Lunch Salad Spreadsheet Project
July 14, 2014 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to eat/pack easy, healthy lunches, but I've accepted that I will never be a green salad for lunch every day person. What I do like are "salads" that are variations of: grain + protein + fruit or veg + nuts or cheese + other. My dream is to create a spreadsheet where I could take an easily-prepared item from each column to construct such a salad, and make a big batch on Sundays that would last me the week. I'd rather just throw ingredients together than follow an exact recipe.

This means ingredients that will stay fresh all week, ideally even if they're all prepped and combined on Sunday. I'm open to adding things like broccoli that need to be cut fresh though.

So today, I'm eating what I concocted yesterday: wild rice + chicken + apple + dried cherry + peanuts + feta. Easy to cook a pot of rice and some chicken and dump everything together. Maybe not the healthiest, but a lot better than what I'd eat otherwise.

Please share your own tasty combos, if you also eat salads like these, or just suggest ingredients for each category!
posted by nakedmolerats to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 137 users marked this as a favorite
I make this salad all the time and it stays good for at least a week:

any kind of leftover grain - quinoa, brown rice, orzo are my favorites (ok orzo isn't a grain)
can of chickpeas, drained
crumbled or cubed feta
diced cucumber
red onion
with a red wine vinagrette over the top, or lemon juice/evoo/garlic

You could put some chicken in there too
posted by lyssabee at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

This 101 Simple Salads article by Mark Bittman has all kinds of tasty combos. I've made many of the non-meat ones and have been happy each time.
posted by Pineapplicious at 10:28 AM on July 14, 2014 [17 favorites]

i worked on a cooking show last year and one of the chefs said the magic recipe to any salad is fruit+grain+cheese+nut. you can multiples of each, but this creates a good variety and flavor mix.
posted by monologish at 10:31 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

For grains, I really like farro/emmer, but it might be hard to find depending on where you are.
posted by librarina at 10:31 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

+1 to the Bittman list, it's a lifesaver.

There's also a list here of grain salads. I also bookmarked this list of leafless salads but have yet to make anything from it. I've also had surprisingly good luck with some of Buzzfeed's recipe collections, and they have a nice vegetarian salad collection that may be of interest.

Summery salads that are a hit in our house are the grilled corn and bean salad from Cooking Light (we add avocado and sometimes shredded chicken to make it heartier) and the lentil avocado salad from 101 Cookbooks. I also make a lot of this herbed barley cauliflower salad, although it might be a bit too wintery for the season.
posted by stellaluna at 10:33 AM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think quinoa and lentils are both great ingredients for this kind of thing - pre-prepared and chilled, to be clear.

I find they work better in "robust" salads, if that makes sense. Like, I wouldn't toss 1/4 cup of quinoa into a pile of nothing but leafy greens, but it works really well with cucumber, tomato, red onion, and feta.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:34 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Two other ideas that facilitate salad making in our house and have helped us eat healthier--buy a rotisserie chicken at the beginning of the week to add easy protein to salads, and make double grains (works with farro, brown rice, lentils, I'd imagine almost anything) at the beginning of the week and freeze individual servings in ziplocs. Then you can just dump the frozen grain in a tupperware along with your other stuff and it will be thawed by lunchtime.
posted by stellaluna at 10:36 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am in love with this Trader Joe's salad that has Israeli Couscous. It adds a nice chewyness.

I have also made really good salads that are totally quinoa-based. You can add pretty much anything - tomatoes, sauted vegetables, cooked meat, feta cheese - and toss with vinaigrette.
posted by radioamy at 10:47 AM on July 14, 2014

- White beans, feta, raw asparagus, lemon + olive oil. Also good minus the feta with oil-packed tuna added.

- Israeli couscous is a great base for salads - add olive oil and lots of herbs. A fistful of greens like arugula if you want. Sun-dried tomato/fresh mozz/basil - orange segments and zest/chicken/rosemary - almonds/raisins/chicken/saffron.

- Asian-ish "bowl" type meals - brown or white rice, protein, veggies, sauce. Chicken or tofu/snap peas and carrots and red bell pepper/peanut sauce - Salmon (raw or seared, even canned)/spinach (cooked or raw)/soy and sesame oil - chicken/broccoli/ginger dressing.

- BULGUR! Tabbouleh of course, but it has a nice nuttiness that's good in all kinds of preparations.

- The original grain salad thing, mujidara. Caramelized onions, white rice, lentils. Ridiculously cheap, simple, and good. Add some chicken if you want, but it's a complete protein already.

- What I think of as Boulder food "power salad" type things - quinoa, kale (always kale!), raisins, cashews or almonds, dried cranberries, citrus or curry vinaigrette.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:52 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

This farro and tomato salad-y thing tastes unbelievably good at any temperature. Don't skip the parmesan. I find it fairly filling as-is but you could certainly stir in shredded chicken or turkey, sliced chicken sausage, etcetera. Really, it looks boring but some sort of magic happens during cooking.
posted by superfluousm at 10:57 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh! I can't believe I forgot - don't overlook bread as your "grain" component in salads. Panzanellas, fattoushes. Keep the croutons on your counter and mix with dressing in the AM for perfect-by-lunch deliciousness. Top with chicken or what have you.

Summer panzanella: Oil-rubbed and grilled bread chunks/parm/tomatoes/scallions and basil/olive oil and vinegar

Winter panzanella: Toasted or stale bread chunks/roasted vegetables - I like butternut squash and brussels sprouts/sauteed onions/pine nuts/olive oil and vinegar.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:04 AM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you make a spreadsheet could you please share?? Would love a copy.

I'd need more protein to tide me over if this was a stand-alone lunch, but bulgur, chickpea, feta and tomato salad is amazing in the summer.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:07 AM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Bittman's How to Cook Everything has a lot of salad tables like you're describing. I really like his spicy black bean salad: black beans, rinsed and drained; frozen or canned corn, roasted in a frying pan for a few minutes, green onions, orange pepper, a few canned chipotle peppers, cilantro, with red wine vinegar and olive oil to dress. I like to add goat cheese too. But his book is full of tables exactly like you describe.
posted by sockermom at 11:12 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Kale, tuna, apple, cooked quinoa, and lemon & olive oil are my lunch for today. With half an avocado for added yumminess.
posted by suelac at 11:26 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

We recently got a Blue Apron recipe that used Freekeh in a salad, and it was a nice texture - a little chunkier than quinoa but not as big as bulgur.

This avocado quinoa ponzu sesame oil salad is an incredibly satisfying combination of flavors. The recipe refers to it as an "umami bomb" and this is all true.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:34 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like this salad. It gets better with time. Basically brown rice + chickpeas + grapes +toasted pecans + parsley + scallions. I listened to a podcast that talked about creating mixed grain salads based on the Ottolenghi cookbook. The basic idea was that you want something crunchy (celery, apples, nuts, pomegranate seeds), something salty (capers, feta, cheeses) and something fresh (parsley, mint, basil, lemon). I thought that was an interesting idea.
posted by biscuits at 11:55 AM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not sure where you live, but here's my "Trader Joe's Almost No-Cook Casserole":

1 bag brocolli florets (microwaved)
1 can cuban black beans + some of the juice.
1 tub of "Balele" (chick peas with mediteranean flavoring)
1 container of "Teriyaki Chicken strips" (pieces?) -- DON'T dump the juice in.
1 tub grains with mediteranean flavor (I think it's bulgar).

Stir. Warm up. Tasty.
Sounds like the flavors would clash, but they really compliment.

I like your project!
posted by bluesky78987 at 9:57 PM on July 14, 2014

mayo with curry powder and maybe a squirt of sriracha
anything crunchy - celery, bell peppers, romaine
posted by mai at 3:23 PM on July 15, 2014

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