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Labels, Health, and Caesar Dressing (a recipe)

Cool flowchart done by Cole Bradburn, with the original's language toned down a bit. 🙂

I’m not a real stickler with labels.  PEOPLE-labels, that is.  Ingredient labels I do read, without fail.  But, having a label helps, sometimes, when hunting for diet-compliant resources.  Thanks to this article from medical doctor and true nutrition expert, Dr. Cate, I now can call myself a “Herder-Gatherer Paleo” adherent.  That’s plants, meats, and a bit of dairy.  Most of those who eat Paleo don’t eat any dairy.  I also eat some legumes, which most Paleo folk don’t.  I don’t really care about that, though.  I don’t care about strict adherence, either.  For instance, many people who eat Paleo wouldn’t eat rice vinegar because it’s made from rice (a grain) or white vinegar because it’s made from a grain (corn).  I think any diet can be taken to such extremes that it becomes silly and prohibitive.  I’m not going there.  For me, what matters is, “Is it healthy?” more than, “Does such-and-such website say I should eat it?”*

The net result, though, is that I need to alter pretty much any recipe I find to suit my needs, tastes, and what I will/won’t eat.  And what’s on hand in my fridge and pantry.  And what can be made for reasonable cost, given that we have seven people in our home.  And that said seven people can/will eat what I make, at least a majority of them.

This recipe is wholly inspired by my friend Kim of GF Real Food.  I went over to her house a few weeks ago and was impressed by how quickly she whipped up a caesar salad from scratch.  She also clued me into the 2.5 lb bags of washed romaine lettuce from Costco that are $3.99 per bag.  AND, I made the recipe in a mini food processor that she passed onto me, when she got a shiny new one.  🙂  Thank you, Kim!  I probably could have asked her for her recipe… instead, I went hunting online.  And, while I found several good recipes, no ONE suited my needs, which included using Pecorino Romano (made of 100% sheep’s milk) in lieu of parmesan.  I love me some good, sharp parmesan, but my 10yo son, Wesley, can’t have any cow dairy (unless it’s raw, which is another story).  Also, caesar dressing is traditionally made with balsamic vinegar, which I simply didn’t have in my pantry.  And so on.  By the time I was done, I had so completely altered the original recipe that I think I can call it a new one.

A few notes:

  • The Yuck Factor:  Yes, it has raw egg yolk.  The acid in the recipe essentially “cooks” the yolk, sort of like ceviche.
  • The Carb Count:  Unless the vinegar you use has sweetener of some sort, there are virtually no carbs in this dressing.
  • The Revelation:  I am rather embarrassed that I never realized that real caesar dressing is pretty much just a fancy aioli, or homemade mayonnaise.
  • The Roasted Garlic:  The recipe calls for roasted garlic cloves.  To roast:  Break apart a head of garlic, but do not peel.  Loosely gather a piece of aluminum foil around the cloves, and place in a 325°F oven for about 45 minutes.  Or, like me, roast it for 30 minutes, turn the oven off, and let the garlic sit in there for another hour or so.  To open, just squeeze the top of the clove.  The cloves should be butter-soft and light tan in color.
  • The Lettuce:  Traditionally, caesar dressing is served over romaine lettuce.  If you use four cups of romaine (which is essentially two large servings), that will give you about 2g net carbs and 4g fiber.
  • The “Croutons”:  Traditionally, caesar salads have croutons.  To make it gluten-free, and simply so, I served it with farinata, a grain-free flatbread that I still adore, even though I’ve been making it nearly every day of my life for the last 2½ years or so.  One-eighth of the recipe will give you 10g net carbs and 4g fiber.
  • The Protein:  I also pan-seared some sea-salted chicken breast, chopped it, and added it warm to the salad.  The dressing, the chicken, the farinata… Ah!  It all combined for a gloriously delicious meal that ALL OF US loved, from adults to wee children.  Well, “adult”, rather.  My hubby couldn’t have it, as it’s not Daniel Fast*-compliant.  He had plain lettuce and farinata.  And some garden tomatoes and cucumbers.  And pan-seared extra-firm tofu.
  • The Cost:  (02.02.12 — edited to update costs.  I went to TJ’s last night, and either the price had gone down on anchovies, or I remembered incorrectly.  Corrections made.) Given the amount of olive oil, anchovies, and Pecorino Romano cheese in this recipe, it’s fairly pricey for a homemade concoction.  I buy olive oil at Trader Joe’s, $5.99 for a 1 liter bottle of Spanish olive oil (my fave).  They have even less expensive olive oil at T.J.’s, too.  I also get anchovies there, $1.99 $1.49 for a 2 oz tin in olive oil.  And, I purchase Pecorino Romano there, too!  It’s $6.79 per pound, and one cup shredded is about 1/8 pound, so that’s $0.85.  So, this recipe costs about $4.35 $3.85 for the nearly-two-cups it produces.  Compared to store-bought, especially natural store-bought, that’s a fair price.  Most salad dressings are in 8 or 12 oz bottles, and this makes almost 16 oz.  Still, it’s not cheap.  It’s special occasion.  🙂  Added all together:  half a package of afore-mentioned lettuce ($2), 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale ($3), farinata (cost is negligible, but let’s call it $0.50), plus the dressing at $4.35 $3.85 = Dinner for 6 for $9.85 $9.35.  That’s more than I would typically spend on one night’s dinner, but again, definitely worth it, on occasion.
Pecorino Romano Caesar Dressing
Pecorino Romano Caesar Dressing
makes nearly 2 cups
Time:  About five minutes
 
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (also from Trader Joe’s!  No preservatives, all natural.)
  • 2 oz tin of anchovies in olive oil
  • 8 cloves roasted garlic
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar (or other vinegar of your choice)
  • 1 Tbsp preservative-free lemon juice 
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 2.5 oz)
  • 2 Tbsp water, if necessary
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste.
  1. Into a food processor or blender, measure egg yolks, Dijon mustard, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Pecorino Romano cheese, reserving 2 Tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  Pulse to mix thoroughly.
  2. If resulting dressing is thicker than you’d prefer, add optional water, a couple of teaspoons at a time, until you reach the consistency you desire.
  3. Sprinkle remaining Pecorino Romano on top of dressed salad.  Top, also, with cracked pepper to taste.
  4. Enjoy!

——————

*I’ve been having a disagreement with my husband about this.  He’s on a Daniel Fast, which he typically does for 2-4 weeks at a time, twice a year.  In general terms, a Daniel Fast is a whole foods, vegan diet, based upon the example of a few upper-crust Hebrew men, including Daniel, who were taken into captivity by the Babylonians, and challenged their captors to test their health after an all-veggie diet.  In the past, my hubby has allowed himself a few natural sweeteners, like honey, and not been too particular about one tiny ingredient or another.  However, this go-round, he has been following the protocol of a few websites devoted to the Daniel Fast, and they say that one shouldn’t have any vinegar, either, since it’s fermented, as was the wine that Daniel forewent.  I think that’s too nit-picky.  However, my husband feels more comfortable following the rules to the letter, even if — as my point is — who are those folks to make the rules???  But, to each his own.  I do understand how one can really long for guidelines, boundaries, and it become important not to cross them.  I kind of used to be like that.  🙂

Health stuff: Me, Fi, avocados, and candida.

  • After writing this, I thought, “How cliché!  I’m writing about a diet and it’s the new year, when everyone has made new commitments (again!) to some diet or another.”  But, for better or worse, that’s not what this post is about.
  • It appears my three-year-old, Fiala, has a crazy-bad body-wide yeast infection, and I was reading up on Candida overgrowth for Fi’s sake, when, to my particular interest, I read that Candida is frequently the source of hives in adults.  I’ve been getting intermittent hives for about the last two or three months, and the last two weeks have been AWFUL, with nightly hives (they’re always worse at night) and day-long burning and itching skin, especially on my hands, forearms, thighs, belly, and neck.  The whole world of Candida overgrowth is confusing and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.  Trying to establish some sort of anti-Candida protocol is really hard for a three-year-old;  you just can’t make them quaff a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, no matter how you disguise it.  For me, though, it’s a little easier.  I am embarking on a week-long cleanse.  I don’t even know if I’m doing it “right”;  I’m just following what seems logical:  Eating a all-sugar-free-even-honey-and-fruit, super-low-carb diet, basically a Paleo diet.  I’m counting my carbs (minus dietary fiber), and maxing them at 30g/daily.  I’m also supplementing with probiotics (lots) and with apple cider vinegar (lots).  Part of me is concerned that I don’t know enough to start the diet knowledgeably, but the other part of me has decided that doing the best I can, and adding to my knowledge as I proceed, is what I need to do, otherwise, I’ll keep dragging my feet and eating toffee.  🙂  I figure that even if the hives are not from Candida, at least I’ll probably lose a few pounds this week.  At least, I hope I only have to do one week.  We’ll see.  Maybe it’ll be as easy as starting a gluten-free diet nine years ago, where I felt SO MUCH BETTER that how much “trouble” it was became a total non-issue, and I knew I could never go back.
  • The post from which this beautiful pic comes mentions the giant amount of "good" calories that come from avocados. For the record, I don't give a rip about calories, and my body doesn't, either. My body does, however, care about sugar. I can eat fat-laden meat and fruits and veggies and gallons of honey and never gain an ounce, but if I eat me some sugar, and too many grains, I *PACK* on the pounds. I think those Paleo folks are onto something.

    In news related to the above (and below), avocados, though they are technically a fruit, have NO sugar!  Well, not “no”:  An average-sized avocado has 0.4g sugar and 0.1g starch.  That’s pretty close to zero.  And they’re super high in fiber, avocados have a reasonable amount of protein (especially for a fruit!), and are crazy-high in Omega 6 fatty acids, and EFAs are also supposed to be good for Candida sufferers.  And, oddly enough, avocados are related to cinnamon!  I’ve long known that Fiala can handle cinnamon with no allergic reaction.  I wish I would have discovered the connection, long ago.  Fi’s been eating avocados like crazy the last week or so; a local grocer has them on sale for 4/$1.00 (Bashas’, for those readers in Arizona — the sale is good through Tuesday.)  I found this page very interesting;  it’s about different varieties of avocados.  I was trying to find what kind we have.  I’m still not sure.

  • Speaking of Fiala, you may have seen on OSC’s Facebook page that there was a chance she has Type I (juvenile) Diabetes.  I’m happy to announce that her urinalysis was clean — no glucose.  Part of me was kind of hoping that diabetes was at the heart of her life-long health struggles, because that would be a clear path, and it’s treatable.  But since she doesn’t… we’re back at square one.  I was really unhappy about that for a few days, and now I’m OK.  Better than OK, actually.  We see the naturopathic doctor again on Friday.  She’s planning on ordering up some blood tests based on what did or didn’t show on Fiala’s (very, very clean) urinalysis.  I’ll ask her about Candida then.
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