Let's face it, making salads is a hassle. There’s the shopping, the washing, and the seemingly never-ending chop, chop, chopping. Then the ongoing relay of getting everything out, wrapping it back up, and putting it all away … just to do it all again the next day. Add the seemingly inevitable wasted and rotting produce stuck to the bottom of crisper and it’s enough to send the most well-meaning person into the warm embrace of a cheeseburger. But before you decide if you want fries with that, consider opening a Salad Factory.
The Salad Factory is a great way for your laid-back weekend self to take care of your harried weekday self. I have found that on weeks when my Factory is operating, I am more grounded, less stressed, I spend less money, and I eat healthier (five veggies a day, baby!). A Salad Factory streamlines what is often a piecemeal process, so instead of going through the whole salad-making process three or four times per week, you only have to do it once. A well-run Salad Factory cuts down on the time spent on wrangling produce, washing dirty dishes, and overall kitchen-based angst and waste. By combining a trip to the market with the principles of the industrial revolution, you've got a concept with the power to revolutionize your lunchtime doldrums. Salad workers and eaters unite!
To get your Factory ready for production you need the following items:
Three to four airtight containers of the appropriate size. Mason jars would also work, but then you'd have to put the contents into a bowl to eat, which makes an extra dirty dish.
Lots of leafy greens (I like the triple-washed, ready-to-go, bagged variety so that I can just rip and dump).
Assorted non-mushy produce such as celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, jicama, and bean sprouts. Potentially mushy items such as avocado should be added later. The more items you can get that are local and in-season, the better your salads will taste.
A lean protein such as chicken, ground turkey, or beans.
One or two “items of delight” such as blue cheese, raspberries, or pine nuts. This is the party layer that will get those stodgy greens dancing, but use these sparingly if you’re counting calories. To keep things fresh I recommend picking a different theme each week. You could do Asian (mandarin oranges and sliced almonds), Ole! (roasted corn and shredded Mexican cheese), or Cobb (chopped hard-boiled eggs and bacon bits).
Got all that? Good. Now lay out your containers and get ready to go to town. Divide the greens between your containers as a base layer, roast the chicken (or whatever you're using) while you’re chopping veggies, then add layers of veggies on top of the greens. Put on the protein once it has cooled and then top it all off with the “items of delight.” Seal your containers and stack them in the refrigerator like healthy little books on a shelf. Ah, doesn’t that feel good? Your Monday self is going to be so happy.
The eternal debate about what works best for creative, sensitive types — structure vs. mayhem — rages on. Too much structure and you'll start to feel like Mr. Banks with a tie slowly choking the life out of you. Not enough structure and you might turn into a werewolf in dirty sweatpants howling at the moon. For me, the best solution is creating my own mini-structures that I can implement when my inner werewolf really needs a bath. The Salad Factory is one of these systems. I take sweet satisfaction in stacking my happy little boxes, brimming with pre-prepped healthy goodness, each one a friendly lunch date for the coming week. No matter what chaos ensues, there will be lunch — and that's a good way to start any week.