Let’s start off with a motivational piece, shall we!
– Or SHE! –
The Joy of Flavored Vinegars…Or How to Eat Healthy and Save A Bundle!:
(From Left: White Balsalmic Pear Infused Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, Tarragon Wine Vinegar, Moderna Aged Balsalmic Vinegar, Champagne Vinegar, Vanilla Fig Vinegar, Salad Vinegar, Raspberry Blush Vinegar. Not pictured: Apple Cider Vinegar, Asian Rice Wine Vinegar)
So if you’re eating more salad these days, getting in those veggies, that’s great. And you’re probably buying low fat or fat free dressings, right? But do you know what they replace the fat with? Yup, SUGAR! In all of it’s varied forms, it’s in there. Plus a heap load of sodium to boot.
Before you buy that bottled dressing, it’s important to read the label to check out carb numbers, sodium, and the ingredients list. Chances are, you won’t be very happy with what you see. Plus, even the cheap ones aren’t all that cheap. Whether you’re spending $2.50 for the low end or $4+ for the higher end ones, it’s still a dent in your wallet, especially if you’re eating salad regularly, or using balsalmic or fat free italian dressings as marinades.
What’s the answer? Flavored vinegars (and flavored olive oils) add a huge punch of taste for a much smaller price tag. Not only will you be wowed by how much flavor they actually have, you only need to use a small amount to make an impact. And if you pair a special vinegar with a complementarily flavored olive oil – Wow! And don’t get me started on balsalmic glazes!
The best part of all this is you control the inputs: the amount of vinegar, the amount of olive oil (it’s usually a 3/1 mix – tablespoons – which gives you plenty for a big salad or enough for 2 small ones), any fresh or dried herbs, salt free spice mixes, the sky’s the limit. You can also find very cool gourmet ones at places like Marshalls and Home Goods for a fraction of the regular prices. I picked up a vanilla fig balsalmic, which, when paired with a bit of gorgonzola cheese, makes a heavenly baked chicken. It’s so good, it tastes like going out to a nice restaurant at a tiny fraction of the cost.
Because you use so little of the actual vinegars, and they have very long shelf lives, you’ll save a bundle over time in making your own dressings and marinades. The selection pictured above is my private stash which I used in salads, baked poultry, fish, pork, and even in soup!
The Basic Salad Dressing Recipe:
1 tablespoon olive oil of your choice
2-3 tablespoons vinegar of your choice (you can use more than 1!)
fresh or dried herbs if desired
1/2 tablespoon salt free spice mix
– These can be mixed in the morning when you’re getting ready for work, put in a small container, and along with your salad, you’re good to go. – OR –
– You can make a larger quantity and keep in the fridge for an even easier pack up.
Chicken and Spinach Salad with Strawberries and White Balsalmic Pear-or-Raspberry Vinegarette
(Makes 1 Large Salad)
Cup of baby spinach leaves, or regular cut into bite size pieces
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped
any other veggies you’d like
about a tablespoon of crumbled fat free feta cheese
about 1/2 cup of leftover or canned chicken breast
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil (virgin is fine though)
2-3 tablespoons of combo of white balsalmic pear infused and raspberry vinegars (any regular grocery will have these) or either/or
1/2 teaspoon of salt free spice mix
1 teaspoon of fresh or dried herbs of your choice
Chop and layer your veggies, then strawberry and chicken, and top with cheese. Make your vinegarette fresh or get out of fridge a pre-mixed batch. Pour dressing over salad. Enjoy!
Use balsalmic glazes (right next to the vinegars) as a great marinade for poultry or pork. Marinade for a few hours in the fridge, use cooking spray in a small oven safe pan, put in marinaded meat and top with a bit of your favorite fat free cheese if you like, pop into oven at about 375 and bake. Super easy weeknight meal!
You don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well – and healthy! Getting some basic ingredients, going “fresh”, and using your imagination ensures a wealth of options that keeps your everyday salad or chicken breast from getting old – and let’s you cut the sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor. Plus there are tons of websites that have a wide variety of vinegar choices (I’m hankering for a lemon-artichoke heart one myself) and recipes. A quick plug for spices: investing in good quality spices at a local gourmet store instead of the overpriced, mediocre ones at the grocery store will ante up the flavor in anything you make. Take your time, try some new ideas, and enjoy the results!