The words “naturally gluten-free” are some of the best words in the English language. When foods are naturally gluten-free that means “stress-free” to me. That means I don’t have to scour labels, call companies or fret about any of the ingredients on the list. More often than not, the naturally gluten-free food doesn’t have an ingredient list to speak of. The whole food is the only ingredient. The theory that says that we should shop the perimeter of the grocery store is one of the best out there. Not only is this the best way for anyone to eat healthier, but the chances of those foods being naturally gluten-free are much higher than if you are looking at some of the processed foods in the middle of the store.
Salads are the perfect summer food. Not only are there salads using lettuce, but fruit salads, pasta salads, potato salad & more. I am going to talk more about lettuce based salads in this post. I have really broadened my horizons with salads since going gluten-free. There was a time when I wouldn’t even consider adding some of the things I add now to my salad. If there was fruit in my lettuce salad, I wouldn’t eat it, or I would spend a good amount of time removing said fruit and tossing it to the side.
To make an excellent salad, you have to start with a good lettuce base. Deciding what kind of lettuce to use is the first step. There are so many varieties to choose from. There are crunchy lettuces, there are mild lettuces and spicy lettuces. Some of the different varieties are:
Once you choose your base, then you can start to choose your add-ins. I love to mix arugula with tender baby lettuces. I love the spiciness of the arugula mixed in with the tenderness of the baby lettuces. If I am having my salad as my main dish, I will make sure to add a sufficient amount of protein to my salad. Some of the proteins that I like to use are:
I typically will add some kind of cheese when having a salad as my dinner. I either use goat or feta cheese. Every once in a while I will use cheddar, especially if I am having a taco or Mexican salad.
Once you have your base and protein (if using) chosen, then you can add in the remaining fun stuff. I love to add all kinds of veggies. I will use no less than 4 different veggies in my nightly salads. Then I usually add at least one fruit. In the summer it tends to be a berry of some sort. I love a handful of blackberries tossed in my salads. They go great with goat cheese! For more crunch, instead of using a gluten-free crouton, I will use crushed crackers or pretzels, crushed corn chips, pine nuts or some other kind of nut. The key is to get creative.
Now, the good stuff! What to dress your creation with. I usually use Kraft’s Light Balsamic Vinaigrette (gluten-free), but every once in a while I will just use a splash of balsamic vinegar. My family likes the recipe I am sharing below. It is one from a favorite local restaurant that I found online:
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 – 3 tsps garlic powder
Dash of crushed red pepper
Dash of fresh ground pepper
1. Place all ingredients in the food processor or blender and blend for 1-2 minutes. The dressing will become thicker and turn an off white color.
2. Serve & store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Remember when making your salads to thoroughly wash all of your veggies & fruits. Don’t use a knife to cut your lettuces; gently tear them. This will help keep them from turning brown. If you are buying lettuce that is not pre-washed, here is the way to clean & store your lettuce that we found helps extend the life of the lettuce.
1. Fill your sink with cold water & add lettuce.
2. Remove lettuce & use a salad spinner to spin dry.
3. Wrap lettuce in paper towels & roll up. Yes, this seems like a waste of paper towels, but it works.
4. Store wrapped lettuce in a Ziplock bag with all the air removed.
What is your favorite salad combination?