So I know this is about as basic as it gets but I looooove salads — especially in the summertime.
They’re refreshing, easy to make, require little cooking (ovens on hot days are a no-go), filled with nutrients and can be super delicious. Please note: CAN be delicious.
Because let’s be real: salads can also suck. Big time. I’m talking iceberg lettuce, dressing on the side (or oil and vinegar), pre-packaged cold chicken, airport type, “side salad” salads. Just no. Salads are better than that — and your body deserves better than that too.
But when you take the non-boring approach salads can be absolutely awesome (they’re even making a comeback as the stars of the show at many a trendy restaurant). And lucky for you there’s a foolproof formula you can follow to never.eat.another.boring.salad.again.
Yup — I said it. Because life is just too short to suffer through “healthy meals” because you think you’re doing yourself a favor, but truthfully you’re not. There are plenty of ways to enjoy food that tastes good and makes you feel good — so let’s break down this non-boring salad plan:
My Foolproof Formula For Non-Boring Salads
Step #1 — Veggies
Grab seasonal, fiber-filled greens like arugula, butter lettuce and romaine as your base in summer months or dark leafy greens, spinach and kale in winter months. For extra flavor and nutrients mix in some roasted or grilled veggies (I like to load up on warm, cooked veggies in winter months and more raw, cooling veggies in summer months) like asparagus, sweet potato, squash, brussels sprouts, zucchini, cauliflower, radish and artichokes. Greens and veggies are filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs in order to fight free-radicals (the bad guys) and inflammation in the bod.
Step #2 — Fat
Do not — I repeat DO NOT — skip this step. Quality fat adds flavor and satiation to any dish and will not only help you stay fuller longer but actually help you become more efficient at burning fat for fuel instead of glucose (i.e. sugar and processed carbs). Try adding avocado, greek olives, seeds and nuts to your salad or using heart-healthy avocado, olive or coconut oils in the dressing.
Step #3 — Protein
Are you tired of hearing about how much protein you need? Me too. But protein is a key macronutrient and building-block for a healthy body, muscles and brain so it is necessary (although the amount needed per person can differ). Plus it adds a TON of flavor to salads. For animal protein try grilled wild shrimp or salmon, pasture-raised organic chicken and soft-boiled eggs or turkey meatballs. Plant-based? Switch it up with quinoa, chickpeas or lentils.
Step #4 — Dressing
A dressing can make or break a salad – no joke. Making your own dressing is the easiest and best way to jazz up salads and add crazy good flavor (IMO). Not to mention most store bought dressings are loaded with sugar, processed and oxidized seed oils and weird shelf-stabilizing chemicals that can trigger inflammation. I recently wrote a post on my fave homemade dressings you can check out for some inspo and definitely don’t miss out on the recipe for my favorite caesar dressing EVER below.
Step #5 — Crunchies
A foolproof plan to adding texture and taste to your salad? Bring on the crunchies! I’m talking roasted pumpkin or hemp seeds, Marcona almonds and cashews, crispy chickpeas, apples, celery, radish and cucumbers, etc. Nuts, seeds, beans and crunchy veggies all have different health-boosting benefits and up the flavor of your salad.
Step #6 — Herbs
Fresh herbs are another easy, inexpensive and healthy way to add a boost of flavor to any salad. Try basil, cilantro, mint, parsley and dill in summer months and sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme and chives in the winter.
Step #7 — Never Eat A Boring Salad Again
And boom — there you have it!
Now — onto one of my favorite summer salad recipes, like ever — THIS Grilled Chicken and Avocado Caesar Salad. The dressing is LEGIT, deriving it’s creamy texture from cashews and tangy “anchovy” taste from capers. The romaine is crisp and refreshing, the avocado dense and creamy and the grilled chicken flavorful and filling (plus only 20 minutes grilling time). It’s got all the non-boring salad components, easy to make, totally nutrient-dense and tastes ah MAZE.
It’s also one of the MLH’s (meat-lovin’ husbands) ultimate faves and on repeat at our household all summer long. Try it out yourself or if you live in Seattle invite yourself on over 🙂
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours in water (you can skip this step if needed but the texture might be slightly less creamy)
½ cup water
4 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp lemon juice
1½ tbsp capers
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat your grill over medium heat. Drizzle oil on chicken breasts and top with seasoning of choice + sea salt and pepper. This is my FAVE rub recipe. Place chicken breasts on the hot grill and cook for about 10 minutes on each side, or until cooked through (no pink in the middle).
While chicken is cooking mix together caesar dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor (a high speed blender will get you the best results and it will emulsify the cashews for a creamy texture). Set aside.
Rinse and chop your romaine and avocado and then toss together with caesar dressing.
Top with grilled chicken and garnish with more cracked black pepper, plus cashews or crispy chickpeas for extra crunch.