Salads and Dressings

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I am certain I could eat salad every day of the week. There is nothing better than fresh, crisp lettuce topped with a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and a delicious dressing drizzle. I also love to add protein to my salad, especially chicken or salmon.

Salads are an easy, healthy side or meal option that can allow everyone to build their own, based on taste preference. There are many lettuce varieties available to choose from. When I shop for lettuce, I like to incorporate different textures, such as mixed greens, spinach, and arugula. I usually add iceberg too for a little crunch.

When preparing salad for friends and family, I typically have a large bowl of lettuce and offer toppings on the side. My favorite toppings include: cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, various cheeses, fresh seasonal fruits, nuts and dried cranberries. When using nuts, I like to toast them in the oven for about 5 minutes, then let them cool before adding to my salad. It really makes a difference in the taste! Another secret I use is to sprinkle a little garlic powder and pepper on my greens. It just gives a little pop to the salad.

Now to my favorite part: how to dress our delicious salad. We could certainly use a prepared dressing, however, it is very easy to make your own. Most homemade dressings are made with simple, common ingredients we have on hand.

I have included some recipes for salad and dressing combinations you may want to try. Again, you can always substitute ingredients to fit your taste and what is in season. It is fun to experiment and also a great way to use fresh ingredients you have on hand. Also, incorporate your family, especially children, to help in the kitchen. When children assist in meal preparation, they are more likely to eat it. Remember to keep it simple and have fun! Enjoy!

Lemon Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably fresh)
½ cup (or less) olive oil
½ tablespoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup (or less) olive oil
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Raspberry Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
⅓ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red raspberry jam with seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Oil Free Dressing
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Spinach, Red Onion and Mandarin Orange Salad
6 cups (8 oz.) baby spinach
1 ½ cups mandarin oranges (drained)
½ cup thinly sliced red onion

  1.  Wash and dry spinach. Place in a large bowl
  2. Drain and measure mandarin oranges and place on top of spinach
  3. Peel and thinly slice red onion and place on top of mandarin oranges
  4. Top half with orange salad dressing (see recipe below) and use remaining as needed

Orange Salad Dressing
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Whisk orange marmalade and vinegar together
  2. Stream olive oil into marmalade mixture, whisk until incorporated
  3. Pour half onto salad and combine. Reserve remaining to use as needed

Red Onion Salad Dressing
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ c oil (olive oil works well)
1 tablespoon poppy seed
2 tablespoons minced red onion

  1. Mix all ingredients together well in blender
  2. Serve over salad of choice. Especially good over spinach salad with dried cranberries, chopped apples, mandarin oranges, parmesan cheese, and glazed pecans.

Source:
Cook Smart/Eat Smart
N.C. Cooperative Extension