Dinner Diva: Salads made easy

Dinner Diva
Salads made easy

Now is the time for all good cooks to take full advantage of amazing produce! You know how good for you all those wonderful, phytochemically, nutritionally rich veggies are for your health. Well, most everything is at its peak right now.
If you're a little intimidated by such a big assortment, let's start with the easy button. You don't need to know anything when you press the easy button-you just know it's going to be easy! The easy button in my book is the already bagged, ready to go stuff sitting in the refrigerated section of the produce department, just waiting to be grabbed and taken home.
All that is required is from you is to obtain the bag (eyeball it first to make sure it looks good, then check for expiration dates), pay your money (yeah, this stuff isn't the cheapest way to go, but think of it this way-potato chips cost $2.49 a pound and provide nothing nutritionally) and go home and use it. There are usually recipes on the bag and I've got some ideas here, too, on how to use these convenient veggies.
With this stuff, it's easy to go recipe-less and build beautiful, nutrient-rich salads to suit just about everyone's palate. Just grab a bag and follow these great tips for quick and easy meals and side dishes.
* Make a slaw. You can go traditional and empty a bag of ready-to-go slaw into your salad bowl, add 1/2 cup of low-fat Mayo, a teaspoon of honey, a splash of cider vinegar and you're ready to roll.
* Make ethnic slaw. For fun, use a bag of broccoli slaw instead and add 1/2 cup low-fat Mayo, a splash of rice wine vinegar, a shot of sesame oil and garnish with a little chopped cilantro and honey roasted peanuts and you're good to go.
* Chips and dip. Those great, big carrot chips are a whole lot better for you than the potato kind! Open up a bag and serve with your favorite low fat dip instead and you'll save yourself a whole bag of calories!
* Stir it up. For a quick and easy vegetarian stir fry meal, chop some green onions and press a little garlic and put it in a wok, already heated with a little oil. Add your bag of stir-fry, a dash of soy sauce, some ginger and bean sprouts and you have a good meal. Put in on brown rice and you have a great meal!
* Tofu tagalong. There's tofu in the produce department! Maybe you'd like a few chunks of tofu in your stir-fry? Go ahead-- don't be timid. Tofu can be fun.
*Carrot slaw. Much better than the kind your school cafeteria served. Mix a bag of shredded carrots with 1/2 cup low-fat Mayo, a handful of raisins and a generous pinch of chopped walnuts. Delicious!
* My favorite salad. In a large bowl, toss together from different bags, whatever you have on hand (and I use a handful of the basic greens per person to make mine): field greens, baby spinach, shredded broccoli, shredded cabbages, etc. (smaller portions of the shredded stuff). Add thinly sliced green onion, a sprinkling of pine nuts, a generous portion of sun-dried tomato feta cheese crumbles, and toss together with a simple dressing of one pressed garlic clove, two parts rice wine vinegar to one part olive oil. Toss well and let sit for just a minute for flavors to meld (but not too long otherwise your salad will be soggy).
And there you go-easy salads using your easy button. Enjoy!

For more dinner solutions, visit savingdinner.com Copyright 2006 Leanne Ely. Published with permission for this publication.