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Salads taste great with homemade dressing

June 15, 2010
By Wendy Monro

Lately, I have been eating lots of salads. I don't know what it is, but I have been craving them. It could be because it is so hot outside and a light salad is a great meal to have on a hot day. Sometimes, you just don't want to turn on the stove or the oven. Also, there is an abundance of delicious vegetables available at the Farmer's Market near my home.

I always start with whatever delicious lettuce I have on hand. Some of my favorites are red leaf or butter lettuce. My salad usually includes diced tomatoes and scallions. I like to chop up some almonds to add some extra crunch; but, sunflower seeds or pine nuts do the same trick. This is a great way to include nuts and seeds in your diet.

Sometimes, I even eat a salad for breakfast with a hardboiled egg on top. This way, I add some needed protein and keep my meal in the breakfast theme.

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A big bowl of salad tastes great with homemade vinaigrette

If I am making my salad for lunch, I dice up some chicken or turkey to add the protein and delicious flavor.

The great thing about salads is you can make it however you please, with the vegetables you love. There is no end to the possibilities.

My mom always made a salad to go with dinner. Every night she made the dressing to drizzle over it. Her salad dressing is still my favorite. I don't know exactly what goes into it but it is tangy and delicious. I know it has olive oil, vinegar and mustard. There is something in the way my mom flavors it with herbs and spices that makes it so wonderful. She has such a knack for seasoning things perfectly. She always knows just the right amount of salt and pepper to add. She never measures. Everyone who eats at her house loves that dressing too. She was the only one I knew who made their own dressing until I met my husband's mom.

Fact Box

Quick and easy balsamic vinaigrette for one

(multiply the ingredients depending on how many people you are serving):

Time: 5 minutes

1/4 C. olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp. honey

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

Dash of salt

Dash of pepper

1 garlic clove crushed

2 drops Tabasco hot sauce

In a small bowl, combine all of these ingredients and whisk for about 30 seconds. Drizzle over your salad and toss.

Well, our moms weren't the first to make their own salad dressings or to serve salads as part of the meal. It turns out that Romans sprinkled salt on grasses and herbs and called this herba salata. This was the beginning of what we now call a salad. The Babylonians first created the vinaigrette as a dressing.

Salad dressings were made from scratch until the turn of the 19th century when restaurant owners began bottling and selling their own salad dressings to customers. Joe Marzetti of Columbus, Ohio was one of the first to sell his special salad dressing to customers. Customers could then enjoy his delicious dressing in the comfort of their own homes. Many other restaurants began doing this as well and salad dressing began being sold regionally.

Then, in 1925 Kraft began the mass production of salad dressings beginning with French dressing. They bought out many of the regional manufacturers and began selling dressings nationally. This French dressing was oil and vinegar based and then flavored with tomato and paprika.

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By the end of the 20th century, the most popular flavor of dressing was Ranch. Ranch dressing was created by Steve Henson at Hidden Valley Ranch where he served it to his guests in the 1950s and 1960s. Guests loved this dressing so much they put it on ice cream and meats. Soon, people were asking to buy it.

His dressing was powder based and then mixed with buttermilk and mayonnaise. So, he started selling the powder to his customers and shipping it around the country. Now, as you know, Ranch dressing is everywhere and used as a topping for so many different foods.

Furthermore, there is a plethora of dressings to choose from in the grocery stores as 60 million gallons of dressings are sold annually in the United States. Salad dressing has become a huge industry.

I admit it is convenient to grab a bottle of dressing from the fridge and to have many different flavors available to suit all of your family's tastes. However, fresh homemade dressing is less expensive, more flavorful and better for your health. Most bottled dressings contain thickeners, preservatives and chemical additives.

If you do choose to buy dressing, make sure to have a look at the ingredients and steer clear of the bottles containing many names you cannot pronounce.

I always make my own dressing. My favorite dressing to make at home is vinaigrette. I start out with olive oil and whatever type of vinegar I am in the mood for: white wine, red wine, raspberry, or balsamic. I think about what type of salad I am making and what would be the perfect accompaniment.

The great thing about making your own dressing is that you can so easily vary the flavors to suit your salad. Sometimes, I add a hint of mayonnaise to make it creamy or some sprigs of dill if I am adding tuna or salmon to the salad. If you want it to have some extra spiciness, add Dijon mustard and hot sauce.

If you are adding chicken and mandarin oranges, use some soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds to give it a Chinese Chicken Salad flavor. I always include some garlic; but, I love garlic on everything.

Take the opportunity to make dressing and unleash your creativity. You will be surprised to discover that you probably already have everything you need on hand in your pantry and in your refrigerator and that dressings only take a few minutes to make.



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