Category Archives: Salad Dressing

DIY Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing and Why Fat is Important 21 Days from SAD to Well Fed


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21 Days from SAD to Well Fed Day #2

Fat isn’t to be feared – it’s your friend!

There are so many tasty ways to include healthy fats in your day. Store bought and many restaurant salad dressings are NOT one of them. In fact most commercial dressings are full of rancid soybean oil and canola oil. Definitely not healthy. Making salad dressing yourself is quick and easy. Read these fun facts about healthy fats, and then keep scrolling for a delicious Caesar-style salad dressing you can make tonight! And keep scrolling for links to more recipes!

Get the skinny on why we start with fats first in this Day #1 article.

Here are 4 different ways fat plays a positive part in your health:

  • Cells need fat – since our body temperature remains relatively constant, being warm-blooded creatures, our cell membranes need a balance of different fats to find that “Goldilocks” spot where they are fluid, yet structurally stable.  To do this about 50% of the fatty acids in our cell membranes need to be saturated fats, and the rest monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. (Confused as to which fats are which? See Day One of SAD to Well Fed.)
  • Fat gives energy – the best energy source is one that lasts all day long without crashing you in a mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump.  Saturated fats, especially those from animal milks, animal meat, coconuts and palm oils, are the best source for this long lasting energy.
  • Strong bones – the most important nutrients in bone health are found primarily in foods that also contain saturated fats.  Vitamins A, D and K2 are the bone health trifecta keeping the calcium OUT of the soft tissue and INTO the bones and teeth. Best sources include organ meats, egg yolks, animal fats like grassfed butter, and also fermented foods and cod liver oil.
  • Hormones and mood – fats are a favorite with Dr. Julia Ross and her books on overcoming mood disorders, food cravings and weight issues. Healthy fats help neurotransmitters and the endocrine system.

This salad dressing recipe includes good fats from healthy mayonnaise (avocado oil, egg yolks), virgin olive oil, and cheese!

Caesar Style Creamy Salad Dressing

1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise without canola or soy oil (try this one or make your own)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice and zest of one lemon

one clove of garlic, pressed

1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a medium bowl until creamy. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing
Recipe type: salad dressing
lots of healthy fats in an easy to make creamy caesar salad dressing
  • ¼ cup good quality (no soy or canola) mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • one clove of garlic, pressed
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl until creamy.
  2. Store any leftovers in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.


For more easy salad dressing recipes check out these on Well Fed Family:

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing

Tzatziki Sauce

What is your favorite salad dressing?


Cheesy Chili Chicken Salad

cheesy chili chicken salad titlesIt was the 80s – Girls Night Out meant dressing up in punk rock and mini skirts with big hair and blue eyeshadow. For us it also meant going to Ryan’s on Opelika Road for Cheesy Chili Chicken Salad. This was back when chicken fingers were a new thing, so you know it was a long time ago! The salad was huge. It came in a giant bowl ringed with tortilla chips and filled with chunks of chicken fingers, kidney beans, cheese, olives, lettuce and Ryan’s special creamy chili dressing. This recipe is my rendition of that awesome meal-in-a-salad that takes me back to those crazy nights with the girls.

Cheesy Chili Chicken Salad


1/3 cup full fat sour cream (I like Daisy)

1/3 cup mayonnaise (I usually buy Hain’s)

1 chipotle chile, canned (save the rest in a ziptop bag in the freezer for next time)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

juice of one lime

1 teaspoon sea salt


4 cups shredded crisp lettuce such as romaine

3 cups chopped roasted chicken

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups cooked red beans

1 cup shredded cheddar or colby cheese

1/3 cup sliced ripe olives

1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 cup frozen organic corn kernels, thawed

sliced avocado for garnish

non-GMO tortilla chips

Dice the chipotle chili very finely (wear gloves and don’t touch your eyes!) Combine the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.   To prepare the salad, combine the lettuce and remaining ingredients except avocado and chips in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss gently to coat. Garnish with avocado slices and serve immediately with tortilla chips.  Mini skirts and big hair optional.

Cheesy Chili Chicken Salad
Recipe type: main course salad
Spicy creamy cool dressing coats this meal-in-a-salad filled with chunks of chicken, beans and cheese.
  • Dressing
  • ⅓ cup full fat sour cream such as Daisy brand
  • ⅓ cup safflower mayonnaise such as Hain's
  • 1 canned chipotle chili in adobo, reserve other chiles for another recipe
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Salad:
  • 4 cups shredded romaine
  • 3 cups chopped roasted chicken
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups cooked red beans
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or colby cheese
  • ⅓ cup sliced ripe olives
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 cup frozen organic corn kernels, thawed
  • sliced avocado for garnish
  • non-GMO tortilla chips for serving
  1. Finely mince the one chipotle pepper.
  2. Freeze the remaining peppers for another recipe.
  3. Combine the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  4. To prepare the salad, combine the lettuce and remaining ingredients (except avocado and chips) in a large bowl.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving.
  6. Toss gently to coat.
  7. Garnish with avocado slices and serve immediately with tortilla chips.


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Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki sauce is a cool, refreshing yogurt sauce. It’s an easy, tasty way to add something fermented to a meal. It goes well with anything Greek or Middle Eastern in flavor, but you could also put it on burgers, use it as a dip with fresh vegetables, or even use it as a salad dressing.

tzatziki sauce

tzatziki sauce on a lamb burger

Using regular yogurt will yield a thinner sauce, Greek yogurt will give you a thicker consistency. You can turn regular yogurt into Greek yogurt if you place it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer and let the whey drip out for a couple of hours. This reduces the volume of the regular yogurt so you will have to start with more than a cup in order to get one cup of strained yogurt for this recipe. Save the whey that drips out and use it in making fermented salsa, or put it into smoothies to add protein and probiotics.

Tzatziki Sauce
Cool, creamy cucumber sauce
  • 1 cup full fat plain yogurt or full fat Greek yogurt (such as Fage Total)
  • ½ cup fresh cucumber seeded and diced
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano or ½ tsp dried
  • 1 tsp fresh mint or ½ tsp dried
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, pressed or finely minced
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Taste for salt and add more if desired.
  3. Cover and refrigerate a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.


Homemade Ranch Dressing

“Maltodextrin, buttermilk, sald, monosodium glutamate, dried garlic, dried onion, lactic acid, calcium lactate, citric acid, spice, artificial flavor, xanthan gum, calcium stearate, carboxymethylcellulose, guar gum”     MMMM! Delicious! What???!!!   hidden valley ranch packets

Let’s take a look at the scary things in this ingredient list. Maltodextrin is a starch, a carbohydrate, that mostly just gives bulk to powdered things – a filler if you will. Monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG, is an excitotoxin that has been proven to cause brain lesions and a long, long list of other horrible side-effects that are hazardous to your health. Citric acid is NOT, as the name implies, derived from citrus fruit. Citric acid is derived from Genetically Modified corn and is used to give foods a tart or sour flavor. Spice is a completely unregulated and undefined term the FDA allows food processing companies to use when they don’t want you to know the proprietary ingredients they are using. Basically it’s a loophole to protect the $ of the company and NOT to protect the consumer. Frequently “spice” means MORE MSG! Artificial flavor – again this could be anything.  Some artificial flavors are more toxic than others but since they don’t tell you we just don’t know.  Xanthan gum is a thickener made from bacteria that in and of itself is ok, but you don’t know what the growing medium for the bacteria was. Most likely it was GMO corn again. Calcium stearate keeps things from clumping, to waterproof fabrics, to make concrete pavers, to make glossy printer paper and as a lubricant in crayons. Hmmmm, is it food? Carboxymethylcellulose helps your laundry detergent clean tough soil stains better, they also put it in ice cream to make it seem thicker when they haven’t used any real cream or eggs. Again, is it food?

Thank goodness you can make Ranch Dressing at home!  Like so many, many of our modern foods this salad dressing was once both frugal and healthy.  Made from the buttermilk leftover from churning raw cream into butter it was high enzyme and had probiotic properties. The addition of a little sour cream boosted the probiotic factor and also added healthy fat that aided the digestion of the fresh salad greens and garden vegetables with which it was eaten. Try this recipe with your own homemade kefir in place of the buttermilk for even more probiotic goodness.

Ranch Dressing    minced garlic

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk or kefir

2 Tblsp quality, full-fat sour cream

2 Tblsp homemade mayonnaise or a good store-bought safflower mayonnaise

1 to 3 tsp chopped shallots or green onions

1 tsp chopped chives

1 tsp chopped parsley

1 tsp chopped thyme

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp sucanat or raw honey

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 small clove of minced fresh garlic OR you can use 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill for one hour to let the flavors blend. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar for up to one week.


Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

saladgreensStore bought salad dressings are a nutritional nightmare! Once you read the label on the back of one of those bottles you will hopefully think twice about eating it again!  Thankfully salad dressings are so easy to make, and honestly it is cheaper to make your own than it is to buy it.  Invest in the basic ingredients and you will always have fresh, delicious, healthy salad dressing ready in just a few minutes.

I will start by giving you the basic template for a standard vinaigrette dressing. At the end I will give you some variations you can use to personalize your dressing. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new and exciting combinations of herbs, spices, and other flavors.  You can buy one of the pretty glass cruets made just for salad dressings or simply keep yours in a half-pint mason jar.

Basic Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 to 3 tsp Dijon mustard*

2-3 Tblsp vinegar* (use apple cider, red wine, white wine, balsamic or other delicious vinegar but NOT distilled white vinegar!)

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil*

1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Place the mustard in a bowl. Whisk in the vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk until the oil is incorporated. Stire in the salt and pepper. The mustard acts as a sort of emulsifier to help the vinegar and oil stay together, but it isn’t a heavy-duty chemical emulsifier like some commercial dressings have so your salad dressing will eventually separate. Just shake the jar to mix it back up. 

*Why the range of measurements? It all depends on your taste preference. Start with the smaller amounts and then experiment with using more or less of each ingredient until you get the combination that tastes best to you.

Optional add-ins:

Choose any one or more of the following items. Remember, this is just to get you started. If you try something yummy at a retaurant ask them what is in their dressing and go try it at home for example.  Add your mix-ins when you mix together the mustard and vinegar but before the olive oil.

1/2 clove crushed garlic; a couple of teaspoons of raw honey; a teaspoon or two of minced fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, chives, oregano, lemongrass, cilantro, basil; a couple teaspoons of homemade blueberry jam; a couple spoonfuls of leftover cranberry sauce; a minced chipotle chili

chives and thyme


Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing

Here in Central Florida in January it isn’t hard to find fresh citrus.  Someone left a bag of big Meyer lemons in the back hallway at church so I snagged as many as I could juggle in one hand and headed out to the car.  When I got home I pulled out my low-tech citrus juicer, sliced one of the lemons open enjoying the burst of bright lemon scent, and made salad dressing. meyer lemons 

Sometimes the simple way is the best way. Here is an example of just that. This dressing has only five ingredients, takes only a few minutes to prepare, and yet has all the flavor you could ever want. It is perfect over plain green salads but also works well on steamed or grilled vegetables, sauteed fish or chicken, or tiny new potatoes.

Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing

1 small clove of garlic

1 tsp sea salt

3 Tblsp fresh lemon juice

6-7 Tblsp high-quality extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper                          


Take a knife and lay it with the flat side onto the garlic clove.  Give the flat of the blade a determined smack and crush the garlic. Remove the outer peel, then give the smashed garlic a couple of rough chops and put it in a clean, dry bowl.  Add the sea salt and use the back of a spoon to mash the salt and garlic together into a paste.  Pour in the fresh lemon juice and use a fork to stir up the garlic salt paste into the lemon juice. Add the olive oil while stirring with the fork. This is the place to use that extra special bottle of olive oil you splurged on at the gourmet shop. Mix the oil in well. Add the freshly ground pepper and serve.

This makes enough dressing for a very large bowl of fresh salad greens, or you can keep it in a glass jar in the refrigerator for three or four days to use on smaller salads throughout the week.