Column: Eating nutritious despite rising food costs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2008

Denise Arnold, Nutrition Tips

The last few weeks on the news we&8217;ve been hearing more about going green as a nation to conserve energy and choosing ecologically earth friendly products for our homes. The green theme, along with soaring gas prices has been in the back of my mind this spring as I try to make healthy lifestyle and food choices and sneak in a few vacation days. I&8217;ll intertwine a recent travel experience to Iowa with creative ways you can get the most from your food dollars.

If you are a salad lover, making your own dressing is one way of cutting costs. Plus if you are watching your salt intake, you can control the sodium content. I never buy salad dressing anymore because of the sodium content, plus it always spoils before I get it used up. A few weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by driving to Decorah, Iowa. With the cost of gas, we decided to explore places closer to home that we&8217;ve never been to before. We got there early in the day, parked our car in a central location, and toured the town and its quaint shops on foot. After a healthy stroll, we checked into our hotel, Hotel Winneshiek. Not only is it one of the nicest hotels I&8217;ve stayed in, I was equally impressed with the food served at Albert&8217;s restaurant, which is connected to the hotel. I was pleased to see the chef didn&8217;t cut costs on the quality of the meal despite rising food costs. Along with a baked potato and perfectly done steak we received a generous portion of fresh mixed vegetables. The garden salad had such a yummy dressing on it that I soaked up every bit of it with the home baked bread. I knew readers would love it so I mustered up courage and asked the waitress if I could get the recipe from their chef.

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I was pleased when I got home and found an e-mail from him with the recipe of his &8220;house dressing&8221; that I&8217;ll share with you later.

The next day we explored outlying Decorah and discovered tucked into the hillside just outside of town, Heritage Farms. Heritage Farms, a Seed Savers Exchange, is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares heirloom seeds, some originating from many generations&8217; back. With the cost of nutritious food increasing, I&8217;m planning on growing many of my own vegetables or buying from Farmers Market. Even our niece has discovered how to make her own seasoning mixtures using dried herbs and pepper seeds from her garden. To give grilled or roasted potatoes a little zip sprinkle them with fresh or dried herbs before cooking. My co-worker saves two to three dollars each time she opens a jar of homemade salsa.

Salsa also makes a great salad dressing.

When my children were young we bought meat in family size packs.

It&8217;s time to do that again and rewrap it into smaller packs and freeze.

If you can&8217;t grow your own fresh vegetables or they are too expensive, purchase them frozen. Buying frozen vegetables can often be cheaper and you cut down on the waste due to spoilage, while retaining the nutritional value.

Purchase frozen raspberries and strawberries when they aren&8217;t in season.

Using an inexpensive ice cream maker, my friend makes a delicious sorbet using frozen peaches mixed with a little sugar, and nutmeg.

Don&8217;t let food spoil or go to waste. Even though it is just my husband and I in the house now I still cook for five, and then freeze the leftovers in individual containers to take to work. That way I have my own TV dinners without the sodium or calories.

I hope I spurred your imagination on how to get creative in your home to save money, enhance food flavor, and still eat healthy despite rising food costs.

Enjoy Chef Chad Elliott&8217;s House Dressing recipe.

I have modified it slightly to decrease both the fat and sodium.

House Dressing

(Compliments of Chef Chad Elliott at Hotel Winneshiek, Decorah, Iowa)

1 1/4 cups light mayonnaise

3/4 cup white vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup light Karo corn syrup

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons crushed garlic

1/4 teaspoon dry thyme

1/2 teaspoon dry basil

1/2 teaspoon dry oregano

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon dry parsley

Combine all ingredients in blender and mix or in sealed container and shake until well mixed.

Keeps well in refrigerator for at least one to two weeks.

Serving size: 1 tablespoon

Calories: 30

Sodium: 78 mg

(Under 180 mg is preferred)

If using regular mayo &8212;

Calories: 54

Sodium: 46 mg

Denise Arnold is a licensed and registered dietitian at Albert Lea Medical Center &8212; part of Mayo Health System.