Monday, July 31, 2006

Salads, Summer Salads

If you are watching your weight, then you may want to pay attention to hidden sugar in foods. Sugar itself isn’t fattening, per se but when you eat sugar with meals, the sugar goes directly into the bloodstream satiating the cells first. The other food that you have consumed doesn’t get much of a chance at satisfying cellular needs, thus it is stored since it doesn’t need to be used. That translates into fat for you and me.

Therefore, it makes sense to try and make your own salad dressings whenever you can. Living in France, unfortunately, has it’s downsides, they are very uncreative when it comes to salad dressings; they always use a vinaigrette-based sauce. And they put everything under the sun in this dressing, then call it a salad. The grocery store has very little to offer besides vinaigrette, light vinaigrette, and vinaigrette with herbs.

From a health standpoint, the French are right. Using cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, they benefit a maximum from whole ingredients. No additives, no preservatives, no unwanted extras.

Since I am a salad fanatic, I have searched hi and low for homemade salad dressings. I have had to ‘invent’ a few and play around with others, but I found dressings that help move beyond the old stand-by.

Below are a few fun dressings that I have concocted. Other simple options can be simply opening a can of salsa and pouring it over the salad. Salsa is low in calories and fat-free.

Creamy Avocado Dressing

Don’t panic, avocados have a fair amount of fat in them but its almost all monounsaturated meaning it can be broken down easily by our bodies. Also, raw avocados have their own ‘fat fighter’ enzymes that help digest fats into fatty acids.

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup or 250 ml yogurt, low fat OK
  • juice from one lemon or 3 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon cumin or chili powder
  • up to ¼ cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and coarsely chop avocado. Place all ingredients except water in blender. Blend until smooth thinning with water to desired consistency. Keeps for up to a week in refrigerator. Yields: 1 ½ cups.

Fresh Tomato and Basil Dressing

Use home grown tomatoes when possible. They transform this dressing!

  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes (seeds removed, peeling optional)
  • 15 large leaves, fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by placing basil and bit of olive oil in blender; with blender on add garlic. Add tomatoes and olive oil. Pulse until slightly chunky. Keep for up to a week in refrigerator. Yields: 2 cups.

Creamy Cucumber dressing with Dill

A classic but always a winner.

  • 1 cucumber peeled and seeded
  • ½ cup or 125g low-fat yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Coarsely chop half cucumber and pulse in blender with remaining ingredients. Finely chop by hand remaining cucumber half. Stir into sauce. Keeps for up to one week in refrigerator. Yields: 1 ½ cups.

Southwest Dressing

This is great with grilled chicken or turkey salad.

  • 1cup or 250 ml salsa of your choice
  • ½ avocado
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • a couple of pitted black olives
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place avocado, olive oil and half the salsa and honey in blender. Blend until almost smooth. Stir in chopped black olives and remaining salsa. Salt and pepper as needed. Keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator. Yields: 1 ½ cups.

Tangy Orange-Lime Dressing

A citrus treat that goes well with chicken and turkey.

  • 1 cup or 250 ml orange juice
  • juice from 1 lime or 3 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend. Keeps for a week in the refrigerator.

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