Getting the kids involved: Salad dressing
Invariably while I am trying to make dinner, one or more of the kids is underfoot asking for a snack or inquiring when will dinner be ready. I can stave them off during most of the prep time, but as dinner time gets closer and aromas fill the house, they become even more insistent.
One way I keep them occupied at this critical time is by having the kids make salad dressing for the evening's salad.
The kids started eating salads more regularly at dinner a couple of years ago. At some point, Alfs decided he loved Caesar salad and started to become more adventurous with greens. Woody followed shortly thereafter. Sunshine is still a work in progress. She says she likes salad, so we put a little on her plate. She'll taste a little and then declare she doesn't like it. Oh well.
I started buying prepared, washed salad greens in bags and that changed our life. I know it's not particularly cost effective, though. I know I could get two or three salads for the cost of one bag if I'd just make a little effort to wash some lettuce. But on those busy days, that salad bag makes all the difference. It means we actually eat salad.
Salad dressing, on the other hand…well, there aren't many bottled dressings I really like. As long as I keep some decent olive oil and vinegar in the house, we have salad dressing.
About a year or so ago, Woody decided he'd like to learn to make salad dressing. I taught him the basics: three parts oil to one part vinegar, pinches of salt, pepper, garlic powder and maybe an herb, whisk it up and pour it over. How this evolved to three kids arguing over who gets to make the salad dressing on any given night is beyond me. Even Sunshine wants in on the action! But after a system of taking turns was established (with Sunshine's turn heavy on the supervision), it worked itself out.
Healthy and helpful
Now, when dinner gets close after the kids have set the table, I get out the salad bag, the salad bowl, servers, the special salad dressing bowl Woody made at the pottery place and the salad dressing ingredients. Then one of the kids gets to work. Each of the kids has their own variation. Woody prefers red wine vinegar and tends to go a little heavy on the salt (we're working on that). Alfs always goes with balsamic vinegar and could stand to be a little more generous with herbs. Sunshine goes heavy on everything.
There are some wonderful citrus infused olive oils out there and some lovely vinegars as well. They are worth stocking for some great salads. They also make great hostess gifts! You can stretch the pricier infused oils by using a tablespoon of an infused oil for flavor with two tablespoons of an everyday oil.
My Kids' (Current) Favorite Salad
1 bag spring green salad mix Crumbled goat cheese (you can get it pre-crumbled) One blood orange, sectioned Toasted almond slices 3 tbsp (about) blood orange infused olive oil 1 tbsp (about) good dark aged balsamic vinegar Kosher salt Fresh ground pepper Dried thyme
Combine the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add the salt, pepper and thyme to taste. I tend to go light on them for this dressing as the olive oil has such a lovely flavor on its own. Let the dressing sit for a few minutes to let the flavors come together.
After a few minutes, whisk the dressing again and toss with the salad greens. Sprinkle the goat cheese, blood oranges and almonds on top.