There really shouldn’t be anything too overwhelming with a salad, right? Riiiiight? It’s just a combo of different chopped up ingredients that all come together because of some tasty dressing. That’s the idea, yes? Well, wait. Usually salads aren’t overwhelming. Usually they’re, kinda… no, pretty darn, underwhelming. Today, all we have here is a chicken salad. But there’s been a bit of thought when it comes to what makes up the salad so that each bite isn’t just the same. dang. bite. over. and. over.
When living the salad life, which one often dives into while opting for a real food style of eating, one of the complaints that comes up is… “this is boring”. Well! If this sounds familiar to you, or it’s what is holding you back from diving into prepping some concoctions in the kitchen that you’ll actually eat, let’s make things easy and recognize that in addition to a good rotation of dressings, one of the easiest ways to keep your mouth happy with a big ol’ salad is to make sure you’re using the spice of life–variety!
How do you catch up to the variety game in a salad? Let’s break down some of the important factors to consider:
Compartmentalized salad components
- So much variety can happen here! Greens typically do the trick. Arugula, mixed baby greens, greens with some extra herbs thrown in, grated cabbage, shaved Brussels sprouts. Opt for one.
- Whether a fried egg, leftovers from a rotisserie chicken or last night’s leftover pork chop, keep it simple. A well-cooked protein in a salad is about all you need, since the remaining components and the dressing will do most of the heavy lifting from a flavor perspective.
- The greens are great, and now it’s time to get a bit more specific with the vegetable texture. Grating, slicing or mincing raw vegetables so they’re easy to get on each forkful and can carry the dressing and/or vinaigrette well. Think grated carrots, diced bell peppers or celery, minced raw onions, sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables.
A FATTY CRUNCH
- Nuts and seeds, baby! I love me some toasted and cooled pumpkin seeds, walnuts or pine nuts (ok, I never buy the pine nuts because they’re so expensive. But, one day you know, I’ll move to the magical land of California where I can wild harvest pine nuts and all will be right with the world…)
- Dried fruit, fresh fruit, cooked vegetables with a bit of sweetness (maybe some caramelized onions?). Throw in a handful of something slightly sweet to keep your tastebuds entertained bite and bite. Trust me on this. And naturally sweet foods, like fruit, will help the meal feel satisfying from their ability to give us a nice amount of carbohydrates, while still offering enough fiber, mineral and water content that for many of us really won’t contribute to a too-quick rise in blood sugar levels.
- An extra fresh herb tossed in? A little bit of nutritional yeast sprinkled on top? Extra broccoli seeds strewn about for their special ability to help our bodies detoxify via the sulfation pathway (Sorry. But, it’s true!) What’s the extra kick you want that will help your eyes light up when you go to pull the salad out of the fridge?
- Simple or complex, the dressing is what brings together all the above components and really creates the salad-iness to an otherwise rather random assortment of ingredients. Let ’em co-mingle, sure. But drizzle that dressing across and shake things up and oh yeah, suddenly everyone really knows one another at the party.
So, give these variations some thought. Mull it over. What would make you happy during every bite of a salad? Put that into your rotation. You can do it.
Chicken Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing
- 3 cups cooked chicken cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1.5 cups red seedless grapes halved
- 1 cup walnuts toasted and roughly chopped
- 4 stalks celery minced
- 1 small red onion minced
Roasted Garlic Dressing
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise avocado, olive or macadamia oil, please!
- 1/2 head 10 or so cloves roasted garlic, mashed
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt use more or less depending on how salty the mayonnaise is--will depend on brand or if homemade!
- In a small bowl or a food processor, combine all garlic dressing ingredients until dressing is smooth. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken, grapes, walnuts, celery and red onion.
- Pour roasted garlic dressing over the salad ingredients and gently mix to combine.
Eat immediately over a bed of greens like fresh arugula, or allow to sit in the fridge covered overnight to let the flavors marry!
For the chicken: Roasting up a whole chicken easily provides the cooked chicken for this salad, and it's a great way to use up the meat off of any portion of the bird!
For the roasted garlic: Make it along with the roasted chicken above, or by itself!
For the mayonnaise: Learn how to make your own at home--sans rancid oils!