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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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!

Curried Mashed Plantains

One of the things I have loved about changing over to a paleo way of eating are all the new-to-me foods I am trying.  One of these foods is plantain.  My cousin Wendy, who is also a Whole30 success story, turned me on to this recipe when we had a lovely Whole30 compliant brunch.  She brought these curried mashed plantains and I just couldn’t get enough!

Plantains are similar to bananas, but not as sweet and much uglier.  The best ones to find look like big overripe bananas.  When I bought the ones for this recipe the cashier almost mistakenly rang them up as clearance bananas.  They are eaten fried, steamed, grilled, or baked.

 

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Ingredients:

3 ripe plantains

1 cup diced red onion

2 cloves garlic – minced

1T coconut oil -OR- bacon grease

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 t salt

1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

1 t curry powder

1t garam masala

Optional: 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

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Directions:

1.  Boil 6 cups of water, add a sprinkle of salt to the water.

2.  Peel the plantains and chop into medium size pieces.  I find it easiest to peel by first slicing the skin down the middle.

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3.  Add the cut up plantains to the boiling water, allow to boil for 20 minutes or until soft.

4.  While the plantains are boiling heat the coconut oil or bacon grease in a skillet and add the onion and garlic.  Saute until the onion starts to caramelize.

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5.  Drain the plantains and put into a bowl.  Add the 1/2 cup of coconut milk and mash with a fork or potato masher.

6.  Add the cooked onion and garlic, salt, pepper, curry powder, and garam masala.  This would be the time to add the bacon if you choose to do so.   Stir to combine.

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Roasted Root Vegetables

My love for root vegetables is no secret.  When I ditched grains I knew I wouldn’t be going low carb.  It might work for some people, but I personally need some kind of starch or complex carbohydrate to keep me going.  I get most of my carbohydrates from root vegetables, mostly sweet potatoes.  I typically eat one sweet potato every day and it works for me.  In addition to being a rich carbohydrates source, root vegetables are also a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.  Go for organic if possible as they absorb so much from the soil.

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One of my favorite ways to prepare root vegetables is roasting.  It really brings out the sweetness and nothing beats the texture.  A little crunch on the outside and nice and soft on the inside.  I am going to share with you my basic roasted root vegetable recipe.  You could add some spices if you like, the recipe is very adaptable.

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Basic Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato

2-3 parsnips or large carrots

1 large rutabaga

several shallots

3T coconut oil

1t salt

1t freshly ground black pepper

Equipment:

Sharp knife

Large bowl

Baking sheets

Spatula

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

2.  Peel and dice your vegetables.  You want the pieces a uniform size if possible, 1/2 inch squares are good.

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2.  Throw all the diced roots into a large bowl.  Drizzle 2T of coconut oil over the veggies and toss to coat.  I like to use my hands to make sure everything gets coated evenly.

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3. Use the last 1T of coconut oil to grease the baking sheets.  Spread the veggies on the baking sheets in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Ready to go into the oven, aren’t they gorgeous!

4.  Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then give them a quick toss with a spatula so they don’t burn.  Put back into the oven for another 10 to 20 minutes.

100_2783Flipping after 20 minutes

5.  Take out of the oven and enjoy!   This makes a pretty big batch so I like to pack up the leftovers for quick eating.

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Feel free to play around with the type of root vegetables you use.  I have had success with carrots, fennel, and beets.

Coconut Oil — Good or Bad?

I saw an episode of Dr. Oz last week and wanted to share with you what he and another doctor had to say about the benefits of coconut oil.

The first part of the video talks about something else, so fast forward to about 1 min. 54 sec. and watch the segment on MCTs. Those are found in coconut oil, and they’ll mention coconut oil specifically in the video. According to what they said on the episode, eating coconut oil regularly can help you burn about a pound of fat a month. And they explain how it works. Check it out here: Dr. Oz episode on coconut oil benefits

I use this brand of coconut oil, but you can use whatever you like.

I use this brand of coconut oil, but you can use whatever you like.

I use LouAna Coconut Oil. It comes in a huge jar and is hard until you heat it up — I have to carve it out with a spoon. I love it for sauteing chicken tenders, veggies, and cauliflower “cous cous.” I know some people eat a spoonful of it right out of the jar, but I can’t bring myself to do that. It’s a texture thing.  Other people add it to oatmeal and other hot cereals, but since I don’t eat grains anymore I’ll stick to using it for sauteing.

I encourage you to give it a try if you’re interested in moving from being a sugar burner to becoming a fat burner. Check out the book It Starts With Food for more information on how it all works.

Thai Chicken Stew with Roasted Root Veggies

We deal with some pretty brutal winter weather here in Michigan.  Becoming a runner has made winter fun again for me.  There is nothing like getting out on the trail when it is crisp and cold with the snow crunching under your running shoes.  The sense of accomplishment after conquering the distance in challenging conditions is always pretty awesome.  Whatever winter activity you like, having a bowl of this stew afterwards is sure to warm and satisfy you.

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2 sweet potatoes- peeled and cut into half inch pieces

1 medium rutabaga- peeled and cut into half inch pieces

4 large carrots-peeled and cut into half inch pieces

1 red onion- chopped into medium pieces

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs- cut into 1 inch pieces

3T coconut oil- divided, plus a little to grease pans

1t Salt

1t Pepper

1 can coconut milk

2T red Thai curry paste

1t fish sauce

32oz broth (chicken or veggie)

6-10 basil leaves-cut into thin slices

 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Put all your cut up veggies in a large bowl.  Drizzle with 1T coconut oil and mix to coat.

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3. Spread veggies in a single layer on baking sheets greased with coconut oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for 30 minutes, turning once to avoid burning.

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4.  While the veggies are roasting, heat  1T coconut oil in a large skillet.  Add chicken and saute until cooked through and no longer pink.

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5.  Push the chicken to the side of the skillet, add remaining 1T coconut oil to empty spot on skillet.  Add red curry paste to oil and saute until fragrant- about 30 seconds.

6.  Mix up the chicken and curry paste in the skillet and then add the can of coconut milk and fish sauce.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.

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6.  The veggies should be done now, pull them out of the oven.   Put them in a big stock pot along with the broth.

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7.  Add chicken mixture to veggies and broth.  Simmer for 10 minutes or so, until everything thickens up.   Serve sprinkled with fresh basil.