produce
I almost never follow a set recipe for salads and just choose to use what I have on hand. Your toppings are only limited by your imagination! Here are some options beyond tomatoes and cucumbers:
Any raw vegetable from the produce section from zucchini to mushrooms to radishes and more. If you want to take it a step further, roast some of your veggies for added depth to your salads. I love adding roasted asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, and eggplant to salads. Or grilled onions and peppers for a fajita salad.
Fruit is a fun thing to play around with in salads. Spinach and strawberries go hand in hand, but other fruits, such as apples add an excellent crunch factor in salads. Citrus and beets are another common combo that go well together, and you can those to a bed of spinach with some feta for an excellent, refreshing side dish.
Dried fruit is another idea that many people don’t consider! Costco carries this spinach salad that has dried cranberries, and excellent salad by the way. Dried apricots and dried mango are two more dried fruits I’ve seen on salads and add a nice tropical twist.
Beans are one of my favorite go to toppings for a one dish meal. Black beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans all can be used to bulk up your salad.
I love one dish meals, and big, hearty salads are my go to for dinner. But, to fill up my teen son, he needs more than a bowl of vegetables. I love firing up the grill on Sundays and cooking up some marinated chicken breast or a tri tip or even some salmon. All of these are excellent choices for salad toppers, creating a hearty and healthy one dish meal.
If you are trying to cut back on the amount of meat you are eating, tofu is an excellent option for a hearty salad topping. The sheer number of ways to cook it is vast, and using leftover throughout the week to add bulk to your salad is easy, inexpensive, and convenient.
Cheese is one of those be careful foods. They add great flavor, whether you use hard cheese (parmesan or cheddar to name two) or soft (mozzarella, blue, goat). The amount of fat can add up quick with cheese, so use it sparingly.
Nuts and Seeds
There are even ‘salad topping’ packets out there that include a mix of nuts and seeds and dried herbs to add to your salad. These are fun, and so convenient! I’ve seen them at Trader Joe’s, Amazon, and most grocery stores.
Taking the above ideas you can mix and match salad ideas, rarely eating the same exact salad more than once.
Here are five of my favorite salad ideas:
Beet salads are one of my favorite to make because they’re so easy. I make life easier by purchasing the pre-cooked and peeled beets at Costco, eliminating the longest step of cooking the beets.
Chicken Avocado Salad
Like I said, I rarely follow full salad recipes. I prefer to skim Pinterest and find ideas, substituting out items I don’t have with what I happen to have on hand. This salad is different in that I almost always have the items on hand for this salad.
This is another one where I never use the recipe…except to try new salad dressings. I love Mexican food, and fajitas might be one of my favorite things to cook and eat. I work very hard to limit how often I make fajitas, but when I do, I ALWAYS make a big salad the next day. Throwing grilled peppers, onions, leftover grilled meat, avocado, and a new kind of dressing makes this a go to salad in my house, summer and winter. This recipe is actually a great one to try if you’re making this for the first or tenth time!
I love Greek salads, the tang, the brine of olives, the feta…I just love everything about them. I love adding chicken or salmon or shrimp to these salads in order to make them a one dish meal. This recipe is an excellent jumping off point!
Using black beans and corn can give your salad a southwestern flair. In most salads, it’s easy to sub out meat for tofu, but it’s especially easy in this salad.
Like I said, I love salads once the weather gets warm. I don’t like to cook, and since my kitchen faces west, it gets brutally hot already, and using the stove only makes life much worse for our poor under performing air conditioner.
So, salads are almost a necessity when we face triple digit temperatures. I’ve learned to prep as much as I can on Sunday, so that we are ready for the week.