Starbucks Salad: Not As Bad As Expected!

I don’t normally eat food from Starbucks. I do, however, drink their teas, and because I’m a Gold Member, I get rewards after buying a certain amount of drinks. The rewards are whatever you want – any food item or any drink – so naturally, I’ll get some kind of packaged food which I’ve been giving to my boyfriend since he’s not that picky about what he eats.

More than half-way through the Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl, wishing there was more!

Well, this last reward, I was on my way to work at said boyfriend’s store so that he could do a garden job, but instead of getting something for him, I decided to get myself a salad since our kitchen was still under construction and our food supply was very limited that day.

I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to eating this salad since I’m a total salad snob. First of all, it was from Starbucks which is internationally renowned for its coffee which I think is super sub-par, so why would their packaged salads be even remotely good? Second, it was from Starbucks.

The salad dressing is made with olive & sesame oils, & this container is 250 calories which is more than all the salad ingredients combined!

Well, lo and behold, after eating it and reading its stats,  I was slightly more than moderately impressed with this salad! The taste was surprisingly good, and shockingly, they used olive oil in the brown rice and olive and sesame oils in the dressing. The butternut squash, also, was roasted with olive oil. The only thing that they cooked with canola oil were the tomatoes. And although they list refined olive oil in two places (followed by EVOO both times), I believe it has to be better than a soybean or a canola oil, unless by refined they mean “soybean and/or canola oil masquerading as olive oil?” Either way, the fact that they follow it up with EVOO makes me feel much better about Starbucks. The only things that could make this salad better would be to make it organic, and to make it larger. 😉

I really like how on the fronts of their salads Starbucks shows the calories including the dressing. That way, you can somewhat control your final amount of calories by how much dressing you choose to use.

Olive Oil: Are You Buying Real or Fake?

Olive oil. . .it does a body good! But are you buying real olive oil or fake? Because if you are consuming olive oil that’s not 100% olive oil, your body is likely suffering due to the imposter oils that are used as substitutes for the real thing.

My new favorite olive oil and vinegar company.

You see, olive oil production in Italy has taken a mafia-like turn with oil producers using lower quality olive oils from other countries and labeling them as EVOO, and even using different cheaper oils like sunflower, soybean, or canola and then adding chlorophyl to make them green and adding artificial flavorings. Why would they do this? It all boils down to money. Lots more money can be made using the cheaper oils due to the huge demand for olive oil now because of all the known health benefits such as: being full of antioxidants, being heart-healthy, being anti-inflammatory, lowering LDL cholesterol and helping to prevent strokes, just to name a few.

This tuna salad was excellent drizzled with only Fandango olive oil & their lemon balsamic vinegar!

We don’t know how long Italians have been scamming the public with fake olive oils, but we do know that 91 people in Italy were exposed as being involved in this type of fraud in 2008 during a huge police raid called Operation Golden Oil. And in 2015, another ring of olive oil fraudsters was busted in Puglia, Italy involving twelve companies who were using olive oils from Syria, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia, then bottling it and labeling it as being made in Italy. It turns out you can’t always trust what you read even on food labels. . .ahhh!!

All Fandango’s bottles are fitted with these awesome lids which makes for super easy drizzling & almost zero dripping.

Why are the imposter oils so bad for you, you ask? Well, if it’s soybean oil they’re using, you can bet it’s genetically modified since 94% of soybean crops in the United States are GMO, plus GM soybean oil has been shown to cause obesity, diabetes and fatty liver as well as being high in omega-6s which promote inflammation. Sunflower oil is also high in omega-6s, and as far as canola oil goes, 90% of crops in the US and Canada are genetically modified, and they use hexane to extract the oil from the rapeseeds. Hexane can’t be good to ingest, right?

So what are we to do? How can you tell if your olive oil is real or fake? Here are a few things to check for before you buy:
– The bottle should be dark green or brown, not clear. Light quickly
   degrades real olive oil.
– Check for a harvest date. Good oils will have a harvest date, and olive oil
   is good up to one year if stored in a cool, dark place.
– The bottle should have a seal of approval from a local or regional
   authority.
– It should say where the oil comes from.
– It should indicate what type of olive or olives were used.
– For those of you who rely on the “fridge test” for purity, read here to see
   why it’s not a reliable test after all.
Their labels pass the test!
For those of you interested in ordering a really good olive oil, I recommend ordering from Fandango. They are located in Paso Robles, California, and they make organic extra-virgin olive oils. Plus, they even made the California Olive Oil Council’s certified list for 2016. Their oils might cost a little more than what you’re probably used to spending for olive oil, but once you taste how good theirs is, you’ll be super happy! And after all. . .aren’t you and your family worth really good olive oil? (By the way. . .I don’t get any kick-backs from Fandango if you decide to order from them. For years I was buying my oil from a different company in Los Olivos, but since I recently found Fandango whose prices are considerably less and whose oils [and vinegars!] are super good, I thought I’d share them with you. I hope you like them as much as I do, and should you decide to order from them, please let me know what you think!) 

Seaweed Salad Anyone?

This dressing I recommend for Asian inspired salads, noodles. . .even a marinade!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to thank me for sparing you the awful task of having to make and then eat this semi-wretched salad pictured below. I say “semi” because it was at least 60% better than a seaweed salad I tried last year, but not so good that I’m ever going to make it again. I do make this salad dressing a lot, though, and you should try it, too; it’s spot-on!

The salad: seaweed, shredded carrots, green onions & sesame seeds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You see, several months ago when I went to Dry Dock (a super awesome local fish-selling store), I bought a little container of their seaweed salad. Being that the color was a beautiful, vibrant green combined with the fact that I really like, basically, all foods, I was anxious to try this. So after putting the fish in the fridge when I got home, I quickly forked a bunch of the salad and chomped away. . .but not for long. I almost completely threw up! It was like biting into a swirly, green, slimy mess of French-cut string beans that were fresh from a super salty sewer. I must admit, I was a little mad at myself for not liking it because, as I said earlier, I basically like all foods. I directly threw this stuff away!

Besides squeezing the water out of these, I also patted them down with paper towels, then cut them into bite-sized pieces to lessen the slime factor.

So fast-forward to last night when after recently reading all the great benefits of eating seaweed (high in protein, vitamin K, calcium and is anti-inflammatory), I decided to make a much better version of seaweed salad. After all, I was using the most mild form of seaweed – wakame – and I’ve had seaweed soup before which I really liked, so I figured my homemade seaweed salad would be pretty good.

After soaking, check the fronds for hidden pebbles or shells! There were several tiny snail shells that I found. . .thankfully.

 

I guess it was good enough to eat, though, because John ate all of his without any complaints of smell or texture, but as anyone who knows me knows that my sense of smell is close to super hero status, and that’s what got to me. . .the smell! It wasn’t terrible, maybe on par with the aroma of an unkempt 5th grader’s aquarium, but it was smelly enough to make me super thankful for all the extra onions I added.

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Asian Salad Dressing

3 TBS soy sauce (reduced sodium)
3 TBS rice wine vinegar (unflavored)
1 TBS sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp minced, fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
couple shakes of red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a container, then whisk. Or, you can just use a fork.

 

Salads Can Lower Cholesterol: Fiber & Phytosterols Are Key

Taco salad with no-cream creamy taco salad dressing.
Taco salad with no-cream creamy taco salad dressing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One easy way to reduce cholesterol? Eat more vegetables that contain fiber and phytosterols. I won’t bore you with the details as to how they lower cholesterol, but green leaf lettuce, cucumbers, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, asparagus, Mexican peppers, and tomatoes are just a few vegetables that are high in fiber and/or phytosterols, and they’d be good in a taco salad to go with the below dressing. Following is a short story behind the dressing and then the recipe.

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Last Friday while at my Friday job, I ran out to pick up a salad for lunch. It was a vegetarian place, so as you can imagine, the taco salad contained no meat (and barely any lettuce when all was said and done!). It was made up of the usual seasoned cauliflower, black beans, corn, olives, carrots and tomatoes, but to my dismay, no cheese because this salad was also vegan. 🙁 But to be honest, the lack of cheese didn’t turn out to be a big problem for me because the shredded carrots tricked me into thinking that I was eating cheddar cheese after all. Ha! 😉

The 5 ingredients for no-cream creamy taco salad dressing.
The 5 ingredients for no-cream creamy taco salad dressing.

But let me get to the main point of this post: the salad dressing, umm. . .I mean, sauce? It was the consistency of super firm, nonfat yogurt, pale salmon in color, and the flavor was trying to be taco. Despite it being way too thick, it was definitely the best part of the salad, for sure, and when I found out that the main ingredient was soy milk, I was baffled at how something this thick could contain any type of liquid at all. This didn’t matter, though, because I decided that this sauce needed to be able to drizzle instead of plop, and I wanted it to be even more flavorful. A sauce with more viscosity would mean that more parts of the salad would be touching this flavor, and therefore creating much more happiness throughout my mouth. So, below is my upgraded version of their taco salad sauce, umm. . .I mean, salad dressing.

Less than 15 calories per tablespoon!
Less than 15 calories per tablespoon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 can tomato sauce
1 can Mexican tomato sauce (I used the red and yellow can.)
1/2 can coconut milk (I used full fat in a can.)
2-4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin

Mix all ingredients in whatever you want with whatever you want. (I used a wire whisk.) All ingredients I use are organic except the Mexican tomato sauce because I’ve never seen organic Mexican sauce of any kind, but when I do, I’m definitely buying it! By the way, this dressing is less than 15 calories per tablespoon!