Tuesday marked the first day of spring and as we move towards warmer weather, I don’t know about you, but I’m all about including more fresh vegetables into my day. Long are the days of cozy hearty split pea soup and welcome the bright and cheerful salads …well, for the record, I can eat soup year round BUT when I start wanting more fresh vegetables, I know spring is around the corner. If you are interested in a nutrition + yoga + mindfulness spring reboot, check out the program I have starting soon!
Usually for the “no recipe” recipe series, I focus on a particular food and tell you insanely easy ways to include these goodness bombs into your life without really even needing a recipe. It helps add variety while increasing nutrient density and maybe exposing you to new ways of cooking or meal prepping for the week. This week, with spring here (or at least on the calendar, I mean, it’s still frigid back home in Minnesota and I wouldn’t be surprised if snow made another appearance), I wanted to focus on 3 salads because I think salads are a great way to add in a lot of veggies but I find a lot of people do not make them hearty enough to last. In any salad you’ll want a hefty dose of healthy fats, protein, starch, and of course all the veggies. If you want some salad inspiration or are so inclined to eat more leafy greens in your day, I think you’ll really enjoy these. The great part is that you can use some of the produce raw in salads (like bell pepper, carrots, onion) and then add the veggies into a stir-fry, curry, or dinner. I love using multipurpose vegetables because I know they won’t go to waste. Can you agree? If so, check out below!
Asian Quinoa Salad
I love this salad inspired from “Two Peas and Their Pod” – It keeps well for leftovers and if I’m not feeling like a big bowl of raw greens, this is a great compromise. Keep this recipe handy for summer picnics and BBQs as it makes a stellar side dish that always gets rave reviews for the crowds!
Add two cups water, one cup quinoa, and dash of salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and add about a cup of chopped red cabbage, 1 cup cooked and shelled edamame (I buy the frozen shelled edamame), one chopped red bell pepper, a handful of matchstick carrots diced, and a large handful of diced cucumber. Set aside. …In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce/liquid aminos/coconut aminos, one tablespoon/spoonful sesame oil (you can use olive oil here if you don’t have sesame but the sesame takes the Asian flavor to the next level and adds a lot of depth), one tablespoon/spoonful apple cider or rice wine vinegar, two green onion stalks chopped, handful of chopped cilantro, small spoonful of minced ginger, and red pepper flakes if you like it spicy. If you don’t have green onions or cilantro, use a dash of dried onion powder/flakes and cilantro if you have that instead. It won’t have the same fresh zing but it will still be delish. Pour the dressing over the quinoa salad and stir to combine. I will sometimes serve this with a hefty dose of protein as a dinner or over a bed of greens if wanting a lighter but still satisfying lunch – or of course eat as it is!
Kale with Tahini “Goddess” Dressing
The trick to eating kale raw in a salad is to let the dressing marinate and get all hugged and rubbed up against the greens for at least 15 minutes (less if using dinosaur kale). As I’ve previously mentioned, I avoided raw kale for a long time before I learned that all I had to do was let it sit and wait patiently. Who knew. …Aside from a basic olive oil and lemon dressing, this dressing is my favorite (especially if you want something a bit creamier.
Here’s the fantastic dressing combination: mix 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste found in Mediterranean section of the grocer usually), one minced clove of garlic, one to two lemons juiced (about three to four tablespoons), one spoonful/tablespoon real maple syrup, black pepper and salt to taste. This will be super thick, so have a small amount of hot water nearby to thin it out until desired consistency. …Once you have the dressing mixed up, toss over a big bowl of kale (about one small bunch that has been destemmed and chopped – or equivalent to a 10oz container/bag). Massage the dressing into the kale a bit and set aside. Top with all the goods to create a balanced and filling salad….I suggest a large handful of drained/cooked white beans like great northern beans or garbanzo beans (the lighter bean looks pretty against the green back drop and goes well together with kale!), carrots or other veggies you have, plus definitely croutons or roasted winter squash/sweet potato/beets are great choices.
Thai Peanut Dressing
If someone doesn’t like or can’t eat peanuts, the peanut butter can be substituted out for almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower seed butter. I love that this base provides more protein than most dressings. Also, this dressing can be modified for what you have on hand or any preferences. Be sure to make double if you enjoy leftovers or super saucy salads and plan on eating more in the next few days!
The saucy goodness: a few dollups of peanut butter or alternative of choice (about 1/3 cup), one tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or rice wine vinegar), two spoonfuls of olive oil, juice of one lemon or lime, one spoonful/tablespoon low sodium soy sauce or alternative, one spoonful of maple syrup or honey…if you have it add: one to two cloves garlic minced, minced ginger, crushed red pepper flakes if you like spicy. Add dash of salt if needed (I find the low sodium soy sauce to be salty enough for my liking) and also add a dash or two of water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
The salad: I enjoy throwing together any leftover cold pasta for the starch (could also use quinoa, brown rice, or even spiralized butternut squash noodles!), tofu/edamame/garbanzo beans/or more peanuts for protein, and then a heap of all the veggies including greens of choice, radishes, carrots, onions, bell pepper, leftover grilled veggies, cilantro, etc…you really can’t go wrong when you’re working with a simple and delish dressing!
Avocado Ranch-ish Dressing
This dressing requires a blender but beyond throwing everything in and hitting a button, it’s a great cool, creamy, non-dairy option on top of your favorite taco salad fixings (or even in a wrap or burrito type bowl). It’s all about the sauce.
In your blender of choice, throw in two large avocados (peeled and pit removed), one cup of water (may need more depending on how thin/think you like dressings but start with this), juice of one lime or lemon, one clove of garlic, two spoonfuls chopped onion, tablespoon of fresh dill, tablespoon of fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. I use dill all the time in the spring/summer and dill is probably the most important ingredient in this dressing. You could sub out the garlic, onion, dill, and parsley for a few dashes of each dried but it won’t be as amazing. When in doubt, opt for fresh herbs and if you aren’t sure how to use them all up before they go bad, comment below and I’ll help you out.