Day 121–Salads and Salad Dressings

20120430-080436.jpg

Our Saladpalooza nights feature whatever ingredients are fresh and handy (and sometimes some leftovers, too!).

 

Our Produce Box last week and this week feature lots of salad greens, so salads are BIG on our menu. We’re trying things like our Saladpalooza night (basically an at-home salad bar), mixing up our salad toppings, and having theme salads (Mexican salad featuring black beans, corn and avocado, etc.). What really makes salads a happy thing in my house, though, is the salad dressing. After reading the ingredients in most grocery store dressings, I decided to try making my own so I can control the ingredients and eliminate unnecessary sugars and high fructose corn syrup. Here is what I have learned about making salad dressing:

  1. It is much easier than I thought.
  2. I have most of the ingredients in my pantry already.
  3. My stick blender (immersion blender) is my greatest ally.

With a few handy ingredients and my little, easy-to-clean stick blender, we have been able to create very delicious dressings in about 5 minutes. On the topic of dressings, I have to give a shout out to another blogger who has given me a lot of inspiration to seek fresh salad ideas. A fellow blogger at Creative Noshing has been a great inspiration to me as we explore making different dressings. She has wonderful, fresh, recipes for dressings that have become our staples. Our favorites are homemade ranch dressing and a spicy Asian peanut dressing (which is also amazing on stir fry vegetables).

Salads are a great way to get your vegetables in and this time of year, when lettuce is king, you can get impeccably fresh greens as well as sugar snap peas, carrots, radish and other yummy salad staples. After a winter of cooked greens (not that I mind collards), it’s nice to fill up on salad that does not come from a bag!

Visit Creative Noshing for some superb dressing recipes. Whether you like ranch, Russian dressing, poppy seed or spicy peanut, she probably has a recipe that will have your family happily eating their greens!

Advertisement

Day 110–Our First Produce Box of the Year!

The Produce Box is here! The Produce Box is here!

Pulling into my driveway last night, I saw an unfamiliar car behind me. The car pulled into my drive and stopped. Someone looking for directions? Someone complaining about my lack of green grass in the yard? Nope. It was my Produce Box Neighborhood Organizer delivering my first Produce Box of the growing season! Life is good.

I’ve blogged about The Produce Box before (HERE), but this is the first box we have received since last fall, so it merits some additional blog time! The Produce Box sources all its vegetables and farm products (cheese, bread, honey, jam) from North Carolina farms, packages them into CSA-type boxes and delivers them to the house. Members also contribute a small fee (I think it was $3 this year) to provide small grants to local farmers to help address issues on their farms (some of this year’s grants included purchasing seed starting supplies, purchasing refrigeration units, educational opportunities, etc).

Because The Produce Box works with several farms, they do offer a greater variety of vegetables than a traditional CSA, which also reduces the risk of not receiving anything if one farmer has a crop fail. Members can pick among several boxes each week, including an organic box and a small box for folks who can’t consume all the veggies in the standard box. And I have to say it, I love having my vegetables delivered. One thing I can cross of my list. But you know, meeting with and talking to farmers has been a real joy for me, so even though I get my produce box delivered, I’ll still be heading out to the farmer’s markets to pick up anything not in my box as well as cheese, pasta, meat, eggs, etc.

What did we get in our first box? Due to a late season frost last week, this week’s box is smaller than usual, but still a very welcome sight! We received two packages of strawberries, sweet potatoes, spinach, a HUGE head of lettuce, greenhouse cucumbers, and carrots so fresh they still have the dirt on ’em. Yum. Just in time for saladpalooza night!

20120419-081249.jpg

Day 82–Saladpalooza

Our inaugural saladpalooza ingredients!

Spring is salad time! Spring greens are so fresh and tasty here–the lettuce is still sweet and not in danger of bolting, carrots are in and broccoli is still coming in from the winter gardens.

My family loves a salad bar–it’s nice to have choices and build a salad just the way you want it. But restaurant salad bars tend to use bagged lettuce and pre-cut vegetables shipped halfway across the country. And don’t even ask where those eggs on the salad bar come from. So, I wondered to myself, how can we make a better salad bar concept at home?

Enter Saladpalooza! Why “palooza”? No reason except it sounded good to me at the time. It’s all in the marketing, right??

Saladpalooza night featured our farmers market finds, all cleaned, chopped and ready for salad-building.

We had:

  • Organic Red leaf lettuce from Ben’s Produce
  • Broccoli from the state farmers market
  • Organic mushrooms (leftovers)
  • Hothouse tomatoes and cucumber from the state farmers market
  • Organic carrots from Coon Rock Farm
  • Avocado
  • Organic spring onions from Heaven On Earth Organics
  • Hard boiled eggs from Water Oaks Farm
  • Leftover grated cheese
  • Homemade ranch dressing from Creative Noshing’s recipe

    Spring is the time when fresh lettuce shines! This red leaf was sweet, crunchy and delicious!

Similar to our pizza challenge, everyone gets to choose what goes on their salad and no one gets pestered to eat something they don’t like. When there are only good choices, it doesn’t matter who chooses what! And the mini-salad bar uses up small amounts of leftover vegetables, making it a good “clean up” meal.

I’d love to say Ellie ate loads of vegetables, but in truth, she didn’t eat with us last night, so that is still untested territory.¬†Tom and I¬†declared it a delicious success and will be trying it again soon!

Try a saladpalooza night this spring and see if it’s a hit with your family. As for us, this is all that was left!