Yesterday after the gym my dad brought home takeout from one of our favorite Italian places.
We actually sort of…live there. We’ve been going to this place for at least seven years and it’s always super good. They cater to our every need, make us whatever we want, and are very friendly. However, I wasn’t feeling a heavy dinner after my awesome workout so I just ordered a salad. They make a killer tri color salad with arugula, fennel, red cabbage, and a very light olive oil and white vinegar dressing. The spiciness from the arugula sends me in a tail spin every time I try it.
But tonight, I wanted to make it a bit more substantial. Usually if I eat this salad it will be for an appetizer and my main meal will follow it, but yesterday I wanted to make it the star of my meal.
So, in light of my salad I thought I’d make a fun “guide” as what to add to an ordinary take-out salad to make it extraordinary.
My salad originally looked like this:
It’s still really good but as a meal it’s not substantial enough for me.
- 1/4 cup wheat berries
- 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
I could have added more mix-ins but at this point, I was starving! I would’ve loved to add maybe some sundried tomatoes or mixed red, green, and yellow peppers but we didn’t have any.
How to spice up your restaurant salad:
- Protein: To make your salad substantial enough to keep you full, add protein. I love to add things like chickpeas, cannellini beans (very creamy!), black beans (would work well in a Mexican inspired salad), wheat berries, quinoa, and lentils. You can make a big batch of certain beans and grains so if you’re ever in a pinch you have healthy protein filled ingredients on hand. I always make sure to add protein to a salad before anything else because it’s essential to keeping you full (and as a vegetarian, I’m always looking for ways to add protein to my meals). You could also add a cooked and crumbled veggie burger on top of your salad if that’s how you roll.
- Greens: Sometimes when I order a salad, it’s not even green! I love to eat a big green salad that’s nutrient dense and full of vitamins. If my salad isn’t as green as I’d like I’ll add spinach, broccoli, or green peppers. You could also add things like, sugar snap peas, sprouts, kale, or string beans. Greens, such as the ones I mentioned, also have trace amounts of protein in them so pile on the veggies! You can never have enough.
- Gourmet Vegetables and Fruits: Gourmet veggies and fruits are those that are, well, gourmet. They’re unconventional and don’t include things like carrots, onions, or celery. Tomatoes, peppers, sprouts, strawberries, brussel sprouts, many of the greens I mentioned above, citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, grapefruits), mushrooms, apples, cranberries, dried blueberries, corn, and pears are wonderful gourmet veggies and fruits that make your salad feel extra special.
- Healthy Fats: Don’t fear fat, embrace it (the healthy kind)! Add in nuts like almonds, walnuts (omegas), pine nuts (love these!), pecans, truffle olive oil, EVOO, sesame seeds, and cashews. You can also add fresh grated parmesan, mozzarella, or feta cheese to boost up the flavor without adding too much fat but remember, a little bit goes a long way!
- Fun Salad Toppers: Even with all the things I mentioned above, a salad can still be a bit boring especially if you’re not a big salad fan for meals or are just starting to eat salads. Add fun toppings like crushed Mary’s crackers, hummus, homemade croutons, or these fun toppers from Angela.
If you prepare ahead of time, you’ll always have fun proteins, veggies and fruits, and mix-ins to add to your salads. Clean and cut veggies as soon as you bring them home to have them ready for the week ahead. Rinse and store beans in the fridge for handy protein options. Have gourmet veggies around to make your salad feel special and add fun salad toppers to take it to the next level. By preparing ahead, you’ll be able to get a take-out salad from any one of your favorite restaurants and make it a meal.
My salad then looked like this:
The simple addition of wheat berries added tons of protein and lots of vitamins and minerals from the mushrooms (and lettuces).
So clean and fresh, a perfect way to add more flavor, texture, and substance to any salad.
Whenever you’re in a sticky situation and you really want a salad for dinner but aren’t sure if it will fill you up or not, remember: beans are a quick source of protein and if you keep chopped veggies and dried fruits on hand your salad will be taken from ordinary to extraordinary in no time!