The term “Salad Days” has a couple different meanings. Some define it as the days of youth and inexperience (green, like salad); others think of it as a person’s heyday (heyday, aka: day in the sun, like today). I can be a very literal person (when as a kid I heard that ‘smoking grass’ was against the law, I became suspicious of people who mowed lawns). I have always thought of salad days as, you guessed it, days when we eat salad. I’m sure many Vermonters share my definition.

On this sunny summer solstice, it is only appropriate that we enjoy the fruits of the earth and eats lots of greens and veggies. I’ve learned through my love of food and through my participation in the Group Cleanse here at All Wellness, that adding some protein to a green salad can make all the difference – in terms of flavor and feeling full.

Adding grains to your greens makes it a meal instead of just a side dish. Grains are inexpensive and often have terrific chewy textures and nutty flavors. My current favorites are: Qunioa, Red Quinoa, Wild Rice, and Oats.

Of these delicious wonders, Quinoa is the star. It has lysine, one of the nine essential amino acids. Other grains have some lysine content, but not enough to count; quinoa’s lysine content is sufficient for it to be considered a complete protein. In the battle for nutritional dominance, quinoa beats brown rice every time. It has more magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, folate, B6, iron, calcium…and the list goes on. Quinoa cooks faster than brown rice. And let’s face it, Quinoa is just cuter!

Adding to quinoa to a simple green salad adds visual appeal and creaminess. Have quinoa for breakfast and you will feel intellectually superior to corn flake eaters. Quinoa (and red quinoa) is very versatile and can be served sweet or savory. For breakfast, I’ll cook it up like oatmeal and add fresh fruit, a drop of maple syrup and cinnamon.

Wild Rice is also a winner in the nutritional boxing ring against brown rice. It has more phosphorus, more iron, more potassium, more niacin than brown rice. It has a nuttier and earthier flavor than conventional brown rice and it makes me want to travel by birch bark canoe. My latest favorite use of wild rice is in a Waldorf-style salad:

Wild Rice
Apple Slices
Walnuts (or pecans)
Chopped celery
Dried cherries or cranberries (preferably fruit-juice sweetened)
Tahini Dressing (blend: tahini, drop of maple syrup, water and/or coconut water)

Oats are popular with horses. They must be good for us, too. If you are not gluten-sensitive, oats can be awesome. Oats are an excellent source of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B6, and magnesium. My favorite way to eat oats is for breakfast. I soak oats in fresh water over night. By the morning they are chewy and delightful. I usually eat them with fresh fruit, almond milk and a bit of honey.

Here are a couple great recipes for bringing more grains into your life:

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Rice Salad

Wheat Berry Salad

Herbed Whole Oat Salad

Sprouted Moong and Bulgur Wheat Salad

Check out this amazing recipe collection called “Eating Close to the Ground” on The Splendid Table.

image credit: recipesfrom4everykitchen.blogspot.com, wholelife.tumblr.com