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Salad Tips from a Reformed Salad Hater

Confession time. I used to not like to eat green salads. Let me rephrase that, I used to not ever make myself salads. I liked vegetables and always made my salads with chunky vegetables but it was something about the leafy greens being hard to eat (I know that is a weird reason.) If someone else made a salad and put it in front of me I loved it. But whenever I tried to make one they didn’t taste good and so I would give up. At some point last year I decided to figure this whole salad thing out and after lots of trial and error I’ve learned some things. Maybe everyone know all these tips already but I didn’t so I figured I would share a few on how to make really good salad. After learning to make a decent salad I started eating salads three times a week and this year I made a goal to eat them every day.

Salad Tips from a Reformed Salad Hater

I know some of these are straight forward but for me it was one of those things where I knew some of them but I wasn’t actually doing them. These little things all combined have made all the difference in making me into a green salad eating machine.

1. A Really Good Salad Bowl. I had never owned a nice big low bowl before last year and it matters guys. You need lots of room to toss the salad. (I used to try to fit my salads in a normal-sized bowl and I couldn’t figure out why it was so awkward to mix. The key is to get one that is really wide and a little bit shallow.

2. Salad Spinner. I hate having a million kitchen gadgets around so I always just made due with rinsing and shaking dry but I was reading Alice Waters’ cookbook The Art of Simple Food (which is my favorite cookbook) and she was talking about how it’s one of her indispensable kitchen tools. I picked one up a couple years ago and it definitely makes the salad taste better (mine would still have a ton of water residue.)

3. Greens. Everyone talks about buying high-quality ingredients blah blah blah organic sustainable etc but this is one area where it is mandatory to buy the best, you are eating raw plants so it needs to be great. We have a good farmers market that we stop by every week and when I’m in a pinch there is a good local grocery store that buys directly from local farms. That ensures we get the best and freshest tasting produce. I usually buy 2 kinds of greens every week.

4. Salad Dressing. I use this tip I learned on A Cup of Jo and make homemade salad dressing every Sunday in a Mason Jar and keep it in the fridge. Homemade dressing is the best. My favorite sources for recipes are Alice Water’s cookbooks (she is the queen of salads) and I’ve tried all of Gwyneth Paltrow’s and they are excellent. For salad dressing I make sure my pantry is stocked with every kind of vinegar ever and olive oil and even some vegetable oils, we also keep green onions, mustard, shallots and lemons and limes on hand since most of the recipes use some version of those and they keep really well if it takes a while to use them.

5. Cut Things Up Really Small. This one was revolutionary for me. Things are so much easier to eat if they are cut smaller. This might sound obvious to everyone else but I loved my salads so much more when they weren’t awkward to eat. My kids now eat green salads without blinking because they can eat it with a spoon.

6. Keep Pantry Items. I have large containers of pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds and also dried fruits like dried cherries, dried apricots etc. They don’t spoil and it helps me be able to get a diverse salad even if I’m running low on ingredients.

7. Other Ingredients. The best part of making salads is you can put in whatever you want. I hardly ever waste fresh produce anymore. When that stalk of celery looks like it only has another few days to live I can chop it up and revive it in my salad. I have a sweet tooth so I usually put some kind of fresh fruit in my salad. I love crunchy vegetables like carrots or watermelon radishes, they really add to the texture of the salad. I also like to blanch vegetables like green beans or broccoli. It makes them a little softer and nicer to eat. For protein I always have eggs in the fridge if there is nothing else. In addition I usually buy one other kind of protein like fish or shrimp or chicken and use it for the week. The other trick I’ve learned is to ask for suggestions. When I’m at the farmers market I ask the guys what things they have for salads. They always pull out vegetables I’ve never heard of or would never have thought about.

That is all I know about salads. I’m by no means an expert but hopefully something in here was helpful to someone. But now is the part where everyone shares all their good advice about salads in the comments. Let’s hear your expert tips on how to make a good salad! Ps: I’m sharing all my salads for the year on instagram #happysalad2014

  1. katie

    January 7, 2014

    Welcome to the club!

    I started eating a salad every single day for lunch 2 years ago and haven’t looked back! I love them and can make them in my sleep now.

    here is my formula for a great salad:

    Greens + TOASTED nuts (it really makes a difference) + fruit + cheese + very little homemade vinaigrette = heaven

    Using this combination I have never been disappointed. Any kind of nut, any kind of fruit, any kind of cheese…great. My current favorite is dates and manchego…perfect combo!

  2. Ryan, The Blooming Thread

    January 7, 2014

    I love adding dried fruit like cranberries and apricots, toss in some feta cheese, pine nuts and and finish with a balsamic vinaigrette – I’m in heaven! The conbination of flavors is so good. And like you, adding different ingredients was the deal changer for me.

  3. Kayli Schattner

    January 7, 2014

    Great suggestions!! I have to say, I wasn’t always salad’s number one fan– but since I’ve discovered rice vinegar, I’m in love! And I also love your pantry item tip- those ingredients can make a world of difference!

  4. Caitlin

    January 7, 2014

    My favorite tip for salad dressing is to “pickle” the aromatics a bit. Ex: finely chop shallot or garlic and let it sit with the acid (vinegar, lemon juice or combo) for at least 15 minutes while I fix other things. Then once they have had a chance to mellow out and flavor the vinegar a bit to I add the rest – mustard, salt, seasonings, oil, anchovy, whatever you want for that dressing … I swear it makes all the difference. Love the rest of these salad ideas too!!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 7, 2014

      Great idea! I’m totally going to try this!

  5. chandra ~ oh lovely day

    January 7, 2014

    you described me to a tee – I love when others make salads but never like my own and end up tossing it (in the garbage). Plus no one else in my family will touch salad, so I feel like it ends up wasted. My son won’t eat anything green at all, let alone a salad. How did you get your boys to try it? I think I’m destined to have a super picky eater. But I am going to try your tips and start making them for myself again :)

  6. Lexi

    January 7, 2014

    Love this idea, Jordan! My go-to homemade salad is mixed greens (or whatever we have on hand), Gorgonzola cheese, craisins, dice apple, thinly sliced chicken breast, and sliced strawberries if I have them. To dress it, generously sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, then toss with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. SO GOOD! Can’t wait to see all your amazing salads this year, I know they will inspire me to try some new ingredients!

  7. Kelley

    January 7, 2014

    This is all so true. I love making salads, but my husband hates it. He gives up because he doesn’t think he can make a good one. Talking to other people, I realized how common this is. Thanks for the post, I’ll forward it to him:)

  8. MJ @ One-Parade.com

    January 7, 2014

    Perfectly stated — crafting the right salad for me took me longer than usual! I always thought I hated salad, but you A) need the right tools, and B) need the right ingredients. I never liked the plain taste of salad but I found out that if I add banana peppers and the right dressing it’s AMAZING! I definitely think people should keep trying different combos if they haven’t found the right salad yet.

  9. Sarah @ 702 Park Project

    January 7, 2014

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve always hated veggies (I blame my mom for never making me eat them!), and now at 26 I’m trying to eat cleaner. It’s so hard, but I’m determined!!

  10. AmyM

    January 7, 2014

    What a great resolution! One of my favorite food bloggers wrote a fantastic salad book: http://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Nourishing-Salads-All-Seasons/dp/1466213892/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389119152&sr=1-1&keywords=fresh+nourishing+salads+for+all+seasons
    I love that has a bunch of creative salad dressings that only use apple cider vinegar, so I don’t have to stock a bunch of different vinegars in my tiny kitchen. :-)

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 7, 2014

      Thanks for the link! I definitely want this book now.

  11. Denise Beckand

    January 7, 2014

    I love salads! Always trying new things but I have a recipe which is my all time favorite: Salad on Toast. It is an old recipe from the Weight Watchers.
    You need per person 2 slices of toast, put on each slice a handful of finely chopped lettuce, a quarter of red paprika finely sliced ​​and a handful of grilled chicken pieces / strips and half a banana into thin slices. Then you make a dressing of mayonnaise, yogurt, garlic and lots of curry. Make the dressing pretty thin and pour over the bread sandwiches. Believe me, you’ll love it :-) Colorful greetings from Holland!!

  12. Jenna

    January 7, 2014

    My European grandmother always adds a little bit of boiled potato in her salads. Potato plus fresh garlic, craisins, a little tomato, salt pepper, oil and vinegar. Yummmmm

  13. Natasha

    January 7, 2014

    I used to hate salad no matter who made them. I only starting liking salad about 2 years ago when my boyfriend made me some really great Thai inspired salads. Now we eat salad for lunch most days. We always add roasted nuts and seeds and grated carrot. I get bored pretty soon, so I’m always looking for new interesting things to add to our salad.

  14. Robin

    January 7, 2014

    You’re inspiring me!

  15. Jessica

    January 7, 2014

    Pretzels! I have a nut allergy, so I love to add pretzels for an extra bit of crunch.

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 7, 2014

      Oh yum! How have I not tried this before?

  16. Ellen

    January 7, 2014

    Jordan, as simple as all of this is… it’s brilliant! Chop things small. I love it! Make your own dressing. So many options! You’ve renewed my interest in salads. I’m going to eat them for lunch the rest of the week. Thanks!

  17. katy

    January 7, 2014

    I love a pinch of salt tossed in with the greens. Also, I’ve started letting my kids eat their greens as finger food. Not very classy but that way they eat their salad!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 7, 2014

      Whatever works!! :)

  18. Amanda

    January 7, 2014

    I highly recommend the book Salad for Dinner by Jeanne Kelley. It really opened my eyes about some new ideas for salads, and so many of the recipes can be “deconstructed” for my kids, if they aren’t into the salad greens. It means I can have salad for dinner and not make a separate dinner for everyone at the table. Win.

  19. Martha

    January 7, 2014

    This is revolutionary. I’m a salad novice, so every tip helps. A couple months ago I watched my sister-in-law get down to business with the Slap Chop and that was my moment of revelation about chopping everything really small. It makes any ingredient edible! Love your tips. I’m off to see that Cup of Jo link.

  20. Tess @ Tips on Life & Love

    January 7, 2014

    These are some really great tips. I didn’t think I could be a salad lover (it’s always been a consequence of eating something terribly unhealthy), but now I have hope. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Raquel

    January 7, 2014

    Add beans! Black, cannellini or garbanzo. Also adding different herbs like cilantro or dill to the mix adds an unexpected flavor punch.

  22. Anna

    January 7, 2014

    I used to be not able to eat the salads i made myself becaus they tasted so NOT good – now my friends call me ‘salad queen’, and i swear its because of this trick i learned from Jamie Oliver: I make my salad sauce in a little old marmelade glass, just put in all the ingredients, and shake, shake, shake! It gets so smooth and creamy and is so much easier than whisking! And you can store it in the same glass! (Ahem, maybe this news is not new to you, but for me here in Germany it definitely was!) Happy eating! :-)

  23. Vivo

    January 7, 2014

    I like making salads! My sister and I love going to Paradise Bakery (AKA Panera) and we occasionally emulate one of their salads. That’s a surefire way to know you’ll like it! Plus you could take ones from CPK and make them healthier, if you’re out of ideas. I like putting corn on my salad, and (don’t get grossed out) pickles! I chop them up real tiny and they’re good on a cobb type salad. :)

  24. Sarah C.

    January 7, 2014

    Btw, you can use your salad spinner to dry hand-washed sweaters. In case you’re looking for another use for that kitchen gadget!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 8, 2014

      Wow! Who knew??

  25. Meg

    January 7, 2014

    I made the exact same resolution this year! I love salad but have always stuck to the same green salad with a lemon juice, french mustard, olive oil dressing.
    I’ve decided that 2014 is the #yearofthesalad and am determined to expany my salad repertoire! Started off with a divine Asian style chicken salad with grilled marinated chicken, shallots, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, grated carrot, bean sprouts, sliced fresh chilli and a dressing made with roasted seaweed vinegar, sesame oil & sunflower oil, fish sauce, garlic and ginger. It was to-die-for I made extra to take to work for lunch but sadly the whole thing got eaten!!!
    I think the key to a good salad is really in the dressing and so I’ll be experimenting with infused oils and vinegars, as well as not being afraid to do creamy style dressings as well.

    Love your blog :)

  26. amanda

    January 7, 2014

    ohhhh i have to bookmark this. i’ve always been really good about having a little salad with every meal and then i joined a meals service (blue apron). while it’s been great for meal planning and a major stress reliever, i’ve gotten out of the salad habit. love these tips.

  27. Kirsten

    January 7, 2014

    A little plain yogurt with lemon and vinegar and pepper can make for a nice dressing. It’s super tart and delicious for a change. I love it with cucumber, romaine lettuce and crispy chickpeas (chickpeas cooked until a bit brown in olive oil and garlic).

    I found out this year that romaine lettuce is a complete protein (especially the green leafy bits not just the hearts). That was great news for me. I love romaine but always thought I should be having something healthier. Was happy it is healthier!

    I am also having a love affair with this kale salad I make. My local grocery store here in Portland, Oregon carries a chopped kale mix. But it would be easy to get lacinato kale and chop it up finely yourself. I add a homemade vinaigrette and let it sit for 10-15 minutes so the kale gets a bit marinated. Then I add currents, feta cheese and slice almonds. Seriously delicious!

    I actually love salad. I am not a fruit lover but I just got a new blender so I can have a smoothie everyday.

  28. Sarah W

    January 7, 2014

    A couple of years ago when I was trying to lose weight I ate salad (almost) every day, and I loved it. I was inspired by Andie Mitchell from Can You Stay for Dinner? She has lots of great tips! One of the things that stuck with me was her idea to use thicker things, like guacamole and hummus as a dressing. I still love and use vinaigrette and thinner dressings, but I had never thought to use thicker things like those and it is yummy! I’ve definitely gotten away from eating salads everyday, but after I saw you say you were going to eat one a day this year I was inspired to eat them more again, so thanks! I can’t wait to see what you do!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 8, 2014

      I’ve never tried guacamole or hummus as dressing – but I’m intrigued! I’ll definitely have to test this out.

  29. Beth K

    January 8, 2014

    @Kirsten — romaine lettuce isn’t a complete protein.

  30. Ania @ The New Diplomat's Wife

    January 8, 2014

    A few things that have helped me…
    – keep your raw nuts in the freezer and not in pantry – they don’t go rancid that way and taste much better, buy nuts also in small quantities so that they’re always fresh
    – Jamie Oliver has great recipes for “jam jar dressings” – that’s where Gwyneth I think got them but there could be a few more
    – roasted chickpeas are a good sub for nuts, as are roasted soy beans if you need a change
    – you can make little “parmesan crips” of shredded parmesan in oven and that can be a good rotation too
    – you can also roast nuts with different spices and carmelize them for flavor too
    – the sweet green website menu always gives me ideas about types of salads I can try at home.

    good luck!

  31. Carola

    January 8, 2014

    great idea!
    Carola
    PursesintheKitchen!

  32. Anna

    January 8, 2014

    Someone in my office had a very clever way of bringing salad to work without it getting mushy or wilty. When I saw it, I was like, ooooh yeeah. Duh! Get a large jar with a lid (like a mason jar), put the dressing at the bottom with whatever veggies and protein can sit in dressing all day, then add your other veggies and greens, and put the most fragile/delicate items on top (like croutons or nuts). It’s like salad parfait! And then you can dump it all on plate when its time to eat.

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 8, 2014

      Such a great tip. I’ll have try this when I bring lunch to the studio!

  33. Mel

    January 8, 2014

    Love this post and all the ideas.

    A nice change in the routine is Salsa right out of the jar as a dressing. It’s light and flavorful, and usually inspires other ingredients for me – mexican and otherwise.

    I WANT to eat more Kale, and I buy the bags from TJ’s, but they don’t always inspire. Ideas appreciated!

  34. Kyra

    January 9, 2014

    Yes, yes, yes – the salad spinner!! I’ve also found that lettuce keeps much, much longer when stored in the spinner in the fridge. It takes up a bit of room but worth it for the prolonged life of the greens.

    @mel, 101cookbooks.com has several great kale salads. One with apples, Parmesan and molasses vinnegrate and another called the kale market salad with an avocado dressing that is to die for.

  35. Jill Saper

    January 9, 2014

    I read a million blogs and all of your posts, but have never been so inspired by a post – leave it to salad, ha! I immediately went to Rainbow and ‘invested’ in lots of good olive oils and different vinegars per your tip. Then went on Amazon and got a used copy of Simple Food =) We’ve been having salad every day since. I made a huge bowl of quinoa and have been adding that, as well as toasted sliced almonds and french feta (all from Rainbow which is the best place ever for salad additions, and I need to start going there more than once a year).

    For cookbooks, AdHoc at Home has really good dressing ideas, but most use Canola oil which I always think of as bad. Not sure what the deal is with that.

    Last – my mom always adds croutons from La Farine baguette. Get one next time you’re in the east bay!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 9, 2014

      Awesome! Yes, Rainbow is mecca for good salad ingredients.

  36. Rachel

    January 10, 2014

    My best tip is to get salad inspiration from restaurant menus! If there was an amazing salad you had at a cafe (or even at Panera bread) get the cheese, veggies, and other toppings to recreate it at home. Definitely helps me get more creative and break out of salad ruts.

  37. zhi

    January 11, 2014

    Love your tips! I definitely need to get a salad spinner as mine tends to be wet. Anyway, I’m Asian so I did not grow up eating salads and hated it for years while I lived in the UK. Now I quite enjoy making my own salads and the biggest trick is to make dressings and toppings that I would normally eat in Asian food. For example, I grill pieces of chicken in sesame-soy style marinades and chop it up and put it in my salads. I also scatter some fried shallots (instead of croutons) which gives it a bit of a crunch and a nice twist.

  38. Theresa

    January 11, 2014

    I have been vegetarian for fifteen years and always hated salads. Go figure. The magic moment for me was when I realized that adding something warm made all the difference. I heat up a black bean patty, quickly saute tofu, add some grilled seitan and *POOF* tasty salad. I also realized that I was not incorporating enough fat and protein in my salads and would end up hungry soon after eating. Now I add avocado, a bit or cheese, a creamier dressing, and the salad becomes more of a meal.

  39. Tara

    January 13, 2014

    You know what makes salads THE BEST? Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Have you heard of it?

  40. melissa

    January 15, 2014

    i am the salad dressing whisperer! things that go well in salad dressing that you should/could try:
    maple syrup
    plain yogurt (i like fage 2%)
    ume plum vinegar
    walnut oil
    yay for rainbow! their bulk maple syrup is the best! happy eating!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 15, 2014

      These are genius ideas! Thanks for sharing!!

  41. mar

    January 15, 2014

    Have you ever read the column in the New York Times from The Minimalist – Recipes for 101 Simple Salads. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/dining/22mlist.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 . Great combinations definitely outside the box! I love the watermelon salad – arugula with watermelon, feta, red onion, balsamic and olive oil. Or we also love what we call bread salad – baby greens with chunks of french bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, fresh basil, fresh mozz, and balsamic vinegar and EVOO. Both are great dinner meals all by themselves in those hot summer months!

    • jordan
      • jordan
      • January 16, 2014

      I hadn’t seen this article. Thanks for sharing!!

  42. Clare Frejd

    January 15, 2014

    I used to hate making salads too…I realized that what I really hated about it was the whole oily jar extra dishes bit. Then, I was reading a Peter Mayle book and they had a descriptive scene about whisking the dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl. A little thing, but this was the game changer for me. I use an a flat whisk to make the dressing in the salad bowl and then put the greens on top. No extra oily jars with rings and disks….

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