It’s almost the end of January. How is everyone doing on those resolutions? I actually decided to do something different this year and just not make any. Bring on the cookies! Actually, I decided that rather than set specific goals, I would just try to live each day in as healthy a manner as possible. I know… all those diet gurus with their intentions and affirmations would totally disagree, and I’m sure writing down goals works for some, just not for me. And, you know, my definition of “healthy” differs from day-to-day depending on what is going on in my life. Lately it’s been a lot of intense, all-day snow shoveling resulting in ravenous hunger. In that case I think it’s okay for a treat or two. Other days, rather than tackling that plank workout, some restorative yoga may be a better choice.
One thing we don’t neglect, however, is our commitment to what we consider a healthy diet. For us that means pretty much no processed food, as much as possible prepared from scratch, and a LOT of vegetables. I’m here to tell you that’s not easy sometimes, especially after a long day at work. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and there are days that I just can’t face it. I cook extra so there is always something in the freezer, but sometimes even that is not enough. That’s when we say “oh well,” and pull out the Chinese take out menu or order wings or pizza. The tomatoes in the pizza sauce count as a vegetable, right?
Actually, I’m okay with ordering out on occasion, especially if I’ve had my usual huge salad for lunch. One thing that is super easy to make and keep on hand and takes your salad to a whole new level is homemade salad dressing. I use bottled dressing too, but much prefer to make my own, when I remember to do so. I usually have a vinaigrette of some type in the fridge as well as a creamy mayonnaise and buttermilk based one.
I’ve decided to start doing a section on Jeannine’s Cuisine called Kitchen Basics. These will be recipes that everyone should have in their hip pocket. These are foods that are the building blocks of how I cook. Vinaigrette seemed like the ideal choice for the first one.
The proper ratio for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid. For one cup that means 3/4 cup of oil to 1/4 cup of vinegar, lemon juice, etc. I have seen countless salad dressing recipes that call for half oil and half acid. In some cases, when someone is trying to produce a low fat salad dressing, the ratio is even switched – pucker up! Just don’t go there. I almost always add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for flavor and to help with emulsifying, and then I add herbs and other extra flavors. For this recipe I decided to go with strictly dried herbs. That might have something to do with the fact that my fresh herb garden is currently buried under about 3 feet of snow, but I also wanted to see how it would taste. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too.
Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Dressing
The amount of dressing will depend on if you use dried or fresh herbs, or even a combination. I generally allow one teaspoon of dried herbs for a tablespoon of freshly chopped herbs. The red pepper flakes add a bit of a bite and some nice color to this dressing. Feel free to decrease the amount or leave them out.
3/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 4 teaspoons dried
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a 1 1/2-2 cup mason jar and screw on the lid tightly. Shake the jar vigorously to blend the ingredients. If using dried herbs allow the dressing to sit for 15 minutes and shake again.
Note: You will have to shake the dressing to blend it each time you want to use it. Alternatively you can place the acids and the mustard in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil a bit at a time before adding the remaining ingredients. This will better emulsify the dressing and prevent it from separating as quickly; however, it does take more time.
Adapted from The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila