I’ve never been good about eating leafy green vegetables, which are such an important part of a healthy diet. Even when I was a strict vegan I didn’t eat enough of them. I’m just not a big fan of salads. Eating salad is like punishing myself for something. Cold, fibrous punishment. I pretty much have to find ways to sneak greens into my food, like I’m five. To this day my father doesn’t believe that I was ever a vegan, because he claims that as a kid the only green thing I would eat was an M&M.
Well, Dad, you probably won’t believe this, either, but I have a leafy green salad almost every day for lunch. Happily. This is because I found a way to make salad that doesn’t taste like salad. I make it with my all-time favorite food group: casserole! I don’t think I would have happened upon this idea had it not been for the influence of my college roommate who ate nothing but salad. She loved it so much she just piled even cooked veggies on top and ditched the dressing. I remember following her lead in the dining hall one day (and quite a few days after, because I liked it) by dumping stewed tomatoes on top of a green salad. I liked the fact that it wasn’t all cold, fibrous punishment. It tasted more like real food to me.
Every weekend now I make some new casserole, like the nacho chicken one in the picture here. It’s cauliflower based, actually, with onions and tomatoes and green chiles, as well as chicken, cheeses, sour cream and spices. I started with a recipe, but now I have a quick and easy way of making whatever casserole I feel like on the fly. I take a bag of cauliflower or broccoli pearls (or rice a head of cauliflower) and cook it in a large pan with some meat and my cooking fat of choice (when I use ground beef or bacon I just use the fat from the meat; otherwise, it’s usually olive oil or good-quality butter) and any other veggies I want that need to be cooked. When that’s all done, I add any seasonings, cheese, other veggies or meats that don’t need cooking – whatever I feel like adding – and make sure it’s all melted and mixed up completely. Then I put it in a casserole dish and bake it until it’s light brown and bubbly on top (usually about 15-20 minutes).
To make my idea of salad, I put a big handful (about 2 cups) of leafy greens in a bowl and top it with a serving of warmed-up casserole (I usually get about 6 servings per casserole). Then I add some healthy fat to it, like guacamole or parmesan cheese – or even salad dressing! It looks like a mess, but it tastes delicious and more like comfort food than salad, even though it’s more veg than anything else.
I hear so many people say they don’t cook much of their own food because they don’t know what to make or don’t have time to check out recipes or don’t want to go to the store for the one ingredient they’re missing. Well, now you folks have no excuse. This is the easiest kitchen-sink dish I know. Use whatever ingredients you have. Cook until veggies are soft and meat is not raw and cheese is melted. That’s the only cooking skill you need. Any greens will work and you can top it with whatever healthy, yummy fat tickles your fancy. Change it up every time, if you want to, so you never get bored. And because I’ll eat it and love it, you can bet your kids will, too. Enjoy, and if you come up with any epic ingredient combinations, let me know!