Stir It Up with Summer Salads

chopped veggiesStir It Up with Summer Salads

Do you have trouble getting your kids to eat salad? What if they got to “make” their own? I battled the kids’ reluctance to eat veggies until they had some control over what went into their salads. And now, whether they actually consume a leaf of anything, at least I know they have a variety of healthy, fresh fruits and veggies – and they get to choose what to put in. They choose from 3-4 categories :

Something crunchy/a nut

Something sweet/a fruit (can be dried)

Something salty/a cheese

+ dressing

I layer greens at the bottom of every bowl, then they pick at least one thing from what we have on hand in the remaining categories. Do your kids love blueberries? Perfect! Mozzarella? Right on. Edamame? Sunflower seeds? Green apples? Wensleydale? Apricots? Jicama? Goldfish crackers? (I mean … not my own taste, but if a crunchy yellow fish cracker gets the kiddo to eat a cucumber as well, throw it in !) This recipe has you covered. It’s easy and yummy – and makes a nice little family activity at hanger-time.

I grew up in a family for whom “salad” meant iceberg lettuce, a hastily chopped carrot, a couple pieces of diced bell pepper, and some store-bought blue-cheese dressing. Maybe a tomato. It took until I was well into my adult life before I discovered the way other cultures perceive, and construct, salads. Take, for example, this offering: mixed bitter lettuces with bacon, lardons, and foie gras.

Now. Perhaps your children are miniature foodies and gravitate automatically toward the chèvre chaud on a restaurant menu … if so, you may want to expand the below lists to include items that appeal to future gourmands! (NB: The salad in the linked photo contained pickled red cabbage, frisée, grated carrots, and tiny sculpted pieces of toast. And even though it was larger than my own head, I ate the entire thing.)

vegetables at an open market

However you do it, it’s impossible to deny the importance of salads for nutrition and general health. With fresh greens, crunchy veggies or nuts, sweet-tart fruits, and the savory addition of cheese, you’ve got roughage, omega-3s, lean proteins, healthy fats, antioxidants, and a balance of vitamins – and it all tastes great.


I don’t experiment much with my greens. I prefer dark leafy greens to pale watery ones. Arugula is great, or spinach or kale (baby or full-grown). I include herbs in this category too, like basil, dill, rosemary, oregano, or mint. If you and your family are shredded-iceberg folk, use that! The idea is to get everyone eating fresh, healthy foods – no judgment, no veggie-hierarchy.


  • Pecans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Cucumber slices
  • Peanuts
  • Jicama
  • Cashews
  • Celery
  • Almonds
  • Carrots


  • Dried cranberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapefruit sections
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Dried cherries
  • Mango chunks
  • Watermelon


  • Smoked Gouda
  • Grilled chicken
  • Pistachios
  • Grilled tofu
  • Cheddar
  • Avocado chunks
  • Edamame
  • Feta cheese
  • Pepper Jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Tuna
  • Seeds (sunflower, chia, hemp, pumpkin, flax, …)

Obviously not every combination will be a life-changer, but you can get a lot of mileage out of a few Trader Joe’s staples at $3.29/bag.

*Here is my 10 year old’s favorite combination: spinach, dried cherries, walnuts, edamame and sharp white cheddar.

*My BIL’s fave: kale, dried cranberries, candied pecans, bleu cheese

*An Asian-inspired variation: spring greens, sliced almonds, mandarin slices, chunks of grilled chicken

*An Italian-inspired idea: red-leaf lettuce, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, pine nuts (cashews are also good; pine nuts can get pricey!)

*My personal fave: leafy greens, sliced strawberries + blueberries, sliced almonds, feta cheese, mixed seeds

*The “deconstructed” (with or without a hot protein): butter lettuce, mango chunks, corn, tomatoes, black beans (+ optional grilled shrimp)

*Looks way fancier than it is: watermelon, feta, pumpkin seeds, baby greens

*The crowd-pleaser: peeled, sectioned grapefruit; smoked gouda; pecans or walnuts; and simple balsamic vinegar over the top


A simple vinaigrette pairs with almost everything. For the grapefruit-Gouda salad described above, I use nothing but balsamic vinegar. The sweetness of the balsamic enhances all the other flavors. But if balsamic is a little *much* for you and yours, you can use anything you like! Try 2-3 tbsp olive oil + 1/2 tsp strong mustard (like Grey Poupon); mix these together until they’re kind of creamy, then add your vinegar of choice and a dash of salt/pepper, and stir to combine.

*Another vinaigrette star: olive oil, balsamic, curry powder, salt/pepper.

*Walnut oil, vinegar, s/p

*Oil, lime juice (instead of vinegar), lime zest, s/p

Now … go ahead. You try it!

summer salad
Rosemary Peters-Hill
Rosemary is Associate Professor of French Studies at LSU. She is a proud member of an unusual family in which she mothers two small humans whose intelligence and sweetness astonish her daily. She married the love of her life, twice, and is grateful for the chaotic, beautiful journey they have undertaken together. Rosemary's hobbies include photography, mystery novels, Candy Crush, improv piano, crossword puzzles, and crafts … she also makes soap. She has 58,567 photos on her phone and has been known to play violin and try aerial silks in public – not usually at the same time.


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