Salads Don’t Have to be Boring

There are so many times that I’ve heard people say that salads are boring, but today I want to show you that doesn’t have to be the case. I know it’s hard when you tell the family that you’re having salad for dinner, only to hear softly muttered complaints and a see a lot of eye rolling. But the fact is that with a little bit of imagination, and some experimentation, salads don’t have to be boring.

Salads can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I personally prefer the simple option most of the time because when I decide it is time to eat, I’ve normally left my hunger go too far and am already ravenous. I know I shouldn’t wait that long to prepare food because it means I am more likely to snack on whatever I can find, which is not a good option. That’s why I’ve learned to make meals that can be prepared fast, and salads can be one of the fastest meals to prepare.

The fastest salads that I make use completely raw ingredients – no cooking at all. These normally involve chopping up whatever vegetables I can find in the fridge, often resulting in unexpected and interesting combinations, and then tossing in a quick source of protein and carbs, with a simple dressing.

Healthy Stories - Salads don't have to be boring - uncooked salads

Top left: Lemon pepper tuna, wholemeal couscous, spinach, carrot, green capsicum, tomato and zucchini.
Top right: Prosciutto, baby spinach, tomato, radish, olives and marinated artichokes, served with toast and sundried tomato spread.
Bottom left: Smoked tuna, broad beans, cucumber, spinach, radish, shredded fresh mint and aged balsamic dressing.
Bottom right: Tuna, cos lettuce, radish, tomato, carrot, red capsicum, cucumber and a lemon-oregano dressing.

In a super quick salad, my protein source is usually canned tuna since it doesn’t need any cooking. I normally use tuna in springwater, smoked tuna, or lemon pepper flavoured tuna. I don’t often buy deli meats, although I do quite like ham off the bone (but not the pressed kinds), and occasionally buy prosciutto. I also quite like using leftover cooked chicken in salads if I have any.

To bulk out the salad I will sometimes quickly prepare some couscous, since it only takes 5 minutes to cook, or I might add toast or leftover cooked rice or potatoes. Then to finish the salad off, I mix up a fast vinaigrette to add a bit more flavour. When I’m feeling slack (which is not uncommon), I will just add the vinegar and olive oil directly to the salad and then mix them all up in the serving dish. You may like to check out my Super Fast Couscous and Tuna Salad.

Now quick is certainly good, but I don’t always like to eat raw and cold food – actually I much prefer cooked foods unless it’s really hot. So it’s actually quite common for me to cook a portion of my salad, most commonly the meat component and sometimes also the grain.

Healthy Stories - Salads don't have to be boring - cooked salads

Top left: Poached chicken with buckwheat, mushrooms, tomato, rocket and parsley.
Top right: Smoky baked beans with pita chips, mixed lettuce, tomato and avocado.
Bottom left: Chicken and rice, with tomato, mixed lettuce, fennel, olives and a pesto dressing.
Bottom right: Beef meatballs with Greek seasoning, red capsicum, mixed lettuce, tomato, avocado and olives.

When I have cooked meat, chicken tenderloins or silverside eye steaks are my most common choice because they cook really fast and are normally ready by the time I finish chopping up the vegetables. Normally I will put some type of seasoning on the meat prior to cooking, which really helps to boost the flavour of the salad. You may like to check out my Quick Steak Salad on a Budget, or my Zesty Lemon-Scented Seasoning Mix.

Different types of cooked meat can be quite fun for a change. I quite like to have warm smoky baked beans in a salad, often with avocado and pita chips. I’ve also made salads with meatballs, which is a great way to use a budget meat in a salad since beef mince is cheaper than regular steak.

Lastly, play around with different types of grains or carbohydrate sources. Not all salads will need them, especially if they are quite generous with the salad components. But if you want to add some quick carbohydrates, my favourites are couscous, pita chips (which I make by putting the pita bread in the toaster), toast, and leftover cooked rice. Other grains that are worth considering are quinoa or buckwheat, although they will take about 10-15 minutes to cook. You could use potato or sweet potato to add some substance and extra vitamins, while going a little bit lighter on the carbs.

So really, salads don’t have to be boring. They are limited by your imagination, and of course what you have in the fridge. So long as you have a quick protein source and some easy to prepare carbohydrates, it’s then a matter of finding a few different vegetables and a simple dressing to add flavour.

What do you do to make salads more interesting? Do you have any tips on making salad preparation even faster?

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20 Comments

  1. I make a tabouli with pomegranate, recipe on the taste.com website. The buckwheat can be replaced with quinoa.
    Last night I made a mango salsa (with red onion, cucumber and lettuce, could add carrot and red capsicum as well ) to have with fish. The dressing was Thai style, lime, chilli, coriander, fish sauce and sugar.

    Reply
    • Different grains can certainly add interest. I use quinoa a bit, although have only tried buckwheat a few times (I just never think to use it for some reason). Salsas can also be an interesting way to add a flavour boost – nice idea.

      Reply
  2. I am not very creative when it comes to salads and need all the inspiration I can find. These salads look great and your simple formula is a good one to keep in mind too :-)
    Kate recently posted…Confession: I Use My Kids As A Scape GoatMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks Kate. The trick is to keep it simple and try out different flavours.

      Reply
  3. I have finally won my family over with salads. At first thehy protested but I made really delicious salads and they love them now. One my favourites it a warm chicken salad with marinated chicken with cumin seeds, lemon rind and juice and pepper, so good. Or for an easy peasy warm salad, I love the lamb souvlaki strips from Coles, cooked on the BBQ at the park and served on a bed of salad, my hubby loves this one and take 5 minutes to make!
    Eleise @ A Very Blended Family recently posted…Resilient Children and Bullying in Kindergarten!My Profile

    Reply
    • Those both sound absolutely delicious Eleise. I really should use lamb in salads more often.

      Reply
    • Presentation is a bit of an art form Bec. Often I just slap them all together, but when I think to make them pretty for a photo, then they look great!

      Reply
  4. I much prefer to have cooked meals too, so having a salad isn’t usually an option for me. I would love to have a salad and having the protein component cooked would probably help. They certainly don’t look boring.
    becc03 recently posted…Taking Charge of Your Travel LifestyleMy Profile

    Reply
    • Cooked meals can be easier to digest, which is one of the reasons why I tend to prefer them. But when it’s hot, having a mixture of cooked and raw can be a good option.

      Reply
    • A salad definitely needs some sort of protein Jody, unless of course it’s a side salad to a protein dish. They just don’t fill you up otherwise.

      Reply
  5. I am not a very creative cook and tend to make mixed garden salads with whatever we have and just add tuna but yours look awesome.
    Deb@ home life simplified recently posted…Connecting in 2014My Profile

    Reply
    • One of the tricks to making the salads look prettier is to put the ingredients on bit by bit, rather than just tossing them all into one bowl and mixing them up.

      Reply
  6. Preaching to the converted here :) My husband and I have largely ditched carbs for evenings and especially in this weather it is easy to be satisfied with a salad meal with protein added. Yours here look great. Faster? Loving “Avo Fresh” in a tub- dressings, on the side crackers etc. Experimenting with all sorts of dressings can make such a difference. #teamIBOT
    Twitchy Sharon recently posted…My Dog Is On ProzacMy Profile

    Reply
    • I’ve never tried the Avo Fresh, although I do quite like avocado in my salads or spread on toast or crackers. And you are definitely right that dressings can really change the flavour and help a salad to be more than just a bowl of random veggies.

      Reply
    • There’s nothing wrong with a simple garden salad Jess. Especially when the veggies are all in season and at their best :)

      Reply
  7. I do love salad, but tend to make the same three over and over and over again ;) I’m going to pin this page so I can come back to it. It’s great to eat salads in the summer for dinner when it’s hot out.
    Jeri recently posted…Writing and Chocolate: What’s in a (chocolate) kiss?My Profile

    Reply
    • It’s easy to fall in a rut with cooking Jeri, so some inspiration is great to have on hand. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply

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