salad-guide-tx

Alright, my friends.* Even though it’s still freezing here in Utah, the summer is coming, and I’d like to look amazing. Remember I made that video a few weeks ago and told you how I was planning to lose a couple pounds?

Yeah, um . . . it’s not going so well. I think it’s the stress. I know that the best to way to achieve my goal is by eating lots of fresh, living foods—like greens, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and by getting plenty of protein. But a lot of the time, I’m too tired to cook that way, and after I’ve baked a dozen French macarons for the blog, I’d rather just eat the macarons.

Tyson-Grilled-Ready-Products-InfographicBut that’s not going to help me be the version of myself I want to be. Recently, Tyson Foods, makers of Tyson® Grilled & Ready® products asked me if I wanted to help them with their “Countdown to a Better You”  program, which is designed to help consumers look, feel and be their best in time for summer. The “Countdown to a Better You” was developed to motivate us to eat smarter by providing nutrient rich recipes that feature lean chicken and beef. To check it out, head over to to Facebook.com/GrilledandReady  and click on the “Treat Yourself” tab, and there you can register for the program and start getting eligible to win some great prizes.

For the next few months, I’m going to share some ideas for the “Countdown to a Better You” that will help us all be the best versions of ourselves through eating smarter. Tyson Foods sent me some of their Tyson® Grilled & Ready® chicken, which I’ve been adding to my salads lately. Since it’s pre-cooked and the frozen chicken only takes minutes to defrost, it’s a great way to incorporate lean protein into my diet when I’m short on time.

For ages now, I’ve been wanting to write a post on how to make a great salad without an exact recipe. Once, when I was in Denver with my friend Holli, we went to this restaurant where you could create your own salad. They had the perfect blueberries, fresh hand trimmed artichoke hearts, all the best cheeses, and really anything you could imagine. It was like the Xanadu of salad bars. The problem was, I didn’t like my salad. It had all the best stuff, but none of the ingredients really went with each other.

Since then, I’ve learned certain things just don’t go together. For example, bell peppers and fruit. I don’t know what it is, but they just don’t seem to taste right when they’re together in a salad. Pair the peppers with something savory, like mushrooms or tomatoes, and then they’re fine.

This is a chart I made as a little salad-making guide. To use it, you see what you have in the fridge, and pick the main ingredient you’re in the mood for. Let’s say, for example, you have some strawberries you want to use. Since they’re in the “sweet” column, you can choose other items from the sweet column, and then add items from the neutral column. By not adding anything from the savory column, you should end up with a nice salad without any competing flavors.

salad matrix
The strawberry salad I have pictured uses baby organic spinach, strawberries, chèvre (goat cheese), cashews, and chia seeds with a balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe below). The other salad is savory. I tossed together mixed greens, avocados (scooped out with a melon baller), and yellow tomatoes. Both salads also have the Tyson® Grilled & Ready® chicken, which goes beautifully with either salad.

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Now, of course, I’m all about breaking rules. You don’t have to stick to this guide—I definitely didn’t with my nectarine tomato salad  and the broccoli crunch salad, but I think it’s a good starting point. Just have fun with it, be creative, and be inspired. The possibilities are endless.

balsamic vinaigrette

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
small clove garlic, grated (optional)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
pinch salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a small glass jar (a clean jam jar works well), close the lid and shake well.

Refrigerate any unused vinaigrette. If oil solidifies, place the jar in warm water until the oil turns back to liquid.

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*I am a member of the Tyson® Grilled & Ready® products blogger brigade, which means I have been compensated for this post.