Perk up Your Salad

IMG_3466There hasn’t been all that much cooking going on around here for the past week. I was on a Saltine cracker and ginger ale diet for about 4 days (you don’t want to know the details, trust me) and just when I got my appetite back, a certain someone turned three.


Three year old birthday parties are not about gourmet food. They’re mostly about cake. And presents. And everyone walking around the house wearing birthday crowns made out of construction paper.


O didn’t want a big party. We kept asking her, worried that she’d be disappointed when a  big bouncy house and 20 kids from preschool bearing presents didn’t show up, but she was adamant. “I just want to invite my friends,” she kept saying. “Leopard, Pink Bear, Hippo…”


I love 3 year olds. Granted, we’re only a few days into this new age, but so far it’s been a lot of fun and noticeably easier than 2. In the weeks leading up to 3 I started seeing the shift. I hate to jinx it, but we can actually reason with O a little bit now, which changes everything.

Yes, of course, there are still fits of insanity, but not as many. And no, she still doesn’t sleep past 6am (will that happen at 4? 5? Or not until 16?). What I’m really loving about 3 is that her little mind is blooming creativity. She makes up poems and song lyrics and points out funny shapes in clouds and calls stars “white crickets in the sky.”  She whispers secrets excitedly in our ears, “Did you know that hummingbirds make hummus?”

I mean, really, who has time to cook when there’s such loveliness in the house? Also, we’ve been busy playing in Kitty Land during our free time.



Kitty Land was my gift to O, a make believe land created in a galvanized tub with fake moss, magic pebbles and a wood house. There’s a swimming hole, that all the cats love.

IMG_3512And a bird, to keep things interesting.


I got the idea from a friend, who discovered this outrageously cute fairy land on the blog Twig and Toadstool.  My Kitty Land pales in comparison, it’s the un-crafty and overly busy mom’s version that can be made after a quick shopping spree at Michael’s. Kitty Land isn’t as magical as fairly land, but O loves it.


So as you can see, we’ve been busy. When hot meals just aren’t happening every night, we rely a lot on big salads for dinner. Typically on these nights, I fix something else for O  (often steamed veggies or roasted broccoli, fruit, and noodles or a quesadilla. Or pita bread with this insanely good hummus.) Then one of us puts her to bed while the other chops up whatever they can find in the fridge for the salad. Then we eat in blissful, child-free peace. I love my 3 year old.  But dinner without her, even if it’s a simple salad, is still a beautiful thing.

Three New Salad Dressing Recipes to Perk up Your Salad

Gwyneth Paltrow's Carrot Salad Dressing

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Carrot Salad Dressing

Every week I aspire to make a batch of dressing to have in the fridge and most weeks I fail. But lately we’ve been dousing greens in nothing more than lemon and olive oil  (not even bothering to whisk them together) a little too often. In an attempt to do better, I’ve been keeping these 3 dressings in rotation.

Lemon + Capers + Mustard

This bracing dressing is adapted ever-so-slightly from chef April Bloomfield’s even bolder version. No special instructions, just whisk everything together. I like this dressing best after it’s been in the fridge for at least a few hours.

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil (I’ve been liking California Olive Ranch lately)

Miso + Sesame

I make this a little differently every time, sometimes adding more honey or oil and sometimes leaving out the soy sauce.

1 tablespoon sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 small garlic clove, pressed or finely chopped
2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons grapeseed or sunflower oil

The miso can be a little hard to incorporate. I whisk it awhile, the let the dressing sit for a few minutes, then whisk again. You can also use a blender, just add the first 6 ingredients then slowly drizzle in the sunflower oil with the blade running.

Gwyneth’s Famous Carrot Dressing

If you have miso in your fridge, you might as well make this dressing at some point, too. The recipe is Gwyneth’s, I just use less shallot and add more water to thin out the consistency. And blend it a long time so the dressing is as smooth as possible.

1 large carrot or 2 to 3 smaller ones, peeled and roughly chopped
1 very small shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
1/4 cup grapeseed or sunflower oil
3 to 4 tablespoons water

Pulse the carrot, shallot and ginger in a blender until finely chopped.  Add the miso, vinegar and sesame oil. While the blender is running, slowly drizzle in the oil and the water.



Filed under Salads and Sides

2 responses to “Perk up Your Salad

  1. Hummingbirds make hummus. I die of the cuteness.

  2. The Lemon + Capers + Mustard dressing would be great on a kale/feta salad. Thanks.

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