Monday, June 18, 2012

Meatless Mondays - main dish salads with grains


Now that it's summer, I like to serve main dish salads for dinner on the patio.  When we were in Hawaii, I ordered a salad at a restaurant and it had quinoa tossed in with the greens.  It sparked an idea!  Instead of meat as the protein, why not throw in protein-rich grains, seeds, or legumes like quinoa or lentils?  

I also recently had a yummy southwestern lentil salad from the Whole Foods salad bar and I wanted to experiment with lentils.   I don't know about you, but I wasn't accustomed to cooking with them much.  I have come to learn that they are quite nutritious - they contain about 30% protein, and have fiber, folate, and B vitamins (if you sprout them they are even MORE nutritious).    And, if you add in some brown rice, you will have a complete protein.  I have been enjoying the convenience of the cooked lentils from Trader Joe's (in a box, in the fridge section by the salad greens), and I just purchased some dry red lentils to work with.  

Pictured above is a super easy salad made with brown lentils.  The ingredients are:

-chopped baby kale (love this; found it at Whole Foods - in a large plastic box by the other salad greens)
-pre-cooked brown lentils (TJ's)
-orange segments
-avocado chunks
-diced red bell pepper
-chopped fresh cilantro

And I think brown rice, chopped red onion or scallions, and some sunflower seeds would be an improvement.   This was an afterthought  :-)

The dressing was simply lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little cumin & chili powder.

Basically, if you have "greens and a grain" you can pretty much add anything, and it's hard to go wrong!  Last week we had some ripe nectarines, so I made basically the same salad adding those, some nuts, and dried fruit.  I like to make a fruity balsamic vinaigrette for salads with fruit.

If you have small children, you're probably wondering how this could be eaten by them for dinner!  Instead of tossing the ingredients into a salad, I would suggest deconstructing it and putting little piles of each of the ingredients onto a plate - and let little fingers serve themselves.   It's good for kids to actually taste each food by itself anyways.  Or a small bowl with lentils, brown rice, and some very finely chopped greens tossed in (something that can be eaten with a spoon) would work as well.  If it's still not enough, just add some cheese chunks or an apple/banana with a nut butter!   

Enjoy being creative with your summer salads! 

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