Festive and Filling Salads: A Formula

When I was growing up my mother used to make a salad with dinner nearly every night. She rarely did anything elaborate, but my brother and I always ate our veggies because she kept it simple, avoided ingredients she knew we wouldn’t like, and served it with our favorite salad dressing. I don’t serve salads quite as often as my mother did, but I have to admit they are hard to beat if you are looking for quick and easy ways to add vegetables to a meal.

This formula is great for winter salads, when many of the vegetables that go into summer salads are uninspiring and out of season. It is also great for potlucks and church coffee hours (I just brought it to church last week for our St. Herman’s Day celebration). I have also found that people who think they “don’t like rabbit food” are pleasantly surprised if you can get them to try this salad.


For a simple side salad: pick one ingredient from each of the first four categories.

For a more filling salad:  to add some extra calories and protein to a light or carb-heavy meal, pick one ingredient from each of the first five categories.

For a light meal: choose one ingredient from each category, and double the amounts.

Assemble in individual dishes or a large salad bowl:

GREENS: the dark color of spinach or mixed baby greens really shows off the other ingredients, but lettuce is fine, too.

A LITTLE SWEETNESS: small slices of apple or pear, or a peeled and segmented orange (click here for a how-to). Red pear is especially pretty. You’ll need 1/4-1/2 of piece of fruit per serving.

A LITTLE CRUNCH: pecans, sunflower seeds, or walnuts, preferably toasted, about 1 TBSP per serving.

A LITTLE PIZZAZ: dried cherries, dried cranberries, or fresh pomegranate seeds, also about 1 TBSP per serving.

A TOUCH OF PROTEIN: firm beans, like cannellini or garbanzo, about 1/4 cup per serving (canned beans are fine, but you can also drain and freeze extras if you are cooking them for a recipe anyway).

A COOKED VEGETABLE: steamed green beans or roasted beets are nice.

Serve with a dressing of your choice, or with my Sweet and Simple Vinaigrette. To make it Christmas Day worthy, substitute bleu cheese or goat cheese for the beans and candied pecans for plain toasted nuts.

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