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Monday, April 25, 2011

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (Low Carb/Gluten Free)

When you think of the word "diet," what comes to mind? Some people think that diet refers to what we eat, while others assume the word diet is all about "dieting." The distinction shows how we feel about  food in general and that most people look at diets as a means to an end: weight loss, better health and in some cases, an attempt to have a beneficial impact on climate change. But when most people refer to their diet, what they actually mean is the specific diet they follow. Unless, of course, they "don't do diets." This usually means that they don't restrict what they eat, in terms of calories, carbs and fat, but it can also refer to the attitude that nothing is off limits (with the unspoken message that people who do follow specific dietary guidelines, for whatever reason, are being ridiculous) for any reason. But everyone who eats has a diet, simply in terms of what they use for fuel on an everyday basis.

One of the words most frequently associated with diets is "salad". I'm not talking about potato and ambrosia salad here; I'm talking about green, leafy vegetables, for the most part. But green salads aren't necessarily healthy - the lightest, freshest ingredients can be overwhelmed by adding too many toppings and/or too much dressing. Even lettuce and other "low carb"vegetables, which are considered to be  standard "diet" food, are only as nourishing as the soil in which they're grown. You can wash away the dirt, but if they've been sprayed with pesticides, chances are that those chemicals are embedded in their DNA. And if you use salad dressing, even in responsible amounts, you are adding more to your meals besides oil, vingar and spices. I'm referring to the bottled salad dressing you find in the grocery store - When was the last time you read the nutritional labels of store-bought dressings? Even products that purport to be "healthy" have ingredients like corn starch, high fructose corn syrup and MSG. While it is true that many companies are now manufacturing products that don't have harmful additives like those just mentioned, I'd still rather make my own. Not only because I can  control what kinds of ingredients (and how much) go into the mix; if I make it myself, I can cut down on the resources and energy that go into manufacturing and transporting pre-packaged food. I can also make a little bit at a time, rather than being forced to throw out the portion of manufactured dressing I didn't get to use before it went rancid.

The best thing about salads, in my opinion, is that you can just throw ingredients together, without any cooking involved, and create a balanced meal in a relatively short amount of time. Strawberry spinach salad is my favorite and I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to whomever first suggested this particular combination - I would never have considered adding strawberries on my own. This recipe also contains my favorite nuts, cheese and salad dressing and I can eat it all spring and summer without getting bored. It tastes wonderful, looks gorgeous, and even if the dressing isn't made beforehand, takes little time to prepare.

Salad Ingredients:

2 oz baby spinach
14 g / 1/2 oz pecans(about 2 T)
14 g /  1/2 oz feta cheese(about 2 T)
42 g / 1 1/2 oz fresh strawberries, sliced


*Combine ingredients in a bowl and toss with balsamic vinaigrette.

Has 186.85 cal, 4.7 net carbs, 15 g fat, 2.58 g fiber and 3.33 g protein.

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 T crushed garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C extra virgen olive oil


*Whisk all ingredients together. Store in a closed container in the refrigerator.

Makes 5 - 1 T servings and each has 100.06 cal, .8 net carbs and 10.8 g fat