Contrary to popular belief, salads can be delicious without bacon bits, cheese and ranch dressing. As crazy as this may sound, there are other ingredients out there that can be just as, if not more, tasty. So, if those three ingredients aren't invited to the party, what else could possibly make lettuce palatable? Well fret not, my friend, I'm going to share with you my secret process for building unbelievably delicious salads and give you some hints on extra tasty ingredients that'll make you forget about bacon.
Step 1. Pour the Green Foundation
Greens are an important source of fiber, which helps to keep digestion moving. Greens provide us with a lot of vitamins and other beneficial plant nutrients. They are high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C, and promote good eye and bone health. As a bonus, they offer us with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, both of which can help our bodies recover from damage.
While you might be familiar with shredded iceberg lettuce, there are other leafy alternatives, such as romaine, butter, spinach and arugula, that can provide you with different flavor profiles. If you're the adventurous type, you can blend several greens together.
Step 2. Frame with Protein
Another key ingredient is protein. We need protein to keep us alert and strengthen our bodies. Additionally, vital organs are made and maintained with proteins, so you'll want to find a protein source that works for you and your salad.
Although bacon may be absent from my suggested ingredient list, there are other great substitute proteins available that are just as tasty when properly prepared. Legumes, chickpeas, chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and tofu are great options.
Red meat sounds tempting, but if you're trying to fight off the gloom in the wintertime, you'll want to avoid red meat, as it is difficult to digest and encourages lethargy which is already too present during the winter season.
Step 3. Cushion with Grains
Adding a whole grain is important because grains can provide rich reserves of energy for the body to draw on quickly. While you're at work, you may not always have time to grab food (although you should try make time), so those energy reserves can come into play when you're missing meals during the bustle of the workday.
There are a lot of grains available, but my favorite tasty ones include wheatberry, farro and barley. One thing you have to be careful about when eating grains is to wash them thoroughly and cook them, if they're not already pre-cooked, before trying to eat them. Raw grains can make for a very unpleasant afternoon at work. For a gluten-free option, try quinoa.
Step 4. Load the Vegetables
If you were looking to splurge a little on your salad, these are the ingredients were you can go a little crazy. Roast them. Sauté them. Grill them. Steam them. Eat them uncooked. There are a variety of preparation methods that will help you extract flavor for your salad. Choose your favorite. My personal favorite is roasting vegetables. If I'm planning to use roasted vegetables for lunch, I make sure to roast them the night before to save time. Broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, beets, parsnips and carrots are easily roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Any leftover veggies from stir-fry's or other meals work well, too!
Step 5. Sprinkle the Fun Stuff
The fun stuff is the best part! Add dried fruit, almonds, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, and chia seeds. Let your imagination run wild! For an extra little treat, slightly toast nuts and seeds in a hot skillet to help extract some of those natural nutty flavors. Be sure to let them cool down before topping them with your salad. (If you are wondering where's the cheese, I've purposely omitted it. It's wintertime at the time of this writing, and during the winter, you'll want to avoid cheese and other milk products because they can slow down digestion, which will add to that winter lethargy.)
Step 6. Finish with a Dressing
Last, but not least, don't forget your dressing! Think 3 to 1 (oil to vinegar).
Here's an easy recipe for a homemade salad dressing:
- 3 Tbsp oil (extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed, avocado, or your favorite oil)
- 1 Tbsp vinegar (white wine, apple cider, or balsamic)
- Pinch of salt and pepper
Feel free to add extra tasty bits to your dressing, such as minced garlic, a splash of lemon juice, a bit of mustard and honey, or crushed red pepper flakes to kick up the spice.
Once you've assembled your salad construction project, you'll want to give thanks and dive in to see if you really even miss that bacon and cheese. I'm betting you won't!