The Art of the Junk Salad

by Holly on October 28, 2010

in rambling,recipes,tutorial

Whether it be the perfect yog mess or the ultimate bowl of oatmeal (coming soon!), there is always a method to my Everythingtarian madness.

Case in point: the junk salad.

If I am going to be honest with you all, I am not the original inventor of what I call, “the junk salad.” As if it’s any surprise, I got it from my mama.

Cue the music…

Growing up, Mama Everythingtarian was the queen supreme of junk salads. She’d take whatever random array of produce we had left in the crisper and throw together magnificently delicious salads we’d all devour alongside a good ol’ Midwestern plate of hot dish. The salad ingredients always seemed a bit sketchy, “Like Mom, are you sure you should be putting ranch dressing, strawberries and salmon together?”

Despite our hesitations however, the end result was always fabulous.

Just like Mama E herself.

First, you must start with a generous base layer of lettuce

My first choice is usually organic spinach (organic, because it’s #8 on the Dirty Dozen list). Romaine, mixed greens, escarole, spring mix and yes – even iceberg lettuce – make nutrient rich alternatives.

The next step is arguably the healthiest: pile on those veggies!

Celery hearts, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, zucchini, sprouts, corn, onion, beets, banana peppers, mushrooms, sweet potato, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower – the options truly are endless.

For this particular masterpiece, I chose celery hearts, red bell pepper and cherry tomatoes…

While veggies are great and all, a lady needs some protein if this salad is going to fill her up for more than an hour.

Enter in my secret salad weapon…


I happen to absolutely j’adore beans in salad. Garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans…I love them all. Maybe it’s their slightly mushy, creamy texture in contrast to the crunchy bite of lettuce?

I don’t know, but I like it.

But I’m not here to discriminate – grilled chicken, salmon, steak, tofu, tempeh, cottage cheese and hard-boiled eggs all make excellent protein-packed additions as well.

Let’s pause a moment in honor of our next step, which is perhaps the most important, most delicious and funnest step of them all.

Did I mention that even though I studied journalism for four full years I still believe that funnest should be a real word?

I’m talking about toppings.

In this particular junk salad, I took a few hearty shakes of sunflower seeds (a Mama Everythingtarian salad must-have), nutritional yeast and raisins for some crunch, subtle cheesiness and a hint of sweet…

Let’s not stop there though.

We’re creative.

We can think of more…

  • Nuts/Seeds: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseed, sesame seeds
  • Cheese: feta, cheddar, mozzarella, queso fresco, blue, shaved parmesan, goat cheese, Daiya vegan cheese
  • Fruit: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, pears, avocado, dried fruit
  • Grains: croutons (espesh the ones from Ruby Tuesday’s), pita chips, crunchy breadsticks, wheatberries, brown rice, pasta salads

Anyone ready for some yummy dressing? Let’s pour to it!

Despite what my picture tells you to do, do not try drizzling your dressing while holding your new camera and trying to take a picture of said dressing pour…

Unless you like a 1/2 cup of dressing on your salad, it doesn’t work.

But this Renaissance Farms Lemon Basil Pesto Vinaigrette definitely does.

Toss, fork and devour.

That’s it!

Tres simple, no?

Because my motto is pair it with a carb and I had no carbs in my apartment to pair with this salad, I finished off my dinner with a PB Chocolate Chip Banana Soft Serve dessert…

Take two frozen bananas, 1 T peanut butter and 2 T dark chocolate chips.

Throw them for a whirl in the food processor.

Top with a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips.

And feast.

I told you there’s a method to my madness.

Best of all, it’s Mama E approved.

What are YOUR favorite salad toppings and combinations? For me, the junkier and more random, the better.


glidingcalm October 28, 2010 at 9:19 pm


AND check out weaver and poje at nhk.
their lifts are amaaaaaaazing

Matt October 28, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I like spinach with Salmon, dried cranberries, blue cheese, and pecans. Mmm…

Liz October 28, 2010 at 9:28 pm

random but my all time favorite that I eat for lunch really often:
red onion
boca burger
annie’s honey mustard

bizarre? yes. but oh so tasty

Nelly@CrazySexyFit October 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I wish I wish I wish I liked bananas! That shake looks absolutely amazing.

My favorite go-to salad is made from random ingredients on the makeline at the pizza place I manage: always spinach, usually mushrooms, green onions, pineapple, diced tomatoes, grated Parmesan and white garlic sauce as a dressing. It’s so good it’s silly.

Hilary October 28, 2010 at 9:44 pm

WOW. I’ve had that song “got it from my mamma” in my head all day and now it shows up in a blog post! I’m not sure what that means…but I think ill take as a sign to appreciate what my mamma gave me haha.

katie October 28, 2010 at 9:54 pm

LOVE THIS! you are the QUEEEEEN of junk salads! and that is a huge title. pair it with a carb- AMEN sista! I learned that from you!

Meaghen October 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I need to make a list of my favourite parts of this post: 1. huge salad. 2. chery tomats in said huge salad. 3. old school radiator (lurve!!!) 4. old school sundae bowl (really lurve)

And I totally catch myself saying funnest sometimes even though I’m a total grammer nut and know better!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) October 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm

“Unless you like a 1/2 cup of dressing on your salad,”–

Actually I like almost that much :) LOL

Tomatoes, cukes, edamame, greens. Dressing. Those are the essentials. Then whatever else i have in the drawer goes on too :)

Megan October 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I made one tonight! It had lettuce, carrots, beets, kidney beans, roasted turkey, sweet potato couscous with wheat berries, dried cranberries, tomato, mushrooms, and Annie’s light ginger dressing w/rice vinegar. It was epic. And of course I needed a carb besides the couscous so local whole wheat bread. My excuse for its monstrous size is that I’m leaving for a week and can’t let the veggies go to waste!

Katie October 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I’ll put anything in a salad. I’m not scared.

elise October 29, 2010 at 12:43 am

oooo baby. love to junk it up. i add anything i can get my fingers on…the more layers the better. hence my $40 salad beasts at WF.

Lynn @ The Actors Diet October 29, 2010 at 1:00 am

randomness rules. i usually like hot and cold too – the hot wilts the greens, which i love!

Erica October 29, 2010 at 3:56 am

Nom Nom- perfect weeknight meal. Love me a junk salad. And if it involves hot veggies on cold lettuce- even better ;) Good goat cheese always brings it over the top for me too

Katie October 29, 2010 at 6:44 am

I read your last post and was salivating when I saw that “ice cream” creation. I was wondering, “Why in the world did she not post a recipe??!!”

Oh, I relieved? Yes, ‘mam! :) I can’t wait to make a peanut butter banana soft serve dessert like yours! Whoo!

Erica D October 29, 2010 at 6:49 am

I agree that every junk salad (or for me, every entree?) is better on a bed of organic spinach. I think my topping of choice is roasted veggies, particularly mushrooms with lots of olive oil and herbs!

Sami October 29, 2010 at 8:36 am

mmmm. i think dessert is my favorite part of this post…who am i kidding…it’s my favorite part of EVERY post :) xo.

Katie October 29, 2010 at 9:14 am

mmmm that salad looks delish! my monster salads usually include: spring mix, cucumbers, green pepper, mushrooms, beets, pine nuts (essential!!), craisens and either cottage cheese or grilled chix w/ olive oil. yum now i’m hungry… salad for lunch, for shiz!

Joanna October 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

Wow. This salad and dessert look amazing!

Eden October 29, 2010 at 10:06 am

first off, r those beans resting on a heater?
salad toppings? I like mushy cooke grains on cold crunch romaine (its a texture thing). And I know this is a little out there, but corn flakes taste awesome as “croutons”.

Andrea@WellnessNotes October 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

Can I come to dinner at your house? Your salad and dessert looks absolutely perfect to me!!!

I like adding lots of “stuff” to my salads (and it’s usually pretty random, depending on what’s left in the fridge and cupboards…). But no salad is complete without some cheese (I always manage to have some)! :)

Can you believe the Foodbuzz Festival is in a week??? So looking forward to meeting you in person! :)

Dana @ my little celebration October 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I’ll take that junk salad any day. Looks delicious!

And omg, that banana soft serve looked AMAZING! Must make it soon!

Mimi (Gingersnaps) October 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I love random-as-fuck salads! They always taste so good. A few of my favorite “random-ass” ingredients (because cukes and tomatoes are sooo passé)…obviously not all at th same time.

– Kimchi
– Sardines
– Dressing made from horseradish mustard and ketchup
– Bee pollen/seed combo (either hand-mixed or chopped up in the food processor)
– The Pure2Raw twins’ cacao nibs/hemp seed combo
– Nutritional yeast
– Maca (I have so many random ingredients I need to use before I go to London)
– BBQ Sauce
– Seaweed, especially cut-up nori sheets

janetha g. @ meals & moves October 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Beans are a necessity in a good salad! Also, I believe avocado should always exist.


kathleen October 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

it’s amazing how sometimes what you can make with “kitchen sink” or “junk” ingredients turns out incredible.

Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) October 29, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I agree. The junkier a salad is, the more I like it.

I also love your banana fro-yo! Need to make some soon. :D

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey October 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Oh. Em. Gee.

That salad looks spot on – I <3 it! The textures you had in your salad are exactly the ones I look for! Crunchy, sweet, chewy, salty – <3 it!!!!

BroccoliHut October 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Love this! Apparently I need to try nooch on my salad ASAP.
I love cottage cheese, hummus, peanut butter-based dressing, chickpeas, and so much more on my salads:)

LindsayC [Forkful of News] October 31, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I am the queen of the junk salad! I have standard toppings — tomato, cuke, fennel, carrot. Also awesome for this time of year:

fresh figs, blue cheese and walnuts
roasted beets and goat cheese or feta
smoked salmon
roasted squash
blood oranges, basil and citrus-marinated red onions

If it’s in my fridge, it’s fair game. And making your own dressing is SO easy and so delicious — dollop of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, little sugar, lemon juice (or vinegar) and a good olive oil in about a 1:3 ratio. DELICIOUS. I will never go back.

PS It was great to meet you today — that sandwich looked delicious!

Katie November 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Unfortunately, being knocked-up has caused me to hate salads with a vengeance. It’s a really sad thing. However, looking at your salad tutorial, I actually got (a little) exited to give them a try again. Thanks for the inspiration!

Rachel June 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

Is that dessert made using only frozen bananas? No ice cream? It looks too good to be true! I gotta try this…

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