Lighten Things Up in 2012 With Tasty Salad Ideas
By Janet Tharpe

Lighten Things Up in 2012 With Tasty Salad Ideas
Easy Avocado Citrus Salad

“Food is an important part of a balanced diet,” once quipped author Fran Lebowitz. I love this quote. In fact, I have it printed out and stuck up on my fridge (with my favorite magnet.) Food plain makes me happy, and I vote we celebrate it... instead of fearing it.

And if we get in the practice of celebrating what we eat, it's darn important that what we prepare be good for us AND tasty, don't you think? Our friend Lynn Socko, a home cook from San Angelo, TX, knows a thing or two about the challenges of finding that balance. "It's always been a struggle for me to find a balance between healthy cooking/eating and those hard to resist meals that are not so good for you. I LOVE flavor," she explains in her online Just A Pinch discussion group, Cooking Healthy. "I wanted to be part of a group that could identify with these struggles, could offer support to each other, and could share healthy, tasty recipes and ideas." And that's just what has happened!

So many of us can relate to Lynn's struggles and are eager beavers about sharing our own personal stories and tips. In fact, thanks to the efforts of folks like Lynn, Just A Pinch has seen a delicious wave of inventive, lighter recipes being shared... reinventions of decadent favorites and unique takes on new, healthy eats.

Salads, for example, were once thought of as something to "suffer" through. No longer! Now, there are SO many great ways to jazz up traditional salads... to the point where they become downright cravable. Nikki Smith's recipe for Avocado Citrus Salad is a perfect example. "I love Avocados!!!" says the Hemet, CA cook. "So why not have a nice refreshing avocado salad? You can also use tomatoes like I did." Toss with romaine lettuce, red onions, fresh orange and a simple dressing of oil, sugar and lime for a crisp, creamy dream of a salad that is a perfect light lunch all on its own.

Busy mom Leslie Holt of Franklin, TN adds a bit of unexpected crunch to her favorite salad in the form of sauteed walnuts and Ramen noodles! The otherwise straightforward salad recipe is a joy to serve, as guests will unfailingly marvel at the creative (and yummy) additions. "This recipe is super easy to make," explains Leslie. The oil and red wine vinegar dressing has an added punch from the addition of soy sauce. And for an even kickier flavor, Leslie suggests using flavored wine vinegars.

Still not convinced that salads are the new comfort food? Then you've simply got to grab a fork and dig into Kelly Phillips' amazing Rice Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette! This addictive salad comes sans lettuce, but packed with rich flavors of honey, cumin, soy, citrus and fresh green onion. With a base of basmati rice that's been cooked in chicken stock, this dish is no slouch on flavor. "This is an incredible salad to serve with grilled Tilapia," says Kelly. She particularly loves serving this salad at parties because it's served at room temperature... no worrying about it getting too warm or too cold. Top with lemon zest and almonds for a healthy and filling bite.

Over the years I've come to find that winter is THE perfect time to begin introducing these kinds of fresh flavors into our meals. When it's cold outside and the skies just can't seem to shake that gray blanket of clouds, fresh fruits and veggies are a ray of sunshine in the day. Dress 'em up for the celebration with one of these delicious dressings, and you'll have a healthy meal that just begs to be eaten.