Creamy Strawberry-Pear Dressing — Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free bliss!

I loves me some salad! Mmm Hmm! And I’d like to eat me some everyday. But the thing that keeps me glued to the floor in front of the open door of my refrigerator is that I usually don’t have a paleo salad dressing at the ready.

I learned from doing the Whole 30 diet that my body rebels against soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil — basically any seed oils. My joints ache unmercifully when I have salad dressings or mayo containing these inflammation bombs, and sometimes it takes days and several doses of ibuprofen before the pain leaves. Nope. Not doing it unless I have to.

Making minuscule servings of homemade dressings from 2 tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon of vinegar doesn’t cut it anymore. I need to have olive oil-based dressings in large quantities (2- or 3-cup recipes to last through a week’s salads).

Two things happened this weekend that sent me to the test kitchen, figuratively speaking, for help: I needed salad dressing for  my lunches this week AND I was still swooning from a recent trip to Old World Olive Co. where I bonded with a handsome bottle of strawberry balsamic vinegar good enough for ice cream topping! The result of this cosmic collision of need and desire prompted this recipe that is lip-smackin’ good!!

If you don’t have strawberry balsamic, use whatever balsamic you have on hand and I’m betting it will be just as tasty. Or make a mad dash to the vinegar store and get what the recipe calls for — you won’t be sorry!!!

This Creamy Strawberry-Pear Salad Dressing is slightly sweet, flavored with a dash of cinnamon, and has just a hint of coconut flavor. This stuff adds pizzazz to any green salad or coleslaw! To bottle it, I use a former olive oil bottle that I keep on hand for just such occasions.

This Creamy Strawberry-Pear Salad Dressing is slightly sweet, flavored with a dash of cinnamon, and has just a hint of coconut. This stuff adds pizzazz to any green salad or coleslaw! I store it in a former olive oil bottle that I keep on hand for just such occasions.

Ingredients:

Makes just under 2 cups.

1 C olive oil (use light for a less musky flavor, or extra-virgin for a stronger note)
3 T strawberry balsamic vinegar
2 T pear balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced (I used the minced garlic in a jar and put it through the garlic press to make it finer)
1/4 tsp Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon (regular cinn. will work, too, but the Saigon is sweeter)
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C olive oil mayo — click here for the recipe
3 T coconut milk (the thick stuff — I use Thai Kitchen brand)

Let’s Make It Together, Baby!

  1. Whisk everything together in a bowl large enough to hold about 3 cups of liquid. If you’re going to store this paleo salad dressing in a bottle, it works best to use a bowl with a pour spout. Otherwise, I heard somewhere that bottling it can get messy with the stuff running down the sides of the bowl and the sides of the bottle, and pooling on the countertop in a big oily puddle that no paper towel on earth can conquer. Not that I would know personally…
  2. Blend it until all the little mayo lumps are gone and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Pour it in a bottle, screw the top on it, shake, shake, shake your booty while you shake the bottle (it’s part of my diet and exercise plan).
  4. Use it right away or refrigerate the yumciousness for later. (See photo below for a delicious salad idea.)

Note: This will separate a bit in the fridge and it will get too thick to pour, so take it out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you want to use it. Then do the shaking bit again before you pour the dressing on your salad. That way you’ll burn a few calories during lunch.

Romaine, diced apple, almonds, dried coconut flakes -- and if THAT isn't good enough all by itself, I top it off with a good dose of Creamy Strawberry-Pear Dressing. This and a small can of tuna makes a filling, satisfying lunch with enough protein, carbs, and fiber to get me through any busy afternoon!

Romaine, diced apple, almonds, dried coconut flakes — and if THAT isn’t good enough all by itself, I top it off with a good dose of Creamy Strawberry-Pear Dressing. This salad and a small can of tuna makes a filling, satisfying lunch with enough protein, carbs, and fiber to get me through any busy afternoon!

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Fresh Paleo Tomato Salad with Kalamata Olives

While visiting my grandkids (and my son and daughter-in-law, too) in Winston-Salem, NC last week, I jumped at the chance to use a gift certificate I’d received at Christmas for Green Gate Olive Oils. What a great store! We had a ball tasting the delicious olive oils and the amazing balsamic vinegars. Even the grandkids loved the vinegars — the big hit was the one that tasted just like fresh strawberries.

I had my selections shipped home to Michigan, and when I got the package and opened the Chipotle Olive Oil and the Maple Syrup Balsamic Vinegar, I suddenly had SUCH a craving for a fresh tomato salad with these two taste delights drizzled all over it — and I don’t even care much for fresh tomatoes!

So here’s the recipe I came up with, and I’m telling y’all, it’s amazing. If you haven’t tried flavored vinegars or flavored olive oils, you are missing out on a true taste treat. You can probably substitute in this recipe any olive oils or balsamic vinegars you like, but listed below are the ones I used.

Marinade/Dressing Ingredients

Mix this up first so the flavors can blend together while you’re making the salad:

2 T. Chipotle Olive Oil
1 tsp. White Truffle Olive Oil
2 tsp. Oregano and Basil Balsamic Vinegar
2 T. Maple Syrup Balsamic Vinegar (this is a must-have in my book. Delish!!)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Small handfuls of fresh basil and fragrant cilantro, both cut just minutes ago from my chemical-free container herb garden!

Small handfuls of fresh basil and fragrant cilantro, both cut just minutes ago from my chemical-free container herb garden!

The Process

Mix all ingredients in a jar and put the cap on it. Shake, shake, shake until the oils and vinegars emulsify and the salt dissolves. Set aside.

The marinade is none too pretty to look at and a bit messy to make, but if you could smell the aroma of the maple syrup balsamic vinegar coming out of this jar, you'd sacrifice the visual appeal, too.

The marinade is none too pretty to look at and a bit messy to make, but if you could smell the aroma of the maple syrup balsamic vinegar coming out of this jar, you’d sacrifice the visual appeal, too.

Tomato Salad Ingredients

6 Ripe Roma Tomatoes
3 Ripe Heirloom Tomatoes of different colors (I used purple and yellow)
1 C. Ripe Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Large Red Onion
1 C. (or more, if you want) Pitted Kalamata Olives

Fresh tomatoes waiting to be sliced and marinated. These are some beauties!

Fresh tomatoes waiting to be sliced and marinated. These are some beauties!

  1. Slice all the tomatoes except the grape tomatoes in thin wedges and place in a large bowl.

    These all taste like tomatoes, but with slightly different degrees of tomatoey-ness, and the vibrant colors make the salad just plain purty.

    These all taste like tomatoes, but with slightly different degrees of tomatoey-ness, and the vibrant colors make the salad just plain purty.

  2. Halve the grape tomatoes lengthwise and place in the bowl.
  3. Thinly slice the red onion, and then halve the slices so the pieces aren’t too long and unwieldy. Place in bowl.

    Slice the red onion really thin.

    Slice the red onion really thin.

  4. Strain Kalamata olives and place in the bowl with the other ingredients.
    I chose pitted Kalamata olives to save on the dental bills.

    I chose pitted Kalamata olives to save on the dental bills.

    Nowhere to go and not dressed up yet, either. Waiting for the marinade dressing!

    Nowhere to go and not dressed up yet, either. Waiting for the marinade dressing!

     

  5. Pour marinade/dressing over all and mix carefully with a large spoon to coat all the ingredients. Mix from the bottom up to try to keep the tomato slices intact.

    Fresh Tomato Salad with the dressing stirred in. Now to marinate it for a couple of hours while it chills! Can't wait to dig in!

    Fresh Tomato Salad with the dressing stirred in. Now to marinate it for a couple of hours while it chills! Can’t wait to dig in!

  6. Refrigerate for at least two hours, but stop by the fridge every 20 minutes or so to mix the salad (carefully) so the ingredients each get a fair shake at absorbing the marinade.
  7. Serve chilled in a bowl, a plate by itself, or let your guests dig in! If you serve it already dished up, be sure to use a large spoon to get some of the marinade from the bottom of the bowl to drizzle over the top of the salad just before you serve it.
  8. Enjoy!

NOTE: I think this would be great with some sliced strawberries mixed in it.

Preparing to eat consciously, 2nd installment

A Week’s Worth of Lunches in Just An Hour!

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A few weeks ago, AnnaLee posted about Preparing to Eat Consciously and gave some great tips on grocery shopping and menu planning. Jeez, I hate to have anyone show me up so easily (love you AnnaLee!) so I thought I’d share how I prepare to eat consciously and give y’all some different ideas on how to prepare for a week of eating whole foods. Please feel free to add your own ideas and comments. We love hearing from our readers!

Unlike AnnaLee, who has a young child at home, is a nurse who works for a large healthcare system, and packs lunches every day, I haven’t packed a lunch in 13 years! I have only The Hub and myself to shop and cook for and I work from home. I can have breakfast whenever I feel like it, and it’s usually leisurely — I don’t have to get breakfast for anyone else or eat it quick before I run out the door.

Whole30 or Paleo breakfasts are easy for me, supper is a relaxed affair after The Hub gets home from work, but lunches are a challenge. I don’t want to cook my lunch unless I have to, so it’s an ideal time to warm up leftovers. But I often have last night’s leftovers for breakfast because I get tired of having eggs every day.

I’ve found that my easiest lunches are a huge salad adorned with chopped apple or chopped pear, maybe some avocado, and a  portion of protein — sometimes tuna, sometimes something from last night’s supper if there are any leftovers left over, sometimes hard-boiled or deviled eggs — you get the picture.

So I prepare all my greens for the week at one time — I wash them, cut them, have them ready in the fridge. I prepare my salad dressing once a week (I love this vinaigrette) so it’s ready, and if I’m making a dressing that calls for mayonnaise, I make this Olive Oil Mayo once a week, too. I usually make the mayo anyway, just so we’ll have it for deviled eggs or lettuce wraps.

I like leaf lettuces, romaine, and spinach, and sometimes I chop up some red cabbage to go with them. But you can use any greens you like.

Two bunches of green leaf lettuces and a bunch of romaine make a lot of salad-ready greens.

Two bunches of green leaf lettuces and a bunch of romaine make a lot of salad-ready greens.

Cut the root ends off and separate the leaves into a sink filled with cold water. I also add a little Veggie Wash.

Cut the root ends off and separate the leaves into a sink filled with cold water. I also add a little Veggie Wash.

It only takes about an hour to prep the greens, and make the salad dressing and mayo. Then I’m ready for the week!

This stuff gets even the waxy coating off your fruits and veggies.

This stuff gets even the waxy coating off your fruits and veggies.

I love Veggie Wash for washing my fruits and veggies and especially for washing my greens — I put them in cold water with a bit of the Veggie Wash, swish everything around for 30 seconds, then rinse the greens in my other sink. (If you don’t rinse them well, your tongue will tingle when you eat your salad and everything will taste like soap. Not that I’ve ever experienced that personally…)

Dirt. Yuck.

Dirt. Yuck.

Clean. Yay!

Clean. Yay!

Then I get out my trusty Salad Spinner and spin the excess water off the greens. I hate watery salads that drain all the salad dressing to the bottom of the plate. It actually makes me mad. Nope. That is not for me.

I love my salad spinner. It keeps me happy.

I love my salad spinner. It keeps me happy.

Greens in the salad spinner waiting to be spun.

Greens in the salad spinner waiting to be spun.

A couple quick pulls at the lettuce tears it into manageable pieces, which get tossed into my giant white bowl with the blue lid. Anything that doesn’t fit goes into a reclosable plastic bag (make sure you squeeze all the air out of it). Then it all goes in the fridge.

Tons of greens, all ready for a week's worth of lunches and suppers. Easy peasy.

Tons of greens, all ready for a week’s worth of lunches and suppers. Easy peasy.

Voila! A week of large salads for lunches and some small salads for a couple of suppers. One hour, and I’m outta the kitchen!

Dang. I’m good.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing with pear, raspberry and ginger vinegars (gluten free, dairy free, Paleo, Whole30)

I'm not a vinegar lover. It normally doesn't get me excited. But I wuvs me some of this stuff -- balsamic vinegars infused with ginger, pear, and raspberry. I use them separately, or in combinations for a special flavor treat.

I’m not a vinegar lover. It normally doesn’t get me excited. But I wuvs me some of this stuff — balsamic vinegars infused with ginger, pear, and raspberry. I use them separately, or in combinations for a special flavor treat.

It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve come to enjoy vinegar. It’s just too, well, fermented. My mother and The Hub are abba-sootly NUTS about pickled this and pickled that. Not me.

So, it’s kinda odd that I am in total love with this vinaigrette salad dressing. I’d go so far as to say I’m madly in love with it. I eat it nearly every day and make it with several variations. I got the basic recipe from It Starts With Food where it’s listed as Classic Pantry Vinaigrette, and developed it from there.

I like sweet(er) dressings and I like apples or pears and a good sprinkling of nuts on my salads. This dressing is perfect for those kinds of salads, or just sprinkled over some plain ol’ greens, or as a tangy seasoning when added to the tail end of the cooking time for sauteed veggies. And it’s good and garlicky, too.

Ingredients:

Yield: 1 cup. Prep time: 5-6 minutes

6 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar infused with pear, raspberry or ginger. I sometimes use only one vinegar, but I will often combine two or all three. My favorite is with all three, as follows: 4 TBS. pear-infused, 1 Tbs each of raspberry-infused and ginger-infused.

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tbs olive oil mayo see recipe here for the homemade mayo I use

1-1/2 tsp. prepared yellow mustard

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper 

1 tsp. oregano

1 C. extra virgin olive oil

Process:

  1. Put everything but the olive oil in a small bowl or a large cup. I like to use a large measuring cup with a pour spout because I’ll pour the dressing into a long-necked bottle (a recycled olive bottle). The pour spout makes it easy to get the dressing into the bottle without making a mess.

    Before you add the olive oil, make sure the other ingredients are thoroughly stirred. I use a small whisk, and I make sure the salt is dissolved before adding the oil.

    Before you add the olive oil, make sure the other ingredients are thoroughly stirred. I use a small whisk, and I make sure the salt is dissolved before adding the oil.

  2. Whisk the ingredients together until the mixture looks kind of milky. Make sure the salt dissolves before adding the oil.
  3. Pour the oil slowly in a thin stream into the vinegar mixture and stir with a small whisk or a fork as you pour. Keep stirring until everything is blended. The mixture will be a bit thin, but will thicken after it sits a while and it also thickens when it’s cooled in the fridge.

    Pour a find stream of oil into the other ingredients and stir as you pour. It will mix up beautifully. It might be a little thin at first, but after it sits awhile, and definitely after you refrigerate it, it will be nice and thick.

    Pour a fine stream of oil into the other ingredients and stir as you pour. It will mix up beautifully. It might be a little thin at first, but after it sits awhile, and definitely after you refrigerate it, it will be nice and thick.

  4. Transfer the salad dressing into a glass jar or bottle that has an airtight lid. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use it, then remove it from the fridge and let it sit 5 or 10 mins.at room temperature until it’s easy to pour over your salad. Shake it up good before you use it. The garlic and cracked pepper will settle to the bottom, and you want to get that good stuff on your salad!

    Mouthwatering vinaigrette, the kind you can't keep your finger out of. No double dipping after you've licked your fingers!

    Mouthwatering vinaigrette, the kind you can’t keep your finger out of. No double dipping after you’ve licked your fingers!

Incredibly Delicious Olive Oil Mayonnaise (gluten free, dairy free, Whole30 compliant, Paleo)

When I decided to do the Whole30 program and then decided to continue with the Paleo way of eating, one of the hardest things for me to find was mayonnaise that didn’t contain soybean oil, canola oil or some type of seed oil. Even the mayo that says “with olive oil” on the label still contains the undesirable oils and isn’t 100 percent olive oil.

So I decided to try making my own, and, man oh man! Am I glad I did. I will never go back to flavorless, lifeless, uninspiring store-bought mayonnaise again.

I don’t often leave well enough alone, especially with recipes. I always change something. But I got this recipe from All Recipes.com and I haven’t altered it one whit, except I double it when I make it.

Ingredients:

Yield: one cup. Prep time: 7-8 minutes.

1 egg (I’ve found that bringing it to room temperature first helps it emulsify faster.)

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1 Tbls. lemon juice

1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard

3/4 C. olive oil (use light olive oil, not the strong tasting extra virgin stuff – you’ll thank me later)

Salt and pepper to taste

The Process:

  1. Combine the egg, garlic, lemon juice and mustard in the container of a blender or food processor.

    Olive Oil Mayonnaise -- except it doesn't have the olive oil in it yet.

    Olive Oil Mayonnaise — except it doesn’t have the olive oil in it yet.

    Blend until smooth, then blend on low speed while pouring the oil into the blender in a fine stream as the mixture emulsifies and thickens.

    This is what the olive oil mayo looks like after the olive oil has been poured very slowly into the egg mixture. Take your time and keep the blender going as you pour. It will thicken up beautifully!

    This is what the olive oil mayo looks like after the olive oil has been poured very slowly into the egg mixture. Take your time and keep the blender going as you pour. It will thicken up beautifully!

  2. Refrigerate.
  3. That’s it. Really. Your family is going to love this stuff!

    This olive oil mayonnaise is so good you'll never buy prepackaged again. It's so easy, you won't have to!

    This olive oil mayonnaise is so good you’ll never buy prepackaged again. It’s so easy, you won’t have to!

Mediterranean Fresh Salad with Cauli-couscous

Birthday party.  When you are following the Whole30 the words can invoke feelings of dread and anxiety instead of the usual joy and excitement.  OK, maybe I exaggerate, but I do usually get a little anxious when I know there will  be tempting sugary treats at a gathering.  So, instead of focusing on what I was choosing not to eat I emptied out my veggie drawer and made this fabulous dish to pass!  Everyone loved it and I’m pretty sure no one would have guessed the “couscous” was made from everyone’s paleo friend, the cauliflower.

Mediterranean Fresh Salad with Cauli-couscous

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1 head cauliflower
1T coconut oil
2t salt- divided
1t cracked black pepper
1 red bell pepper- chopped
1/2 small red onion- diced
1 large english cucumber- peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
3 radishes- cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 jar sundried tomatoes- diced
15 cloves roasted garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1/4c olive oil
2T balsamic vinegar

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1. Chop up the cauliflower and process in food processor in small batches
until the size of cous cous.  Add 1t salt and 1t pepper.

2. Heat coconut oil in large skillet, add cauliflower and saute for 5
minutes. Do not overcook. Turn off heat and leave cauliflower in pan.

3. Combine bell pepper, onion, cucumber, radish, sun-dried tomato, and
garlic in a large bowl.

4. Add olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and 1t salt to veggies.
Stir to combine.

5. Add cauliflower to bowl and stir to combine.

**To make this even more Mediterranean you could add fresh flat leaf parsley and some chopped up olives.  I did not have any, so I wrote the recipe as I made it.**