Real. Good. Fud.

and other joys in life

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Dress With a Friend

Salad dressing: friend or foe?

It can go either way, really.  Kraft Fat Free Zesty Italian Salad Dressing.  Sounds healthy, right?  Free of fats.  That part is true.  First of all, most any ‘light’ dressings have a first ingredient of water.  Therefore, an equal amount has less flavor than ‘full fat’ options, meaning you probably use more of it.  High fructose corn syrup is the 3rd ingredient.  I stop there. Foe.

Beloved Ranch?  Interestingly, first ingredient is water again.  Third is sugar.  A little later comes monosodium glutamate.  Yuck.  12 grams of fat.  370 milligrams of sodium.  And remember that these dressings keep for quite some time.  Convenient, yes; but what is in there that makes it keep for so long?  Foe

So where can you find a friend?  In your pantry and refrigerator!  Making homemade salad dressing sounds a little intimidating.  It can be done very simply, or more complex for various kinds.  Practice makes perfect.  And as always, experiment and change to suit your tastes!

The basics:  acid, oil, something sweet.

Here are a couple of recipes, beginning with the most simple.

Equal amounts vinegar (my favorite is balsamic) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).  Stir in a tiny bit of something sweet (e.g., maple syrup or honey) and some pepper.  This is my go-to.  If I have nothing prepared, this obviously takes seconds to prepare!  It is the base for most others.

Sometimes I will even just squeeze some fresh lemon, drizzle some EVOO and sprinkle some pepper on my salad!  This works especially well if you have lots of ‘yummies’ on your salad like nuts and fruit.

My very favorite salad dressing that I typically always have made is this:

In a small blender or food processor, blend together:

a garlic clove

a few slices of onion

balsamic vinegar


a spoonful of Dijon mustard

maple syrup

lemon juice and/or zest

Once these are mixed, stir or whisk in some EVOO (about equal amount to vinegar)

Still pretty easy, huh?! But so good I could drink it.

Of course you can get adventurous and make ranch, Caesar, etc. homemade too!  Think lots of flavor to minimize the need for much ‘cream’.  And for the cream, try out plain yogurt and low-fat milk and soft cheeses. 

Here is a prime example of taking something that could be really terrible for you; the bad fats, sugar, salt and preservatives from most  bought dressings, and turning it into something that will make your whole body smile.  Full of antioxidants, omega-3 fats; and vinegar is claimed to have a wide array of healing powers.  Out with the bad, in with the amazing!  The great part is, the amazing even tastes amazing!

Final notes:  the better ingredients you begin with, the better your final product will be.  That being said, I typically buy a ‘mid’ level EVOO, not generic, but not the real fancy stuff either.  My vinegar, I do spend a little more on.  Still not the little bottle that costs $30, but something rich and full of flavor. 


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Happy Hearts

Now that it really is Valentine’s Day, I would like to devote another post to our amazing hearts!

I got a free magazine from the local health food store, and read a great article titled, “Eat Well, and Savor Your Life”.  What a great title! It contained a few recipes and interview with cardiologist and chef, Mike Fenster, MD.  Wow, what a perfect match made in heaven!

Here’s a quote that is very quotable:

“What we eat is not just fuel to get us through our daily grind; it contains the building blocks upon which our bodies are constructed…that is why I created the Path of the Three ‘Bes’: Be Aware, Be Fresh, and Be on Time and in proportion.”

Be Aware: basically, junk food is called such for good reason.  Real nutrition is not there, and we are led to seeking something to fill our cravings, losing appreciation for true taste.

Be Fresh:  pretty self-explanatory!  Make what you can from scratch; you know what’s there and have 

control over what goes in and what stays out.  And, this is much more economical.

Be on Time and in proportion: We all love to supersize.  Now, this isn’t a rule I pay much attention to because I was blessed with high metabolism.  Therefore, I do eat a lot.  However, it is good to remember to have a little snack about 20 minutes before eating a big meal to limit overeating.  And, wait a few minutes before going back for seconds!  In Dr. Fenster’s words, “You can have your cake and eat it too- just not at one sitting!”  Just take a moment before consuming and think about what you are about to feed yourself.  This will limit overeating, but also help you to enjoy your food more!

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this day of love than with a final quote from this chef/physician marriage:

“By using fresh ingredients and controlling portions… there is little that nature offers that is not beneficial to us.  Food, for most of us in this country and many industrialized nations around the world, is more than just nutrition.  It is tied to our memories, feelings and emotions.  We need to be able to feed our souls with great tasting food that also supplies our bodies with the nutrition we require.”

Happy Valentines Day!

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Healthy Hearts

(Picture from

Happy Valentines Day (in a week)! 

I would like to dedicate this post to my beloved father.  He recently underwent triple bypass (open heart surgery) due to occluded coronary arteries.  Considering his father and many other relatives have had similar issues, I am reminded that I must be extra cautious to ward off the Grim Reaper! 

Of course, part of heart disease (and many other ailments) is genetic.  You always hear the story of that man who ran marathons and dropped dead of a heart attack; and the lady who smoked all of her life and lived to be 90.  That leads some to believe that lifestyle really doesn’t affect your longevity.  I believe differently.  I believe that taking care of your body now increases chances of a longer life; and perhaps more importantly, better quality of life.  Of course I am no physician, dietician, or any other expert in the world of health.  So, my disclaimer is to listen to those qualified experts for specific instruction.  Most, if not all, of what I recommend is not radical or dangerous.  Following my advice will at worst do nothing, and will likely improve your life now and later.  Remember, you are in charge of your lifeYou can make the decision to feed your body what it needs and deserves.

The single, most important thing I believe you can do for your health is to be informed and proactive.  Know what you are eating.  Read not only the nutritional facts, but especially the ingredients.  Being healthy is sort of a fad nowadays… that is a good thing because it means health food is more readily available.  However, marketers take advantage of this trend and identify their food as healthy, regardless of what the truth is.  They put “Low Fat” on the front of packaging, and many people will pick that food up, assuming it is good for them.  However, you will often find that these foods add lots of sugar, salt, or other additives to make up for the lost flavor.  Most labels such as “low fat”, “low sodium”, “natural”, etc. are not regulated.  The only ones I know of that are regulated are USDA Organic-the green and white circle, and Fair Trade.  Be careful even with these, organic may mean it is free of preservatives, but it still may contain lots of added sugar, salt, fat, etc.

A few other rules I live by, that go along with the above statement:

I shop wisely.  Whatever you buy at the grocery store and have around the house is what you will eat.  If it’s not there, you won’t eat it.  If you plan and read labels at the store, you won’t have to worry about it until your next grocery trip!

I almost never buy foods with high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils in them.  I won’t go into the why, but basically these ingredients are a result of extensive processing.

I make sure whenever I buy any grain product; cereal, crackers, bread, tortillas, etc., that the first ingredient is some sort of whole grain; not enriched, refined, or any other variety.  Just because it is wheat bread, or the crackers say “whole wheat” on the front, doesn’t mean it really is.

The farther your food travels to get to your plate, the more chemicals and processing it has likely undergone.  Whenever possible, I buy local food.  Over time, vegetables and fruit lose nutrients.  Local produce has a short time between the ground and your mouth, making the nutritional content so much greater than food that traveled from far away.  Traveling food will also get lots of chemicals so they look pretty at your grocery store.  Local (and organic) is the way to go!

And finally, people become obsessed with what not to eat.  Fat, sugar, salt… Yes, this is important to be cognizant of.  But perhaps we should consider what to eat.  I’ve said it before, and will a hundred more times: the more whole the food (i.e., the closer to its real, natural form), the better it will be for you (99% of the time).  If you stick to what the Good Lord provided for us, and avoid what man has turned that into to… your body will appreciate you.  Not only will this practice result in fewer ‘bad’ fats, sugar and salt, but it will make your body stronger!   A stronger body means better health, no qualms!

It is really great that the general public is becoming interested in health.  Use that to your benefit; we all know that saturated fats should be limited, trans fats avoided completely, sugar and salt limited, antioxidants are little miracles, as are probiotics.  Don’t fall into the marketing scams; actually look at what it is you are feeding your body!  And of course, food was created for our nutritional benefit; and should therefore be consumed in its most natural, whole state!  Now go forth and enjoy some REAL GOOD food 🙂

If you feel overwhelmed by all the options of food out there, don’t be discouraged!  Practice makes perfect; a little effort now will result in grocery shopping ease in the near future.  You will be able to more readily recognize what is ‘good’ and what’s devoid of nutrition!  Also, education is very helpful.  Read a book, browse a website or even watch a show.  My personal favorites are Dr. Oz and Jordan Rubin.


PS- Next I am going to share how to make the best salad dressing your palate has ever encountered!