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How to Make Amazing Salads in 5 Easy Steps

June 26, 2013

How to make amazing salads

One of my favorite yoga teachers always says something like, “If what you’re doing hurts, remember that YOU’RE doing it. You’re hurting yourself. Why would you do that?”

Lesson: Do something that feels good.

It relates to just about any area of life, including your food. If you don’t like what you’re eating, that’s important to realize! I want you to eat food that taste good, makes you feel good and doesn’t cost a fortune.

Possible? Yes. But you have to take responsibility for yourself, for your meals. Panera and McDonald’s are not in the business of taking care of you, y’know? (Even with their so-called healthy salads made with nutrient-poor veggies like iceberg lettuce and topped with dressings full of sugar.)

Salads can be AMAZING. They can be full of nutrient-dense, nourishing ingredients. They can be absolutely delicious. And they can be really easy and fast to make. That’s why I wanted to give you some tips for making your salads absolutely kick butt – and at the end of this post there are 2 recipes for really excellent salads I’ve made recently. Ready?

Here’s how I do it.

1. Start with an interesting blend of greens

Iceberg stinks, nutritionally speaking. Romaine is ok, but kinda boring. Arugula, watercress, swiss chard, baby kale…now we’re talking. Go for some really interesting greens and maybe even some purples or reds like radicchio or red cabbage. Mix it up.

In my 10-Minute Awesome Steak Salad pictured above I used a blend of arugula and endive. (Recipe at the end of this post.)

2. Add mad color

Salads aren’t just about tomatoes and cucumbers. Virtually any vegetables will work – try mixing raw and cooked veggies to create unexpected, colorful combinations. Fresh herbs are always a good idea, and I often reach into the fridge for vegetables from last night’s dinner. It’s a great way to use those leftovers and waste less food! Chopped fruit is another way to get color, flavor and a burst of nutrients.

Here are some examples of combinations:
– Blanched green beans, raw corn kernels, roasted eggplant
– Shredded raw carrots and radishes, roasted cauliflower and fennel
– Fresh peaches, avocado slices, minced jalapeƱos,

In my Gorgeous Golden Beet Salad I used golden beets, red cabbage and green basil for beauty and flavor. (Recipe at the end of this post.)


3. Load up on protein

Salads without protein belong next to your dinner – not as a substitute for dinner. If your salad is going to be your whole meal, be sure to add plenty of protein.

Here are some ideas (and combining a few of these together is a great idea):
– Sliced steak or chicken
– Ham cubes or bacon
– Cheese
– Hardboiled eggs
– Fish, shrimp, smoked salmon or canned tuna
– Protein rich cooked grains like quinoa or buckwheat
– Beans
– Nuts and seeds

Again, it’s a huge time saver and money saver to use leftovers from another meal. Grab and go, no cooking required.

4. Be well-dressed

Store bought salad dressings make me angry. They are expensive and full of low-quality ingredients, usually including some form of sugar. To make your salads go WOW, I definitely recommend making your own easy dressing. It’s as easy as whisking together some olive oil (use good stuff like this) and vinegar, or you can blend it up with things like:

– Fresh or dried herbs
– Lemon, lime or orange juice
– Garlic
– Ginger
– Tamari or soy sauce
– Miso
– Worcestershire sauce
– Tahini
– Hot pepper sauce
– Olives
– Walnuts, cashews, pine nuts or other “soft” nuts
– Mustard
– Raw honey


5. Add the unexpected

Last weekend I had a salad that included kim chee. It was fantastic! I love when salads include some unexpected gems.

Try adding toppings like:
– Kim chee or sauerkraut
– Pickles
– Capers
– Hummus
– Almond butter
– Coconut flakes
– Nori
– Whatever else you can dream up!

Here are 2 recipes to get you started:

10-Minute Awesome Steak Salad
Serves 2

2 Tbl. coconut oil
1 lb. sirloin steak
1 onion, sliced very thin
about 4 cups mixed salad greens (arugula, chopped endive)
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbl. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl. tamari
1 Tbl. finely minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Heat 1 Tbl. oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook steak about 4 minutes on each side, or until done to your liking. Remove steak from pan and let rest for a few minutes before slicing.

Heat remaining 1 Tbl. oil to pan, then add sliced onions. Stir frequently and cook until caramelized.

Blend dressing ingredient together.

To serve, start with a bed of mixed salad greens. Top with meat, onions, pecans, blue cheese and dressing.

Gorgeous Golden Beet Salad
Serves 3-4

4 large golden beets with their greens
1 cup brown rice
1 cup dried lentils
1 Tbl. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or pine nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

(You can do this step ahead of time) Preheat oven or toaster oven to 375F. Cut greens from beets, rinse and chop. Set aside. Scrub beets and wrap in foil – no need to peel. Roast for about 1 hour, until fork tender. Cool and slice.

In the meantime, fill large stock pot with water. Bring to a boil and add rice and lentils. Continue boiling for 30 minutes, then drain.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Cook onions until translucent, then add garlic, beet greens and cabbage. Cook until greens are slightly softened. Combine greens with rice and lentils. Stir in vegetable stock.

Serve rice mixture with sliced beets. Top with nuts and parmesan cheese.

Had any good salads recently?

This post is part of Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.