No Oil Salad Dressings

  • Vegan Ranch Dressing
  • No Oil Maple Dijon
  • Unholy Guacamole

Are you familiar with the work of Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dean Ornish? Their research with patients has shown that a whole food plant based (WFPB) dietary pattern can successfully reverse (yes, I said reverse!) heart disease.

This information and my own family history of heart disease have led me to attempt a primarily plant based diet.  It’s a learning process; definitely a work in progress; and I have had to rethink many of the things I formerly considered healthy.

Case in point; oils. It was disconcerting for me to learn that vegetable oils are not necessarily considered a healthy choice in my new WFPB way of eating. What? No olive oil? No canola oil? According to the wisdom of Dr. Esselstyn and Ornish, oils are refined foods. They have been pressed, refined, and processed into a very concentrated source of fat calories.


That posed a problem because salads are a staple for me especially at this time of year and what’s a salad without a salad dressing? Luckily I’ve discovered several recipes for dressings that contain no oil.  Here are just a few. I can personally vouch for them being delicious.

Ranch Dressing

I went looking for a whole food version of ranch dressing to dress the red and green leaf lettuce from my garden and stumbled across this recipe from The Rawtarian.  I knew it would be creamy because I’ve already experimented with cashew cream to make pasta sauces and casseroles. The spice combination in this recipe really knocks it out of the park. I’ve adjusted the proportions a bit and left out the oil in  the original recipe. I also soaked the cashews for a few of hours to increase the creaminess.  The result was really thick; perfect for dipping vegetables.  I add a little extra vinegar and water to make a thinner dressing for salad.

ranch_mis  ranch_finished


  • 1 cup raw cashews (I found in bulk food section at my grocer)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey, or maple syrup – I used agave)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Soak the cashews in the water for a minimum of 2-3 hours and up to 24 hours. Add them with the water and the remaining ingredients to your high speed blender and process until everything is completely smooth. Refrigerate and use within 3-4 days.


No Oil Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

I attended the Cleveland Clinic’s annual Obesity Summit last October and one of the highlights for me was a cooking demonstration presented by Dr. Esselstyn’s wife and daughter.  They are the creators of the cookbook that is companion to Dr. Esselstyn’s bestseller, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.  The basic recipe comes from the book where you will find several other no oil salad dressings and hundreds of additional WFPB recipes.   Here is the version I made to top a salad of beet greens, corn, and red kidney beans.

Jane’s Favorite 3,2,1 Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard of choice (I used Dijon)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of white pepper (optional)

I add all the ingredients to a small jar and shake until smooth.  It’s a very tart dressing so you may want to add a bit of water or fruit juice to taste.

If you are reading closely and paying attention you may be saying “Hey, can mustard, vinegar, and maple syrup be considered “whole” foods?  The answer would be no, but since Dr. Esselstyn’s research points primarily to dietary fat as the culprit in heart disease you will find that small amounts of highly flavored condiments and natural sweeteners can be included in this eating plan.

I’m amassing quite a collection of signed cookbooks and I was pleased to add this one to my collection!

PRHD cover PRHD fly

Unholy Guacamole

This one’s my favorite and I use it often to dress Southwestern style salads and bowls.

  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or apple cider vinegar
  • Optional: A bit of cumin or Tajin seasoning (found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store)

Add all the ingredients to a ziploc bag, close the bag and squish everything together to blend (just like the topping for the Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes featured earlier here.)

unholyfinished2 unholyfinished1

I can put this in my lunch bag along with my salad. The combination of the airtight bag and the acid from the lime juice and vinegar keep the avocado from turning brown.  At the office I just snip a corner of the bag and squeeze the contents over my salad ingredients.  One of my favorite combination is 1/2 cup of thawed frozen corn kernels (quinoa or brown rice also work well) and 1/2 cup of black beans over some type of greens.

Of course oil free does not necessarily mean fat free or low calorie. The ranch dressing and the guacamole dressing contain a significant number of calories from healthy fat but you are also getting the fiber and anti-oxidants of the whole food. If you think of the ranch dressing as a serving of nuts and the avocado as a serving of fruit (avocado is a fruit) they make sense in terms of your daily calorie intake.

Besides, a little dietary fat helps your body absorb some nutrients like the Vitamin K found in many dark leafy salad greens.


This Mug’s for You

Controlling portion size is so important for people who are trying to watch their weight. What better way to control portion size when cooking than to prepare just enough for one serving?

I’ve been experimenting with single serve microwave recipes prepared in a mug and I was surprised by the number of options I found. Here are just a few:

  • Vegan Muffin in a Mug
  • Meatloaf
  • Peanut Butter Cake

Muffin in a Mug

I started with this recipe from Feasting on Fruit but made a couple of modifications. I don’t usually keep oat flour on hand because I have found that it is very easy to create my own using my handy high speed personal blender.  Do you own one of these things?


To yield the 1/3 cup flour for this recipe just put 1/2 cup of whole rolled oats into the blender and whir them for 30 seconds or so.  Voila – oat flour!  I also used it to quickly chop a couple of tablespoons of walnuts to add to my muffin.  My last modification was to replace blueberries with some frozen raspberries I had on hand.  Here is the finished muffin:


My mug is huge so the muffin is bigger than it looks.  Mine needed a total of about 3 minutes to cook.  At 2 minutes it still looks wet in the middle so I microwaved it for an additional 30 seconds two times.

This recipe is vegan and gluten free if you make sure to purchase gluten free oats.


I like this recipe because it does not require any eggs.  Instead you get some added fiber and healthy fat from the ground flax seed meal.  I preferred using the barbecue sauce but be sure to look for one that is lower in sugar.



  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon ketchup or BBQ sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed meal
  • 2 Tablespoons oats (quick cooking or old-fashioned)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/4 pound 90% lean ground beef


In a small bowl, combine the milk, BBQ sauce (or ketchup), flax seed, oats and onion. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Pat into a microwave-safe mug or custard cup coated with cooking spray. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and a thermometer reads 160°; drain. Let stand for 3 minutes. Serve with additional ketchup or BBQ sauce if desired.

Peanut Butter Mug Cake

As cakes go this is a pretty healthy option.  I found this recipe on the Kitchen Treaty website.  I think you could also eat it for breakfast – maybe top with some chopped apple instead of  the chocolate?


And speaking of chocolate (and portion control) I have to tell you that I almost never have chocolate chips in my pantry.  If they are there I will hunt them down and devour them.  I do have small quantities of high quality dark chocolate in the house. I find that the darker the chocolate the less I require. For this recipe a single square chopped fine and sprinkled on top did the trick for me.

Here’s another note about these microwave meals.  Do allow them to sit for several minutes before consuming.  Some carry over cooking will occur and right out of the microwave they are HOT! Take it from me, the voice of experience. The roof of your mouth will thank me.




Eating More Than You Think

Our ancestors probably spent a lot of time walking around looking for food. Food was scarce and if they found something they would eat as much as possible because they never knew where the next meal might be found.

That was very poor conditioning for our modern world.  In these times food is plentiful and you don’t have to go far to find it.  More calories and less activity means too many pounds for most of us.  Ergo, we need to give more thought to our eating habits (and figure out how to move more, of course.)

At the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, Dr. Bryan Wansink studies why and how we overeat. He believes that developing an awareness of environmental factors that influence our consumption can help us to avoid excess calories. Here are some examples of his work:

Bottomless Soup Bowl – In this study some participants ate soup from a bowl that was being surreptitiously filled from the bottom.  Others ate from a normal bowl. Individuals who ate soup out of self-refilling bowls ate more than those who ate out of normal bowls, but did not feel any more satisfied than the other group.

Bad Popcorn/Big Buckets – Movie goers were randomly given either a medium or a large container of free popcorn. Some of the popcorn was fresh; some was stale. The moviegoers who got the large buckets ate more, even if they received stale popcorn.

Candy Dish – A candy dish in an office setting was moved each day farther and farther away from the participants; and finally to a place where it could not be seen.  The further the distance from the participants to the dish, the less candy consumed.

These studies illustrate several things:

  • We rely on visual clues (like whether our plate is “clean”) rather than fullness clues to tell us when to stop eating.
  • The portion we are served (or serve ourselves) determines how much we eat; even if the food is not palatable.
  • The distance to food or visibility of food can affect how much we eat.

Some things you can do to change your “environment” and reduce overeating include:

  • Eat slowly and pay attention to your body’s “fullness” cues.
  • Use smaller plates, glasses, and utensils.
  • Serve meals from the stove; do not bring serving dishes to the table.
  • Keep kitchen counters clear and free of unhealthy foods (including sugary cereals.)
  • Don’t purchase “bulk” or economy size packages of unhealthy foods.
  • Never eat directly from a package – portion out small servings and put the rest away.

For more information about this research and other helpful tips please visit Dr. Wansink’s site

Grow Your Own

My garden usually consists of 8-10 pots on the deck but this year my husband had the idea to purchase a cattle feed trough and turn it into a large container garden.  Here’s a picture of it earlier this spring:


That’s spinach coming up in the back and if you look closely there are also some radishes and onions in there somewhere.  Fast forward a month or so and here is what it looks like this morning:


Sorry for the photo quality but I think you can see that my garden is flourishing. You may notice we added a couple of half barrels between the garden and the propane tank – one contains sweet potato plants and the other is growing red skin potatoes.

Our small garden has already provided lots of spinach, lettuce, and green onions. When I thinned the radishes we ate the sprouts and we’ll do the same with the beet greens when I thin the beets. When the spinach was done I replaced it with pepper plants. And we are definitely looking forward to tomatoes, eggplant, and those potatoes.

Why am I telling you about my garden in a healthy cooking blog?  Because growing your own food is one of those things that almost guarantees that you and your family will eat better. You can’t grow anything in a home garden that is bad for you and if you have kids you will find that they are more willing to eat something if they have helped to plant, water, and watch it grow.

I’m not a master gardener by any means but I get a great sense of accomplishment from my garden. I’m growing a lot of food for a little bit of money; I’m spending more time outdoors; and I am learning a lot in the process.  You should try it.






Dig Those Chicks

  • Full of Beans
  • Chickpeas are the Garbanzo
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Beans for Breakfast
  • Bean What?!

Full of Beans

Today I’m featuring chickpeas but before I get to that, I thought I would share this picture of my freezer drawer:

bean drawer

As you can see I keep a pretty good stockpile of beans. Dried beans are incredibly cheap and easy to prepare and freeze. They keep for several weeks and don’t have any of the sodium or other health issues involved with canned beans.  I do occasionally buy canned beans but more on that later.

Chickpeas are the Garbanzo

Chickpeas are also commonly known as garbanzo beans. They are popular in the middle east, India, Greece, and Turkey. They form the basis of hummus, falafel, many curries, and have gained in popularity here in the states.  Doesn’t “garbanzo” sound like the name of a super hero, magician, or WWF wrestler perhaps? The nutritional profile of the garbanzo bean, consistent with many beans, indeed makes them pretty awesome. They are packed with protein, fiber, and anti-oxidants.

Snacking on Chickpeas

Hummus is a great snack that is traditionally made with chickpeas.  I have featured a hummus recipe or two in previous posts but some people are turned off by the texture.  If you prefer something with a bit more crunch for snacking you can try this easy recipe for roasted chickpeas from Rachael Ray.  I have made these a few time when I am really craving something salty and crunchy.  They are addictive but much healthier than potato chips!


Beans for Breakfast

I discovered chickpea flour, also called besan, when I was investigating gluten free recipes for a friend.  In addition to being gluten free, chickpea flour is high in protein and fiber. It’s not widely available but I found some in the organic section of a large supermarket in a nearby town.  Although it can be used to bake breads and cookies I used it to make this chickpea “omelette”. This is a very simple recipe and the options for spices and flavoring are endless.  You could make a sweet pancake and fill it with fruit but I like this savory version.

chickpeapancake  chickpeaomelette

Blistered Tomato Besan Omelette

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning of choice (I used Mrs. Dash Tomato, Basil, Garlic)

Combine chickpea flour with water and seasoning. Mix just until there were no lumps.

Heat oil over medium heat in small non-stick skillet. Add tomatoes. cook and stir until skin of tomatoes are heated through and skin appears blistered.  Remove tomatoes from pan.  Pour the chickpea batter into pan and cook until edges appear a bit dry.  Flip and cook on other side for 1-2 minutes.  Top the pancake with the tomatoes and flip one side of pancake over to form omelette.  Garnish with basil if desired.

Bean What?

Although they seem to be more readily available now, dried chickpeas are not always easy to find.  So yes, I do resort to the canned variety on occasion and I have recently run across an interesting culinary thread in searching for recipes that feature chickpeas/garbanzo beans. If you really, really, hate to throw anything away you might be interested to know that there is apparently a use for the the liquid that comes with the canned chickpeas.  It even has a name; “aquafaba”.

Apparently, the liquid has similar properties to egg whites and can be whipped into meringues, etc.  Haven’t tried this out yet but there is a pint jar of aquafaba in my frig right now just waiting to be experimented with…