You DO Win Friends with Salad!

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I think Homer and Bart are wrong! At least if you bother to make your own salad dressing.

My regular lunch-time salad at work. This week's dressing was a spicy mustard vinaigrette.

My regular lunch-time salad at work. This week’s dressing was a spicy mustard vinaigrette.

 

Store-bought salad dressing is probably one of my least favorite things. Most of them don’t taste very good and they are usually way too full of preservatives, soy, sodium, sugar and other not-so-great ingredients, turning your well-intentioned salad into something little better than something from the chip-and-cookie aisle.   Whatever store-bought dressing you’ve been indulging in, I promise you can make a homemade equivalent that tastes better and is better for you.

The good news is that it’s super easy and fast to make your own dressing in a variety of flavors with just some basic oils, vinegars and spices you likely have in your pantry anyway. This last week along I made a deliciously sweet fig balsamic vinaigrette, a cool and creamy chive and basil dressing and a tangy  spicy mustard vinaigrette.

The formula for a basic balsamic vinaigrette is pretty easy, and then you can grow from there.

For a balsamic vinaigrette, just combine:

*about 1/4 cup of your balsamic vinegar

*a squeeze of a dijon mustard (trust me on this one. It takes the bite out of your vinegar without leaving the dressing tasting remotely mustardy)

*a generous amount of olive oil, drizzling while whisking to combine everything. You’ll know when to stop when you reach the consistency you’d like in your dressing.

 

Right away this formula is easily changed up by using lemon juice as the acid instead of vinegar for a light, lemony dressing. Or use a flavored vinegar for something a little different. Add some garlic or herbs to give it some earthiness and depth. Mustard vinaigrette is just a lot more dijon with a splash of clear vinegar before you add your oil.

If you decide to stray away from the vinaigrettes and decide to try something creamy or cheesy that’s really just one additional ingredient:

*1/4 cup of Greek yogurt or sour cream for a creamy dressing; 1/4 cup of the crumbled cheese of choice for a cheese-based dressing (blue, feta)

*a splash of a clear vinegar (white wine, apple cider, champagne, etc) or lemon juice  (if using a cheese, you’ll mash the cheese into the acid until it forms a liquid-y  paste)

*a tiny squeeze of dijon

* a generous amount of olive oil (sometimes you may want to add some buttermilk, regular milk, etc at this step, too, if you want an ultra-luxurious ranch or something)

*any herbs or spices that give you the flavor you want

 

See?  Simple! It literally takes about 2 minutes to whisk together a dressing, and, if you want to just up the amounts, you can store them for up to several weeks in the fridge, especially any that aren’t dairy-based.   So the next time your reach for the Hidden Valley, try making your own first — I think you’ll enjoy the results!

 

What’s your favorite store-bought dressing? Leave it in the comments and I’ll try to recreate it at home!

 

 

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