#WinterGrowingChallenge Update #3 with Salad Dressing Recipes!

#WinterGrowingChallenge Update #3 with Salad Dressing Recipes!

Last Thursday evening I finally fed some of my home-grown shoots and sprouts to my boys! Score one for mom! Yay me! Woot woot!

Hey─you gotta take those victories where you can get them. Parenting is hard enough without the added pressures of trying to provide your children with a diet low in processed foods. And I say “low” in processed foods because so much of what’s available now at the grocery store is processed that it’s incredibly difficult to feed your family real food exclusively.

The Salad

It took a little longer than I would have liked, but 6 weeks into the #WinterGrowingChallenge I made a big salad to go with our dinner and it was consumed by the household with gusto.

I admit that I also picked up a package of organic spring mix at Hannaford to fill out the salad a bit more. My 2 sons are turning 15 and 11 in February this year, and they’ve reached that legendary adolescent stage of their development where they can consume a man’s-sized helping of food and still ask for more. Or for desert lol. However I was able to add 5 trays of shoots to the mix: pea shoots, radish, micro mix, broccoli and cress, as well as plenty of alfalfa sprouts I’d grown too.

Note: Learn more about Runamuk’s #WinterGrowingChallenge, or check out Johnny’s Selected Seed’s for supplies to grow your own shoots and sprouts!

I shredded up a home-grown carrot and sliced one of my own onions, and topped it with shredded cheddar cheese. The boys had a choice between 2 vinaigrette dressings that I’d made up a couple weeks before (see recipes below!): a Sweet Dill Vinaigrette and a Garlic & Ginger Balsamic Vinaigrette.

salad dressingTerrible Tomatoes

There were some cherry tomatoes I’d splurged on too, but they were a colossal disappointment. I knew when I picked them out they would fall short of the high-quality vegetables my fellow farmers and I are producing at the local farmers’ market. But I was not prepared for how far they fell short. These cherry tomatoes were terrible. They were bland and watery─more like a grape in texture─and no tomato flavor to speak of. I couldn’t even eat them. What’s more, I think the majority of those darn tomatoes are still sitting in the refrigerator right now all but untouched. They’ll wind up as chicken food.

That was the last time I’ll buy cherry tomatoes at the grocery store.

The Kid Test

The boys consumed their salads with gusto; accompanied by oven-roasted potatoes and winter squash seasoned with rosemary and thyme and it was scrumptious. They’ve been raised on home-grown vegetables and for the most part will eat what I provide, but the shoots were new and a one point BraeTek, the younger brother, says to me:

“Mom…?” He held up a leafy pea shoot, “What’s this?”

“It’s a pea shoot,” I told him happily, gesturing to the grow rack where the trays of shoots in various stages of growth were displayed before the kitchen window. “I grew it right here. They’re full of nutrients and they’re really good for you.”

“Oh,” he said. “I like them.” And he popped the thing in his mouth with an impish smile.

There you have it folks! The shoots pass the Kid Test!

The #WinterGrowingChallenge runs through February, and you can bet that I’m intending to feed my family a few more salads between now and then. Meanwhile, try these homemade vinaigrette salad dressings! They’re so easy to make for yourself, and devoid of unnecessary preservatives. I’ll keep mine for up to a month in the refrigerator without any issues, but just use common sense folks─if it smells funny don’t risk it.

Sweet Dill Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

I actually multiply this recipe by 4 and end up with two-thirds of a pint-sized mason jar filled with dressing, which lasts for quite a while.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove crushed garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 pinch salt
ground pepper to taste
add desired fresh herbs

This recipe actually calls for “white balsamic vinegar”, but I’ve only ever used the regular balsamic vinegar, which actually produces a slightly sweeter vinaigrette.

I’ve been using these 2 recipes long enough that I’m less precise with the measurements now, and have done a far amount of experimenting with different herbs and vinegars too. For example, I know I like to also add a little cornstarch to thicken the dressing a smidge; and often when they’re available I’ll mince fresh garlic or ginger or other fresh herbs to use in my salad dressings. It’s all about taste and personal preference, really─like so many other instances in life.

Small Changes Add Up

The fact is, unless you’re making everything completely from scratch─breads, snacks, entrees, condiments─you name it─it’s practically impossible to completely eliminate processed food stuffs from your family’s diets. If you send your kids to school you have even less control over what they’re eating.

Let’s not forget the financial aspect either, or the fact that Americans spend less time cooking than any other nation in the world. Some of us don’t even know how to cook!

Yet, we need not beat ourselves up over what we’re not doing. Instead, let’s accept where we’re at and just keep working at making small changes in our daily habits. Over time these small changes will add up to some pretty significant changes in attitude and habits. And the more you do, the more you’ll be able to do. Believe me!

Thanks for reading and following along with Runamuk’s story. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have questions or if you have something to share! Be sure to subscribe to the blog by email so that you never miss a post!


  1. Darlene Mathieu

    Well, I took my first tray of shoots out of the dark yesterday and put it in the window. It’s getting a lot of sun today! They look pretty good but had light mold around the top of the soil. It’s gone today. The peas and radish have a few more days to go before I take them out. So far, so good! Not sure how to leave a pic on here…

    1. Samantha Burns

      That’s so great Darlene!! I’m so glad you decided to play along! I’m not sure how to upload a pic here either, but I think you could upload one easily to Ruanmuk’s facebook page; just use the #WinterGrowingChallenge hastag. <3

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