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Build a Better Salad

Food Fitness. Nourish your body.

With a tossed, green salad, you have such a variety to choose from plus a super healthy dish to eat, you simply cannot go wrong! Blend colors, textures and flavors to keep them new, inviting and interesting.

The type of dressing or vinaigrette you use will depend on what type of greens you have. Mild greens go well with rich, creamy dressings and more flavorful greens are best with lightly flavored dressings or a light vinaigrette. And don't over-do the dressing -- add just enough to lightly coat your greens. If you add too much, you can actually wilt the greens.


Composing a Salad

Begin building your bowl of greens with mild forms of lettuce such as iceberg, Boston, green leaf or romaine. Add and accent of flavor from the chicory family - endive for example. This will give your salad a pleasant bitter taste. If you enjoy a peppery taste, try arugula, ruby-red radicchio and/or watercress. Add as many fresh herbs as you wish, such as basil, chives, dill, parsley, etc., along with some vegetables and don't forget about nuts, cheese, dried fruits, seeds etc.!

Edible Flowers

Nasturtiums -- Bright orangish-yellow or red blossoms. Taste is peppery. (See also: Edible Flowers - Eat the Daisy's?)

Pansies are available in many colors and sizes. Taste is slightly spicy.

Violets are small, deep purple, white or pink flowers. The taste of violets can very from sweet to tart.

Rose Petals are available in many colors and are slightly sweet and very fragrant

Quick Salad Mix

Salad-in-a-bag Packaged, premixed, assorted salad greens are more expensive than starting from scratch but they sure do save time. You get variety without having to buy larger amounts of different kinds of greens, as well. Always look for mixes with a variety of fresh, young leaves. Avoid those that are mostly just chopped up lettuces as those will quickly rust and turn slimy. In addition, always rinse and dry before using.

Sweetening with Citrus

There is always a wealth of citrus available for your salads. Popular citrus includes tangerines, oranges, lemons and even Key limes. Take advantage of these fruits in your lunch and dinner menus and liven up winter-weary recipes with their pretty hues and flavors.

Citrus Suggestions:

Juicy lime half Substitute lime juice for vinegar in salad dressings. Lime juice and a fresh, tangy flavor that zips up seafood, chicken and vegetables. For bean dishes, add a dash of lime juice as well to make your beans taste meatier and less starchy.

Grapefruit is another great choice for variety. Alternate pieces of pink grapefruit and avocado wedges for a salad. Add strips of chicken breast or cooked shrimp to serve as an instant entree.

You can pair oranges with sliced beets or spinach leaves for a flavorful, healthy salad. Add orange segments to rice or pasta salads. Prior to serving, garnish chicken, pork or seafood casseroles with orange slices for added zip.

Note: When making more than one salad, use the average of about two cups of mixed greens per person and use a salad bowl that is at least twice the size of the cumulative amount of ingredients.

Chef's Tip

For dressings:  Use mango, apricot, roasted red bell pepper or roasted garlic purees to add to salad dressings. This allows you to reduce some of the oil.

Following are two recipes for you that use citrus for flavor enhancement.

Black Bean Salad with Shrimp

1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno chile, cored, seeded and minced
1/4 cup cilantro
1 chop chopped celery
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small or 1/2-large avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 pound diced cooked shrimp

In salad bowl, combine beans, onion, chile, cilantro and celery. Toss well.

In cup, stir together lime juice, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over bean mixture and toss again. Add avocado and shrimp and mix gently.

Recipe makes two servings.

Orange Dessert Salad

2 navel oranges, peeled, sliced and cut across into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger

Arrange orange slices on serving plate. Sprinkle with coconut and almonds.

In microwave-safe bowl, combine orange juice, honey and ginger. Heat on medium power just until warm, about 30 seconds.

Pour over orange slices and set aside for five minutes for flavors to blend.

Recipe makes two servings.

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