Easy entertaining with a salad bar? The humble salad bar may not be your first thought when you plan a party – but you may want to reconsider that thought. A salad bar is flexible, scalable and customizable – all great features when planning for a group. It also is healthy – and allows you and your guests to save room for dessert. And if you’re a special needs parent – then these features are all the more significant. If you let it be, special needs parenting can be a lonely existence. You suddenly have friends who don’t fully understand your world. Or you have friends who are themselves parenting special needs children. It can seem like there is little or no time to catch up. But this type of self-care is crucial to your being able to manage your parenting responsibilities.
Salad bar components are usually great at room temperature – and if you have a few proteins that need to be on ice, that’s more manageable than trying to keep a huge buffet hot. You can serve it indoors or outdoors with equal ease and there are no messy pots or pans to deal with at the end of the event. You can set up everything yourself, or have each guest bring a favorite ingredient or dressing. You may not have a lot of hands-on prep time if you’re busy with your special needs loved one. This can be a huge timesaver. Prep when you have time and then put everything out right as people are arriving.
Whether you are hosting two or twenty-two, salad is imminently scalable. A few more people show up? Grab a can of beans from your pantry, and a chunk of cheese from your fridge and you can stretch it. Does a freak storm – or a child’s ill-timed meltdown – keep people off the roads? Repurpose chopped veggies, grated cheese, and other toppings into tomorrow’s omelet or soup.
During summer months, salad is a refreshing option and little else is needed. Though I find a salad always benefits from a piece of bread on the side. When the weather is colder, then a soup-and-salad bar may be the solution – particularly good if your soup is chili or other option that works with toppings. And you can serve salad layered in cups or mason jars, or in bowls or plates of almost every type. Maybe your guests only have a few minutes to spare – make the most of it with a quick-to-assemble, quick-to-eat meal.
Salad is one of the few meals you can provide that will please your friends whether they choose vegan, paleo, gluten-free or dairy-free. When you have guests, connecting over food is key – and salad allows everyone to eat their own version of the same meal. Many special needs individuals follow complex diets – and often the entire family adopts the same habits. This type of meal helps include everyone without them having to sacrifice their food choices.
Balance is key – if you have a salad for your meal, then having a bite of dessert isn’t such a bad idea. Especially if it’s a double-frosted brownie or a perfect chocolate chip cookie. Because in the end, you can still maintain healthy habits and include a sweet treat – that’s a crucial part of self-care as well.
A great, simple dressing can make – or break – a salad. This tangy vinaigrette is a real crowd pleaser. It is creamy but contains no dairy or mayonnaise, so it can sit on a buffet table without worry. You can make it in a bowl or mason jar, but I love the convenience of this simple dressing shaker to make, serve and store this dressing.
- 1 garlic clove pressed or minced
- ¼ cup honey mustard like Annie’s Organics
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 or 3 dashes hot sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Measure all ingredients into your salad dressing shaker. Tighten lid and then shake to combine.
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