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Spinach Salad with Mom’s All Purpose Salad Dressing

July 5, 2014


Mother and many mid-century cooks at the time knew and served only their homemade dressings with any lettuce or salad of greens. Mom’s was a simple salad-dressing based (always Miracle Whip for us, she liked her brand names and while she watched her pennies, didn’t blink at the extra cost) concoction that added milk (or cream), vinegar, sugar, a dash of salt, pepper and occasional celery seed. Very simple but it was the way we ate our salad greens from the garden in the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, our salad was made using only iceberg lettuce. How boring! Not really nutritious, nothing but crunch and some tangy sweetness. In the summer we would add tomatoes from the garden.

People still seem to enjoy this salad dressing (and ask how I make it) whenever I serve it with a salad of ample greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, sometimes onion, or whatever combo you come up with.

I use it not only for tossed salad, but spinach, Cole slaw, and cucumber/onion salads as well. I usually make it fresh for each use but in the summer I might make a small batch to keep in the fridge because we use it so often.

So here is an all purpose salad dressing, simple to make, and as used in this photo, with a mix of spinach, sweet white onion, and shredded boiled egg.


Mother’s Salad Dressing

½ cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
¼ cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
Dash salt, pepper, celery seed

Put all ingredients in small bowl and stir with spoon until well mixed. It should be creamy like the consistency of most salad dressings out of a bottle. Add more milk if thinner consistency is desired. Taste. If it is tangy sweet to your liking, go with it. If not, play with the vinegar and sugar until you like it.



What do you recall from your mother or grandmother in terms of salads and salad dressing? Plain & simple or a dish with a variety of  fruits and veggies?


There’s another recipe for Raspberry Poppy Seed dressing in my book, Whatever Happened to Dinner? Check it out or purchase here.



From → Family Life, Food, Recipes

  1. My mother and grandmother were not much into salads or salads dressing. Their menus were more of the meat, potatoes, veggie and pickle variety. However, Aunt Ruthie made her own salad dressing, but I never got her recipe. From the ingredients you list, I think the two are very similar. I’m going to print it now but use Hellman’s dressing – that’s what’s in the fridge now. 🙂

    Thanks, Melodie for such an easy, practical recipe.

    • My mom basically stuck to meat, potatoes and vegetable for most meals too but switched out to simple salads like this once or twice a week. Some of my friends Moms served alot of jello salads with fruits in them, but to me that was always dessert. I’ll be anxious to hear how your salad dressing turns out with the Hellman’s–that’s good too and of course, use what you have!

  2. Beverly Silver permalink

    Hi Melodie, Just want to say Thanks, for the blog, especially on your ecumenical experiences – and I went bqck to re-read the one on House Church Sunday. You write so beautifully and express so well what others may think but can’t really say it so beautifully. Just, thanks. Love, Beverly

    • Beverly, you are so sweet to to comment here and thanks for the kind words. I’m enjoying reading the 2nd book you gave me (the one on Appalachian cooking) and will likely write a blog post on it sometime soon as well. Rich stuff! Have a good week.

  3. Nancy Schaffer permalink

    Hi Melodie- my mom’s dressing was pretty much the same only she used this for her potato and macaroni salad. I grew up on Miracle Whip too, but for some reason my kids and (earlier) husband only wanted it with mayonaise. But it is good with that too. My mom often made her own Russian dressing, which was something like you have here only add ketchup. It all brings back good memories doesn’t it:-)

    • This formed the basis for mom’s potato salad too. I have definitely learned to like mayo on certain things and like some potato salads made with it. Some are just too bland for my tastes. Yes, I’ve made the Russian version with simply added ketchup. Yes, good memories and thankfulness that our salads and some of our food are more varied now!

  4. Naomi Bontrager permalink

    Because we had a dairy farm, my mother used cream in a lot of things. Our salads, whether loose leaf lettuce from the garden or cucumbers and onions, were usually dressed with a cream, venigar and salt dressing. Sometimes for certain things she added sugar, usually brown. For potato salad she made a cooked dressing. Not sure how she made it but I know she used dry mustard. I like your recipes and thoughts about growing up.

    • Thanks, Naomi, glad you’re liking the recipes and reflections. So your mother used just cream, vinegar and salt? I wondered about using that combo with cucumbers and onions in particular, guess I should experiment. There are some really good cooked dressings, for sure. Thanks for commenting!

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