Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter may have seen recent posts/tweets grumbling about carbs, or lack thereof. Yes, I've decided that this year, December 1st is the new January 1st, and instead of indulging in every cake, cookie, candy cane, and cup of cocoa that comes along this month, I'm following the South Beach diet until I head to Boston for Xmas (T-minus, 14 days-- I already have a list of things I will be eating that week!). Yes, it kindof sucks. But, hopefully it will be worth it to feel sure no one will mistake me for Santa in my red winter coat this year!
So, what does a self-proclaimed food snob eat for "diet" food. The South Beach diet requires that you forsake all white flour and sugar, and restrict your intake of other delicious, carbohydrate-laden things such as fruit, alcohol, and my beloved potatoes. That is SAD potatoes, indeed. But, there's still plenty of yummy foods to be had. I thought I'd do a short series of posts to share a few of my go-to meals and snacks for any of you who might be looking for lower-carb recipe ideas, or those who want to laugh at me through a mouth full of french fries.
Lesson 1, Salad: OK, no-brainer, right? If you're on a diet, you're pretty much signing up to eat a lot of salad. Luckily, I love salad. And I make a damn good one. Just ask my boyfriend-- I have made him a salad convert! Right now, I'm going to share with you one of my kitchen secrets, something that I make/eat almost every day of my life-- my vinaigrette. This vinaigrette will change your life. DO NOT buy bottled vinaigrette. They almost always contain lots of sugar and god knows what else-- but even if you are NOT dieting, you can make a delicious vinaigrette at home that will be fresher, cheaper, and more delicious than anything from a bottle. It takes only SIX ingredients, and two of those are salt and pepper. People LOVE this dressing, and it is sosososo easy and can be made from whatever you have lying around in your house-- try it sometime!
Basic Vinaigrette technique (not a recipe, because it can be adapted hundreds of ways!)
-1 part acid (I usually use lemon juice [fresh-squeezed only, please! That little plastic lemon full of "juice" should be illegal], but you can use lime juice, or any type of vinegar. About a tablespoon for a large salad for two people.)
-shallot, garlic, or herbs, minced/finely chopped (optional, based on what you have around the house and what flavor you are looking for in the dressing- about 1 teaspoon for a large salad for two.)
-kosher salt (to taste, about 1/2 a teaspoon for this amount of acid)
-coarse ground pepper (to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon for this amount of acid)
-djion mustard (1/2 teaspoon for this much acid)
-2 parts extra virgin olive oil (so 2 tablespoons for this much acid, but essentially just double the amount of acid, whether its tablespoons, cups, shot glasses, etc. I always use extra virgin olive oil for dressings-- do NOT use "light" olive oil or canola or vegetable oil, you will regret it.)
You can make this in the bowl you are serving your salad in. I usually make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, then pile the salad stuff on top, then toss. Or, if you are making more than 1 salad's worth (great time saver), you can mix it in a bowl and then pour into a jar, and store in the fridge)
1. Put your acid, chopped garlic/shallots/herbs (if any), salt and pepper in a medium bowl (or your salad bowl), and stir it around a little until the salt dissolves. If you are using garlic/shallots, you can let them sit in the acid for a few minutes to help soften their flavor.
|Shallots in lemon juice, S&P|
2. Add the mustard, and stir well to combine. The mustard adds flavor but also acts as an emulsifier, which keeps the acid and oil from separating. You can also use a raw egg yolk in place of the mustard, but remember you will be serving the dressing raw. Also, I think mustard adds a nice flavor.
|in goes the mustard|
3. Begin whisking the acid/mustard mixture, and slowly begin adding the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking the whole time (again this is for emulsification). After all the oil is incorporated, taste the dressing. It should be fairly acidic and have a nice tang, but if you want it a bit milder, add some more oil. I like mine pretty tangy! (Traditional vinaigrettes are usually 3:1 oil to water, where this one is 2:1. You can adjust yours to taste. You can also add a drop or two of honey to the dressing to sweeten it up a bit if you like.)
|whisk whisk whisk!|
4. That's it! It's just that easy. If you've made a larger batch and are storing it in a jar for future use, you will need to shake the jar before each use to reincorporate the ingredients.
|jar of goodness!|
So, that's the dressing. But dressing alone does not a salad make. What else do I throw in there??
Lettuce: romaine or, gasp, iceberg if that's all I've got, but ideally a nice spring mix, local lettuces from the farmers' market, or recently I've discovered that BJ's Wholesale Club carries some very good, very fresh "gourmet" lettuces in bulk. When you eat as much salad as we do, you can buy lettuce in bulk. Make sure to wash and dry all lettuce thoroughly, nothing worse than gritty or soggy salad-- yuck!
Tomatoes: yes, even out of season I require tomatoes in my salad. I find the little grape tomatoes to have the most flavor this time of year. Don't buy anything that doesn't at least LOOK ripe in the store-- those pale pink suckers will never ripen and are going to taste like mealy cardboard.
Cucumbers: English, kirby, whatever-- crunchy cuke slices are in every salad I make.
Onion: a little sliced red onion or scallion is a nice touch, although I omit them if it's a lunch salad and I have to talk to anyone afterwards.
Cheese: I almost always sprinkle a bit of feta cheese over my salads, but you can add almost any cheese, or none at all. Blue cheese crumbles are nice, or shredded sharp cheddar.
Other veggies: Anything in my fridge is at risk for ending up in a salad- peppers, avocados, broccoli, or almost anything else you want to get rid of and can be eaten raw. Even a cooked potato (in non SB times) or some sliced apple or pear can go in there!
Nuts: Especially if I'm not eating any other protein in the meal, I love nuts in salad. Pepitas are my aboslute favorite. They are the roasted inner kernel of pumpkin seeds, and they are delicious. They add nice flavor and crunch to salad (especially when you can't have croutons!)
Protein: Crumbled cooked bacon, sliced turkey breast, salmon, tofu, or almost anything you might put in a sandwich, go ahead and throw it in that salad. This will add substance and make the salad more of a meal. Some chopped hard-boiled egg can be good, too.
|All dressed up!|
So, what do you put in YOUR salads??