Thursday, November 8, 2012

Homemade Salad Dressing--Easier Than You Think!

Lately, I have been almost exclusively making my own salad dressings. From being in the kitchen with my mother, I knew it was possible to make a delicious salad dressing out of just a few ingredients. I also know that the list of ingredients on most store bought salad dressings are very long and contain words that belong in a chemistry textbook.

Anyways, the other day on a whim I bought a bottle of Annie's Woodstock salad dressing which is a tomato and tahini mixture. After one taste, I was hooked. However, at $4+ something for a tiny 8 oz bottle--that is some expensive stuff, especially when I am capable of going through one bottle in a week. Solution? Make my own. I searched "homemade Annie's Woodstock dressing" and came up with a couple of recipes. I decided to use this one from Spark People. The result? Next time I will probably add the water last and will drizzle it in slowly to get my desired consistency. I added it right away and the consistency was too thin. The flavor is great though! I really do not notice a big difference between my homemade stuff and Annie's. The cost? I got about 16 ounces of dressing and when I did a rough estimate of costs, it came to about $3.50. Awesome, twice as much dressing for half the price and no mystery ingredients. I'm sold.

You can do the same thing! Whatever your favorite is, look for a recipe and try to imitate it. You might surprise yourself with how well it turns out. It is so easy too! I swear people look at me like I must labor intensively in the kitchen to make a salad dressing.

Tips for Making Homemade Salad Dressing

1) Dressings have to emulsify--meaning two or more liquids need to come together as one mixture. Oil and vinegar do not mix well, but often adding something very acidic like a bit of lemon juice helps. I also prefer to use a food processor and let it run for awhile. I feel like it results in a much better emulsion compared to whisking.

2) Use good olive oil. I found out the hard way that rancid olive oil is pretty disgusting.

3) Oil and vinegar should be at a 2:1 ratio.

4) Here are some good vinegars to try: red wine, balsamic, white white, sherry, champagne or even some citrus instead such as lime, lemon or orange.

5) Here are some good flavor enhancers: chopped rosemary, oregano or thyme, garlic, shallots, sun dried tomatoes, soy sauce, ginger

6) Specific bottles for salad dressing are not necessary, but they do make it a lot easier to make and store homemade salad dressing. They also come printed with some hand recipes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pumpkin Oatmeal Pancakes

This recipe is based on one from the Biggest Loser website. Since I am limiting gluten and dairy, breakfast is probably the hardest meal of the day since eggs get boring after awhile. I have had to get creative, and although I am not the hugest fan of pancakes, I love these ones! I made some changes to the Biggest Loser ones because I don't really have a good reason to leave the yolk of the egg out and the thought of putting cottage cheese in pancakes makes my stomach turn. These pancakes are awesome. They are filling and satisfying, yet do not leave you with the "blown up" feeling you have after eating a stack of flapjacks. They were topped with Trader Joe's Honey Apple Butter and served with turkey sausage and a big mug of coffee. Yum!

The first time I made these, I used my immersion blender and it did not do the greatest job on grinding the rolled oats. I ran the mixture through my food process until it was smooth and it really made a difference. Also, the batter can sit in your fridge, but it tends to thicken up a lot of if you do that, add another egg.

4 eggs
1 cup rolled oats*
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp of vanilla
2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of cinnamon
Optional: 1 tsp each of ground ginger, nutmeg, or allspice)
splash of EVOO

1) Combine all ingredients in food process or a blender. Blend until smooth.
2) Heat a splash of EVOO on a griddle or large non-stick pan (I usually put a bit on a paper towel and just coat the pan).
3) Scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter in the pan. These pancakes do not bubble like normal pancakes, but you will know they are ready because little holes start to form. Flip and cook the other side.
4) Serve with whatever topping you like: any sort of nut butter, the apple honey butter is great, maple syrup, chopped nuts, whipped cream, or jam.

*gluten free if you use gluten free rolled oats