Seven-Layer Salad

Does anyone else have a Costco cookbook problem?  I should just avoid the book section altogether, really, but the pull is always there.  I’ve gotten better at checking cookbooks out from the library to give them a spin, but it always seems like cookbooks at Costco are such a good deal.  (Sigh.)  Inevitably, my cookbook collection grows.

Anyway, my most recent Costco cookbook acquisition is the Cooking Light‘s Cook Smart Eat Well cookbook.  I usually don’t buy cookbooks that are collections of recipes that were already published in a magazine, but my Cooking Light subscription is pretty new still.  I’ve missed a lot.  And I know I could find most of the recipes online, but I just really like having a book in my hands instead of piles of printed recipes.

As I was flipping through the pages of my new book, I spotted the Creamy Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese recipe.  It looked really yummy and much healthier than most homemade mac and cheese, so I decided to give it a go.  One thing that I really like about Cooking Light is that they often give suggestions for rounding out your menu; one of the suggested accompaniments for the pasta was Seven-Layer Salad, which looked ridiculously easy and chock-full of tasty ingredients.

Long story short: We loved the salad and the macaroni and cheese was just OK.  I didn’t really care for the Dijon and Worcestershire flavors in the sauce (I wanted to taste cheese), and the pasta congealed way too quickly.  As a mac and cheese connoisseur, I suppose I should realize that it’s a rare “healthy” version that can stand up to gourmet versions, but you never know until you try, right?

Back to the salad: It tastes great, it’s colorful, there’s plenty of dressing (thanks to a great sour cream trick!), and I think kids would like it.  Plus, it only takes 10 minutes to put together, although you can assemble it up to a day ahead, cover it, and stash it in the refrigerator if you want.  Here’s how I made it.

In a large bowl, I layered 6 cups of torn iceberg lettuce, 1 (15-ounce) can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed), 2 cups of diced tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes), 1 cup of diced cucumbers, and 1 cup of julienne-cut carrots.  In a separate small bowl, I combined 1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream with 1/2 cup of light ranch dressing.  I spread the sour cream mixture over the carrot layer and then topped it with 1/2 cup (2 ounces) of shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese.

That’s it!

Seven-Layer Salad

This certainly isn’t a gourmet salad with a complex flavor profile, but it was really good.  You get some crunch from the romaine, cucumbers, and carrots, and I love the addition of beans for protein.  Mixing the sour cream and ranch together really stretches the dressing without adding a ton of calories; for someone who is normally a “fork dipper” when it comes to dressing, being able to enjoy a bit more was a nice change.  Plus, since this isn’t a tossed salad, you really can make it ahead (or enjoy leftovers the next day) without worrying about things getting soggy.  This was especially nice for Dr. O and me because the full recipe salad is HUGE; next time I’ll cut things in half if it’s just the two of us.

TIPS:  The recipe actually called for fat-free sour cream, but I refuse to use fat-free versions of ingredients that really should have some fat in them.  I find that the texture and flavor are usually off with the fat-free options, so it’s not worth it in my book.

Recipe link: Seven-Layer Salad

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