Friday, August 19, 2016

Dress Me Up, Dress Me Down. Oil Free Plant Based Salad Dressings from A-Z.

After reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and obsessing over it's wisdom, I have set an intention to write/blog/photograph/create/connect for one hour per day.

There are so many fascinating ideas about creativity in this work, and one that struck me as particularly meaningful today was this,"What you produce is not necessarily always sacred. What IS sacred is the time that you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life." Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

I have no idea where this is all going to lead, nor do I really care at this moment. I am simply enjoying the feeling of putting my ideas into physical form.

Today I received an e-mail from Lisa, who wrote, "Hello, I am new to your blog and really like it. I had a question though. I noticed on your salad recipes you never have the dressing instructions Are they store bought? I wanted to make your strawberry salad and it didn’t include directions for the vinaigrette. Thanks, Lisa"

Well, Miss Lisa (do you mind if I call you "Miss Lisa?" We don't know each other but that's a term of endearment that I use with my friends and I have a feeling that after this, we'll be friends) I'm not quite sure which strawberry salad you are referring to, as I seem to recall publishing a dressing recipe with all of my salads. Regardless, I'm going to take this opportunity to talk with everyone about salad dressings, because it's always a HOT topic in the whole food, plant based circles.

You said you are new to this blog, but are you also new to this way of eating? If you are, I just want to give you a little bit of where I've been and where I'm going so that my final answer will make sense to you.

You see, when I started blogging there were a lot of ingredients that I ate and included in my recipes that I've since gotten away from as I've experimented with, for lack of a better way of saying this, cleaner and cleaner plant based eating.

When I first went plant based, I enjoyed a lot of ingredients that were basically substitutes for fat, salt and sugar--the three things that in combination make any recipe pretty darned irresistible. Of course, prior to going plant based I was used to store bought bottled dressings, and it was only natural that I craved those intense flavors and sensations. 

You can find a ton of those amazing salad dressing recipes here, in two of my most popular blog posts of all time:

If you are new to this blog, I'm just going to fill you in and cut to the chase right here: eating salads with those dressings was not a recipe for success for me. In fact, I gained 50 pounds enjoying those salad dressings (and of course, a lot of other incredibly delicious plant based recipes full of things like low sodium tamari (what a misnomer that is!), nuts and seeds, and maple syrup).

If weight loss is not your goal, go to town and enjoy all of the recipes in those two guides! You've now got a lifetime supply.

Here are some more totally tasty dressing ideas from my blog with less or no sugar, fat and salt that were created post Big Lists:

Cheezy Southwestern Dressing

1 16 ounce jar of your favorite salsa (as spicy as you like it, salt free if you can get it)
2 cups alternative milk (if you want a totally nut free dressing, choose soy, rice or oat milk)
1/2-3/4 cup nutritional yeast (depending on how cheezy you like it)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (if your salsa is not hot to begin with)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp dried onion

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
Cheezy Red Pepper Sauce

2 12 ounce jars of roasted red peppers, drained
1.5 Tbsp white chia seed
1/2 cup unsweetened alternative milk (I used soy)
1 Tbsp dried onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup nutritional yeast

Place all ingredients into a high powered blender and blend until very smooth.

Roasted Red Pepper Dressing/Sauce

1 large roasted red pepper from a jar
1 15 ounce can no salt navy or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
¾ cup water
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped shallot, or 1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 large date
Fresh black pepper

Place all ingredients into a high powered blender and blend until very smooth.

And here's that Strawberry Basil Vinaigrette you were looking for.

After I woke up to the fact that much of what was passing for healthy Vegan food out there was not also good for my waist line, I started to simplify my salad dressing choices.

It basically came down to putting aged balsamic vinegar or aged balsamic vinegar plus fresh lime juice on my salads because (1) it eliminated a ton of calories from the fat in the salad dressings, (2) it eliminated the calories from the natural sweetener in the recipes, (3) it eliminated the appetite stimulation from the salty ingredient in the recipes and perhaps most importantly of all is number (4) it's just way easier and faster.

Here are some amazing sources of aged balsamic vinegars:

Napa Valley Naturals Grand Reserve. In my opinion the tastiest and also the most economical choice when you buy it by the case.

And lastly, what is my new favorite today is WHITE aged balsamic vinegar, which happens to be available at a local grocery store chain in my area, Heinan's, under their private Two Brothers label. 

Most cities and large suburbs today seem to have at least one store that sells aged balsamic vinegars in countless flavors and you can stop in and taste them to see which flavors appeal to you.

After enjoying salads for a good while with aged balsamic vinegar as a dressing, the aged balsamics started to taste cloyingly sweet to me. You see, what happens when you eat very simply for a while is that you start to taste the sweetness and the saltiness in things like romaine lettuce and celery. All of a sudden, you are like, "OMG! I didn't know lettuce was so sweet! Where have my taste buds been all my life?"

So today I tend to use either no dressing at all or less and less of the aged balsamic vinegar. I find that adding interesting ingredients to my salads is more than enough excitement for me. Just today, I filled a big bowl with spring greens and topped it with leftover Oven-baked Chickpea Ratatouille from The China Study All-Star Collection cookbook and it was incredible. So really any savory dish that I make in my house can be made into a salad the next day for lunch, no dressing necessary.

I can't say what the future holds for me and my salad dressings, but one thing that I am sure of after 45 years on this planet: the only thing constant is change!

Whatever you chose to put on your salad, well, within reason, Miss Lisa, just celebrate the fact that you are eating salads! I hope that this helps you along your plant based journey.

And as for you, dear readers, where are you with salad dressings these days?

Don't forget to order your copy of Big Magic. I don't care what you enjoy doing, this book is going to radically change your perception of it!
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