It’s been getting hotter in Vegas lately, and I love it. But that also means I’m craving some more summery meals for lunch and dinner. I’ve got a quick, healthy meal salad recipe that has all the necessary components.
Just a quick reminder for all of you that like to eat salads for meals. Double check that your salad is actually a meal salad by looking for these 4 things:
- Vegetables: of course, it’s a salad! Does it have some leafy greens and/or a yummy variety of other veggies like tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.? Using this criteria, ambrosia salad should definitely not be called “salad.”
- Protein: Does it have some hard boiled eggs, meat, cheese, tofu, or beans in it? Or maybe you have an awesome combo of a couple of these protein sources!
- Carbohydrates: Does it have some starchy vegetables (potatoes/sweet potatoes, corn, winter squash) or some grains (rice, pasta, bread/croutons, tortilla chips)?
- Fat: Does it have some healthy fats to top it off? Try a homemade salad dressing, hummus, nuts, or cheese.
If your salad is missing one or more of these components, your stomach, your mind, and your body will probably be unhappy with this meal.
Protein helps us feel fuller longer. It’s a necessary macronutrient that helps build and maintain muscle, and it adds yummy texture and flavor to the salad, as do all the above listed components.
Carbohydrates are easier to digest compared to the cellulose-containing leafy greens. Carbs also lift our mood and give us more immediate fuel for energy. Carbs are not “fattening” and they are not “bad.” Stuffing a low carb salad down your throat on an empty, growling stomach is not going to give you the energy or mood boost you need to make it through your day to your next meal or snack.
Fat helps us absorb the nutrients in the vegetables, so consuming a salad with low-fat dressing is not an optimal choice for your health! What are you eating all those veggies for if your body can’t absorb all the amazing fat-soluble vitamins that they contain?
Ok, now, on to the recipe!
(makes about 3 servings)
- For the tofu (protein):
- 1 package (15-16 oz) extra firm tofu (I like the high protein tofu from Trader Joes!)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 teaspoons (optional, for the pine nuts)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (if you’re a Las Vegas local, I recommend Bloomin’ Desert Herb Farm’s Medium Hatch Chile Seasoning. Find them at the Fresh52 Markets)
- 1⁄2 cup pine nuts (optional)
- For the rice (carbohydrate):
- 1 package of Right Rice (plain or lemon pepper flavor)*
- (or cook 1 cup of dry quinoa… do not use regular rice for this recipe. Right Rice and quinoa taste better cold.)
- 1 package of Right Rice (plain or lemon pepper flavor)*
- For the salad (veggies):
- 6 cups mixed greens, baby spinach, or arugula
- 1 avocado
- 1 tomato or 4-6 cherry tomatoes
- For the dressing (fat):
- 1⁄4 cup olive oil
- 2 lemons or limes, juiced
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 dash salt
- 1 dash pepper
Make the tofu (takes about 1 hr and 45 min, due to step number one):
- Take the tofu out of the container. Wrap it in a clean, absorbent towel (or a few paper towels), and sandwich the swaddled tofu between two plates or baking sheets. Place something heavy on top, like Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process or any other textbook you kept from grad school :) Let it sit for about an hour, or whatever, amount of time you have… You can stick it in the fridge, and let it sit overnight if needed. Just know that this is a key step to making this tofu “golden” and somewhat crispy, instead of sponge-y like most tofu dishes.
- Slice the tofu into triangles, or whatever shape you like, so long as it can lay flat, and you can flip it. Toss the tofu triangles into a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Stir to coat the tofu evenly. Sprinkle the taco spice over the tofu and toss to mix.
- Use parchment paper or coat a baking sheet with olive oil (use an oil spray, or spread it evenly with your fingers). Let’s be honest, I never keep parchment paper in the house, but this would be an optimal time to use it if you do have it. If you have parchment paper, use it! Your tofu will come out perfectly without sticking to the sheet.
- Place the tofu on the baking sheet/parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for another 15-20 minutes until both sides are golden brown. Yay, golden tofu!
- (Optional, but super yummy) In the meantime, heat a skillet on low heat with a couple teaspoons of olive oil toast the pine nuts in the pan until golden brown. This shouldn’t take very long, just a couple minutes! You can also do this in the oven, but I’m bad about checking them, and they tend to burn. It’s easier to watch and prevent burning on a skillet!
Make the rice:
- While the tofu is baking, prepare the Right Rice or quinoa according to directions on the package.
Make the salad (takes 2 minutes):
- While the tofu and carbohydrate of your choice are cooking, prepare the salad. Grab a few handfuls of salad greens and throw it in a bowl or whatever dish you like to store your food prepped meals in. Fill it up!
- Dice the tomato, or cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Add to the greens.
- Slice the avocado however you want. Long slices looks pretty. Quartering it and dicing it up is more practical, and easier to stab with your fork. You’ll want to have about 1/2 an avocado with each serving. Place it in the bowl/container.
- If you’re prepping this for days in advance, please, please, please don’t cut your avocado now. It will get brown and gross. For lunches, cut your avocado in the morning and add to your salad.
Make the dressing (takes 3 minutes):
- Juice the lemons/limes.
- Chop the cilantro.
- Measure the oil and pour it in a small bowl. Add the citrus juice and 1 tablespoon of cilantro.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk the mixture with a fork.
Put it all together:
- Place your desired amount of tofu on top of the salad greens. I suggest about 5 ounces or 6 pieces of tofu.
- Scoop 1⁄2 cup (or 1 cup, whatever you’re hungry for) of the rice into the bowl. (Can you tell I hate portioning? It’s different for everyone!)
- Pour the dressing over the salad and the rice, about 2-3 tablespoons per serving. Just enough to cover the salad and give the rice some flavor without drenching it!
- Top each salad with a bit of cilantro and a sprinkling of pine nuts.
If you’re meal prepping this, I recommend storing each component separately. Store the salad greens apart from the dressing, and the rice and tofu in their own separate containers. You can put the pine nuts together with the tofu. Assemble in the morning for lunch, or right before the meal.
*Full disclosure, Right Rice sent me some free samples, and I tried them. They did not pay me to write this recipe or to tell you that I like their products. I was able to taste and discern for myself that they truly do have a great product! It is quick and easy to cook. It tastes a bit like pilaf, but with way more fiber & nutrients. But be aware of cost: it is significantly more expensive than rice or pilaf.