It's big salad time!
// Leanne Kriz

Need food on the fly? Fast food is your answer! And believe it or not, fast food does not need to be pre-cooked, prepackaged, full of preservatives, or from a chain restaurant. In fact, one of my fastest meals comes straight from the fridge: it’s super fresh, fast and full of nutrition. This wonder-meal is salad.

Salad can emerge in a variety of forms, but if you super-size it and load it with protein and nutrients your salad can even take the place of a full meal. People might wrinkle their noses or laugh at the idea of a salad as a meal, but it is surprising how filling it really can be with the right ingredients. The first trick is knowing what to put in your salad, and the second trick is having your salad ingredients on hand at all times so that you can make it when you are in a hurry, instead of resorting to other, less healthy means. Salads are do-able and so delicious! Here is how you do it.


To start, you will need to get some leaves. There are a number of options including romaine, butter lettuce, iceberg lettuce, spinach, “spring mix,” etc. I am not a fan of iceberg for its wateriness, especially if you are trying to make a meal out of it. In fact, Romaine lettuce has anywhere from two to ten times as many nutrients as iceberg lettuce, depending on the vitamins and minerals being examined. A good rule of thumb to go by is the greenness: the greener the vegetable, the more nutrients it generally has.


The complimentary vegetables can be normal like carrots, tomatoes, and green peppers, but branching out will make your salad unforgettable. I like beets, apples, yams, artichokes, and so much more! The success of a salad is in the pairing of items. You can learn what works best from recipes, but I usually do it by trial and error.

Now you need to choose a protein. It could be anything from the very obvious meat choices like bacon, sliced ham, turkey or chicken, or delicious cheese, but beans of any kind, egg, and tofu are often cheaper alternatives, and are just as delicious.


The next step is to find your perfect crunch and/or garnish. Personally, I don’t feel like a meal-salad is complete without some nuts or croutons. In a perfect world, I would like to have a stash of pecans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and sliced almonds on hand at all times for this cause, but I usually just have pecans. This is mainly because nuts can get pricey, but check out the bulk food section to battle these high prices.

A tasty additional step is to toast the nuts. Toasting them creates a chemical reaction, which causes the nuts to evolve into buttery, toasty, taste-bud-blowing bombs of yum. Also, if you fry up a can of chickpeas with some salt and garlic they make a great crispy crouton-like topping. Yum!

Store-bought croutons are okay, and homemade ones from old bread are delicious, but they are not quick unless you pre-make them. Croutons are best made from slightly stale bread, but you can use fresh bread too. Take the bread and cut it into small cubes, and fry them on the stove until they are crispy. It’s healthier to use grapeseed oil, but I use butter for that extra-rich yummy flavour sometimes, too. Take them off the heat and add a pinch of salt; mix them up and you’re done!

I recommend that if you are not the kind of person that has a lot of vegetables on hand at one time, you should buy some canned things. Artichoke hearts, beets/pickled beets, and beans are great for salads, and last forever when you buy them canned. Firmer vegetables and fruits, like apples, carrots, and yams, seem to last longer, so they might be a good choice for you if you are not quick to use your veggies. I also find that I have one or two salads that I eat over and over that I love. Don’t feel pressured to have something new every day – sometimes just switching up the type of lettuce is enough to give your salad a whole new feel.

Here are three salad dressing recipes which can be paired with your favourite vegetables to make your perfect healthy fast food meal.

Chow chow thrifty friends!

Ruby Balsamic Blast
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp ketchup
1tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp salt
This super tasty, tangy-sweet recipe is a classic. Try it with some romaine or curly endive, beets, red onion, feta, and pumpkin seed.

Citrus Cream Dream
1/2 C mayo
3 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp mustard
1/4 tsp salt
This is great with all sorts of combos, but my total favourite is, spinach, hard boiled egg, green onions, bacon bits, croutons, and toasted pecans. Use your dressing sparingly; it is easy to overdress with this one.

Oh Orient!
1/4 C soya sauce
1/2 C olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
This is a really fun recipe that you can do so much with. Try pairing it with butter lettuce, grated carrot, cucumber, radish, tofu or chicken, and sesame seeds for a delightful, western-oriental meal.

Leanne comes from a long line of food lovers, and has been cooking since she was eight years old. She has spent many years creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie. In spite of all of her food experimentation, to this day her favourite meal is still a delicious bowl of popcorn.

//Leanne Kriz, columnist

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