(My New Favorite) Creamy Garlic Salad Dressing + a Salad Idea

I apologize for the lack of posts this month! My husband and I were on vacation and just returned a couple days ago, but have no fear: I have LOTS of delicious recipes I have been waiting to share with you!

This summer I have really enjoyed experimenting with new homemade salad dressings (like this fabulous red pepper jelly vinaigrette). After perusing the ingredient list in pre-packaged dressings, I decided it would be worth the extra few minutes it takes to whip up my own. If I am running low on time, I really enjoy a simple toss of balsamic vinegar and olive oil to do the trick. But, one of the best parts about today’s recipe is that it makes a large quantity, so you can store it in the fridge and use it for weeks to come. Dedicate 5 minutes to making this once a month and you won’t have to use the store-bought stuff anymore. It’s a pretty good deal, don’t you agree?

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This dressing is flavorful but works with any combination of vegetables you can throw together. Consider it your blank canvas, knowing whatever you decide to add to it will pair beautifully. A little tiny bit also goes a long way. Seriously–just a spoonful should be plenty for a large salad!

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A few weeks ago I had a friend over and we ate this salad before we went swimming, and it was perfect. Light but filling, the addition of chickpeas was ideal to boost the staying power of the dish. In the salad was spring mix, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and a sprinkle of reduced-fat feta cheese. It reminded me of a blend between an Italian and Greek salad, and it was so refreshing!

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Creamy Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave

1). Place all ingredients in blender (or food processor) and blend on medium high for 30 seconds or until well mixed. Store excess in an airtight container in refrigerator. If dressing solidifies when cold, let sit at room temperature until liquid, then stir. Enjoy!

Servings: 16 (1 tbsp per serving)

Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 68 Carbs: 1g Fat: 7g Protein: 0g Sugar: 1g Fiber: 0g

WW PointsPlus: 2 

Summer Pasta Salad with Baby Greens

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Fresh baby greens tossed with whole wheat pasta noodles, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette! This salad is perfect for summer and a great option to take to a potluck or cookout because it can easily be doubled to feed a crowd. It is vegetarian friendly, and can be made gluten-free by substituting brown rice pasta. The original recipe called for capers, but my husband and I are not fans of that ingredient so I omitted them! You can absolutely add them if you’d like.

There are so many ways to serve this salad. It can be the perfect side dish to a grilled chicken breast or fillet of fish, but it can also be a meal in itself! The vinaigrette is perfect and after making this salad, I made extra to be able to serve on top of other salads throughout the week. It is delicious!

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Summer Pasta Salad with Baby Greens

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz (about 4 cups) baby arugula and baby spinach mix
  • 5 oz high fiber or whole wheat pasta (use brown rice pasta for GF)
  • 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1) Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. When done, drain and rinse under cold water.

2) In a large bowl, combine the pasta, baby greens, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss well, then just before serving top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Makes about 6 cups.
Servings: 4

Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 169 Fat: 5g Carbs: 29.5g Fiber: 4g Protein: 6g Sugar: 4g Sodium: 271 mg without salt Cholest: 2mg

WW PointsPlus: 5 Old points: 3

Recipe adapted from: skinnytaste.com

Red Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette

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If you do not usually get excited about eating a salad, you have to try today’s recipe! In fact, if you are an avid salad-eater you too need to try this vinaigrette because it is so unique and different from anything I have had in the past. Lately I have been enjoying making my own salad dressings. They’re very quick and easy to make, and the extra 5 minutes it takes is worthwhile when you consider how much more exciting your salad is with it! This vinaigrette brightens up your salad and makes it come to life with both sweet, spicy, and savory flavors. Absolutely amazing, and so simple to make! It is also beautiful–I love the contrast of the red dressing against the green salad.

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Around Christmas time I received a jar of homemade red pepper jelly from a friend at work (who is an excellent cook!). I had never tried red pepper jelly until earlier that year and I was excited to add it to my pantry. When I received last month’s Southern Living and saw their recipe for a red pepper jelly vinaigrette, I bookmarked it immediately because I knew exactly how I was gong to use that jar of homemade jelly. The only bad thing about the original Southern Living recipe is that it calls for a whopping 1/3 cup of olive oil, which seemed like entirely too much, so I brought that down to just 1.5 tablespoons. It was plenty, and next time I may use even less!

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Serve this vibrant dressing on top of crisp greens or use it as a marinade for chicken or pork!

Red Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red pepper jelly
  • 1 tbsp coarse-grained mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black peper

1) Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl or shake in a glass jar until well combined. Serve about 2 tablespoons on a salad per person.

Makes about 6 servings. Approximate Nutritinal Information per serving: Calories: 56 Fat: 4g Protein: 0g Carbs: 7g Sugar: 6g

WW Points Plus: 2 Old points: 1

Recipe adapted from Southern Living.

Baby Kale Salad with Strawberries and Chia Seed Dressing

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Strawberry season is upon us! Although I love eating them fresh by themselves, I also like to include them in dishes whenever possible. I love fruit in salads. There is something refreshing and light about biting into a juicy strawberry alongside crisp greens. I recently traded in my bag of mixed greens for organic baby kale. Regular kale can be tough and bitter, but baby kale is absolutely delightful! If you do not have baby kale, you can use a spring mix, baby spinach, or even romaine lettuce for this salad.

I had an epiphany the other day when I realized that Chia seeds can be a healthy substitute for poppy seeds in dressings. This realization came as a result of not having poppy seeds for the dressing and debating whether or not to omit them. I love the crunch that poppy seeds add to salads, and because chia seeds are a similar shape and texture, they accomplish the same purpose. Added benefit? They are very healthy! If you’ve never heard of chia seeds before, here’s what you might want to know:

If you do not have chia seeds, you can obviously use poppy seeds or simply omit them. I promise you will still have a great homemade vinaigrette for your salad!

A note:I reduced the amount of olive oil in the dressing from 2 tbsp to 1 tbsp to cut back on calories and fat, but if you feel the salad is too dry you can add a little back in.

I recommend you serve this salad with my lemon and herb marinated grilled chicken. The citrus marinade pairs nicely with the strawberries in the salad. Also, feel free to be creative and add whatever you would like to this salad. Slivered almonds, crumbled gorgonzola or feta cheese, or even blueberries all sound like delicious additions!

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Baby Kale Salad with Strawberries and Chia Seed Dressing

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 5 oz baby kale (or other lettuce)
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • Any additions you would like (almonds, cheese, etc.)

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds (or poppy seeds)
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey (or agave)

1) Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

2) Assemble salad. Toss with dressing. Serve with main dish. Enjoy!

Serves: 4 Nutritional information per serving: Calories: 71 Fat: 1g Carbs: 16g Protein: 2g Sugar: 10g Fiber: 4g

WW Points Plus: 2 Old points: 1

Recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com

Cool Couscous Salad

Chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, and a homemade vinaigrette are tossed together with whole wheat couscous to make this delicious side salad!

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As many of you probably know, couscous is a super tiny pasta that cooks very quickly. Literally, in about 5 minutes it can be ready to go! Couscous can be very nutritious depending on how you prepare it and the type you buy. I always select the whole wheat. I almost compare this dish to an interesting twist on a traditional pasta salad, but honestly it is so much better than that! This recipe stands alone for uniqueness and taste. It is much lighter than a traditional pasta salad due to the homemade vinaigrette, and the fresh vegetables explode with refreshing flavor in every bite!  In addition to the bright taste from the vegetables, the balsamic vinaigrette adds a tangy flavor that is offset beautifully by the feta cheese. I used reduced fat feta crumbles that I sprinkled on top and then mixed into the salad.

Keep in mind this is a great option to bring to your next gathering because it serves a huge crowd and can be made the night before! You can make the vinaigrette, cook the couscous, chop your veggies, and mix them in a bowl ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This side can be served cold or at room temperature.

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My dear friend Jana passed along the base of this recipe to me back in college. I altered it quite a bit, and today it is still one of our favorites! Thank you, Jana!

Cool Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole wheat couscous, prepared
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 oz reduced fat feta cheese
  • Lettuce leaves (optional)

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

1). In a small saucepan, bring water to boil. Stir in couscous. Cover and remove from heat; let stand 4-10 min or until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork; Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr.

2). Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: mix together the olive oil, balsamic, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper until well combined.

3). In a large bowl, combine the garbanzo beans, cucumber, tomato, and couscous. Pour vinaigrette over mixture and toss to coat. Place lettuce leaves on plates. Top with couscous mixture; sprinkle with feta cheese.

Serving size: 1/2 cup. Servings: 16. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 174 Fat: 9g Carbs: 20g Protein: 5g Sugar: 4g Sodium: 334 mg