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Keeping It Homemade

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I love the springtime and all the flowers growing in the yard. The fresh smells of lavender, daffodils, hibiscus make you want to soak up the sun and the sweet smells of the garden. 

This time of the year is a fresh start to everything. The fresh lettuces in the garden are ready for picking. The winter garlic and onions hanging on the back porch dried and ready to use. And some fresh items from the store is all it takes to make some great salads. Salads are always part of our family meal but when spring comes around the idea of more salads seems great for a healthy change. Keeping it homemade and fresh is what it takes for dressing beautiful salads. Salads could have almost the same ingredients each time you make them with a few changes, but the salad dressing can make it something different each time.  

A big garden was always a huge part of my childhood. I can’t remember ever not having a garden in the backyard even after my grandfather left us. To this day I still plant a garden every year. Being outside in the sun, planting seeds in the earth, taking care of them and harvesting them for my family. In my younger days, when Grandpa planted the garden, it was more of a chore and not so much a pleasure as it is now. We were up early before it got hot, planting or weeding the rows; then in the late afternoon we would harvest and water. There were days in between with other chores to do like mowing the lawns, feeding animals or cleaning out the barn. My mom made sure our day was spent outside as much as possible. We could each choose one 30-minute television show to watch and when the hour was up, we went to bed. No choosing on Sunday night; it was the Walt Disney Show that took up our hour of television.

The seeds available to us now are amazing not only in color but in varieties. There are the good old standbys in my garden such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, squash, beets, green onions and a large variety of lettuces and cabbage. This is a sure way to a great salad with every meal prepared at my house. That and scraps for the chickens makes it a happy place.

Cole Slaw Dressing
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar or honey
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. tarragon
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. celery seed

Whisk all the ingredients together until well combined. Refrigerate for at least one hour before dressing your salad. This dressing can be made a few days before you need to use it, which can save you time. That makes it great for a picnic or barbecue. You can use a one-pound bag of coleslaw mix with this recipe. I double the recipe for my homemade slaw where I use a head of green cabbage, a quarter head red cabbage, a half sweet onion and 2 shredded carrots. This crispy slaw has never failed me.    

Creamy Italian Dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Measure all ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously until well blended and emulsified. Taste and make any adjustments to the seasoning. I find blending this in a blender first combines the ingredients so that they don’t separate later. Then I pour them into a Mason jar so that it can be shook up just before dressing your salad. This dressing needs to be used the same day that you make it. If you store it in the refrigerator the olive oil with harden. If you want to make it for use later, exchange the olive oil for vegetable or sunflower oil. This is great for a fresh Romaine lettuce salad with all your favorite vegetables.  

Poppy Seed Dressing
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
|1 finely minced shallot (or 1/4 finely chopped sweet onion)
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds
1 cup oil

Place all ingredients, except the poppy seeds and oil, in a blender or food processor. Blend until well combined. Use the chute of the processor or remove the lid of the blender and add the poppy seeds. Turn on the blender and drizzle in the oil until the dressing starts to thicken. Chill before serving. This is fantastic on a fresh spinach salad, a kale or broccoli salad.

Catalina Dressing
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup mild oil

Place all ingredients together in a blender. Pulse until well combined. Place in a jar with a lid in the refrigerator to chill before using. This is my go-to for taco salad. Start with a bed of fresh crispy lettuce, drained can of kidney beans, ground beef taco meat with seasoning, tomato, onion, cheese and crushed tortilla chips. Toss with dressing and you have a wonderful meal all by itself.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. garlic minced
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. dried basil

Measure and combine all the ingredients into a Mason jar or bottle. Shake dressing until well combined. Serve immediately or store leftovers up to 2 weeks.

Different salads and different dressings will keep your family eating healthy and happy all summer long. Another recipe exchange from my recipe box to yours.