Make-Ahead Restaurant Style Salads
These easy and healthy salads can be made over the weekend for a quick work week lunch.
I am always looking for new and delicious solutions to break the monotony of the workweek lunch. It is all too easy to run out and grab one of those big bowl salads from any number of quick service salad joints. It's effortless and you feel like you are making a healthy choice. However, if you look closer, so often the calorie counts on those salads are sky-high! Not to mention the dent in your wallet if these $14 salads become a daily habit. That's why I started creating my own restaurant-style salads at home. With a few simple tips and techniques, you can stock your fridge with a week's worth of salads on Sunday and enjoy these healthy meals all week long!
The key to preparing and properly storing these salads is the layering. How you layer the ingredients in the storage container makes all the difference. I will show you the process by demonstrating one of my favorite workweek lunches: Italian Caprese Salad with Lemon-Pine Nut Farro. You want to start with the dressing. You can use a vinaigrette-style dressing like I did here, or substitute a creamy style. The dressing needs to go at the bottom of your container so the moisture doesn't wilt the other ingredients.
The Barrier Layer
The next layer is what I like to refer to as the "barrier" layer. These are the firmer salad ingredients that will act as a barrier between the dressing and the other ingredients. For this layer, I like to use firmer vegetables like peppers, carrots, corn, and tomatoes. You could also use this as an opportunity to add a layer of chicken, shrimp, or beans. In my salad, I used halved grape tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese balls.
The Soft Layer
The next layer is an opportunity to add some of your softer salad ingredients. In my recipe, this is where I layered the Lemon-Pine Nut Farro. The barrier layer ensures the farro won't absorb any of the liquid from the dressing. If you like a salad with avocado, this is when it should be added. Other ideas could include cooked pasta or hard-boiled eggs.
The Greens Layer
Finally, the last layer of the salad is when you add the greens. Leafy greens can become soggy and are prone to wilting when they are exposed to moisture. The layering technique ensures that your romaine, arugula, or spinach remain as crisp as the day you packed the lunch!
Seal and Store
To make sure my Sunday prep work lasts all the way to the end of the workweek, I like to use a food preservation system to keep the salads crisp and delicious. Using the Food Saver appliance removes the air from the container and keeps food fresh. Once the salads are layered, prepared, and sealed, stack them in the refrigerator and grab one each morning as you head out the door.
Shake and Serve
When lunchtime rolls around, all you have to do is shake the salad to distribute the dressing and all those delicious ingredients. Pop open the lid, and you have a budget-friendly and healthy workweek lunch! I love making the Italian Caprese Salad with Lemon-Pine Nut Farro or this Greek Islands Salad with Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette, but feel free to get creative and start building your own workweek lunch!