Build a better salad

So how are those resolutions going for you?


I’ve consciously dropped a few, forgotten a few (gotta get them written down where I can see them regularly instead of in my journal!), and am holding strong on a few.  My kids are learning to cook once a week, my salad greens are just starting to sprout in the garden thanks to the lovely warm weather we have had, and I am eating salad.  Pretty much daily.  And I’m not sick of it yet.  Truthfully, I started this last year so it’s not a huge change, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

A good salad starts with a quality base of greens, has a variety of fillers, and is paired with a dressing to match.

base:  I always have organic spring greens or spinach in the fridge.  Hopefully I’ll be able to migrate to garden greens soon enough, but for now I make my weekly trip to the grocery store.  Once a month or so I will buy a head of cabbage for my slaw-style salads.  One head of cabbage goes a long, long way…

variety of fillers:  There are days where I dump/rinse greens, add dressing, call it done.  That said, salads are much better when there is a variety of textures, flavors, and colors in them.  Can’t forget about eye appeal!

My standard savory salad has celery, carrots, and tomatoes and cucumbers.  Or some combo of the above.  For a tex-mex flavor I add avocado.  Sometimes I’ll add feta or parmesan to fancy it up.  Or eggs and bacon or salmon to give it a little more protein and flavor.  Roasted onions and purple cabbage give it a gourmet twist – especially with sunflower seeds and goat cheese.  I love goat cheese.

If I’m going sweeter I’ll use a spinach base and add nuts, craisins, and fresh fruit like apples or pears or peaches.  I also like goat cheese on my “fancy” salads.

Don’t forget about those crumbs in the bottom of the cracker or chip bags!  They make a flavorful, fun alternative to croutons.   Goldfish crackers also add a few smiles and colors, and may even convince the kids to eat it.  Panko and leftover toast can also go well with the right salad.


dressings:  I like to have a couple of store-bought dressings ready to go at all times because they are so convenient and there are some really healthy, pure options out there now.  That said, many have extra sugar, fillers, and preservatives that I try to minimize and so I make my own most days.  The secret to making your own dressing is to blend oil, vinegar or another acidic liquid, and spices.  

That’s it!  greens, fillers, and top with a dressing you like.  I think it tastes best to stir or shake the dressing ingredients together, taste-test, then toss the dressing into the salad.  Using a bowl one size bigger than you think you will need – salad likes to jump out when tossed- stir the dressing into the greens and fillers until each little piece is covered.


Ready-made bagged salads are great inspiration; and a great alternative if you need to get dinner on the table fast.  I love HEB’s Asian slaw salad and Costco’s brussel sprout, kale, and cranberry blend with the poppy seed dressing.

Also,  I have found that my kids prefer salads that can be eaten with a spoon, so I chop or tear those leaves and veggies into bite-size pieces for the littlest mouth.   Think cole-slaw size. My older two can now eat regular-size greens with a fork, but my four year-old still prefers tiny pieces.



My favorite slaw recipe is from Bon Appetit.  I love this dressing! It keeps for a day or so; a bonus since most salads don’t do well as leftovers.

tex-mex dressing:  1/3 lemon juice, 1/3 olive oil, 1/3 apple cider vinegar, a dash of salt and a dash of oregano.

fruity dressing:  1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part apple-cider vinegar, 2 parts olive oil, 1 part jam.  Salt and add thyme or herbs de provence to taste.  Apricot, peach, and berry jams are my faves.  

Honey-mustard dressing:  Know when the mustard bottle won’t squeeze anything else out but you know there’s a bit in there?  Start with that.  Add a dash of vinegar, olive oil, onion powder, and a healthy squirt of honey.  Close the bottle and shake it up good.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Label with a Sharpie so family members do not accidentally use it on their turkey sandwich.

For more inspiration on storing greens and making great salads, check out Jamie Oliver’s book Cook.  The rest of the book is pretty good, but the salad section impacted me the most.

What’s your favorite salad?




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