As a child, I was raised by separated parents, each with their own parenting – and feeding – style. Each approached the art of nourishing the family differently and thus, had a lasting impact on my relationship with food (and that of my siblings).
On one hand, my father prepared regular, balanced meals for us, which we often enjoyed together, by candlelight. They were full of homemade foods cooked with love – often recipes passed down from older generations of our European ancestors, updated with a creative spin by my father. A big Italian salad was a staple at every meal and we were often made to sit at the table until we had finished everything. At some times this was torture – but looking back on it I realize that it taught me to appreciate diverse cuisines.
On the other side, my mother, battling mental illness, valued convenience and our immediate gratification in her parenting style. Therefore fast food, candy, and basically anything we wanted off the shelves of the grocery store- were all allowed under her rules. To her credit, however, she also often prepared raw snacks for us, such a cut broccoli and cauliflower with hummus. She wanted nothing more than to see us happy – as do most mothers – and this meant giving in to our cravings more often than not.
Upon entering adulthood, I established my own eating preferences, largely giving up fast food and going vegetarian when I was 19. While working at Whole Foods Market, I gained a deeper understanding of how the food we eat affects our energy, health, and wellbeing, and so I likewise deepened my commitment to nourishing my body with the very best.
However, old patterns take time to be unlearned. While I strive to eat a healthy, balanced diet, cravings for sweets and processed foods ultimately get the best of me every now and again. (If you ask my sister, she might say they get the best of me once a day- at least!) In fact, I’m known for my sweet tooth in my family, just as I am known for my diehard commitment to living a healthy, plant-based lifestyle.
So if you are like me and strive to incorporate clean foods into your diet, perhaps you will find this recipe helpful.
I was studying in Germany when my good friend Eli invited me and another friend over to her place for some dinner and wine. When the meal was ready she presented us with a salad- one so simple yet so perfect it blew my mind. I had literally never thought to put rice in a salad up until that point.
Anyway, the point is, maybe the perfect, plant-based meal has been alluding you all this time. As an American, I am used to salads being full of vegetables, with nuts or fruits being added occasionally. YUM! But why not take it a step further, and beef up your salad with your favorite grain? Whole grains like rice, spelt, and quinoa work great! Cous cous or millet are also fabulous additions. Make the grain a base for your salad and you’ll be amazed at how full and satisfied this meal will make you.
Recipe for the Perfect Meal
Step 1: Choose your favorite grain and cook according to instructions. Let cool.
Step 2: Beans please! Add some extra protein and fiber with an addition of your favorite beans – the kind from a can will do. Rinse well and avoid any cans with dents in them.
Step 3: Add veggies – whatever you have on hand, or choose your favorite flavor combination. You can even add lettuce here, why not? Onions and avocados add great flavor and texture here.
Step 4: Consider fruits. Would the flavors of your salad be enhanced my fruit? Orange wedges, apple, pear, pomegranate, or dried cranberries are some of my favorite additions.
Step 5: Nuts and seeds. Add these according to your preference, but go light on them. Otherwise, you won’t be able to finish this salad all in one sitting!
Step 6: Dressing. Spice up your salad with a combination of oils, vinegar, dressings and spices. Most of the time I use olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Orange juice or a white vinegar are also lovely. Oh, and pumpkin seed oil if you can get your hands on it! At the moment I am using a delicious garlic-infused olive oil found at a local market. So worth it! Everything it touches turns to garlicky gold! When you cook at home a lot, investing in high-quality ingredients when you can have the biggest pay off! Plus you will feel like a real chef!
EXTRAS: Now don’t forget to throw in a little something special to give your salad that extra kick. Olives and fresh herbs are a great addition. Roasted garlic and vegetables, toasted seeds, or sauteed mushrooms, anyone? If you feel like adding a bit of cheese, do your thing. Personally, I don’t think this salad needs meat or meat substitute products because in and of itself it is already so filling and nutritious.
There are a million ways to make this salad! Go by your own tastes and creativity to make it customized and perfect for you/your family.
Today I am making this kind of salad for lunch, but I hope to have some left over to take with me tomorrow on my first day of work!! Eeek! So excited. Cross your fingers for me (and that my boyfriend doesn’t eat it all)!
Feel free to share your pics of your salad with us on Facebook!