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Make salads in no time, no recipe needed

By Sue Knorr

Have you ever wished you could quickly put together a delicious, healthy meal without a recipe? Recently I had the pleasure of getting together for an early supper with friends from my yoga class. Everyone brought food and drink to share. The conversation soon turned to the topic of using a recipe as opposed to winging it, basically making your own creation as you go along, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The consensus was to be safe and follow a recipe, but I dance to the beat of a different drum. I don't have time to scour the Web for recipes every day and then track down all the ingredients at the grocery store. As I see it, the foods I like best are already in my kitchen.

Salads are a good place to start if you're new to the idea of meal prep on the fly. You're guaranteed a balanced meal in the Zone when you choose lean protein the size and thickness of your palm and load the rest of your plate with a variety of colorful vegetables plus a dash of healthy monounsaturated fat. Begin by choosing the protein. Then see what's on hand in the fridge, and your salad will evolve from there. A well-stocked refrigerator is the key. I keep a minimum of two or three varieties of lettuce and greens on hand as well as raw vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and cucumbers. These serve as the base for a limitless variety of salads. Deli-meats, reduced-fat cheeses and canned fish make convenient sources of protein. Leftovers and condiments add interesting twists. Yesterday's dinner can perk up tomorrow night's salad. Don't be afraid to mix and match, even if you don't think things pair well together. Anyone can do this. You'll be surprised by the new favorite combinations you discover.

Here are the ingredients of three meal-sized salads that were enjoyed at my house this past week. Each one is a 4-block meal piled high on a large dinner plate. No amounts are given because they are all one of a kind -- never made the same way twice. Note how some of the ingredients repeat from one salad to the next as the leftovers are used, and that each salad is very different from the previous one.

Salad #1

This salad has no dressing because the ingredients are very flavorful,
and the sardines and cheese provide all the fat needed.

Greens: romaine lettuce, baby spinach and watercress
Wild-caught sardines packed in water
Reduced-fat pepper jack cheese
Raw yellow peppers
Cherry tomatoes
Leftovers: fresh salsa, chunky salsa with corn and beans (from a jar),
cucumbers marinated in vinegar

Salad #2

In a large bowl I whisked together a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, oregano and Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute and then added all the rest of the ingredients, tossing to distribute evenly.

Greens: Baby spinach, watercress and romaine lettuce
Canned tuna packed in water, drained
Canned red kidney beans
Cherry tomatoes
Raw broccoli florets
Raw green peppers
Kalamata 4 olives
Sea salt
Black pepper

Salad #3

This salad had a dressing of hot pepper flavored olive oil, white wine vinegar and Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute whisked together in a large bowl and then tossed with all the ingredients.

Greens: Baby spinach and romaine lettuce
Deli-style turkey
Raw green peppers
Orange, yellow, purple and red cherry tomatoes
Leftovers: Steamed broccoli florets, canned red kidney beans,
reduced-fat pepper-jack cheese
Sea salt
Black pepper

Make your next salad from scratch and enjoy!