Now this may seem a bit odd, why do you need to DIY a salad, McDonald’s has them, Farmer Boys has wonderful ones, Del Taco has a bowl with lettuce and pico de gallo, even Taco Bell has their “Fresco Style” menu that is kinda sorta healthy and has some vegetables in there somewhere… So why on earth am I taking the time to write about DIY-ing a salad? It’s simple, the art of salad making has died the same death that Sunday Roasts and family game night have. I take a salad to work with me most days and always get the same comments… “Wow, that looks amazing!” “What is in your salad? It’s so colorful and looks so good!” “Your salads always look so good!” You get the point. These comments are always followed up with comments of: “You must make that in the morning or that would have wilted…” “I don’t have time to make salads for lunch.” “I don’t have time to make lunch.” So now we get to the DIY-ing of the salad and I can give you an added plus, it’s cheap! Yes, bringing your lunch to work (and also cooking dinner) is cheaper than eating out (and healthier), shocking that?
First the basics:
1. Salad can contain ANYTHING! Of course traditionally (at least in my head) there is lettuce of some kind. After that, the sky is the limit.
2. Prep work is the key to success.
My parents (I say parents, and not mum or dad, because I don’t honestly remember which one said it first, or rather whole stole it first from someone else) always say the right tool for the job makes all the difference. This is no different:
|The Tools: Salad Spinner; Large and sandwich size zip top bags; Paper towels; Knife, Cutting board; Small Strainer|
I generally use romaine hearts or a similar type of lettuce. Slice the lettuce (two to three bunches depending on the size of your spinner) into bite sized pieces, about an inch in width and toss them into your spinner. Now you don’t have to use a salad spinner, a friend of mine informed me today that you can wash each leaf and then shake them to dry them. If you want to do that, have at it… personally, I am going to throw it all in the spinner and let the water spin away, plus I am likely to throw lettuce around the room if I shake it dry! Take the amount that you want to eat for lunch and put that that in a plastic container or whatever you take your lunch in and place the rest in a large zip top bag with a paper towel in the bag. Yes a paper towel. It helps wick the moisture away from the lettuce keeping it fresh and free of slime. Try it, I bet you put paper towels in with ALL your produce from here on out.
I use this trick with bagged carrots (the baby-already-pealed kind), bagged snap peas, and other vegetables. My fridge likes to kill vegetable… I want a new fridge, but until then paper towels work wonders for preserving my vegetables.
Try and make your salad as colorful as possible. Not only does it look good, but it is said to be good for you. Or so this website says… If I am using large bell peppers, then I often cut them up ahead of time and store them in a vacuum sealed plastic container or a sandwich sized zip-top bag. Storing for a few days is usually the most I will go, but that is usually all the peppers last me. I also use tomatoes (I prefer the cherry tomatoes because they are sweeter), cucumber, various herbs, avocado, cheese, and whatever fruit is in season. Yes, fruit goes wonderfully in a salad. Slice up some strawberries or orange and see what I mean. Nuts and/or a crunchy topping are also good along with beans of various types or meats (left over BBQ goes great on a salad). Be careful, a salad can turn from healthy and light to full of calories with a snap of your fingers.
The dressing… Now this is an area that can cause problems. If using olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I have some wonderful flavored oils and vinegars that jazz up my salads, one oil I even made myself, I know, shocking that one!) I tend to put this on when I make the salad that night; however, if using store bought, already mixed dressings, I tend to put them in a little plastic container and add it when I get to the office. I find the store bought ones tend to wilt the lettuce more than the olive oil and balsamic.
So that’s it. One or two nights a week the salad can take maybe 30 minutes to prep, but the rest of the week lunch is done in 10 minutes tops. Throw an apple or a plum into your bag along with a yogurt, carrots, hummus, chips, or whatever your desire is and lunch is done!
What about the bagged salad?
These salads are not bad, but I found that you got more bang for your buck with the cut-it-yourself variety. The bagged lettuce often gets slimy and goes bad before I have finished it or I have to get multiple bags, so I end up shopping multiple times a week to have enough. Plus I still end up getting the peppers, tomatoes, and other items so it really does not save me that much more in time but ultimately does cost me more. What saves me even more money are the fresh vegetables I get from my garden… but that is for another day!