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Makeovers give go-to meals pizzazz

Spruce up your salad for an easy and

Spruce up your salad for an easy and delicious meal Photo Credit: iStock

Most people have a repertoire of about a dozen most-often eaten meals. If your mealtime is suffering from a lack of culinary creativity, infuse your favorite recipes with new life. The right topping can change a same-old, same-old dish into an inspired surprise at the dinner table. 

FOR SALADS

1. Toss nutrient-packed ingredients -- such as sliced avocado, a sprinkling of raw or lightly toasted chopped almonds or seeds (such as hemp, chia, sesame or flaxseed), or crumbled feta or blue cheese (just a sprinkling for taste) -- into your salads. For a hint of sweetness, add a few currants or dried cranberries.

2. Top raw or lightly steamed greens with grilled or steamed red peppers, onions and potatoes, and any of the dressings listed below.

3. Add some protein to turn your salad into a main course. Good protein sources that nicely accompany greens include chicken, tuna, salmon and goat cheese.

4. Occasionally prepare a vegetable salad without greens.

SALAD DRESSINGS

You can't go wrong with these salad dressings. They're easy to prepare and require only a few ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to each if desired. Otherwise, simply whisk ingredients together and serve.

1. Flax dressing 2 tablespoons flax oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or honey.

2. Tahini dressing 1/2 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons of water, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 to 2 cloves garlic crushed.

3. Olive-lemon 2 tablespoons olive oil, a generous squirt of fresh lemon juice.

4. Balsamic dressing 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water or maple syrup.

5. Yogurt-herb dressing 1 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup light mayonnaise or mayo substitute, 1 clove garlic crushed, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley and/or dill. This recipe also works well in pasta and potato salads.

6. Blueberry vinaigrette You'll need a blender for this one. 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 cup of plain yogurt, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon or lime juice, 1 cup of fresh blueberries, divided. Mix half the blueberries together with all of the other ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. After preparing your salad, as the pièce de résistance, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of blueberries over top.

PASTA, FISH, POULTRY OR MEAT

1. Tomato sauce 1 cup of chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 large or 3 small cloves garlic, crushed or chopped and 1 tablespoon of fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon of dried (optional).

2. Coconut milk For 2 servings, saute fish or chicken in half a can of coconut milk. Use a whole can for 4 servings.

3. Garlic-herb 1/4 cup of olive oil, 3 cloves of fresh crushed or chopped garlic, a pinch of fresh basil or oregano, freshly grated black pepper.

4. Yogurt-dill For an exceptional accompaniment to fish, mix 1 cup of plain yogurt (low- or full-fat) with 1/2 cup of fresh dill (fresh is essential).

GENERAL TOPPINGS

Forget about having a boring chicken dish tonight. Bake chicken breasts topped with pineapple slices or with mango salsa on the side. Here are some more ideas:

1. Spices such as paprika, ginger, and chili powder can perk up a meal while reducing the need for salt.

2. Chopped fresh or dried herbs give your meal and health a boost. There are many to choose from: parsley, mint, dill, basil, chives, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, or thyme.

3. Or go raw with any of these ingredients:

Green onions

Chopped olives

Capers

Chopped jalapeño chili

Sliced mango or pineapple

Applesauce

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