Some of the most convenient, not to mention taste-enhancing items in a home kitchen are pre-blended oils and spices. They can be used on salads by themselves or to make salad dressings. Unless made with Flax or another Essential Fatty Acid blend, which are destroyed by high heat, they can be used to cook any number of dishes, from eggs to vegetables to meats.
Flax oil is very rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (“Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill,” page 283). Assuming that you don’t eat it to the exclusion of other oils and that you are eating your fair share of meat and other fats, a tablespoon or two of flax oil a day is probably to your benefit. Most of us have diets that are unbalanced between Omega 3 and Omega 6, i.e. we consume too many Omega 6’s, so this is one way to remedy the situation.
Even though flax oil cannot be used to cook with, it can be drizzled over hot foods, giving low fat fare a wonderful flavor and satisfying mouth feel. “Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill” (pages 128-129) tells us that “Even the most sensitive, EFA-rich oils can be used in cooked grains and steamed vegetables without deterioration” because they only reach the temperature of boiling (100° C, or 212° F). These oils can also be used in making bread because during baking the temperature reaches “perhaps 116° C, or 240° F” and is protected from air and light. However, you must use butter to grease the pan or to brush the top of the loaf. These comments provide a pretty good idea of the high end temperatures to which you can subject Flax oil.
The two worst enemies of any oil are exposure to air and light. Dr. Erasmus highly recommends storing any kind of oil in a glass jar, preferably one that’s a dark color and that has a tight fitting lid or cap.
I keep three differently flavored oils plus barbeque sauce in either my cupboard or fridge, depending on their oil base. If made with Flax, they must be kept refrigerated. If made with olive oil, they should be kept in an enclosed cupboard where they are not exposed to daylight. A seasoned olive oil can do double duty as both salad dressing and as a cooking medium. Olive oil becomes gooey if refrigerated, so when making flavored oils with olive oil, make only enough to last a few weeks. When the supply starts to run low, make up another bottle and put it on the back of the shelf to “season” for a couple of days.
I tend to be a “throw it together” style cook, so my ingredient measurements are only approximate. For example, when it comes to Italian dressing, you may be a person who prefers less garlic and more oregano than what I like, so please experiment. Make up a small batch and try it. Keep notes and readjust to your specific tastes the second time around. Eventually you will have your seasoned oils/dressings just as you like them.
For those who are unfamiliar with spices of various kinds, the Internet once again comes to the rescue. The most commonly used spices in the United States are described at spiceadvice.com. Sponsored by several well known companies, there is lots of interesting information here, including the history of the New World spice trade. At the top of the “home” screen you will note “Spice Usage.” Click on it and then on “Quick Reference Spice Chart.” This gives, in table form, what foods various spices compliment. If you’d thought of dumping some garlic powder into your vanilla yogurt, you’ll know it’s not a great idea before you sample the outcome and find out the hard way.
Another category is “Spice Encyclopedia” which is a list of 47 spices that includes photos, descriptions, flavors, history, storage recommendations and suggestions on use. This is a great way to learn about a spice before you buy something with which you are unfamiliar because many spices are rather costly. The reasons vary from labor-intensive harvesting techniques to crop failure. It also pays to comparison shop. Don’t purchase any spice in a large quantity unless you can use it up. Dried spices have a fairly long shelf life as long as they are kept tightly sealed and away from heat and light. If you don’t find a spice you’d like to try listed on Spice Advice, do an Internet search, or ask at a specialty market that is selling what you’d like to try.
Purchase a 25-ounce. bottle of cold-pressed virgin olive oil, or whatever size fits into your kitchen cabinet. (I usually buy olive oil in a 2-liter bottle and then reuse the 25 oz. bottle for the seasoned oil. Buying in bulk saves money, but only if you can use it up before it turns rancid.) Discard the plastic insert and pour about one-half cup of the oil into another container to be used as the base for one of the other seasoned oils.
Using a funnel if necessary, add
- about two (2) tablespoons of minced garlic (the kind you purchase in the grocery store in a jar)
- one-half (1/2) teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- One (1) tablespoon of powdered mustard.
Put the cap back on snugly (this is not a mixture you want on your kitchen walls!), then shake vigorously and place the bottle on the shelf for a couple of days. You can drop about one-quarter (1/4) to one-half (1/2) teaspoon of anchovy paste in, but be careful with this seasoning because it is very salty. Before use, always shake the bottle to distribute the garlic and spices which will sink to the bottom.
If you make Caesar dressing with Flax oil, I recommend using about one cup of oil and cutting the other ingredients in half. This is an ideal way to get more Omega 3’s.
To use as Caesar dressing for salad, simply pour on the amount of oil calories you want. Discount the spices; the calories are negligible. A teaspoon or two of this will go a long way. Most of the time people dump on way too much salad dressing. Restaurants are notorious for doing this. All you need is the TASTE! You are eating salad with dressing, not the other way around. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan on top. I highly recommend the freshly grated kind now available in the cheese sections of most supermarkets. I buy a large bag from Smart & Final and freeze all but what I won’t use within a week to ten days. This low calorie cheese (25 cals/Tablespoon with 15 from fat) can be used as a flavor-enhancer on top of any food, whether it’s combined with Caesar oil or not.
An example of how the olive oil version can be used to cook with is the basic egg white omelet. There are opposing schools of thought as to whether people should eat whole eggs or discard the yolks. The whole egg contains more protein with that in the yolk complimenting that in the white. However, the yolk also contains all the fat, which is saturated. If you’re trying to lose body fat and are not eating eggs because they put you over your allotment for either saturated fat, or fat in general, then use the whites only.
Basic egg white omelet)
- Five egg whites (or two whole eggs or 3 whites and 1 whole egg)
- One (1) teaspoon of real bacon bits*
- One (1) tablespoon Caesar dressing made with olive oil
- Chopped onions, green pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes
- Canned corn, rice or barley
*Use real pork bacon bits, not the fake ones that are made from who knows what. Smart & Final sells a 16 oz. can for about US$5. Keep what you can use up in about two weeks in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator. Freeze the rest in a plastic bag. One tablespoon contains 30 calories, 20 of which are from fat with one gram (9 calories) from saturated fat. Three teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon, therefore 1 teaspoon has 10 calories, 6-1/2 of which are from fat. This is miniscule considering the delicious flavor it imparts, and much less than you would get from eating an egg yolk.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot dump the egg mixture on top and sprinkle the bacon bits over it evenly. Egg whites will cook faster if you stir them around a bit. If you wish to add chopped vegetables, then put them in the pan before the eggs and allow them to cook quickly for about one minute.
When the omelet is almost done, toss on about a tablespoon of grated Parmesan or sharp Cheddar cheese. As soon as it melts, plop the repast on a plate. If you’re not over your carb limit, you can toss on a little sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips. (Crush a bag of tortilla chips into crumbs and store in an airtight container or plastic bag. Sprinkle them over omelets or salads for a nice crunchy taste. You only need about 2 tablespoons which totals out at about 3 or 4 chips).
An alternative to using olive oil is to cook the omelet in a non-stick skillet, but DO NOT use those fake cooking sprays. If you don’t believe me, read the ingredient list and ask yourself if you really want to eat that stuff. You can put a dab of olive oil on a paper towel and rub it over the bottom and insides of the pan; this will be enough, combined with the pan’s slick surface, to keep the food from sticking. After removing the omelet from the pan and allowing it to cool a bit on the plate, drizzle on some flavored flax oil, or even an EFA blend, such as Udo’s Choice.
- One (1) cup olive oil or Flax oil
- One (1) cup red wine vinegar OR balsamic vinegar*
- One (1) teaspoon each dried oregano, garlic, mustard and black pepper
- One-quarter (1/4) teaspoon thyme and if you like, rosemary
*Balsamic vinegar will give this dressing a much different and more pronounced flavor.
This mixture can either be put on top of a salad or, if made with olive oil, used as the base for a stir fry or even to season a pot roast. It gives whatever you prepare a wonderful, tangy flavor. If your dressing is made with Balsamic vinegar, pour what you plan to use into a cup or small bowl. Throw in a few finely chopped walnuts and a bit of bleu cheese crumbles and allow this brew to “mellow” while you make the salad. Add the dressing, toss and serve.
An example of an easy way to use Italian dressing for cooking is to put about half a cup in a wok (per serving), add chopped onions, green peppers, broccoli florets and some chopped chicken breast meat. Cook over high heat until the onions are soft, then quickly toss in some chopped mushrooms and zucchini and cook only until heated through, but not mushy. If you have some shredded cabbage (the kind you purchase in a bag at the store), you can add a couple of large handfuls at this time also. If you wish to use baby spinach instead, put it in after you turn the heat off, and just toss it enough to integrate it into the repast and serve immediately. If you have taken a couple of hours during the week to do some prep (See “You Are What You Eat,” Part 5), then you will already have some of the vegetables chopped and the chicken cooked. Assembling this sort of a meal takes all of about ten minutes from start to finish and clean up is fast and easy. The calories in this meal come from the oil and the chicken, while the vegetables will fill your stomach and add necessary fiber to your diet.
This takes about two hours to prepare, but it’s easily done in the evening while you’re surfing the net or watching a movie. After it’s cooked, let it cool and put it in the fridge for the next evening’s dinner. You can also do this in a crock pot, making sure that you follow manufacturer’s directions as to the amount of liquid.
Trim as much excess fat as possible off a good quality beef roast. Again, Smart & Final comes through with their large beef knuckles which are really sirloin roasts. I cut these into three or four pieces and freeze what I don’t want to cook that day. Put the roast in a roasting pan that has a lid (see Part 9). Pour about 1-1/2 cups of Italian dressing (made with olive oil and either red wine or balsamic vinegar) over the top. Bake a 325-degree oven for about 1 hour per pound of meat. The roast will be very tender and well done. If you prefer your meat on the rare side, you can bake it for less time, however the leaner cuts of beef are usually tough if not well cooked.
If you’re going to eat the roast for dinner the night you prepare it, remove it from the oven before it is fully cooked and add the following vegetables, then cover the pot and put it back in the oven for the time shown.
- Brussels sprouts (purchase small ones, cut off the ends) – 30 minutes
- Broccoli and/or cauliflower cut into pieces; carrots cut into about 1 inch pieces or baby carrots – 15 minutes
- Fresh asparagus spears (lay them on top of the roast) – 10 minutes
- If you want a real treat, dump in about a half to one cup of cooked barley per person, adding an extra 1/4 cup of chicken broth per serving of barley (it will soak up more liquid even though it is already cooked) – 20 to 30 minutes
If you’ve prepared the roast ahead, then simply add the vegetables and bake at 325 degrees for the time needed to cook the vegetables. One caveat: I use a porcelain covered aluminum roasting pan that heats very quickly. If you’re using cast iron or Corningware, you’ll need more time to allow the roasting pan to heat up.
I know I keep saying to avoid sugar. True. On the other hand, you can’t avoid it altogether and live a normal life. Honey Mustard dressing and the next recipe for barbeque sauce use a minimal amount. Like cheesecake, if you don’t make these the way they’re supposed to taste, you’re better off not eating them at all rather than some watered-down, tasteless version that will send you looking for more food.
- One-half Flax oil
- One cup of either Dijon or German style mustard
- Approximately one-half cup honey, although you may not need quite this much.
Combine the mustard and Flax, then slowly mix in the honey in small amounts until the consistency is about the same as pancake syrup and the mixture has a slightly sweet taste. Store any unused dressing in the fridge. Believe it or not, this is excellent topped off with some Parmesan. It’s a divine dressing to use in a salad containing tuna or any other kind of fish or shellfish.
Honey-Mustard can be made with olive oil instead of Flax if you want to use it for cooking. In this case, I’ve found it best to mix it just before you plan to use it. Made this way, Honey-Mustard dressing is excellent used with a chicken stir fry or any kind of fish.
- 3 Tablespoons of garlic flavored olive oil (Caesar)
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- Approximately 2 Tablespoons of honey
Mix the oil and mustard together in a wok. Add enough honey to make a sauce the consistency of pancake syrup. Turn on the heat and add:
- One skinless, boneless chicken breast half, thinly sliced (if raw, cook it before adding the other ingredients)
- ½ cup chopped or thinly sliced onion
- ¾ cup chopped or thinly sliced green pepper
- ½ cup sliced mushrooms
Cook until heated through, then add
- 1-1/2 cups chopped green cabbage
- 1-1/2 cups bean sprouts
Continue cooking only until heated as these vegetables should remain crunchy. Serve in bowls (pasta bowls are ideal). Sprinkle with approximately 2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts, cashews or almonds. Using different nuts will impart a different flavor. Serves 2.
I adapted this from the back of a half-gallon jug of Shady Maple Farm syrup, which can be purchased for a very good price at Costco. Real maple syrup keeps for many months as long as it’s refrigerated after opening.
- One (1), 8 oz can tomato sauce
- One-half (1/2) cup real maple syrup
- Two-thirds (2/3) cup Apple cider vinegar
- One (1) tablespoon Dijon mustard
- One (1) teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- One-half (1/2) teaspoon each salt, cayenne (red) pepper and chili powder
- Dash (two or three drops) Tabasco
- ½ Cup olive oil*
Mix together in a saucepan, bring to a boil and allow the mixture to boil lightly for two (2) minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and store in a glass bottle or jar in the fridge.
*Olive oil solidifies in the refrigerator, so add it just before using the sauce.
Although barbeque sauce requires oil to taste as it should, when I use it with meat, I leave the oil out because meat already has plenty of fat to provide flavor. However, if you are using this sauce with vegetables alone, add the olive oil in the correct proportion before cooking.
A great way to use this is to brown about two (2) pounds of ground sirloin, add one sliced green pepper and one sliced onion. After the meat is cooked, dump on half of the above recipe and simmer for about ten minutes. This concoction stores very well in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave or on top of the stove. It’s excellent served over rice or a baked potato. My favorite way to serve it, however, is over spaghetti squash.
To cook one of these babies, cut off the ends (carefully!) and slice the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds (a melon baller does the job very well). Place in a foil-lined oven-proof dish (that rectangular roasting pan described in Part 9 will do nicely), cut side down. Pour in one-half (1/2) cup of water and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. When the squash is soft to the touch, remove from the oven, turn over carefully (this stuff is HOT) and scrape out the meat of the squash with a fork. It comes out in strands that look just like spaghetti. Kids absolutely love it when used as a base for a meat dish because it doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor. It’s a bit crunchy and very low in calories. Leftover squash can be refrigerated and reheated in either a microwave or in a pan on top of the stove.
Barbequed Pork Roast
1-1/2 to 2 pounds of very lean pork loin*
One half recipe Barbeque Sauce
Slice the roast into three or four chunks, pour the sauce over the top and roast at 325 degrees for one hour.
*Costco sells these in two or three-roast packs, each one of which is wrapped in heavy enough plastic so that they can be tossed into the freezer with no further wrapping. They are extremely lean and have little taste, making them ideal for stir frys or recipes such as the above.
BBQ Salad Dressing
This is why you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. One day I was looking for something different to put on my lunch salad which usually consists of chopped chicken and a variety of raw vegetables. For some reason I decided to mix 1 tablespoon of the BBQ sauce with 1 teaspoon of low-cal mayonnaise. It’s so tasty that I’ve used it as the dressing for a green salad at a buffet table along with sliced meat and cheese.
Last but not least, here’s a wonderful accompaniment to any kind of fish or poultry that I adapted from a manufactured product. It’s a good example of making an effort to duplicate a store-bought sauce without all the preservatives and fructose corn syrup that are usually a part of these things. My version uses flax oil and must be kept refrigerated.
- _ cup white rice vinegar
- _ cup Flax oil
- _ cup Dijon mustard
- _ tsp. turmeric
- _ tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried dill weed
- 1 tsp salt
Mix the above ingredients well, pour into a bottle or jar with a secure lid. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled and stores well in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Any of the above oil blends (other than the barbeque sauce) can be made a bit creamier appearing by the addition of a small amount of mayonnaise or yogurt, the former being the better choice. I present this not for something you need to do when you eat alone, but a nice way to make your nutritious dressings more acceptable to friends and family who may not understand or care about your preoccupation with your food.
I hope these suggestions will help you fix some quick and easy, yet nutritious meals. I’m sure you’ll find many other ways to use the seasoned oils and barbeque sauce. Don’t be afraid to experiment – be creative.
Since vegetables should be a large part of our diet, we’ll visit with them next.
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