Sorry I’ve been MIA from the blog, but I’ve been trying to focus my efforts full-time on my job search. Yes, I’m officially out there trying to get back into the working world. I never realized that trying to find a job is actually a full-time job in itself. It’s a process that I actually want to share with all of you, once I find that perfect job (I hope I’m close). I think my experience could help those of you moms and dads out there that are looking to get back into the workforce. I’ve discovered so much about myself through this experience, and while it’s been excruciatingly difficult at times to fully put myself out there and to have to “sell” myself, it’s been an amazing self discovery into who I am and what I can do.
So with all that being said, I’m so excited to share this post with you all today, as it’s just chock-full of helpful info. It’s also real life for me, as it’s what I’ve been doing in my own house to maintain and keep to a healthy eating routine, as my life gets busier and busier. This post contains tons of recipes, helpful and practical tips, scrumptious salad ideas, and I even have a grocery list for you all! I’m trying to make cooking and eating healthy at home as simple and easy as possible!
I’ve learned over the years that the key to eating healthy is planning ahead and prepping for the week. Prepping for the week can be as simple as menu planning (basically figuring out the recipes for the week) and then preparing a grocery list. Just by incorporating these 2 simple steps into your weekly routine, will help to keep you motivated and on track to sticking with a healthy eating schedule. I usually try and go one step further by prepping ahead ingredients that I can toss into a last-minute salad, lunch or pasta dish. I find that if I take the time to make a few things up ahead, I’m less inclined to order take out when I get lazy.
Today, I’m sharing with you my Sunday or Saturday (depends on what day I have more free time) salad prep for the week. It’s not rocket science, but just some basic salad prep 101. If you prep most of the ingredients in advance, a salad can take under 10 minutes to toss together. I took all of the prepped ingredients (shown above in the top photo) and tossed them together to create this nutrient rich salad below. Doesn’t this salad look like it came from a gourmet cafe? YOU CAN make a gourmet salad like this at home, and I’m here today to show you how.
I simply ADORE salads. They’re one of the simplest ways to incorporate a variety of nutrient rich veggies, greens, healthy fats, nuts and seed into your diet. A good salad should be more than just a bunch of greens tossed together in a vinaigrette, it should be a well-balanced nutrient-rich meal that gives you energy and makes you feel strong.
Weekly salad prep 101:
I’m going to show you some sample pantry and produce items that I have on hand at all times. By having these items around, I can make a last-minute vinaigrette, or salad at anytime. When I’m running low on one item, I make sure to purchase a new one right away. Also, if I see one of my favorite brands on sale, then I make sure to buy in bulk and stock up!
Simple salad pantry list
(these are items that I have stocked in my pantry/fridge at all times)
- good quality extra-virgin olive oil – I absolutely love this olive oil from Amphora as well, as Ancient Olive Trees
- virgin coconut oil – I love these two brands, Dr. Bronner’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut oil
- balsamic vinaigrette
- hemp seed oil – You can find hemp seed oil in the nutrition department’s refrigerated section of your grocery store, near the probiotics.
- champagne vinegar
- apple cider vinegar – I love this brand from Braggs
- coarse sea salt – I adore this celtic sea salt, as it’s unrefined and chock-full of minerals
- black pepper
- red pepper flakes – I use these in everything!
- Dijon mustard
- brown rice
- raw and sprouted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds – I love this brand from Go Raw
- hemp seeds
- raw almonds
- chickpeas, black beans
Simple salad fresh produce list
- 3-4 fresh lemons
- 2-3 avocados
- sweet potatoes
- boxed or bagged pre-washed, ready-to-go greens – baby kale, arugula or mixed greens
- fresh leafy greens like kale, romaine or red leaf lettuce
- parmesan cheese
- kalamata olives
- cherry tomatoes
Pre-wash and store your greens: We all have great intentions when we buy that bunch of kale or romaine at the grocery store. We pat ourselves on the back because we’ve made that initial investment in eating healthier this week by purchasing those greens, but when we get home we just toss the greens into the crisper. What typically happens is that we either forget about the greens and they go bad, or we get lazy and don’t feel like washing and de-stemming the greens, so as a result they never get eaten, so sad. So yes, the good intention was there, but the follow up was not.
The key I’ve found to making sure to use those greens is to; wash, de-stem and store them right when I get home from the grocery store. When I do this simple 10-minute step, I always end up using my greens that week, they stay fresher longer, and it just saves you that one annoying step when it comes to making a salad for lunch or dinner. I have 2 “how-to” posts that show you how to keep kale and other greens fresh and how to de-stem kale. I guarantee that if you take the time to do these 2 simple steps with your fresh store-bought greens, then you will end putting them into your body, and not into your compost bin.
Here’s a quick tip for keeping packaged salad greens fresh. Most of the time when you purchase a container of greens there will be some moisture in the container. If you want to keep your packaged greens fresher longer, then take a paper towel and wipe out the excess moisture from the sides and top of the container. Then place a dry paper towel between the greens and the lid of the container. My greens always last longer by doing this simple trick!
Make up a batch of quinoa, farro or brown rice: Turn a salad into a grain bowl by adding in some quinoa, brown rice or farro. By adding these simple proteins and grains to your salad, it will turn a simple green salad into a heartier and more satisfying salad. Below are my methods for cooking these proteins and grains. I cook up a batch up, let it cool, and then store it in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week. I toss these grains in salads, wraps, burritos, burrito bowls, as well as pair them with a fried egg.
I have a full post on cooking quinoa, but here’s the nitty gritty. Put 1 cup well-rinsed quinoa, 1 3/4 cup water, stock or broth, and a hefty pinch of sea salt into a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring the quinoa to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, and the quinoa’s germs look like lots of tiny spirals, about 12-15 minutes. Turn off the heat, place a dry paper towel between the pot and the lid, and let the quinoa sit for 5 minutes before giving a fluff with a fork.
Put 1 cup farro into a medium sauce pan and cover the farro with 4 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low or simmer, and cook uncovered until tender, about 25 to 35 minutes. I would test the farro at 25 minutes to see where it’s at. You want it to be chewy and a bit tender, but not mushy. Drain the farro.
Cooking Brown Rice
I always oven bake my brown rice, as it’s the easiest, fool proof and tastiest way to cook brown rice. Check out my post on easy oven baked brown rice. This rice is totally kid approved and LOVED!
Another great and tasty rice to pair in salads is my oven baked black forbidden rice.
Roasted sweet potatoes and beets
I love adding roasted sweet potatoes and beets to any salad, as they not only add a boost of nutrition, but amazing flavor and texture. Roasted veggies turns a plain-jane salad into a gourmet salad. I don’t just use roasted veggies for salad though, I often eat them straight from the fridge for a quick and healthy snack. For instance I love pairing roasted beets with avocado and sea salt for a quick post-workout snack. Delish and super healthy to boot!
How to roast whole beets
Roasting whole beets is so simple, but they take an hour to roast up, so I usually roast them when I’m home doing life or house admin. Here’s my post on how to roast whole beets without foil.
Roasted sweet potatoes
I usually roast 1 large, or 2 small sweet potatoes at a time. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub sweet potatoes (keep skin on for fiber, nutrition and flavor) and cut off both ends. Cut sweet potatoes into planks, cut planks into strips, and then each strip into approximately 1-inch cubes. In a bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil and some coarse sea salt. Lift the sweet potatoes out of the bowl and arrange in a single layer onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure you don’t crowd the sweet potatoes, as they will steam rather than caramelize. Roast in pre-heated oven until the sweet potatoes are caramelized, browned and tender when pierced with a fork, about 18-25 min. Make sure to flip the sweet potatoes at the halfway mark. The below picture shows roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, my fave!
Roasted chicken or tofu
Roasted chicken or tofu are two great things to have on hand if you want to add a complete protein to your salad (a complete protein is one that has all 8 essential amino acids that our bodies need, but can’t produce). I keep roasted shredded chicken on hand not only to toss in salads, but to add to sandwiches as well. Here’s my post on how to roast chicken breasts.
For those of you that are vegetarian or vegan (or just like tofu) and want a complete protein, check out my miso roasted tofu recipe. I use this miso roasted tofu in everything from salads, to my vegetarian banh mi sandwiches.
You can also make my quick and easy sautéed tofu and top this on any salad or bowl. This sautéed tofu is my new go-to recipe, as it’s quick and easy, requires just 4 simple ingredients, takes no time to sauté up, and pairs with just about everything. I also love how crispy the tofu gets when sautéed in the cast iron skillet.
5 simple salad dressings
Here are my 4 favorite salad dressings, that virtually take no time to whip up. I usually make them up fresh, (as they take 5 minutes) but you can make them up ahead of time as well. These dressings pair with just about anything!
5 minute pantry champagne vinaigrette. This vinaigrette doesn’t use lemons or garlic, just simple pantry ingredients.
Simple lemon vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- pinch of fine or coarse sea salt
- pinch of freshly ground pepper
- pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
In a small bowl or small glass jar, whisk together the lemon juice, minced garlic, sea salt, freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes. Slowly add in the olive oil, whisking until emulsified.
Simple mustard vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper – we love pepper in our salad, so I used a bit more than ¼ teaspoon
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
- optional, but tasty – pinch of red pepper flakes
In a small bowl or small glass jar, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, sea salt, freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes if using. Slowly add in the olive oil, whisking until emulsified.
Healthy hemp seed dressing
- 2 tablespoons unpasteurized raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon celtic sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold pressed, unrefined hemp oil, or cold pressed flax oil or walnut oil – You can find hemp seed oil in the nutrition department’s refrigerated section of your grocery store, near the probiotics.
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
Individual portion of hemp seed dressing
Perfect for those lunches for one
- 1 tablespoon unpasteurized raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- pinch celtic sea salt
- 2 tablespoons cold pressed, unrefined hemp oil, or cold pressed flax oil or walnut oil – You can find hemp seed oil in the nutrition department’s refrigerated section of your grocery store, near the probiotics.
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
In a small bowl or small glass jar, whisk together the 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Slowly add in ¼ cup hemp seed oil, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in the 2 tablespoons flax seeds.
Simple balsamic vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt – the amount of salt you add is to taste
- freshly ground pepper to taste
In a small bowl or small glass jar, add in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and whisk until emulsified.
Once the dressings are mixed, give them a taste and adjust the seasonings. Tasting tip: For the most accurate idea of what the dressing will taste like on your salad, dip a leaf into the dressing, shake off the excess, and give it a try.
I also love this kid friendly caesar salad dressing. It makes a bunch, so I tend to make it ahead and store it in the fridge for a week’s worth of salads. It’s totally kid approved as well.
Packing a salad for the lunch box
When packing up a salad for lunch, you never want to toss a salad with the dressing ahead of time, (unless your packing up my lacinato kale salad) as it the greens will get soggy. Just get out a glass container with a lid, add in the greens, beans, quinoa, olives, chicken (basically all of the fixings that you’re incorporating into your salad) and put on the lid. Pour the dressing into a separate small glass container. Toss the dressing with the salad when you’re ready for lunch. The easiset way to toss a on-the-go salad is to pour the dressing onto the greens, put the lid of the salad container back on the salad, and give it all a good shake! Below is an example of how I pack up my kid friendly caesar salad in a lunch box.
Here’s the easy and creative part! Take any of the above listed grocery ingredients and toss them together with your favorite dressing. I mean it’s a salad, so it’s can be an ensemble of just about anything.
I’m going to give you all some examples of my favorite combinations to get you started!
Baby kale, roasted beets, chickpeas, kalamata olives, diced avocado, quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes tossed in my simple lemon vinaigrette.
Mixed greens, roasted matchstick beets, broccoli or kale sprouts, diced avocado, hemp seeds, sprouted pumpkin and sunflower seeds tossed in my healthy hemp seed dressing. Some quinoa, farro or brown rice would be amazing in this salad.
I added some kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes to the above salad one day, and paired it with some avocado toast! Delish!
Lacinato kale and romaine lettuce, roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, kalamata olives, english cucumber, and chickpeas tossed in my simple lemon vinaigrette, or try my mustard vinaigrette. I served this salad up for dinner one night with a batch of popovers!
Arugula, roasted beets, toasted almonds tossed in my simple balsamic vinaigrette. This salad is also amazing with some diced avocado, chickpeas and quinoa added to it.
Baby kale, chickpeas and avocado tossed in my simple lemon vinaigrette. I love adding farro and or quinoa, olives and chicken to this salad as well.
Easy weeknight or weekday salad that took me literally 5 minutes to whip up, basically as long as it would take to make a PB&J. I whipped up a half batch of my hemp seed salad dressing, which is perfect for an individual salad. Tossed the dressing with some arugula, roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, kalamata olives, sprouted pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and diced avocado. It was AMAZING and so healthy!
I’ll keep adding photos and sharing salad ideas to this post, as I create more salads this summer.
Please feel free to share some of your favorite salad ideas, as well as any useful tips you may have for Sunday meal prep.
Have an amazing weekend everyone and wish me luck on my job search!