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Jazzing Up Your Spring Salads

By Brenda Hyde

Spring is a wonderful time to be bold and try some mixed greens in your salads, rather than the old standby lettuce we all grew up with. Most produce sections have a nice variety of lettuce and greens. Some lettuce like romaine, is great on it's own, while some are slightly bland alone and other greens are too overpowering. That's why a mix is so nice. Start with a romaine, bibb or Boston lettuce and mix in a little chicory, endive or radicchio. Spinach is also a nice green. You'll also find dandelion greens available this time of year. You want to start with the base of lettuce and add a little of the others.

Greens and lettuce should be washed and stored in the refrigerator after purchasing. Wash with very cold water, then trim off any bad looking leaves or cut off edges that may be browned. These are great for the compost pile. Spin dry in a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towels. You can store them right in the spinner or in a sealed plastic bag or bowl. Use within one week. As the week goes on you may need to cut off any edges that look mushy or browned.

If you grow your own lettuce and greens it's best to pick it when you need it. Any of the greens can be picked a leaf or two at a time, except for the heads of lettuce, but those can be harvested small. Only pick what you need and you'll have fresh salads everyday! Lastly, tear, don't cut your greens. I have done it both ways-always cutting when I'm in a hurry and don't think about it. The leftover salad is starting to become soggy the next day! Torn lettuce will notdo this as quickly. Also, tomatoes should be added just before serving and not to the entire bowl. I've found they are very soggy the next day.

Italian Bread Salad

1 loaf crusty bread
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup cucumber - peeled and seeded
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 cups salads greens, torn
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Pull apart or chop the bread into bite-size pieces. I like using a really crusty, even day old, artisan or Italian type bread. They come in great flavors-basil, garlic, etc, and will be marked down the next day. Combine the bread, cucumbers, red onions and garlic in a large salad bowl. Add the tomatoes at the table. This is nice with a simple Italian dressing or vinaigrette. You can also throw in sprigs of fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme or basil.

Colorful Mixed Salad

2 hardboiled eggs
2-3 cups assorted salad greens
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, julienne thinly
2 large carrots, shredded
Ranch or Thousand Island Dressing

Peel and chop the hardboiled eggs and set aside. Place the torn lettuce on each plate. Mix together the peppers, the cucumber and the carrots. Top the lettuce with a handful of this mixture. Top that with the eggs-a little on each salad. Serve the dressing on the side.

Grapes and Greens

1 cup seedless red or green grapes
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 shallot, chopped (can sub tbsp. mild onion)
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 tsp. crushed dried tarragon
4 cups torn mixed salad greens
2 tsp. walnut or pecan pieces
Croutons or toasted crusty bread

Rinse grapes-remove any stems and set aside. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, water, onion, tarragon and pepper until well blended. Combine the greens, grapes and nuts in a salad bowl. Serve with dressing and croutons or toasted/broiled bread. Notes: You can add Parmesan cheese, or use another herb such as oregano or basil.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

4 cups mixed fresh greens
1/4 pound fresh green beans
12 ounces tuna (the new packets are nice)
2 tablespoons capers (optional)
1 can, 15 ounces, white beans-any type
1 large tomato, chopped
12 ripe Greek olives
snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup Italian dressing

Cook the green beans in lightly salted water about 5 minutes or until JUST tender, drain. Rinse with very cold water and drain again. Place the greens on a platter with the beans in the center. Rinse and drain the beans, then arrange with the, tuna, and olives around those. Top with the capers and chives. Serve with the dressing. Notes: This salad often doesn't have greens but I really like it this way. You can leave off the beans if you wish and it's good too. Good Seasons makes a great no fat Italian dressing that you make fresh.

I use some bottled dressing, buying it when it's on sale, so I always have it on hand, but homemade dressing is great with fresh greens! Try one of these recipes with your mixed salad.

Lowfat Savory Dressing

1/2 cup evaporated lowfat milk
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. finely chopped onion
1 tsp. Dijon style mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients. Chill and serve.

Fat Free Celery Onion Dressing

2 cups celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup green onion, chopped roughly
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper or less if desired
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons water

Process in a blender or food processor until smooth. Use right away or make ahead and chill. Stir before serving.

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer, wife and mom to three kids living in the Midwest United States. For more dressing recipes and tips on growing your own greens and herbs visit Brenda at

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