Friday, January 17, 2014

Everything Salad: Dressing and Dress-Ups - Friday Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

Woot, woot! It's Friday already! Time for some tips, tricks and inspiration. I have an active weekend of camping with the Littles planned so let me get this going and onto the activities! This week is all about salad.

I love salads. I love, love, LOVE them. In part, that's because over the years, I have acquired a few tips for seasonal salad dress-ups.

  • This time of year, I love to put pomegranate seeds and 1 tablespoon of toasted walnuts on my salad. It adds a yummy crunch for at a reasonable calorie cost. 
  • To make a restaurant or fast food salad into a meal, order a dry baked potato alongside and add it to the salad. (Be reasonable - if the potato is huge, use only half.) This is extra-good with creamier dressings.
  • If you are a fan of tart, add cranberries and turkey to your salad with a sweet dressing like poppy seed or sesame.
  • Cut corn tortillas into strips with scissors, bake at 350 until crispy. With corn, black beans and some salsa, you have a southwestern salad. Very nice with ranch. 
  • Another winter topping is cubed, roasted root vegetables. Roasted sweet potatoes and roasted turnips are both yummy and go well with any dressing. A balsamic dressing is a treat.
  • Beautiful watermelon radishes are perfect this time of year. Hard to find in a regular grocery, they are readily available this time of year in farmer's markets and organic farm-stands.
  • Marinated or pickled cucumbers, radishes, broccoli, or carrots (you name it, really!) make a wonderful addition to salad.  I'm going to marinate some of those watermelon radishes for my supper salad.

Do you dislike low-fat dressings? They have never appealed to me; something just isn't right. Here are a couple of tricks so you can have your dressing but with half the fat.
  • Make your own dressing whenever you can; it tastes so much better than store bought and dressings only take minutes (nay, seconds!) to make. You need less when you have more flavor. Try this simple dressing: 2 Tbsp oil, 3 Tbsp vinegar (try red wine or champagne vinegars), 1 Tbsp  water, a teaspoon of table mustard or dijon, fresh or dried herbs to your taste, a pinch of salt, a bit less of pepper, 1 clove of garlic, minced. Shake well.
  • Try the above dressing with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. If you store it in the fridge, the olive oil will coagulate, but when it warms up a bit, all will be well.
  • Dressings go farther if you your dress your salad and then wait at least 10 minutes before you eat it. The water starts to leach out of vegetables, dilutes the dressing and spreads the flavor around!
  • Dilute a full strength dressing to stretch the calories. If you like tangy dressings, add 1 part vinegar to 2 parts dressing, shake well (new calorie count 65% of original). Mix fat free sour cream in equal amounts to any creamy dressing. Fat free greek style yogurt works too but has a different texture. (50% of original calories)  Low-fat buttermilk works well too.  Brandy or sherry works well for clear dressings - in a 1 to 1 ratio. 
Finally, think of an old salad in a new way. A pretty salad is an inspiration to eat healthfully.  Here is my favorite salad recipe, packaged for easy travel to work or school in the photo below (also pictured at top).  Even my non-tuna-eating hubby loves this one. This recipe is for one serving but I quite easily multiply it by 6 for my family: 

Salade Ni├žoise


    2 cups mixed Greens
    2 tsp. olive oil 
    2 tsp. red wine vinegar
    1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    1 small potato, boiled and diced
    1 egg, boiled
    5 grape tomatoes
    2.5 oz. canned, water-packed tuna, drained (splurge on the good stuff)


      Boil the potatoes and the egg. Dice the potato and slice or quarter the egg. While the potato is warm, toss in one teaspoon of the olive oil. Set aside. Mix up the remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar, and Dijon, stir into the tuna. If serving, immediately, layer the greens on a plate or shallow bowl. Top with tuna; surround with egg, potato, and grape tomatoes. (Olives are typical in this dish but if you add them, don't forget to "count" them.) In the photographs, I've added cucumbers cubed and pickled overnight in vinegar (diluted) instead of higher calorie olives.

      Serving Size: 2.5 cups


      To transport for later enjoyment, put the tuna mixture in one container, the greens in another and have a third for the eggs, potatoes and tomatoes

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