Choose Your Own Salad Adventure

We here at Mark’s Daily Apple love salads. And lets face it, what’s not to love? Not only is it healthy, but there is so much opportunity to change it up. You could literally go years without repeating the same salad!

However, coming up with new salad “recipes” can be a bit of a challenge…until now. Read on to learn a list of the best salad ingredients, toppings, dressings and (gasp) even some forbidden add-ins, and learn new ways to combine them all!

Base: While this doesn’t necessarily comprise the bulk of the salad, it’s a good place to start. Depending on your hunger level, start with 1-2 cups of any of the following (or a combination of several!)

Bok Choy
Dandelion Greens
Endive (all varieties)
Iceberg (just remember, a dark leafy green packs a better nutritional punch!)
Mizuna (an Asian green leaf)
Savoy Cabbage
Tot soi (similar to Mizuna, but with a stronger, more peppery flavor)

Add Ins:
Salads are typically better when the portion of vegetable add-ins are in quantities either equal to or exceeding the base layer. So, for a salad that uses 1 cup of “greens,” you’ll probably want to add between 1 and 2 cups of a combination of the following!

Artichoke hearts
Banana Pepper
Bell Pepper (all colors served either raw or roasted)
Broccoli (fresh or pre-cooked)
Chilies (hey, some like it hot!)
Green Beans
Jalapeno Peppers
Snow Peas

Proteins: Although we love our salads, the reality is a few cups of vegetables probably isn’t going to keep you satiated until dinner time swings around. Stave off the munchies by adding about 1 serving (which, when we discuss protein, is equivalent to the size of a deck of cards) of any of the following into the mix – just steer very VERY clear of deli meats, which are loaded with sodium and other preservatives and often have hidden sugars!

Beef (grass-fed)
Chicken (organic)
Egg (Hard Boiled)
Shrimp (cooked and served chilled)
Tuna, Salmon or any other Wild Fish (either seared or canned)

Occasional Add Ins: While these shouldn’t ever be considered a salad staple, every now and again it’s nice to add one or two in to change up the routine!

Apple slices
Cottage cheese/Ricotta cheese
Cheese (feta, goat, mozzarella, romano and blue are among our favorites!)
Beans (Black, red, garbanzo etc.)
Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts)
Water chestnuts
Honey (and we’re talking really occasionally and in very small doses here!)

“Oils”: While some people would say that adding an oil to an otherwise healthy salad is counterintuitive, the oil actually adds flavor and helps keep you satiated long into the afternoon!

Avocado Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Plain Yogurt
Roasted Pumpkin Seed Oil (an Austrian import, but adds a robust, nutty taste to salads or marinades)
Sour Cream
Truffle Oil (pricey, but totally worth it!)

Who’d of thought there were so many options beyond the run-of-the-mill balsamic/red-wine varieties? As a general rule of thumb use 3 parts oil to 1 part acid for a balanced dressing.

Apple Vinegar/Apple Cider Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar
Champagne Vinegar
Chingkiang Vinegar (best for Asian-inspired salads!)
Cider Vinegar
Ice Wine Vinegar (hard to find, but impressive when you do!)
Lemon Juice
Lime Juice
Red Wine Vinegar
Rice Vinegar
Sherry Vinegar (best when aged, so you’ll need to know your stuff regarding good “years”)
Tarragon Vinegar
Tomato Juice

Spices and Herbs: When it comes to salads – and salad dressings in particular – a little bit of spice can transform the entire dish!

Celery Salt
Dijon Mustard
Garlic Salt

With these ingredients alone there are millions of combinations. Now go forth and eat yourself a big salad!

Still seem a little daunting? Try some of these outside-of-the-box salad dressing ideas:

Caesar Vinaigrette:
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp Oregano
2/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (fresh is best)
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir the white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, honey, oregano, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil to make a thick-ish vinaigrette mixture. Stir in garlic. Add Parmesan cheese just before serving (otherwise you get sludge!)

Cucumber Dill Dressing:
3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
3 tbsp fresh dill (chopped)
1 tsp sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup cucumber, peeled and seeded
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and seed cucumber. Chop into small chunks and blend in a food processor until smooth. Add all other ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Lime Almond Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp finely chopped unsalted roasted almonds
2 tbsp fish sauce (available in the Asian Specialty section of most major grocery stores)
1 tbsp fresh ginger (minced)
1 tbsp fresh cilantro (chopped)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
Add all ingredients to cruet or large mason jar. Shake until all ingredients are mixed! Doesn’t get any easier than this folks!

Garlic Vinaigrette:
3 cups olive oil
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp dried oregano
3 cloves garlic (pressed)
Salt & pepper to taste

Uhh… pour all ingredients into cruet or large mason jar and shake until blended.

Orange Citrus Vinaigrette:
2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp honey

And yet another simple one! Blend the vinegar, orange juice, oil, cilantro, mustard, garlic, and honey in a bowl. Serve chilled.

We certainly haven’t covered everything in our “Choose Your Own Salad Adventure” list. What are we missing and what are your favorite salad additions?

madnzany Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Mark’s Daily Apple Recipe Ideas

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