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Cooking Without MSG Part II: Salads and Dressing Recipes

Updated on May 15, 2013
Yes, this is what you are to avoid...
Yes, this is what you are to avoid...
... and this...
... and this...
...and this.  Think how much better it could be!
...and this. Think how much better it could be!

It's everyone's favorite health food, with hundreds of variations and kinds. But salad can quickly loose it's dietary and health charms when dressings full of sugars, fats and preservatives are poured, dumped, and tossed on.

A few years ago, bottled salad dressings became not only expensive, but also lacking in taste appeal. So I began searching for recipes to make my own favorites, and was pleased to find that they not only are better for me, but they leave the shelved varieties behind by miles on a taste comparison. Before long, you won't even want to look back to the long gone days of Wishbone, Kraft, or even your beloved bottle of Newman's Own Creamy Caesar.

Garlic Dressing

It's all the creamy goodness that is Ranch, only with strong garlic flavor.

1/2 C Sour Cream
1/3 C Mayonnaise
1/4 C Half and Half or Milk
3 Cloves of Garlic, Crushed
2 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1/4 tsp Sugar, or more to taste
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

Mix all ingredients well. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. You may want to add more liquid after it sits for a few days.

Red Onion Vinaigrette Dressing

Here's the best way to use this one: Toss on a lettuce salad with blueberries, sliced strawberries, and sliced almonds. Served with a freshly grilled chicken breast, it makes a perfect, light summer dinner.

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, minced
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

In a blender, combine the red wine vinegar, sugar, vegetable oil, onion, mustard, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.

Creamy Italian

It's Italian gone right, with a much lower sodium content and a smooth texture devoid of floating seasonings. Whatever you do, don't leave out the ground mustard, as it is the secret ingredient that makes it all cream correctly, and I promise you won't taste it a bit.

2 1/2 C oil
1/2 C water
1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
1/3-1/2 C Honey
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Ground Mustard (emulsifier)
2 tsp. Dill (optional)
1 tsp. Basil and Oregano
1/2 tsp. Garlic Granules

Blend in blender for two minutes. Refrigerate

I didn't take this picture, but somebody wonderful did.  Please take special note of the freshly ground black pepper on top.  It's important.
I didn't take this picture, but somebody wonderful did. Please take special note of the freshly ground black pepper on top. It's important.

Creamy Caesar

If you didn't guess it, this was the biggest loss from my bottled salad days. I think I went to counselling for two whole years, trying to come to grips with saying goodbye to Newman, and learning to let go. I'm okay with it now. In fact, it might just be the best thing I ever did.

1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
3/4 tsp. Dijon Mustard
3/4 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 C. Mayonnaise
1/2 C Vegetable Oil
1/4 C Parmesan Cheese

Combine lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic. Add mayonnaise; whisk until blended. While continually whisking, add oil to mayonnaise in a thin, steady stream. Continue whisking until blended; stir in parmesan cheese. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

And in case you were wondering, the part about the counselling was a joke. I really think you need to know that.

Apple-Feta Tossed Salad

Say it with me: Yum. It's unique, with a strong dressing flavor and the walnuts a very good kind of different flavor. And when in doubt, always choose Feta. It makes the world go 'round.

2 Tbsp. butter

1 cup walnut halves

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/8 tsp. pepper

5 cups torn romaine

5 cups torn red leaf lettuce

1 medium red apple, chopped

½ to 1 cup crumbled feta cheese


6 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. dried oregano

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. dried parsley flakes

1/8 tsp. pepper

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.Add the walnuts; sprinkle with sugar and pepper.Stir until well coated.Spread onto a baking sheet.Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring every 5 minutes.Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the romaine, red lettuce, apples and feta cheese; set aside.In a blender, combine the dressing ingredients; cover and process until blended.Drizzle over salad; toss to coat.Sprinkle with sugared walnuts.

Mandarin Orange Salad

Though technically oriental, this is one versatile salad. And you should really make more almonds than it calls for, as they have a mysterious habit of disappearing before they actually make it into the salad.

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons sugar

1 head romaine lettuce

2 green onions, chopped

1 eleven oz. can mandarin oranges, drained


1/2 teaspoon salt

dash of pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar

1/4 cup oil of choice

Dash of Tabasco sauce

In a small pan, cook almonds and sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until almonds are coated and sugar dissolved. Watch carefully as they will burn easily. Cool and store in air-tight container. Mix all dressing ingredients and chill. Mix lettuce and onions. Just before serving add almonds and oranges and toss with dressing.


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    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 4 years ago

      Thanks for the visit Efficient Admin! I agree that store bought dressing are horrible in the calorie department-- almost takes the healthy out of the salad!

      I have tried to use olive oil in the different dressings, and it completely doesn't work in the Caesar dressing but leaves a curdled, really strange consistency and flavor. It should be just fine in the other dressings (especially the creamy Italian), but I wouldn't use virgin oils. Maybe something even lighter, like corn or sunflower oil would work also-- I'm afraid I'm not very well versed in the health benefits of different oils. Let me know what you discover!

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      I am always looking for healthy homemade salad dressings. The store bought dressings are ridiculous at 120 calories for 2 TBSP. I need at least 3 tablespoons of dressing on my salads to make me happy.

      I plan on trying these recipes - they look really good and have all my favorite ingredients. Question: do you think I can substitute the vegetable oil with olive oil?