Making my own salad dressing helps me control what I eat. I’m able to cut sugar and dress my cabbage salad. It takes minutes to make a week’s batch.
Salad dressing – making my own
It hasn’t always been easy for me. I remember a time when I was stuck between careers, struggling to get by without a penny coming in. I scraped together aluminum cans to recycle and pawn whatever I had left of value to keep the lights on. At night I would turn the water valve at the street back on to shower and cook and flush. First thing in the morning I’d go back out and turn it off again, then re-affix the lock I had cut off, making it look intact.
When my cupboard was bare I got through meals of empty plates by sipping on a shot glass’s worth of salad dressing. Zesty Italian was my lable, and some day’s it was all I had to consume.
I never forgot those days. I never revisited them, either. But the memory of having nothing to eat but salad dressing, the dregs of the bottle that had sat in the fridge for months, has stayed with me like a scar.
As a chef, one of the first things I learned was how to make salad dressings. Not the store-bought kind, loaded with sugar and salt and chemical binders. I learned to make pure, artesian blends of acids, flavors, and fats. I make and store my own dressings, and I definitely prefer them to brand dressings.
Now, when I make my own salad dressings, I do it with something near reverence. Kraft got me through those hard times, but my own recipes will get me through this diet phase and sustain me after my 16-week goal is met.
Salad dressing cures cabbage
More precisely, with enought time, salad dressing marinates tough plant fibers like kale and cabbage. It breaks down the fiberous leaves and makes them both easier to chew and easier to digest.
It also brings flavor to my salads. The ingredients of my salad are raw and vegan, but they are pretty bland, too. Adding a dressing with flavorful herbs and spices, a strong acid, and flavorful fat, help make it something I can eat for two weeks. I can’t say I enjoy my cabbage salad every day. What I can say that I like it more with my dressing than without.
Making a salad dressing in minutes
I’m guilty. I occasionally buy store-bought sauces not for superior quality or flavor,but for convenience. If I was going to eat this way, I needed a mininum of challenges. Kelly McGonacle points out that one way to reserve willpower for when you really need it is to not deplete it on small things.
I knew I needed to make my dressings in a hurry, probably part of an all-day cooking session to prepare for the week. Luckily, by using dried ingredients and a high-speed blender, I cut the workload and the time down to just a few minutes.
I like a savory, zesty, Italian type of dressing. I make my dressing with a champagne vinger base emulsified with grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil has a mild, nutty flavor to it, and has several health benefits including lowering cholesterol and being rich in Vitamin E. Olive oil works well, too. It brings a fruity, more floral taste to dressings.
Other ingredients include:
- Acid – I use either cider or champagne vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. I’ll sometimes add a few drops of hot sauce, too.
- Fat – Grapeseed oil, olive oil, and flaxseed oil
- Herbs – I use mostly dried herbs like oregano, parsley, dill, thyme, and rosemary. When I have time I dry them myself in my oven, overnight on a low temperature.
- Salt – Flavored salts can often be too much here, so I just use kosher salt
- Spices – Here I use things like dried ginger, orange peel, coriander, dried garlic, dried onion, granulated honey, cayenne, and black pepper. The granulated honey is a sugar, but it is such a small amount I don’t worry about it. I’d get more sugar eating an orange.
Oh, back in the day I’d stand over a bowl with a whisk and I’d combine all my ingredients in the proper order and slowly drizzle my oil in, whisking to form an emulsion.
But with less time and more projects, I bend to the convenience of technology. I have a NutriBullet blender that makes dressings in a snap. All the parts are easy to clean or run through the dishwasher.
When I want to make a batch of dressing, usually a weeks worth, I gather my ingredients and the blender and I whip some salad dressing up in minutes.
First I combine a cup of vinegar, the measurements of salt, herbs, and seasonings into the blender cup. Then, honoring the time and recipe-tested ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, I add 3 cups of grapeseed oil. I screw on the blade assembly and set it on the blender’s motor housing.
The neat thing about the NutriBullet is that there is no on-off switch, no speed adjustment. Just high-speed blending by pushing the blade assembly onto the motor housing. In under 30 seconds, the four blades have pureed all the dry ingredients and emulsified the vinegar and oil. Without a binder, its not a perfect emulsion, but it will work for what I am doing.
Storing and using
After blending I transfer the salad dressing into a dressing bottle and I store it in the refrigerator, ready to use, along with my pre-cut salad components.
In the morning I will pull out the cabbage mise and assemble my dinner salad. I give it a good dousing of salad dressing and toss it to make sure it is well coated. I put the now dressed salad back in the fridge, where the acid from the vinegar will break down the plant fibers and make them more digestible. It softens the leaves without exposing them to heat, so all their vitamins and minerals remain intact.
The blend I make yields enough salad dressing to one week, so I’ve had to make it twice so far. It certainly helps get the cabbage down my throat while eating it, but I’ll be happy to tinker with variations on the recipe.
Where I am at
My weight is coming off, but slowly. I am kind of disappointed that over the first four weeks I haven’t lost more weight. I’ll see where I am on Sunday.
In terms of overall goals, I am more than a week behind where I’d hoped to be on my weight loss. I’m just now putting time into exercising, and it is not getting easier. I feel better some days but mostly I miss sugar. I still have headaches and foggy-brain from carb flu.
I’d really like to get past this in the next two weeks. Monday I start a new diet that will cut my calories even more, but will at least include some meat. Up to now it has been familiar territory for me. I have been on kimchi and cabbage diets before. Next week I am trying something totally new.
I am losing weight. For that I know I should be pleased and grateful. It is just that after a month, I was hoping to have more to be grateful for.