Greens n’ Grains Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing/Dip

Greens n’ Grains Salad with Creamy Garlic Dressing/Dip

Sometimes, it’s nice to have a thick, creamy dressing on a salad. It’s a bonus when that same dressing can be used as a dip.

A double bonus? This recipe is super healthy, oil-free and dairy free! Try the dressing/dip for this salad recipe and tweak it a bit to make it precisely to your liking.

Note: although a list of specific grains and vegetables were used for this salad, use whatever veggies and grains you have around.

Pour this dressing on anything you want! It’s a thick one, so thin it out if you prefer it that way. Add it to pasta, any vegetables (raw or cooked), potatoes (steamed, baked or for a guilt-free potato salad), crackers, pita slices, as a sandwich spread etc. You get the idea.

Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked, tri-coloured quinoa (or any grain you like, such as regular quinoa, cous cous, barley, rice, millet, and so on)

2 cups chopped greens; I like to chop them into small pieces (any combination/ratio of your choice: arugula, romaine, spinach, kale, chard, Italian parsley, cilantro, etc.)

1 cup diced cooked potato

1 cup chopped purple cabbage

1 cup chopped snap peas

1 diced yellow pepper

1 diced orange pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients.

Makes 9 cups of salad. Put to the side.*

*Alternatively, you could make the dressing first and refrigerate it before preparing the salad.

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Creamy Garlic Dressing/Dip

Ingredients:

1-19 fl. oz (540 mL) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1-19 fl. oz (540 mL) can white navy beans (also called cannellini beans), drained and rinsed

1.5 to 2 cups of plant-based milk of your liking (I used Eden soy beverage, which contains only organic soy beans and water. If you use a sweetened or flavored liquid, the taste will be different). If you don’t want to use any type of milk beverage, use water or vegetable broth instead. Start with 1.5 cups and add more to thin out to your liking.

4 dates (smaller variety), or 2 dates of the larger type

½ cup of lemon juice (fresh or bottled)

2 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp, plus 2 tsp of garlic powder (adjust to less or more, according to your tastes)

1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp of onion powder

1 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all liquid ingredients and dates to a blender. Do not blend yet. A high-speed blender is not necessary, but the dressing will be smoother if you use one. I used a Vitamix.
  2. Add the chickpeas.
  3. Blend slowly at first, and then build up the speed until all chickpeas appear blended.
  4. Add the dry ingredients.
  5. Begin blending again. Slowly add the white navy beans. It is at this point you’ll need to determine how thick/thin you want your dressing/dip. Add more soy beverage or water/vegetable broth, as needed. Add a little at a time, to ensure you don’t make your dressing thinner than you like it.
  6. Stop blending when smooth.
  7. Taste the dressing. If you want more garlic, add it. If you want more lemon juice, add it. Same with the salt. Tweak it to your liking. Blend and tweak again, if needed.*

Makes 4.5 cups of dressing. **

*I find the flavors in the dressing will taste stronger when tasting the dressing by itself. When the dressing is mixed in the salad, I find the taste milder. Adjust your seasonings as you desire.

**I used about 3 cups of the dressing on the salad, as I wanted it extra thick and creamy. Depending on how thick/thin you make it, and depending on how much you use on your salad, you’ll likely have a cup or two of leftover dressing/dip.

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Quinoa + Water = Bread!

I’m so excited by my most recent discovery!

Quinoa bread. 

One of the issues I have with most breads today is that they’re filled with a bunch of things our body doesn’t need. Bad things too.

Here’s a sampling of less-than-ideal ingredients from the Country Harvest-Ancient Grains brand, which I would say appears to be one of the better brands of bread out there as it has whole grains (with the germ intact):

-refined flour

-sugar in one or more forms

-wheat/gluten

-oil in one form or another

calcium propionate (a preservative).

diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides (emulsifier to strengthen the dough): I’m not clear on the safety of this. It may be natural and come from fatty acids (that may be animal or plant-based). Either way, not sure I want to eat it on a regular basis in bread.

sodium stearoyl-2- lactylate (another emulsifier)

-vegetable monoglycerides (may contain transfats)

sorbic acid (preservative)

I am NOT a chemist or an expert in the area of food additives etc., but I am a human being who wants to eat whole, natural food as much as possible. I’m not perfect in this regard either, as I knowingly choose to consume food with unhealthy ingredients.

It is the food I eat on a regular basis, in my home, that I want more control over. I don’t want to be eating all those unpronounceable ingredients in my bread or other products I eat more regularly.

Ezekiel bread is a much better option. Its ingredients steer away from added chemicals/preservatives.

Ezekiel bread

Organic sprouted grains and lentils/soybeans, water, yeast, gluten and sea salt.

Ezekiel ingredients

The Ezekiel brand of bread is a great option, if you are looking for the healthiest, store-bought bread. You will find it in the freezer section.

If you think you don’t have the time to make your own bread, you’re like me. I toyed with the idea over the years. I even took a course on making ancient grain bread, and I also made bread in a bread maker. Those two options are healthy because you make them at home, but….they’re way too time consuming for me.

You CAN make your own bread (fast and simple) if you know the secret. Get ready, because this could blow your mind.

Quinoa + Water = Bread

First… two things up front.

  1. This bread is more like a flat bread-great for a pizza crust, or used like pita bread. You can make a sandwich with it, but it’s not as thick or light as bread used in a sandwich. I cut it into squares and use it with hummus etc.
  2. This is NOT my recipe. I stumbled on it through Facebook. The creator is Savy Menke. A link to her video and website is below the recipe and pictures.

Quinoa Bread (water + quinoa)

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You can cut the bread into whatever shape you like.

Ingredients

-equal parts quinoa and water (that’s it!)

Optional: add flavors of choice, to taste (herbs, spices, sea salt)

Instructions

-blend together (I use a vitamix, high-speed blender, but the recipe creator used a magic bullet)

-pour onto parchment paper-line pan

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-spread out evenly in the desired shape (I did one in a circle and another in a rectangle):  the thicker you leave it, the more of a soft, bread-like texture you’ll have; the thinner you spread it, the more like a cracker it will be.

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-bake at 430 degrees (recipe creator uses 425) for 15 min.

-flip over

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-bake for another 10 min.

The first time I made this, I used tri-colored quinoa, so the bread was a nice dark brown color. You can experiment with different colors to get the look you want (if you care)

I tried it a second time, with regular quinoa and added Mrs. Dash and nutritional yeast (as the recipe creator does).

My family enjoys this bread, and I recently took it to a family event and served it with hummus…I guess that’s a good sign. I love the fact that I can make this bread at home, and it is so healthy!

I’m looking forward to experimenting with this recipe. I might try adding a bit of maple syrup and cinnamon for a sweeter version. I’d also like to try a basil and sun-dried tomato bread.

Thanks for the awesome recipe, Savy!

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Get the Goodness In

I love avocado. REALLY love it!

It seems to be pretty popular, whether sliced on a sandwich, mashed and spread onto toast or mixed into a fine guacamole. It’s tasty, especially with a touch of lime juice and sea salt, but its most prevalent feature is its creamy, dreamy texture.

The high fat content gives us what we crave, that creamy feel in our mouth.

When you’re watching your weight or monitoring your fat intake, sometimes we feel guilty eating the almighty avocado….until now!

One of the tricks I’ve learned over the years is to add healthy greens or vegetables to dishes where I normally wouldn’t. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get in that extra nutrition once you know this trick.

For instance, like many people, I could LIVE on mashed avocado (with some lime juice and sea salt) on toast. When I crave the big, green fatty-but-awesome fruit, I mash in some extra nutrition by finely chopping whatever greens I have on hand. I use kale, spinach or arugula usually. Greens like romaine would probably be a bit too moist, but they might work.

The trick is to finely chop the greens so they blend in smoothly with the avocado. I just use the old-fashioned knife and cutting board to chop the greens, but I suppose the greens and the avocado together could be put in a food processor? Haven’t tried that.

If not on toast, I might spread my green goodness on some healthy corn chips (made with no oil!). Sometimes I’ll have both (toast and chips). Like I said, I just LOVE avocado.

Toast with guac

If I’m in a hurry, and I just don’t have time to chop up my greens, I might throw those greens right on top of my avocado spread. Works on the run.

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When making my fave toast, I sometimes don’t stop at the extra greens; I might throw on a few tomato or cucumber slices or some onion.

toast

There are tons of other ways to add in greens or veggies to your snacks or meals. When you do this for yourself, you’re adding oodles of extra phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. I say, “Why not get those nutrients in my body while I’m getting this other stuff in?”

Here are some tried and true ways to get more nutrients into your body:

Guacamole or Dips: add those greens! Finely chop greens into guac or hummus or your own unique bean spread.

Mashed potatoes: can add in finely chopped greens, green onions, or mashed cauliflower. Try one of these and play around with how much you add to the potatoes until you find the right balance that works for your taste buds.

Pasta: add your favourite veggies to your pasta to get in some more of the good stuff. I buy frozen, chopped kale, which is perfect for a last-minute add-in to any pasta dish. Any veggie will do. Sometimes, I just chop up whatever leftovers are hanging around in the fridge and throw them into the pasta. Have little nuggets of goodness around to add, such as capers or sun-dried tomatoes. Add them in. If you get good at this, you can start trying to make your meals more veggie-heavy and less pasta-heavy.

Soups: add almost anything goes here: fresh or frozen veggies, rice or other whole grains, greens etc. If you’re making a nice squash soup, add in some chopped red peppers or even some greens. If you’re making a broth-based soup, try adding barely; it really makes a soup hearty (and healthy too!).

Smoothies: it’s really easy to sneak in goodness in a smoothie. Many people focus on the fruit part of a smoothie. Some parents worry their kids won’t eat a healthier green smoothie. Give it a try, you sneaky cook. Add greens into your smoothies; chances are no one will even notice. You can start with a few spinach leaves, for example, and build up over time. Other things I slip into smoothies that don’t change the taste: turmeric, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds.

Oatmeal: don’t just have plain old oatmeal; load it up with fresh or thawed, frozen fruit, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, ginger etc.

So, before you serve or chow down on your next snack or meal, look around and ask yourself, “What healthy bits can I add to this?”

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

1, 2, 3… Salad Dressing!

Recently for lunch, I made a quick salad and a homemade dressing. Making your own salad dressing is probably easy for most people (blend oil, some kind of vinegar and add some spices) but making a healthier version can be trickier if you don’t know what to do.

Here are my rules/steps to make your own, oil-free dressing, which is low in fat and made with mostly whole foods. It treats your body with nourishment, your taste buds with delight and does NOT bog down your arteries:

  1. Choose a base: You need something that will serve as the base for your dressing. Look for something that will blend nicely and not be too thin or thick of a consistency.

I often use fruit. Mangoes and oranges are my favourite, but others like kiwi, pear and berries work well too. Some veggies work, like tomato or cucumber.

In addition to fruit and veggies, you can also use things like balsamic vinegar, but it is thin and strong. Balsamic vinegar can be overpowering and if used as a base, will make your dressing to thin/watery.

Another fantastic option is hummus. Ideally, you’ve made it yourself, and it has no oil. Store-bought hummus works just fine too. I almost always have store-bought hummus in the fridge because it is so handy.

  1. Choose a flavor: What kind of zing do you want? Add garlic, herbs, spices, or condiments to experiment with tastes you like. Sometimes, fruit will work to tone down some flavors. Dates add a little sweet taste to balance with dressing that seems a bit tart or bitter. Here are some faves of mine:

-ginger and garlic

-cilantro and garlic

-cilantro and lemon

-lemon and Mrs. Dash Original or Mrs. Dash Lemon

-soy sauce, ginger and garlic

-balsamic vinegar and garlic

-tomato, garlic, dates and chili peppers

Start to pay attention to flavors you enjoy and think about how they might fit into a salad dressing. Look online for flavor combinations that seem to work.

Other herbs/spices/condiments to try:

Mustard, dijon mustard, horseradish sauce, parsley, dill, basil, celery salt, ground pepper etc.

How did I figure out what I like? By experimenting.

I usually just open my fridge, see what’s there and then start to put together some ideas. Don’t be afraid to try things. Believe me, I’ve made some dressings that weren’t great. So what? I also made beauties I loved. You just have to try. Have some fun!

  1. Blend and Adjust:I combine my ingredients together and blend them. At this point, I’m checking for consistency. Is the dressing too thin? Too thick? If it is, and I’m in a rush, I might leave it. If I have time, then I’ll see what I can add to thin it out or make it thicker.

Too thin? Add a bit of tofu, hummus or a small handful of chickpeas or other legumes. Maybe a bit more fruit or veggie.

Too thick? I find this is the easiest fix. Just add a bit of water or other liquid like veggie broth or orange juice.

Blender Tip: I usually make dressing as I need it…just a small batch, so I use my Magic Bullet. I like it because it’s fast and easy to blend and clean up. However, it doesn’t blend dressing as smoothly. This means there might be some chunky parts. If I’m making dressing for a few people, for guests, or if I want to keep it in the fridge for a few days, I’ll definitely use my Vitamix. It blends dressings so smoothly, but it takes a few seconds longer to clean up.

Here’s what I did for the dressing I made a few days ago.

Let’s call it Mandarin Garlic Dressing

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Base: mandarin orange

Flavor: garlic* and cilantro

*If you notice the garlic has a bit of a dark colour, it’s because I buy peeled garlic in batches. The cloves go bad in the fridge before I can use them all, so I put only what I think I’ll need over a couple of weeks in the fridge, and then I freeze the rest. When a garlic clove thaws after being frozen, it has that dark colour. The taste doesn’t seem to change.

Consistency: It was a bit thick, but I didn’t mind; it tasted so fresh and delicious.

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The dressing I made may not be the prettiest you’ve seen, but frankly, I don’t care what my dressing looks like, as long as it tastes delicious!

Salad dressings provide the perfect situation for experimenting. There are only a small amount of ingredients, so if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped, then that’s ok!

Making your own dressings is one of the secrets to eating healthy salads, without adding all the fat, sugar and unpronounceable ingredients included in most store-bought dressings. The big secret is finding ways to replace that ever-expected ingredient: oil.

If you really want to cut out oil, try your own homemade dressing. Become your own food scientist by experimenting in the lab in your home: your kitchen.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Go Brown, for all your Rice

To me, the best kind of rice to always have in your kitchen is brown.

Long grain brown rice.

Short grain brown rice.

Basmati brown rice.

Why?

Brown rice is a whole food, a whole grain. White rice, however, has most of its nutrients stripped away

HealthyHabit

Make a batch of brown rice on the weekend and leave a container of it in the fridge. You can grab it quickly through the week and combine with some beans and veggies.

It’s so easy.

I really enjoy the brown basmati rice, Here are a couple of quick pictures I took this past weekend.

I started by soaking 3 cups for 30 min. (soaking time recommended on package).

Then I rinsed it and put it in a pot with 4.5 cups of water.

Next, it went on the stove on high, with the lid on, until it began to boil.

I turned the element down to low, without removing the lid and left it on the element for 30 min.

That’s it. I let it cool and then found a container.

Healthy rice for all through the week!

Wishing you a healthy, successful journey,

SignatureAli

Mrs. Dash – a kitchen must

Find “kitchen musts” on the SHOP page.

I use Mrs. Dash, Original by adding it to soups, and rice and beans/veggies and other dishes while cooking. It also brings some life to dressings and sauces. It has NO salt, which is a bonus because you can have all the flavors without the salt. Of course, if your dish needs a little help in flavor, then at least you can control the portion of salt by adding your own.

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Product description: An all purpose, versatile blend of 14 savory herbs and spices including onion, black pepper, parsley, basil, orange peel and tomato adds flavor excitement to any dish.

Ingredients: dehydrated onion, garlic powder, black pepper, dehydrated carrot, lemon juice solids, dehydrated orange peel, parsley, tomato powder, citric acid, lemon oil, celery seed, basil, bay leaves, marjoram, oregano, thyme, savory, cumin, mustard flour, cayenne pepper, rosemary, coriander.

Look at that list! Everything looks like something I would put into my body. The only ingredient that is not ideal is citric acid, which is a preservative. Although it is naturally found in some citrus fruits, commercially used citric acid is not.

I’ve read different reports on citric acid. Some say it is produced by a mold that is fed sugar (usually corn-derived). To me, it’s important to recognize that it is a commercially synthesized product. It is just something to keep in mind. I think the main point here, is that on the Mrs. Dash list, it is the only ingredient that gives me pause. Ideally, the best herb and spice mixture would be one that you make yourself.

You can find Mrs. Dash products almost anywhere, but if you cannot, click on the image and order through Amazon.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli