When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spring Salad Bowl (+ a helpful guide for buying produce)

I eat a salad of some kind most days for lunch; making it usually involves a quick process of throwing some greens and chopped veggies on a plate, adding some chicken or fish or hard-boiled egg and some sunflower seeds, and dressing it with a simple mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.  It's a healthy and tasty mid-day meal, but more often than not, the salads I toss together just for myself are not all that exciting to look at.

Lately, though, I've been inspired by all of the pretty salads I've seen on Pinterest to try a little colourful food art at lunchtime.  Today's noon hour featured a salad bowl filled with tender pea shoots and mixed spring greens, a rainbow of crunchy vegetables, some good fats, and some lean protein, all arranged in an eye-pleasing pattern.  The ingredients weren't much different from what I usually use, and it didn't take any longer than normal to make my salad this afternoon, but somehow lunch just seemed a little more special today.

Spring Salad Bowl

a large handful of mixed spring greens
a small handful of pea shoots
one small carrot, peeled and grated
a few cherry tomatoes, halved
half of a mini cucumber, sliced
a quarter of a red bell pepper, diced
a quarter of an avocado, diced
one radish, thinly sliced
one small chicken breast, grilled, cooled, and diced*
a few spoonfuls of cooked, cooled quinoa
a sprinkling of chopped natural almonds

*We often grill extra chicken breasts on the weekend and keep them in the freezer to use throughout the week for quick lunch salads and sandwiches.

Arrange the mixed spring greens around the bottom of a wide, shallow bowl.  Stand the pea shoots up in the centre of the bowl, and place the vegetables, chicken, and quinoa in groupings around the pea shoot greens. Sprinkle the chopped almonds over the chicken, and drizzle a dressing of your choice over everything.  (I used a simple mixture of equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar, with a bit of dijon mustard, honey, sea salt and pepper added in.)  Serve and enjoy!

While we're on the subject of vegetables, I thought I'd share a very useful shopping guide that I like to refer to when buying produce for my family.  Each year EWG (The Environmental Working Group, an environmental health research and advocacy organization) publishes a list of the cleanest and the dirtiest conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.  Apples, strawberries, grapes, spinach, sweet bell peppers and more are among "The Dirty Dozen"; these are foods that contain a number of different pesticide residues and high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items. (A single grape sample, for example, was found to contain fifteen different pesticides.)  Avocados, asparagus, mangoes, sweet potatoes and more are on "The Clean Fifteen" list; these foods are the least likely to contain pesticide residues.  If you'd like to limit your family's exposure to pesticides and their potential negative effects on health, you can use EWG's complete lists (found here) to help you to determine where your grocery dollars are best spent buying organic.  (The summary of EWG's findings is full of interesting information that is also worth reading.)

Have a wonderful weekend!  I hope the sun comes out where you are.  :)

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

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