This Week: the Salad Challenge


I've been becoming a  little like the stooped, weary man from the old Dunkin' Donuts commercials...slumping down the stairs in the pitch dark, mumbling "time to make the doughnuts" half-zombiefied. Only my murmurings are more along the lines of, "time to make the yogurt...and the veggie stock...and the chicken stock...and the granola...and the lotion...and the bread...". And then the never-ending list goes on, with laundry and dusting and training and e-mails and ironing, etc, etc, all outside of actual paid work and the daily business of essentials. Like personal hygiene, for example. That should NEVER be one of those chores we're struggling to fit in, right? And that's without kids (just one high-maintenance fur kid who might count depending upon your point of view). You know how it is.

As truly awesome as all those homemade endeavors are, and despite the little time they each take individually, the cumulative load has been having a dampening effect on my already fairly structured-around-workouts, mostly home-bound social life. There is a point, like I've been saying but not doing recently, when Rest and Good Sleep deserve the top of the priorities ladder. So this week, after a kitchen blitz that accomplished much but really was kind of exhausting on the tail end of a big week, I'm making the decision to pare down the list. One of the items to make this week's cut: Salad Challenge!

What makes the Salad Challenge so exciting? For one thing, instead of being scoffed at, it was actually suggested by my husband! Not to imply Dave is ever anything but supportive of my propensity to create and revolve my little universe around quirky kitchen challenges week after week. He is, in fact, so heartily enthusiastic on my behalf  I don't deserve it. But he does tend to think I get a little to preoccupied and extreme. And, to be judicious here,that is because it's mostly true.

So, the "Salad Challenge". After weeks upon months upon years of "nearly" nagging about how we could really explore much more wholesome and satisfying snack options if we padded the grocery budget by eliminating some of "Dave's list" (primarily potato chips and chocolate), imagine my surprise when Dave brought up a brilliant idea he had of trying to replace processed snacks during the day with salads;  pre-made ones, beckoning  like the Udi's salad boxes, and also assorted crudites. I think I scared him a little with the level of zealousness in response, but at the same time, it's obvious he's pretty tickled by the stacks of colorfully alluring ziplocks stacked in the fridge for the week.

A big chunk of Sunday afternoon was devoted to slicing a bunch of vegetables, crumbling some farm-bacon, boiling eggs, cubing cheese, cooking up some whole grain pasta, and finally mixing and matching with, may I say, glee. The result was beautiful, without doubt, but a bit samey, aside from the  one pasta container.  It's too late now to start coming up with ways to create more variety, so instead we're going to get really good with dressings.

We all know how to make dressing, as easy as shaking up oil and vinegar. I stick with the same two basic blends I know I really like, though, most of the time. Starting this week, it's time to explore a greater range of variations, and I'm using this great simple guide I found on as a tentative springboard, making a few adjustments, like making oil equal vinegar or, in some cases, be less. First up, playing it safe: Italian vinaigrette, honey mustard vinaigrette, basic creamy yogurt, and parmesan pepper yogurt dressings. Fun cool side note: if you make these in the order shown, then you just mix up solid amount to start, and add a little each day for a twist.  Of course, today I had to make them all, just to see, and so far, so good! But enough of geeking out on dressing already. That's not even on the list.  : )

Italian Vinaigrette

  • basic vinaigrette: equal parts red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and salt to taste
  • dash garlic powder or minced garlic
  • sprinkling of italian seasoning

Honey Mustard Dressing

  • italian vinaigrette (above)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard per two tablespoons each of olive oil and vinegar
  • 1 -3 teaspoons honey (to taste)


Basic Creamy Vinaigrette Dressing

  • basic vinaigrette (above)
  • 2 -3 tablespoons plain yogurt (to taste)

Parmesan-Pepper Dressing

  • basic creamy vinaigrette dressing (above)
  • grated parmesan cheese to taste
  • fresh black pepper to taste