Monday, July 16, 2012

Turn That Boring Salad into Something Fantastic!

What do you think of when you hear the word “salad?” Here's what comes to my mind: Diet. Boring. Deprivation. At least when you feel like it might be the only thing that's healthy to eat when you're trying to lose weight.

Well think again! When I have a meal, I want it to be satisfying, flavorful, filling and enjoyable, not something that’s going to leave my stomach and tastebuds starving afterwards. That’s what good food is all about! So read on; salad no longer has to be a "four letter word." Just add the right ingredients! The following additions will make your salads a meal that you'll look forward to. They're seriously flavorful, they'll fill you up and have lots of nutritional bang too.

1. A strong cheese
Strongly flavored cheeses add tons of flavor in a much smaller quantity. Since cheese is naturally a source of fat, it keeps your tummy full long after eating. Try adding goat cheese (chevre), blue cheese or feta. Just stick to a 1-ounce portion size, about the size of your thumb, to limit the fat and calories. And here's a bonus: by adding cheese to your salad you can check one serving of calcium off your list! Try my Spring Asparagus and Penne Salad that contains goat cheese.

2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a heart-healthy, filling substitute for meat on your salad. One-quarter cup of nuts
contains about 200 calories; approximately the same amount as 3 to 4 ounces of lean meat, but you’ll also get a healthy dose of unsaturated fats and fiber. If you have time, toasting nuts adds additional flavor. Just toast them in a dry pan over medium-heat, turning gently until they start to turn golden brown.

3. A nutty starch
This is a great way to add whole grains to a meal that might otherwise not contain them. Whole grains, like brown rice, bulgur and whole wheat pasta, are chock-full of B vitamins and fiber—they’re filling elements that will really last. Their chewy texture is one that I really enjoy. Try my Bulgar Salad; it contains three ingredients from this list! And watch for a new recipe coming soon...Wild Rice and Cherry Salad.

4. Flavored oil and vinegar
Flavored oils and vinegars add an unexpected major boost of flavor to your salads. You can find them at many grocers or specialty shops (yes, there really are shops that sell just oils and vinegars!). Whisk vinegar with oil and pour or spritz onto your salad. I received some samples of diOlivas Blood Orange Olive Oil and Cranberry Pear Balsamic Vinegar as a gift from a friend last Christmas. Combined, they came together to form a fabulous treat! Try a mixture such as this on top of spinach salad with chicken breast, mandarin oranges and slivered almonds.

Try an oil mister to easily add controlled amounts of vinegar and oil dressings to your salads! I'm keen on these that spray without chemicals or propellants: Misto Gourmet Olive Oil SprayerNorpro Stainless Steel Oil Mister or Prepara Oil Mister.

5. Avocado
Nothing compares to the cool, creamy texture of avocados. They’re a filling source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that will add to your post-meal fullness factor. Slice an avocado and add it to most any salad or mix up a batch of guacamole to dollop on top of your healthy taco salad. Limit the calories by only adding about one-quarter of the avocado at a time. Seal the remainder, unsliced, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Don't they look filling? Try one and let me know what you think.