10 July 2012

Tricking my Body into Eating Salad.

Bulgur Wheat Mediterranean Salad
I keep telling myself that veggies and fruits and grains exclusively are going to redesign my insides and make me feel wonderful. But the idea of eating salad everyday (or even every other day) sounds like a death sentence to my taste buds. Don't get me wrong, I love some salad--salad bars are my favorite thing in the world. But my dream salad consists of a base of iceberg/romaine lettuce, a few shredded carrots, 3-4 scoops of black olives (lots and lots and lots), blue cheese crumbles, a couple peperoncinis, a generous topping of blue cheese dressing, a small drizzle of Italian dressing on the parts that the blue cheese missed, and a few scoops of croutons on top. See also: a very, very unhealthy, might-as-well-order-a-chicken-fried-steak-instead salad, plus the blue cheese dressing does a number on my intestines. But I realize that I'm going to have to eat salad on this whole healthy eating journey I'm embarking on, and I'm going to have to trick my body into liking healthy, light salads (and a salad without cheese is a salad not worth eating, so this is going to be tough). 
Garbanzo Spinach Salad
I've been doing a lot of research on various salads that aren't entirely lettuce--things like quinoa salad and tabouli. So far I've made three salads without lettuce as a base. And I think I'm in love. 

The first salad I made was a Spicy Quinoa, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad. (Of course, I forgot to take a picture of it.) It was decent, but if I ever make it again I will change the tomato to salad ratio. Tomatoes and I have a complicated relationship. I like the presence of them, but I like them as sort of a complement to a larger item--like, on a burger. Or, in a bite with salad, but the taste isn't strong. I don't know if it's a texture thing, or just my brain objecting to something very healthy and nutritious, but I'm just not a huge fan. Next time I will have very few tomatoes. I also had a little personal issue with the serranos that the recipe called for. I love spicy food, but I've made it so few times that no one told me that the capsaicin in peppers is not only invisible but last for hours. Some how it got under my nails and it felt like my left hand was on fire for about 4 hours. For a salad that I wasn't that crazy about, this was a terrible souvenir.
My next two salads were exceptional, ones I will definitely make again (and maybe even again). The first was a Garbanzo Spinach Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette. It was, how do I say this, UNFUCKINGBELIEABLE. I am a huge fan of garbanzo beans because I love their carby texture and they fill me up pretty well (which is kinda hard to do). The best part is that the recipe called for 4 cups of spinach, but you food process it so it's not all leafy and dry (since I hate traditional salad). It's all chopped up fine and mixed with the garbanzos. The cilantro lime dressing was so flavorful and had a little kick (I added twice, maybe three times, the amount of crushed red peppers). I had a little bowl of it right when I made it last night, then some after dinner, then some more again for lunch today. 
The second salad, Bulgur Wheat Mediterranean Salad, I made for dinner last night, and my family went ape shit (did I mention I am currently in Los Angeles visiting my parents, which is nice so they can taste-test my experiments and throw around suggestions). It was arguably one of the most delicious salads I had ever had. It was called mediterranean, but I loved the recipe instantly because there were no tomatoes in it, and there were black olives. I love black olives, I can eat them by the can. The bell peppers were a nice and crunchy contrast to the chewy-oatmeal consistency of the bulgur wheat. This was my first time cooking with bulgur wheat, and I will definitely be cooking with it again. In fact, I originally purchased the bulgur (see also: the most impossible thing to locate in a store) to make tabouli, but I did some research and realized that bulgur is actually quite versatile. Bulgur, as it turns out, is way healthier than brown rice. Maybe this is old news, but I think I already love bulgur wheat better than brown rice. My next venture in bulgur will be tabouli, and probably this week while I still have access to my parents' herb garden.
Well, I did it. I found a way to trick my body into eating salad, and my body already feels happy. Well, more specifically, my bowels feel happy. And happy bowels make for a happy person. Even though I've only made 3 salads, I feel like I'm now armed with heavy artillery against junk food. Maybe salad will become my sword and my shield, maybe it will rescue me from these depths of unhealthy cravings. Maybe I'm just a little salad high right now. But maybe this, too, will last.

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