Growing up my mother and even my grandmother put a meal together in components – always a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. In our family the starch was usually macaroni!It’s a standard – even restaurants put together plates in this manner. So after bariatric surgery its tough to break these habits and think in different terms. These days I make a meat or fish, and one or even two vegetables – the only starch I make is an occasional whole grain such as quinoa.

I rely on salad as a mainstay on our supper plate, especially for the summer. I love the light freshness of a salad and its easy to put together a combination that rivals that of even the most special of restaurants. THINK SIMPLE! I plan my salad in three components – the lettuce, the ‘extras’, and the dressing – and keep the basics on hand in the fridge.

Frisee salad with raspberries, toasted walnuts, and balsamic dressing

Tonight’s salad to accompany our grilled chicken features ‘frisee’, a frilly frothy green as our lettuce base. Some nights I use baby lettuce, or baby spinach, or Boston or Bibb lettuce – always nice and tender. I buy the prewashed bagged greens – so easy and if you watch for specials, its more economical as well as time saving!

The extras featured in this salad are fresh raspberries and toasted walnuts (quickly toast nuts by microwaving them on high for 1 to 2 minutes. The oil gets very hot and crisps the outside – but be careful as they are VERY hot when you take them out). You can use pecans or almonds as well. Other choices for extras would include cubes of tomato, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, olives, even feta or cubes of provolone cheese… whatever you like best. I keep it simple and use just one or two extras – so that I can vary the look and taste each meal. If I use everything I have in every salad, it gets a bit boring .

The dressing is a tablespoon of cherry balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of Gourmet Garden basil herb blend, whisked into a thick dressing with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. The herb puree allows the vinegar and oil to blend and not separate – making an emulsion. You can use different herb blends, or even a teaspoon of Dijon mustard! Cherry balsamic, regular balsamic, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, all create different dressings – so there are many choices and flavors. I always use Olive Oil – its the Italian in me. Don’t let making your own dressing intimidate you – and toss your salad in a big bowl so you don’t need as much to lightly and completely coat your bowl full of greens.

Create a healthy and delicious meal with just a little planning. While I prepare my salad in the kitchen, my chicken and asparagus are cooking on the grill. Try using salads to add flavor and nutrients to your menu. Eating our vitamins is so much better than relying on tablets or pills.

Bon Appetit!

Grilled chicken marinated in orange oil oil and smoked paprika