Thursday, November 29, 2012

So All You Eat Is Salad?

That's the question I got from a teacher at my daughter's school back in March when I started this whole food shift.  (I said "shift.")  I guess I understood her concern or curiousity.  I had lost a bunch of weight and she naturally thought "diet," i.e., some really restrictive eating plan where all I ate were plain, tasteless plates of semi-limp greens.  The disconnect ultimately comes from the definition of the key word in that question - "salad."  When you hear it, most people think of the rather meager dish that most restaurants serve before a "real" meal or as a side: some iceberg lettuce, maybe some tomato or onion thrown on top and served with a mini-pitcher of high-calorie dressing.  But what is a salad, really?  Or, perhaps more importantly what can a salad be?  I have an answer to that question.

According to (the trusted soruce for on-the-fly definitions) a "salad" is:

  • a usually cold dish consisting of vegetables, as lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, covered with a dressing and sometimes containing seafood, meat, or eggs.
  • any of various dishes consisting of foods, as meat, seafood, eggs, pasta, or fruit, prepared singly or combined, usually cut up, mixed with a dressing, and served cold: chicken salad; potato salad.
  • any herb or green vegetable, as lettuce, used for salads or eaten raw.

Sadly, I do not like cucumbers.  Incredibly healthful, I only juice them - my daughter loves them. 
It's the re-definition of that word for myself that has made all the difference and has made salad a mainstay of my diet and something I look forward to every day.  Certainly salad isn't "all I eat," but, to be fair, it makes up at least a third of my meals.  My salads, however, are a far cry from the pathetic hors-d'oeuvre served in most dining establishments.  I haven't given my redefined salad a name, but "Sal's Super Salad" might work.  Or "Sausage Boy's No Sausage Salad?"  "Simply Salad?"  "Simply Super Salad?"  "Just Salad?"  I kind of like that one.
So what's in one of these things and why exactly do I think they're so amazing?

Sal's "Just Salad"

  • Greens, obivously.  This can be as basic as some romaine lettuce - but I've discovered I really like red and green leaf lettuce as well.  From our local CSA (Iona Farm) we've gotten some really nice field greens, which are amazing.  AND, I also discovered curly endive - a little bitter, but it holds up really well and goes with the sweetness of the other ingredients and the dressing (below).

  • Watercress - another happy discovery!  If you can believe it, it's as nutrient-dense as kale (see if you're skeptical).  It's also not techincally a leafy green, it's a crucifer (like brocolli and cauliflower) so it's packed with even more health power!  Really, visit, it's pretty amazing,

  • Alfalfa sprouts - apparently just incredible for you, though I have yet to do the research (you can be sure that's coming, though!).

  • Carrots, cut half and thinly sliced

  • Celery, thinly sliced

  • Red Onion, thinly sliced (maybe not so great for the breath, but excellent for heart health)

  • Scallions (like the onion, a nutritional powerhouse)

  • Parsely, fresh chopped (see my previous post on this for its praises)

  • Any other herbs I have on hand (basil when we had it from our CSA, or thyme, which has been yet another tasty discovery)

  • Kiwi fruit, chopped (they've been on sale lately - when they get to be too expensive, I switch over to Oranges).

  • Raw unsalted sunflower seeds and/or raw unsalted pumpkin seeds.  Supposedly eating greens and seeds together enhances your body's ability to utilize their nutrients

  • Cheesy Salad Booster (this stuff is amazing!) and/or Nutritional Yeast - a lot of vegans swear by it, I have yet to utilize it to its full potential - I think it's often used in place of cheese in things).  There have also been plenty of salads I've made without these two ingredients, they do not suffer at all from their absence.

  • Goji berries (a post about these is forthcoming - wowza!)

  • Of course there's probably a dozen other things you could toss in here.  I've put in Great Northern Beans, banana peppers, radishes and tomatoes when our CSA had them, and thinly sliced cabbage when we had it in the fridge.

It's obviously not your typical salad.  Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who I've now referenced at least a dozen times here, recommends at least one large salad daily.   I'm proud to say that's pretty much what I do.  And sometimes I put everything listed above in it!  There have been days when I've eaten two.  Since it does take a bit of chopping, I usually make this salad at night, leaving it undressed, to bring to work for lunch the next day.

Naked Salad?  No Way.

So there you are with this bowl of nature's goodness and health, bright and colorful, just waiting to nourish you, body and soul.  But, what would this amazing salad be without an equally amazing dressing?  I mean really, I'm not actually a rabbit.  I've been making this dressing for 9 months now and have yet to be bored (though I finally did experiment with some vegan ranch recently).

Orange-Cashew Dressing - this stuff is awesome!

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar

  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. You can play with the consistency (thinner or thicker) by adding more or less of the dry or wet ingredients.
  3. Take a spoon and taste it - you'll want to just eat it right out of the blender it's so good!
  4. This recipe makes enough for 2 or three large salads.  I usually make at least this much (or more) and refrigerate for at least a week - it keeps very well.

One great thing about this dressing is that it doesn't destroy the greens if you have leftovers.  I think one of the first times I made it I overdid it, made too much and put the leftovers in the fridge.  If you did that to a salad with an oil-based dressing, it would be practically worthless in a few hours, soggy, limp and lifeless.  I took these leftovers out of the fridge the next morning and had the rest of the salad for breakfast.  It had held up perfectly with no wilting and tasted as good as it had the night before.

So there you have it.  There's really no debate, if you want better health, whole raw foods like the fruits, vegetables and seeds in this salad are a no-brainer.  Go ahead, make one for yourself and tell me you don't like.  Really, I'm practically daring you!

Eat well and be well!

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