salad template recipe title photo: simple quick wholesome salad

The Salad Template: The Last Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Last week’s post was a bit heavy, so today we’re going to keep it light… with a salad!

This 5-minute recipe is the last salad recipe you’ll ever need. It’s good on its own, and it’s also a template that’s easy to extend to whatever you feel like eating (or whatever you’ve got in the fridge).

The simplicity of this recipe allows the taste of the ingredients to shine through. If you’ve been saving fancy olive oil or apple cider vinegar, use it here! (Just make sure the oil hasn’t gone rancid while you were waiting for this recipe.) Really fresh vegetables are also very nice here. But, feel free to start with whatever you have!

The Salad Template (The Last Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need)

What you need:

  1. “Leaves” (spring mix, romaine, spinach, whatever)
  2. Oil (veggie, canola, olive, or extra virgin olive, and probably others work too)
  3. Lemon juice (or substitute white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
  4. Salt

Step One: Ready the Leaves

Wash your salad leaves, and shake out any excess water. If the leaves are too big to easily eat as-is, cut or tear them into smaller leaf pieces. Put them in your salad bowl.

Step Two: Dress the Salad

Season, toss, taste, and repeat:

  • Season. Drizzle your leaves with oil and lemon juice. (If either liquid is not in a container conducive to drizzling, use a spoon.) Add a light sprinkle of salt (a small pinch, or a few shakes if you use a shaker).
  • Toss.
  • Taste (eat a leaf).
  • Repeat, adding a little more of one ingredient, then another, until you have a balanced, light, and tasty salad.

Note: don’t worry if this step takes a little while the first time – you’re learning! It gets easier and quicker once you know what balance of tastes you like and approximately how much oil, lemon juice, and salt it takes to achieve it.

Really Great Add-Ons

Add-ons are 100% optional – this salad is great by itself! But, just in case they’re helpful, here are some simple add-ons. I typically use one or two of these with most salads I make.

Flatlay of wholesome food, including kale, avocado, strawberry, thyme, and peppers.
Feel free to experiment with a variety of add-ons!

Herbs

Fresh herbs make this simple salad AMAZING. I typically use flat-leaf parsley – leaves and stems – because I regularly have it on hand, but the wonderful Alison Roman (in her book Nothing Fancy) also recommends chives, dill, mint, tarragon, or cilantro.

How much of the herb(s) should you add? However much you want! Don’t be afraid to go a little crazy. I usually use a healthy handful, and Alison suggests an “almost 50/50” ratio with salad leaves (though I personally haven’t gone that far).

The Quick Pickle

This is a quick way to mellow out “sharp” tasting foods like onions and radishes so they meld better with the rest of the salad. You can also apply it to other vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, or bell peppers, for some taste variety. 

To do the quick pickle:

  1. Slice your onions or radishes or whatever you’re quick-pickling, into sorta thin slices. (If the slices are very thick, your quick-pickling may not reach the center, so the center may still taste sharp.)
  2. Put the slices into a small bowl, drizzle them with lemon juice (or white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar), sprinkle with salt, and toss to lightly coat the slices.
  3. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes or so, then add to your salad.

It’s easiest to add your quick-pickle mixture before dressing the salad (step two) because the extra lemon juice from the quick pickle can be incorporated into the dressing.

Whatever You Want Or Have On Hand

As you make this salad more and experiment with various add-ons, you’ll start to get a sense for what tastes you enjoy in a salad. Make what you like, and don’t be afraid to try out new things! I personally like a variety of textures and colors, and recently made a spring mix + quick-pickled daikon radish + extra tomatoes + extra parsley salad which I liked a lot.

Using flexible template recipes like this also helps you to not waste food, because it allows you to be more flexible with your ingredients in the kitchen!

Bonus Tips

Incorporating the Salad Template into a shopping trip

Back when I used to follow more recipes, one of my biggest struggles was buying ingredients which were sold in much larger bunches than what I needed. I’d buy a whole head of celery because I needed a single stalk. You should never have to do that with this salad.

If you’ve got salt, oil, and a bottle of white wine vinegar at home, then all you need to add to your shopping trips are salad leaves, it’s that simple! And if you want to jazz it up, I highly recommend using the flexibility of this recipe to not plan ahead and instead buy small amounts of whatever looks fresh and tasty (or is on sale) at the store to add on – or use any extra ingredients you have left over from preparing a main dish. I almost always have half a tomato or some extra onion that I toss in this salad.

Incorporating the Salad Template into a meal

How you incorporate this depends, of course, on the rest of the meal you’re cooking. Here’s how I typically incorporate this into cooking a whole meal.

This slots in as a veggie side dish for most western food, including steaks, stews, burgers, fish, and chicken. I especially like it with steak or burgers because it helps balance the heaviness of the meat. For middle-eastern food, I typically make a cucumber salad instead (same recipe, but swap leaves for cucumbers), though I imagine this salad would work fine with many meals. I usually don’t make this with central-and-south-American cuisine, and I don’t make it with Asian food.

Wholesome spinach salad with chicken and pomegranate as part of a complete meal
Keep it simple, or adjust the add-ons to make the salad more in-theme.

For a long-cooked meal like a stew, I prepare this at the end, just before serving, so it tastes fresh. Usually I’m already chopping fresh herbs to scatter over the main dish at the end, so the salad is an easy addition. 

If I’m cooking a quick meal, I prep leaves and any add-ons with the rest of the vegetables (and typically before I handle the meat to avoid cross-contamination). If quick-pickling, I do that after chopping veggies, because chopping everything at once is more efficient for me. When I’m waiting on the main dish to finish cooking (e.g. waiting on the chicken to come to temperature), I add the quick-pickled goodies to the salad bowl and dress the salad. When you first start, you might just make the salad at the end, so you don’t burn the main dish if you need more time to adjust the dressing tastes. 

And that, my friends, is the last salad recipe you’ll ever need. Hope you enjoy!

Resources

  • Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman. I love both her cookbooks (they are two of the few books I own), but this one contains the herby salad recipe. Her cookbooks are full of colorful recipes with awesome flavors.
  • Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat. I have been cooking for many years, but this cookbook seriously leveled up my game by teaching me how to use salt (and other things, but most importantly salt). You might recognize that the Salad Template recipe has salt, fat (oil), and acid (lemon juice or vinegar).
loneliness title photo: man sitting on rock looking at misty water

Let’s talk about loneliness: the three dimensions, why you should see your friends in person, and more

Loneliness should be at the forefront of health and self-care conversations. This is because:

Loneliness is everywhere. According to a 2018 study, 43% of Americans sometimes or always feel that they are isolated from others, and 1 in 4 Americans feel like they can rarely or never find companionship when they want it (source).

Loneliness is unhealthy. Loneliness corresponds to a 26% increased likelihood of mortality (source), the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In terms of mortality, it’s more dangerous than obesity. In addition, adults with a mental health condition (1 in 6 adults in the U.S.) consistently also suffer from loneliness (source).

Social interaction is a basic human need, just like eating or sleeping. While individual people may need different amounts of social interaction (for example, an introvert may need less than an extrovert), the fact remains: we are all hardwired to be social.

Let’s start with a quick refresher on loneliness before diving into the three dimensions, why you should see your friends in person, and more.

What is loneliness? It’s not the same as being alone

Loneliness is a feeling of being alone, but it’s not the same as being physically alone. And being physically alone is not the same thing as feeling lonely. For example:

  • One might feel lonely while physically alone
  • One might feel engaged in a solitary hobby while physically alone
  • One might feel lonely in the presence of others
  • One might feel engaged with others around them

I imagine most of us are familiar with the “lonely in a crowded room” situation, but I think the “engaged in a solitary hobby and not lonely” situation is a less well-known one. We often think that physical aloneness corresponds to loneliness, but that’s not always the case. Instead, comfort with solitude can make physical aloneness not feel lonely. 

When we look at loneliness this way, we see two ways to reduce it. One is the classic way of decreasing physical aloneness by calling a friend or dropping by their house. The other is increasing comfort with solitude by picking up meditation or working on a hobby.

But that doesn’t tell us all we need to know about loneliness. Next up, we’ll learn about its three dimensions.

The three dimensions of loneliness

Research shows that there are three dimensions of loneliness: intimate, social, and affiliate.

Intimate relationships are relationships we have with close confidants like significant others or best friends. Social relationships are those with regular friends outside of our intimate relationships. And affiliate relationships are what we have when we belong to a community, such as an interest group, church, or sports team.

We need relationships along each dimension to ward off loneliness, which is why a person with a perfect best friend but no community, or someone with lots of friends but no close confidants, might still feel lonely.

Loneliness in younger generations: are we missing community?

When I first read about the three dimensions of loneliness in Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, the community belonging dimension really hit me. I looked around and noticed that I and lots of people around me – including coworkers, neighbors, and friends from college – don’t really belong to communities. I grew up belonging to a few communities but somehow had moved on in life without preserving them or finding new ones. I suddenly realized a big hole in my life.

One of the communities I grew up with but no longer participate in is a religious community. This appears to be a generational pattern: as many as 9 in 10 Americans identified with a religion up to 1990, but in 2016, only two-thirds of young adults (age 18-24) did. Older generations are also more likely to regularly attend religious services than younger generations (source). The pros and cons of religion aside, there’s no question that religion is a source for community for many people, and with the decline of religion, there is also a decline in a source for community.

Is participation in other such communities declining as well? Maybe. That’s what I think I see around me, but I need to see some more data to be sure. What we do know, though, is that younger generations are lonelier than older generations (source). Is it because younger people are lacking intimate relationships, social relationships, affiliate/community relationships, or perhaps some of each?

Hey, wait! Aren’t younger people the most connected of all due to technology? Shouldn’t they have all of these relationships, and shouldn’t they be more convenient, with social media, instant communication, and more?

The impact of in-person interactions on loneliness

As it turns out, people who have daily in-person interactions are the least lonely, while people who have the least in-person interactions are the most lonely (source). In addition, in-person social interaction is linked to more happiness in teens, while texting and social networking websites are linked to more unhappiness (source).

This means that greater reliance on virtual communication, especially among younger generations, does not seem to make us happier or less lonely.

But do in-person interactions cause decreased loneliness, or does decreased loneliness cause increased in-person interactions? While I haven’t seen a study specific to loneliness, studies have shown that increased social media use causes unhappiness (source), not the other way around. Since loneliness is an unhappy feeling, I think it’s fair to conjecture that increased social media use can cause loneliness.

TL;DR? See people in person when you can. Instead of texting your friends, go get a coffee together. Or play tennis together. Or go to the grocery store together. Or swing by their house with some cookies.

What you can do about loneliness, and further reading

In summary, loneliness is super prevalent, partially because it’s not widely recognized as a basic human need. There are three dimensions to satisfy to ward off loneliness: intimate or close confidants, social, and affiliate/communal. In-person interactions, when they’re possible, are much better for health and happiness than virtual ones.

Given all of the above, you probably already have a bunch of ideas about what you can do about loneliness, but just in case it’s helpful, here are a few more:

  1. Loneliness is a basic human need, so treat it like one! If you’re thirsty, you get a drink of water. If you’re feeling lonely, do something about it! Also recognize that when a friend wants to talk to you, they may not have anything to say but may be feeling the need for companionship.
  2. Have a hobby. This helps in two ways: it can reduce the amount that you feel alone while you’re working on your hobby because you become more comfortable with solitude. And, it can be a way to connect to a community of people with similar hobbies.
  3. Join or start a community, ideally one that has a regular in-person component. This can take many forms: befriending your neighbors, volunteering somewhere regularly, taking an art class, or going on group bike rides organized by a bike shop. If you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere
  4. See your friends in person. And, when you do, be fully present; put your phone away and enjoy every moment. And don’t feel pressured to come up with a perfect activity to do together, a simple walk in the park is just fine!

Further reading:

woman smiling in mirror

Low-Effort, High-Reward Beauty: How To Look Great Every Day

Looking to simplify your beauty routine so you look great with less effort? Or want a refresh, but already have too many clothes and beauty products–or want something so easy it can replace your work-from-home sweatpants?

Look no further. This is your guide to low-effort, high-reward beauty, or how to look great every day.

Beauty is how you look, but it’s also how you feel, because how you feel dictates the way you look. Thus, below is a combination of strategies for feeling good (so you can look good) and looking good.

My routines have always been minimal. I cared how I looked, but I never had the patience to spend much time on it. What follows are the strategies I’ve been using for years to get around that impatience and achieve (outer) beauty with minimal effort.

Beauty Sleep

Seriously, how effortless is sleep? Getting enough uninterrupted sleep is one of the best ways to take care of your mind, your health, and yes, how you look.

Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re not getting that, don’t buy another eye cream that promises to diminish dark circles! Invest in yourself in a more meaningful way: make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, you might:

  • Put your phone in a different room 📵
  • Go to bed around the same time each night
  • Experiment with temperature and air flow in your bedroom. I prefer cool and fresh air, when possible.

Self Care

Just as tiredness shows on your face, your mood and emotions show on your face. Humans are the only animals with prominent eye whites, making our emotions easier to read. This means other people can see how you feel, which means your emotions are on display just like your hairstyle. They may not be as obvious, but they’re still part of what you’re bringing to the world.

There’s not really a “beautiful” emotion, but one can intuit more-beautiful and less-beautiful emotions.

More BeautifulLess Beautiful
ContentmentStress
JoyFrustration
ExcitementTension

In summary: if you feel good, you look good*. So, take care of yourself. Infuse some joy into your day by taking some time to enjoy a pot of tea, dance to your favorite song, sit out in the sun, or whatever makes you enjoy your day a little more.

*This is a theory. I cannot find any science to back this up, but I hope you find it intuitive. Another way to look at it is: if you don’t feel good, you may not look good.

Skincare

Beware skincare! If your skin is clear and not irritated, a skincare routine is going to be the opposite of low-effort, high-reward beauty. It is high-effort, delayed-reward, because products have to be used consistently and for a long time to, say, lighten pigmentation or reduce wrinkles. Probably the lowest-effort, highest-reward skincare is wearing a face sunscreen every day. Whether this is worth it or not is dependent you and your skin.

The exception to this is lip balm. Chapped lips are not cute. A quick swipe of Vaseline (my favorite!) for hydrated, evenly-colored, and plump lips is always worth the effort. Plus, it won’t stain the inside of your mask if you’re out and about.

If your skin is not clear or it is irritated, a simple skincare routine as advised by a specialist or a dermatologist will be high-reward. It will also be high-effort because, again, products have to be used consistently. If this effort is worth it to you (it is for me – the cystic acne I get is painful!), you can still keep the effort down by keeping your routine simple.

(All this being said, I personally love skincare, but for me it’s about self-care, not about beauty. I love taking the time to massage nice things into my face; it’s just an enjoyable part of my day.)

Minimal Makeup

Black Makeup Brush With Palette

A fast makeup routine frees up time for more important things, like self-care, learning new things, and sleep! Below are some ideas for quick but complete routines. The 2- and 4-minute routines might be daily options, while the 6-minute routine might be for special occasions.

2-minute routine4-minute routine6-minute routine
Eyeliner (a single line on the top lid)2-minute routine, plus:4-minute routine, plus:
MascaraBlushLight eyeshadow on the eyelid
Dab of concealer as neededLip colorDark eyeshadow on the crease

Nowadays it is so easy to accumulate way too many beauty products. Between constant sales, deals, and subscriptions (my personal pitfall), many beauty enthusiasts have massive stashes. That’s great if it’s your hobby! But for the rest of us – let’s not hang onto stuff we don’t use or need. If you love unboxing, but don’t always use what you buy, watching unboxing videos is a great way to get the fix without buying extras.

The above complete routines require a total of 7 products, or 6 if you have a combined blush-lip color. This is an achievable makeup-box size! I have 8 products: eyeliner, concealer, two lip colors (one which doubles as blush), a dark and a light eyeshadow, and two brow products (RapidBrow and a color pencil). I don’t have mascara, not because I have long and luxurious eyelashes (I don’t) but because it’s such a hassle to clean completely. I don’t wear makeup all that often, but when I do, I have everything I need.

It may take some time to find what works for you, but play with it and see what you can do to keep it simple. French makeup routines are typically minimal, and are a great source of inspiration.

And of course, be sure to remove your makeup every day!

Trim Clothing

Wear trim, neat clothing. The key to making this low-effort and high-reward is to strategically make trim clothing your go-to clothing. But first, what even is trim clothing?

Basic characteristics of low-effort trim clothing:

  • No holes or stains (mend or recycle these pieces!)
  • Fits well
    • Is the right size (this includes bras!)
    • Is generally not oversized or shapeless, unless it’s got structure and is balanced (see below).
  • Fits comfortably
    • Is not too tight
    • Feels nice to wear

Advanced characteristics of trim clothing:

  • Simplicity: Basic shapes and colors that go with everything. The more things match, the less effort is required to put together a trim outfit.
  • Structure: A collar on an oversized shirt or a less-slouchy fabric like linen on comfy wide-leg pants can further clean up an outfit.
  • Balance: Consider balancing an oversized top with a fitted bottom, or vice versa.

Don’t go out and buy new clothing just yet – remember, this is supposed to be low-effort! Start by selecting a few go-to pieces for the next few days: comfortable items in simple colors that match (no need to go for the advanced stuff right now—it’s more important to start somewhere). Then, ignore your regular closet and pick only from what you’ve set aside. This is an exercise in making trim clothing your go-to clothing. See what you think!

Many of us have large closets of things we mostly never wear. You can reduce your effort and mental burden by filtering out just the stuff you need to be trim and comfortable, and default to picking from this pile every day.

Worried about wearing the same thing twice? Don’t be. As long as you’re not smelly or something (which you probably aren’t), there’s no reason to not wear the same thing twice if you love it and look great in it!

Conclusion

Low-effort, high-reward beauty is a combination of how you look and how you feel. Keeping it simple and taking care of yourself will go a long, long way. In many ways, this kind of simple, low-effort beauty is self-care. It’s like nourishing your outer self in addition to nourishing your brain and inner self.

Further reading: