Have you ever gotten everything ready for dinner, on time, at the same time (ta DA!), and you suddenly realize that you don’t have the salad fixin’s ready? Crudbuckets. That’s the night when you don’t have salad, right?[Ok, really: Have you ever gotten everything ready for dinner, on time, AND at the same time? If you have, please sign up to write a guest post here. I can’t figure that part out.]
I think a great salad is all about the preparation. For me, I usually THINK about doing all the prep long before the meal and end up doing it right before dinner anyway…but then at least I’m all set for the next night because I follow a few simple salad prep rules. How do you Make your Salads Count?
Katie’s Quick Salad Fixin’s Tips
Try your best to cut veggies and lettuce in the afternoon, after breakfast, or even at night as you’re cleaning up after dinner.
Fake the bagged lettuce.
Cut an entire head of lettuce at once so it’s ready for the next day. (More on Thursday for my favorite lettuce gadgets!)
Buy vegetables. Buy variety.
This seems like a no-brainer, but I don’t always think about salad veggies unless I’m presented with them (like at my Farmer’s Market). I need to make sure that even in the winter, I keep cucumbers, cauliflower, and the occasional pepper on hand.
Cut in bulk.
Wash and prepare the whole broccoli or cauliflower (etc.) at once.
Store cut veggies in a bag, ready to go.
Put them all together (with the possible exception of peppers and onions – they get their own bag at my house). Who says broccoli, cauliflower, pea pods and cucumbers can’t hang out together for a few days? Easy to grab, easy to eat.
Sidenote on cutting veggies in advance: You’ll see some sources say that fruits and vegetables start losing nutrients the moment they’re cut. I say if they’re not cut and you don’t use them because you don’t have time to cut fresh every day, better to get slightly fewer nutrients into your system than none at all. I like this source which says:
“Once the protective peels or coverings of fruits and vegetables are cut, the fruits and vegetables begin to degrade and lose vitamin C. This nutrient loss doesn’t really occur immediately, however, because it may take up to five or six days to show any major vitamin loss as long as cut fruits are stored in the refrigerator. After this time, fruits have been shown to lose 10 to 25 of vitamin C and carotenoids, but not other phytochemicals.
“This five or six day period in the refrigerator is also about the same time it would take for the cut fruit to spoil and become unusable anyway. Once you see that your cut and stored fruit looks spoiled, it has also lost some of its nutritional content. According to the US FDA, cut or peeled vegetables will lose about half of their vitamin content in one to two weeks.”
Just try to use up the cut stuff within 5-6 days. It’s so nice to have a big bag of veggies to put on the salads!
Reuse your bags.
I hate dishes. Don’t you? Because I’m so doggone frugal and “green,” I wash and reuse my plastic Ziploc bags. With the salad fixin’s, I often reuse a bag (gasp!) without washing it. Different partially used peppers and onions have been rotating through the same bag for a few weeks right now. Those, by the way, are pretty easy to cut just the right amount for a meal, so sometimes I leave them in large chunks and just snip a little bit off with the knife I’ve been using for the dinner prep.
Get it all out.
If you go into the fridge one time to grab everything you might want for a salad and have it all on the counter at once, you can assembly line a few bowls in no time. Or better yet, take it all to the table – yes, in those efficient plastic bags – and let people top their own. Absolute best: train the kiddos to get the dressings out by age two, the rest of the fixin’s by age 5 or so.
RELATED: Make-ahead layered salad is perfect for prepping early, even the night before.
Try a Dry Goods Salad Box.
Isn’t that a beauty? I don’t even want to tell you how long it took me to realize that carrying all the salad toppings from the pantry separately was not very efficient. This is a great use for all that old plasticware you’re not using anymore because you’re slowly moving over to glass. Our box is a little light right now, but you can often find:
- Sunflower Seeds*
- Dried Cherries
- Croutons (sometimes homemade)
- Homemade dressings (oil-based ones stay out of the fridge)
- Toasted Kelp
- Chow Mein Noodles
The box makes putting fun toppings ON the table much easier (therefore we’re more likely to get it out there), as well as clearing OFF at the end of dinner.
*Those sunflower seeds are in a repurposed olive jar. Why? I have found that I can’t buy them in bulk because they go rancid rather quickly. Imagine yourself opening and re-zipping (or getting a twist tie on and off) a bag, like the one my seeds come in. Now open and close a jar lid. See how much quicker that is? It’s just another way to acknowledge the laziness inherent in our persons, capitalize on it, and make something easier to access, therefore more likely to be eaten. That’s why my ground flax meal lives in a Parmesan cheese container in my refrigerator.
Serve salad first.
If you have a meal that bakes in the oven and you can finish the sides earlier than the main dish is finished, invite your family to the table anyway. Everyone can piece together their salad, do it up right, and enjoy it first before the main course. (Not that this ever happens at my house, but doesn’t it sound nice? We eat our salads first when the homemade pizza took too long to top and is still baking…)
Serve salad as a main course.
This doesn’t really make the salad easier to make, but then you don’t have to do the salad as “extra” since it is the meal. Leftover cold meats or (our FAVorite!) taco-seasoned sautéed chicken make excellent main dish salads. Be sure to throw in some beans! The taco salad requires lots of shredded cheese and salsa as the dressing. Seriously yummy.
RELATED: Don’t miss my newest homemade dressing, a little reverse engineering of Kraft’s Asian Toasted Sesame.
I’m hosting the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods starting October 1! Be sure to link up your bean, broth, Super Food, and healthy fat recipes. More details here and to come…
(Find over 60 bean recipes here!)