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Hearty SaladThis post was actually inspired by ChefDeHome and her Green Week (aka Only Salad for Lunch Week) a while back. The original title for my post was going to be “How to Turn a 30 Calorie Bag of Lettuce Into a Hearty Meal Under 500 Calories”, but you can see all of the obvious issues there. Before we begin making our salad, I need to register a few disclaimers:
I am NOT a Food Blogger.
I own beautiful serving dishes, but I don’t use them for everyday salads.
These are real pictures, of a real salad, that I really ate. All of it.
I took these photos back when I tried that take-a-picture-of-everything-you-eat-and-lose-weight diet. It didn’t work. But I have lots of food pictures now, so I might as well get some use out of them.
The brand names you see are what I happen to use, no promos here.

Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s talk salad!

In all honesty, I don’t really care for lettuce as a stand-alone food item. It’s great for sandwiches, or wrapped between a tortilla and some grilled chicken, or for adding color and crunch to a burger, or, as used here, to host the other ingredients of a hearty salad.

Salad Fixins

So, lettuce make salad. (You should know by now that I can’t resist an easy pun.) ChefDeHome mentions on her blog that there are many different kinds of lettuce, and they all have a certain flavor. Some flavors are better than others – my words, not hers. I don’t like the varieties that have a bitter after-taste to them. Fortunately, I discovered Sweet Butter lettuce a couple of years ago and I really like it – as far as lettuce goes.

I always start by washing my lettuce, even if the bag says that it has already been washed. If the idea of wet lettuce offends you, you can toss it around on paper towels to get rid of the excess moisture, or invest in one of those salad spinner thingies. Draining it in the colander works well enough for me, and a little dampness helps with the next step. Since I didn’t use the whole bag, I estimated about 20 calories for the lettuce.

Wash Your Lettuce!

There was a time when I would just turn a bottle of dressing bottoms up and squeeze. I love Ranch Dressing. In an effort to change my wanton ways, I switched to the light version, and now I only use one tablespoon of the delectable delight for an entire salad. A trick that I like to use is to toss my lettuce with the dressing before I add the other ingredients. This, along with a little dampness from the washing, improves the chances of getting dressing on all of the lettuce. I have tried that technique where you dip the tip of your fork in the dressing, pinkie up, and then spear a big bite of salad – that doesn’t work for me. I’m an equal opportunity dressing-er and I believe each leaf should be coated equally.

Next, I will chop up the rest of the ingredients, if needed, and add them to my salad in no particular order. Sometimes I rinse my raisins, sometimes I don’t. But I will remove any wayward stems that managed to survive processing.

So, here’s my estimated calorie tally:
2 Cups lettuce – 20 cal
1 TB Light Ranch Dressing – 35 cal
Colby Jack cheese – 80 cal
1 large boiled egg – 75 cal
3 slices deli ham (2 oz) – 60 cal
1 snack size box raisins – 100 cal

Grand total – 370 calories

Hearty Tossed Salad

And there you have it folks. What started out as a plain, unassuming bag of lettuce is transformed into a hearty meal with calories to spare. I love the way the flavors blend with the textures to create a medley of yumminess. Bon Appétit!