I love a big salad. A leafy bowl of green goodness, garnished with bright fresh veggies, crunchy nuts, earthy avocado chunks, tangy crumbled cheese and of course , topped with my favorite part of the salad: Good Seasons All Natural Italian Dressing.
This recipe is quite simple and you may be thinking, “Deb, why do I need a recipe for salad? I mean, come on… it’s just salad!” But this particular “recipe” is packed full of proteins (which aren’t normally found in your average side salad) and is hearty enough to be a complete meal in itself. Even for the burliest hungry-man (he may protest initially, but he’ll find himself perfectly satisfied by the time he reaches the bottom of the bowl), and it’s tasty enough for even the pickiest of kids. Also, it’s a great source of filling protein for your die-hard vegetarians. I made this for my friend Cara and I last night. She’s a self-proclaimed “Veg-Head” who was completely full after one plate.
History of the Backyard Salad Name
Kids love this salad and you’ll finally get them to eat spinach without a fuss! When my niece Katelyn was 8 years old (she’s now 11), she took one look at the salad and said, “Aunt Debbie, did you just pick these leaves off the tree in the backyard?” I simply smiled and said, “Maybe…”. She laughed and said, “Cool!” And dug right in. She calls it my Backyard Salad.
So take the challenge and tell me if you finally got your kids to eat spinach. And tell me if you’re still left hungry after polishing off a big bowl of Backyard Salad!
1 large bag of baby spinach leaves (much better for you than iceberg or lighter leaf lettuces & doesn’t turn brown when air hits it)
1 large avocado
2-3 med tomatoes-on-the-vine
1 large cucumber
1 package of your favorite croûtons
1/2 cup of roasted sliced almonds (I use Almond Accents Original when I don’t have time to roast my own)
1/2 cup of crumbled feta, goat or blue cheese depending on your preference.
optional – for you meat-lovers:
1-1/2 cups grilled or sautéed chicken tenders (sauté in Good Seasons Dressing to maintain consistent flavor)
If adding meat to the recipe, sauté the chicken while chopping the veggies – that way it’ll have time to cool before adding to the salad.
-Wash bagged spinach leaves and put in large bowl.
-Peel and cut cucumber lengthwise in half, then cut into 1/4″ slices.
-Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and then into quarters.
-Cut avocado in half, remove pit, then slice halves into 4 sections lengthwise. The skin will peel off much easier this way. Then cut your 8 slices into 1″ chunks. A too ripe avocado will turn into mush. Look for fruit that is semi-firm to the touch.
-Add cut veggies and remainder of ingredients (except chicken) to the salad and toss.
-Add 4-5 tablespoons of salad dressing and toss again. It covers a lot but add more if desired. Be careful to not add too much before tossing, or salad can end up soggy.
-If including chicken, add this ingredient last and after it’s cooled down some, or it will melt the cheese.
-Serve in large individual bowls and enjoy!
(If you reserve a handful of spinach leaves and croûtons, you can add them to your leftovers (if you have any) the next day, re-toss and it will revive your somewhat soggy salad. You probably don’t need to add any more dressing of tossed well.)
The Perfect Bite
I like to stack on my fork a piece of chicken, avocado and tomato with a big spinach leaf… then swirl it around to pick up bits of the crumbled cheese and almonds.
The Perfect Pairing
I’m not a fan of fresh fruit in my salad, though some people like to add pears, strawberries or mandarin oranges. Instead, I prefer to pair The Backyard Salad with a crisp, fruity fermented beverage. Monterey’s Bogle Chardonnay adds the perfect touch of green apple and ripe pear. All the fruit I need with this meal!
Did You Know?
A new little handy item I’ve recently discovered is the Hefty Fresh Extend zip-lock baggies. These one gallon gems literally extend the life of fruits and vegetables in the fridge. I like to stock up at the Farmer’s Market… but my fresh goods usually get tossed from rotting before I can consume them all (especially with my travel schedule). The Hefty Fresh Extend baggies have saved me from throwing away food and money.