Obviously for a punch of flavor, lettuce alone doesn't do it. So, I like to add carrots, tomatoes (we buy some local grape tomatoes that have been tasty), red onion, and bell pepper. But dressings can be where it starts to go downhill. You want a dressing that is delicious, inexpensive and easy to make, but that doesn't overpower everything else. For me personally that means a simple balsamic dressing I can whip up into an old dressing bottle and keep in the fridge. Here's how I do it:
It looks a little off on the ratio because I already has some in the bottom.
• Olive Oil (You want to use a robust one, in my opinion)
• Balsamic Vinegar
• Onion Powder
• Freshly ground pepper
• Herbs and/or spices, to your preference (I like oregano lately, but herbes de provence works well)
Here's where it gets a little complicated and G tells me I'm worse than a little old lady. It's hard to give exact measurements of the seasoning, because it's really to taste. The most important rule is to do a 3:1 ration of olive oil to vinegar (no matter if you're making a red wine dressing, champagne dressing, or balsamic). So, for my bottle of dressing, I pour in my olive oil, and then add in the vinegar to equal approximately 1/3 of the oil. (easier in a straight up and down bottle). Then I add in the seasoning to taste, a little at a time until it tastes right. It keeps easily in the fridge, but it never lasts long around here. This dressing is also great on chicken, grilled veggies, and a caprese salad.
************************************We haven't been eating much carbohydrates with our main meal (we start out the day with slow cooker oatmeal), so I wanted croutons to add to the salad. But if you've ever looked at most boxes of croutons you know the ingredients aren't usually the best, and any good ones seem pricey for how little you get (we'd need a bag of Trader Joe's croutons for 2-3 meals...and at $2.99 that seems a little ridiculous). So instead, I've been making my own for years. It's easy, tasty, and they make a ton from one loaf. This recipe leaves me with a quart sized bag full, even after one meal.
• Loaf of ciabatta or a baguette, cut into 1/2 - 1 inch chunks. (chunkier works better for soup)
• Olive oil
• Oregano (or other seasoning, base it off your tastes)
• Onion powder (I like the way the powder seeps into the bread and flavors it)
Pre-heat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up. Mix together the oil and seasoning, whisking to combine well. Then pour over your bowl of bread chunks and mix with your hands, really making sure they are coated well. Then spread on the lined baking sheet and bake for 10-20 minutes, checking for when it turns golden brown.
So, two recipes to help improve your salad on a budget that always seem to get rave reviews. I'd love to hear your suggestions for salad toppings, or if you have a great dressing recipe!