My son is eating salad! Yes, I am excited about this because until a few weeks ago, he absolutely didn’t. You’d think that having been a mom (read that: Cook, chef and attempted nutritionist) for thirty-something years that I would know how to get my family to eat good food. Not so. I had largely given up on my son’s taste buds (he is 18, for goodness sakes), but my interest was peaked when he recently commented that he had enjoyed a salad at a recent get-together. W-h-a-t? Very casually (so that I wouldn’t cause him to clam up – you moms know what I mean!) I asked why he thought it was so good. “It was crisp and fresh and it was just good.” Ok then. Note to self: Salad must be crisp, it must taste fresh (and that will make it good).
Since I’ve been on a mission this past year to change gears in regard to eating, this whole my-son-ate-salad thing started to percolate. In my mind I reviewed the many, many, MANY green salads I had made over the years…..and how I was usually the lone consumer of said salads. Well, my husband would give it the ol’ college try, and I made my little ones eat a few bites, but mostly it was me eating my greens. As I thought about my son’s recent comments regarding what constituted a good salad, I could see where I had failed. Opening up a box of spring greens from Costco (green, but not at all crisp) and slopping some bottled ranch dressing on it (nothing fresh about that) did not fill the bill. Once in a while I would add a few little condiments, but no one noticed or cared.
I decided to switch gears. I would make my green salads differently. And, since I am learning about the French concept of three course meals (appetizer, main dish, dessert) I would incorporate this, too.
You may have noted that I have a series on this blog called Let’s Be Civilized (With Our Food). Inspired by the French approach to food, in this section I share ways to slow down and enjoy meals, getting away from the “scarf and go” syndrome that seems so prevalent in our North American culture. We’ve gotten away from the joy and purpose of food, and I’m trying to find my way back. If you’d like to join me, check out that section where you’ll find Little Suggestions 1 through 5. Here and now, I offer Little Suggestion No. 6: Eat Salad First.
To construct my new, crisp salad, I walked away from my insistence of using only organic spring greens (or similar) and instead swallowed hard and bought organic hearts of romaine. Also against my convictions, I purchased croutons, which I had always thought of as childish and unnecessary. Finally, I ditched the old bottled ranch and, instead, chose romano caesar dressing. Oh all right, I did also throw a bag of colorful greens in the cart – just for a dash of vibrancy (and nutrition). And I also found a nifty package of “healthy chopped veggie mix” (thank you Trader Joe’s!).
My next step was to rinse all of the lettuce, break (not cut) it into bite sized pieces and then whirl it in a salad spinner until all of the excess droplets had vanished. I gave my little bag of spring greens the same treatment. Into plastic bags it all went so that the ingredients could chill in the refrigerator for several hours, making the lettuce extra crisp.
Right before dinnertime, after setting the table, I lightly tossed the romaine, tiny bit of colorful greens, a smattering of chopped veggies and croutons with a light touch of caesar dressing (no more soggy salad!). Salt and pepper (in grinders) would be available on the dining table to use as needed. Once tossed, I plated this lovely starter on individual plates and set them on top of our dinner plates.
My husband led the family in our meal blessing and then I waited. One by one, each family member picked up a fork and began eating. EVERYONE was eating my salad! And it was a lovely beginning to our meal. Somehow, without all of the food being presented at once, it changed the whole dynamics of our dining experience. I felt great knowing that everyone was eating their veggies rather than having the salad get lost and forgotten. Our conversation was relaxed. We all seemed less frantic about our food.
Can I say “win!”???
I am sticking with my basic green salad (as outlined above) for now. I don’t want to nix a good thing! But I know I will want to gradually branch out as time goes on. There are many versions of salad, and there is plenty of inspiration out there. I’m sure I’ll be sharing a few of my discoveries in the near future.
Let me mention one last thing. If you are gluten intolerant, don’t think I’ve been ignoring you. Udi’s makes wonderful gluten free bread which means you can make your own croutons! Here’s how:
- 2 TBS Butter
- 1/4 Tsp. Garlic Powder
- 2 Slices Udi's Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread
- Heat oven to 350 degrees
- Cut bread into cubes (include crust)
- Place butter on rimmed baking pan and melt butter in oven (takes about 3-4 minutes)
- Remove from oven, sprinkle garlic powder over melted butter and stir in
- Stir in bread cubes, coating cubes on all sides
- Place in oven for 8 minutes
- Stir cubes and return to oven for 3 minutes more
- Cool on pan.
Store in air tight container.
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