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Salads keep vegetables main focus

I’ve gained more winter weight than I care to discuss. I am now officially in salad mode. I’m searching for more than plain iceberg but less than a Cobb with full-fat dressing and all the fixings.

Seriously, so many people believe that salad is the way to go for keeping the calories down and then they slather on the dressing and croutons (they’re small right, not so many calories, right?).

The truth is that most of the dressings we use are full of fat and chemicals and lots of preservatives. You’d be better served using olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice with just a pinch of salt and pepper to dress the greens.

As for the croutons, bread is bread, and when you add in the fact they’re salted and seasoned and often fried, you’re better off sprinkling a few sunflower seeds or some chopped pecans for the crunch and flavor.

As for adding meats and cheeses – add sparingly and as an accompaniment, not the main ingredient, or you’ll defeat the purpose of the salad. The vegetables are supposed to be the main attraction.

The following recipes are all user-friendly, simple to make and use fresh ingredients.

Asparagus and Lemon Salad

1/3 cup finely chopped red onions

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

3 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped pecans (toasted)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

In a large bowl, whisk together red onions, lemon juice, mustard and honey. Cut off the asparagus tips and add them to the bowl with the dressing.

With a vegetable peeler, start peeling the asparagus spears into thin ribbons into a shallow serving bowl. Drizzle the dressing with the tips over the strips, toss to combine and sprinkle the top with parsley and nuts. Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Salad

1 head cabbage, shredded

1 cup celery, cut diagonally

1/2 cup green peppers, in thin strips

1/2 cup tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 1/2 to 2 cups pineapple, fresh is best, cubed in 1-inch pieces

1 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (low fat is OK)

2 teaspoons fresh basil, shredded

2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons skim milk to thin dressing

1 teaspoon salt

1 grind of freshly grated pepper

In a bowl combine cabbage, celery, green pepper, tomato and pineapple. Mix to combine and set aside. In a small bowl combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and basil and parsley. If dressing too thick, use milk to thin.

Mix to combine and then pour the dressing over the top of the cabbage salad. Mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Season with salt and pepper. Mix to combine and serve. Serves 6.

Deconstructed Sushi Salad

1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled ginger

3 green onions, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 cup shelled edamame

2 sheets nori, cut into thin strips (sheets of dried seaweed) (optional)

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced

For the dressing:

2 teaspoons wasabi powder

1 tablespoon hot water

2 tablespoons cold water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons minced ginger

In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup vinegar, sugar and salt and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.

When the mixture is cool, add the vinegar mixture to the rice. Mix to combine. Add the sesame seeds, oil, ginger, green onions, carrot, cucumber, edamame and nori strips. Top salad with avocado slices.

For dressing: In a small bowl, stir wasabi powder into hot water, then stir in cold water, soy sauce and ginger. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.

– Submitted by Rhonda Savonsen of Chicago; adapted from Epicurious Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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