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Salad... for dinner!

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

FRESH AND TASTY

Most people usually think of salad as an accompaniment to dinner -- but some hearty salads can make a perfect meal all on their own! Here are eight salads and five dressing recipes so you don't have to wonder how you can turn something lettuce-based into a delicious dinner.

Salad for dinner - recipesTo make that perfect entrée salad, select special ingredients and toss in whatever is left over in the fridge or from an overzealous trip to the farmers' market. Best of all, salads are a meal the whole family can prepare together. Everyone can help out to the best of their skill level by chopping, peeling, rinsing or running the greens in the salad spinner.

SIMPLE RULES FOR A SUPER SALAD

Even better, they allow plenty of alternatives to satisfy an entire family of food preferences. It is a breeze to swap out components and sample different recipes. Try new vegetables or different dressings, always keeping in mind the simple rules to a great salad:

  • Use the freshest greens and vegetables
  • Mix your own dressings to suit your taste
  • Balance vegetables with cheese, proteins and even fruit
  • Enhance the texture with nuts and croutons
  • Toss with dressing just before serving so everything stays crisp
For sensational supper salads, mix crisp greens, specially selected meats and cheeses and toss with a flavorful homemade dressing. Mix and match to craft the salad you are craving. Take any recipe and vary the ingredients to suit your tastes and the season.

DRESS IT UP OR SERVE IT CASUAL

When you want an elegant show, mix the dressing and salad greens in a large bowl, then mound greens on chilled individual-serving plates. Arrange the other ingredients artfully on top of the greens. For the casual affair, blend all the ingredients together and use tongs to serve salad family-style out of a large serving bowl.

Greek Salad
Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups mixed greens
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded, chopped
1 (2.25-ounce can) sliced olives, drained
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 pound shrimp, cooked, peeled
1/2 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette (see below)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Serve on chilled salad plates.

Per serving: 231 calories; 13g total fat (3g saturated fat); 9g carbs, 4g fiber; 22g protein; 159mg cholesterol; 555mg sodium

To make this recipe vegan: Substitute 1 (15-ounce) can large lima beans, butter beans or Gigantes* (Greek beans), drained and rinsed for 1 pound of shrimp, and 4-ounces soy cheese for 4-ounces feta cheese (-159 mg cholesterol). For lacto-vegetarian, use feta cheese.

*Gigantes can be found in ethnic markets or the ethnic food section of some supermarkets.


Fiesta Shrimp Salad
Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 pound salad shrimp
1/2 cup Salsa Dressing (see below)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

Per serving: 289 calories; 20g total fat (4g saturated fat); 17g carbs, 8g fiber; 14g protein; 68mg cholesterol; 658mg sodium

Lower-carb version: Substitute 1/2 cup chopped yellow squash for 1/2 cup corn; 1 small red pepper for 1 large red pepper; 1 small cucumber for 1 large cucumber; top salad with 6 sun-dried tomatoes in place of 1 large tomato (-4g carbs). Chopped yellow squash resembles corn, and has fewer less carbs. When substituting ingredients, look for similar color and texture. Reducing the size of an ingredient (such as the pepper and cucumber) lowers carbs, too.


Balsamic Chicken Salad
Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups Baby lettuce
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded, chopped
1 cup grapes, halved
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 pound chicken breast, grilled, sliced
/1/2 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette (see below)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

Per serving: 344 calories; 26g total fat (8g saturated fat); 10g carbs; 2g fiber; 20g protein; 65mg cholesterol; 359mg sodium

Lower-carb version: Substitute 1 small tomato for 1 large tomato; 1 small cucumber for 1 large cucumber, 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds for 1 cup grapes (-3g carbs).


Vermont Salad

Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups mixed greens
1 large apple, cored, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 pound crumbled bacon
1/4 cup seasoned croutons
1/2 cup Maple Vinaigrette (see below)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

Per serving: 376 calories; 26g total fat (7g saturated fat); 14g carbs; 4g fiber; 29g protein; 57mg cholesterol; 1,264mg sodium

Note: Protein foods, such as cheese and bacon, are naturally higher in sodium. To reduce the sodium content of this salad, reduce the amount of bacon and cheese and use plain croutons instead of seasoned.


Orange Chicken Salad
Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
2 carrots, julienned
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 large orange pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
6 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 pound skinless chicken breast, grilled
1/2 cup Orange Vinaigrette (see below)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

Per serving: 346 calories; 22g total fat (6g saturated fat); 19g carbs; 5g fiber; 20g protein; 58mg cholesterol; 292mg sodium

To decrease carbs
Lower-carb version: Substitute 1 carrot for 2 carrots; 6 orange segments, and up to 2 tablespoons orange zest for the 11-ounce can of mandarin oranges; 1 small orange pepper for 1 large orange pepper; eliminate the tomato (-7g carbs).


Strawberry Fields Salad
Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups mixed greens,
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large cucumber, seeded, chopped
1 pint strawberries, hulled, sliced
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette (see below)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

Per serving: 232 calories; 17g total fat; 12g carbs; 4g fiber; 10g protein; 17mg cholesterol; 398mg sodium

Lower-fat version: Substitute 1/4 cup slivered almonds for 1/4 cup pecans; 6 tablespoons part-skim ricotta or goat cheese for 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 cup fat-free Balsamic Vinaigrette for the Balsamic Vinaigrette in the recipe that follows (-13g total fat).


Barbecue Chicken Salad
Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
4 ounces Monterey Jack, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup bottled roasted red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup jicama, chopped
1 pound cooked chicken, chopped
2 tablespoons bottled barbecue sauce
1/2 cup bottled Ranch dressing

Directions:
Stir together chicken and barbecue sauce until coated. Toss remaining ingredients together in a large bowl with the Ranch dressing. Mound salad on serving plates. Top with chicken mixture. Makes about 6 (2-cup) servings.

Per serving: 364 calories; 27g total fat (9g saturated fat); 12g carbs; 3g fiber; 20g protein; 70mg cholesterol, 455mg sodium

Lower-fat version: Substitute 4-ounces shredded, reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese for 4-ounces full-fat Monterey Jack cheese; 1/2 cup fat-free Ranch dressing for 1/2 cup full-fat Ranch dressing, use 1 pound cooked, chopped skinless chicken breasts for 1 pound cooked chicken (-12g total fat, - 2g saturated fat).

Note: One whole chicken is equal to about 1 cup cooked meat per pound; 1/4 pound skinned, boned chicken breast is equal to about 2 cups cooked chicken.


Blackberry Bramble Salad
Serves 6 (2-cup servings)

Ingredients:
8 cups baby lettuce
1 pint blackberries
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 ounces Brie, diced
1 cup yellow or red cherry tomatoes
1 pound leftover roast pork loin or turkey breast, chopped
1/2 cup Orange Vinaigrette

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Makes about 6 (2-cup) servings.

Per serving: 266 calories; 16g total fat (5g saturated fat); 11g carbs; 1g fiber; 23g protein; 55mg cholesterol; 839mg sodium

Lacto-vegetarian, lower cholesterol version: Substitute 1 (15-ounce) can garbazo beans or 1 pound marinated tofu (found in the refrigerated section in the produce aisle) for 1 pound turkey breast (-34mg cholesterol). For vegan, substitute soy cheese for Brie cheese.


DYNAMITE DRESSINGS

Salad dressings are surprisingly easy to make. Just a few ingredients create a taste explosion that brings together all of the flavors in your salad. Make extra and keep a variety in your refrigerator. Dressings liven up tender breasts of chicken and succulent fillets of fish as well as perk up steamed vegetables and even fruit.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions:
Wisk until combined.

Per 1 tablespoon serving: 65 calories; 7g total fat (1g saturated fat); 1g carbs; <1g fiber; <1g protein; 0mg cholesterol, 75mg sodium


Red Wine Vinaigrette
Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions:
Wisk until combined.

Per 1 tablespoon serving: 60 calories; 7g total fat (g saturated fat); <1g carbs; <1g fiber; <1g protein; 0mg cholesterol; 81mg sodium


Salsa Dressing
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1 cup peach salsa
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro

Directions:
Whirl in a blender until smooth.

Per 1 tablespoon serving: 31 calories; 3g total fat (<1g saturated fat); 1g carbs; <1g fiber; <1g protein; 0mg cholesterol, 24mg sodium


Maple Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions:
Whisk until combined.

Per 1 tablespoon serving: 70 calories; 7g total fat (1g saturated fat); 3g carbs; <1g fiber; <1g protein; 0mg cholesterol, 41mg sodium


Orange Vinaigrette
Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons unsweetened orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions:
Wisk until combined.

Per serving: 71 calories; 7g total fat; 3g carbs; <1g fiber; <1g protein; 0mg cholesterol, 72mg sodium

For more delicious vegetable-based ideas, visit these links:

The four healthiest greens

Cooking with asparagus

Spring Vegetable Stew

 

 


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