What Kind of Person Even Likes French Salad Dressing?

… is an ignorant question I asked recently. I mean, look at the ingredient list of a typical bottle of French salad dressing:

Soybean(s) Oil, Water, Vinegar (Cider, Vinegar Distilled), Sugar, Tomato(es) Paste; Contains 2% or less of the Following: (Salt, Spice(s), Onion(s) Powder, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Paprika Extractives, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Caramel Color, Flavor(s) Natural.

And here’s a different brand, with strikingly similar ingredients:

Soybean(s) Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Vinegar, Salt, Whey (from Milk), Modified Food Starch, Paprika, with Sorbic Acid and Calcium Disodium EDTA as Preservative, Polysorbate 60, Garlic Dried, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Flavor(s) Natural.

Yikes. But whatever, because I hate French dressing anyway, or at least so I thought.

The salad that changed everything; I tell myself it's not so bad to eat as much dressing as salad when the ingredients aren't awful.

Now that I’ve actually made my own, however, I guess I will have to add French dressing to the (embarrassingly long) list of Things I Thought I Hated That Are Actually Awesome (this list includes cucumbers, asparagus, avocado, sweet potatoes, and pretty much everything else good). The following recipe totally made me see the light. It’s a slightly modified version of Paleo Effect’s Paleo French Salad Dressing.

French Dressing

1/3 C white vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T honey (raw and local if you can get it; use more or less depending on your taste; the original calls for 1/3 cup, but that is a little too sweet for me.)
1/3 C (HFCS-free) ketchup
½ C extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 t smoked paprika
2 T tamari (in case you are unfamiliar with tamari, it’s just soy sauce without the wheat, caramel coloring, or sodium benzoate; this is the brand I use)
sea salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and blend. Allow flavors to meld at least an hour before serving (overnight is even better).

Our cucumbers are coming in right now, and this dressing is my favorite thing to eat them with.

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Grain Free Sweet Potato Brownies


Please don’t let the less-than-beautiful picture above make you think these brownies are other than wonderful. The thing is, I haven’t made these brownies in over a month, so I had to dig through old Instagrams in order to find a halfway decent picture. In general, I am not crazy about sweets. When I want a snack I usually go for things that are spicy, sour, or savory (like a few slices of Cabot extra sharp cheddar, or these hot and sweet pickles I made several pints of last summer and managed to devour before Christmas).

However, sometimes I just want gooey, chocolatey brownies that I don’t have to feel completely terrible about eating. In my search for a brownie that fits all those requirements, two recipes I made again and again were David Lebovitz’s Gluten Free Brownies and Dan Lepard’s Sweet Potato Brownies. If those two recipes met and produced a beautiful love child, it would probably look something like the following recipe.

Sweet Potato Brownies

6 tablespoons coconut oil or butter (add a pinch of good sea salt if you’re using coconut oil or unsalted butter)
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped or in chips
1 to 2 cups baked sweet potato flesh, scooped out (or, undercook it a little if you want your brownies studded with chunks of sweet potato)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 cup nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease an 8-inch square pan with a little butter or coconut oil. In a large bowl, beat the sweet potato flesh with the sugar until light and fluffy. Melt the butter or coconut oil and chocolate (and sea salt, if using) in a medium saucepan over very low heat on the stove top, stirring constantly until smooth, then slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the sweet potato mixture. Add the eggs and the vanilla, then beat until thick. Sift together the cocoa and arrowroot powders in a small bowl, then add them to the chocolate mixture. Beat vigorously for at least one minute, until the batter is no longer grainy and nearly smooth. Add the nuts, if using, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes, or until the brownies feel just set in the center. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing (this is the hardest part).

A word of caution: although these brownies are gluten free and full of good things like sweet potatoes, nuts, and coconut oil, they are still brownies and thus best enjoyed in moderation. I usually bake them to take to parties or when I know I’ll be having company, otherwise it’s brownies for breakfast all week long.

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Growing Pains

You may notice some changes here on this little blog of mine. Over the past several months, my understanding of nutrition, health, and wellness has shifted a bit, leading me more and more toward minimally processed, real foods. Consequently, I’m in the process of retooling this blog to reflect those changes. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something in particular and can’t seem to find it, don’t be afraid to contact me.

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This homemade remineralizing toothpaste from Wellness Mama is, by far, the best toothpaste I’ve ever used–certainly better than any others I’ve made, but also better than both conventional drugstore toothpaste and expensive health food store toothpaste as well. I’ve had a few recipe requests, so here it is. The recipe doesn’t call for measurements but proportions. I usually use tablespoons, and that makes enough for two people for at least a month or two. Calcium powder and xylitol are the only ingredients I didn’t have on hand, and while they aren’t cheap I’ve made this recipe several times and am nowhere close to running out.

Homemade Remineralizing Toothpaste

5 parts calcium powder (I used this calcium carbonate powder, but apparently chalk works as well?)
2 parts baking soda
3 parts xylitol
1 part liquid castille soap
3-5 parts coconut oil, until desired consistency is reached
10-15 drops essential oils of your preference, for flavor (mint, cinnamon and orange are all good)

Begin by combining the first three ingredients (all the powdered ones) well in a bowl. If you’re using chalk instead of calcium power, you will need to crunch it up in a mortar and pestle first. Once you’ve got all the powdered ingredients combined, add the soap and mix well. Next, add the coconut oil one part at a time, until your desired toothpaste consistency is reached. Add essential oils of your choice, and store in a small container in the bathroom. When I want to brush my teeth, I just dip my toothbrush into the jar. If that grosses you out you could probably, as the original recipe points out, “use Popsicle stick or spoon to put on toothbrush,” or store it in “a plastic bag with a corner cut off to be able to squeeze like toothpaste.”

If you decide to try this recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m especially curious about potential essential oil combinations. So far I’ve tried lavender + mint and various combinations of citrus.

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Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette (& a Basic Salad Dressing Equation)

This post has been in draft purgatory for an embarrassingly long time. School was unusually hectic this semester, but it’s finally over and I’m glad. I’ve learned not to promise regularity or even specifics as far as blogging goes, but hopefully posts will happen this summer.

Anyway, salad dressing. For a long time I made myself eat salad because I know it’s good for me, et cetera, but I didn’t actually like salad until I made this homemade balsamic vinaigrette and realized it wasn’t salad I hated, but store-bought salad dressing. Not only does that stuff pretty empirically taste like crap, but it’s full of terrible ingredients like GMO vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives, all of which it seems a bit counterproductive to drench a plate of vegetables in.

Fast forward a year or so, and I’ve pretty much got the whole dressing thing down to a science. Now, though, instead of putting everything in a jar and shaking it, I just use a wide mouth jar and an immersion blender. There’s only slightly more mess (the blender has to be washed off, which adds about ten seconds to cleanup time), but the immersion blender emulsifies the dressing so much more beautifully than any other method I’ve tried, so it’s really worth it.

Halfway to salad dressing.

I still make a modified version of the balsamic, but by far my favorite of late is a creamy preserved lemon—a few months ago, despairing that citrus season was almost over and we’d have to go back to sad, hard, little store-bought lemons,  we preserved three big quart jars of meyer lemons given to us by our neighbors; I followed the recipe for preserved lemons in Tart and Sweet, but plenty of websites offer free instructions online. The following recipe is my current favorite, and that quantity usually covers four large salads.

Creamy Preserved Lemon Salad Dressing

a couple of chunks of preserved lemon
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
a large clove of garlic
generous pinch smoked paprika
a tablespoon or so of honey
a handful of fresh mint leaves
a glob (technical term) of dijon mustard

Dump all ingredients into a container big enough for your immersion blender–bonus points if it also has a lid because that means fewer dishes to wash. Blend. Refrigerate.

Aside from the oil and vinegar, the measurements above are just estimates, and they can and should be adjusted to your taste. Really, any combination of oil and acid will do so long as you keep the proportions right—I’ve found two parts oil to one part acid to be just about perfect. For the oil, I tend to stick with extra virgin olive because I always have it and I like the taste. If you don’t like olive oil, however, I have heard good things about walnut, macadamia nut, and avocado oils. Homemade salad dressing will keep just fine in a mason jar in the fridge for a week or so, and making it a day in advance doesn’t hurt a thing.

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