This past Mother’s Day I was in a little pickle as I wanted to have the family over for lunch after church, but had no idea how I could prepare a meal when I would be elsewhere all morning. Then it hit like a brain wave… What about making my own salad bar? And not one that is chock full of fruit swimming in corn syrup and canned olives, but a salad bar that has all my favorite things with some cold chicken and steak to round it off to a full meal. What better gift for mom than getting to avoid the lines at the restaurant and keep everyone happy with a relaxed meal that she doesn’t have to prep or clean up? Yup, I agree, nothing better… except maybe a spa day… but this option is much more cost effective. 😉
This meal is really a great one for the files, right up there with make-your-own-pizza-night, because it can be so adaptable to your family’s tastes as well as the seasons to keep everything fresh and everyone happy. And leftovers are no problem, as you can just add it onto the side of your meals for the rest of the week!
Below is the recipe I used, but of course feel free to mix it up and use whatever proteins, fruits ,and veggies you love!
1.5 pounds chicken breast, cooked and shredded (see notes below on optional preparation)
1.5 pounds beef tenderloin, cooked and sliced (see notes below on optional preparation)
7 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and diced
12 ounces lettuce (my favorite is a spring mix including spinach and arugula)
2 avocados, diced
1 cucumber, diced
6 ounces tomato, diced
6 ounces strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and diced
1 cup shredded cheese, low moisture mozzarella or sharp cheddar are great options
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 cup carrot "chips" or sliced baby carrots
1 cup nuts (anything from pine nuts to walnuts or candied pecans)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar (either white wine or balsamic will do)
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground sea salt (plus more to taste)
You can prepare the chicken and beef however you like, but first I'll share how I prepared them:The day before I pan seared the beef in a little olive oil at high heat to give color to the edges and then transferred the beef to an oven at 350, cooking until the meat was medium rare. Then I allowed it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing it up. For the chicken, 5 hours before I wanted to serve the salad I placed the chicken in a crockpot with a cup of water and some salt and pepper and cooked on high. Removing the chicken and shredding it right before serving.
Once all your salad bar options are prepared as noted above, simply portion them all out into separate bowls with spoons or forks for your guests to serve themselves, leaving only the bare lettuce in a large salad bowl.
To prepare the dressing simply whisk together the ingredients, and leave a fork nearby for a quick whisk right before each person pours some dressing onto their salad.
Voila! The easiest group meal, especially for picky eaters, that can all be prepared the day ahead if you want.
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