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It's just so HARD when you're still trying to eat healthy and everyone else seems to be scarfing pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. It's fall! It's so cool and crispy! You can eat something cool and crispy too, and it doesn't even have to be rabbit food. Don't get me wrong, lettuce is great, but sometimes you just gotta mix it up and let the other veggies party in your mouth. After you jump in some leaves and let the fall breeze tousle your hair, go chop, slice, and dice yourself up a crunchy bowl o’ nutritious nom-noms. (P.S. I hereby dedicate this awesomesauce list to my sistas in Texas who are like “WHAT. FALL.” It’s a hard knock life when October is still scorching but these refreshing options are gonna get us both through it, homeslices.)
Broccoli Salad with Honey Yogurt Dressing
Oh baby. Talk about dressing. Now I'm a big Caesar fan when it comes to throwing some romaine hearts in a bowl, but you gotta have something special when you're eating raw broccoli. Straight from one of my favorite plant-eating blogs Budget Bytes, this is just the ticket: Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and honey combine in a magic concoction that transforms "little trees" (as I call them to convince myself...I mean my kids...to eat them) into so. much. more. If you've already got some dried cranberries and sunflower seeds in your pantry (and if you're a salad lover, then you probably do), you are very close to giving everyone else serious bagged lunch envy. I bet this stuff is even better the second and third day.
Obsessively Good Avocado Cucumber Salad
Now NORMALLY, I just wouldn't be able to advocate developing an obsession. For example, my husband and I are obsessed with The Three Amigos. If there is an occasion for which we can't come up with a quote from that classic work of pure cinematic genius, I don't know what it is. This is terribly fun for us and maddening for everyone else in the whole world who doesn't share our obsession.
HOWEVER. That is a 1986 comedy film of dubious political correctness and this is an actual work of genius from the infamous ("IN famous?") Smitten Kitchen, starring avocados (bae) and cucumbers (severely underrated) in a mayo, lime, Sriracha and cilantro thriller. You'll laugh! You'll cheer! You'll cry - oh wait no you WON'T, because here you're getting all the crazy good flavors of guacamole or fresh salsa without having to ever chop a single onion. You're welcome. This would be fabulous as a side, but I would totally bring along some pita or naan and just go at this, no holds barred.
Lebanese Lemon-Parsley Bean Salad
Sometimes veggies for lunch feels amazing, like you're one of those girls whose ponytail snaps in the wind like a pennant as she goes for a casual run in her matching jogging suit. Sometimes it feels like you're Nelson Mandela and you've been imprisoned for no good reason. On those days, I highly recommend fueling yourself with Cookie and Kate's beautiful bean bowl of blessedness. Tell me you wouldn't be unstoppable after chowing down on some of this (and I don't know about you, but I would not say no to some extra pita triangles on the side there). It's crazy how beans can make such hearty chili for freezing nights but also work beautifully in a fresh, lemony, oh-so-filling dish like this one. Warning: your coworkers may be jealous. Do not leave this in the refrigerator without clear labels (and maybe a padlock).
Pistachio-Pear Cucumber Salad
When you make this salad, your first big hurdle is going to be taking the first bite, because tell me that's not actually too pretty to eat (everything from The Food Charlatan is like that though - fortunately stomach usually beats brain when it comes to these things). Your second hurdle will be not eating it all in one go, because: crunchy nuts, creamy blue cheese, rich ripe pears, crispy cucumbers, spicy red onion, sweet cranberries, and I didn't even mention the simple vinaigrette that ties it all together. I usually have a secret stash of something in my house that nobody else gets to eat but me, and that thing is usually chocolate, but I think this could give my usual Lindt or Ghirardelli a serious run for its money. (If you're one of those OCD plan-in-advance folks like me, this could be the Thanksgiving side dish to end all side dishes - just saying.)
Purple Power Salad for a Picnic
When I first read My New Roots' post on this salad, I was a little skeptical, because she had apparently taken it to the most transcendently hippie gathering ever to have occurred with the possible exception of Woodstock. But then I started looking at what's included in this giant pile of purply scrumptious enchantment, and I become convinced that I, too, could lounge on a green lawn with relaxed, health-conscious people of all ages and races in slanting beams of golden sunlight. The only thing you have to do is put together the magic ingredients, which include black mission figs, chopped mint, red cabbage, and ROSEWATER. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius!
Thai-Inspired Hydrating Cucumber Salad
If you're obsessed with Thai food like I am, any excuse will do to get those classic flavors in your meal plans. While pad Thai may be packed with carbs and calories, there are so many other creative options out there that offer a lot more nutrition but satisfy your craving for the most beloved of takeouts. Crunchy peanuts, savory roasted chickpeas, fresh veggies, and a simple, sweet rice vinegar dressing make for some serious eats. Sometimes taking care of your body can feel like a chore, but this recipe from Audrey's Apron makes it feel more like a day at the spa. I should probably note here that I've never been to the spa; this is probably a good thing. Cucumbers belong in crunchable salads, not laying about on your eyelids, unless of course I can have both at the same time...that works too.