Salad Bar at Home with Homemade Balsamic Ranch Dressing
Looking for a new meal to incorporate into your dinner menus? What about something a healthy option for your super bowl party? Something that we love doing in our house every once in a while is creating a hearty salad bar with all of the fixings.
The idea of having a bar is a lot of fun if you have kids or are entertaining because it allows people to make choices for their meal and kids and guests both love doing this. So I am going to show you what we included in our most recent salad bar to get your creative juices flowing. At the bottom I will share the recipe for the homemade balsamic ranch dressing that I served at our bar. Our salads were definitely hearty enough to be a whole meal, a very filling one actually. If you want more of a "side" salad bar, you might eliminate the main protein (in our case, the chicken).
In our salad bar, we included chopped romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, cubed extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, hard-boiled eggs, shredded chicken, fresh bacon bits and rotini pasta. I served it with a homemade balsamic ranch dressing that I put together (recipe below). You might consider putting out a variety of dressings, including just plain EVOO and a selection of vinegars.
Some other items you might think about including are other veggies (sliced cucumber, sliced mushrooms, fresh broccoli, sliced beets, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, the list is endless), some beans (I love chick peas in my salads), or some other proteins (grilled steak, grilled salmon, etc.).
How to cook the chicken? To cook the chicken for our salad bar, I simply drizzled some EVOO on a cookie sheet, cracked some fresh black pepper and kosher salt on top of that, placed chicken tenders on the sheet and kind of spread them around to make sure they all got some oil and salt and pepper on their bottoms, and then I did the same on top – EVOO, salt and pepper. In the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. When I pulled the chicken out, I allowed to cool for a few minutes and then shredded for the salad bar. I prefer shredding to ensure there is no mystery tendon in a bite of chicken. (Gross, right? Even grosser if you have to eat it!)
Another trick? As part of the assembly line, we had a large mixing bowl at the end so each of us could pour the contents of our into it and mix everything together, making sure some dressing got on every little bit. This kind of put the salads over the top. Well, this and the dressing...
The dressing was a hit. I don't want to pat myself on the back or anything but George said his salad was better than his favorite salad place because the dressing was that good. Here is the recipe for my homemade balsamic ranch dressing. You probably have most of these ingredients at home right now and you can definitely customize, like by using a light version of mayonnaise or the type made with olive oil. The great part of making it this way as opposed to using the packet is that it doesn't have all of the unhealthy chemicals.
Homemade Balsamic Ranch Dressing (this recipe makes enough for at least four hearty salads)
- 1/2 cup mayonaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (and an extra drizzle once you are ready to serve)
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Stir all ingredients together with a whisk. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours so flavors incorporate. When you are ready to serve, drizzle in a little more balsamic and stir (the dressing will likely have thickened and the balsamic drizzle helps with this).