Salad, A Healthy Holiday Meal Starter

What’s on the menu? It’s time to pull the recipes and make the grocery list? Having a plan saves time, money and stressful grocery shopping as you navigate the store aisles with countless others.  Nobody wants to head back to the store in the midst of holiday meal preparation on Christmas Eve.

As you plan your menu make sure you begin with a healthy salad.  Here are my three favorites for different levels of cooking skills and dining engagement.  A basic Caesar Salad is an easy crowd favorite.  Toss chopped romaine with freshly grated Parmesan or Manchego cheese, black pepper and a low fat salad dressing.  Making the croutons from scratch is easy, adds flare and allows you to control the added fat and sodium.

shutterstock_199103498Homemade Croutons (Makes 5-6 cups) 

  • 6 slices whole grain bread (remove crust – optional and honey wheat is a tasty, healthy choice)
  • Mix ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil with 1 tsp. crushed garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt and a dash of basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
  • Paint brush all sides with the olive oil mixture and cut into 1-inch cubes. Gently toss in a bowl.

Pour onto a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15 minutes or until brown, turning once or twice after 7-8 minutes.

When it comes to choosing a salad dressing there are two rules of thumb.  If you stick with the serving size of 2 Tbsp. (2 thumb tips) enjoy the regular versions.  However, if you tend to pour it on, choose a lower fat option.

shutterstock_84885538Roquefort Pear Salad

A pre plated Roquefort pear salad makes for a sophisticated table setting and a nice balance of fruits, vegetables with a healthy crunch.

Ingredients   Serving Size: 6

  • 6 cups mixed greens or leaf lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced length wise
  • (Dip in orange juice prior to adding to salad to prevent browning)
  • 4 oz. Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup green onion, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. prepared mustard
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1.    Stir ¼ cup of sugar with ½ cup pecans with 1 Tbsp. water until the sugar has melted and pecans have caramelized. Cool on wax paper and break apart.  Nuts will become less sticky as they dry.

2.    Prepare dressing by mixing extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, 1 ½ tsp. sugar, mustard, chopped garlic, salt and pepper.

3.    Layer lettuce, pears, cheese and green onions.  Drizzle on dressing and sprinkle with pecans.

Bibb Lettuce Wraps   

For a more adventurous group, allow your guests to make their own customized Bibb lettuce wraps, a fresh idea that’s highly interactive!  Your assembly station includes a plate of freshly washed Bibb lettuce leaves and 6 separate bowls filled with 1) diced Asian chicken mixed with brown rice and peanuts 2) matchstick-cut cucumber 3) matchstick-cut carrots 4) Bean sprouts 5) Cilantro 6) Sauce

Ingredients:            Serving Size: 6

  • ½ pound chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • ½ tsp. fresh ginger + ½ tsp. fresh crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. Sriracha (hot Chile sauce)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts

To prepare chicken:

  • Prepare ½ cup brown rice to yield, 1 cup cooked.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. sesame seed oil in a nonstick skillet.  Add chopped chicken breast and cook over medium heat until done.
  • Add remaining ingredients and sauté for 3-5 minutes until flavors well combined.

Display in separate containers: 

  • 12 Bibb lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 cup fresh chopped Cilantro
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut cucumbers
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • 1 cup bean sprouts

Dressing/Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup water
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • Squeeze juice from ½  fresh lime

In a small saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat.

Sauté minced shallots for 2 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients except lime juice and bring to a boil. Cooking for 1 minute, remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Starting off your holiday celebration with a salad sends a message to guests that you’ve got their good health in mind this season!



Categories: Recipes

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