DIY Salads: A post dedicated to learning new combinations

DIY Salads: A post dedicated to learning new combinations

Happy Wednesday, you’re halfway through the week. Does anyone else have the thought that once you’re up and out the door that the day is over? As in you only have x number of nights/sleeps until the next weekend, trip or visit? I recently heard someone say something very similar to “It’s only 3 more sleeps until…” and I thought “I say that too!” and then I realized that it may not be a Julie thing, but a 20-something thing. (Pretty sure it was my bff, but I’m not positive.)

So you’ve already packed 3 lunches this week and need some inspiration for Thursday (really the worst day of the week, am I right?). I’ve put together a little tutorial for D.I.Y. Salads. Sounds exciting, I know. The thing with salads is that they can seem so boring, but I’m here to tell you that they are so much more than that. What I find most interesting is that the term salad can apply to anything that is chopped, put into a bowl, dressed in something and tossed. You don’t even need lettuce. You don’t even need lettuce.

I’m not being very original in this post, but hopefully I’ll inspire someone to create a delicious salad. If you do, share below. If you share, maybe I’ll do a salad feature in the future.

Let’s start with the dressing. It’s a basic formula that is jazzed up just as you like.

how to make salad dressing
How to create the perfect dressing.


Pick  your oil, I like Olive Oil or Avocado Oil for the everyday salad and coconut oil for a Thai/Caribbean flair. Then pick your acid – any vinegar or citrus fruit (think: lemons, limes), add an emulsifying agent. This agent will help the oil and vinegar stick together (my favorite is spicy brown mustard, but you can also use garlic or anything else you find googling “emulsifying agent salad dressing”). Feel free to add herbs and spices, some of my favorites include parsley, cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Oh, and don’t forget garlic! You’ll want about a 2 to 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar to 1/3 emulsifying agent and then all the herbs and spices you want. With dressing I’ve found that you really need to play with it for things to work just the way you want. I usually end up putting the -ish amounts in a bowl and seeing if they taste good…if so then yes, if not then I add what I think will make it taste better. If this step is stressing you out then skip it and go buy some tasty dressing. I like Tessemae’s dressing.

The next step is the fun part. I’m going basic here with salads made with a type of leafy green – but feel free to skip them all together!

Choose your leafy green: spinach, kale, iceberg, romaine, butter, spring mix, dandelion greens, swiss chard, endive, arugula. There are so many out there. My favorites are kale, butter and arugula.


Kale is my favorite because it’s a great “take-with-you” leaf. It doesn’t get soggy easily and will stay dressed and actually be an even more perfect leaf when you eat it around lunchtime (this is even more true for a variety called lacinato kale).

Here comes the fun part: picking and mixing. I believe to have a great salad you need 3 of the 4 things: Sweet, Salty, Tangy and Crunchy. The best part about this is the infinite amount of combinations you can have. Here’s a short list of some of my favorites in each category.

Sweet Crunchy Salty Tangy
Honey Nuts Salt Dried Cranberries
Dates Celery Bacon Dried Cherries
Apples Onions Anchovies Lemon
Pears Cucumbers Olives Lime
Rasperries Carrots Cheese
Cherries Banana Chips
Blueberries Toasted Coconut
Strawberries Peas

I realize some of these items belong in two categories – even better!! Two for the price of one – apples for example are one my salad staples and belong in both the sweet and crunchy category. They go well with a lot of flavors and are an unexpected taste (well, until you start putting them in all of your salads). Here’s what I had on hand yesterday for salad inspiration.

salad fixings
Salad Fixings.

Apples, dates, honey, limes, Parmesan cheese, ricotta, parsley and cilantro, Celtic sea salt, almonds, celery and macadamia nuts.

It’s almost time to go make your salad, so let’s wrap this up. In addition to all of the above, you’ll need a protein and all the veggies you have on hand! To me these are just necessities and not really the exciting part of the salad story which is all the crunch, sweet, tangy, salty bits.

To summarize:

1. Pick your dressing ingredients; whisk together to emulsify.

2. Choose your leafy green.

3. Pick (at minimum!) 3 categories out of sweet, tangy, crunchy and salty and find your ingredients.

4. Find a protein (leftovers are great for this).

5. Bring out any extra veggies you need/want.

6. Chop everything up. I find the best salads are ones where everything is about the same size.

7. Mix, eat and enjoy.

I won’t leave you hanging with all this information. Here’s a few salads I like to make:

  • Kale, apple, chicken, walnuts, celery with EVOO + balsamic + salt + spicy brown mustard dressing
  • Arugula, sliced almonds, lamb meatballs, sweet potato with EVOO + lemon + garlic + Salt dressing
  • Kale, chicken, Parmesan, dates with EVOO + lots of lemon + salt + garlic dressing
  • Butter lettuce, turkey, cucumbers, cranberries with EVOO + vinegar + dill + salt dressing (sometimes I skip that salad part and eat this as a lettuce wrap…I’m such a rebel.)
  • Spinach, bacon, egg, almond, olive with EVOO + balsamic + salt + spicy brown mustard dressing

Some new ones I want to try (that I just made up by combining the ingredients above…hint hint):

  • Shrimp, arugula, toasted coconut, cilantro, bacon with coconut oil + lime + garlic + salt dressing
  • Strawberry, spinach, bacon, egg, walnut with EVOO + balsamic + salt + spicy brown mustard dressing
  • Spring mix, olives, cucumbers, lamb patties, ricotta with EVOO + lemon + garlic + Salt dressing

Now go get your salad on!




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