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The Mixing Bowl Salad // How To Make A Delicious Salad You’ll Actually Want To Eat

I love ordering salads at restaurants. Restaurants have all these ingredients to mix together into tasty entre salads. I’d order a salad and wish I could come up with a way to make them as tasty at home.

Turns out I can. And it’s not as hard as it looks or require as many ingredients as I thought. Certain ingredients morph well and let you make a variety of salad options.

Before we get started on the ingredients, I must share two tools I use: a large mixing bowl and a salad chopper.

Why a mixing bowl? When I eat salad for a meal, I want it to be a MEAL. Not some little side salad (side salads are fine, as long as I’m serving it along side something else). To make these salads as big and a protein packed as possible, I make them in a mixing bow. The mixing bowl gives me lots of room to mix up my ingredients, too.

To get my greens finely chopped, I use a chopper. Do you need this? No. You can shred up your greens with your hands if you like or use some other tool. But this tool isn’t that expensive, I use it all the time, and it doesn’t take up that much room.

Okay, let’s get mixing!

Ingredients:

+Some sort of greens. I like spinach (I chop it up using the chopper), and I also love this “slaw” I get at the grocery. It’s broccoli and carrot slaw, and I love the texture in my salads. I don’t like taking a giant bite of lettuce. Chopped up spinach and the slaw give a nice crunch and bite.

+Some type of seasonal vegetable. Lately I’ve been using butternut squash since it’s in season and easy to get. I buy the pre-chunked cubes at grocery and roast them (Coat the cubes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes until fork tender). I’ve also used sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, etc… (mostly roasted or pan sauted). Mix, match, or just use one.

+Some sort of grain. You can leave this out if grains are not your thing. I like to make a batch of quinoa and toss a little in my salad. I like the texture it adds. You could do tabbouleh, couscous, rice, etc… Remember, these are starchy, so if your goal is fat loss, omit or just use a small amount for that texture fix.

+Add some crunch. I like pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, etc… A little bit goes a long way.

+Hummus (or tzatziki). I prefer hummus, and I buy it from the store. This takes the place of salad dressing. You can also do hummus and tzatziki.

+Some good cheese. I mean good cheese. Something with a strong taste like feta, goat cheese, sharp cheddar, etc… If you go bland (like American cheese), you will need a lot more to get a good taste. If you use a good quality cheese, a little will do you.

+Some protein. I love meat, so I do meat. If you don’t like/don’t do meat, pick your favorite vegetarian option with some protein. I like to add bacon, chicken sausage, ham cubes, shredded chicken, etc….

+Additional items: chopped up apples, a few dates, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, grapes, avocado, etc…

It took me some trial and error to find my favorite combinations. But I made a vow to not eat any more tasteless salads (or food!) without compromising my healthy habits, and this mixing bowl salad does just that. I am super full after this salad (I pile on the greens and make the greens the biggest helping), and I feel satisfied from all the protein and rich sources of good fat. I think the “secret” is just adding a little bit of some of those other ingredients (like the quinoa) to beef up your salad without compromising your goals.

One other note: I prep the pieces at the beginning of the week. That way, when it’s time for lunch, I just dump it all in.

What do you like in you salads? How can you adapt a less healthy salad to make it work for you?

Could Not Be Easier Crock Pot Meatballs

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You know what I don’t make? Meatballs.

You know what Wegmans makes really well? Meatballs.

I love myself store bought meatballs. I’ve tried meatballs from Trader Joes and Costco, too. All good. All delicious.

To make my crock pot meatballs, I simply pour marinara sauce into the crock pot, toss in the meatballs, and sometimes top with a mix of Parmesan,Β mozzarella, and provolone cheese. Cover and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.

Ta da! Delicious meatballs!

You can serve these plain (I usually just spoon them out and top with cheese) or toss with noodles or get some crusty bread and make meatball subs.

If I’m feeling particularly fancy, I’ll make a side salad. A super simple side salad. Are you ready for this? Here it is: spring mix, salt, pepper, feta cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

Boom! Done!

Everyone in our family eats this up. Even the kids. Especially the kids.

I plan this type of meal for nights when Kate has swimming lessons or soccer. I know we won’t be home until after 6 p.m., and I’ll need to get three kids bathed, in their pajamas, and at the table to eat dinner. So I most definitely won’t have time to make anything. That’s when I lean on this type of meal to save the day. It’s like a high-five from your past self to your future self.

Okay, you tell me. What’s your super favorite, super easy crock pot recipe? The fewer ingredients, the better!

Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

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We are all about Mexican food in this family. I dare say it might be our favorite. We haven’t met an enchilada or taco we didn’t like. Even the kids love burritos.

As much as I love taco night, it can feel like lots of effort because there’s a lot ingredients to get together. I can’t babysit anything on the stove because while I’m doing that, Michael is surely electrocuting himself or jumping off of the second story landing.

I remembered I’d seen lots of pins on Pinterest featuring crock pot tacos with various methods, the most common recipe using salsa. I’m picky about my salsa, so I wasn’t sure I would like that recipe. But with the addition of Thomas, I needed more crock pot recipes in my arsenal, so I decided to test out some salsas and see if I could make something work.

I found two options that I like at Wegmans. One being Wegman’s fresh salsa (the one they make fresh daily) and the other being Garden Fresh Gourmet Salsa in Sweet Onion. Dan doesn’t love these (he thinks they’re too sweet), but I love them, and, most importantly, the kids love them, so a four out of five win is good enough for me.

This recipe could not be easier. Here’s what I do:

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Bagley Family Crock Pot Salsa Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:

+Salsa of your choice (You need a good size container – or maybe even two containers.)

+Chicken breasts (We use two big ones.)

+1 can of black beans

+1 bag frozen corn

+About 1 cup of chicken stock (I just make sure the chicken is covered so it doesn’t burn, but you don’t need much.)

+Whatever you need to serve your tacos. Hard shells, soft shells, tortilla taco boats (my kids LOVE these), chips, etc…

+Shredded Mexican cheese

+Your choice of additional toppings such as avocado, sour cream, lettuce, etc…

Directions:

Place your chicken in the crock pot. Dump in your salsa, black beans, and corn. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover. Place lid and cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low.

After cooking is complete, shred your chicken and put it back into the crock pot. Mix and serve!

My kids gobble this up. And it makes for great leftovers.

Do you have a crock pot taco recipe? How do you make it?

For the Love of My Vitamix (And My Go-To Green Smoothie)

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I’ve been begging Dan for a Vitamix for years. “But we already have a blender,” he’d say.

True. We have a blender. But it’s just not high-powered enough for this smoothie-loving girl. I’d have to turn it on and shake it violently from side to side to get all the contents to mix. And it never really got the right texture. Ice chunks and pieces of banana wouldn’t quite blend.

Two Christmases ago I told Dan all I wanted was that blender. It’s a high-price item. And the only thing I wanted.

Being the good deal catcher that is he, he found a good price via Slick Deals and surprised me with the Vitamix for Christmas.

After spending years Googling “is the Vitamix worth it?” I can 100% say, “Yes.”

This thing is crazy high powered. I’m pretty sure it could blend a brick. When I make my smoothies, they always come out smooth. No matter how many ice cubes or chunks of frozen fruit.

There are a TON of things you can make with this thing. Everything from smoothies to ice cream to soup to dips. So far, I’ve only made smoothies and that frozen banana ice cream that’s all the rage on Pinterest.

My favorite, go-to smoothie recipe is perfect for breakfast (I especially love it after a good, sweaty workout) or an afternoon pick me up.

Sarah’s Go-To Green Smoothie

+handful of spinach (you won’t taste this, so really, make it a good handful)

+ice (this adds volume, so as much as you like)

+almond milk (I do enough to cover the ice)

+1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter

+1 tablespoon flax

+1 tablespoon chia seeds

+1 banana

+a good shake of cinnamon

Blend away and enjoy!

And clean up is a dream! After I pour out my smoothie, I fill up the container half way with water, add a drop of dish soap, and run it on the 10 setting for about a minute. Then all I have to do is rinse! Clean!

Do you have a Vitamix? What’s your favorite thing to make? I’d like to try a soup and hummus. Yum!

Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries

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Ever since my pal, Kim, told me about her spiralizer, I was intrigued. But then I thought, ugh, another kitchen gadget?! Do we really need that?!

But then I remembered how, so often, I think I don’t like a certain food, but it’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that I don’t like the way it’s prepared. Like Brussels sprouts. I don’t like them steamed. But sauteed? Roasted? YOU BET!

And changing up how I prepare things ensures I get my kids to eat it. We have our own fair share of problems (re: sleep!). But my kids LOVE to eat. Like, all day. And they like new foods and new ways of preparing old favorites, so I figured they’d enjoy some spiralized veggies.

(This proved to provide major entertainment value.)

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Also, this thing is $30, so while not the cheapest, definitely not a break-the-bank experiment.

So I ordered my spiralizer and that same day bought a giant bag of sweet potatoes at Costco. I love sweet potatoes, but those suckers take forever to bake. But according to the recipes I researched, sweet potatoes spiralized take a fraction of the time. Also, I love sweet potato fries over regular fries anytime (although you will note regular potatoes in these pictures because some people prefer those), and I was itching to make a healthy version.

And that’s how sweet potatoes came to be my first victims.

Let’s get into it!

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Spiralized Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

+Sweet potato (or a few of them if you’re feeding more than one person)

+Salt

+Pepper

+Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Peel your sweet potatoes. Cut the ends off the sweet potato, taking care to make the ends as flat as possible. Cut your sweet potato in half, taking care to make the cut even and flat. I find cutting the sweet potato in half makes spiralizing easier.

Get your sweet potato into position and spiralize according to the directions on your spiralizer. We used the blade that made the smallest sweet potato strings.

Toss your sweet potato strings in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just eye-ball it.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Put sweet potatoes on baking sheet, trying to get them on one, even layer.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. You might need to give them a toss half-way through baking.

Remove from oven and enjoy! So easy, so yum!

Do you have a spiralizer?! What do you spiralize?! I can’t wait to try some other things like apples and squash.

Balsamic and Parmesan Corn

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We are obsessed with corn this summer. I think we’ve had grilled corn with our dinner at least three times a week. We love it plain, just grilled. But then we saw this recipe in The Washington Post for corn dipped in balsamic and Parmesan cheese. When I initially thought about corn and cheese, I was kind of “meh” about it. Could that really be good? But I love balsamic. And I love Parmesan cheese as a rule. So I figured it was worth a try.

The verdict?

SO GOOD! The best!

Simply prepare your corn using your favorite method (we wrap ours in foil and grill it) then dip the corn in balsamic (being sure to fully coat the entire piece) and then roll the corn in Parmesan cheese (use grated rather than shredded). And ta da! A gourmet-looking corn that took about two minutes to make.

Are you all about corn this summer? How do you like to prepare it? I’m all ears! (See what I did there?! HA!)