This meal has been a go-to of mine for awhile now and it’s time this one gets shared with the world of other social butterflies , worker bees, health nuts, and college students on a budget! The excuse of being “too busy” or “too broke” to cook healthy will forever be a thing of the past if you use your resources and time efficiently. This simple recipe is flexible and can be adjusted by adding new flavors and toppings, but the basis is easy enough for all to use just a few items that may already be laying around the kitchen! Whether you're looking to snack healthier, cut back on carbs, incorporate more protein and greens into your diet, or simply enjoy better food while on a budget, here is a great place to start.
1. Choose your chicken…. Or steak, tofu, or whatever…
Discover what protein works for you and throw it on there. I choose to buy organic chicken breasts from Kroger, which are cheap and easy for my prepping schedule as they come prepackaged (about 4 breasts to a package). Add Canola oil to a large pan and begin by cutting chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and cooking them. If you prefer coconut oil, it is another great alternative to Canola oil and will produce a delicious chicken as well.
2. Gather salad ingredients.
I like to buy Dole or whatever other kinds of prepackaged Caesar salads from the grocery store look the greenest and freshest at the time. These generally come with romaine lettuce, cheese, croutons, and dressing. Although all those aren’t always used in my salads, it’s a nice addition when I want to spice things up a bit. I always choose a salad base with romaine lettuce, because the texture is very crunchy and satisfying and the leaves are the most nutrient dense of all types of lettuce! It contains tons of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and numerous other nutrients that we all need out of our diet. Obviously, adding fruits and vegetables is always a good idea! When I don’t want to add dressing to the salad, I use chopped onion, garlic, and other flavorful components so the dressing will not be missed.
3. Layer the salad.
Now it’s time to put it all together! Layer the lettuce, toppings and dressing (if desired) and try to keep things as mixed up as possible before adding protein source. This will make it so every bite is packed evenly with flavor.
4. Spice it up!
This step is crucial. Once your chicken is done cooking all the way through, you can add spices, but wait until the pan is removed from heat. Otherwise, the heat will quickly burn the spices and you’ll end up with charred chicken and only remnants of the spices. Depending on what spices you have and like, use them accordingly, because no matter what, the salad will be bursting with flavor. My favorite spices to use are the Montreal Chicken blend and cayenne pepper. Blends are great because they have a variety of spices already mixed together and are formulated specifically to be awesome on particular foods. They just make it all easy. Cayenne pepper is wonderful on so many foods because it adds a slight spicy kick and tons of flavor-not to mention its magical ability to speed up metabolism!
5. Mix it up!
Finally, top the salad with chicken and mix up as desired. If you’ve cooked enough chicken for several salads, set them aside in a container for use as leftovers or if you really are a go-getter, start preparing meals for the week! I like to use Tupperware containers with separate compartments, so I can quickly set up a salad for each day and refrigerate them so when I’m on-the-go and need an alternative to stopping by Taco Bell or Wendy’s, I can simply grab my real food and save some money while I’m at it.
· Chop up different vegetables beforehand, so you can quickly add them to the mix.
· Don’t be afraid to try new things! This versatile recipe is great alone, but adding nuts, vegetables and even dried cranberries take the flavor up a notch.
· Go easy on the dressing! To avoid using too much, use a fork (yes, a FORK) to ladle dressing onto the salad and brush onto leaves. This will give just enough flavor to tell it’s there, but not enough to clog your arteries. Again, this is an opportunity to experiment with other toppings!
The possibilities with this salad are endless! Start saving time and money by pre-planning easy meals like this and see results in no time. Who said eating healthy is too hard to do?