Pantry Confessions

Not everyone’s favorite thing, but one of mine, for sure.
I mean, the whole Sweet M’s concept was brought to you by salads.
The famous Kitchen Sink salad to be exact.
It was the first salad that I ever made that became a definitive fan favorite.
Yes, they are easy to prepare, but they also lend themselves to the most creativity, I believe.
Not just in the salad itself, but in the dressing.
The many and varied flavor combinations that can come together to give what has the greatest possibility of only being a boring plate of lettuce, can be changed in an instant with an amazing vinaigrette.
Fight me on this.
Just kidding. I am a lover of food, not a fighter.
That was funny and you know it.
Now, back to dressings.
If I was to ask most of you what your “go-to” dressing is, you would probably say Ranch.
And while Ranch is delicious for a lot of things, it’s not the only dressing for a salad.
I mean, did you know that there is a top ten list of food items that one should definitely dip in Ranch?
And I don’t know why I am capitalizing the word, but I guess I am trying to give it props.
Making the top of the list is of course some fine bar fare. For instance, pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, French fries, and chicken strips – most anything fried to perfection.
I LOVE to dip fresh veggies in Ranch – broccoli, carrots sticks, green bell peppers, even mushrooms!
Now, look! I just dived off into the deep end of Ranch dressing!
But I shall digress no more.
Back to the salad, oh, and dressing!
Now, at any given moment on the rich and vast aisles of your local HEB, Kroger, Tom Thumb, even Wal-Mart, you can find some amazing dressings and vinaigrettes to compliment any salad. A good vinaigrette can even elevate a salad from your normal everyday boring side salad to an amazing main dish!
Trust me.
I know.
I have done it.
Take for instance the Kitchen Sink salad.
It used to be my go-to salad for any potluck event or just when I needed to get rid of questionable veggies.
The actual name came from the fact that it had a little bit of everything in it, excluding the kitchen sink.
My favorite lettuce is romaine. It is nice and sturdy, holds up well if you make the salad the night before and doesn’t ruin, say as quickly, as for instance as mixed greens. Those very delicate greens are in it for the long haul, so to speak.
Also, the old school iceberg lettuce is also a fan favorite. I have many clients who ask for iceberg. It’s just comforting, I guess. Mixed greens are fancier than most, but there some many variations on lettuce for sure. Just look around your produce section next time you are in the grocery store.
And don’t be afraid to add things that you like to your salad. Black olives, green olives, jalapenos, and pickled okra – anything briny and salty makes for an excellent addition to any salad, for sure.
And don’t forget nuts or dried fruit, bleu cheese or goat cheese, various charcuterie – all famed foodie items will work to make your salad “your” salad. And then adding in a dressing or vinaigrette that you normally wouldn’t try makes it that much more spectacular for you!
Also, there are so many restaurants now that cater to us salad lovers. Salad and Go, Freshii, Flower Child, Salsa Limon, Eatzies – all of these places are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but if you are ever close by, look them up for sure!
Now, here is one of my fave salad recipes with an easy vinaigrette that even the pickiest of eaters will love!

Sweet M’s Kitchen Sink Salad
1 small bag of chopped Romaine lettuce
1 baked chicken breast
½ cucumber, sliced thinly
Sliced red onion
8 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
Shredded carrots
Toasted pecans
Green grapes, halved (if you prefer)
Sliced strawberries
A handful of blueberries
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

For the dressing:
½ cup of good Balsamic vinegar
The juice of half an orange
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of honey
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper

Add all of these ingredients to a mason jar, secure the lid and shake, shake, shake until all are well-combined.
Ok, so the baked chicken – I put one breast in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven with a little bottled Italian dressing or really any marinade you prefer. I actually also like to make my own with a little olive, some dried basil, dried oregano, and salt and pepper. I bake it for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken breast at the thickest part of the breast is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove it from the oven and let it cool a little before dicing.
Now, you can assemble this salad however you like. But if you want to duplicate the beautiful plating that is Sweet M’s Kitchen Sink Salad, you must follow the below rules and regulations.
First, I take the chopped Romaine and disperse it evenly on the bottom of a plate. This salad doesn’t really work in a salad bowl because you can’t see all of the ingredients placed perfectly. A plate just works better.
I place the cooled diced chicken breast in the top left of the plate. Next, the sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion, and halved grape tomatoes and the shredded carrots on one side of the plate. Typically, the right hand side of the plate.
Next, I plate the strawberries, blueberries and halved green grapes, kind of its own little fruit salad within a salad.
Next, the sliced or diced hard-boiled egg, whichever you prefer. I then sprinkle the toasted pecans around the top of the salad.
Oh, yeah, and to toast the pecans, you just turn the stove to medium low heat, toss in a handful of chopped pecans, and then just gently move them around in the pan, until you can smell them. Keep a watchful eye so that they don’t burn. Because trust me. It can happen quickly.
The true beauty of this salad lies in the ability to be as creative as you like.

So if you want to add crispy bacon, diced turkey, or ham, or any kind of cheese – do it! This salad is your foodie playground, so to speak!

And, hey! If you want to use Ranch dressing or Thousand Island or some homemade version that you keep in your culinary repertoire, you go right ahead. Look, my favorite dressing to have with a steak and baked potato is Thousand Island. Now, it’s homemade, but it’s still Thousand Island and it’s perfect for a good side salad with any meal.

Just be creative.
Make it fun.
Make your salad your own.
Salad doesn’t have to be boring.
It can be a light lunch or it can be an amazing full-blown meal, for supper, even.
So, I hope this offering finds you and your family happy, healthy and full hope for the New Year.

And as always, I wish you peace, love, and amazing food!

Sweet M

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