DIY Kitchen Basics: 3 Easy Scratch Dressings

DIY Kitchen Basics: 3 Easy Scratch DressingsDitch the  bottled salad dressings. That’s my advice to you, if you want to enjoy better tasting salads for the rest of your life.  Most everyone can benefit from eating more vegetables, and  learning  to make a spectacular salad dressing is  life changing (ok, a  little dramatic, but you get the point!).

This month’s  recipe redux theme is DIY kitchen essentials. I have no better DIY staple then my made from scratch salad dressings.  Classic dressings have a ratio of 3: 1, oil to vinegar. My homemade versions are not only tasty, they’re made with less oil (which also keeps the calories in check). Note: I don’t like to omit oil; some is good because it adds taste and can help you absorb valuable nutrients found in vegetables such as lycopene and beta-carotene, which have been shown to help prevent heart disease and cancer .

Below I have assembled a cheat sheet with my top 3 favorite salad dressings. Start your dressing with an acid (vinegar or citrus),  add herbs and seasonings, and sweetener, (if desired). Then slowly whisk in oil (base). Voila! It takes just minutes to finish a salad that will win over some of the pickiest eaters. The portions listed below will make enough dressing for a large salad that feeds up to four. Get creative by changing the base, acids, sweeteners and herbs to find your  new secret to loving salads.

Be sure to visit the links at the bottom of this post for more DIY kitchen essentials.

DIY Salad Dressing Cheat SheetWhat’s your favorite salad dressing?

The Complex Cranberry + Cranberry & Cilantro Quinoa Salad

Cranberries are rich in polyphenolic compounds (i.e. flavonoids) and they taste terrific anytime of year! 

Cranberry & Cilantro Quinoa Salad

Disclosure: The Cranberry Institute has sent me research updates, cranberry tips, some seasonal recipes as well as dried cranberries. In exchange, I’m  sharing  this information with you.  I was not financially compensated to write this post. Opinions are my own.

Cranberries. What’s the first thing that crosses your mind? For me it’s urinary tract infections (UTI’s). (Pardon my honesty). I personally like cranberries for this reason and  I can cite several studies that indicate their ability to lower the recurrence of UTIs.  The active ingredients in cranberries, proanthocyanidins or  A-type PACs  interfer with bacterial adhesion in the urinary tract. In other words, if the bacteria cannot stick to the urinary tract, they will not grow and cause infection.

However, my husband is quick to point out the other side,  there are a number of studies finding null results between the tart berry and prevention of urinary tract infections.

Truth is, understanding how cranberry exerts its health effects is evolving. Although  the majority of  over 350 research and review articles published about cranberry have focused on the berry’s effect on urinary tract health,  emerging science shows cranberry may have some other possible benefits including:   cardiovascular health, reducing oral diseases including  cavities and gum disease, and gastrointestinal health.

About now you’re asking, how much?… Cranberry juice?.. Sauce?…  Or dried cranberries? Here’s the  caveat:  No one can recommend exact form, dose, or duration of cranberry consumption.  Why then do I advocate consumption of this tiny tart fruit for health benefits?  I have learned to accept the limitations of science. I understand that reference intake values of pythochemcials have not been established, but there is growing concensus that they possibly contribute to promoting health and reducing the risk of disease. Berry fruit, including cranberries,  provide a rich source of phenolic acids and flavonoids that are associated with health benefits. My recommendation is to  choose a broad array of fruits, including berry fruits, to increase intake of these bioactive compounds along with a balanced diet.

That said, I love this fresh, gluten free, vegan salad for spring and summer from the Cranberry Marketing Committee that exemplifies my support for cranberries as part of a healthy diet. Make it for your next pool party, picnic or backyard bbq!

What’s your favorite way to eat cranberries?

Cranberry & Cilantro Quinoa Salad

Cranberry & Cilantro Quinoa Salad

adapted from the Cranberry Marketing Committee

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 3 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground red pepper


1. Toast quinoa in a  skillet over medium high heat stirring frequently until quinoa is fragrant and make a continuous popping sound (about 5- 7 minutes).

2. In a small saucepan, bring water and pinch of salt to a boil over high heat; stir in toasted quinoa, reduce heat and bring to a low simmer. Cover pot and cook until all liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes).

2. Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. To the bowl of quinoa, stir in cranberries, carrots, red and yellow peppers, red onion and cilantro until mixed.

4. In a small bowl, mix together lime juice, oil, salt and ground red pepper and pour over quinoa-cranberry mixture; toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Does not have to be served cold.

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Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 150, Calories from Fat 30, Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g, Total Fat 3.5g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 115mg, Total Carbohydrate 29g, Sugars 11g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 3g, Vitamin A 40%, Vitamin C 45%, Calcium 2%, Iron 6%

The above recipe has a Southwestern twist, but by swappping out a few basic ingredients you can take cranberries global:
Asian: Swap out red onion, cilantro and lime juice, for scallions, ginger and soy sauce.

Greek: Swap out carrots, cilantro and lime juice for tomatoes, olives and chickpeas. Make it even better- add feta!

Indian: Swap out carrots, peppers, cilantro and lime juice for winter squash, sweet potatoes, pecans and curry paste. Add an extra kick with cayenne pepper!

American: Swap out peppers, cilantro and lime juice, for celery, turkey breast and thyme. Who knows, this could become your new favorite Thanksgiving leftovers recipe.

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