Salad Inspiration

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I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again…I am not much of a salad person. I think a lot of people envision “healthy diets” being full of big salads and bean sprouts and tofu, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with those things, that’s not at all how we eat. Our definition of real food of course includes a variety of fresh organic greens, but also a lot of other things like whole grains and dairy and fruit and even locally-raised grass-fed cheeseburgers. :)

So when I recently caught myself craving a certain salad, which has never before happened in my 34 years, I of course felt compelled to share it with all our facebook fans. And I also asked them about their favorite salad combinations as well (below) because I’ve learned that not all salads are created equal. Over are the days of somewhat soggy iceberg lettuce pieces topped with stale looking carrots and a side of highly processed salad dressing. If you start with some fresh greens and top them with the perfect mix of “accessories”  I am learning that salads can actually be kind of good. And if we really come up with a super tasty combination of accessories my kids might even have a little salad, too. So here are some ideas to keep us all from getting burnt out…and as always leave any additional suggestions you might have in the comments below!

  • Mixed greens with apples, toasted walnuts, blue cheese, and olive oil (pictured above)…the salad that inspired this post!
    Variations of this salad:

    • Add dried cranberries, hold the blue cheese, and use a balsamic vinegar with the olive oil
    • Add strawberries, use roasted pecans instead of walnuts, top with salmon and balsamic vinegar
    • Gorgonzola or feta cheese instead of blue cheese
    • Pears instead of apples
    • Add grilled chicken
  • Spinach with hard boiled egg, bacon, avocado, and a warm bacon dressing (with our without blue cheese)
  • Mixed greens, goat cheese, glazed pecans, locally-grown cherry tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar
  • Cobb salad with blue cheese dressing
  • Spinach or mixed greens with apples, walnuts, feta or asiago cheese, shredded carrots, avocado, raw garlic (sliced and diced very small) and sometimes some black, garbanzo, or kidney beans for more substance topped with olive oil and a little rice wine vinegar
  • Shredded Napa cabbage, red cabbage, edamame, julienned carrots, cucumbers, peanuts, cilantro & any Asian style dressing
  • Spinach, roasted beets, pears, goat cheese, toasted walnuts or pecans, and red onion all drizzled with olive oil and a nice citrus vinegar
  • Baby spinach, chopped granny smith apples, dried cranberries, goat cheese and toasted pecans dressed with olive oil, raspberry vinegar and minced shallot
  • Greens, strawberries, pecans, feta, and vinaigrette

    Caprese Salad

  • Mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced strawberries, sliced almonds, crumbled blue cheese, thinly sliced red onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Arugula, shaved parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil and red pepper
  • Caprese salad – tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella – with pesto and balsamic vinegar (pictured)
  • Mixed greens, feta, tomato, chickpeas (or white beans), carrots, olive oil and vinegar
  • Spinach, cranberries, mandarin oranges, blue cheese, and candied walnuts
  • Spinach, pears, dried cranberries, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, and chicken (if you want meat) with oil and vinegar
  • Mixed greens, cooked sliced beets, green or red onions, feta or goat cheese (I prefer goat) toasted walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, cheese (cubed small), green onion, cucumbers, bell peppers, and natural sunflower seeds tossed with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.
  • Arugula, shaved parmesan, good olive oil, and pine nuts
  • Romaine, almond shavings, avocado, mandarin oranges, some whole wheat cork screw pasta with a honey & sesame oil dressing (with or without chicken)
  • Spinach or mixed greens with honey roasted butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, mushrooms, avocado and goat cheese
  • Spinach salad with red bell pepper, carrots and cucumbers with home made maple vinagrette
  • Spinach, goat cheese, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, pine nuts, and a poppy seed dressing
  • Spinach, strawberries, feta cheese, sunflower seeds, and a balsamic dressing
  • Grilled chicken, roasted red and yellow peppers, grape tomatoes and fresh mozzarella over bib or romaine with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Taco Salad

  • Mixed greens, roasted butternut squash, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries with an apple cider vinaigrette
  • Roasted pears and grapes over spinach with walnuts, goat cheese and a honey lemon dressing
  • Greens, olives, tomatoes, red onion, and this Greek feta cheese dressing
  • Mixed greens, shredded carrots, seedless cucumbers, avocado, hard boiled egg, walnuts, parmesan or asiago cheese, and bacon (sometimes chicken too) with maple balsamic vinaigrette
  • Arugula, cherry tomatoes, Romano cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic
  • Mixed baby lettuce, purple onion, sliced navel oranges, avocados, toasted almonds, balsamic vinaigrette
  • Romaine tossed in a homemade lime dressing (lime juice, stone ground mustard and olive oil) and topped with taco seasoned ground meat cooked with minced onions and garlic, corn, black beans, avocado, black olives, a sprinkle of cheese and sour cream
  • Taco salad (pictured)
  • Spinach or salad greens topped with pistachios, goat cheese, pears & balsamic vinegar

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40 comments to Salad Inspiration

  • Leslie

    I also like cucumbers, thinly sliced onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers marinated in red wine vinegar with a splash of olive oil. Can add a little sweetener if you want, but I like it without.

  • Joi

    My family loves fresh romaine, shredded cheddar, black beans, tomato, red onion, avocado, bell pepper, corn, and homemade ranch dressing. The canivores in the family like to add grilled chicken breast. We call it Santa Fe Salad. Yum!

  • Carol

    I’ve also just discovered a salad with very fine-cut curly kale, thinly sliced cabbage with a dressing of olive oil, and a combo of cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar. Play around with the dressing proportions until you get it to your liking. This is really good. I never liked curly kale because it never seems to break down, but when you chop or shred it finely, it’s just crunchy!

  • Thanks for linking to my Greek dressing recipe over at makandcheese :)

    Lots of other great salad ideas on here we’ll be trying at home. More often that not we don’t get through the greens we buy before they start to go bad so these are good inspiration!

  • [...] Salad ideas–it’s not just lettuce and ranch anymore! [...]

  • Stephanie

    That’s my favorite Greek dressing! Love it!

  • I used to work for a woman cleaning her house. She would make me lunch every day. She often made me a tuna/ garbanzo bean salad. It sounds gross, but it was good!

  • You can also make salad appetizing and healthy by mixing your favorite food into a salad, like chicken fingers, hamburger or even pizza pieces! Great post….I want some caprese salad right now!

  • My favorite salad may sound crazy, but my favorite restaurant does it and I make it at home. It’s great! It’s called “West by God,” and it’s mixed greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers topped with blue cheese, sliced steak, toasted pecans, and FRENCH FRIES. I make my own baked fries at home: and I also add dried cranberries to my salad. It’s great with homemade ranch dressing!

  • Anne

    Our favorite “main course” salad is: a mix of spinach, baby greens, and romaine, corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes, black olives, red or green onion, red bell pepper, carrots, avocado, cilantro, a little cheese, topped with a few tortilla chips, grilled (or rotisserie) chicken and a chipotle cheddar dressing. I crave this salad often! Hold the chicken to make it a delicious side salad.

  • hayleygg

    I make a salad with chicken, glazed walnuts/pecans, dried cherries, and bleu cheese. I make my own dressing out of unsweetened apple sauce, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard (is that Real?), and black cherry juice. It’s wonderful!

  • Our children really enjoy a plain greens salad with toasted wheat germ. They won’t even put dressing on it. Kooky kids :)

  • Having had a gastric bypass I can’t eat a great deal at any one time. Since my priority is protein I like to make a salad that is loaded with kidney beans, garbanzo beans, cheese, sometimes chicken or bacon on a light bed of greens. Salad doesn’t have to be all greens! I’m so glad that you’re still experimenting Lisa!

  • Teri

    I love mixed greens, pears, pecans, goat cheese and green onions. With a little vinaigrette dressing…can eat it all the time. (and caprese salad is another huge favorite at our house!)

  • tracy

    I can’t tell you how many times I have finished a salad and thought ‘that was amazing’ so simple and so good

  • Leah

    Romaine, pears, shaved Parmesan, and a raspberry vinagrette. Oh, so good.

  • Courtney

    I just came across your blog today and I am now in love with it. I love love love salads because I dont care for most cooked vegtables. A salad I have recently started making and now suggest everyone in the entire world should eat right this second:

    Run some fresh brussell sprouts through the food processor so they are shredded. Add some sliced strawberries, blue berries, parmesian cheese and Brianna’s Blush Wine vinagarette dressing. Amazing, and an excellent way to sneak some brussell sprouts into your kid’s dinner.

  • Dana

    Do you have recipes for other salad dressings … besides your ranch? Some kind of italian version or olive oil vinaigrette? Thanks :)

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Dana. Sorry, we don’t have official “recipes”. I often do olive oil, vinegar (either red or white wine), some dijon mustard, a little honey and some garlic, salt and pepper and that is pretty universal. You might want to give that a try. Jill

  • My favourite salad is arugula with pear slices, warm portabella mushrooms, shaved parmesean, and a light oil and vinegar dressing with a touch of honey and lemon. The mushrooms wilt the arugula a little bit, and it’s interesting to change up the typical salad with a bit of warmth.

  • Meghan

    I started making a new salad dressing this week that was fantastic – a little olive oil, sesame oil, fresh chopped garlic, fresh lemon juice, splash of low sodium soy sauce, dash of curry powder, rosemary. The curry powder totally makes it!

  • Heidi

    I love using walnut oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar as an easy salad dressing. I just pour a bit of each right onto the salad and mix it up with tongs. (Start light on the balsamic – you can always add more!) It works really well with pink lady apples, spring greens, walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Goat cheese is a great addition, too!

  • Deniseathome

    I make my own seasoning mixes, Greek, Italian and ranch to name a few. When I go to dress my salad I add the oil and vinegar and then sprinkle the seasoning on top and mix it all together. For the ranch I like a mixture of buttermilk an sour cream ,no sugar. I add my ranch seasoning mix to the buttermilk/sour cream mixture. I keep a variety of flavored vinegars on hand, by changing up the ingredients you can have salad every night and never repeat the same salad twice. Salad like soup can be as simple as what you have in the refrigerator and a great way to use up left overs. I didn’t see the classic salad nicoise(sp?) a great way to use up green beans and boiled potatoes .

  • Alicia

    Thank you for posting this! I eat a salad everyday for lunch and need more variety! I might print this out and use it as part of my grocery shopping list!

  • Did thinly sliced fennel make the list? It’s sweet and crunchy. Great with chopped green onion, red cabbage, clementine segments and toasted almonds. Salads are a great way to get in a couple servings of vegetables as well. And homemade dressing is the absolute best.

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