I love this time of year—the depth of color and light; the sweet air wafting with the scent of freshly mown grass; the cacophony of chirping birds, the hum of insects, and the sounds of baby critters exploring their new world. It’s nature in all her glory. In a strange way, I even relish the mechanical buzz and petroleum scent of lawn mowers, and the annoyingly repetitive jingle of far-off ice cream trucks. To me, these are all reminders that spring, my all-time favorite season, is officially here!
Just like the many creatures and plant life that wake from their winter slumber, I, too, feel a renewed burst of energy and passion for life as the days grow longer and the weather gets warmer. Any opportunity to get outside takes priority over most of my other tasks. I begin the deep work on all my backyard to-dos that accumulated over the winter. I’m in my happy place when I’m soaking up every ray of sunshine, sinking my fingers deep in the soil, and hauling off branches, debris, and way too many weeds. Everything’s full of life, freshness, and abundance!
Whenever I get really busy, I stop eating in the most optimal way. I find myself grazing on whatever’s easily accessible, whether it’s a piece of fruit or a hunk of cheese. Though I’m still conscious about making healthy choices, I’m not necessarily getting a well-rounded set of nutrient dense foods throughout the day. In fact, sometimes I’ll get so wrapped up in my tasks that I practically forget to eat! At a time when I’m expending a ton more energy, this isn’t the wisest approach to consuming enough calories to sustain me.
Incorporating readily accessible, quick-to-prepare, protein-rich foods that will give me energy and maintain my endurance works best for me. This usually includes leftovers from last night’s dinner, and eggs and cheese are always around. But they take a little more effort to get into my tummy. What does work wonders for me are chilled, composed salads, primarily based on protein and healthy fats. It’s easy to take a few bites straight out of the container, and they’re nutrient dense, bursting with flavor, and packed with filling, sustainable ingredients that keep me going until my next snack break without any sort of crash.
This delectable, fresh salad answers checks all those boxes. Hearty and yet somehow light, it’s ideal on a hot day or during work breaks (and, really, any time). The plump shrimp, packed with lean protein and tons of minerals, marry harmoniously with a well-stocked antipasto platter—salty salamis, flavorful cheeses, marinated olives, and crisp, crunchy veggies. The end result is a most heavenly combo that you can easily modify to suit your tastes. The salad is tossed together in a tangy, refreshing dressing to make a flavorful lunch or dinner. It’s also perfect for potlucks and picnics (just be sure to keep it especially cold).
This salad is also a great way to use up small, leftover bits of cheese and steamed veggies. When I can, I prefer to poach and peel my own shrimp, but you can keep it wonderfully simple by using precooked, peeled shrimp. Frozen peeled shrimp is easy to keep on hand—just defrost under cold, running water, and this salad will be ready in a jiffy. It works with other proteins as well, such as leftover chicken, if shrimp isn’t your thing. And when I’m craving added energy, I also might add some avocado—though I find the best (and prettiest) way to do so is to add sliced or diced avocado to serve, rather than mix into the salad itself.
Chilled Shrimp Antipasto Salad
Prep time: 20 minutes (30 minutes if you peel your own shrimp), plus marinating time
Cook time: none, unless you cook your own shrimp
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. shrimp, cooked and peeled if necessary, cut in large, bite-sized pieces
3 oz. salami or sliced assorted deli meats, cut in bite-sized pieces
3 oz. cheese, cut in bite-sized pieces or crumbled
½ cup olives, cut in half or sliced (if large)
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 roasted pepper, cut in bite-sized pieces
3 green onions, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
2 tablespoons celery leaves, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 handful parsley, chopped
- Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Combine all other ingredients in large a bowl.
- Toss salad with dressing and let marinate at least 2 hours, if possible.
- Serve chilled
Image from Briana Goodall.