Dining on a dime: Salad days

Summer Fiesta Salad brings heat to season’s bounty

Aubrey ‘Bo’ Bowale

By Aubrey ‘Bo’ Bowale
Special to the Express

Ahhhh! Summertime is here, and that means local produce farmers and neighborhood gardeners are spending these precious months with hands in the dirt and hearts full of hope for bountiful harvests of fresh salad greens and veggies. 

This is the “season of the salad.” Choosing to eat salads is a delicious, easy and affordable way to help meet some of those daily dietary requirements that sustain health. In only five minutes, you can create a nutritious green salad with a tub of pre-washed salad greens, a tomato or other veggies, and a bottle of light salad dressing. 

Salads are a fun way of providing various textures, flavors and colors into your regular diet. They’re even kid approved! Because they are totally customizable, you can include the veggies or even fruits that your tastebuds love. Save even more money by using whatever produce you have on hand. 

Salads should be your best friend if you are seeking weight loss, better nutrition or just to live a healthier lifestyle.

If you regularly include salads with raw vegetables in your diet, a blood draw will show you with higher levels of powerful antioxidants like folic acid, lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamins E and C. A recent study from the National Cancer Institute finds that people whose diets are rich in raw vegetables significantly lower their risk of developing a long list of cancers — even for those who smoke and drink alcohol.

A few important tweaks will transform any salad into meal, just follow these four soft rules:

Greens: Embrace dark greens like spinach, kale and Romaine lettuce (iceberg has little nutrition). They’re best if local and organically grown, or purchase organic grocer salad greens

Proteins: Choose healthy options such as lean chicken breast, vegan chicken or portabella mushrooms; or try adding chunk light tuna, boiled eggs or chickpeas

Healthy additions: Try to eat the colors of the rainbow. Go for colored veggies like bell peppers, carrots, avocados, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini; and experiment with various berries.  

Healthy fat: Reach for olive, sunflower or safflower oil-based dressings or just squeeze lemon juice. Also, try adding sliced almonds, avocado or black olives.

The options are endless. Let the salad you are creating speak “fresh and healthy” to you, not “processed and heavy”. 

Salad dressing is where most people get into trouble when it comes to a healthy salad. Almost all store-bought dressings contain high-fructose corn syrup (an unhealthy sweetener), large amounts of sodium and other undesirable ingredients. If you must get a bottle off the shelf, take a minute to scan and compare the ingredients of several brands to make the best choice for. (Purchasing an organic dressing will most often solve this problem.) 

But homemade dressing is always best and it is really easy with a low cost. Try using various seasonings — pink salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, etc. — to enhance the flavor of the veggies, rather than of drowning it in dressing.

Finally, you need to know where to go to access all of this wonderful green goodness, right? Each of the ingredients in my Healthy Fiesta Salad recipe is obtainable all over the Southeast at your major neighborhood grocery store. Fresh, organic produce and organic foodstuffs can be purchased from the Walmart Supercenter, Walmart Neighborhood Markets, Safeway or King Soopers.

Aubrey ‘Bo’ Bowale is a vegan chef and the founder of GreenBox and Southeast F.R.E.S.H., as well as a Southeast resident and RISE Coalition Very Involved Person (VIP). Read more about Bowale’s vision for a healthful social enterprise here.

This Summer Fiesta Salad, made from a recipe by Southeast chef Aubrey ‘Bo’ Bowale, is spicy, healthy and so flavorful you won’t miss the meat. [Express photo/Regan Foster]

Summer Fiesta Salad
Preparation Time: 20-30 minutes 

Chef’s note: If you prefer meat protein, select all-natural chicken tenderloins. In lieu of corn on the cob, you can also substitute organic, whole-kernel canned corn.

2 packages Gardein Meatless Chick’n Strips
1, 3-pack organic romaine lettuce
2 Hass avocados
1 tub organic grape tomatoes
2 ears corn on the cob
1 can organic black beans
1 bottle Kraft Zesty Lime Vinaigrette
1 package McCormick Fajitas Seasoning

1. Unpackage your romaine and tomatoes, and shuck the corn. Briefly soak your veggies to begin removing any dirt or other contaminants. Rinse well under running water. Shake any excess water from veggies, allow time to dry a bit before cutting. (Optional: for even cleaner veggies, soak in a 1 to 3 mixture of vinegar and water)

2. While veggies are drying, cook the protein. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or any vegetable oil) in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the fajita seasoning into the warm oil and sauté the frozen Gardein Chick’n Strips for approximately 5 to 7 minutes until browned and crisp on all sides. Remove pan from heat and keep covered if you prefer a warm salad. (If using chicken, allow more time until it is fully cooked.)

4. Chop up the romaine into the size you desire, but no smaller than 1 inch. Slice each of the tomatoes in half. Cut the corn off of the cob or drain and rinse the canned corn. Drain and rinse the can of black beans. Cube the avocados.

4. Place all cut veggies and beans into a large mixing bowl and lightly drizzle the dressing over the salad, being careful not to add to much. Toss and continue to lightly drizzle with dressing until each ingredient is just glazed. 

5. Slide the mixed salad onto four plates or shallow bowls. Top each salad with protein of choice. The amount of each protein chosen for this recipe will provide even the hungriest eater with a very satisfying meal.

6. Season with black pepper to taste. 

Alternately, try adding some crunchy crushed tortilla chips, finely diced jalapeños or add a scoop of medium salsa.

Shopping list
2 Pkgs Gardein Meatless Chick’n Strips … $7.94
or 20 oz package Tyson all-natural tenderloins … $5.38
3  Pack Organic Romaine Lettuce … $3.46
2 Hass Avocados … $1.36
1 Package Organic Grape Tomatoes … $2.86
2 Fresh Corn on the Cob … $1.00
or 1 Can Organic Whole Kernel Corn  … $1.32
1 Can Organic Black Beans … $0.92
1 Bottle Kraft Zesty Lime Vinaigrette … $1.76
1 Pkg McCormick Fajitas Seasoning … $1.12
Tax @ 8.25 percent … $1.68
Total … $22.10 

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