Spring is here, bringing warmer weather and a transition in the foods we eat, namely salads pulled fresh from the garden.
Salads can vary from the simplest head lettuce wedge dressed with classic Thousand Island dressing to a sensational combination of local greens and scrumptious ingredients with exotic vinegar and oil combinations for dressing.
Salads can be packed with nutrition and be low in calories, fat, sodium and sugar. But they also can be low in nutrients and high in calories, fat, sodium and sugar. It depends on the ingredients.
Salads made with a variety of raw vegetables and/or fruits and that are dressed lightly tend to be low in calories, fat, sodium and sugar. They are packed with nutrients and relatively low in calories, fat, sodium and sugar. Avoid mayonnaise and cream for dressings to protect your health.
We want to look at building a smarter salad that is delicious, nutritious and visually appealing. Using a variety of ingredients with different colors and textures adds interest and flavor.
Here are some guidelines for making a sensational salad as a main dish:
Use about two cups of salad greens for each person and place on the plate as a bed for the salad. These can be bags or containers of premixed salad greens or you can use any combination of salad greens you would like. Butter lettuce, leaf lettuce and Romaine tend to be mild in flavor. Belgian endive, curly endive, escarole, kale and watercress are mildly tart greens. Grated cabbage can be mixed in with the greens. Spinach also is a wonderful bed for the salad.
Next add about a cup of other vegetables and fruits. Vegetables include broccoli and cauliflower florets, grated carrots, bell pepper strips, artichoke hearts, whole cherry or grape tomatoes (or larger tomatoes, sliced, quartered or diced), thinly sliced red onion, cucumbers or radishes. Any type of berry, mandarin oranges, apple or pear slices or dried fruits such as dried cherries, apricots or raisins can be used.
Now, add some protein. A combination of animal protein and plant-based protein can be used. Animal protein includes cooked chicken or turkey breast, crab meat, boiled shrimp, sliced grilled salmon filet or hard-boiled egg slices. Vegetable protein ideas include garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans and nuts. Remember that nuts are high in fat, so use them sparingly.
Next add some dairy. There are many reduced-fat cheeses available, made with 2 percent milk, including feta, mozzarella and cheddar. Read the nutrition label to find those that are lower in fat.
Drizzle lightly with a simple dressing that is big on flavor and low in calories, fat, sugar and sodium. It is easy to adjust the proportions of ingredients in a standard vinaigrette recipe. Many use two to three parts oil to one part vinegar, but you can make them using more vinegar and less oil.
Serve salad with a whole-grain roll or whole-wheat tortilla to include something from each of the food groups in MyPlate. An easy idea is to take a whole-wheat tortilla and sprinkle lightly with grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese made with 2 percent fat milk. Place in broiler just until cheese begins to melt. Remove from broiler and roll. The melted cheese holds the roll together.
Here is a basic vinaigrette recipe to enhance your creation.
Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Makes 8 tablespoons dressing
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tablespoon finely chopped green onion
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 8 tablespoons of salad dressing. Each tablespoon contains about 35 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrate and 24 milligrams sodium.
Becky will teach Healthy Learn with Lunch cooking classes featuring Spring Chicken Rolls, Chickpea Salad with Fresh Cilantro and Tropical Fruit Sherbet at noon Tuesday at the Gourmet Grille inside Buy For Less at 10011 SE 15, Midwest City, and at noon April 23 at the 2500 N Pennsylvania Ave. store; and Spring Chicken Rolls and Tropical Fruit Sherbet at 9:30 a.m. April 17 at Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W Covell Road, Edmond. Class size is limited. For reservations, call 302-6273, ext. 332.