Not Your Average Salads

BBQ SaladI’ve been on a salad kick lately. Check out my Instagram post a few weeks back to see how to make my absolute weekly favorite: Fajita Salad.  When people think salad, they think boring, but they don’t have to be.  I’m always trying to be creative with food and use ordinary ingredients in different ways.  Yes, your basic salad can get old real quick, but when you find that perfect flavor combination, it can be so satisfying.  That is kind of where I’m at right now.  Loving the warm weather and loving the salads that go with it.  When eating out, people often peruse the salad section of a restaurant menu because they believe it’s the “healthiest” option, however, if you actually were to look at the macro count of a restaurant salad, you’d be blown away.  Often times, the caloric value of a restaurant salad is far worse than other options on the menu.  And, when making a “healthy” salad at home, where most people take a wrong turn is the dressing. What easily can turn a healthy salad into an unhealthy one is both the type of dressing being chosen and the amount of dressing being used.  For the most part, dressings are so loaded with fat and sugar that someone who is trying to keep their nutrition in check will blow a massive chunk of their daily calories on two tablespoons of subpar dressing.  The bottom line is I’m a volume eater.  I want to eat all of the food.  I say this ALL THE TIME.  Therefore, I prefer to load my salad up with tons of goodies rather than worry about what to dress it with.  Additionally, salads that are comprised of cleaner options such as bacon, avocado and nuts, while still are great foods individually, the portion control can easily be lacking.  What in theory is a clean-eating meal, has now become a fat bomb of a salad when tossed in the same bowl.  Healthy fats are great, but moderation is key.  Mix and match your salad ingredients and keep them balanced.  If you want multiple high fat ingredients, monitor the amount being added.

When it comes to the world of salads, I’m going to give you a few tips that work for me. You would think some of these would be no brainers, but you’d also be shocked at what people don’t think about.

When Eating Restaurant Salads:

  • Ask for you dressing on the side – this way you can SEE how much dressing is being used.
  • Additionally, ask for any fat-heavy ingredients on the side (i.e. bacon, nuts, cheese, avocado) – now you can control how much of each you want in your salad.
  • Add protein – Although salads can be a high volume meal, they are almost strictly carbs. Adding chicken, steak, fish, etc. creates a more satiating meal, especially for a dinner salad. Skimping on protein will trigger hunger cravings later on. Guaranteed.

When Making Homemade Salads:

  • Make your own dressing – Check out dressing recipes that do not contain oils or added sugars if you’re trying to save a little fat or carbs.
  • Opt for yogurt based dressings – Bolthouse Farms makes great macro-friendly dressings that use yogurt instead of creams, mayonnaise, etc.
  • Measure out a serving – if you’re curious about what an actual “2 TBSP” portion of dressing looks like, measure it out by weight, not volume.
  • Dress your lettuce only – Sometimes all you need is a little bit of dressing to coat those greens. All your other salad ingredients should be super tasty and flavorful, so who needs the extra dressing? A little goes a long way.
  • Grill your veggies – Adding grilled veggies, cauliflower rice, etc. to your salad creates a heartiness to your salad without a lot of extra calories.
  • Add that protein – Load up that salad with some grilled chicken, fish or steak. Chop up some leftover meat from last night’s dinner and add it to your salad. Even cut up some deli meat you might have on hand. Remember, undereating on protein throughout the day leads to late night binging. And it’s not on egg whites, that’s for sure!

Below are three of my favorite salad combos. I consider most of these dinner salads and portion out the ingredients appropriately for a full meal, especially the protein.  Ingredients can be modified or swapped based on your likes and dislikes!

BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Chopped Romaine or Mixed Green Lettuce

Grilled Chicken (seasoned with dry rub of kosher salt, black pepper, onion & garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder)

Cauliflower Rice

Chopped Red Onion

Chopped Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper

Raw or Sautéed Crimini Mushrooms

Cherry Tomatoes

Bolthouse Classic Ranch Dressing for Greens only

Light drizzle of a low sugar BBQ Sauce over the top (G. Hughes Smokehouse Hickory has great flavor)

Optional Added Ingredients: Avocado, yellow corn, plantain chips, red pepper flakes

Asian Grilled Steak Salad

Butter Lettuce

Grilled Steak (Flank steak for leanest cut, but any steak works – coat with a light layer of soy sauce or coconut aminos, and season with kosher salt, black pepper, onion & garlic powder, ginger powder , red pepper flakes)

Thinly sliced Fuji Apple

Shaved Carrot

Goat Cheese Crumbles

Chopped Green Onions

Toasted Sesame Seeds to garnish

Bolthouse Carmelized Sweet Onion Dressing or Trader Joe’s Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette

Optional Added Ingredients: Avocado, Sesame sticks

Classic Mixed Green Salad

Grilled Protein of Choice (Steak, Chicken, Shrimp)

Mixed Green or Baby Romaine Lettuce

Thinly sliced Red Onion

Chopped Cucumber

Heirloom Tomato Slices

Avocado Chunks

Blue, Goat or Feta Cheese

Bolthouse Creamy Roasted Garlic Dressing or a homemade Balsamic-Dijon Vinaigrette

Optional Added Ingredients: Chopped Walnuts or Spicy Pecans (TJ’s are my fave),

Turkey Bacon

Anytime Shredded Pork

Shredded PorkI’ve never  been a pork person but sometimes it’s nice to have another go-to cut of meat that’s lean for weeknight meals.  I’ve been experimenting with pork tenderloin lately and wanted to see how it would do in the slow cooker.  Because it is super lean, I was worried it would taste dried out, but it was anything but.  For my family’s 4th of July get-together earlier this week I tested out this recipe on them and it was a hit.  Some made sandwiches, but most just ate it straight up!  Of all the meats available, including perfectly grilled tri tip, the shredded pork was getting the most love.

This might be a little anti-feminist to say but when men are pleased with my meat cooking recipes, it’s like a total stroke for my ego.  The men in my family might be able to grill, but I’m the master mind behind the flavor combos!  And this one was all me, except it required no grilling, and simply pushing a button.  Minor detail right? Continue reading

Grilled Asian Chicken Thighs & Ginger-Garlic Roasted Veggies

Asian ThighsI only have a few minutes left of my daughter’s nap to get this recipe up for you all so nothing fancy.  Just going to give you the details, however, this particular combination of seasonings for my “rub” is perfect on all types of meat.  I’ve used it for chicken breast, tri-tip and pork tenderloin.  All delicious but there’s just something about the flavor that goes oh so well with perfectly grilled chicken thighs.  Trip tip is my second fave so give that a go too!  Depending on your dietary preferences, serve meat and veggies over a bed of mixed greens topped with rice or cauliflower rice.  Mixed greens are not necessary but adds a little bit extra to your meal. Sautéed green onions as an additional topper absolutely elevates your dish as well! Continue reading

Tri Tip Loaded Fries

Loaded FriesI’m finally feeling like I’m moving on from my whole Crossfit California Regionals experience.  I feel as if my life was put on hold for the last three months and I wasn’t really able to relax and be “normal” because when preparing for something like that, you really can’t be normal.  What your putting your body and mind through is not normal.  Despite the outcome of my performance at Regionals, I am proud that I got myself there, for pushing through some of the most physically demanding training I’ve ever experienced, and being disciplined enough to stick to a way of eating that allowed me to train at the volume that was being expected.  No, my food was not very exciting or creative during the last few months, but that’s ok.  It didn’t need it to be.  I was using food strictly for fuel.  Did I have a day here and there where I ate something “bad”?  Sure.  But I stuck to my flexible eating plan, added in more protein and carbs to sustain the training volume and watched my body composition change in a very short time frame as a result. Continue reading

Authentic White-Girl Fire Roasted Salsa

SalsaReader beware.  You may never want to buy premade salsa again once you make this one.  I’m not even kidding.  It’s authentic, it’s easy and it’s out of control delicious.  When it comes to my recipes, if my husband gives me a compliment then I know I have a winner.  He said it’s better than any salsa he’s ever had in a restaurant.  I’m gonna take that compliment and hang it on the refrigerator with a gold star.  Most of my blog recipes are for meal ideas but salsa is a staple in our house and deserves it’s own blog post.  We easily go through a container in 1-2 days and let me tell you…”good” salsa isn’t cheap.  Every afternoon like clockwork, about 4:30 PM, I hear Steve grab the bag of tortilla chips and open the refrigerator door to grab whatever salsa we have on hand.  While he fills up on pre-dinner chips, I slice up my bell pepper and cucumber and use my veggie sticks as dippers for the salsa.  As much as I love chips and salsa, it’s not part of my daily nutrition.  The salsa, yes, the chips, no.  I save my chip indulgences for the real deal chips at the Mexican restaurant because I can’t resist eating all the pico de gallo when waiting for my lettuce wrapped tacos.  I’ll eat the chips but not the taco shell.  Totally makes sense right?  Actually it does, because when you eat flexibly it’s about choice.  I choose to have chips and wrap my tacos in lettuce because they’re actually super delicious that way.  If I wanted the tortillas, I would opt out of chips for the night.  That’s just the way this thing works.  Always keeping the balance. Continue reading

Knock-Off Puerto Rican Chicken

Sol FoodI still have about a week to go until I find out if I make the NorCal Crossfit Regionals or not. Today the leaderboard was set after video submissions were validated and I officially ended up the 26th fittest female in Northern California.  I am extremely proud of that accomplishment in itself, however, I still am waiting to see how many of the top 25 females that placed ahead of me decide to decline their individual invitation and go team.  I hate to admit it but there has been a lot of social media creeping going on to see who is doing what.  Mostly because I’m dying over here trying to keep my training and nutrition on point while everyone else is riding the post Open derailed train .  Continue reading

Creamy Fruit and Nut Chicken Salad

Chick SaladI love the idea of brunch but I never really know what to have. It confuses me.  It’s like, do I order pancakes with a side of veggies?  Or do I have fruit on the side of my burger?  I’m just not very good at brunch.  When my mom asked what I was bringing to Easter Brunch at my brother and sister-in-law’s new house I really didn’t know what I wanted to make.  I figured I’d be in the mood to make something borderline indulgent because I would have finished my 6th Crossfit Open two days prior and ready to splurge.  My diet and training have been pretty much spot on for the last year, and especially dialed in for the last five weeks after I unintentionally placed 4th in the Northern California region for first workout of the Open.  This might sound a like I’m getting off topic but I promise I will tie it back in at the end.  For the last year, I kind of have been feeling a little lost in my Crossfit life. Continue reading

Asian Roasted Cabbage

CabbageMove over eggplant, cabbage is my newest obsession. It’s one of those vegetables that you really only think of when you hear corned beef but it needs to become part of your veggie rotation!  It’s one of those low carb veggies that takes on that noodle-y type consistency when softened.  I’ve been experimenting with different ways to eat it but this recipe here has those Asian flavors that sometimes we forget to venture into when cooking cleanly.  The ingredients are minimal and the prep is quick which makes it even better.  Pair this with some grilled steak and you’ve got a winning dinner combo.  If you aren’t looking for an ethnic side dish, then all you need for a perfect roasted cabbage dish is olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  I literally could eat a simple roasted cabbage dish every night.  Continue reading

Kelly’s Soft Batch Crunch Cookies

Valentine's CookiesThese cookies are bad. They have no nutritional value whatsoever.  But they are like heaven in your mouth and too good not to share.  When I eat something “bad” I do it with full knowledge of what I’m putting in my body.  I don’t pretend that it’s ok or try to justify it.  I don’t do it often but when I do I make sure it’s worth every bite and consequence that goes with it.  And that’s all I have to say about that J These are the real deal and I have concocted the perfect combination of flavors for you to enjoy this Valentine’s day. When making these cookies, the recipe for the dough stays the same, however you can mix and match cookie and candy combinations.  Below I will give you a few of my favorites that I gave out as my Valentine’s treats this year… Continue reading

Shredded BBQ Chicken

BBQ ChickI’ve been craving all things BBQ lately.  But sometimes the weather doesn’t permit sending my husband out to grill me something for dinner.  And with all this rain, the grilling has been minimal.  Grilled meat and chicken is generally my favorite way to eat protein, and BBQ sauce is my version of ketchup.  It wasn’t until my adulthood that I actually started to like ketchup so as a kid I was the one dipping my French fries in BBQ sauce.

There are so many options out there when it comes to BBQ sauce and many of them are loaded with sugar.  As a result, often people monitoring their eating habits, whether it be Paleo, clean eating or flexible dieting will opt to make their own sauce. Continue reading

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