Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In the Defense of Salad

I know. A salad blog post. You are so disappointed, you aren't even sure why you are reading this. I am supposed to teach you how to make a raw vegan bacon double cheeseburger, right? But here is a little anecdote that got me thinking. The other day after spiralizing some beet and cucumber noodles and topping them with a hemp dill sauce, I fed the meal to my husband. After eating it he commented, "Thanks, that was a great salad." He has done this before. My sweet and sour raw stir-fry? Salad. My sprouted lentil chili? Salad. Here I am imitating other foods to avoid admitting that when you eat a diet of predominately vegetables and fruits you are eating... salad.

But is that so bad? Why has salad gotten such a lame wrap? I tend to think that this bad reputation  is rooted in most chain restaurants, which typically offer iceberg lettuce, a sad tomato, some croutons and a chemical dressing. Often topped with meat. If you get lucky shredded carrots or a solitary cucumber slice might make an appearance. But salads can be so much more! They provide the body with a lot of the necessary hydration that can be lost in dehydrated foods, and it is an easy way to pack in the vitamins and nutrients.

Here is a list of some ideas to spice up your salad making. Not only are these delicious, but fast and often don't require the pre-visualization that a lot of other raw foods do. And honestly, I crave salads more often than I ever have craved a burger.

1. Expand upon your greens. Iceberg lettuce is fine. It especially has its place when you have a particularly heavy dressing or a very dense salad, like a taco salad. But the list can go so much further! Romaine, spring mix, spinach, arugula, kale, fresh herbs, dandelion greens, endive, red leaf, radicchio, cabbage, bok choy, watercress, and chicory are just a few other options for a great base.

2. Add mock meats and cheeses. Walnut crumble with the right amount of spices will step up your taco salad in a pinch. Hemp seeds and nutritional yeast can be used dry to make a great parmesan, or mixed with a little hemp milk to make a soft cheese.

3. Rethink your dressings. Put down the bottle and step away slowly. You do not need this. You can have delicious chemical-free dressing bursting with nutrition by simply putting a few fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or herbs in the blender and BAM. A healthy dressing awaits! Mango ginger, spicy red pepper, lemon tahini, cilantro lime... get creative!

4. Sprinkle something. We have bought products in the past that have been called "salad boosters" or "salad enhancers". These were great products, but honestly it is so easy to make your own! They add a great texture and finishing touch to a salad that might be lacking that certain something. Find things that are small, flavorful, and up the health factor. Some items I have used in my sprinkle mixes are black sesame seeds, hemp seeds, red pepper flakes, dulse, dried herbs, spices, dried citrus rinds, spirulina, blue green algae, nutritional yeast, and salt. A little goes a long way.

5. Step outside your comfort zone. Take an ingredient you don't know very well and add it to the mix. Use fruit in a vegetable salad. Throw in some fermented veggies. Salads are only boring if you make them boring.

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