Homemade salad dressing (Click for a larger image)

 

 

 

 

Salad, glorious salad!

Today I’m here to glorify the food phenomenon we know as salad: that combination of greens and vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds that’s savory and sweet and bitter with all different textures thrown in, and topped with any type of sauce from thick and creamy to a simple oil and vinegar. Salads are extremely versatile, affordable, and nourishing. I crave them regularly, especially after exercise.

One particular hike comes to mind, years ago when I scaled a steep hill with some friends and got lost in the mountains behind my house. Hours later we made our way back, hungry and exhausted. I wanted nothing more than a giant salad and a glass of water. After I ate I fell right asleep and dreamed of sliding down mountains of lettuce on streams of vinaigrette.

I see these cravings as confirmation that I’m on the right track – following exercise with a healthy meal. It’s a good way to get in my recommended servings of vegetables (full of fiber and antioxidants), but I also get calcium and protein in the form of nuts, seeds, and a hard-boiled egg.

Too often I’m disappointed when I order a salad at a restaurant, but I love to indulge in the salad bar at our natural foods store. There you can pick and choose from dozens of ingredients and heap your plate as high as you like – for a price of $6.99 per pound, and my creations usually weighed about that much.

I enjoyed them so thoroughly that last summer I stopped there for lunch about once a week and made myself the same salad every time. The last time I went, I took note of all the components so I could re-create my favorite salad at home at a fraction of the cost.

I want to call this a guilty pleasure, but it’s not. I enjoy this meal about as much as I do a piece of decadent cake from my favorite bakery (that’s not to say that salad will do when you’re craving cake, or vice versa), except it’s incredibly cheap, and it’s good for me. There’s nothing to feel guilty about!

This meal is vegetarian, but easily adapted to a vegan diet. I’ve listed the ingredients I like, but there are no instructions; the point here is not to insist on one way of making a salad. It’s to open you to the idea of making salad a meal, however you like it.

That might mean using certain ingredients that ­I passed over at the salad bar – shredded beats, garbonzo beans, cucumbers, dried cranberries, walnuts, radishes, and peppers, to name a few.

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If you make it colorful with a variety of textures, you can pretty much guarantee you’re getting a well-balanced meal. But if that doesn’t feel like enough, it doesn’t hurt to pair your salad with a cup of soup or a slice of whole grain bread.

SALAD Initial cost How much I use Cost in Salad
Salad mix, local 5.94 / lb 1 oz 0.37
Sprouts 1.25 / 4 oz package 0.8 oz 0.25
Carrots, local 1.25 / lb 2 oz 0.16
Red onion, organic 1.88 / lb 1 oz 0.12
Fresh peas, local 3.00 / bag 5.5 oz 2.7 oz $1.50
Cherry tomatoes, local 3.00 / carton 10.5 oz 2.2 oz (8 tomatoes) 0.63
Blue cheese 9.00 / lb 1 oz 0.57
Cottage cheese 2.39 / lb (2 cups) 1/3 cup 0.40
Sunflower seeds 2.97 / lb 1 oz 0.19
Hard boiled egg, local $3.36 / dozen 1 egg 0.28
DRESSING(creamy balsamic) $3.81 for a bottle of Annie’s balsamic 2 Tablespoons 0.48
Balsamic vinegar 3 Tablespoons
Olive oil 1 Tablespoon
Mayo (veganaise) 1 Tablespoon
Milk, local 2 Tablespoons
Plain yogurt 2 Tablespoons
salt ¼ teaspoon
Garlic powder ½ teaspoon

This recipe makes enough dressing for at least two large servings of salad, because I find it silly to make such a small quantity… you might as well have extra for no extra effort! Kept in a jar in the fridge, you can enjoy it on salads throughout the week. But instead of figuring out the exact price of my dressing, I’ve taken a bottle of natural balsamic dressing and given you the cost for 1 serving of 2 Tablespoons.

My cost came to $4.95, mostly because I splurged on some delicious fresh peas from the farmers market (the crunchy kind, shelled by hand). Without them, my meal would have cost $3.45. But you could easily substitute them for some cheaper peas or some sliced crunchy bell pepper.

You can’t go wrong if you keep it fresh and colorful. For inspiration, take yourself to a natural foods store and browse their salad bar. Treat yourself to a salad there and then start experimenting at home!

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