Are you tired of having the same type of salad (as a side or entrée) every time you make one? Don’t let salad monotony affect you! Look at that bowl of mixed lettuce as a blank slate waiting for vibrant colors and flavors to be mixed into for something totally new. I try to vary my toppings each time (almost daily) I have a salad. So far, I’m not burned out and still enjoy the multiple salad creations I “toss” (my shot at a corny pun) together.
When it’s hot outside, you want to keep things cool inside. Salads are a great option to help stay away from the stove, oven, and microwave but still have a great meal. Here are seven salad toppers I love mixing into my salads:
Papaya Seeds – Yes, you read this right, seeds from the papaya fruit. I love to buy fresh papaya, cut it into chunks and freeze for appetizing blender concoctions; but what about all of the seeds in the middle? Unlike the fruit that encompasses them, the seeds have a pleasant peppery taste which pairs well on salads. Try it. Papayas are easy to prepare; just peel the soft skin, cut down the middle, and viola, you have the seeds! Scoop out the seeds and keep in an airtight container in the fridge; then enjoy fresh papaya as you’d like.
Salsa – If you need to cut down on calories or just looking for something different, salsa is your answer. There are many varieties to choose from at the store, just look for real ingredients and nothing more. I’ve seen modified food starch, guar gum, and even corn syrup in some, so be cautious! From mild, medium, or hot, have your choice and mix into your salad as desired. Add some canned black beans, corn, and tomatoes for a Mexican fiesta salad.
Goat Cheese – This may not be very unique to some, but goat cheese has such a strong flavor that you don’t need to add a lot. Kelley and I go through the giant tube-shaped goat cheese log within 3 days sometimes….she gets most of it. For the little bit I do get, I love getting a couple scoops and crumbling on top of the salad. The goat cheese pairs well with sliced strawberries and nuts too.
Seeds – Add crunch with a healthy dose of protein and good fats from sunflower, pumpkin, and other seeds. Nuts are also a great choice with similar fat and calories per standard serving, but since seeds are smaller, you get more crunch.
Dijon Mustard and Yogurt – Stir a big spoonful of Dijon or another favorite mustard into 1/4 to 1/2 cup of non-fat plain yogurt for a healthy dressing made in minutes. Add a bit of honey to mellow out the dressing if desired. To really up the ante, add your favorite herbs and spices. My favorite is cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and dill.
Whole Grains – Barley, Rice, Quinoa, or Couscous can be cooked ahead of time and mixed into cold salads for extra fiber, protein, and essential nutrients. Adding quinoa to the salsa, corn, black beans, and tomatoes is a favorite of mine and I suggest you try it too. If you don’t have cooked grains on hand, try whole grain crackers instead. I enjoy the hearty crunch from Crunchmaster multi-seed crackers when broken into a few pieces and put on top of my salad. They stay crunchy for a long time too, so don’t worry about soggy cracker salad syndrome with Crunchmaster crackers.
Beans – As I mentioned before, black beans are great with salsa salad dressing, but any canned beans will do. Fiber, protein, and much needed nutrients will help fill your body with healthy flavor; try a mixture of beans if you can’t decide on just one. Garbanzo beans and tomatoes add some nice Italian color to your bowl or plate.
Go crazy; add all seven options to your salad for once big meal that fills you up with natural fiber, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals all necessary for our bodies. Do you have a favorite salad topping that’s not so “ordinary?” Please post to comments and let me know, I’d be interested to try. As always, along with the 7 noted toppings below, for some extra spice….Just Add Cayenne!