Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Salad Bar Week

Rick is out of town for the week, so I decided to keep my food super simple while I'm here hanging out with the dogs. Like a lot of people, I don't really like to go to much trouble cooking for just myself. I do, however, like to eat good food that's good for me. Every day. It's been hot in Portland, so turning on the stove or oven aren't appealing. Going out is easy, but not much fun on my own. Smoothies are great for my everyday breakfast, so I don't try to complicate that. I needed a solution to lunch and dinner, and I decided to create my own salad bar.

I spent about an hour prepping vegetables and toppings, and making two dressings. Now I'm set for several days. It can easily take 15-20 minutes to make a single salad, but when you do a bunch of prep ahead of time, all you have to do is arrange what you like in a bowl, and add dressing. Poof! Instant salad! And I don't know about you, but when it's all ready and waiting in the refrigerator, I'm much more likely to actually eat that big salad than to think about it while I grab a bag of chips and a tub of salsa.

I like to use a variety of things so I can make my meals different each time. I use pre-washed baby greens, and sometime cut them up a bit, although it's not necessary. Also chopped, grated, and stashed in the fridge are cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, olives, and pepperoncini. I even drained and rinsed two cans of beans, and thawed some frozen corn, shelled edamame, and green peas. Other things I'll use as the mood strikes me are some leftover steamed potatoes, raisins, cooked hot peppers, sunflower seeds, and even a few of those tortilla chips. As the week goes on I can replenish favorites as I use them up, or change it up with new ingredients.

I make my own dressings because they're always far better than the store bought kind. I've also drifted away from using oil in my dressings (and almost all my cooking), so this way I know exactly what I'm getting. By making two dressings I can have either one by itself, or mix them for even more variety. I made my own recipe for Cheesy Basil Dressing, as well as a new favorite of mine, created by Jane Esselstyn, called 3-2-1 Dressing. It's ridiculously easy, and also quite versatile. The original recipe is 3 T balsamic vinegar, 2 T prepared mustard of choice, and 1 T maple syrup. Mix it up, pour it on. It's really that simple. This time I used the vinegar "juice" from my jar of pepperoncini, Dijon mustard, and maple syrup, for a nice spicy-zippy dressing. I made a triple batch, and I absolutely love it mixed with a dab of the Cheesy Basil Dressing.

Other possibilities for variation are to add cooked grains to any salad, or wrap the whole shebang up in a whole grain tortilla for a more portable salad. Or make Sushi Spring Rolls filled with salad! I don't get bored eating this way, and sometimes I really like knowing that most of my cooking for the week was done in an hour. I can fuel myself with healthy, satisfying meals, while taking a summer break from the kitchen. I'm on Day 5 as I post this, enjoying every bite, and finding plenty of time to walk the dogs and work on new projects. This might stick even after Rick gets home!