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Thursday, October 11,2012

Dressed Up Salad Dressing brings flavor, color and, most importantly, nutrition

By Alyssa Hurst
Photo by Jeff Cricco
Aryn Schlichting, left, and Jamie Corder

When Jamie Corder and Aryn Schlichting started “eating happy” in 2010, they realized that one aspect of their diet was still unhappy. As they wandered down the salad aisle, they could not find a dressing that matched their needs.

The best friends came to the conclusion that a good, healthy salad dressing just didn’t exist, so they decided they would simply create their own. What started as a solution to what the Colorado pair calls a “common problem” quickly turned into Dressed Up Salad Dressing, a business dedicated to creating dressings that taste as good as they are healthy.

“We started having dinner parties and doing a lot of cooking,” says Schlichting. “Every time we would go to the grocery store, all of the dressings were unhealthy and uninspired, so we hit the kitchen ourselves.”

After trying their hand at balancing flavor and nutrition in their own kitchens, Schlichting and Corder quickly learned that making dressing is not as easy as it looks. Too many failed attempts led the pair to seek out professional chef Barr Hogen to bring their idea to life.

“She [Hogen] helped us create guidelines for the dressings. They are all-natural, with simple, familiar ingredients and, most importantly, they add nutrition,” says Schlichting.

Further still, the recipes call for flax seed as an alternative to the common binding agent in dressings, xanthan gum. With the addition of flax seed, the dressing does the double duty of creating new flavors and enhancing health benefits through fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

The pair spent six months working with Hogen to create their three naturally delicious dressing flavors: purple carrot, mango and cocoa balsamic.

“Minimally processed foods don’t need a lot of doctoring to make them taste good,” Hogen says via email. “Each of the ingredients in Dressed Up has a lovely flavor profile. Together they blend into a lovely dressing.”

Hogen explains that salad is only healthy with a good dressing. Many people use dressings that are extremely high in sugar, compromising the value of an otherwise healthy dining choice.

According to Lindsay Lawes of Boulder Nutrition and Exercise, people aren’t always careful about the dressings they use.

“People use dressing in excess and usually go for chunky bleu cheese or ranch instead of enjoying the actual flavor of their food,” says Lawes, adding that the most nutritionally sound salad dressings have the fewest ingredients and are olive oil-based rather than mayonnaise-based.

Of the three flavors, Schlichting and Corder decided that purple carrot would lead the movement. The unique flavor combination was the brainchild of Hogen, who suggested the unfamiliar, antioxidant-rich ingredient to the pair as a healthy, vibrant option.

Though Schlichting and Corder were relatively unfamiliar with purple carrots, they quickly became fans.

“I’ve worked in the juice industry, and purple carrots are one of my personal favorites,” Hogen says. “I also thought that making a dressing with ingredients that weren’t already in the marketplace would give Aryn and Jamie a leg up.”

Dressed Up Salad Dressing’s purple carrot product is made with raspberry vinegar, beets and, of course, purple carrots. Schlichting describes the flavor as “on the sweeter side because it is 30 percent to 40 percent raspberry vinegar,” but says that it is not overly sweet.

Equally as important as taste and health for Corder and Schlichting was texture. Schlichting says she was always bothered by the chunky, oily textures of salad dressing on the shelves.

“You really don’t need to use very much of our dressing. We wanted something that would sit on the leaves and not just sink straight to the bottom,” she says.

After developing their flavors, and selecting purple carrot as their signature dressing, the pair took to networking events to spread the word. These meetings led Corder to a representative from Whole Foods, and the product landed on shelves in Cherry Creek, Basalt and Boulder’s Pearl Street location. Dressed Up Salad Dressing’s owners plan to expand its kitchen and its consumer base on a regional scale with Whole Foods.

Boulder was a natural choice for the expansion of Dressed Up Salad Dressing. Corder is a resident of Boulder, after all, and Schlichting says that the Boulder mindset fits the product perfectly.

“The community in Boulder is so invested in their food, people are so healthy, and people always want to stop and talk to me,” she says.

Though Dressed Up Salad Dressing targets women between 20 and 40, Schlichting has found that, particularly in Boulder, the dressing has become popular among families and has won the approval of plenty of children.

“We’re really passionate, and we want people to be excited about salad dressing again,” Schlichting says. “We hate the idea of taking a beautiful, healthy salad and ruining it with unhealthy dressing.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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