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  • Justine Hays

Farewell Sad Desk Salad

On a recent trip to the library for toddler story time, I wandered into the cookbook section of my library. I was in search of lunchtime inspiration, something more tangible than Pinterest provides. And what I found did not disappoint. I have been "reading" Food 52's Mighty Salads. I use the term"reading" loosely because if you are a fan of cookbooks you know it's less "page after page" and more a flip until something draws you in. Whether it's a stunning picture, favorite ingredient in the title, or something you've never even dreamed, cookbooks, even for salads, can be a great source of healthy inspiration.

I have found many recipes and inspiring ideas in this book and I look forward to trying them (mmmm, bloody Mary salad). The photos are beautiful and make salads look like works of art. This book would be an asset for anyone who loves farmers market season or belongs to a CSA. I love getting a box of produce each week during the growing season and this book will certain give me ideas and inspiration on new ways to use it all!

I was looking for something to make my lunch salads a little bit more exciting than what I had been packing. For context, I cook everything up on Sunday, store it in the fridge and dispense as needed the night before or morning of. That said, green salads don't hold up for days in the fridge but toppings do. For that reason, I'll have peppers, cucumbers, red onion, zucchini, carrots, or any other vegetable that I have laying around, chopped on Sunday and ready to go for the week. I needed something that could hold up as a make ahead and still be as exciting on Wednesday as it was on Monday.

Back to the book- Do you really need specific instructions or recipes for a salad? Probably not. If you're trying a new dressing, maybe. But like I said, this was all about inspiration. So what did it inspire for this week's lunches?

Leafing through the book's stunning pictures and my mental catalog of what food we had on hand or had to use up, I stumbled into the Herbed Tuna and Israeli Couscous Salad. I used what I had on hand and created an Herbed Tuna and Barley with Tomatoes Salad. Swapping out the oil packed tuna for standard American tuna in water or tuna in a pouch was easy because I always have it on hand. I put it in a large glass bowl. I had leftover cilantro and green onion from recipes the previous week, so that was an easy add. I use dried parsley for extra flavor. I added a pinch of cumin and garlic powder. It all went in the bowl. I had a large bowl of multi-colored snacking tomatoes which I cut in halves and added in. I always have lemons on hand and had three halves in zip top bags, so those got squeezed into the bowl. A heavy swirl of olive oil was added. I didn't have Israeli couscous, but I had barley which is a bit chewier and filled with whole grain goodness.I cooked the barley until it was done, let it cool and added it to the remaining ingredients. A few stirs of the spoon and it was done. I put the lid on the bowl and tucked it into the fridge to chill and meld. Throughout the week, I have easy access to a nutritious and satisfying lunch without the high cost of takeout salad.

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