Welcome to Day 7 of 30 Days to a Food Revolution. Our guest blogger today is Alison from Sure Foods Living. Diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002, Alison’s world was turned upside down – in a good way. Feeling renewed energy and a sense of purpose, Alison wanted to share her experience with others and provide practical information about living gluten-free, which she does on her blog Sure Foods Living. Alison also teaches classes, leads a branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group, and does consulting – anything she can do to raise awareness and educate about gluten sensitivity. One of Alison’s daughters has severe food allergies, so Alison and her family are used to making meals that are dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and nut-free in addition to being gluten-free.
Alison’s Recipe: 3-Ingredient Salad Dressing
Alison’s Tip: Serve Veggies & Salad Dressing to Kids before Dinner
Sometimes I feel that I am an extremist when it comes to food – well, at least compared to most people around me. I am absolutely against soda, for example, and think it shouldn’t be allowed to exist! It disgusts me that fast food chains have contracts to sell food on school campuses. I think it is totally strange that people let their children eat the new Goldfish crackers that are colored blue and red. Why would anyone do that?? Those colored fish don’t even resemble food!
Since my celiac disease diagnosis over seven years ago, I have been making the transition to eating more and more “real food.” Part of it is that I had to – when you are gluten-free, you don’t have as many options for eating processed and packaged foods. But the other part is that since I have become so aware of everything I eat and that I feed my children, I don’t want to put all that extra stuff – the additives, the preservatives, the artificial colors, the extra starches, the added soy protein, etc. – into our bodies.
So it was encouraging (and validating!) to see Jamie Oliver in his Food Revolution remove the flavored milk from the elementary schools, pointing out that they have almost as much sugar as soda pop. And an amazing thing happened – the kids drank the plain milk! It was inspiring to see him replace the processed frozen chicken nuggets with real, fresh chicken, and guess what – the kids ate it! WE are responsible for how we feed our children. We are responsible for making the good food choices for them and for teaching them what real food is and what it tastes like. It can be challenging with children, but almost everything is! Let’s not just give up or give in to this overly-processed society we live in. Let’s stand up for REAL FOOD!
I am excited to part of 30 Days to a Food Revolution. I still have much to learn myself, but I hope that I can do my part to inspire others to eat healthy and feed their children well.
One exciting thing happening at my house is that my daughters (ages 5 and 3) have started eating lettuce! Hooray! And not just romaine, but mixed baby greens with chard, arugula, oak leaves, spinach and others. The salad dressing for dipping is a must, and I am sharing my recipe with you down below.
Tip: Serve Veggies & Salad Dressing to Kids before Dinner
One tip I have for getting your kids to eat vegetables is to serve them with salad dressing as a dip before dinner. There are 1-2 hours of the day – I call it them the grazing hours (or the begging hours) – when it’s too early for dinner but kids want to eat and eat and eat. This can easily turn into a snacking frenzy, and the concern is always that the kids won’t be hungry for dinner. So take advantage of this hungry time! Lately I have put out a bowl of the salad leaves, or sliced carrots, cucumbers or other vegetables with salad dressing for dipping, and they eat them with vigor. It’s great because then if they eat their vegetables at dinner too, it’s the veggie bonus round!
Now, speaking of real food, let’s talk about salad dressing. When most people dress a salad, they open a bottle and pour it on. Looking at the salad dressing aisle of any grocery store makes this abundantly clear. Of course, any bottled dressing is going to have some kind of stabilizer, thickener or preservative. Read the ingredient list of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing and you will find sugar, cornstarch, MSG and lots of preservatives that are difficult to spell.
Making your own salad dressing is so easy, but a lot of people don’t do it. I have come up with a combination of three ingredients to make a mild dressing that my kids love. It’s good enough for grown-ups too, and variations can be added to spice it up.
This isn’t the greatest picture, but I love that the girls are crossing over each other to get at the lettuce and dressing. The lettuce bowl was full when they started.
Recipe: 3-Ingredient Salad Dressing
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup (the real deal)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
(This recipe can be doubled or tripled as needed, using the same ratios. Extra dressing can be stored in a jar for later use.)
If you are accustomed to making your own salad dressing, you need no instruction. If you haven’t made your own dressing before, here are the simple steps:
- In a small to medium bowl, whisk brown rice vinegar and maple syrup to combine.
I have a speckled counter – there is no pepper on the counter or in the dressing!
- Slowly add the oil in drops, then in a stream, whisking continuously, until all the oil is added. This will “emulsify” (I love this word) the oil and vinegar – you will see it blend and thicken. If the oil is added too quickly, or if you don’t whisk it, the oil and vinegar will remain separate. It has a better mouth feel and flavor when emulsified (I just had to say it again).
I should be whisking here, but I had to hold the camera!
Taste the vinegar/maple combination before you add the oil. Adjust the sweetness as you like.
- Any vinegar can be used instead of brown rice vinegar. The dressing’s flavor will change with each different type of vinegar. I used to always use balsamic vinegar, but I find it heavy-tasting now. The brown rice vinegar is so much lighter.
- Any sweetener can be used in place of the maple syrup. I love the way maple syrup sweetens without having a really distinct flavor like honey does.
- Any oil can be used in place of olive oil. I like using olive oil because it is healthy, but safflower oil and grapeseed oil are other mild-flavored oils that work well in salad dressing.
If you find this dressing a little boring (remember I made it mild for kids), spice it up! Before adding the oil, add any other spices or herbs to the vinegar. Garlic, mustard, wheat-free tamari or fresh herbs are a few ideas – you will have to play with the flavor. I am a big fan of salt – sometimes it’s all you need to make the flavors pop. Try grinding some sea salt and pepper over your dressed salad.
I hope you and your kids enjoy this, and let’s keep the Food Revolution going!
To see More Food Revolution visit Alison’s blog, Sure Foods Living.
In order to be entered to win one of 7 cookbooks, here’s what you need to do to gather entries into the drawing. The more you do, the more chances you have to win!
- Leave a comment on this blog on as many of the 30 guest food bloggers as you like. Each comment is an entry.
- Sign up for The W.H.O.L.E. Gang newsletter.
- Visit that guest blogger’s site and leave a comment there too.
- Tweet about this project using both of these in your tweet so I’ll find you #30days2 #foodrevolution
When the initial 30 days of guest posts are over on June 4th, we’ll pick the winners.
Love this idea for homemade dressing!
This is such a great idea. It will be interesting for sure but ready to try it.
I love this idea! I find that whenever I put a bowl of veggies or fruit in front of (or near) my kiddies they can't help but eat. My 18mos old loves to dip so I will definitely be making this dressing. Thank you! Diane what am I going to do when this series is over 🙂
It is amazing that if you put veggies in front of your kids, they will eat them… especially if they are hungry! I recently tried a restaurant that had a good gluten-free menu, vegan options, and focused on real food… My little one went with me and we shared a crudite platter at the beginning of our meal. It was a beautiful plate of veggies and my little one tried each veggie with joy. The couple at the table next to me mentioned how rarely they see a little one enjoying veggies… I have to think that this is because we are not offering veggies to our kids. Great post and an awesome tip!
I love the idea of snacking on veggies before dinner. This is the time that my kids are wanting to snack. I am always saying no but now I can give them good snacks! Also love the salad dressing recipe. Can't wait to try it!
Awesome post, Alison!! No, we don't have to eat those foods filled with preservatives, MSG, etc. I get a little annoyed when folks say it's okay to eat them in moderation, or worse, "Well, what can you do? They're in everything." Not real food folks. There's not any amount of those ingredients that I want in my body or my loved one's bodies, just as you said. Love all your ideas and this lovely, simple salad dressing! I always found that if I put out the veggies and fruit (cut up if necessary), it would quickly disappear. Whole, they were likely to sit there on the counter or in the refrigerator. But, if I cut up an apple or an avocado, either my husband or my son would eat it in record time. There are so many super easy options, too, like grapes and baby carrots. Thanks so much for sharing your great ideas! Son is off at college, but I'm going to put more fruits and veggies out for hubby and myself to graze on after work. 🙂
it hit me about a month ago to give my kids free access to veggies during those "witching" hours between afternoon snack and dinner but i never thought to serve them with a dressing. "duh" thanks for the tip!
I love your veggies before dinner strategy. I do that too. Our kids often snack while I'm getting dinner ready, and I usually offer fruit or veggies.
I agree, I agree, I agree! haha! I don't know if they still sell them, but when my youngest (now 7) was a 1 year old, Gerber sold these "healthy" toddler snacks, that were supposed to be fruit drops or something. Anyway, one day my friend and I were out with our 1 year olds, and she gave her daughter one of these toddler fruit packets. She asked the toddler, "want some candy?" Then aside, she whispered to me, "I tricked her into thinking it's candy. haha"
"Look at the ingredients on the back." I said to my friend. "It IS candy." You know what it was? Corn syrup. Wow. That was so eye opening for us both. I hope they don't sell that candy market to toddlers anymore—what a crime.
I also do the salad before dinner thing—it works great! And sometimes the dinner IS the salad too. Last night we threw in raw cauliflower, broccoli, and a ton of sesame seeds with some homemade dressing—Yum! They loved it.
Very inspiring post! XOXO, Kelly
I am an extremist too, I guess, although I prefer to call it a "food naturalist." I want my kids (and husband and self) to eat as much food in its natural state as possible. I too am shocked by what people feed their own children, and then foist on mine, but I do have hope that the public approach to "food" versus "foodstuff" will change.
Love the easy salad dressing recipe!
All your wonderful responses have brightened my day! Thanks for reading my post everyone and to Diane for hosting!
Jennifer – You reminded me when my daughter was 15 months old, I would take steamed broccoli to restaurants and put it out on her tray. She ate it like a machine and people would always be staring and commenting from other tables. She was like a freak! 🙂
Shirley – cut up food tastes way better than whole. 🙂
Kelly – I have never said it to a mother, and I try to hide the look on my face, but those melt-in-your-mouth toddler snacks are SOOO weird!
Sarah P – Food Naturalist sounds much better. It's too bad that I feel I am being extreme because I don't want my kids to eat brightly colored cereal with marshmallows in it!
always make my own dressing. so much healthier than what you can buy in the store…
Great idea. I always have a fruit basket full for the kids to munch on whenever they get hungry, but I do like the idea of expanding it to veggies too. I think we could get more veggies into the kids that way – I have a son that will eat carrots all day, every day – I need to take advantage of that!
I definitely need to start doing this! Thank you for this. I never would've thought to let the kids dip lettuce leaves. My kids will not eat salad but maybe they would eat it this way. I will definitely give this a try and will have to try the brown rice vinegar to make the dressing. I think the vinegars I have here are too powerful for their taste buds so I'll have to check the other one out. Do they dip other veggies into this dressing or just the lettuce?
Great idea! I love the idea of getting some extra veggies in, and my two-year-old son is always hungry after his nap or while I'm cooking dinner. I'll have to start preparing some veggies to hand him when he comes in asking for a snack! Any tips on getting two-year-olds to eat salad? He's great at eating broccoli, carrots, etc., but doesn't like lettuce.
Loved your post! Never thought of adding maple syrup to salad dressing, but you can bet I am going to make it tonight to see if I can inspire my 13 year old to eat more veg! I applaud you for getting your little girls to eat lettuce early on as it becomes much more difficult to change the ways of kids as they get older, though I have been told that with boys once puberty hits and their appetites become gargantuous, they do branch out and eat more veg and fruit- fingers are crossed but in the meantime- thx for this great recipe!
Neither of my kids ate salad at age 2. My 5 yr old just started recently and so the 3 year old is following along. But I would suggest tender, mild baby lettuces or perhaps butter lettuce (I haven't tried butter yet). Romaine heart leaves can be nice and crunchy, which my kids like too.
Thank you Alison for the wonderful post and thank you Diane for hosting. Simple is good and since I seem to be eating alot of salad lately, the three ingredient dressing is great. That can be changed so many ways. Alison and Diane, thanks for all your help and tips for people who want to eat healthier plus have multiple sensitivities.
This is so great! I actually make my own salad dressing already (I agree, you just can't trust all the scary ingredients in store bought dressings!), but I love how you've made salads fun! Its very impressive. I don't have kids, but I hope that this 'technique' will work for other families too. So awesome!
Great post Alison! It only takes a couple of minutes to prepare cut up veggies and homemade salad dressing, and your explanation drives that home. When I see the huge selection of bottled salad dressing at the market, I am always stunned. Conversely, when people come to our house and I always serve homemade salad dressing, they're almost always stunned. Seems like a no-brainer to me. And it tastes SO much better than the stuff in the bottles, even if it is gluten free!
This is great; I've found when my son, who is allergic/intolerant to lots of foods, has something to dip is his food in, he consumes much more! He loves snacking on fruits and veggies, too, and it makes me feel good that he's doing this! It's always nice to read others doing the same because it's, unfortunately, not happening like it should be!
Is rice vinegar not made from brown rice automatically? It never occurred to me that they'd bother to refine the grain…
This is great! I try to set out veggies while I'm cooking, too. I find that I have to be totally silent about it, and do it before they start asking for snacks. If I follow those rules, they eat them. I'll have to start putting out dressing.
One of our favorite dressings is a honey mustard made with buckwheat honey. A little apple cider vinegar, a little mustard, and some dark buckwheat honey. It's funny–looks like a balsamic vinagrette.
I made this dressing last night and it was delicious! It was very mild and you couldn't really taste it much on the veggies so it made it fun for my 2 year old to dip in with no strong taste to turn her off. My 5 year old is my pickiest one and did not try it BUT he did eat some of the cut up veggies and even tried a new one…green pepper….and decided he liked it! YAY!
I could only find rice vinegar at the store. Does anyone know if brown rice vinegar is different? Maybe I'll check the healthfood store for it next time. Thanks again!
i just got a vitamix and man that whips up great dressing! i never thought of brown rice vinegar but going to try that next!
I haven't ever used brown rice vinegar, but I'll have to try this. My go-to dressings are either olive oil and lemon juice or mustard and balsamic vinegar whisked together.
I love when my kids eat green food.