Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How to turn leftovers into SALADS! (some of my favorites)

I have salad for my lunch more days than not. I love it. Partly because it's so good for you, and partly for the endless combinations you can come up with. While buying specific salad supplies can get expensive, I have found a way to have a variety of different salads, use up leftovers, and not break the bank... win, win, win. :) 
It takes a little creativity, but I'm pretty sure if you give it a try you can come up with some amazing new salad recipes too :) 

Let's start with this: 
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette.

If you (and or the baby in your belly) have a newfound love for vinegar, definitely give this a try. 
We were out of grocery money for the month and I was craving a good balsamic dressing so I came up with this from what we had in our pantry.

Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Italian Herbs

Mix oil and vinegar, about 2/3 oil to 1/3 vinegar. (I did half and half, but that might be too vinegar-y for some...) Then add ground sea salt, freshly ground pepper, sugar and italian seasonings to taste. For the best Italian Seasoning I recommend McCormick's Italian Herb Grinder- the taste is so fresh and good. You're probably going to need more seasonings than you'd anticipate to get the flavor all through the oil and vinegar mixture. Combine all in a container of choice (I used my glass dressing bottle) and shake well. 

Finished product :) 

Ok, so in order to make a variety of salads without making specific shopping lists and spending a ton, there are a few things I always keep on hand. 
1. Croutons (specifically texas toast caesar croutons)
2. Dressings (Caesar, french, blue cheese, raspberry vinaigrette and my homemade balsamic)
3. Craisins
4. Wontons/Tortilla Strips
5. Variety of Nuts (cashews, almonds, glazed pecans) 
6. Lettuce (obviously.... I love romaine but lately we've been using buttercrunch, spring mix, or whatever is in season that we can buy fresh)

The Dressings are easy, they last a long time. The croutons I use in some other recipes (like crunched up on top of chicken divan, or on top of some soups etc.) The nuts are another staple, Shaun loves to mix them together and take them as part of his lunches to work. And the craisins are an easy snack for the boys sometimes too. Wontons or tortilla strips seem to last a while for us too and are a fun addition to several different salads. 

K, now on to some examples: 

The one you see below was so yummy.... We had leftover chicken salad that I had made so I just tore up some romaine lettuce, piled chicken salad in the middle, and thought about what would taste good with the two that we had already.... I ended up adding some fresh strawberries, glazed pecans, and wonton strips. I used my balsamic vinaigrette as the dressing. Adding berries or fruit to salad is one of my favorite toppings. Strawberries, blueberries, and mandarin oranges are common ones I add. 

The next salad was to use up leftover chicken bbq and pico de gallo from dinner the night before. Again I used romaine lettuce, then topped it with slices of bbq chicken, spoonfuls of pico de gallo, some sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla strips. Mmmm.... :) 

The one pictured below was my lunch today, and probably my favorite of all of them... The spring mix is from our friends' Jarrod & Kendra's garden and is SO. GOOD. I used leftovers from Monday's dinner, caprese chicken. I piled up my spring mix, added a few slices of chicken, then shredded mozzerella cheese and chopped up tomatoes to add. (Both of these were ingredients I had gotten to make the caprese chicken and had extra of) I finished it off with some caesar croutons, balsamic vinaigrette and a slice of foccacia bread (also leftover from Monday night dinner) 

As you can see, I love to add a little chicken to my salads. The protein in the middle of the day keeps me from feeling like I'm going to faint in the afternoon. You might have also noticed that most salads have some kind of cheese on them... I didn't have that on my list of things I try to keep on hand because usually we have some kind in our fridge just because a recipe called for it and I'll use that. Every now and then I will buy feta which I love on salads. 
Another example of turning a leftover dinner into a salad (this is probably what started me in the whole thing) is a taco salad. Just use extra taco meat and whatever else you had for your tacos (salsa, sour cream, tomatoes, crunched up tortilla chips etc) and pile on a salad. 

I kind of have a formula for what makes a good salad in my head: 

fresh lettuce.
something crunchy.
another fruit or veggie besides lettuce.
cheese and/or meat. 

Then, if my salad is mostly veggies, I'll use a more savory dressing. If it has fruits or the glazed pecans on it, then a sweeter dressing like raspberry vinaigrette is one of my favorites. But you'll figure out your own formula through trial and error too :) 

Last but not least, this one isn't made using leftovers as inspiration, but it's a definite favorite. 
Tomato, basil and Chick pea Salad. 
(especially good when the tomatoes and basil come from your garden!) 
Here's the link to the recipe: tomato, basil & chickpea salad

I only use one clove of garlic, and depending on how much basil I have I'll use anywhere from 10-25 leaves. You can just eat it with a fork, or you can scoop it with tortilla chips or use as a topping to grilled chicken etc. Our boys love it. 

Well, I hope you're feeling inspired to try salad in new ways and use up some leftovers in a healthy way!!! Let me know if you come up with some amazing new combinations! 
Happy Salad Eating :) 

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