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Three Picture Perfect Salads | countingtheleaves.comYou can’t really mess up a salad. Pull together a bunch of fresh vegetables, maybe a few fruits, and it’s sure to be delicious. While I wouldn’t ordinarily consider a salad to be blog-worthly, recently I’ve made some salads that have just been so photogenic (and fabulously tasty) that I felt the need to publish their pictures and share their ingredient lists with you.

It all started with a Wednesday trip to one of my new favorite local markets, Sprouts. Wednesday is key because on that day Sprouts honors the sale prices from their ad both for the prior and coming weeks. So there is twice as much stuff available at some great low prices. It was produce heaven at prices I haven’t seen in a long while — navel oranges for 10¢ a pound (that would be eight for just 29¢!); red and green bell peppers, and cucumbers 3 for $1; blackberries and grape tomatoes for just 88¢; pints of organic strawberries for $2.50; radishes for 49¢; buy one get one free mixed lettuces. I ended up with a cart full of colorful fruits and vegetables, and the following salads were born.

Note: Ingredient measurements on all salads are approximate for 2 servings, because really, it’s a salad. You don’t need to measure. And feel free to substitute.

Mangia Mango Salad

Unfortunately this first salad didn’t get a photoshoot. A picture was nearly taken as it was well admired by my official taste tester, but when I suggest he Instagram it, he went on a short tirade about how annoyed he gets with people who post pictures of food to my favorite social network. At the time I wasn’t thinking a salad was going to be worth a blog post, so I didn’t snap one either. Nonetheless, it might have been one of my favorites because of the mango. Mango,much like bacon, makes everything better.

  • Earthbound Farm Organic Zen Blend lettuce (baby spinach, Asian mustard greens, kale, chard, mizuna)
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • About 1/3 of a fresh mango, chopped 
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 8 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped
  • Leaves from 6 sprigs of cilantro [or more, cilantro is another thing I can never have too much of]
  • Chicken (fresh or pre-cooked frozen strips)
  • Lousiana Fish Fry Cajun seasoning (to taste)
  • Juice from 1/2  lime
  • Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing [because I haven’t been able to make a versatile homemade dressing that beats this yet]

If you are using fresh chicken, sprinkle with some Cajun seasoning and cook that up in a skillet until juices run clear. If using pre-cooked frozen strips, heat them according to package directions after seasoning with the Cajun spice mix to taste. Combine all vegetables, top with chicken and cilantro, then pour the lime juice and salad dressing over top. Enjoy!

Florida Gator Salad

Florida Gator Salad from Three Picture Perfect Salads | countingtheleaves.com
Left: Mise en place for the Florida Gator Salad; Right: Ready to eat

Named in honor of the favorite college football team of the official taste tester, this salad includes the school colors of the University of Florida with Mandarin oranges and blueberries. [Note: Not officially endorsed by the Florida Gators; in fact no doubt I’m violating some trademark or something just calling it that. But hopefully they will just consider it a delicious tribute if they find me.]

  • Earthbound Farm Organic Zen Blend lettuce (baby spinach, Asian mustard greens, kale, chard, mizuna)
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped
  • A handful of blueberries
  • About 8 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced and chopped
  • Leaves from 4 sprigs of cilantro
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Slices from 2 Mandarian oranges (the cleverly marketed “Cuties“)
  • Chicken (fresh or pre-cooked frozen strips)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Raspberry vinaigrette dressing

If using fresh chicken, season with pepper then cook in a skillet until juices run clear. Drizzle with some balsamic vinegar to taste, then sear for a minute or two to let the vinegar soak in and caramelize a bit. If using pre-cooked frozen strips, heat according to package directions, season with pepper and add some balsamic vinegar in as described above. Combine all vegetables, top with chicken and cilantro, then pour  salad dressing over top. Yum!

Berry Delicious Salad

Berry salad from Three Picture Perfect Salads | countingtheleaves.com

This one was vegetarian (mainly because I ran out of chicken, but either of the above salads would be fabulous without meat too).

  • Earthbound Farm Organic spring mix
  • Romaine lettuce, torn roughly
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced and chopped
  • About 8 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped
  • Several blackberries
  • Slices from 2 Mandarian oranges (“Cuties“)
  • Leaves from 6 sprigs of cilantro
  • Pecan pieces
  • Raspberry vinaigrette dressing

Combine and eat.

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Chicago is a very foodie town, heck one of the current best restaurants in America is in Lincoln Park, and the first woman to win “Top Chef” hails from the city. Famous chefs and new restaurants abound, so trying out new eateries becomes something of a hobby when you live here. And when something’s good, you gotta share.
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