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DIVAS ON A DIME: Some tips for simple savings on summer salads

It’s so stinkin’ hot! I barely want to eat, let alone heat up the house cooking something. So, we’ve been on a salad kick lately. One drawback to having salads is the cost can add up. Here are some tips to help you save some green while buying your greens.

Bag the bagged salads. Read the ingredients for inspiration, then put it back on the shelf because they cost more and go bad quickly. I get the convenience, but skip it you want to save a buck. Buy the three-pack hearts of romaine and slice them yourself. It’s easy and takes mere seconds. One heart makes two or three nice salads. Next, add the goodies they put in the prepared salads yourself.

Leave the lettuce. Even better than romaine, select heartier greens like cabbage and kale. They keep longer, have more flavor, more health benefits, and are usually much cheaper. Shopping weekly, start the week with lettuce and spinach, because they spoil quickly and end the week using heartier greens. Bonus, if they start to wilt you can sauté them.

Save on proteins. While salmon and steak make lovely salads, employ beans, boiled eggs, lentils, chicken, nuts, and canned fish as inexpensive ways to pack protein onto your greens.

Dress yourself. If you have delicious homemade dressings in your fridge, your chances of making a salad increase exponentially. Vinaigrettes can be as simple as three parts oil to one part vinegar. Add flavorings like mustard, herbs, spices, and experiment to your heart’s content.

The recipe below is a summer family favorite. The dressing doubles as marinade for chicken. And when you grill the chicken outdoors, you get the down-home aroma of smoke without heating up your home.

HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN SALAD

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 1 hour plus marinating time

What You’ll Need:

For Marinade-Dressing:

½ cup honey mustard

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch black pepper

4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken thighs, boneless skinless

For Salad:

½ cup bacon, about 4 strips, diced

2 boiled eggs, sliced

6 – 8 cups romaine lettuce leaves, washed

2 cups sliced tomatoes

1 large avocado, pitted and sliced

¼ cup red onion, diced

½ cup corn kernels from grilled corn or frozen

Here’s How:

Whisk marinade ingredients together. Divide in half, reserving half in the fridge to dress the salad. Place your chicken into a baking dish and pour the remaining marinade over the chicken, smooshing to evenly coat and refrigerate. Marinate chicken for two hours or overnight. Anytime spent in the marinade will be good.

The chicken can be grilled, sautéed on the stovetop, or oven baked. To grill, preheat to medium-high heat and grill for about 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until a thermometer registers 160°F degrees. To sauté, heat a pan or skillet over medium heat with a little oil and cook in batches, until cooked through. To bake, preheat oven to 375°F degrees and cook for 30 minutes or until cooked through. No matter how you cook it, set aside to rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Ideally, let the chicken cool completely before adding to the salad. But that’s up to you. It’s your salad.

While the chicken cooks, sauté the bacon and hard boil the eggs.

In preparation for the salad, slice chicken into strips and prepare the lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, onion, corn. I used corn on the cob I grilled with the chicken, but you can substitute frozen or canned. Crumble the bacon and slice the eggs.

Whisk 1 tablespoon of water into the remaining dressing and drizzle over the salad. It’s potent, so add to taste. Arrange salad artistically or just plop it all in a big bowl and have at it.

One last tip – To keep salad fresh, crisp, and delicious, don’t dress it until you’re ready to eat. The acid in dressings breaks down cell walls making floppy, sad salad.

The part I enjoy most about a salad kick is coming up with different combinations of dressings and ingredients. I hope this inspires you to think outside the bag for your next salad.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

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