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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kitchen Sink Salads: A How-To Guide

I’m not a fan of the traditional Woman-On-A-Diet salad. I see them being eaten for lunch often enough: iceberg lettuce leaves, a few cucumber slices, a few grape tomatoes, and fat-free vinaigrette dressing, probably with the word “balsamic” in the name. A lunch like that for me would mean a sure trip to the vending machine an hour later looking for pretzels or chips, or more likely lead to a binge episode once I got home from work feeling half starved. A salad like that isn’t satisfying either physically or mentally and doesn’t have much to offer in the way of nutritious fuel either.

Lately, I’ve been making something I call a “Kitchen Sink Salad”. Because it’s got everything in it but… well, you get the idea.

To make a Kitchen Sink Salad you begin with a grain. Recently I made one using wheat berries which led to a lot of speculation on my family’s part as to what exactly a wheat berry is (they’re whole, unprocessed wheat kernels). Other good grains include quinoa, farro, rice, barley and millet. Pick whichever you like best, or one you simply want to try. Cook the grain according to package directions. I like to cook mine in low sodium vegetable, chicken, or beef broth as this imparts more flavor.

When the cooked grain has been relocated to a big mixing bowl but is still hot, add one to two bags of greenery. I like a mix of spring greens, baby spinach, and baby arugula – but again, it’s your salad so add what you like. The hot grain will wilt the greens down and make them take up less space.

Then as things are cooling, chop and add whatever vegetables looked appealing to you when you were most recently wandering a farmer’s market or the produce section of your local grocery store. I like grape tomatoes of all colors, bell peppers, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, red onion, carrot, scallion, jalapeno, zucchini, and squash. (I don’t really recommend mushrooms because if you store your salad for more than 24 hours they can get weird).

Chop and add a fresh herb; basil, dill and cilantro are my favorites.

Add a sparing amount of fatty, delicious, indulgent extras; like avocado, kalamata olives (or whatever olive you like), Muenster cheese, Havarti, or creamy mozzarella. I like mild cheeses but if you like sharp, add sharp. I’ve never added nuts to a Kitchen Sink Salad, but nuts would be awesome too.

For dressing I use an acid and a base. This usually means squeezing the juice of a fresh lime over the whole thing and then drizzling on good olive oil. Any acid will do though (lemon, orange, vinegar… whatever you like).

Salt and pepper to taste, and that’s it!

The grains provide protein, the vegetables provide nutrients, there’s healthy fats involved (and some fats that are simply satisfying). This salad obviously has more calories than a traditional Woman-On-A-Diet salad, but it’s also a lot more physically and psychologically appealing, at least to me.

This is what was in the Kitchen Sink salad I made for my Dad’s birthday over the weekend:

  • 2 cups of wheat berries boiled in low sodium vegetable broth (takes an hour, they’re hard)
  • 1 bag of baby spinach and arugula
  • 1 bag of mixed spring greens
  • 1 gigantic, delicious, monster heirloom tomato that my friend grew in her backyard
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small block of Havarti cheese with dill
  • The juice of one lime
  • Several tablespoons of good olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Feeds: many! With leftovers to spare.


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