Picnic in the Park: Two Healthy Brunch Salads to Share

We like to brunch here in Washington, DC. Whether you live in Eastern Market, Mt. Pleasant or anywhere in between you’ve got at least a dozen solid options any given Saturday/Sunday. While I’m all for brunch, it makes it way too easy to blow your healthy eating habits—especially after your third (or was it fifth?) bottomless mimosa. And when it becomes more of a ritual than a splurge it can have a negative ripple effect on your overall diet. If you’re a habitual bruncher, why not try a picnic lunch in your favorite city park? When you’re the chef you have control over the menu and can ensure it’s bettering your wellness goals rather than bulldozing them.

Last weekend I went to one of my favorite District parks with three of my favorite people. My friend Jeanine is an amazing cook and is all about healthy eating and fitness. We divvied up the dishes and came up with a delicious gluten-free, dairy-free  menu that seemed to please not only us wellness wackos but the men in our lives too. You know you’re doing nutritious the delicious way when your self-proclaimed meathead mates are going back for thirds. J took the lead on the heartier fare with crustless, dairy-free baby quiche and potato pancakes. They were both so light and super tasty. Perfect for a steamy summer morning.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I decided to tackle the fruits and veggies. Dressing up a fruit or veggie salad is all about the quality of the ingredients. To give these simple salads a little boost I went to Whole Foods and picked up ripe, organic and mostly in-season fruits and veggies. The watermelon and heirloom tomatoes (both packed with lycopene as discussed in my Gazpacho post and Active Life DC Watermelon Popsicle article) were calling my name as soon as I walked through those sliding doors. Everything else followed suit.

I like to add a little je ne sais quoi to my recipes—you know, a taste that pleasantly lingers on the palette and makes you immediately ask for the recipe. The wow factor on my Favorite Fruits Salad is in the Ginger Lime Dressing and chia seeds. The acidic bite of fresh lime combined with ginger’s subtle spice and agave’s earthy sweetness bring continuity to the diversity of fruits I selected. And I’m all for texture, so the chia seeds add not only heart-healthy omega-3s but a nice crunch. When it came down to veggie selection time I wanted the tomatoes to steal the show so I balanced them with creamy, ripe avocados (which increase HDL cholesterol and lower the bad LDL kind) and organic basil leaves. After adding a drizzle of delicious Le Roux’s fig balsamic vinegar and a couple cranks of ground sea salt and black pepper, the minimalist in me screamed stop! In both dishes, the beauty of whole, real foods speaks for itself. It doesn’t take much doing when you let the food dictate the menu.

Favorite Fruits Salad with Ginger Lime Dressing


What You’ll Need:

  • 1/4  watermelon, cubed
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, cubed
  • 1 kiwi, diced,
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 1 white peach, diced
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 2 tbs mint, cut into ribbons
  • 1 tbs chia seeds

For the Ginger Lime Dressing:

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbs agave
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grater

How to Make It:

  1. Chop all your fruits and mix together in a big bowl (feel free to substitute ingredients for your favorites or what’s in season).
  2. In a separate smaller bowl, mixing together the ingredients for your dressing until combined.
  3. Pour dressing over fruit, sprinkle in chia seeds and mint, and toss to combine.
  4. Chill, serve and enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato, Avocado and Basil Salad with Fig Balsamic


What You’ll Need:

  • 3 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, whole
  • Fig balsamic vinegar (or your favorite flavored vinegar)

How to Make It:

  1. Thinly slice tomatoes crosswise into rounds
  2. Thinly slice avocado crosswise into rounds
  3. Take a platter and create a bed of basil leaves as your base. Layer different colored tomatoes and avocados until the plate is covered
  4. Drizzle with balsamic and garnish with basil chiffonade

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