Q #161: How do you make healthy salads (& not get sick of them)?

I had to go grocery shopping yesterday because my parakeets needed some more greens and I was down to kale, lettuce, and cauliflower (at least they like ’em). But I also planned to get enough for myself so we could all get healthier.

The tricky thing is, I don’t mind a bunch of vegetables so far. but I’ve tried very few, and fewer fruits, so I’m not sure what I’m getting myself into flavor-wise. Other than one well-balanced recipe I’ve grown to love (and will likely eat on the next few days), I really have no palate to speak of. I see the pieces, but I can’t figure out the best way to combine them and enjoy the flavors each item brings out. I’m talking largely veggie salads with maybe a little meat and dressing. I’m trying to minimize the cheese as much as I can, because that’s where I get screwed up and in trouble. Something that should be balanced ends up overloaded with cheese, croutons, and goopy bleu cheese or ranch with some chopped cheap lunchmeat thrown in sometimes. That was typical, and very yuck to me now. It turned a healthy meal into junk so quickly.

No wonder I avoided most salads for ages. But I want more veggies and fruits in my diet–again–and I stink at cooking ’em at the moment. It’s gonna take time to improve my style, and as the days get warmer, hot veggies aren’t really something I look forward to.

My favorite salad recipe that I learned about was a Spinach-Strawberry salad. It is still crazy easy to make: spinach, strawberries, almonds (or walnuts), feta cheese, and a fat-free Raspberry Vinaigrette. Wonderfully tangy and cool on a hot day, and filling. Doesn’t need meat. That’s the only one I know how to make. I don’t know why it works, but all those elements together taste nice. The green spinach, tang of the berries and dressing, the cheese has sharpness, and the nuts provide a bit of sweet.

But when I look beyond at spinach and other basic veggies, I can’t seem to come up with anything, and I don’t want to make a “kitchen sink” salad where all these different greens mix but seem to wage war with the toppings and dressing on the tongue. And pre-made salads at the grocery store, though often nice tasting, get so damned boring very quickly (and pricey, with a lot of extra plastic garbage I’m not comfortable with). The whole reason for my garden was to supply me with fresh produce to put together raw and/or cook it and enjoy. I just can’t figure out what goes best with what to create a great meal with plenty of flavor so my taste buds don’t seek out cheap junk food anymore.

salad-2756467_1280

This is what it feels like. I have a fridge full of ingredients of all types I could use, but what the hell SHOULD I use? Intimidating as hell.

And the same goes for fruit combos for a basic fruit salad. Not something that could double as a fancy dessert because of all the syrups and yogurt or whatever that I’ve been seeing lately. I’m still trying to get better at figuring out the ripeness of melons and such because there’s nothing I hate more than waiting for something to ripen for days (only to forget about it), or I think it’s ripe and it’s super hard to chew on and has so little flavor because I was too early. Maybe I’ll have to find a farmer’s market around here and get a crash course in “ripeness for dummies.” I just can’t seem to get it right…(sigh) something else to work on this weekend).

I’m just curious if there are any veggie salad recipe books you would recommend, or any tips or tricks pages you know of that can help with pairings, like “if you’re using fresh spinach, these go well with it” types of things. Maybe I’m just too tired after the headaches and nausea of yesterday, but I can’t seem to get the right keywords or phrasing to find what I want. The only book I know I’m gonna get next chance is a homemade salad dressing recipe book, because if there’s a way to keep ’em and store ’em tightly for a few weeks, that will be a huge help. I hate how even something you think is healthy has to be loaded down with sugar, and it might be why I steered clear of dressings.

For the record, the few things I did find included balsamic vinaigrette… sadly, I HATE balsamic vinaigrette. I think it’s just so potent on my tongue and too much of a vinegar flavor that overrides everything else and requires a lot of water for me to get rid of the taste. Damn near burns it. I dunno why that suddenly became so popular, but there you go.

Anyway, if there’s resources you’ve consulted when you were in a rut that helped a bunch (I’m gonna spend most of the day checking my cookbooks in between cleanings and chopping veggies for the birds), or books that gave a lot of “pairings” details, then let us know. Have you had the same trouble and figured out what worked better for you in sticking with healthier options?

And after a weekend of spinach and strawberries, and that quarter watermelon I picked up on a whim, I’m bound to want to try something new and awesome.

Any help would be great.

Floor’s yours…

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7 thoughts on “Q #161: How do you make healthy salads (& not get sick of them)?

  1. TheChattyIntrovert says:

    ADDENDUM: As of 9:30 pm, I found one of my cookbooks that I thought I’d lent to someone else, but I guess they brought it back and put it in the wrong spot. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (part of the How to Cook Everything series of books) has a lot of cold salad recipes and combos that I can start with. There is a TON in that book, and just going through the salad section, I can tell it’s going to be some interesting experimentation in the next few months (especially with the dressing recipes).

    So, I found one resource, in case anyone else was wondering or looking for similar info.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lobotero says:

    I make a pomegranate vinaigrette……I also grow my own salad greens….makes a salad a bit better knowing I can go out and pick it…..the problem is we all have different tastes….like I do not like fruit in my salad…..and I like goat cheese…..and I can only eat so many salads before I get disgusted at the thought…..LOL good eating chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      Yeah, that’s the hard part to me–when your taste buds get tired, and then you’ve got a fridge full of produce that’s gonna go bad unless you force yourself to eat it. Makes it hard to stick to because then you’re like “man, I wasted all that food last time!”

      I just stink at flavor combos and determining whether something’s ripe enough to pick or not. So used to processed junk that I gotta wake up the palate, like Wolfgang Puck says.

      I’ve got all kinds of greens I’m about to chop up for the birds (keeping some for me) and making lists of what I can pair with what greens as I go along this week. Hope it works.

      Liked by 1 person

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