How To Make Salad A Quick, Easy And Satisfying Dinner

It's hot and you want to be out swimming and enjoying the short summer in Maine, right?

Now that my daughter is 5, she is begging to go swimming down at the pond 2 miles down the road practically every day!

So I need to come up with dinners that don't have me inside preparing all afternoon. I'm guessing you might feel the same way!

Here's a great way that has endless variations to get a meal on the table without spending too much time in the kitchen on anything elaborate. And guess what? It's even a hit with guests and kids alike.

It's our family's go-to when we get home from a fun summer outing and don't have a dinner plan. Doesn't need to be a disaster! :)



How to make salad a quick, easy and satisfying dinner

This is a riff on taco salad to be honest, inspired by a long-time CSA member, Mary Sue. No, it's not boring. And no, it's not skimpy.

It is super flexible, so yes! You can make it no matter what diet you're following or what you have available in your house. I promise!


Step 1: Prepare your lettuce

You can actually do this ahead of time. Which is a big time saver!

Here's how many experienced CSA members do it and me too! 

  1. chop or tear up your lettuce
  2. rinse it well
  3. spin it dry (or pat it between clean towels)
  4. store it in a tightly lidded container in the fridge so it's easy when you come home

But you don't have to do it ahead of time. It will still be pretty fast and easy.


Step 2: Assemble your ingredients

Here's where the flexibility comes in. You can really put in anything you have in the pantry or fridge!


  • Fresh chopped, thinly sliced, or grated raw veggies, anything you have on hand such as salad turnips, cucumbers, scallions, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, red cabbage, etc.
  • Fresh lightly steamed veggies like green beans and/or broccoli, shredded cabbage, snap peas, etc.
  • Leftover roasted or grilled veggies. (These can be excellent chopped cold over a salad with dressing.)
  • Roasted squash or sweet potatoes
  • Potato salad
  • Pickled veggies, homemade or store bought, anything you have on hand like cucumber pickles, pickled beets, dilly beans, kimchi, etc.
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Sprouts


  • Fresh fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, grapes, raspberries etc.
  • Dried fruits like mango, cranberries, etc.

Nuts and seeds:

  • toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews, oh my!


  • sour cream
  • greek yogurt
  • grated cheese like cheddar or parmesan
  • cubed cheese like cheddar or colby
  • crumbled feta or goat cheese
  • blue cheese

Protein source:

This is the category that makes it super satisfying!

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • sliced hard boiled eggs
  • grilled chicken
  • leftover sliced steak
  • bacon
  • ground beef spiced up Mexican style
  • shrimp
  • salmon or other seafood
  • egg salad, ham salad, chicken salad, etc.
  • beans, whole or refried (yum!)
  • chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • hummus
  • lentils
  • tofu


  • quinoa
  • rice
  • tortillas (corn or flour)
  • tortilla chips
  • toasted bread or baguette


  • Fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, etc.
  • Dried herbs like oregano


Step 3: Have tasty dressings!

These can be store bought or homemade, depending on your preference. If you go for homemade, make them ahead of time and then they're just as easy as pulling them out of the fridge.

Here's my current favorite homemade dressing recipe that I use all the time.

Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

Yes, I know I already shared this one on my last blog post.  But it really is THAT good, so give it a try if you haven't already!

  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest, grated
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • honey, to taste

Combine ingredients and shake well to combine. Store in the fridge.


What did I miss?  What is your favorite thing to add to salad to make it a meal?  Post your comment below and I'll add it to the list!  :)


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Comments (4)

MM, I love all the ideas on ingredients!! I like to prepare large amounts of lettuce ahead too because it makes it so easy at mealtime. Here's a recipe I've been using, adapted from one that Aviva Romm published on her website. She suggests individual bowls with layered ingredients, but to save time, I prepare it in quantity, and it lasts for 3 dinners for two. I use a large round deep dish casserole. When you serve it up, you dig deep and scoop out all the layers in one spot, to get all the ingredients on your plate :-) Layer the following ingredient in your deep casserole dish-- cooked quinoa, brown rice or millet kale, lightly steamed or raw sweet potato or squash, roasted grated carrot thinly sliced pepper or other veggie in your fridge-- cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, etc. avocado chickpeas, hummus, sliced hard boiled egg, or meat or fish of your choice toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or toasted walnuts sprouts of some kind Scoop out a serving, getting all the layers on your plate, and dress with your favorite dressing. If using meat or fish, those can be added as you serve. We have found that the roasted sweet potato/squash and the avocado are key to making the dish such a winner. Brian who especially appreciates meat in a dish and who has never been so excited about quinoa, was raving about this dish when I prepared it with quinoa and chickpeas. I swear it was the roasted sweet potatoes and avocado that put it over the top! I always love your blog-- thanks. love, Pammy

Mary Margaret, you didn't miss a thing!! I love my salad, too. Along with the lettuce or spinach or kale, there are anywhere from 10 to 12 raw veggies in my usual salad. What I haven't tried is lightly steaming or roasting some of the veggies, like the broccoli. I love roasted beets, carrots and sweet potato. I use guinoa, brown rice & many others of the wholesome grains every day, eat yogurt daily, eat fermented foods nearly every day, but never thought to add those kinds of foods to a salad. In my salads I've stuck with raw veggies, fruits, seeds/nuts, cheese, & hard boiled egg for a bit more protein because I eat very little meat except for sardines & salmon. Can't quite get the thought of fish in a tossed salad though!! WOW, that is one EXTENSIVE list of "add-to's". Thanks for sharing it. I'll be trying out new additions to my salads from now on. As always, appreciate your time and efforts in behalf of us fortunate enough to receive your blogs. Phyllis

I'm going to try both of these recipes this weekend....I'm salivating already!! :) Thank you both for sharing. Have a happy & safe 4th everyone!

Hi Mary Margaret, I enjoy all the recipes that you are kind enough to share. One of my old time favorites in the summer is a salad plate. I prepare my salad greens ahead, wash& spin them. To keep them fresh I line a gallon storage bag with a couple sheets of dry paper towels to absorb any extra moisture. Once the towels absorbs the moisture it helps to keep the greens crisp. I then put together ham or egg salad, tuna fish salad, & potato salad. I line a plate with lettuce or greens you prefer. To each plate I add a generous scoop of prepared salads. On top it off with cherry/grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, olives, or whatever else you like. On a really hot day a glass of lemon ice tea goes nice with this plate. During the summer I chop up onions, red & green peppers, olives, & etc in storage bags verses bowls as they take up less room in the refrigerator. Cukes do okay too. If I use fresh tomatoes I cut them up as needed. Cherry & grape tomatoes do okay in bags.