This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day which most of us – beyond the parades and the tributes – consider the unofficial first day of summer. The days are longer, the temps are higher and the list of things we want to fill our time with during this fleeting season seems endless. Why then would anyone want to spend the summer stuck in the kitchen day after day cooking three squares when there is so much else to do?
We here at Garden Candy discovered long ago that every fridge has the potential to be a fast food restaurant if it’s set up right. Over the summer we will share our secrets with you for how to make your refrigerator the go-to source for food on-the-go, starting with one we use year-round: the salad bar.
If you put salad fixings in the fridge unprepped you often end up with some amount of wasted food and the added chore of making a salad. Take a few minutes to prep those same ingredients and put them in containers or baggies, stored together on a shelf, and you not only have a salad in minutes, but lunch AND dinner options. Best of all, like all good salad bars, it’s self-serve so everyone can eat on the run (even kids who think this is lots of fun.) The focus is now on the meal and not the effort of creating it. Here are 10 handy tips for getting the most out of your own in-house, all-you-can-eat salad bar:
1. Keep a few baggies of lettuce on hand, washed and pre shredded (if necessary). Paper towels tucked in the baggie help to keep the lettuce fresher longer. Pre-packaged lettuce works well too and is often on sale.
2. Buy shredded or prepped items in small containers – like shredded carrots, crumbled feta or ready-to-use edamame. They may cost a bit more, but the convenience is worth a few extra pennies.
3. Don’t overlook leftovers. A little corn not eaten at dinner or a handful of black olives might not make a meal, but will make a great topping for a salad and a couple of hard boiled eggs or a scoop of tuna may be the protein and “filler” you need to turn a light meal into something a bit more hearty.
4. Toppings like dried cranberries and slivered almonds don’t require refrigeration, but placed alongside the other ingredients will help to serve as a reminder to use them.
5. Be sure to have to-go containers on hand for salads and small ones for dressing so your salad bar is not only a smart “fast food” option, but easily portable too.
6. If you’re eating on the go, a personal-sized freezable cooler will pay for itself in just a few salads that were “brought” and not bought!
7. Don’t bother spending hours roasting a chicken just for a salad topping when a quick visit to the deli counter and 1/4 lb of a few kinds of meat can be diced and ready to go in seconds. Chicken, ham, turkey and roast beef are great options to name a few.
8. Whether bought or homemade, be sure to have a few dressing options on hand to keep things interesting.
9. Don’t forget that salad is so much more than lettuce. Add your toppings to pasta, orzo, or just toss them together alone. There are no rules.
10. Keep all ingredients on the same shelf in clear containers so people can see all their salad options at a glance.
Enjoy the first weekend of summer and have fun building your salad bar!