Apple cider vinegar is thought to have several medicinal effects on our health, including better blood glucose control and improved weight loss. Due to its fermented properties, it may help with digestion and improve the balance of healthy bacteria, which maintains gastrointestinal health.

Although science and research may not support all of the medicinal claims made about apple cider vinegar, one thing is certain: Its tart flavor brightens and enhances the flavor of many dishes and recipes, adapted below. Settle into sunnier days with this basic vinaigrette and the two following variations that keep vegetables interesting and brimming with flavor.

Basic Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ shallot, minced

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

This straightforward vinaigrette brightens any green salad mix, but to really impress your family, add diced Granny Smith apples, crumbled feta cheese and toasted walnuts.

Creamy Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Take the basic vinaigrette recipe above and simply stir in 2 tablespoons of tahini for a creamy, smooth texture. This thicker dressing coats heartier salads, including your favorite seasonal vegetables. Make a double batch of the vinaigrette and mix with the following ingredients.

2 cups wild rice, cooked, cooled

3 cups leafy greens

6 radishes, sliced

3 carrots, shredded

3 scallions, sliced

1 cup shelled edamame, cooked and cooled

Salt and pepper to taste

Maple-Dijon Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Add 2 teaspoons maple syrup to the basic vinaigrette recipe to add a sweet twist.

Moroccan Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup dried lentils

1 cup uncooked couscous

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 medium carrots, peeled

2 cups kale

½ cup pistachios or almonds

½ cup dried apricots

¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives

Cook dried lentils and couscous per package directions and cool. Mix cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and pepper, and set aside. In a food processor, chop carrots, kale, nuts, apricots and olives. Combine lentils, couscous, chopped vegetable mixture and spice mix in a large salad bowl. Prepare a double batch of Maple-Dijon Apple Cider Vinaigrette. Pour two-thirds of the dressing over the salad, mix and taste. Add more dressing, to taste.

Refrigerate salad at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.

Niki Kubiak is a sports-certified registered dietitian, competitive runner and owner of Niki Kubiak Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss. She blogs regularly for livewellnebraska.com.

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