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Rainbow Salads: A colorful feast

Posted on Mar 22, 2017 by in Recipe Box, Salad

These colorful rainbow salads are anything but boring!

My kids gobble up rainbow salads at an alarming rate and yours might too. Hear me out, because I know the words salad and kids are not often used in the same sentence.

grapes, walnuts, cranberries, citrusMy boys have always been pretty good eaters and will eat almost everything that I serve them. Bless their hearts!  Despite this awesome trait,  I never really enforced a mandatory salad night each week.  I have definitely served my family a fair share of salad through the years, and the boys have always eaten it with mild or no complaints, thankfully. However, there is something totally different and almost magical about rainbow salads for dinner (or lunch). They go nuts for it! This weekend, with a mouthful of salad, my oldest declared, ” This is one of the best dinners I have ever eaten and, like, the top salad that you have ever made Mom!” WOW! Who knew, my kids would be gaga over salad?! I wish I had implemented salad night much earlier.

Keep offering kids a variety of fruits and veggies

Perhaps all the years of offering them food that I knew they wouldn’t eat along with foods that I knew they would, finally caught up with me. Don’t give up, seems to be the moral of this story! I was eating leftover, neglected vegetables, fruit and quinoa from their plates for years in lieu of my own plate of dinner. Somedays it seemed hopeless. Doing the dishes after a meal felt more like triage and my waste not want not mentality was in overdrive.  They would graciously eat something one day and throw it on the floor or cry/scream at its mere presence the next.
red bell peppers, hard-boiled eggs, avacado, kiwi, oranges, shredded carrots, walnuts, cranberries Sitting them at the dinner table felt more like a job interview gone horribly wrong. It helped me develop a thick skin. I kept offering quinoa, kale, peppers, and the like knowing that one day they might get curious or drop their guard.

I cannot tell a lie

It was important that I never lied to them about what was on their plate or baked into their meal. I never wanted them to be suspicious or not know that they liked something thinking that it was something else. No tricks in my kitchen (never will be). I did offer fun names and/or descriptions about foods on their plates, however. Allowing them to play a little or be silly almost always cut the tension at the dinner table during the early years. Now that has morphed into me politely informing them, that I did not, in fact, invite their knee to the dinner table. In addition, if they require the help of an elbow to hold their head up while they eat, then perhaps it is closer to bedtime than I thought. Kids do not get stuck in their ideas about certain foods forever. One big way that I helped my children grow their palate was to allow them to choose a new fruit or vegetable while at the store. I also talked about certain foods that I planned to serve, and talked about fueling our bodies for playtime.

Everyone’s Hangry!

blueberries, goji berries, grapefruit, oranges, walnuts, kale and tomatoes

  Rainbow salads came about in our house one(recent)busy and desperate warm winter night that I had no dinner plan (because the kids and I were enjoying the warmth outdoors with friends) and panic was beginning to take over! You know the nights… you have been thinking about dinner in the back of your mind all day while checking things off of your to-do list. Then, dinner time comes (as it does every.single.night.) and you still have no plan! Now you have hangry little people hanging on you acting all hangry such and you begin to sweat. This also happens to be around the time you know that a hangry husband will also be arriving home at any moment. AHHH! Did I mention that you, yourself are now hangry as well (but your “hangry license” was revoked the moment you became a Mother, unlike everyone around you that is dropping like flies)? Get it together Momma! I dug deep into the nearly healthy fruits and veggies uncutempty fridge and even deeper into the pantry.

Quick and Easy Last Minute Dinner

Thankfully, there was a bag of organic chopped kale and some leftover mixed lettuce. It was like finding gold, I tell you. In my mind, I figured that everyone would be cross when I set down a salad, but hey, I made dinner, so I didn’t care. It was dark already, I was doing my best! Things were looking up when I noticed that I still had a few fruit and veggies left from the bounty they were a few days ago. To my delight, I found half a carton of blueberries left (meant for breakfast, but that would have to be a problem for another day….tomorrow). There were also a few tomatoes and herbs left from taco Tuesday. This was turning out better than I had hoped. Once I had them all out on the counter I noticed the beautiful colors. I decided that I would not mix this salad and set everything separate to display its beauty. Kids enjoy eating things that are visually appealing, and colorful, and rainbow salads are a perfect way to engage their senses. I mixed up a quick vinaigrette and called everyone down for dinner. Voila, dinner was served, in the knick of time!  I was amazed when the boys were eagerly asking for something from every area of the salad and telling me how pretty it was. My 3 boys (husband included in the boys) devoured the rainbow salad in record time. I was left hunting for scraps in the kitchen for my dinner. Oh well, such is the life of a Momma, sometimes. Besides, they don’t know that I hide chocolate from them!

Rainbow Salads

Prep Time:15 min
Total Time:15 min
Yield:feeds 4-6 people
* 4-6 cups chopped greens of choice ( I like using kale, spinach, butter lettuce or mixed herb salad)
* 1/2-1 cup chopped nuts or seeds ( walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc)
* 1/4-1/2 cup chopped dried fruit ( goji berries, cranberries, bluberries, cherries, etc)
* 1-2 cups brightly colored bite-sized or chopped veggies ( bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, jicama, tomatoes, avacado, etc)
* 1-2 cups brightly colored bite-sized or chopped fruits (blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, mango, citrus, apples, etc)
* chopped herbs if desired
* Homemade Maple Citrus Vinagrette Dressing:
* 1/2-1 lemon or orange squeezed
* 2 tablespoons healthy oil (avacado, olive)
* 1-2 teaspoon flavored balsamic vinegar or balsamic
* 1 tablespoon maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
* 1/8 teaspoon each, garlic powder and onion powder
* salt & pepper to taste
1. This is not an exact recipe, but a launch pad to make your own rainbow salad, perfectly tailored to your family's likes and dislikes.

2. Place greens in a large bowl

3. Add your colorful fruits and veggies to the top of your greens in clusters around the outside of your bowl

4. add the nuts or seeds to the center

5. place dried fruits on top of nuts

6. Pour vinagrette or dressing of choice over the top

7. Let your guest pick and choose from the salad sections

9. Please get as creative as you like and add foods according to your specific dietary needs, tailored to your family and guests (protien, fiber, etc)

10. We sometimes add hard boiled eggs, meat, or chia/hemp seeds to our vinagrette.

11. Makes a lovely side dish or potluck salad
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Extra Tips

A few ideas for slowly easing your small ones into the great wide world of fresh greens inside rainbow salads: 

1. Allow your children to choose some or all of the toppings for the salad. (Hopefully, ensuring that they will at least try it).

2.Make it as colorful as possible!

3. Serve it alongside one of their favorite dishes until you feel they are ready to commit to salad night.

4.Keep trying and don’t give up, many children need to be exposed to new foods several times before they decide to try it.