The idea of having a salad bar at your next party may not exactly scream "fun," but using your imagination can make your salad bar a more lively, festive food station than the standard restaurant version. Create a salad bar that goes with the holiday or event you're celebrating, or one that follows a fun theme. Use festive dishes and linens to brighten up the serving table. And it's OK to throw in a few nontraditional items to satisfy those party guests with a sweet tooth -- a fruit salad bar is more interesting if ice cream or a few candies are involved.
Themed Salad Bar
Instead of the basic lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped eggs and carrots, jazz up your next party by offering a salad bar with a theme. Take on the challenge of creating a salad bar that's all one color, for example, or one that only uses food items that start with a designated letter of the alphabet. For heartier appetites, create a salad bar of salads -- instead of just salad ingredients, ask guests to bring a bowl of their favorite vegetable, potato, fruit or pasta salad. Or celebrate an international night theme by filling a salad bar with unusual ingredients used for salads in other countries.
Fun With Fruit
There are no rules that require a salad to be made from lettuce and vegetables. For a fresh, colorful alternative, create an all-fruit salad bar. Pick a range of berries, melon chunks, pineapple, grapes, and cut-up apples and bananas, for example. Add mango, papaya and kiwifruit for a more exotic flavor. Serve with a rich poppy seed dressing or honey-yogurt dip. If you want more texture in your fruit bar, add bowls of chopped nuts, shredded coconut and dried fruits.
Healthy Fun for Kids
Get kids involved in the salad bar party by turning it into a game. Ask them to make a salad bar shopping list of fresh items, one for every letter of the alphabet, then give them colorful plastic ware to display their purchases before the party. Or let them break the "don't play with your food" rule and allow them to stack, skewer and mix their salad bar ingredients any way they choose, as long as they eat their creations -- or encourage them to eat their salads with chopsticks. Another fun option for kids might feature salad bar ingredients using only primary colors or the colors of the rainbow.
Salad Bar Safety
Make you follow safe food handling practices, particularly those regarding keeping food covered and at safe temperatures to prevent foodborne illness. USDA guidelines for school salad bars recommend keeping serving equipment at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Serve mayonnaise-based dressings and salads by placing their serving bowls into larger bowls of ice. Keep food cold and in sealed containers until just before serving. Avoid leaving food out, especially in warm weather or a warm room, by putting your salad bar items back in the fridge promptly after eating.
- Sarah Vantassel/Demand Media