Refrigerator Salad Bar
Thursday, July 24, 2014
I wish I could take full credit for this one…
Last summer, my friend Dawna and I were talking about some of the tricks she uses to get she and her husband Jon eating more vegetables. When she casually mentioned that she creates a mini salad bar for them to dip into throughout the week, I had that classic “why didn’t I think of that?!” moment. I mean, it’s kind of brilliant, right?
Why it’s taken me a year to blog about it? Not sure, but here we are (and just in time for the bounty of fresh veggies in farmer’s markets and grocers).
There are so many things I love about this idea, I hardly know where to start! Seriously, I am totally geeking out on this one.
(If you told me that I’d get this excited about salad when I was chubby, I would have laughed in your face (and then shoved my face into a triple cheese burger)).
First, avoiding the restaurant salad bar means not being in line behind that coughing & sneezing guy
Seriously, one of the worst things about restaurant salad bars is….well…let’s face it, EVERYTHING is wrong with them. Think about some of the crazy things you’ve witnessed as you stood in line waiting to dig into the shredded carrots. Now ponder all of the things you didn’t witness. Scary, right? Let’s not even talk about some of the assaults on healthy eating that a typical salad bar commits. Mayo-laden salads, bacon bits, and huge vats of creamy, full-of-of-fake ingredients dressings. And, if you’re even the slightest bit grossed out by other humans (and, let’s be honest, who isn’t?), a salad bar is probably not a good place for you to seek out a nosh.
Second, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination (and maybe the size of your fridge).
You’ll want to spend some time thinking about your favorite vegetables, proteins and grains, since this will help you build a repertoire of ingredients that will be versatile. So, if you’re a big fan of Mediterranean flavors, you may want to stock up on chickpeas, chicken, nuts, fresh mozzarella, a variety of olives, feta and, hey, if you’re feeling adventurous, sardines. More of a fan of Asian flavors? Focus on snap peas, sesame seeds, tofu, shrimp, fresh peppers, mushrooms and rice. If you want to start simple, just pick up your favorite salad ingredients, a couple of protein ingredients (meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans), a grain (quinoa, brown rice and farro are all great salad choices), and your favorite garnishes (things like dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, hot peppers).
Third, resist the temptation to go with bagged salad.
I know, total buzz kill, right? But stay with me for a second. If you’re like me, you gravitate to those handy, pre-washed bags of greens. Here’s the thing, I was shocked to see that a fresh head of organic lettuce was nearly half the price of the bagged stuff. Plus, you get to make your own blend of greens. Since you’ll already be setting aside some time to prep all of the ingredients, using fresh greens only adds a few extra minutes. Of course, if bagged lettuce is the thing that keeps you eating salad, then go with it.
Oh, and make sure you have a bunch of small, stackable containers and large resealable bags on hand. This in essential element of the plan, since you want to be able to quickly pull all of the ingredients out of the fridge and get them on the counter and quickly ready them for salad-bar assembly.
Fourth, for the love of everything we hold dear, stop buying salad dressing!
Seriously, homemade vinaigrette is one of the easiest things to make and, if you’re eating salad on a regular basis, having fresh, hand-crafted dressing that you whipped up just can’t be matched. If you’ve never made dressing at home, I’ve included my go-to vinaigrette recipe in this post. There are lots of recipes for homemade salad dressings online…just try it. I promise that you will never go back to the store-bought stuff!
Lastly, set aside some uninterrupted time for you to put it all together. If you’re including chicken, fish, grains, or other ingredients that require cooking, get those things going first, that way you can prepare all of the other ingredients while everything is cooking. It took me about an hour to cook the chicken breast, cut up all of the veggies, make the dressing and get all of my accessory ingredients organized (things like dried cranberries, nuts, seeds, etc.). I also purchased feta, chickpeas, olives, hot peppers and sweet peppers off the olive bar at my local grocer.
Once your refrigerator salad bar is open for business, you’ll have plenty of reasons to enjoy a good salad every day (and zero excuses not to).
Refrigerator Salad Bar
servings: Enough dressing for 6 entree sized salads | time: 5 minutes
1/3 cup champagne vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP. grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. sugar
1. Place all of the ingredients in a jar and shake. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week
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