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  • Mary Kay

Everyday Salad Upgrade for the New Year! And, it's Low-Cal!

This is the skinny on eating better!

For the New Year, upgrade your everyday lettuce salad to include more flavor…and more vitamins, too!

The first of every year I strive to eat healthier but I get tired of the same old same old, and I bet many of you do, too. People eat a lot of salads, but how to make those everyday salads taste better especially if you eat them almost every day?

First: Change up your green base.

Switch to Romaine or other greens like Swiss Chard leaves, beet tops, arugula or spring mix as your lettuce salad base. Maybe even carrot tops or fennel tops – why not? They all have different flavors, and you don’t need to use a lot in one salad. Just use a bit to give your meal a different color and flavor. I’ve read that the darker green the veggies, the more vitamins they have.

Second: Add a variety of veggies.

It doesn’t need to be a lot of different veggies. Just change them up periodically to give you different flavors and to make it harder to quit eating them. Try something new to you, like artichoke hearts, yellow or orange sweet peppers or hot peppers.

Third: Change it up so you don't get so bored eating the same old same old.

Get away from the mostly lettuce salads. I get tired of eating lettuce salads every day, but want to stay on the healthy side of the salad. I don’t want to add a lot of stuff that just keep adding empty calories. I get around this by using veggies other than the lettuce as the main ingredient in my salad.

One day I’ll feature a sweet pepper as the main veggie, using chunks as the base, with a few other veggies like tomato or cucumbers or arugula mixed in. The next week I might utilize cucumbers as the base for my salad. With cucumbers I mix in tomato chunks, artichokes and some vinegar and oil or a flavored low-cal vinaigrette. The third week I might use a spring mixture of greens as the base, sprinkling it with nuts, some flavorful grated cheese and vinaigrette.

Changing the base of the salad keeps me from getting tired of salads and I get a variety of colors and vitamins as I change them up from time to time. I also tend to waste less veggies if I stay with buying 2-3 veggies at a time instead of buying a whole cart load and then not getting to use them all up before they go bad in the fridge.

Fourth: Add a special treat to your salad.

No, I don’t mean for you to add chocolate or ice cream as a special treat with your salad. Add something you might not normally spend money on that will fit well in your salad. Try some pre-cooked chicken and low-cal mayo in your salad. You can find all flavors of low-cal grilled pre-cut fully cooked chicken that’s been spiced up, or not, in your local grocery stores. Try some pickled artichokes or pickled okra or dill pickles. They are an easy to try new flavors without breaking the bank.

Fifth: Make your own vinaigrette or other dressings.

It’s easy to buy a balsamic vinaigrette to use as a salad dressing, but I just love it when my Hubby makes a fresh jar of French Dressing. It’s such an easy recipe, plus it’s delicious and fresh tasting! It has none of those awful preserved flavors instilled in those big-name brands purchased in the stores. He can tweak his a bit to give it a little different flavor or leave it as his original recipe calls for. It’s actually a recipe he has developed over the years.

When I asked him for the recipe today, he said he didn’t have it written down. It’s in his head and he just pours the ingredients into the pint jar and shakes it up until everything is well blended. So, I made him go to the kitchen with me and as he poured each item into the jar, I did some measuring to find out just how much of each he was using. It only takes him two minutes to make and a full pint lasts us a few weeks. The cost? Much less than anything you buy in the store. If you want to try some, here’s the recipe. Very few ingredients and it’s super easy to make!

BONUS #1: Doug’s Homemade French Dressing

1/3 C Sugar

¼ C Vinegar, white

1 t Lemon juice

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1/3 C Oil, vegetable

½ C Ketchup, Del Monte brand

1-2 T Honey

In a pint jar, shake vinegar and sugar together until all is blended. Then add everything else and shake until well blended. That's all! t’s ready to serve!

Sixth: Try some new toppings for a fresh change up.

Give your salad a little pizzazz with a different topping every week. Buy a couple of items and switch them up each week so you don’t get tired of them or they don’t go to waste from disuse.

Try some flavored and shaved cheese on top. We purchase a 4-ounce container of a mixture of parmesan and asiago cheeses that have been shaved together. Just a few pieces on top of a salad gives it a refreshing flavor without a lot of calories or sodium. The container will last us a couple of weeks and give us a lot of flavor.

Croutons give your salad a different crunch from the veggies. Use your favorite store-bought brand or make your own. You can’t believe how easy they are! When I make homemade bread or buy crusty bread in the store bakery, I usually save up to half a loaf for making croutons. (The tasteless white bread used for sandwich bread won’t make very good croutons. They are much to limp and have no flavor.) Flavored crusty bread will make deliciously flavored croutons – that’s the beauty of it! Start with good quality and you’ll end up with good quality.

BONUS #2! Here's my easy recipe for homemade croutons. Cut the bread into slices, then into cubes. Toss them in a bowl with some extra virgin olive oil. You want the olive oil well distributed. (Use a good quality olive oil. It can make a huge difference in the flavor of the croutons.) Sprinkle them with different herbs and spices if you like. If the bread already has a lot of herbs, you probably don’t need to add anything. Sometimes I like to sprinkle some melted butter on top, then stir everything together, but not always. Spread them out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake them for 25 minutes at 250F degrees, stir and taste them. If they are still somewhat soft, bake them for another 15 minutes and taste again. They are done when they are light, crispy and lightly browned, or darker if you are using dark bread. Just don't bake them so long that they get too hard to bite - it's easy to do with a darker bread.

Be diverse in your salad making. So, what I’m really trying to say is to be diverse in your green salad making. Change it up. Enlist a variety of veggies, dressings and toppings. You can eat a lot of healthy and low-cal salads on your way to eating healthier if you change them up, use a variety of colors and flavors in your ingredients.

Enjoy the crunchiness of the veggies, enjoy the vitamins they add to your body, enjoy the croutons and other low-cal toppings you add to your salads. Bake our own Memories!” with a delicious cool low-cal salad.

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