Tag Archives: dressing

The Perfect Potluck Salad

23 Jan

Thanks to the culinary talents of my friend Steph, I was recently introduced to the perfect party salad.  And I mean perfect.

I like bringing a salad to potlucks.  It guarantees that there will be something leafy, green, and healthy amidst a spread of rich and indulgent (but oh-so-tasty) bites.  Unfortunately, I run into the same issue every time.  Add-ins like fruit, spiced nuts, and cheese need to be present in order for the salad to get ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’.  These additions can be healthy but tend to leave little room for other vegetables.

Thanks to Steph, I now have the salad of my dreams in my arsenal, ready for my next potluck.  The base consisted of mixed greens along with radicchio for texture.  Added to the salad were multi-coloured bell peppers (red and orange), cucumber, crunchy celery, cherry tomatoes, and green onion for bite.  The dressing, an Asian-style sesame vinaigrette, provided just the right amount of sweetness.  Finally, a generous sprinkling of sunflower seeds transformed an otherwise ordinary green salad into a masterpiece.  Delicious and nutritious.

Other elements of the meal included panko-crusted stuffed chicken breast (with asparagus, roasted red pepper, and brie) and mashed potatoes with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes—both courtesy of my Rose Reisman cookbook.  To top it off, we indulged in the ultimate dessert: homemade fresh strawberry ice cream and birthday cake.  If you need a reason to get yourself an ice cream maker, this is it.

Steph’s Asian Sesame Vinaigrette

This isn’t an exact recipe but rather rough estimates. Feel free to adjust the measurements to taste.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a jar, shake, taste, and add more of whatever seems to be missing!

Makes ½ cup. Per 1 tbsp serving: 70 kcal, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 2.5 g CHO, 40 mg sodium.

Salad Dressing: Friend or Foe?

6 Jan

Happy New Year!

With a new year comes resolutions.  For many, New Year’s resolutions revolve around food: to eat better, to lose weight, to eat fewer sweets, etc etc.  Unfortunately, many of these resolutions end in failure– 78%, to be precise (according to the wise Wikipedia).  I’m certainly no expert in goal-setting, but what I do know is that successful goals need to be “SMART“: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  As an example, instead of aiming to simply “eat better”, one should resolve to fill 50% of their dinner plate with vegetables daily and eat a salad for lunch at least 3 times a week.  If you’re not a fan of salads, this goal might not be realistic– the “R” in SMART– so back to the drawing board you must go to re-think your goal.  In addition, resolutions are more sustainable when shared, so tell your friends and make it public.  You’ll be held more accountable!

If your resolution happens to be related to healthy eating, salads are a great way to down several servings of vegetables in one sitting.  As a bonus, they tend to be lower in calories… if you know what to look for.  Too often, restaurant or take-0ut salads are loaded with toppings that will hurt rather than help your waistline: excessive amounts of cheese, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and high-fat dressings.  All things that are healthy in moderation but can add up if you’re not paying attention.

Low-fat salad dressings are a great way to keep your salad calories in check.  Many of the store bought dressings are good in a pinch but contain vegetable gums and other foreign ingredients to mimic the mouthfeel of a higher-fat dressing.  They also tend to be higher in sugar and salt than their full-fat counterparts.  Get into the habit of making your own salad dressing.  It’s easy, healthier, and you’ll know exactly what you’re putting into your mouth.

If you absolutely must, Newman's Own "Light" Dressings are a decent choice from a minimal-foreign-ingredient perspective. But not from a sodium standpoint.

For a basic vinaigrette, you’ll need oil and vinegar, a touch of sugar (honey works well), and a bit of dijon mustard to help emulsify the dressing.  For added flavour, throw in some aromatics like dried oregano and freshly ground pepper (quick and easy) or minced garlic/shallots/fresh herbs (slightly more time consuming but well worth the effort).  A chef’s ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar but I prefer to use much less oil to keep the calories in check.  A great trick I’ve learned is to substitute part of the oil with frozen fruit juice concentrate.  Head to head, one tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories while a tablespoon of fruit juice concentrate (think apple or orange) contains 30 calories.  For more tips on making your own salad dressing, check out this humourous yet informative blog written by a real food writer.

Goodbye salad sabotage!

Tossed Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette


Low-Fat Apple Cider Vinaigrette
(from Rose Reisman’s Spinach Salad with Cinnamon Almonds, Strawberries, and Goat Cheese)

Fruit juice concentrate is surprisingly scoopable in its frozen state.  Keep a container in the freezer and grab a spoonful as needed.  The frozen concentrate tends to melt quickly but you can microwave it for 10 to 20 seconds if you are using it right away.

1-1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple juice concentrate
1 tsp brown sugar (can be omitted– the dressing is fairly sweet as is)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Makes 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup).  Per 1 tablespoon serving: 44 kcal, 3.5 g fat, 15 mg sodium.

The Mighty Caesar

31 Aug

My apologies… this post is WAY overdue!  I made this Caesar Salad to accompany the Eggplant Parmesan from a week ago (er, two weeks ago) and I haven’t gotten around to posting the recipe until now.  The past couple of weeks have been busy– I had to pack up my kitchen into boxes, deal with frustrating movers, then try to find new homes for my gadgets while tripping over half-empty boxes and partially assembled furniture in my new “big city” apartment.  On the bright side, the unpacking is now done (ish) and I will be able to eat, drink, and be merry in my new space. Hurrah!

Enough of me, now onto the Caesar Salad.  I decided to call this the MIGHTY Caesar because the oil found in your typical Caesar dressing is replaced with cottage cheese and plain yogurt– good sources of protein and calcium, respectively– which will help make you… mighty!

As long as you have a food processor or a blender on hand, this dressing is a cinch to prepare and is so much healthier than traditional Caesar dressing.  I really like the tartness that the plain yogurt adds, although I must say that I’ve fooled a picky eater or two who thought this dressing made the salad taste just like “normal” Caesar salad.  See if you can fool your guests!

I love making Cajun croutons to accompany this Caesar dressing.  They, too, are incredibly easy to make and definitely beat the butter-laden store-bought kind.  Instead of bacon, I toasted a handful of sliced almonds in a dry pan over medium heat just until they were aromatic and a golden brown. Right before taking them off the heat, I added a splash of soy sauce and stirred quickly to coat.  The saltiness and crunchiness of the almonds made them taste almost like bacon bits (okay, maybe not) and complemented the salad well.

A Mighty Caesar Salad

Light Caesar Salad Dressing  (from EatingWell.com)

1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup cottage cheese (1%)
1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon of salt, or to taste (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

Puree garlic and cottage cheese in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Add yogurt, Parmesan, white wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and pulse to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Makes about 1 cup.  Per 3 tbsp serving: 45 kcal, 1.6 g fat, 150 mg sodium


Cajun Croutons  (from Cooking Light Magazine, July 1995)

2 cups whole wheat bread, cubed (I like to use whole wheat buns– you get a better crust to interior ratio!)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with foil sprayed with cooking spray.

In a medium glass bowl, microwave oil, garlic, and Cajun seasoning on high for 40 to 60 seconds.  Add bread and toss well to coat.  Spread onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, checking frequently to ensure bread doesn’t burn.

Makes about 2 cups of croutons.

Spinach Lentil Salad

2 May

This blog is not all about spinach, despite the name, and yet oddly enough my first post is a recipe that includes (drumroll please)… spinach.  Surprise!  Totally unintentional but I happened to have some on hand and it’s such a versatile (and healthy!) ingredient.

I don’t usually use canned lentils but I had some leftover from a lentil cookie recipe that I recently whipped up (more on that another day).  I’d imagine the recipe would work just as well with dried lentils cooked in boiling water.

Spinach Lentil Salad

Spinach Lentil Salad

Spinach Lentil Salad

1/3 cup light vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 can (19 oz) lentils, drained and rinsed well
1 green onion, minced  (approx 1/4 cup)
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
2-3 tbsp raisins
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, coarsely chopped

  1. Combine lentils, green onion, carrot, raisins, and spinach in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss with light vinaigrette and let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving to allow flavours to meld.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 180 kcal, 4.2 g fat, 9 g fibre, 85 mg sodium


Light Vinaigrette (from “Power Eating”)

1/2 cup no-salt added chicken or vegetable stock (or 1/2 cup water + a few dashes each of onion powder and garlic powder)
3 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp salt

  1. In a jar, combine all ingredients.  Secure lid and shake to mix well.
  2. Store in fridge for up to 1 week.

Makes approx 3/4 cup.  Per 1 tbsp serving: 36 kcal, 4 g fat, 55 mg sodium