Easiest Ever Never-the-Same Potluck Salad

I don’t remember where I got the original recipe for this salad, but I remember making a version of it way back in the seventies, using instant white rice (yes- that was the grain of choice back then), and frozen peas (about the only vegetable we used, too).

I’ve revived and updated it this summer and I now have a new old recipe that has become one of my favourites. It is so versatile and easy that you can probably make it right now- the only thing is that I never make it exactly the same way twice. So, I will give you the rough recipe and show you the version I made for the last barbecue/potluck I went to.

1. Start with 4-8 cups of any pre-cooked grain you like (this is great for quinoa, couscous, freekeh, anything. I used an ancient grain mix and leftover rice the last time I made this).

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2. Add in 2-6 cups of chopped veggies. Again- whatever you have on hand will work. For the last salad I chopped and cooked one red pepper and one onion. Then I added those to one package of “Japanese style” frozen veggies (edamame, black beans, barley and broccoli). This made a salad filled with lightly cooked veggies, but I have made it with raw veggies at other times and it is just as good. (Green onion is good, as are different bean mixes, use your imagination or just clean out your fridge).

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3. Mix up the dressing:
-1/3 cup light oil (I used canola)
-1/3 cup lime juice (or mix lemon and lime)
-1/8 to 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or another vinegar of choice)
-1 to 2 Tablespoons of worcestershire sauce (vegan is my choice)
-1 heaping Tablespoon of cumin
-1 teaspoon chili powder
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
-1/2 teaspoon hot spice mix (I use Cowichan Bay seafood spice or a hot BBQ mix, but try your own favourite mix).
-a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

4. Blend the dressing up well. Taste and adjust spices to taste. Pour it over the salad. Stir.

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It tastes good right away but if you can hold yourself and your family back and let it sit in the fridge for a while, it will be even better. Sadly, it appears that we did not do this since I have no lovely staged pictures of the final salad in a pretty bowl. Just this picture from when I poured the dressing over and started mixing. I guess you’ll just have to make it yourself. You’ll see.

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Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #2 Bean Sprout and Baby Bok Choy Salad

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Here is a quick and easy salad we had with our 100_4489Chinese New year meal. I used home sprouted mung beans for the freshest flavour, and then I looked for what was freshest at the market. You could do the same thing with any fresh vegetables for an extremely fast Chinese-style side dish.
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Bean Sprout and Baby Bok Choy Salad
  • 4 baby bok choy, washed and chopped
  • 4-5 cups bean sprouts, rinsed
  • 1 bunch enoki mushrooms, cleaned, roots removed
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce

Directions:
1) Pour boiling water over bok choy in colander. Rinse immediately with cold water. Drain thoroughly and place in medium serving bowl. repeat process with bean sprouts and place in same bowl. This will brighten the greens and slightly soften the vegetables, allowing them to soak up the flavours.
2) Mix agave, vinegar, soy sauce. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
3) Garnish with the mushrooms.
4) Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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Cooking Club- New Year, New Ingredient (Part 3). Farro and Kale Salad

Ready to start cooking club

Ready to start cooking club

At our first cooking club meeting of the year, we made two curry recipes to take home for our families’ dinners, but we decided to eat Sarah’s recipe right there. After all- we had earned a good lunch after our hike and all our cooking and cleaning. It was an excellent idea because, let me tell you, this salad is top of my new favourites list! Continue reading

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part One (Best Cabbage Salad)

Time for another double duty dinner. This one is not such a high scorer (reminder of the game rules here) because I repeat the exact same dish a few times. But that is because we like it so much just as it is. It is a special favourite for my kids. The soy sauce and ramen noodles add some salt, but you can offset that by packing a lot of vegetables into it. As with many of my meals, I make it more by taste than measurements, so change up amounts on the dressing to your taste, and add or change veggies as you like.

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The Best Salad Dressing in the Whole World!

I’ve had a very busy week, so I haven’t been able to post. Yesterday though, while tearing around doing errands, I ran into my friend Cammy from Lockwood Farms and picked up a great salad and some tender baby pattypan squash from her. Then this morning a group of us drove to Victoria and did the Run for the Cure, followed by a huge restaurant brunch. Needless to say, tonight I did not feel like cooking a big Sunday dinner. Instead, I picked the last of the blackberries in my yard and steamed the pattypan squash.Then I mixed up a batch of my favourite salad dressing ever and we had an elegant salad for dinner. It was the perfect choice to end such a full week. So tonight I will share with you the recipe for the best salad dressing in the whole world.

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Hungry after lunch? Not Anymore!

Devour a Daily FITR Salad for Lunch Every Day- Why?

  • It’s super healthy, and is only about 400 calories. With virtually all of your nutrient needs- including protein- it will give you the energy and alertness you need for the rest of your day.
  • It will fill you up. Your stomach has stretch receptors that tell your body and brain that you have had enough. A FITR salad is BIG- it provides enough volume to trigger those receptors and signal satiety. A mere 100 calories is up to 7 cups of salad greens and veggies.
  • You will feel great. As well as your satisfied tummy, your brain will be happier. If you eat a large McDonald’s fries (500 calories, fat, salt, very little volume), you will have a hard time resisting the office birthday cake at coffee break, because your brain thinks you are starving. If you have a big 400 calorie FITR salad, your brain receives the signals from the stretch receptors and knows that you have enough nutrients. You will be able to happily and rationally choose whether you want cake. (You will also feel happy because you are healthier, and your halo is nice and shiny!)
  • A FITR salad is inexpensive, fast and easy. Once you get in the routine, you can mix up your salad fixings for the whole week and make your lunches in 5 minutes. And even if you eat all organic, it is cheaper than fast food.
  • It is De-Licious!!! FITR Salads can be as varied as you like, and because you can eat so much, you will soon find that you are craving them for more than lunchtime.

Five Basic Rules to Construct an Amazing FITR Lunch Salad

This salad is for people who love food and don’t believe in depriving themselves. It takes your full lunch time to eat, and satisfies all your cravings- for crunch, slurp, sweet, sour, or umami. If you follow these rules, you will begin sneaking it in for dinner, for before-bed snacks, and maybe even for breakfast.

Rule 1: Make it really really BIG! Don’t skimp on the veggies. Dr. Joel Fuhrman recommends that a good healthy plant-strong diet should include 1 pound (16 oz.) of cooked veggies and one pound of raw veggies daily. The extra large plastic clamshell containers hold 10 oz. of salad greens and most people would have a hard time eating all that over 2 or 3 salads, so go ahead and make this salad as big as you want (I don’t know anyone who became overweight by eating too many raw veggies, do you?).

Rule 2: Find a bowl or container big enough for your salad, but with the right “feel”. Really. Eating is an emotional process and you are feeding your senses- if this is to become a comfort food, you want to find a favourite bowl for your salad. A bucket might work for size, but it doesn’t look very classy, and you want something shallow enough to get a good mix of ingredients- a family sized salad bowl is perfect for mine. (On the other hand, some days you might want your salad in a layered style, so in that case, a tall container might work well). If you are packing it to work, find a lidded container that is big enough for the greens, and use smaller containers for the other items (to avoid wilted greens).

Rule 3: Make your salad beautiful and daring. We like color in our food (that’s why candy is irresistible), so “eat the rainbow”. Take an idea from the beauty of Japanese bentos, and follow the principle of “goshiki”, or five colors. The five color groups the Japanese aim for are: red or orange, yellow, green, white, and black, dark purple or brown. Also, pay attention to your cravings and add different textures and flavours to your salad. Sweet fruit, sour pickles, leftover barbecued veggies (hot or cold), beans with hot sauce, seaweed, crunchy nuts, soft pasta- all of these can be added. The possibilities are endless.

Rule 4: Make it easy:
-Once you learn the formula, find an easy way to measure portions. Get the right sized containers and measure out the portions for a few days at a time. I have ten little plastic sauce containers that are perfect for holding a dozen almonds (80 calories). I buy a bag of unsalted nuts and fill all the containers. They are ready to toss into a lunch whenever I want. Bonus: I am not so tempted to snack mindlessly on the opened bag of nuts, as they are portioned out in containers and tucked away out of sight.
-Prepare for several days at once. I wash five days worth of greens on Sunday, and dry them well. There are green bags that claim to keep greens fresh longer, but I find it works just as well to wrap them in a towel or paper towel to absorb extra moisture (change the towel every few days).
-When cooking, always do double duty. I soak and cook enough beans for a dinner and several lunches at once and pack the lunch beans in ½ cup containers for my salads. Or, when I put away dinner leftovers, I pack some of them ready in ½ cup containers.

Rule 5: Get the biggest “goodness” punch possible: Go with local or organic produce when you can. It tastes better and is easier to prepare. It’s also healthier- why eat pesticides when you are trying to eat better? It’s not much more expensive any more, and the taste makes it worth more in my mind. Also, use unprocessed food when you can, for the same reasons. Find a few recipes for salad dressings* that you love and you will never want to use the commercial stuff again- honest!

Next: Get the recipe for the FITR Salad here.

* Check out other recipes in the blog for ideas for starred items.

Super Duper Addictive FITR Salad

(salad art by Jo- inspired by enslavedbyfaeries at squidoo.com)

                               This is It-The Five Step Super FITR Salad!

  1. (80-100 calories) Start with at least 3-4 cups of greens. Just grab handfuls and throw them in. Lettuce is fine, but so is spinach, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, field greens, anything you find (use iceberg lettuce rarely- it is the least nutritious salad green and it tastes weak, too).
  2. Add in a cup or more of any other veggies you have on hand- celery, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, peas, etc. Fresh is good, but frozen is fine too, and so is cooked. Fill that bowl- if you want to maintain your healthy weight, you need to enjoy your lifestyle, and that includes eating lots of good food. Finely chopped gives a different mouth-feel than chunks- go for the feel you want each day, switch it up. And try new veggies sometimes, too.
  3. (100 calories) Dense protein or simple carbs. These help you to feel satisfied- they give the “comfort” element to the salad and help you feel full longer. Throw these in on top of the veggies. A few ideas:
    – ½ cup of: tofu (prepared any way*), kidney or black beans, couscous, quinoa, or brown rice
    -1/3 cup chickpeas
    -1/4 to ½ cup cooked whole wheat pasta
    -veggie burger, tofurkey, or other processed vegetarian “meat” (less healthy option)
    -for non-vegans, ½ cup of chopped meat, fish, or any style egg (less healthy option)

  4. (100 calories) Foods with healthy fats. These keep you full longer and provide a more satisfying “mouth feel” that we crave. Some ideas:
    -2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cashews, sesame seeds, peanuts, etc)
    -1/2 small avocado, or ¼ cup guacamole
    -15 to 20 black olives (that’s a lot-yum!)
    -1/4 cup daiya or other vegan shredded cheese
    -for non-vegans, 1/4 cup of shredded cheese, ½ cup cottage cheese, 1/8 cup sour cream (less healthy options)
    -1 to 2 tablespoons of storebought dressing (less healthy option), or a much larger amount (and much tastier) homemade dressing*.
  5. (100-120 calories) Bonus. This is the zing that turns the salad into a luxury. Anything goes here- it is your “flex” calories. You might choose your items based on:
    -Theme/taste: Make it a taco salad with greens, leftover veggie chili, beans, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, and the bonus: 10-12 broken tortilla chips as a garnish. Or, for a sweet theme, use goat cheese and poppy seeds with balsamic vinegar dressing, and bonus blueberries. Make an oriental salad with sesame seeds, snap peas, leftover chik’n and bonus interest: canned mandarin oranges and raisins.
    -Color: If your salad looks mostly green and white, add 100 calories of yellow, red, and purple to increase appeal. Try: edible flowers, micro red amaranth, peppers, mini pattypan squash, apricots, seaweed, purple potatoes, grapes, strawberries, goji berries, dried cranberries (beware of added sugar), pomegranate seeds, watermelon, black olives, edamame, red onion, chopped peaches, etc.
    -Any other criteria (what you have on hand, what you crave, etc). Pickle slices, croutons, a tablespoon or two of thick dips or sauces (even sweet ones like plum sauce or complex tastes like jalapeno mango jelly), apple slices, 1/2 cup chow mein noodles, deli salads, or for non-vegans, a slice or two of meats. Anything!

    Now- Celebrate the lunch and enjoy every bite! Keep crispy items in a separate container and assemble in the big bowl at lunch time. (Tip- You can also add more eye and mouth appeal by changing textures- shredding carrots or spiralizing beets, or adding your leftovers heated up instead of cold). With such a huge and beautiful lunch, I guarantee that lunchmates will be envious. First they will tell you how delicious it looks, then they will wonder how you can eat so much and still lose weight/stay so skinny, then your lunch will become a topic of conversation as everyone checks it out each day. They may even start a fan club and you will have to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Just be sure to wipe your face first.

    * Check out other recipes in the blog for ideas for starred items.