Sunday, February 20, 2011

What am I loving this winter? Surprise, it's salads!

Although my mom served salad with dinner nearly every night while I was growing up, I never got into a really good salad routine myself. Of course in summer I can't help making salads, but they're more often for lunch than dinner, and still not necessarily an every day thing. When there's an abundance of fresh yummy stuff, or when I'm feeling a veggie deficiency, I'll opt for salad. We make lots of salads on our Wednesday dinner nights too – us girls are good at making sure there's a healthy component to each meal we put together. But still, when it comes to the other nights of the week, I'll usually make some kind of one-pot thing that includes veggies, and skip the side salad. And in winter, well, salads just aren't cold weather comfort food, right?

I'm changing my mind about that. This winter I have an extra interest in keeping healthy, since what I eat is still the only thing nourishing my little babe for now. That, paired with a renewed dedication to eating local and natural foods (after reading Deborah Eden Tull's The Natural Kitchen, one of the best gifts I got this Christmas and a book I recommend hugely) has led me to keep more veggies in my fridge, and try new things with them. And to my surprise, I've discovered that I LOVE winter salads.

Kale, beets, carrots, spinach, radicchio, and apples – all possible to find locally grown here throughout the winter – have become my staples, and with these I'm finding I can produce a delicious salad every day without much trouble.

Here are a few of my favourite combinations:

  • Thinly sliced raw kale with raw carrots and beets cut into matchsticks, leftover cooked quinoa, and toasted pumpkin seeds on top (pictured above)
  • Spinach and radicchio with apple slices (would be good with nuts added as well)
  • Spinach with grated carrots and beets
  • Spinach with grated carrots, feta, and pumpkin seeds
  • Thinly sliced raw kale with grated carrots, sliced boiled egg, and pumpkin seeds

I'm a bit lazy when it comes to the dressings – I've just been making big batches of my standard vinaigrette (olive oil, white wine vinegar – or a combination of lemon juice and white wine vinegar – lots of mustard, a bit of agave syrup or maple syrup, and salt and pepper) and using it for everything, which I think is yummy but you could definitely experiment more.

There's a lot of repetition in there, so you can see how having a few of these awesome winter veggies on hand in the fridge can keep me happy for days. These salads manage to feel hearty and satisfying enough for winter – the substantial texture of the kale, beets, and the richness of radicchio combined with apple, the toasty crunch of pumpkin seeds... It's magic! And now that I've discovered this, I get to feel that fresh healthy goodness that comes from salad eating, all year round.

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