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By request…

3 Aug

Well, the readers have spoken! It seems that the recipe generating the most interest from Sunday’s BBQ fiesta is Cowboy Caviar. You asked, I deliver. So here’s the recipe. Warning: it makes a pretty big bowl. And it’s kinda addictive. You could make it if you don’t have a big crowd coming, but then you might be forced to eat large amounts of it. Your choice. But you’ve been warned.

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Cowboy Caviar from Cooking with Grace – A Cookbook from Point of Grace (one of my all-time favourite singing groups, btw)

  • 2 avocados, diced (mine were small so I used 3)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 11 oz can shoe peg corn or petite white corn, drained (or use 2 large cobs worth of fresh corn kernels)
  • 15 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup fresh cilantro – leaves only, chopped (or, if you or your friends are cilantro-averse, use flat leaf parsley. I did so and it worked great!)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • hot sauce to taste

Combine avocados, tomato, corn, black-eyed peas, cilantro and onions in a bowl. 

Combine remaining ingredients in a separate container (makes it easier if it’s something you can shake) then add to avocado mixture. Stir and chill for at least 2 hours.

Serve with your favourite tortilla chips (naturally, I used Guiltless Gourmet).

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Confessions of a food blogger: I don’t always use fresh lemon juice. There was only a splash in my Realemon jar, so I just added the rest of the dressing ingredients in there and shook it up!

 

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Caviar close-up. I much prefer this to the real thing – which is fish eggs!

 

 

 

 

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Grab the Guiltless Gourmet and we are good to go!

 

 

 

 

So, while we are on a “by request” theme, I thought I’d answer the questions I received on last week’s Q and A post.

Question One: When/where do you find you are most culinarily creative/get your best ideas, and why? Answer: It took me a while to think about this one, but here’s what I came up with: I think I am most creative when I am forced to be, like when I have an abundance of a certain ingredient, or something that needs to be used up before it goes bad. This forces me to be creative/think outside the box, and often, it’s surprising what I can come up with!

Question Two: Do you set a goal each week regarding how many new recipes you are going to try out? Answer: No. I just see what I’m in the mood for/have time for/what inspires me from the blog world/magazines/food tv/what ingredients are available. And speaking of magazines…

Question Three: Do you subscribe to any food magazines? Answer: Yes. I get (and LOVE) Food Network Magazine. It is so fun to read, has great ideas and information, and interviews with my favourite Food Network stars. The one thing I really like about this magazine is it has all different recipes depending on your skill level and the time you have. There’s a “Weeknight Cooking” section of fast and easy meals, and a “Weekend Cooking” section with more elaborate, themed menus. I also enjoy the monthly “Try this at Home” feature, where a celebrity chef takes you through how to make something that seems a little scary, like sausage, tamales, or homemade canned green tomatoes (which I hope to try this summer). I used to get Rachael Ray magazine, and also LOVE that one, but their subscriber services to Canada STINK Sad smile, so I decided not to renew. I also get Shape, which is not a good magazine, but has a couple recipes each month.

Question Four: Could you do a post of some of your salad dressing greatest hits? I would love to have all your dressings (or at least a few of them) in one place!! Answer: You ask, I deliver! My basic salad dressing formula (for one serving) is as follows:

1. In a small container (I use the 1/2 cup Glad containers), put one teaspoon oil. My typical choice is olive oil. Sometimes I use avocado oil (although I don’t find it has any real flavour at all). I’ve also tried flax oil (because it’s supposed to be good for you). And if I am in an Asian mood, I use sesame oil – major flavour there.

2. Add the following ingredients (I NEVER measure these – play with proportions, use a little more or less, see what you like):

  • mustard (usually Dijon)
  • fat-free Italian salad dressing
  • vinegar

I have a little bit to say on each of the above ingredients.

The Mustard. Dijon is my go-to because it adds a nice tang, and blends easily. However, if I have some flavoured/fancy mustards around, it’s fun to use those to play with the flavour. I also really enjoy the texture of grainy mustard, so I go with that from time to time.

Fat-free Italian salad dressing. Okay, okay, I know it’s “fake food” – hear me out! This started back when I did Weight Watchers. FF Italian is a “0 point food,” so I started adding it to my dressings to make them go further. Here’s how I look at it: I figure that making my own dressing, even if it contains some processed/fake ingredients, is better than just buying a bottle off the shelf, right? And if I use part oil/part dressing, I can have more dressing for less calories. Even though it’s called “Italian” dressing, I find the flavour fairly neutral and that it goes well with multiple ingredients. If using this stuff really bothers you, just leave it out and add more oil or have less dressing.

The Vinegar. This is where you can really give your dressing some personality. The type of vinegar is what drives the flavour of the dressing. My most commonly used vinegars are balsamic, red wine and white wine. I also like to use my fancy flavoured wine vinegars from time-to time.

Variations: The above formula is my go-to basic. But, I like to play from time to time!

  • Asian: skip the mustard, use balsamic or rice vinegar, sesame oil, and add some soya sauce
  • Southwest: red wine vinegar, and add some salsa and cumin to the mix. I also like this when you add a touch of BBQ sauce
  • Citrus: swap out some (or all) of the vinegar for lemon or lime juice

A secret weapon that I have recently discovered kicks butt in salad dressings?! Pickle juice! Swap out the vinegar for that potent potion and your tastebuds will sing!

Answering your questions was really fun, so thank you for your submissions. Feel free to ask more anytime and I will be happy to answer (as long as you don’t stump me).

And before I leave, let me tell you that my blog buddy Donna nominated me for “7 links” (which I had never heard of), but apparently the goal is to: “unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavour to share lessons learned and create a bank of old, but not forgotten, blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.” I was going to find my 7 posts in this post, but I think it’s long enough already, so I will have to get to that later this week.

We’ve already made it to Wednesday friends! Question: Salad dressings – homemade, store-bought, or a combination of the two?

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Burger Bonanza

1 Aug

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I’ll admit it. I had a total “food baby” after last night’s delicious BBQ supper. But it was SO worth it. You all know how much I love burgers. Add on a buffet of delicious toppings, AMAZING local corn on the cob, tasty salads, baked beans and multiple tempting desserts? Summer perfection!

 

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These pictures don’t do it justice, but here you can see the array of toppings on the burger bar. This is the third time I’ve done build-your-own-burger as a summer party, and I have to say, it’s one of my favourite ways to entertain in the summer. After all, who doesn’t love a good burger? I used store-bought burgers and buns, but the tasty toppings take it up a notch.

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To choose from, we had:

  • sliced tomatoes
  • bacon Smile
  • sautéed onions
  • hot peppers
  • sliced avocado and leftover guacamole
  • salsa
  • the standard mustard, ketchup and relish
  • Dijon mustard
  • spicy mustard (mix of Dijon, grainy mustard and Ancho chile powder)IMG_2393
  • BBQ sauce
  • Velveeta cheese slices
  • goat cheese
  • homemade pickled red onions
  • homemade dill pickles
  • homemade red wine onion relish (those last three items are from my new Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes book – they were all pretty simple and DELICIOUS!)

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To start things off before the burgers, we had “Cowboy Caviar,” which is a tasty dip made with fresh corn (recipe says used canned, but why would I when the fresh stuff is so good?), black-eyed peas, green onions, tomatoes, avocadoes, fresh flat-leaf parsley (recipe calls for cilantro but I switched it – there’s a lot of haters out there when it comes to cilantro) and oil/vinegar/seasonings. Sooooo good! That big bowl disappeared pretty quickly! We also had a Hungry Girl cucumber dip and veggies.

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Main course was the aforementioned burgers, a salad I made, 3 other tasty salads brought by guests, baked beans Red heart brought by a guest, and LOTS of corn on the cob (I may have overestimated there just a bit – there’s quite a bit leftover – guess what you’ll be seeing in my meals this week? Winking smile). I had some of everything, and went back for more of the sides!

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Desserts. SO. GOOD. We had fruit (watermelon, muskmelon, honeydew, cherries) – gotta keep things healthy, you know? I made peach blueberry cobbler (I think what my family calls a cobbler is technically a crisp, as it has an oatmeal topping, but we’re not going to change now). Mmmm…one of my all-time favourite summer desserts. So simple, yet so delicious! To go with the cobbler, I made homemade vanilla bean ice cream – I may never buy store-bought again! And to top it all off, I made “Better than you-know-what Cake” (I think you can all guess what “you-know-what” is without me telling you, right?Winking smile). For those of you unfamiliar with this dessert, it’s basically a chocolate cake with chocolate chips, soaked in sweetened condensed milk (AKA the Nectar of the Gods) and caramel sauce, then topped with Cool Whip and Skor bits. Not for the faint of heart! But I cut back on the oil and sugar in the cake and used low fat Cool Whip, so it’s practically calorie-free, right?IMG_2421

It was a great night – tasty food, warm weather (as the shiny-ness from my sweaty face in this picture shows), and great friends. If I’m going to splurge on some 80/20 food, this is my favourite way to do it – tasty, homemade, comfort food…mmm!

I’m not going to share all the recipes with you today – but I’ll start with Bobby’s Red Wine Onion Relish. This stuff was so good, I would have no problem eating it straight up (in fact, when I got my second plate, I took a spoonful and did just thatEmbarrassed smile). And it was actually easier to make than I expected. I would have thought that you had to caramelize the onions, but the recipe only calls for sautéing for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before I give you the recipe, let me just say, even if you don’t like wine (which I don’t), this stuff is GOOD. It definitely kicks the burger up a notch, and I think it would be good on any sandwich, or even grilled meat. You really should try it soon!

Red Wine Onion Relish from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes

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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced (I used one red onion, one Vidalia, because I have lots right now and I love their sweet flavour)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine, vinegar, honey and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency, 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl, stir in the parsley, and let cool to room temperature. The relish can be made 2 days ahead and stored, covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

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Sautéing the onions. The 10 minute cook time and occasional stirring were much more low maintenance than caramelizing them!

 

 

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This is right after I removed from the heat and stirred in the parsley. I didn’t transfer to a bowl first (sorry Bobby), but by now, that shouldn’t surprise you, as you know what a rebel I am in the kitchen.

 

Ok, for the other recipes, I thought we’d try something fun. Leave a comment in the comments section or on facebook, or email me, and let me know which recipe you’d like to see on here first. Depending on the response I get, I will post whichever recipe gets the most votes in an upcoming post (don’t worry, I may share more than one). I thought I’d do a “readers’ choice” post later this week, where I share the recipe you choose and answer the questions I got last week (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten)! So, the more you respond, the better the post will be!

Fellow Canadians, how did you celebrate the long weekend?

Fajita Fiesta

30 Jul

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Happy Long Weekend fellow Canadians (and happy Saturday everyone else)! I hope you are enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

Last night was our first round of entertaining for the weekend, so I decided to do a BBQ version of fajitas. I love fajitas. They’re actually one of my go-to choices at restaurants when there’s not a lot of healthy stuff to choose from, as it’s easy to pick and choose which toppings you want. And it’s a great meal to feed a group for the same reason – you put what you want on your fajita, so it suits a variety of preferences.

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But since it is summer time and grilling is practically an institution when entertaining, I decided to take things outside and do the meat and veggies on the BBQ instead of in a skillet on the stove (bonus: saves calories because you don’t need oil).

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I decided to do a “mixed grill” of chicken and steak (but I marinated all the meat in the same bag – I don’t know if that’s a no-no or not, but you know me, always the rebel).

The marinade was pretty simple, and, not to toot my own horn, but it turned out really well. The meat was tender and super-flavourful. I used 2 Mesquite-marinated steaks from M&M, so they added a bit of their seasoning, then I added:

  • lime juice
  • red wine vinegar
  • Ancho chile powder (Ancho is great because it’s not as spicy as a lot of other chiles, but still adds great Mexican flavour)
  • cumin
  • Epicure salsa seasoning
  • a few cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • salt and pepper

IMG_2336I put my steaks and chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag and marinated in the fridge for several hours, turning the bag several times to distribute the marinade.

I grilled the meat over high heat, then removed, covered with foil and let it rest while I grilled the veggies (red pepper, Vidalia onion and zucchini), which I sprayed with PAM for the grill and seasoned with salt and pepper.

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After the meat had rested for about 10 minutes (this helps keep all the juices in), I thinly sliced it (along with the veggies) and plated it all up. For tortillas, I went with Dempster’s whole wheat Body Wise tortillas (I know corn is more authentic, but the grocery store didn’t have them and I wasn’t in the mood to go hunting).

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We had a wide variety of other toppings, which included:

Our sides were delicious, local corn on the cob and red cabbage slaw (same recipe I made for my mom’s birthday, only with the addition of a Granny Smith apple I had leftover) .

I think it was safe to say that the meal was enjoyed by all. This is a pretty easy meal to put together for summer entertaining, and a nice change from the usual steaks or burgers (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Speaking of burgers, we’re hosting a build-your-own-burger bar supper here tomorrow night for between 12 to 18 people! It’s going to be epic, with lots of decadent toppings and some seriously delicious 80/20 style desserts! So I may or may not make it on to HHH to update you tomorrow, but I plan to do NOTHING Monday, so for sure I’ll be back by then.

Since in my town on the August long weekend, we celebrate Friendship Festival (yes, one of the advantages of living in a small town, we are cool enough that we have a weekend-long festival devoted to friends), I would like once again to wish you, my blog-friends, a happy long weekend. May it be filled with food, family, and FRIENDS!

All choked up

23 Jul

I’ve mentioned before my love for canned artichoke hearts. If you haven’t tried them yet, you really should. If you’ve bought them, and find yourself with not knowing what to do with them, and have a can or artichoke hearts collecting dust on your counter – you’re in luck! Today I’m sharing one of my favourite Hungry Girl recipes with you: Artichoke Hummus!

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Yesterday, the women of my Mom’s family got together for a pool party at my Aunt’s. We were all to bring an appetizer, and, as it had been a while since I had made this hummus, it was my first choice. I don’t know why I waited so long – this stuff is so good! Nice and light, with traditional hummus flavour that you’d expect, but the artichokes give it a little “je ne sais quoi” (FYI, that’s French for “I don’t know what”).

Keep this one on file for summer entertaining…but it’s also good to have around for everyday snacking or packing in lunches any time of the year! I make a few modifications to the original recipe, so I will note those below.

Hungry, Hungry Artichoke Hummus (from Hungry Girl)
PER SERVING (1/8th of recipe, about 1/4 cup): 56 calories, 0.5g fat, 400mg sodium, 9g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 3g protein

  • 1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained
    1/4 cup fat-free vegetable broth (I usually just put in 1/4 cup water then add extra garlic salt)
    1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (often, I don’t have on hand, so I use regular plain yogurt – it works just fine!)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
    1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes (if at all possible, use a handful fresh parsley instead…I find parsley flakes kinda tasteless, and the fresh flavour is just so good)
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. black pepper
    1/4 tsp. ground cumin
    1/4 tsp. paprika
    One 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    Optional garnish: additional parsley flakes and paprika

Place parsley and garlic cloves (whole) into food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped (see photo below). This step is my own addition that saves time in chopping herbs/crushing garlic.

Place all ingredients except chickpeas and optional garnishes in a blender or food processor (mini food processors rock for this recipe!). Set aside.

Place chickpeas in a bowl and thoroughly mash with a potato masher or fork. (The recipe says you can skip this step if you have a strong blender/food processor. I ALWAYS skip this step and it works out fine.)

Transfer to the blender. Puree until smooth, stopping and stirring if blending slows.

For best flavour, refrigerate hummus for several hours. Before serving, garnish with a sprinkle each of additional parsley flakes and paprika, if you like. Dip away!

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This is what your garlic/parsley should look like when you are done chopping. Don’t worry about scraping it off the sides of the food processor. The hummus-ification (VERY scientific term) of the other ingredients will incorporate the parsley and garlic into your mixture.

 

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Everything is all measured, in the food processor, and ready to go. All we need to do is put on the lid and press the button!

 

 

 

 

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After lots of blending, pulsing, and some scraping/stirring with a spatula, the hummus is finito! Now, if only I had a container….

 

 

 

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….ah, that’s it! Now get the lid on and cool it. Since I was having a 10:30 PM hummus making party (What…you don’t have those?) this guy got refrigerated overnight, so the flavours blended up nicely.

 

 

Don’t forget lots of fresh veggies, crackers and chips (BAKED, of course!) to serve. Your family and friends will thank you, but don’t get all “choke”-d up at all the compliments (sorry, I had to).

Pool party number 2 for today got postponed due to a scheduling miscommunication, so I’m not quite sure what’s on the agenda, other than a new ice cream maker project (details to follow, if it’s good). What about you? What are you doing on this summer Saturday?

Sides Show

10 Jul

Everyone needs some good summer sides, right? IMG_2014Either for a BBQ at your place or a summer potluck, it never hurts to have a few more recipes for tasty, healthy dishes, right? So, as promised yesterday, here are the sides that completed last week’s birthday barbeque-less BBQ dinner menu. Both are from the July/August issue of Food Network Magazine.

Red Coleslaw with Grapes – serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp fat-free Italian dressing, to lighten things up even more)
  • 1 small or 1/2 large head red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes, chopped

Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, mustard, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until well blended.

Add the cabbage, parsley, scallions and grapes to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 4 hours before serving.

Baked Beans with Swiss ChardIMG_2026 – serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard or mustard greens, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked turkey or lean ham (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can navy beans, undrained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 7 minutes.

Add the chard, turkey and 1/4 cup water to the skillet; cook, stirring, until the chard wilts slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, increase the heat to medium high and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the pinto beans, then add the navy beans and their liquid. Add the parsley, thyme and oregano and return to a simmer.

Coarsely mash about one-quarter of the beans in the skillet with a potato masher or fork to thicken the mixture; season with salt. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

*Public service announcement: Please ignore the apple cider vinegar in the ingredients shot for the beans. For some reason, I got it in my head that there was vinegar in there, but clearly, there’s not. I only realized this once I had already started the recipe. Thank you for your cooperation (not like you have a choice Smile with tongue out).

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Mashing up part of the bean mixture with a potato masher.

 

 

 

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This is what it looks like when it’s ready to go into the oven.

 

 

 

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…and when the beans come out.

 

 

 

Now the coleslaw was great, I really enjoyed it. But…I CANNOT say enough about these beans! Seriously…I. LOVE.THEM. Now, these are not what you would typically think of as “classic” baked beans (molasses/brown sugar, bacon etc) but I love this twist on them. And if you are lucky like me, you’ll have a good amount of leftovers.

The leftover beans were a standout in the salad I showed you yesterday. IMG_2056Also delectable on Friday stuffed inside a pita with garden-fresh lettuce and arugula (I almost forgot I had that stuff for a while…SO good), mustard, onion and tomato, with a bit of leftover coleslaw and a big old pile of roasted garlic scapes on the side.IMG_2063

Saturday, the beans made another star turn in a delicious tofu shirataki “pasta” dish. I sautéed a boatload of fresh veggies (zucchini, asparagus, orange pepper, garlic scapes, sliced portabella) and a minced garlic clove in a teaspoon of olive oil, then added part of a can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, salt and pepper, reduced heat and simmered a bit, and at the last minute, added chopped fresh basil.  I made HG girlfredo, and stirred this in, along with 1/2 cup of the beans, simmered for a couple of minutes just to heat through and served – voila! This was SO tasty and filling with all the veggies and protein and fibre-packed beans.

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Speaking of awesome uses of the leftovers from Wednesday’s birthday meal, I just can’t sign off without showing you this simply AMAZING pizza I made Friday night: Slightly Spicy BBQ Chicken Pizza. By now, you know what I did for the crust.

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For the sauce/meat component, I mixed 1/2 cup of the leftover pulled chicken with just a bit of light ketchup and BBQ sauce, a couple of dashes of the hot sauce I bought in Mexico (‘cause I like to live dangerously) and some cumin (I like it smoky).

I spread this on top of my crust, then topped with 1/3 cup light shredded Tex-Mex cheese, chopped red bell pepper, Vidalia onion and chopped jarred jalapenos (there I go living dangerously again).

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When the pizza came out of the oven, it looked like this. But I didn’t stop there.

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After slicing it up, I topped with the rest of the leftover coleslaw and some chopped fresh cilantro. I have seen enough BBQ recipes where you put slaw on the bun to think that this might be a good idea – and it was! The sweetness and coolness of the slaw contrasted perfectly with the spicy, smoky chicken – I’d definitely do this again!

Just to recap the birthday menu, since it was broken down over 3 posts, I thought I’d bring it all together for you here:

HG Guacamole with veggies and Guiltless Gourmet Chips

HG Crockpot Pulled Chicken on Buns

My Mom’s Potato Salad

Red Coleslaw with Grapes

Baked Beans with Swiss Chard

Chocolate Cappuccino Cake

Try some (or all of it)….it was really good!

Barbeque Supper (sans BBQ)

9 Jul

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So yesterday, I shared the cake recipe from my mom’s birthday with you. I thought, since the meal was so tasty, you’d like to know how to re-create the rest of it. It never hurts to have a full roster of recipes for summer entertaining, right?

So you’d think that for a birthday on July 6, a barbeque IMG_2013is a no-brainer, right Or maybe you’re super-clever, read the post title and figured that I’m going an alternate route). Although the crockpot is often thought of as a go-to tool in the winter, perfect for long-cooking roasts and stews, it is more than just a fairweather friend, and can make great summer meals as well (just ask Katie). I used my slow cooker to make Hungry Girl’s slow-cooked pulled chicken (recipe here) and served it on light buns  – a much lighter option than delicious but fatty pulled pork. Recipe tip: I added a teaspoon of cumin because I like it smoky. Also, the recipe is VERY saucy, so I pulled the chicken out of the sauce and shredded it, then just added part of the sauce (please save the rest though, don’t throw it out!).

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The pulling in process!

 

 

 

 

 

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Our starter was another HG favourite: guacamole! Now, if you click here and read the recipe, or look at the photo below, you’ll notice that there are CANNED PEAS in it – please don’t get scared off! The peas help keep the dip way lower in calories/fat than traditional guacamole, but still keep a good colour/texture/flavour (and don’t worry, there’s still avocado in there too). And trust me, everyone LOVED it.

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Looks like typical guac ingredients, right? Look closer at that yellow can in the bottom right….peas please! And of course, buy some Guiltless gourmet tortilla chips to go with (optional but HIGHLY recommended – Spicy Black Bean are my fav).

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This is the peas all mashed up and ready for the other ingredients to be added – if you don’t tell your guests, they’ll never know!

I served the dip with the chips and some cut up veggies (I ate mostly veggies).

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I had 3 sides. Number one was the potato salad you see above. It comes from an OLD and super-simple family recipe. All you do is cook new potatoes (my mom usually peels them, I like skin on – your choice), then slice (and maybe peel) while still warm. Add red wine vinegar (my mom would want me to tell you that it HAS to be Unico brand or it won’t taste the same), olive oil, chopped fresh chives, and salad and pepper to taste. Chill to let flavours blend – that’s it! Growing up, I didn’t used to like this (crazy I know), but in my family, this is what potato salad means – not your typical mayonnaise-y deal.

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Sides numbers 2 and 3 came from my Food Network Magazine, delayed due to the postal strike, but which arrived the day before my mom’s bday (perfect timing, eh?). There was a fun article called “Choose Sides,” where they took typical summer side dishes and made light and rich versions. I made the light versions of the baked beans and coleslaw: Baked Beans with Swiss Chard and Red Coleslaw with Grapes. IMG_2014

Both were yummy, and a nice twist on classic sides. Since this post is getting lengthy, I will share these recipes with you tomorrow. Another plus of this menu, is that is very make-ahead-able (which makes for easy-breezy summer entertaining). Even better, this meal made for absolutely AMAZING leftovers. I was saying to my friend, I was actually HOPING for leftovers when I made this meal….do you ever do that? You know, when you just KNOW that leftovers will be absolutely delicious and possibly even better the next day? …so I will show you my leftover supper today and then come back tomorrow with thIMG_2047e two side recipes.

Thursday’s leftover supper was a bit unconventional, but delicious nonetheless: a dish I’m calling “Hot and Cold BBQ Salad Bowl” with a side of guacamole and veggies. Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it, that’s all I have to say.

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I started by making a small salad with garden-fresh lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions and orange pepper. I poured some of the leftover sauce from the chicken (which I saved and DID NOT throw out) over top.

 

 

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Then, I heated up a nice big scoop of the leftover chicken and the beans in the microwave.

 

 

 

 

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All together now! I topped the salad base with the hot chicken and beans, and then some of the beautiful coleslaw. Mmm…this was the PERFECT mix of flavours, temperatures, and textures. It was like when you’re at a barbeque with lots of different things on your plate, and all the juices and flavours kind of run together. So maybe, if you’re someone who doesn’t like your food touching/mixing, you wouldn’t like this salad…but I sure did!

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And of course, I couldn’t let that leftover cake in the fridge go to waste, could I? Winking smile

Back tomorrow with the bean and coleslaw recipes, my friends. But I hope you try these recipes – as I said before, perfect easy-breezy summer entertaining!

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Speaking of summer, I just love it. The photo to the right shows my location while typing this post (any guesses?). I enjoyed a road trip to Brantford, class and swim at the gym (while I’ve got my cheapie wagjag membership), and then headed to Starbucks to be one of those cool bloggers who blogs there, while drinking an iced passion tea and then later on, chatting with Donna. Oh summer, I love you!

How are you enjoying summer this weekend?

6 months ago today….

8 Jul

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…I wrote this post, and began my blogging journey at Hungry Healthy Hilary (which began as Hungry Happy Healthy, but was changed due to URL availability).

I’d been an avid healthy living and food blog reader for a couple of years. I had even been encouraged to start a blog by a family member (I tried and gave up several years back). But on January 8 2011, I finally took the plunge.

I’ve read on other blogs how blogging has changed the blogger’s life, but you really can’t understand until you become a blogger yourself and become part of this amazing community.

If you told me six months ago that I would be planning a 9 hour road trip to a Blogging Conference with someone I had never met (Donna) and have made a friend halfway across the country (Katie), I don’t know if I would have believed you….but I am SO glad that both things are true! I look forward to many more months and years of HHH and the amazing connections that come out of it. And of course, a HUGE thank-you to you, my readers, for for reading all of my ramblings. Without you, I’d just be talking to myself. Knowing that I inspire or help you even just a little makes what I do worthwhile.

Happy 6 months, HHH!

IMG_2018In honour of my blog birthday, I’m sharing the cake recipe that I made for my mom’s birthday on Wednesday. I made a chocolate cappuccino cake. The idea came from this PC Blue Menu Vanilla Latte cold drink mix I bought last summer, and have only used once or twice. While the stuff is good, I’ve come to the conclusion that for the same (or less) calories, I can make a cold coffee-ish drink that I like just as much (if not better). So what to do with the mix? Put it in a cake filling, naturally!

For the chocolate cake, I took an old WW recipe from the oldie-but-goodie All Things Sweet book I’ve mentioned before. Even though it was a light recipe, it had 2 cups of sugar, which seemed like a lot to me, so I reduced the sugar to one cup and used 3/4 cup Splenda…tasted fine to me. I also used plain yogurt instead of sour cream (‘cause that’s what I had), and baked 3 thin layers instead of 2 regular-sized ones (I wanted lots of room for that filling). Below is the recipe as I made it (I didn’t take a pic of the cake ingredients ‘cause I was living on the edge and feeling rebellious…crazy, I know).

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The filling was just a variation of the stuff that I made for my grandma’s birthday rhubarb angel food cake, only I used the latte mix instead of Splenda, and added vanilla extract and cinnamon at the end (those two were last minute additions, as I thought that the filling just lacked something, hence why they have their own photo). Please note that the quantities listed are as I would plan to make it. In actuality, it was slightly less  than 1/2 cup yogurt and slightly more than 2 cups Cool Whip, as I was in a “I-want-to-use-it-up-and-not-put-away-any-extra-or-open-a-new-container” kind of mood when I made the filling. Winking smile

Chocolate Cappucino Cake (cake recipe adapted from Weight Watchers: All Things Sweet)

Cake

Cooking spray

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup Splenda

10 tablespoons light margarine (recipe calls for softened light butter, which I find difficult to find, I used the light Becel margarine in a tub – it turned out fine)

3/4 cup egg substitute

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt (or sour cream)

3/4 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling

1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup fat-free cream cheese, softened

2 cups fat-free Cool Whip

2/3 cup PC Blue Menu Vanilla Latte Instant Drink Mix (although I’m sure any brand of instant vanilla cappuccino/latte mix would work)

A splash of vanilla extract

A couple dashes cinnamon

Optional: cocoa powder to dust and fresh strawberries to decorate (I also think chocolate shavings and/or chocolate-coated espresso beans would be lovely)

Preheat oven to 350. Coat  3 (8 inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; set aside.

Beat sugar, Splenda and butter/margarine until well-blended (by hand or with a mixer – you choose. I did by hand). Gradually add egg substitute; beat well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Gently stir in boiling water and vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 21 minutes (if you know me, you know I don’t like to be exact in my kitchen timing or alarm clock setting, so you can bake for a nice round number, but proceed at your own risk – you’ve been warned), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes in pans on a wire rack, then turn cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.

To make filling, combine softened cream cheese and yogurt with a spatula, stir in the latte mix. Gently fold in Cool Whip, then the vanilla and cinnamon.

To assemble, put one layer on a cake plate and evenly spread with filling. Repeat with remaining two layers. If desired, dust with cocoa powder and garnish with berries. Store cake covered in the refrigerator. ***Cut with a serrated (bread) knife – after a few hours in the fridge, it cuts beautifully.

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IMG_2021Side note about putting this cake in the fridge. Since our fridge was full of birthday supper food (which I will potentially share in upcoming posts), I had to take the cake out to our extra garage fridge. Since it was on a tall, covered, footed cake plate, I needed to remove a shelf from the fridge. However, my car was too far forward, so I had to go grab my keys and back up a bit. First attempt, not far enough. Second attempt, I could just barely get the shelf out, but in the process of doing so, knocked out a glass jar of maraschino cherries and it broke on the garage floor! Sad smile You can bet that was a treat to clean up! I just thought you’d enjoy one of the many kitchen mishaps in the life of a food blogger.Winking smile

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This question is mainly for my fellow bloggers (although anyone can put in their two cents): How has blogging changed your life?

Oh, and HAPPY FRIDAY everyone!

Summer BBQ…done right!

21 Jun

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Hands up if you love summer. Hands up if you love barbeques. Hands up if you want to enjoy barbeques all summer long and still look good in your skinny jeans come fall. I thought so. Let’s face it: barbeque meals are delicious, and nothing says summer more than the grill. It’s also SO easy to splurge/go overboard with calorie-packed drinks, meats, sides, salads and desserts. BUT, it is also SO easy to make a totally healthy, guilt-free spread that you (and your guests) will enjoy. My friends, I give you Exhibit A: The Family Father’s Day BBQ – prepared by yours truly and enjoyed by all. Here’s how to do it.

1.IMG_1848 Start things off on the right foot. Our family was coming from an AMAZING concert (a local a capella choir with a guest quartet…both AWESOME!) and I knew everyone would want to munch as soon as they arrived at the house. I prepared HG’s Caramelized Onion Dip and served it with assorted baked chips. I also had PC Blue Menu Tzatziki and veggies for dipping. Let me tell you, those veggies and chips were gone fast! Everyone enjoyed it all, and yet it was a starter that didn’t weigh me down. One of my classic strategies when I’m at a party with dippers and dip (whether I’ve made it myself or someone else has) is to go heavy on the veggies, light on the chips. I try to take most of my dunks with the high-fibre, low calorie veggies, and limit myself to only a few chips (even if they’re baked, the veggies will always be healthier).

2. Lean on lean meat. SIMG_1843ure. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts may seem like the go-to choice for a healthy BBQ. And while they’re great, the breasts can get old after a while, do you agree? Pork tenderloin is another amazing choice, and I believe a serving is even slightly lower in calories than the chicken! And since you’re flipping one large piece of meat instead of a bunch of smaller pieces, I find tenderloin easy for entertaining. For Sunday’s gathering, I cooked 5 tenderloins (there were only 10 of us, but it’s SO great leftover) in 2 different ways.IMG_1844 

The first was my own creation: a lemon-herb marinated tenderloin. All you do is put your tenderloin(s) in a large ziploc bag with fresh chopped herbs (I use sage, thyme and rosemary), lemon juice (fresh or bottled), fat-free Italian dressing, salt and pepper. Let marinate in the fridge for a couple hours.

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The other 3 tenderloins got the Bobby Flay treatment: his DELICIOUS garlic mustard glaze that I found on one of my favourite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, a couple years back. I’ve only ever tried this glaze on pork tenderloin, but I’m sure it would be great on any number of grilled meats (even those boring old breasts).

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Garlic Mustard Glaze

From Bobby Flay via Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika (I just used the smoked stuff I had in my drawer)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before using.

Even after using this on 3 large tenderloins, I still had extra. I just brushed this on the meat immediately before grilling, and basted with a bit more during cook time.

FYI, I cook my tenderloins by preheating the grill to high heat, getting a nice sear on each side, then reducing the heat and cooking for about 10-15 more minutes (depends on size and how well you like your meat done).

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3. Pick Smart Sides. Don’t drag that lean meat down with traditional mayo-packed salads. I love pasta salad, and I make it much healthier by packing it with loads of veggies, using fat-free Italian dressing instead of oil or mayo, using whole wheat pasta, and boosting the flavour with chopped fresh herbs. Instead of the usual mayo-heavy coleslaw, I made a Hungry Girl recipe for Hawaiian slaw – complete with pineapple and ham! And to round things off, I made what is a classic in our family – asparagus salad with tomatoes, feta, fresh herbs and my mom’s red wine vinaigrette.

4. Don’t desert dessert.

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Since it was father’s day, I had to make date squares (my grandpa’s favourite). And while you can rationalize and tell yourself they’re healthy (after all, think of all that fibre from the dates and oats, right?), I know how much butter is in there (I made them after all), and though they may be delicious, I wouldn’t quite count them as healthy. So, I took advantage of the local strawberries, bought some other non-local (yet tasty) fruit (raspberries, watermelon, pineapple, cherries) and created a couple of light and tasty dips.

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The first dip is a bit of a Hilary classic – and with 2 ingredients, it can be a classic for you too. All you do is mix one fat-free sugar-free refrigerated Jell-o chocolate pudding cup with some fat-free Cool Whip. This stuff is light, fluffy, and most importantly, CHOCOLATE! Good for any fruit (or cookies. or cake. or….) any time.

The second dip was lime – nice and summer-y. I love anything citrus-y, especially lime, in the summer. The base is actually quite similar to the frosting I made for last week’s rhubarb cake. I mixed together fat-free cream cheese and Greek yogurt with a bit of Splenda, then added Cool Whip. But instead of vanilla extract, I added the zest of one lime, and the juice of half of a lime (you may want to use the juice of the whole thing, it all depends on how juicy your lime is). And you’ll need a bit more Splenda to counteract the acidity of the lime.

Both dips complemented the fruit well, and made it so tasty that I actually ate a bit too much! Embarrassed smileBut it’s only fruit, right? So it can’t be that bad!

All in all, it was a great summer BBQ without the guilt! Better still? Great leftovers! For lunch on Monday, I had some of the leftover slaw, some of the onion dip and veggies, IMG_1854leftover fruit and then a cheese string and some yogurt. And the pork tenderloin found its way into a nice lunch time salad, along with some berries and lime dip.

How do you keep your summer barbequing healthy?

Verdant.

12 Jun

June 11 2011

Verdant. I just love that word. In case you don’t know, it means:

1.green with vegetation; covered with growing plants or grass: a verdant oasis.

2.of the color green: a verdant lawn.

3.inexperienced; unsophisticated: verdant college freshmen. (source)

In the context of this post I am referring to definitions 1 and 2 (I’ve actually never used it in the context of definition number 3 before). My sister and I like to use verdant in reference to outfits – ie, if one of us is wearing a lot of green, we tell the other that she is looking very verdant today, but I don’t think that is a typical usage.  Winking smile I love all things verdant in the spring – nothing like lots of green after a long winter.

The first verdancy (turns out that’s not a word, but I’m making it one) to which I am referring is my garden – it seems like it has grown SO much this week. We’ve got lettuce that could be harvested, increasingly bigger bean and pea plants, tomatoes that got caged yesterday, and tiny little peppers starting to form! I would say that my garden is a veritable verdant oasis, wouldn’t you?

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I also made a verdant appetizer for the spring dinner party my sister and brother-in-law had last night to celebrate the arrival of their new dining room table: spring green hummus. I had this idea (and I’ll admit, with all the food tv and blogs I take in, it’s probably not entirely mine) to make a dip out of edamame and asparagus, and that’s exactly what I did. It was delicious, easy, and a big hit at the party. I want to make more. Here’s how to make this verdalicious (okay, definitely not a word, but I can’t help myself) delight.

Spring Green Hummus

  • IMG_17211 cup frozen edamame and/or lima beans, thawed (I would have used all edamame, but they didn’t have any at the grocery store on Friday, so I improvised with the lima beans, it turned out fine, so I think one or the other, or any combination would work)
  • 1 heaping cup chopped cooked asparagus (I cooked it a bit more than I would if I was eating it, I wanted it soft for pureeing)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (feel free to try another herb/herbs of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup PC Blue Menu Tzatziki (I think Greek yogurt or sour cream would work just fine though)
  • 1 head garlic, roasted (to roast, spray a sheet of aluminum foil with PAM, cut off the top of a head of garlic, wrap in foil, then bake at 425 for about 30-40 minutes or until tender. Let cool then peel off skin before using)
  • salt and pepper to tasteIMG_1722

Making this stuff is a cinch! Just put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend away. Season to taste with salt and pepper, chill for a bit, and you’re good to go! It’s a slightly chunky dip, I think due to the fact that the beans are not super-soft, but no one seemed to mind.

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I served the dip with fresh veggies and Popchips (several of the partygoers had never had them before, the were big fans. I’m happy to share the love). Check out my snazzy little parsley and chive flower garnish. Fancy, no?

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The dinner party, of course, was lovely (if you know my sister, you would expect no less). The flowers in Mason jars made a simple but elegant centrepiece, and the food was simple and elegant as well. We started with my dip and another appetizer, my sister and brother-in-law looked after the meat and Catherine made her signature spring pasta dish – an asparagus/ricotta/parmesan/olive oil creation. Two other guests brought yummy salads. My plate’s above – a small piece of chicken, salads, and pasta. I had seconds of all but the meat.

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I did my best to use self control, and finished the meal feeling like I had not stuffed myself, and sampled a lot of delicious spring dishes. My real triumph, however, came in the dessert department. My sister made her absolutely delicious (I know because I’ve had it before) shortcake to enjoy with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I had a few crumbs while helping serve, but when it came time for my dessert, I just had the unsweetened berries and a bit of (real) whipped cream. Hello, self control! Not that I couldn’t have the cake, I just chose not to…part of the Shape up for Summer challenge, I guess you could say. Sweet success, especially for a dessert lover like me.

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I left the dinner party by 9, since I had an hour’s drive ahead of me, didn’t want to be home late, and because I wanted to stop at Chapters and use my 25% off coupon! With it, I bought the Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook (so expect to see recipes coming up). And since I skipped out on cake, I didn’t feel at all guilty about treating myself to a light caramel frappucino for the road. Smile…I also had room for a late-night soft serve treat before bed. I know night time eating is not the greatest habit, but I just love my bed time snack, what can I say? And you can’t really argue with a treat as healthy as fruity soft serve.

I hope your Saturday was simply delightful (maybe even verdant)….do you ever use that word, or is it just me?

A little busy

7 May

You’ll have to forgive me if this post is a little short/lacking in healthy eating inspiration. You see, I’m kind of busy today. Why?

Well, because of this.IMG_0999

Also this….

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And this….

IMG_1006Oh yeah, and this too.

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Today I’m catering a birthday dinner for 20 people. In between 2 weeks of full-time teaching (yes, I may just be insane). I’m having a blast, but it’s a lot of work. The pictures you see are just some of the things I made last night (maybe that’s why I was up past midnight? Disappointed smile).

Anyway, I hope you understand if I miss a post tomorrow and don’t come up for air until Monday…I might come up with something, but no promises (after all, there’s still a Mother’s Day breakfast I have to make too)!

The menu is a delicious combo of appetizers and sweet foods…I know it will be a real crowd-pleaser. I promise to post at least one recipe out of the deal, sound good?

Hope everyone’s enjoying the weekend, and just in case I don’t make it on here tomorrow, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there who are reading this (especially my Mom….hi mom!)….you all inspire me daily with your generosity, encouragement and sacrifice!

What are you making/doing for Mom this year?