Although I can appreciate the nutritional value of leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and chopped carrots tossed in a nice colorful plate, for me, a good salad is all about the dressing! The creamier the better is my rule when it comes to salad dressing. The unfortunate fact is that too often it is the “not so healthy” addition to the salad. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Let’s first walk you through how to build salads at home so they are balanced meals that can nourish and satisfy. Choose a nice combination of leafy greens as your base. When possible, combine at least three different types of greens, such as arugula, spinach, Romaine lettuce, kale, chard, cabbage, and mustard greens. And since we eat with our eyes, get colorful! Chopped carrots, red peppers, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, raw broccoli, raw cauliflower, radishes, corn, well… you get the point! The more colors, the better. You should have at least three differently- colored toppings.
Lastly, for a protein boost, choose garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, chopped chicken, tuna, chopped nuts, hemp hearts or cottage cheese. . Your goal to add a minimum of 20 grams of protein, so you may combine two or three protein sources. For example, 2 ounces of chopped chicken yields 10 grams of protein, ¾ of garbanzo beans adds up to about 11 grams, and ½ cup sunflower seeds equals to 12 grams of protein. This is the beauty of customized salads, adding only the ingredients that you like, giving you the ability to eat a different salad each day by changing the ingredients.
Another fun addition to salads for a sweet twist is chopped fruit such as green apples, strawberries, oranges, blueberries as well as raisins or other dried fruits; you only need about 2 tablespoons per serving to elevate your salad to gourmet status.
Now back to the dressing. After combining the “best of the best” of natural and fresh ingredients, pouring a dressing from a bottle may not be your idea of a homemade finale for your salad. A creamy dressing adds a luxurious feel to salads but often brings dairy and other undesired excess to your healthy lunch. But is making salad dressing something you really have time for? Well, yes! It is much easier than you think, and creaminess can be achieved without dairy, too. The salad dressing recipe below is a variation of many others I’ve seen before. You can play with the ingredients and add other herbs and spices to personalize it. But the basic recipe only takes two minutes to make, and all you need is a spoon and bowl. You need no powerful blender or food processor, no soaking nuts over night or high speed mixer either! For a single serving start with 1 tablespoon of Once Again Creamy Cashew Butter, and add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix it well for about 30 seconds, then add ¼ tsp. salt and add water to thin it to your preference (no more than 2 tablespoons). It is simple, creamy, and healthy! You can make larger batches and save it in refrigerator, but it is only good for about 48 hours — and it does separate, so I recommend making just as much as you need at a time.
Using Once Again nut butters as a basis to your salad dressings will allow you to achieve the creamy texture without the use of dairy, while also adding to the protein content of your salad. The same recipe above can be made with more Once Again nut butter and less vinegar to use as a veggie dip. I have also roasted garlic and added it to the mix for a deeply flavored dressing.