If you know me personally or even follow me on social media, by now you surely know that I’m an absolute sucker for salads—And, I’m not talking about those old bland, boring blends of lettuce and all-purpose garden vegetables with heaping scoops of fat-free dressing on top. There’s just no fun in eating like that.
I view salads as a great opportunity to get creative in the kitchen. Salads are also a great way to pack in loads of nutritious foods you might not normally eat.
Now, chopped salad blends are among my favorites, as you can literally throw everything but the kitchen sink in them. Here’s one of my most requested recipes that can easily be adapted to suit your nutritional needs and taste preferences.
What You Need
For the Salad Base
- 3 large bell peppers (red, orange, and yellow)
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1/4 head of cauliflower
- 1 small red onion
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1 Fuji apple
- 1 tomato
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup of dried cranberries or Craisins
- 3 eggs, optional
- 6 strips of turkey or pork bacon, optional
- 1 cup of ditalini pasta (fusilli or penne pasta will also do)
- 1/2 cup of Gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbles, optional
For the Dressing
- 1/2 cup of plain Greek-style yogurt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3-4 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 4-5 tablespoons of honey
- 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Sea salt and fresh pepper, to taste
How To Prepare
This salad is incredibly easy to make but I’ll admit that the total preparation time is relatively lengthy (40-50 minutes). The good news is that once the salad is all put together, it can be eaten for up to three days, that is, depending out how many people you plan to feed.
In a small bowl, simply whisk together all the ingredients until smooth, and then store covered in your refrigerator. Note: This dressing can be stored for up to 10 days.
If you’re using eggs, start by placing them in a small saucepan and covering them with cold tap water. Leave the saucepan uncovered. Bring the water to a full boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, remove the saucepan from the heat and cover it with a lid. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10-15 minutes.
While the eggs are sitting, one by one, slice and/or chop your peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, cucumber and apples into bite-sized pieces, transferring each to a large colander (or similar dish). Note: You should initially slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise to extract the seeds before chopping and only chop up the florets (heads) of the broccoli and cauliflower.
Once this set of ingredients are combined, rinse and shake them well for an even mix, and then transfer them to a large salad bowl. Rinse, slice and chop the tomato, and then combine it with the other ingredients. Note: You should first half the tomato from top to bottom, scoop the seeds and any white core out of the seed cavities, and then chop it into bite-sized pieces.
Next, cut the avocado into bite-sized pieces and add them to the bowl. Cover and chill the vegetable and fruit mixture in your refrigerator. Remove the boiled eggs from the water, transfer them to a bowl of cold tap water and allow them to cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Rinse the small saucepan used to boil your eggs and then use it to prepare your pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re using bacon, slice the strips lengthwise and then chop them crosswise into ‘bits’. In a medium skillet, heat a light coat of canola or another vegetable oil over medium heat. Toss in the bacon bits and then stir and sauté them for 5-7 minutes until cooked through.
At this point, the laborsome portion of the preparation is pretty much done. Chop and slice your eggs by hand or with an egg slicer and simply add them to your chilled vegetables and fruit along with your bacon bits, dried cranberries and cheese crumbles. Toss your salad blend with enough dressing to coat, and then season the blend to taste with salt, pepper or your favorite salad seasonings.
The result will be a full meal that’s large enough for 5-6 very generous sized portions.
So, it’s really all about your personal preferences from here on out.
This chopped salad can easily be eaten ‘lettuce-less’ but if you prefer to add leafy greens, I highly recommended your doing so on a meal-by-meal basis, as they have a tendency to get soggy with prolonged storage. Some great choices include finally chopped kale or spinach, mesclun greens, and Swiss chard. If you’d rather use ‘traditional’ lettuce, opt for romaine or loose-leaf, as darker lettuces house way more nutrients.
You might choose to double your portion-sizes and eat less meals and/or store some of the salad base in your fridge for later consumption. You can also increase the protein content and overall filling effect of this salad by adding a few servings of poultry, seafood or tofu to the mix. And, you can always top off your salads with any of the unused dressing you’ve stored if need be.
For this particular blend, I prefer to add sautéed shrimp, chilled langostino lobster, or pan-seared, chopped chicken breast. Sometimes I’ll even chop up the breasts of a pre-prepared rotisserie chicken for convenience sake. Your options are virtually endless! It’s all about doing what works best for you and creating your own nutritious experience.