One-bowl salad meals

Where I live, we typically endure five months of winter (this year, harsh and unrelenting and over-the-edge-pushing winter), followed by what feels like two weeks of spring. At that point I am usually caught feeling unprepared to put away my parka (which most closely resembles a sleeping bag) and wear more revealing clothing.

That’s a whole lot of build-up to say that I’m trying to plan ahead this year by switching now from high calorie lasagna and cauliflower tart to lighter fare. And, just in time, Real Simple magazine has offered some suggestions for fancy salads which they more accurately call one-bowl meals.

The magazine shows five one-bowl meals, but makes the point that it’s “real simple” to get creative by mixing and matching from a starter list of healthy ingredients that includes grains, greens, proteins, vegetables and herbs, cheese, and “wild cards” like olives and nuts. Everything can be prepped in advance and combined later for a simple, fresh-tasting meal.

simple way to keep greens

In case you are like me and have a sad history of not using greens before they turn slimy and foul (despite reading many times about how to avoid just that situation), here’s what is working for me: I wash and dry the greens as soon as I buy them and put them in an airtight container. That way they’re ready to use (no excuses!) and stay fresh for about five days.

Finding a good dressing has also been an obstacle to me eating more salad. Most bottled dressings have strange preservatives, including too much salt and/or sugar. Salad Girl dressings (made in my home state of Minnesota) taste good and have only recognizable ingredients, but I really just need to start making my own basic vinaigrette.

If you have a favorite homemade dressing recipe, please share it here!

7 thoughts on “One-bowl salad meals

  1. We make a vinaigrette from a recipe in ‘vegetarian cooking for everyone’, but a tip for really yummy one is go to whole foods or coop and look for walnut oil. It’s extra tasty and there’s usually a simple vinaigrette recipe printed on the label.

    Still, even though we almost always have the necessary ingredients for it, and it only takes 5 minutes to make, we often are so beaten down by life by dinner time that we still reach for the ranch dressing in the fridge rather than make the vinaigrette.

    • Thanks for the suggestion about walnut oil. (I feel so much pressure to have dinner on the table five minutes after walking in the door that I understand exactly why you would reach for a bottled dressing.)

      We have sesame oil right now, which could also be nice mixed with some vinegar, sprinkle of sugar, and green onions for a Korean-style one-bowl salad meal.

  2. The dressing I use all the time is salt, olive oil and white vinegar. It’s so much better than commercial dressings, no sugar. I just sprinkle the salt, do three turns of oil and one of vinegar straight onto the greens.

    i hope you get some warmer weather soon, here in Australia it has been so hot.

    • Thanks for the motivation! I know that oil and vinegar can be so easy — I think knowing how to make a basic vinaigrette is considered a life skill in France — just need a little confidence earned from practice.

      Thanks for the wishes for warmer weather. We realize we’re not alone when we look at weather problems in other places — drought on the American west coast, flooding in England, heat and drought in Australia, plus dramatic weather events like hurricanes and typhoons. I hope you see some relief too with the change of seasons.

  3. I’ve been on a salad kick here lately too. For lunch I do the basic salad with a hard boiled egg sliced (YUM), tomatoes, and vinaigrette. But I do like to turn every day meals into salads for dinner as well. For example, I love taking a bed of good greens like spinach and kale adding a layer of crushed nut thins (almond and rice crackers) then add about 1/2 cup of cooked taco meat and top with some taco sauce and sour cream. It’s SO delicious, and way better than filling up on tacos with flour shells and a sprinkling of iceberg lettuce. I’ve done a simular salad with buffalo chicken too. I actually look forward to salads now too! It’s my way of balancing good for me ingredients and yummy tastes (trying to avoid the all or nothing mentality that usually results in failure for me.) My next experiment will be a BBQ chicken salad with a BBQ vinaigrette. I haven’t quite figured out what dressing to use for this but Applebee’s used to have (it unfortunately quickly disappeared off the menu) a salad like that and it was awesome, so hopefully I can adapt it to home meals.

    Anyway, enjoy your salads! 🙂

    • Hi Chandra – thanks for the good suggestions! You reminded me that an easy way to add dry crunch (a satisfying texture) is to use broken tortilla chips or, as you do, rice crackers.

    • we do a modified bbq/southwest chicken salad quite often–roast a chicken one night, then use leftovers the next and put on lettuce, with avocado, black beans, corn, tomatoes. something crunchy would be good, too. We’ve never figured out the bbq dressing (TJ’s uses one in their premade salads that I like), so we just throw ranch on it. please post again when you’ve figured out the dressing. 🙂

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