JEFF TIEDEMAN: All dressed up — with someplace to goEat healthier with homemade oil and vinegar toppings.
Many years ago, before adopting a healthy lifestyle, it seemed that I either was on a diet or was working my way toward that end.
The philosophy that all foods fit (yes, you occasionally can indulge yourself with something that might be not be considered really healthy — if otherwise practicing sensible eating habits) wasn’t something that I hadn’t incorporated into my life.
At that time, one of the things I thought could help me lose weight was eating a lot of salads. Everyone knows that salads are healthy and the perfect diet food, right?
Well, it depends.
Everyone knows that vegetables and fruit that are found in salads are fairly nutritious. But it’s what we put on top of a salad that ultimately determines how healthy it is.
If you add things such as croutons, bacon bits and cheese, you’ve defeated the purpose of eating the aforementioned nutritious items. Heck, you might just as well go to a fast-food establishment and order a burger, fries and a shake.
And then, there’s the salad dressing.
Growing up, the only salad dressing I knew was the kind that came in a bottle from the supermarket. My mom usually bought French or Russian. And as I got a little older, we started to have Ranch and Thousand Island around the house, too.
When hired by the Herald in 1974, my favorite dressing soon became a combination of French and Thousand Island, both of which were pretty standard fare — and still are — at restaurant buffets.
But when I discovered bleu cheese dressing — with big chunks — that was served with salads at Whitey’s, a new star was born.
Of course, I never thought twice about the sodium, calories and saturated fat content in those creamy salad dressings, glopping it on by the spoonful. (Saturated fat has been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels and increase risk of cardiovascular disease.) Likewise, when I would make coleslaw, there was no shortage of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.
While still tempted by the French-Thousand Island combo and creamy coleslaw, I’ve pretty much turned a new leaf when it comes to salad dressings. And I owe it to Therese.
Since we were married, every salad or coleslaw dressing we’ve had at home has been oil-and-vinegar based. (Granted, Therese likes to sprinkle a little feta cheese and a few homemade croutons on top.) I’ve never had better — or healthier — salads.
What makes her dressing so healthy is that the oil contains good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), which can improve cholesterol levels, increase circulation and help decrease your risk of heart disease, according to medical studies, and are lower in calories.
In addition to oil and vinegar, these types of salad dressing also can include other flavor enhancers such as honey, mustard, chopped shallots and onions and minced garlic.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who likes this kind of salad dressing. Just this past week, a reader wrote to me and included three recipes for oil-and-vinegar-based salad dressings. (The honey dressing recipe can be found on this page, the others at www.grandforks herald.com/event/tag/group/Features/tag/food/.) I’m definitely going to try them.
After all, they’ll probably save me enough fat calories, so I can try a slice of the scrumptious-looking cheesecake at Dakota Harvest Bakery.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.