How to make a killer salad

If I had to choose only one food for the rest of my life, it would definitely be a salad.  So, I have made it a point to make good ones.  A good friend urged me to share some of my favorites.  Never one to disappoint, here goes.

Pasta Salad

A few pointers first:

  • Always make sure everything is nicely chopped for bite-sized enjoyment- nothing kills a salad more than unwieldy pieces of lettuce or tomato wedges.
  • Always toss your salads with all ingredients except meat or croutons- those should be added on top right before serving.  Again, a good toss will make all the difference.
  • Pair your tastes with the right dressing.  Some salads call for creamy dressings, other for oil or vinegar-based dressings.  Just using your usual go-to (ahem…Ranch) does not bring out the right flavors.

Fried Chicken Salad

1 or 2 fried chicken breasts

1 head of Romaine lettuce

1/2 red onion, chopped or sliced in thin wedges

1/2 c chopped nuts (preferably walnuts)

1 red apple, diced

3/4 c crumbled Bleu Cheese

Honey Mustard or bleu cheese dressing

Just throw it together, placing the chicken on top.

Tex-Mex Salad

1/2 head Romaine

1/2 head leafy or iceberg lettuce

1c shredded cheese

1 avocado, pitted, sliced, & diced

1 or 2 tomatoes (I like 2), chopped

1/2 can black beans, drained

1 small can sweet corn or Mexican-style corn, drained

1/2 bunch cilantro (in UK coriander), chopped

2-4 strips bacon (turkey bacon, or turkey rashers), cooked and chopped

Rotisserie chicken, shredded

a pinch barbecue sauce (optional)

Ranch dressing OR salsa & sour cream (can use light sour cream)

Toss everything, except the chicken.  Put it on top.

{I like to do a mixture of barbecue sauce, ranch mix, salsa, and sour cream.  It reminds me of a good salad dressing from Chili’s.}

Greek Salad

1/2 head Romaine lettuce

1/2 head iceberg lettuce

2 tomatoes

10 Kalamata olives (can sub black olives)

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 red onion, sliced in thin wedges

1/2 cucumber, sliced

3/4 Feta cheese, crumbled

{Can add grilled chicken}

Greek dressing (or you can use Italian or make a Good seasonings packet of Herb & Garlic, which is what I do)

Just throw it together, placing the chicken on top.

Spinach Salad

1 bag of Spinach leaves, rinsed and trimmed (I don’t like the stems)

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

4 strips crispy bacon, chopped (can use turkey bacon, we use turkey rashers here in UK)

handful of dried cranberries

3/4 c Feta or bleu cheese (can use Gorgonzola)

Honey Mustard or Balsamic Vinagrette dressing

Just throw it together, this time mixing in the meat.  Crazy, I know.

Pasta Salad

{This makes a ton!!!  Great for parties.}

1/2 bag of bow tie pasta, cooked and cooled

1 pkg cheese tortellini, cooked and cooled

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 to 3/4 red onion, chopped

4 strips bacon/turkey bacon, cooked and chopped

12 leaves fresh basil, chopped

1 block of cheese, diced (choose a mild cheese)

1 small can of sliced black olives

1 zucchini, sliced

1 pkg pepperoni, each one quartered (can use turkey pepperoni)

1/2 c olive oil

1/2 c red wine salad vinegar

S&P to taste

I find it’s best to toss it all right before serving it.  Then, you can just add a little oil and vinegar the next time you serve it since pasta is known to absorb all the liquids.

Japanese (Chicken) Salad

{If serving as a side, omit first 3 ingredients and chicken prep}

2 c water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 # chicken breasts

1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and sliced

1/4 c sugar

1/4 c lemon juice

2 t veg oil

1/4 t salt

1 head iceberg lettuce, torn and chopped

1/2 c chow mein noodles

1/3 c green onions

1/4 c almonds, toasted

2 T sesame seeds

If using chicken, bring water and cubes to boil.  Add chicken and ginger.  Cook chicken.  Cool and chop.  Set aside.

Combine sugar, water, oil, salt, and pepper for dressing.

Toss lettuce, chicken, almonds, sesame seeds, green onions, and dressing.  Top with chow mein noodles.

Caesar Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped

1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Ken’s Lite Caesar Dressing

Big seasoned croutons


{Can add chicken, anchovies (but why would you), black olives, and/or artichoke hearts}

*The key is finding a good salad dressing.  I like Ken’s because it’s light and still delicious.  Creamy Caesar dressing is pretty high calorie, so I only get it at restaurants.

Toss it all (except chicken and croutons) and top with chicken and croutons.

Pesto Chicken Pasta Salad

I copied a salad I loved at Cheddar’s to make up this recipe.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 c penne pasta
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 1/2 c pine nuts
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
  • 1T butter/margerine
  • 1t olive oil
  • 4 c torn Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 c Ken’s Lite Caesar salad dresing
  • 1/2 c crotuons
  • 1/4 c Parm cheese

Step 1: Boil the chicken with the quartered onions and salt and pepper.  Cool and bone chicken.

Step 2: At the same time, boil the pasta.

Step 3: In a blender or food processor, combine basil, pine nuts, parm cheese {saving 1/4 c for topping} butter, and olive oil to make the pesto.

Step 4: Coat pasta with pesto.

Step 5: Toss lettuce, chicken, and salad dressing.

Step 6: In individual bowls, layer the salad, starting with pasta pesto.  Then, add the tossed salad.  Top with croutons and reserved parm.  Enjoy!

{*Tip: To save time, feel free to sue Rotisserie chicken and store-bought pesto  If you do make your own chicken, you can also freeze the chicken broth.}

Taco Salad

For a taco salad, take whatever you love in a taco, add more lettuce,  and make a salad out of it.  The clincher is the shell.  When you live in the UK, a fried taco shell for a salad is hard to get.  It becomes essential to make your own!

{To make your own tortillas, check out Sarah’s step-by-step tutorial.}

Fill a sauce pan with several inches of vegetable oil.
When it’s super-hot (but not scalding), press a tortilla down for 1 minute with a ladle, preferably metal.
Pull it out with tongs and let it dry on a paper towel.
Add your salad!

Sorry for the poor picture quality.  These were from last year I had probably just dropped my camera.

*Angie left a suggestion in the comments:

For a less fattening taco shell option we just stick a soft tortilla in a bake-able bowl (back home we had small corning wear casserole dishes that were the perfect size) at 300 for about 10 minutes! Crispy but without the oil!

Fill a sauce pan with several inches of vegetable oil.

Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad

  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
  • 4 pieces of bacon {we use turkey rashers}
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • Bleu Cheese crumbles
  • 1 small can of sliced black olives
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • cheese cubes
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • Bleu cheese or honey mustard dressing

Line a good-sized bowl with half the lettuce.  Then, add each chopped ingredient in strips across the lettuce.  We like to use Honey-Mustard dressing.  Mmmm.  Delicious, fresh, and can be healthy.  :)


  1. Wonderful salads – thanks for sharing your recipes!

  2. great post as usual!

  3. Yumm-O! Those all sound delicious. I know what going on our menu next week! :)

  4. Yum! I love salad! These sound absolutely delish!

  5. Andrea G says:

    I couldn’t be happier with your post, unless you said you were coming to Iowa City of course!

  6. Now do a week of recipes using coke. :)

    Cherry Coke Salad Recipe
    40 ounces cherries; dark, pitted (2 cans)
    3 ounces Jello Cherry Gelatin (1 package)
    20 ounces pineapple; crushed (1 can)
    1 cup Coca-Cola
    1/2 cup Chopped Pecans

    1. Heat cherries and their juice to boiling.
    2. Remove from heat and add Jello. Stir.
    3. Add pineapple, including juice. Pour in cola and nuts.
    4. Pour into an oiled 6-cup mold. Let cool, then refrigerate at least 2 hours or until set. Serve cold.

    Love you,

  7. Miss Mommy says:

    Is this a real recipe???? If so, I want it – ASAP!

  8. Of course it is. I looked it up. There are many more soda infused recipes. Seriously just type in coke recipes and you’ll get some amusing solutions. I think you should do a coke week and start with Katrina’s coke roast. :)


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