There is nothing more motivating than a close-up shot of a fresh salad to keep your diet resolutions alive in January.
Despite my greatest urge not to make get-fit vows for the New Year, this holiday season found me staring, in disdain, at the extra bulge that found its way into what I call my “second stomach” — aka, my THIGHS.
We spent nearly two weeks in Ireland with my in-laws and mother, during which time we nibbled on everything from Christmas cake to my mother’s homemade Christmas cookies. Not to mention the massive Christmas and post-Christmas feasts we indulged in, gladly.
I joke often with my friends that my body came with a built-in emergency exit for glutenous food. From the moment I put said food into my mouth, from deep-fried chicken to that last bite of chocolate tart, I can almost hear the siren go off in my stomach and the emergency exit door to my thighs open, complete with a blinking sign that reads “stomach thoroughfare not necessary. Pass straight through immediately”.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a confident gal. Despite my occasional bouts of holiday bulge, I stay healthy through eating right and exercise. I love my body, thick or thin.
But I think it’s true for most people that we all have our own specific level of comfort when it comes to our bodies. And for me, the extra poundage from the holidays is enough to make me feel uncomfortable. When I’m on the border of having to buy a new pair of skinny jeans, it’s time to calm it down a bit.
I don’t believe in diets. At least I try to believe that I don’t believe in diets. When I’m not trying to desperately fit into a dress for a holiday Christmas party or wedding, I generally believe in enjoying foods in moderation. And for those who do diet, I believe that even in the most extreme moments of diet desperation, you should still enjoy what you eat.
That’s where this salad plays its part. And it all starts here…
How can you possibly have anything bad to say about this beautiful piece of fruit? Sure, it’s slightly higher in natural sugar, but that also means you can forego high-calorie dressing, as the flavour of a perfectly ripe mango is strong enough to carry most dishes on its own.
Stephen and I make this salad often, during any time of the year; on summer nights when it’s too hot to be over the stove top for too long, and on nights like these, when we are trying to calm down our month of processed sugar and heavy carb-packed meals.
It starts with your basic ingredients. Fresh lettuce (romaine if you have it), cherry tomatoes and onions, all chopped up.
Toss the lettuce and onion in a large bowl, and set the tomatoes off to one side. Tomatoes have a lot of juice and unless you want a soggy salad, put the tomatoes in a strainer and let them rest until you are nearly ready to eat.
This is also the time where you want to toast your fresh croutons, if using them. We keep fresh bread in the house, and when it begins to stale, I usually cube them and keep them in the freezer for occasions like this.
Set your oven to 190C (375F), put the bread cubes on a baking sheet, and bake for about 10-15 minutes on the top third of the oven.
Next up, grab some chicken, lather it a bit with some olive oil and salt and pepper, heat a pan to high heat, and toss them on.
When it comes to most meats, I’m a fan of using the non-stick pan variations. I love the texture and flavour, not to mention look, of properly browned chicken. So the kitchen smokes up a bit. It’s a small price to pay.
Set the chicken off to one side to cool, and then slice up the mango in large chunks, together with the second most important piece of this salad. A ripened avocado.
If I’m guilty of any glutenous activity, it’s eating too much avocado. I use it in place of butter on my sandwiches, I have it nearly three times a week with my salads, and don’t get me started on salsa night. I love everything about this green beauty. Even Aidan knows exactly where it’s at at our local supermarket.
But I digress. Back to the salad. Once all your vegetables are in your mixing bowl, drizzle some olive oil over everything, just enough to wet the salad, and then add some lemon juice to taste. Be sure to leave the croutons out when you add lemon juice. The last thing you want is for your croutons to absorb all the lemon flavour.
Mix well, then grab the secret ingredient.
Soy sauce. I know, it sounds crazy, but I first tried this with a Jamie Oliver recipe and it was amazing. We’ve used it ever since. Drizzle a small amount onto the salad, mix taste, and continue adding it in small increments until it suits your liking. Then add your croutons and chicken, give everything a stir, and enjoy.
For those trying to eat a bit healthier this week, hope this helps. This salad is versatile. Some days I leave out the mango and use a few dollops of goat cheese and balsamic cream. Other days I leave out the chicken all together.
Have fun with your fruits and vegetables, folks. Pick em fresh and eat em fresh. And while you are at it, grab some extra mangos just for the heck of it. Life is too short to skip out on the naturally sweet things of life.
- 1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped (about 300 grams, or 10 ounces)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 large handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 1-2 avocados, pit removed and diced
- 1 mango, peeled and diced
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- olive oil
- soy sauce
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- Drizzle olive oil over chicken, season well with salt and pepper, and fry over medium heat, preferably in a non-stick pan. Set aside to cool.
- Add lettuce, onions, tomatoes, avocado and mango to a medium-sized bowl. Season with pepper.
- Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil (1-2 tablespoons, just enough to wet the salad slightly) and finish with soy sauce (start with 1/2 teaspoon and continue adding to desired taste).
- Add croutons and chicken. Serve immediately.