DIY Salad Bar

Given that this is the first post of the year, I’m feeling a little push to come up with something profound. For kicks I took a peek at what I wrote this time last year and it wasn’t remotely inspiring….just a few words on sustainable seafood. But the blog was brand new then, and the only ones reading were my parents (who had no choice in the matter), my husband (ditto), and a handful of supportive friends.

Now quite a few of you are tuning in, so there’s a touch more pressure to come up with something ground breaking or at least mildly thought provoking. But having stumbled upon so many other thoughtful pieces over the past few days, I don’t feel so compelled. There’s this smart take on why you might want to think twice before diving headlong into a New Year’s diet, and this lovely essay on food and family and getting a little quieter in 2012.

An Easy Way to Do Dinner

So I’ll stay out of the contemplative realm and keep things shamelessly straightforward with what’s really on my mind: getting dinner on the table tonight. Because no matter how philosophical we can all get at the launch of a New Year, there’s still the practical matter of feeding a family.

Use What You’ve Got

This little DIY Salad Bar, while ever so slightly “1980’s Round Table Pizza,” is the ideal answer to dinner following the holidays. Most of us are looking to lighten things up a bit anyway, while at the same time use all the leftover bits and bobs in the refrigerator: the last of the gorgeous bosc pears sent from a distant auntie, the tin of toasted almonds Mr. Mom’s Kitchen brought home from a client, the remainder of the New Year’s Day ham, the salad greens from last week’s CSA box, a chunk of cheese from the gougeres we made for Christmas.

When my fridge gets to such a state, I pull everything out and get chopping. The result is a simple, make-your-own salad bar.

Choose a Favorite Dressing

You can keep it as simple as putting out oil and vinegar and letting everyone dress them own salad. If you have a favorite bottled dressing, that’s fair game, too. Below you’ll find recipes for a variety of homemade dressings to fill out your salad bar a bit more.

Everyday Vinaigrette

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Carrot Miso Dressing

Lighter Green Goddess Dressing

Healthier Ranch 

DIY Salad Bar

This recipe gives a range of quantities for salad bar ingredients. This is to take into account whether you have little or big appetites in your house, what you happen to have in the fridge, and your personal preferences for what goes into a salad. Feel free to tinker with the amounts to make the salad bar your very own.


  • 4 to 6 generous handfuls of greens , such as lettuce, spinach, dark leafies, and/or chicories
  • 1 1/2 to 3 cups raw vegetables or leftover cooked vegetables
  • 1/2 to 1 cup fresh fruit , such as chopped apples or pears, berries, or sectioned citrus fruits
  • 1 to 2 cups beans , legumes, and/or grains
  • 1 to 2 cups other protein-rich foods , such as cooked chicken, turkey, hard boiled egg, tuna, salmon, beef, tofu, pork, ham, or lamb
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded , crumbled, or cubed cheese, such as feta, Cheddar, Swiss, blue, or goat cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup nuts and/or seeds , such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup fruit such as raisins , dried cranberries, chopped apricot, chopped dried plums
  • Croutons
  • Favorite dressings


  1. Start by portioning out all of your ingredients into little bowls or ramekins and set them on the table. Grab the kids to help with this one.
  2. Make a salad dressing and/or pull out whatever bottled options you have on hand. It's a plus to offer a choice, even if it's just a bottle of olive oil and vinegar.
  3. Set one big bowl on the table with a pair of salad tongs and a stack of serving plates.
  4. Let each family member fill a plate with all their favorite salad fixings, put it into the big bowl, drizzle on some dressing, and toss each salad individually. The kids like doing this on their own.
  5. Any leftovers can be tossed together for lunch box salads for the next day.


01.04.2012 at11:13 AM #

Anne Mullen

I’m obviously in a different kitchen from yours. All I have left over are the remains of 4 burritos. The last of the family left this morning, so buritto-ends for lunch with a last tangerine for dessert. Happy New Year to the Morfords!

01.04.2012 at11:13 AM #

Katie Morford

burrito salad?

01.04.2012 at3:38 PM #

Tami @Nutmeg Notebook

We have been eating big salads the past couple of days and it is so refreshing after all that heavy holiday food!

01.08.2012 at9:59 AM #


What a fun idea! It’s just me, husband and teenage daughter but I think we could pull this off. Normally when we have suitable leftover bits I will shout over to each and say ‘what do you want on your salad?’. But I think next time I will take a leaf out of your salad, so to speak, and set up all in nice bowls for them to select and pile as they please. And as for the proposed sweet bar…

09.21.2023 at1:35 PM #


This is such a great idea! Thank you for sharing.

09.21.2023 at1:35 PM #

Katie Morford

You’re welcome!

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