To me, a salad isn't a salad without a tomato. Or it used to be. This recent allergy has made me look at the way I see salads. A salad is a dieter's friend, but it can soon get rather boring if you're eating lettuce, tomato and cucumber at every meal... So I've been coming up with some ways to spice up your salad.
Chose your leaves
Are you an iceberg fan, or do you favour a little gem? The leaf is usually the basis for a good salad, and there are so many available now there's no reason not to vary them. I like to buy bags of pre-washed salad leaves, for convenience mostly, but also because of the variety. Our favourite is a babyleaf salad, but you can try rocket, spinach, beetroot leaves, watercress. Whatever takes your fancy. A good old round lettuce can be a nice change from the more "exotic" too!
Once you've got your leaves, what goes on top. I often find myself piling everything salad-like on top, but you really don't have to. Chose three or four "toppings", such as:
- tomato *sob*
- carrot (grated, cubed, thinly sliced with a speed peeler...)
- herbs (I like basil or mint)
Know your onions
A good onion can add a sharp kick to your salad, but again you can vary them. Spring or salad onions are quick and convenient (snip them with scissors) but try red onion, spanish onion or even a couple of pickled onions for variety.
Talking of pickled onions, pickled beetroot, gherkins or cauliflower can also be a great addition to a salad. Add a blob of sweet pickle to turn your salad into a ploughmans.
Still missing that tomato? I've been experimenting with adding fruit to my salad. Grapes, strawberries (great with balsamic dressing), melon, mango, apple or raisins will make a great addition to a good salad.
Now you've got your basics, add the protein you need to make this a meal. Chicken salad will get boring really quick if you have it regularly, but combine it with bacon and a mustard dressing, or with mango and a curried mayonaise and it's a completely different meal. Other great protein sources for salad are:
- lean ham
- boiled eggs
- cottage cheese
- chorizo (quite fatty but a little goes a long way!)
- lean bacon or turkey bacon
- crab sticks
- reduced fat cheese (try feta or mozzarella)
- quiche (crustless quiche recipe coming soon!)
Dress it up
Now here's a stumbling block - the dressing. You don't want to add a load of calories at the last minute, so chose wisely. I like to use balsamic vinegar, but raspberry vinegar is nice too. If you're buying a shop bought dressing, do for one that contains less than 40 calories per 100mls or is marketed as a lighter choice (my current favourite is honey and mustard). You can also buy 1 calorie salad sprays that are intensively flavoured so that just a few sprays (at 1 calorie each) are needed. If you're a fan of mayonnaise or salad cream, chose on that's "extra light" or "lighter than light" and try mixing it with fat free fromage frais to make it go further. Or water down some fat free natural yoghurt and add some finely chopped mint, for a dressing that feels really creamy and indulgent, without all the fat.
Things to avoid
This may sound obvious, but if you're trying to keep your salad healthy there are some things to avoid:
- full fat cheese
- crispy onions
- crispy bacon
- creamy or oily dressings
- chips on the side!
I enjoy salads, and I always have, but it can get boring, very quickly. I hope I've given you some ideas and inspiration to spice up your salad! Let me know your suggestions too :)