My husband is the gardener in our family (I do some of the picking and most of the cooking and preserving). He learned how to garden from his dad.
Now my oldest son is becoming quite the gardener as well! One thing they all seem to have in common is that they enjoy growing large quantities of vegetables…even if there is no way one family could eat that much.
This means two things:
1. It’s easy to be generous with friends and neighbors! We give away a lot of produce.
2. I have to be creative with my meal planning!
One of the foods we always have in abundance is lettuce. As in 10 – 20 heads ready at a time. This is in addition to leaf lettuce which sometimes provides multiple gallons in a day. Salad, anyone?
Healthy Summer Side Dish
With so much lettuce we eat a lot of salads. Some days I eat a bowl of salad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No joke. And my kids do love a big salad bar (yes, you can make a kid-friendly salad bar). But oftentimes I want a simpler option.
My go-to healthy summer side dish is a layered salad. It uses a lot of lettuce but gets eaten quickly. Layered salad is loaded with healthy protein, carbs, and fat (score for blood sugar balancing!). Plus it is a very quick-prep salad. The only thing you have to remember is to make it ahead of time so the dressing has time to sit.
The real beauty of this layered salad is that you can make it your own! Use the base recipe and add whatever protein and veggies your family likes or that you have on hand. I love using up some of our abundance of cucumbers.
Eat Your Veggies with a Healthy Layered Salad
During the summer you don’t want to spend half of your day in a hot kitchen. You want to be outside, soaking up the sun.
But you are also sick of eating a plate of raw vegetables. Boring.
Layered salad is your answer! You can pile on the veggies in a very not-boring way. The salad dressing is sweet and tangy and makes whatever is underneath taste amazing.
And don’t forget the bacon. Bacon makes any vegetable taste better. The whole family will be begging for a second helping of veggies.
Layered Salad Kids Love
When my kids hear that I am making layered salad they go crazy. The simple salad dressing is what really makes it a kid-pleaser.
The dressing ingredients are so simple. It only contains two ingredients and doesn’t even require mixing. After layering your favorite salad toppings simply spread on mayo (preferably homemade mayonnaise or avocado oil-based) and sprinkle a touch of organic cane sugar or a drizzle of honey over top. That’s it. A few hours later it’s ready to go.
Kids love the flavor of the sweet dressing combined with salty cheese and bacon. The veggies go right down no problem.
Healthy Layered Salad for a Quick Dinner
A layered salad makes a great side dish all summer long. But don’t limit yourself. Layered salad is perfect for:
- potlucks (there are never leftovers!)
- picnics at the beach
- grilling (burgers + layered salad is a winning combo)
My favorite way to eat layered salad is as a main dish! I often eat the leftovers for breakfast or lunch (usually both if there is enough). If you want to serve layered salad for a simple lunch you can bump up the protein a bit (bacon crumbles, hard boiled eggs, diced ham, leftover roasted chicken, leftover steak, nuts, seeds…so many options) and serve it with a side of sourdough bread and butter. It really doesn’t get any easier!
This works for busy fall weeknights as well. When sports and other activities begin and everyone is coming and going, make a big layered salad and hit the road. No need for the drive-through!
A versatile layered salad with a simple sweet and tangy dressing.
- 2 heads iceberg or romaine lettuce (or the equivalent of your favorite greens), chopped into bite size pieces
- 1 10 oz. bag frozen peas, thawed
- 8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 can chickpeas, drained
- 1 large cucumber, diced
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- optional toppings: diced ham, diced hard boiled egg, diced tomato, diced celery, diced red onions, green onions, cubed avocado, diced pepper, cut up broccoli florets, nuts, seeds, roasted chicken, cubed steak
- 2 cups homemade or avocado oil mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. organic cane sugar or honey
- 1–2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar cheese is a favorite!)
- Layer lettuce and toppings in a 9×13-inch pan.
- Spread mayonnaise over top.
- Sprinkle on sugar (or honey).
- Sprinkle cheese over top.
- Cover, refrigerate, and let sit for 4 or more hours.
Be creative. The only requirements for the salad are lettuce and the dressing. Add whatever toppings you like!
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 581
- Sugar: 19g
- Sodium: 1335mg
- Fat: 32g
- Saturated Fat: 9g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 53g
- Fiber: 9g
- Protein: 21g
- Cholesterol: 53mg
Keywords: seasonal recipe, summer vegetables, salad
How to Use Extra Lettuce
Layered salad is my favorite way to use up an abundance of extra lettuce. Especially if you are feeding a crowd. Or if you are like me and love eating it for every meal until it’s gone – which doesn’t take long.
If you need more variety, some other delicious salads include:
But sometimes even after giving some away and everyone eating their fill we still have more lettuce than we can handle. My Dutch heritage makes me hate to let anything go to waste. So any extra that we just can’t use goes to our free-range chickens. It makes me happy knowing it’s still indirectly nourishing my family by helping the chickens produce high-quality eggs.
Simple Layered Salad
Growing up my mom made seven layer salad often in the summer. She still brings it to most family gatherings these days. It’s one of those foods that remind me of my childhood.
Layered salad was even the only way I could get a few veggies in during early pregnancy when nausea was setting in. It was one of my comfort foods.
I love sharing it with my kids now. And I love that over time we get to make it our own, creating variety as the in-season produce changes.
I hope you’ll make it one of your family favorites too!
What toppings would you add to layered salad?Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.