I always crave the same kinds of flavors- complex, contrasting, crunchy, bold, balanced. I have found I can often achieve the correct blend of flavors to satisfy me in a salad. But the formula is nearly always the same, and its nothing new. I first had this type of flavor combination in Marcia Dow’s AMAZING salad years ago. I have lost that recipe and asked her for it again so many times, but now I pretty much have the main points committed to memory because I can’t bear to be without it. Then I had a similar combo at Panera, and now they are doing it everywhere. The basic recipe is always greens + cheese + fruit + nuts + dressing (poppyseed vinaigrette is my favorite and always seems to pair well with these ingredients.) You can add anything and use practially any variety of each component. I add chicken like Panera did in order to get protein, add some warmth and make it a seriously satisfying meal. Marcia’s salad used candied pecans, feta, and craisins and it is seriously good. Tonight I used sliced almonds, crumbled gorgonzola, and halved grapes and sliced apples. Then I topped it with chicken that I had cooked stovetop with halved cranberries and sliced onions in 1T butter, about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and a splash of real maple syrup and about 1 T honey. I reduced that and let the chicken strips and onions brown all over adding black pepper to taste. I was really just throwing things together hoping it worked, but it turned out exactly as I had envisioned. The gorgonzola is so creamy and delicious. I would say I used about 2 T for a medium-sized salad. The greens were a mixture of green leaf lettuce, red chard, and the “fresh herb mix” from Sprouts’ small box. I always rinse the greens for a minute and then chop into small bite size slices. I think it helps the other flavors mix into the greens easier when they are small, and it’s easier to eat. So I plan to play around with this a lot more and try all the combinations! Here are the basic combos:
Balsamic glaze with turkey breast, chicken, pork chops + strawberries, cranberries, or raspberries
Red or white onions raw or in glaze
Pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts
Apples, pears, plums, grapes- cold and crisp on top
Feta, blue cheese, gorgonzola, goat cheese
Diet Bonus: You get a good amount of protein, antioxidants, a bit of calcium plus good fats and a limited amount of carbs from the fruits. I try never to add anymore sweetening than is neccesary, which makes this a great way to control your blood sugar, especially late in the day.
In my current self-designed nutrition plan, I try to eat complex carbs mostly in the morning with a little protein, and then swith the ratio the other way throughout the day, adding protein and subtracting carbs as the day progresses. This gives me sustained energy for the day’s activities, and then prevents carbs from storing as fat toward the evening. I also try to stop eating 2-3 hours before bed to keep any remaining carb calories from being stored overnight as fat. That is the reasoning behind the salad as a dinner choice. If I had it at lunch, I would want to have a small bowl of whole grains on the side, like brown rice or barley. They could also just be added to the salad. This never bothers me. I just have to be mindful about adding the right portion size of grains. Usually, I cook a good amount of barley each week to have in the fridge ready to add to soups and such, but I’ve noticed it needs to be used within a day or two. I also just have a few crackers or a bit of granola or cereal. I could also add whole grain croutons, wonton strips, or crumbled Terra chips. I have Terra chips in small portions as a topping or a treat from time to time. I can’t resist them if they’re on sale. The apple slices also give a little bit of low GI carb content.