A week’s worth of salad ideas

Since I started photographing my meals (especially my lunches), it has come to my attention that I eat A LOT of salad – at least one a day to be exact. I LOVE loading up on fresh foods early in the day and salads are the perfect way to do it. They are filling, healthy and are SO easy to switch up on a daily basis.

I know that a lot of people hate packing their lunches and especially avoid making things like salads because they seem to be too time intensive, but I am determined to show the world (or at least the lunch packers of the world) that it is not only possible, but easy to pack fun and delicious meals everyday. Lunch doesn’t have to be boring!  Wouldn’t it be nice to look forward to lunch and know that you are doing something good for your body/wallet on a daily basis?  It is a myth that lunch packing has to be tedious or monotonous. A weeks worth of various vegetables/grains/proteins can actually provide a limitless amount of fun lunch (salad!) options…..

My lunches of the week….  (including what I had to work with):

(side note: I share all of this food with my sister… just so you are aware that I don’t eat 8 cups of beans by myself in one week)

Vegetables:

  • spinach (1 tub)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 big bag of baby carrots
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 bag each of kale and arugula (the tub of spinach I bought on Sunday which was NOT packed very full… (such a rip off!), so I had to replenish my greens mid-week – which is usually not the case)
  • radish (a few leftover from last week)

Grains:

  • quinoa (I made about 2 cups worth on Sunday night for the week)
  • brown rice spiral pasta (made about 2 cups worth on Sunday night as well)
  • whole grain bread (I will usually eat a slice on the side with my salad if I don’t add a grain into the mix)

Protein:

  • 1 can pinto beans (3 servings a can)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can bean salad
  • lentils (I made 2 cups worth on Sunday when I made the quinoa and pasta) –  enough for approximately 4 meals

Additional items (things that I needed to use up or ingredients that I usually have on hand):

  • goat cheese
  • sunflower seeds
  • blueberries (the last of a pint from last week)
  • radishes (from last week)
  • various vinegars/sauces/dressings

Monday

Fruity spinach salad with quinoa and blueberries

  • spinach
  • quinoa (1/2 cup)
  • pinto beans (1/2 cup)
  • chopped carrots
  • chopped zucchini
  • chopped broccoli
  • chopped radish
  • sprinkle of blueberries (the last of a container from last week)
  • dressing: Trader Joe’s Muscat Orange Vinegarette

Tuesday

Indian-inspired salad with lentils, spinach, quinoa and goat cheese

  • spinach
  • lentils (1/2 cup)
  • quinoa (1/2 cup)
  • chopped carrots
  • chopped broccoli
  • chopped zucchini
  • goat cheese
  • dressing: Trader Joe’s curry simmer sauce/marinade

Wednesday

BBQ sweet potato, kale, and black bean salad

  • kale
  • zucchini
  • sweet potato (1/2 of a medium-sized potato, microwaved and cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • black beans (1/2 cup)
  • quinoa (a small sprinkling of whatever I had left in the fridge… maybe 2 tbsp?? )
  • dressing: Trader Joe’s BBQ sauce diluted with a little water to thin it out

Thursday

Arugula bean salad with sunflower seeds (enjoyed in the sun!)

  • arugula
  • bean salad (1/2 cup)- in a vinegar-based marinade which served as my dressing
  • chopped carrot
  • chopped broccoli
  • sunflower seeds

I also ate a slice of bread on the side with this.

I bought this canned bean salad (with string beans, kidney beans and pinto beans) a longgg time ago and finally used it as a salad topper this week. I loved the vinegar-y and tanginess of this mixture and it felt so light and spring-y. I am inspired to make my own… and may need to make this recipe from Tone It Up in the near future….

Friday

“Pasta salad” with arugula and pinto beans

  • arugula
  • pinto beans (1/2 cup)
  • brown rice pasta (1/2 cup)
  • chopped zucchini
  • chopped carrot
  • chopped broccoli
  • dressing: Trader Joe’s Muscat Orange Vinegar

So there you have it….. I hope I (maybe?) showed how a weeks worth of vegetables can be made into different salad/meal options! I love how  a few basic ingredients can be switched up so easily to make a completely different meal. What can I say, I love my salad.

Do you eat a lot of salads for lunch? If so, how do you keep them exciting? I like to switch up dressings everyday so I never get bored, and I also try to add “fun ingredients” (like blueberries or sweet potatoes) to keep things exciting.

What is your favorite salad combination? I love the mixture of quinoa, goat cheese and broccoli together in salads and have also been loving to add fruit to my salads as well these days

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My favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes

Hi there,

I just want to say thank you (!) to everyone who wished me well yesterday in my comments section. It meant so much to me, and it amazes me how supportive and helpful this community can be. I am so happy to be a part of it!  

So, on a completely different note, lets talk about vegetables today…..

A couple of weeks ago I shared some of my favorite (and simple) ways to eat kale. I thought I’d continue with the vegetable love today and move on to a new vegetable… sweet potatoes!

I love sweet potatoes (almost as much as I love kale… which is saying a lot). They are so versatile and can take on either savory or sweet flavors very easily.  They are delicious baked, roasted, and even microwaved when you’re short on time (or too impatient to wait for the oven to preheat). Plus, not only are they delicious, but they are also  packed full of vitamins and minerals and are so good for you too (here is some more info if you’re interested)!

Just like my favorite ways to enjoy kale, my favorite ways to enjoy sweet potatoes are also very quick and easy… I don’t have tons of time to devote to cooking these days, so I am all about being quick and efficient in the kitchen. Plus, since my kitchen is the size of a shoebox, has bad lighting and has limited counter space,  it’s not exactly my ideal place to be….

One day I will have a big kitchen with natural light and counter space and will have ample amounts of  time to devote to my cooking love (a girl can dream….), but until then, I’ll just stick to easy (and delicious!) meal preparation.

Some of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes

1. Roasted

source

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Wash sweet potato and cut into cubes
  • Put cubes into bag and add a little olive oil (or cooking spray) as well as any seasonings you’d like…. I am a fan of spicy seasonings like old bay, red pepper flakes or chili powder or a more sweet combo like cinnamon
  • Place sweet potato in one even layer on greased baking sheet
  • Bake for 40-60 minutes, flipping halfway through

These are good as a side to a meal or are also excellent salad toppers.

2. “Loaded” sweet potatoes

photo from Dancing Carrots blog… who have a simple/easy recipe for these

I also love using sweet potatoes as a base for delicious toppings. I find that really any combination of ingredients can work well as a sweet potato topper. Some of my favorites include:

  • sweet potato + black beans + BBQ sauce + sautéed spinach + sautéed mushrooms
  • sweet potato + black beans + salsa + plain greek yogurt (as sour cream replacement) + avocado
  • sweet potato + white beans + spinach + zucchini + mushrooms + peppers + balsamic reduction (heat balsamic vinegar in a saucepan until it gets thick and sweet and delicious)
  • Sweet potato + baked beans (originally from Caitlin…. this is such a good combo, try it!)

Really any combo of a protein (beans are my personal favorite, if you can’t tell), veggie(s) and condiment could work for this…. It’s such a fun,  delicious and fast meal! I usually will just:

  • Wash and pierce potato with a fork
  • Microwave for 5-6 minutes
  • While potato heats, saute and prep my “toppers”
  • Cut potato open and top with ingredients

You could also bake the sweet potato vs. microwaving as well.

3. Sweet potato rounds

photo from The Athlete’s Plate

(who has a delicious recipe for these with a Coconut-Peanut Sauce!)

I don’t really know what to call these but there are one of my favorite ways to enjoy sweet potatoes. I used to make these all the time in college, and they are a great vehicle for a ton of ketchup and/or BBQ sauce consumption. The best way I have found to do this is with a George Foreman grill, but you can also improvise with a saute pan or do this in the oven.

George Foreman

  • Preheat George Foreman grill and spray with some non-stick cooking spray
  • Cut sweet potato in rounds (about 1/4 inch thick)
  • Place rounds on greased George Foreman and grill for about 10-15 minutes (or until grill marks form and potatoes are cooked through), flipping once

 OR

Skillet

  • Preheat and grease skillet
  • Cut sweet potato into rounds
  • Microwave rounds in microwave for 2-3 minutes (until they get a little soft)… this speeds up the process a bit
  • Place on skillet and brown each side (about 2-3 minutes each side)

These taste amazing dipped in ketchup or BBQ sauce, and I find they are a quick fix to a crispy “fry-esque” craving (they definitely don’t taste like french fries…. I am referring more to their crispy fry-like texture and ability to hold ketchup…. I don’t want to false advertise). Kailey over at Snackface has a good oven-method of making these as well….

Again, as you can see, my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes are pretty simple. I am all about quick meals that don’t take too much time to prepare. It’s always possible to squeeze more veggies in your life, I swear!

If you would like some more ideas (and complete meal ideas), check out some of these recipes….

Anne’s Sweet Potato & Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas…. these are SO GOOD. I made them about a month or so ago and am still thinking about them…. I need to make them again.

Mama Pea’s Spicy African Peanut Stew… another delicious recipe using sweet potatoes that I highly recommend (so simple but so good!)

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Pasta… I have this bookmarked, it sounds delicious!

and as always… Food Gawker can always give you an endless supply of ideas as well.

What are your favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes?

Any fun recipes to share? Feel free to link!

Best Thing I Packed this Week: BBQ Lentil Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

Hi guys, happy Friday!

I have some more delicious meals to share with you all… I was on a roll this week with making delicious and healthy lunches. 

Best meals I packed this week:

In case you missed them, here are some of my past weeks of “Best thing I packed:”

Veggie-Packed Tofu salad with  Poppyseed Dressing

I ate this for lunch on Thursday, and it was especially delicious. I basically tried to add as much color/texture as possible to my Tupperware container by packing as many fresh veggies as I could into my salad.

Since veggies alone would keep me full for about 20 minutes, I added in some tofu and whole grain rotini pasta for some protein and whole grains (and staying power). 

I used a new to me dressing (Drews Poppyseed dressing) on top, and I loved it. I feel like I am always talking about this brand of dressing, but I have yet to try a variety I don’t like. I guess I am a big fan….

This salad was so filling, and I loved all the different components. My favorite salads always tend to be the ones with a lot of different ingredients thrown in so my taste buds never get bored… I also love including cold pasta in salads. It always soaks up the dressing and is so good (try it!). This particular salad contained:

  • kale
  • cucumber
  • radish
  • carrots
  • beets
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 block tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • whole grain rotini pasta (1/2 cup)

Dressing: Drews Poppyseed dressing

BBQ Lentil Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

This was another delicious lunch combo I concocted this week. It contained:

  • chopped collard greens
  • mushrooms, chopped
  • spicy roasted sweet potatoes
  • brown lentils (about 1/2 cup)… I made them over the weekend using the method I talked about here

Dressing: BBQ sauce

I loved the mix of the BBQ sauce (I love using condiments as dressing!) with the collard greens and the lentils. The spicy sweet potatoes were also a fun addition. I made the sweet potatoes over the weekend by roasting 2 cubed potatoes in a mixture of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and onion powder for about 40 minutes (flipping halfway through) in a 400 degree oven. I made them for dinner on Sunday, but the leftovers served as a great salad topper.

Again, this was so filling (probably because of the lentils and potatoes) and so satisfying.  My taste buds were very happy. I have been loving BBQ/spicy foods these days.  

I hope everyone has a great day and eats some delicious food!

 What is the best thing you packed/ate this week? (I love hearing about your delicious creations/meals!)

Scenes from the weekend + a fun snack idea

Hi! How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

I didn’t do anything super exciting and was rather low key, but it was exactly what I needed. I basically just ran errands and got some work done, but I really enjoyed myself. Sometimes its nice to just recharge. Some  of my more notable moments of the weekend….

I ate a delicious lunch at Whole Foods

I had to work Saturday morning so I rewarded myself when I was finished with with a delicious Whole Foods lunch…. I especially enjoyed the vegetarian Waldorf salad made with kale on the bottom right corner…. (I am pretty mad at myself for not looking how they made it…). Anyone know whats in it?

I ran 5 miles at the gym on Saturday!

Even though I have been running for over 2 years now, and have completed multiple races, I still get excited every time I run more than 2 miles…. maybe its my former nonathletic/uncoordinated adolescent self congratulating me? I was pretty pleased with myself for 1. getting to the gym on a Saturday afternoon and 2. running more than 3 miles (my original plan)

I tried a new-to-me beer

I went to Jon‘s friends house last night and enjoyed a couple of beers (including the Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale that I previously wrote about!).  The Old Brown Dog Ale tasted exactly how Runner’s World described it and was deliciously malty/caramel-y. I also had a Flying Dog  In Heat Wheat Hefeweizen that was pretty good.

I saw the biggest yam I have ever seen….

This is random, but I saw this at the store today and felt the need to share. It was HUGE!

I ate a delicious snack

I just ate this, and since it was pretty good, I felt the need to share. I always love having something sweet at night, and I like to try to think of healthier alternatives to enjoy when I am not in the mood to eat something super indulgent.

I was in the mood for something warm/comforting, but I also wanted an apple. To satisfy both moods I made some cinnamon pumpkin peanut butter dip that I could dip some apple slices into. To make the dip I combined:

  • 2 tbsp pumpkin (approx)
  • 1 tsp  peanut butter (approx)

I heated the mixture in the microwave for 15 seconds than stirred in some cinnamon.

This was such a fun snack, and I loved dipping the cold/crisp apples slices into the warm  peanut butter and pumpkin combo. YUM!

What the highlight/best part of your weekend?

Best thing I packed this week: week 2 (February 10, 2012)

Happy Friday! Anyone doing anything exciting this weekend?

So the time has come again for “The best thing I packed this week” (here is week 1 in case you missed it)!

Best lunch: Roasted brussel sprout, sweet potato and black bean salad (with BBQ hummus dressing)

I can’t take credit for this delicious combination (my sister made it for me), but it was definitely the best thing I ate for lunch this week. Sami (my twin sister who is a busy grad student and lover of healthy packed lunches as well) and I tend to help each other out during the week and make each others lunches on certain days (she usually packs my lunch for Thursday, since I don’t get home until 9:30ish, and I tend to help her out Tuesdays or Fridays). It definitely makes my life a little easier, and I appreciate her SO much for helping me out. Thanks Sam!

This salad contained so many delicious things, I didn’t want it to end. My favorite salads tend be (1) ones with a lot of various ingredients to pick at and taste, or (2) ones that contain different or “less typical” ingredients than the standard salad (think carrot, cucumber, tomato, etc.), This salad definitely fell into the second category with the addition of brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. I am a BIG fan of both (I love roasted brussel sprouts!), and while I typically eat these types of veggies for dinner, it was fun to enjoy them in the middle of the day. 

 I ate around the spinach first (I usually always save the best parts for last in salads) and left all the brussel sprouts, beans and sweet potatoes for last. This salad contained:

  • spinach
  • sweet potato cubes
  • roasted brussel sprouts
  • black beans
  • quinoa

Dressing: Homemade BBQ dressing made with:

  • BBQ sauce (approx 1 tbsp)… I never really measure these things
  • apple cider vinegar (approx 1-2 tsp)
  • a drop or two of water – to thin it out

I love making my own dressings, since I typically don’t tend like many bottled options, and I like to be in control of how much of certain ingredients I use.  Sami is actually a pretty talented dressing maker and is always whipping up some delicious combinations. My favorites of hers include:

  • BBQ (and BBQ Hummus)
  • Honey Balsamic 
  • Honey Mustard-esque dressing

Making your own dressing is really easy, and I find that they taste just as good (if not better!) than many bottled kinds (I HATE that artificial taste in certain types of dressing). Since a dressing can make or break a salad, they are definitely an important feature of my daily meals. What are your favorite kinds of dressing?

Other notable meals of the week….

kale, goat cheese, kidney bean and veggie "pasta" salad

olive tapenade, hummus and kale on whole wheat

So that concludes the “Best thing I packed this week.” I hope you have a great Friday/weekend!

What was the best thing you packed this week?