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!

What to do with leftovers: Veggie and Ham Hash from Leftovers — Paleo, gluten-free, and fast

Voila! Delicious veggies and ham seasoned to perfection with just a hint of curry and garlic.

Voila! Delicious veggies and ham seasoned to perfection with just a hint of curry and garlic.

Today was rainy, windy, grey, and turning cold. Thunder storms hit late in the day. And it’s a Sunday. I did NOT want to go to the grocery store, yet the fridge was bare. Or so it seemed.

I started pulling out every fresh veggie and dish of leftover veggies I had — most of them had soft spots, black spots, or had been cooked days ago. I couldn’t steel myself to throw them out. So I cut off the bad, chopped up the good, and Voila! Veggie and Ham Hash from Leftovers. This stuff was fast (I cooked it and served it in 20 minutes!!), fun, and amazingly delicious!

I don’t think you have to have this exact mix of veggies and meat to do the same. But possibly a basic recipe (below) will give you some inspiration with spices, oils, and ingredients that will spur you to new culinary heights with your own sad story of leftovers.

Most of the stuff in this photo was going bad. It was up to me to save it! The solution: Veggie Hash with Ham.

Most of the stuff in this photo was going bad. It was up to me to save it! The solution: Veggie and Ham Hash from Leftovers.

Here’s what I had on hand:

3 T olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. green curry paste

1 T minced garlic

2 small onions, chopped

2 zucchini, chopped

1/2 a small jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil

1 1/2 C. chopped green beans (already cooked)

1/2 small cabbage, chopped

1 tomato

1 C. chopped cauliflower

1/2 C Chicken stock

1 C sliced carrots

1/2 C diced red, green, yellow sweet peppers

1 lb. sliced, cooked ham, cut into chunks

The ham, before the fat was trimmed off. I left it in big chunks so it would create a flavor sensation. It did.

The ham, before the fat was trimmed off. I left it in big chunks so it would create a flavor sensation. It did.

Here’s what I did with it:

  1. Heated the oil, garlic, curry paste, and chopped onion until onion was nearly clear.
  2. Drained the sun-dried tomatoes and threw them in with the oil and other stuff. Stirred.
  3. Added all the other veggies and the chicken stock, stirred well, and cooked the mess, uncovered, over medium heat until the carrots were “tender to the tooth.”
  4. I threw in the chopped ham, and continued cooking everything until the ham was heated through.
  5. Then I dished it up, and served it to The Hub who said with a grin that it was the “best thing you’ve cooked all day,” which I took as a supreme compliment — even though it was the ONLY thing I’d cooked all day. Hey, a girl gathers the good vibes where she can.
A bit blurry, but you get the picture. Flavorful, rich in nutrients, and quick to fix! Plus, all that food that was headed for the compost pile in a couple of days is now feeding our bodies instead of the ground.

A bit blurry, but you get the picture. Flavorful, rich in nutrients, and quick to fix! Plus, all that food that was headed for the compost pile in a couple of days is now feeding our bodies instead of the ground.

I have to say, this stuff was great. It made enough for us to each have two bowls of it, plus there’s enough “leftover leftovers” for probably two or three more meals, so that means I’ll have a great breakfast or lunch tomorrow, and maybe the next day, too. Now that’s my kind of cooking!

Who says it all starts with food? We do (and some other folks, too).

An informative article about how diet affects our bodies and minds, and how a holistic approach to figuring out which foods do and don’t work for us can make the difference.

The holistic nutritionist is in Holland, MI, but her wisdom goes beyond geographic boundaries. If you’re struggling with the issues mentioned in this article from West Michigan Woman, you might want to try the Whole30 or seek the help of a holistic nutritionist near you.

The Proof of the Pudding: Discovering the Ideal Diet for Ideal Health

Thursday, 11 April 2013 14:03

The Proof of the Pudding: Discovering the Ideal Diet for Ideal Health

Pam Zinn, owner of Holland’s Holistic Nutrition Center, knows you are what you eat—or at least your health conditions are. Where many are quick to diagnose illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular trouble, difficulty sleeping, or even depression as medical conditions treatable by myriad prescription drugs, Pam advises first taking a good look at your diet.

Pam has a nursing degree. She worked in the profession for twenty-five years, in different positions across West Michigan—from Mary Free Bed to nursing homes to dialysis positions in a hospital. Pam’s family moved to England for a short time, and moving back to the United States proved a stressor Pam’s body was unable to handle. “I went from normal life to completely derailed,” she said. Pam had trouble getting out of bed, dialing the phone, and even finishing sentences. “I had no energy, to the point that I would wake up in bed frozen in place.”

Pam went from doctor to doctor and was prescribed an endless amount of medicine, but nothing could solve the mystery of her disappearing energy. Finally, she met a nutritionist. “That’s when things started to change,” she said. “And as I started getting better, I realized I could help a lot more people.”

Pam earned her master’s degree in holistic nutrition, put together her business plan, and set to work sharing her story and the positive influence a well-rounded diet can have for those who are struggling with “invisible” illnesses. Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, lupus, and multiple sclerosis are all puzzling yet debilitating sicknesses. But Pam says when people examine underlying issues—many of them related to diet—symptoms could be quelled and sometimes erased.

Some people are born with allergies to certain foods; some acquire them over time. With Pam’s help, those who are sick (or those who are healthy and want to stay that way) could discover which foods are best for an individual’s diet in order to keep unsavory health conditions at bay.

It may be a mineral deficiency. Many women are low in magnesium, Pam said. Women who have been on the pill are often off balance in vitamin B6. And although Pam does recommend some supplements, she said with a balanced diet, we can get the nutrition we need. Still,  one diet does not fit all.

“Every person is different. You can’t just read a magazine article to get a healthy recipe. What’s healthy for one person may be unhealthy for another,” Pam said. “What I do then is get to know the person, take a look at their underlying problems, and try to find a nutritional solution.”

So, what if you find you are low in magnesium? How, through changing your diet, could you incorporate more magnesium? It’s not as though there is an aisle in the grocery store labeled “Magnesium-Rich Food.” Pam helps in this department, too. In addition to being a well-educated cook, she has a personal chef who works with her at the Holistic Nutrition Center, or will even come to your home and prepare a week’s worth of meals. Pam holds workshops or can work one-on-one to help people figure out what to eat, where to buy it, and how to prepare it.

“If a person doesn’t have a background in nutrition, they won’t know what to eat. It’s complicated, and most of us get it wrong. There is way too much misinformation,” Pam said. “Even though most people are trying to do the right thing, many are overweight and need to take medication. To get it right, a person really needs to sit down with a nutritionist like me. Then, they will have an understanding of what they should be eating.

“What I’m looking for is energy—having enough energy to have the brain completely on fire so it can stay on task. That’s good for a mom, for a dad, or for an eight-year-old getting through a math class. It’s good for everybody to have that.”

Click here to find out more about Holistic Nutrition Center, located at 90 W. 8th Street, in Holland. For a list of workshops offered at the center, click here.

Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine’s staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she’s home and loving it.

Whole30 Days 12 & 13 — Living social again

My friend Jesse MacIntosh pipes a lively tune at ArtPrize in 2010. Today, I was jigging a lively tune in my spirit (!!!!!!) thanks to a huge turnaround that I'm sure is because I've removed grains, dairy, and sugars from my diet.

My friend Jesse MacIntosh pipes a lively tune at ArtPrize in 2010. Today, I was jigging a lively tune in my spirit (!!!!!!) thanks to a huge turnaround that I’m sure is because I’ve removed grains, dairy, and sugars from my diet.

I’m starting to think I could be a walking miracle. In the past four months, I’ve gone from being nearly a recluse who didn’t want to see anyone outside of my home, to this weekend when I was out and about with lots of other people and enjoyed every minute.

I went shopping with The Hub, met my sister for lunch at a busy restaurant then went with her to a jam-packed stage presentation. I left there and came home to cook dinner for The Hub and my artist friend Sarah Haas who was visiting from out of town and spent the night. Then today I went to church and then visited a friend in the hospital. I haven’t had a weekend that social in months, and that was months after the time before.

I’m starting to think that living social could be my norm again. Ridding my diet (my body) of grains, dairy, and sugars is undoubtedly the biggest factor for this uplifting change. I’m so thankful!

I’ve been grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and legume-free for 14 weeks, and while I haven’t lost a lot of weight (yet), I feel great. (I’m almost afraid to say that because I might jinx it.) But seriously, I not only feel the best I’ve felt in 14 weeks, I feel the best I’ve felt in years.

I’m counting my blessings!

  • My energy has returned and lasts all day
  • I’m sleeping better.
  • My body aches are gone, and thanks to the diet and to physical therapy, I’ve been pain-free (foot, back) for the last week.
  • I haven’t had a headache in I don’t know how long! I used to have intense headaches 3 or 4 days a week. I got those under control through chiropractic care and lots of ibuprofen. Even so, I still had horrid sinus headaches about 3 days a week that sapped my energy. Can’t remember the last headache I had. Or when I had it.
  • My anxiety is GREATLY decreased, and my chronic depression has lifted immeasurably (although not gone).
  • I have an overall sense of well-being.
  • I’m singing again, and listening to music again. I find myself singing when I’m loading the dishwasher or vacuuming.
  • My house is cleaner, less chaotic (because I have more energy and am less depressed).
  • I feel hopeful about the future. Huh. So THIS is what it feels like!

Do I still have down days and days of fatigue? Yup. But I have fewer of them and the time between them keeps getting longer. And, yes, I’ve had chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, massage, and have increased the exercise I get. I’m still taking medication for the depression and anxiety. All those have contributed to the recovery and healing I’m experiencing. I know I couldn’t have walked this path without my doctors, massage therapists, and physical therapists. They’re wonder-workers.

But the healing began in earnest on November 23, 2012 — the day I began my first Whole30. The Whole30 and Paleo lifestyles have changed my life. I’m a walking miracle. I’m living social again.

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!