Olive Garden Salad

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Have you ever had the salad at Olive Garden? What they lack in breadstick perfection, they make up for in salad (my opinion). We love this salad and it often accompanies our meals when we have Lasagna, Spaghetti & Meatballs, or Parmesan Chicken.

There are 7 ingredients: Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, pepperoncini, shredded mozzarella cheese, croutons, and dressing. Parmesan cheese is optional. This salad tastes exactly like one you’d get at Olive Garden.

Here’s why.

I think in any salad, the secret is the dressing. For this salad, I’ve tried dressing recipes that were named “Olive Garden Dressing”, but none of them tasted quite right. Sure, they were good, but not AS good. So, here’s my secret: I go into our local Olive Garden and buy a bottle of dressing. ;) It’s $5.49 with tax (and I never know whether or not to tip when it’s just a quick no packaging carry-out item, so sometimes a do and sometimes I don’t). It may be slightly more expensive than other dressings, but you can make 3 salads with one bottle. And it tastes perfect every time AND you don’t have to make dressing every time you make the salad. I heard it’s available at Sam’s Club now. I wonder if it’s the real thing. Does anyone know? I just might have to get some there and do a taste test.

Olive Garden Salad ingredient list came from studying my salad one time at the restaurant, quantities are my personal preference

1 bunch Romaine Lettuce
2 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and each cut into 8 chunks
1/2 cup sliced Black olives, or a 2.25 oz can, drained
15 mild Pepperoncini
1 heaping cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 heaping cup Croutons
3/4 cup Olive Garden Dressing

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I always drain the olives, pepperoncini, and tomatoes on paper towel for awhile before putting them in the salad.

Wash lettuce. Dry and rip into large bowl. (A lettuce spinner has been on my wish list for about 5 years, but every time I have some extra spending money to blow on kitchen stuff, I decide drying lettuce leaves with paper towel will be fine after all, and end up getting more “toys” for cake decorating instead.)
Put all ingredients into a large bowl and toss.

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Dump into serving bowl and serve.
For how many this serves:
If using as a side salad, I make a half batch for our family of 5 (and the girls eat about as much as an adult would, even the 3-yr-old).
If using as a main dish with grilled chicken on top, I make a whole batch (as a main dish, the girls don’t eat quite as much as an adult would).
In both cases, there’s usually a serving or two left over.
For company, I make one batch for every 10-12 people.

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We had this for lunch yesterday and there was a serving of leftovers. Because this salad keeps better than some dressing-mixed-in salads, I put the leftovers in the fridge. I ate it for supper (5 hours later) and the lettuce was still crisp and crunchy. I think it might keep better because it’s a low sugar dressing and doesn’t make the lettuce soft.

Speaking of lunch yesterday, here is a variation for serving this salad. It’s commonly thought of as a side salad, but once in awhile, we like to switch things up from our regular chicken breast salad and use Olive Garden salad for the salad part instead. (By the way, our regular chicken breast salad is featured here almost 3 years ago, but we still do it exactly the same, and still make it often, especially in the summer.) Anyway, we switched it up yesterday and used Olive Garden salad… simply fill a plate with the salad and put a sliced perfectly-seasoned-and-grilled-by-Shannon chicken breast on top.
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Colorific Salad

It appears that the cook around here is on strike, doesn’t it? I think it’s more a thing of needing to hire a scribe because I currently have pictures for 4 posts. I’ve made supper the last 2 evenings, and for some crazy reason, I can’t remember back farther than that. Probably several snacky fend-for-yourself meals in there somewhere. Yeah, we do have those weekly, and then some more on the weekend… that’s why I try to keep frozen pizzas, hot dogs, nacho stuff, cheese & pretzels, and cold cereal on hand. Anyway, the last 2 evenings, we’ve had grilled chicken salad and wet burritos, respectively. I like the grilled chicken salad because all I have to do is throw a couple salads together and possibly pop some refrigerated Pillsbury breadsticks in the oven… the rest is on the grill, which, if you’ve been reading Kitchen Scrapbook for any length of time, you’ll know I don’t touch the grill. I have the 4 plates of salad sitting out on the counter and Shannon brings the chicken in AND cuts it up and puts it on top of the salads. On the wet burritos, I read my post on that last night and thought it was strange that I served crescent rolls and salad with it. Huh? That sounds more like lasagna sides! I don’t even remember serving that with it; now I serve tortilla chips salsa with it. And sometimes applesauce, just because I have a thing aboout that there’s gotta be at least 3 different things on the table, not counting condiments, otherwise it looks skimpy. 

I finally made my salad that I’d been craving a couple weeks ago. So, what does the word ‘colorific’ mean? I decided it must be a made up combo, merging colorful and terrific. And that would fit this salad. I got this recipe from Jolene. Thanks, Jolene, it’s a keeper! Connie, thanks for your recipe too, I’d like to try it sometime… I don’t go for feta cheese, but I’ll bet that could be substituted for mozzarella.

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Colorific Salad
1 c. craisins
1 c. red peppers
1 c. honey roasted sesame sticks
1 c. pecans
2 c. shredded cheese
1/2 of a purple onion
1 head of romaine lettuce

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Mmmmm… you know it’s gonna be a good salad when you have to say “Where’s the lettuce?” ;)

Oh, one little tidbit… I took the idea from Connie’s recipe to saute the pecans… yum! I didn’t sugar them though.
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Dressing:
1 T. mustard
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
1/3 c. vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. minced onion
Blend dressing in blender. I put this picture on here so you can see what color the dressing is…
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Toss with salad ingredients.
I was taking this to a carry-in meal at church, so I took it in this big bowl with a lid (more room for tossing) and put the dressing in a separate container… you can see it all in the background here.
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And then, instead of letting the kitchen help take care of tossing my salad, I went out when church was almost over to do it myself so I could get a ‘done’ picture. ;)

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Next up… Megan’s puppy birthday cake. How did my baby turn 1 already?!

And this afternoon, I’m planning to bake monster cookies. Yay! I just did last week, but who cares. In a perfect world, I’d bake ‘em every week. :)

Cranberry Relish or Salad

This is a cranberry relish recipe that Mom added some variation to. It is SO good!!!! You don’t even have to be crazy about cranberries to like it. Mom gave me this recipe along with the ingredients. :) There are several different ways to make it and on the recipe she wrote: “It might not always taste exactly the same, but always leaves that crisp flavor in your mouth!”

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Cranberry Relish

Printable recipe coming soon.

2 cups washed, raw cranberries
2 cored apples
1 large peeled orange, or put in some peel if you like OR substitute the orange for crushed pineapple
1 – 2 cups sugar, to your taste
1/2 cup or more chopped walnuts or pecans

Pulse in blender or grind together berries and oranges. Do not over blend to mush. I opted for the crushed pineapple instead of the orange. I LOVE pineapple! I put in about half of a can.
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Shred or chop apples. Add nuts.
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Mix together and keep tasting and adding sugar till happy. I liked it with 1 cup of sugar… didn’t want to interfere too much with the tartness. Don’t miss popping a few cranberries between your teeth for a tart burst of flavor! Makes 3 cups. May be frozen.
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And here’s another variation, which I love! You can also mix in some Cool Whip and cream cheese. Mmmmm! I think this addition would make it a salad instead of relish.
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So there you go, this one or that one… take your pick… you can’t go wrong either way! :)
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Robust Italian Salad with Homemade Croutons

Here’s a quick and easy and delicious salad recipe you’ve gotta have. It’s got Italian flavor. Yum. I actually put Italian seasoning on lots of stuff, including all salads.

This salad recipe comes with a homemade croutons recipe. I haven’t bought croutons for several years now… these don’t take long to make and it uses up bread that’s not soft anymore and here’s the best thing about them (besides the taste): They’re soft enough to poke with a fork, but still have a crunch. I don’t like croutons that are so hard that when you try to poke them on your fork, they break into 5 pieces and no piece actually gets onto the fork. Just a trivial tidbit that this reminds me of… when we were on our FIRST date, we were at a restaurant eating our house salads and my boyfriend (who’s now my husband) poked into a crouton and a piece shot across the table and hit me. I still remember, in my nervousness, trying to make a quick decision of whether I should ignore it or laugh about it or throw it back at him. We just laughed about it. Now, I kinda feel like telling you all about our first date because several funny things happened and I still remember thinking it was so crazy that I was nervous because we were highschool sweethearts and were just WAAAAAAAITING for my 18th birthday when I was allowed to date (we had our first date the evening of my 18th birthday) and I guess I was nervous because the atmosphere was somehow different and this was the real thing, but I guess I won’t go into it because most of it has nothing to do with cooking, not that everything I write on here has something to do with cooking.

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Robust Italian Salad …recipe comes from the 2001 Quick Cooking annual cookbook

Printable recipe

1 pkg (16 oz) ready-to-serve salad
1 pkg (2 1/2 oz) sliced pastrami, cut into 1/2″ pieces, optional
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/3 cup Italian salad dressing
1 cup Seasoned Croutons (recipe below)
Sliced ripe olives, optional

In a large salad bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Drizzle with dressing; toss to coat. Top with croutons and olives if desired.

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Garnish with tomato roses and parsley.
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Seasoned Croutons (the kind that don’t shoot across the table when you poke them with your fork)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
Pinch of salt
6 slices day-old bread, cubed
In an ungreased pan, combine the first 7 ingredients. Place in a 300-degree oven until butter is melted. Remove from the oven; stir to combine. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Bake for 10 – 15 min or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Cool. Store in refrigerator in airtight container. Yield: 3 cups. These are not only great with salad, but we also use them in soup.

Mom’s Potato Salad

Because Mom’s is always the best, isn’t it? No matter who ‘Mom’ is.

 This potato salad is not my mom’s recipe, it’s just potato salad that’s like hers… just basic potato salad, with no fears of biting into a piece of celery or a pimiento. The reason it’s not her exact recipe is because there is none. She just cooks a few potatoes, cooks a few eggs, and makes the dressing, which is a few dollops of salad dressing, a bit of milk, a squirt of mustard, a scoop of sugar, etc., then she tastes it and adds more as needed.

 I think that’s what makes a truly good cook… when you don’t need recipes, yet the food turns out great. My sister Jan inherited that style of cooking, but not me. I do really admire that style of cooking and am impressed when I ask someone for a recipe and they say ‘I don’t actually have one’. But the times I’ve tried to fling it without a recipe, it’s been mostly flops, so I’ll stick to recipes.

This recipe doesn’t have progressive pictures because I wasn’t planning to post it when I made it, but then after tasting it again, I changed my mind because I just love it. But, you didn’t miss much by no progressive pictures, it’s pretty basic.

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Mom’s Potato Salad

Printable recipe

6 hard boiled eggs, cut up (I put them thro’ the egg slicer one way, then the other)
5 medium potatoes, cooked, then peeled, then cooled, then shredded 

Dressing:
1 1/2 cups salad dressing
1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 heaping cup of sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup milk

Pour dressing over potatoes and eggs and stir slowly till evenly mixed. Refrigerate. It can be made ahead… it’s just as good or better the next day. Enjoy!

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