Tag Archives: salad

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?

Corn to be wild

2 Aug

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I made a lot of corn on the cob for Sunday’s BBQ. So much so that I had to cook it on the stove in our HUGE roaster. See these bags of corn? That’s *almost* all of the leftovers (minus the one cob I used for lunch today).

My mom informed me that she’s kind of tired of corn on the cob right now. I told her it’s a bad time to be tired of corn. So what to do with it all? Here’s what I’IMG_2424ve come up with so far….

For lunch yesterday, one cob’s worth of corn kernels made their way into a tasty salad, along with the teensiest bit of leftover “cowboy caviar,” red pepper, green onion, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, pickled red onions, fresh basil and parsley, and a tasty dressing made with chardonnay peach vinegar.

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What are those herbaceous cheesy topped veggies beside the salad? SO glad you asked. They don’t contain corn, but they were so tasty, I just have to share with you! I grilled a slice of eggplant and a portabella mushroom. Then I topped them with a couple of tablespoons of light ricotta cheese, salt and pepper, chopped thyme, basil and oregano, and lemon zest and juice. Mmmm! Summer deliciousness to the max. All the flavours worked SO well together and made a great light bite.

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Lunch was good. But more corn still remained. What to do, what to do? Then I thought, “I bet if I made cornbread with fresh corn kernels, it would be really good.” Then I thought, “I bet I could find a recipe that uses buttermilk, since I still have buttermilk kickin’ around in the fridge after making these biscuits.” Then I looked in Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and found her recipe for buttermilk cornbread. Then I though, “I bet I can make this healthier.” And here we are.

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I think that Pioneer Woman would be disappointed in me if she saw what I did for her cornbread. And this is why: 1. I sweetened it. I think I’ve heard that southerners DO NOT like their cornbread sweetened…but I do. And not only did I sweeten it, I used Splenda (the horror!). 2. I cut out the shortening and used a reduced amount of oil. You know how PW loves her ranch food. Since my long runs can never come close to the rigors of working on a ranch, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, ya know? I also used a square pan since I don’t have a cast iron skillet. PW, I love you, and hold you in highest esteem. Please don’t hate my northern cornbread, ok?

Fun fact: It took me three tries to get my “ingredients” (or cast of characters, as PW would say) shot since I kept forgetting things! The things I do for the blog!

Northern Girl’s Healthified Corny Cornbread

  • 1 cup Yellow CornmealIMG_2430
  • 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ cup Splenda
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While oven is pre-heating, put a 9 inch square stoneware pan or other oven-safe pan in the oven to get nice and hot. MAKE SURE YOUR PAN IS OVEN SAFE SO YOU DON’T HAVE A TRAGIC ACCIDENT AND HURT YOURSELF!!!!

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and Splenda in a bowl. Stir together.

Measure the buttermilk and milk in a measuring cup and add the egg. Stir together with a fork. Add the baking soda and stir.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until combined.

Slowly add vegetable oil to the batter, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in fresh corn and jalapenos (if using).

Remove the hot pan from the oven and spray liberally with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Edges should be crispy! Cut into 12 pieces.

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Dry ingredients.

 

 

 

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Plus milk/buttermilk/egg/baking soda mixture.

 

 

 

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Add in the jalapenos and the corn kernels.

 

 

 

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Mix it all up, and ready to go in the oven.

 

 

 

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My pan is nice and hot. It’s really fun to pour in the batter and hear it sizzle.

 

 

 

 

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Now what goes good with cornbread? Can’t you tell what I’m going to make with olive oil, MORE CORN, zucchini and tomatoes from my garden, red pepper, mushrooms, onion, garlic, cauliflower, black beans, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, canned black beans, and leftover outside-in tamale pie (a little freezer burned after almost 4 months in the freezer, IMG_2441but not much worse for wear)? Don’t those leftovers just look SO appetizing in the photo? Smile with tongue out 

What? It’s not obvious? Ok, I’ll tell you: chili! And a darn tasty chili too! I just combined the above ingredients (well, sautéed the fresh veggies in the oil first) with a bit of water, salt, pepper, spices and Epicure seasonings, simmered away, and voila!

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The chili was delicious, and even better topped with Greek yogurt and leftover pickled onions, with a side of a cool cucumber salad, and of course, cornbread! I picked a pretty hot day to have chili, I’ll admit, but it did use up a lot of leftovers, so mission accomplished. At the end of the day, I said I felt like all I’d done was cut corn off the cob…do you understand why?!?!

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I was literally sweating after eating the hot chili for supper, so this chocolate cherry sundae (low fat vanilla ice cream, fresh sweet cherries, fat-free biscotti, light chocolate syrup, fat-free Reddi-Whip) cooled me down nicely.

 

I’ve still got a big bag o’ corn left. Any bright ideas to use it up?

Sorry….salads!

26 Jul

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Just to clarify the title, these are not sorry salads, as in, salads that have seen better days. More like, sorry…I’m posting salads AGAIN! But it’s hot, it’s summer, and this really is what I’m eating these days. So if you’re a salad hater like my cousin Jonathan, my apologies.

But before I give you the down-low on my latest salad sensations, some exciting news: I WAS FEATURED IN MY LOCAL PAPER YESTERDAY! Check out the article here. I called the paper to tell them about my blog and upcoming trip to the Healthy Living Summit, and to see if they wanted to write an article about me…turns out they did! As a Canadian blogger in a small town, there are many strikes against me when trying to promote HHH, but there are also benefits (ie, if I call up the paper, I get an interview and an article. Also, my stats jumped way up yesterday, so I guess even the smallest media feature helps. And if you are a new reader who found me via the Reformer, welcome!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled salads.IMG_2285 When I tell you the main ingredients of my Sunday lunch salad, it’s going to sound sort of like a weird casserole your hippy-Aunt would make.

  • kale
  • beets
  • quinoa
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • portabella mushroom

….see? But it’s really good, I promise! This was my first time eating raw kale, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it was actually pretty good. I mixed the kale with arugula and spinach for my IMG_2286greens, and tossed in some beans and peas from the garden as well. Then, I grilled a slice of zucchini, Vidalia onion and a portabella mushroom cap; sliced them up and tossed them in. I topped it all off with a cup of cooked, sliced beets (I pre-boiled and chilled them so they’d be at the ready when I needed ‘em), half a cup of leftover, cooked quinoa, fresh thyme and basil, and feta cheese. My dressing was made up of fancy cranberry wine vinegar, grainy mustard, oil and fat-free Italian salad dressing.

Oh. Wow. This salad was seriously yummy, and not in a weirdo healthy way at all. I love beets, and the sweetness of them and the cranberry vinegar in the dressing worked perfectly with the saltiness of the feta. The mix of grilled and fresh veggies provided a nice mix of textures as well. Mmmmm! And, as seen in the last close-up, one thing I love about beets is how they colour everything around them – I think it’s just so purdy.

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Salad number two is another grilled veggie wonder – grilled corn and zucchini, tossed with fresh spinach, onion, cucumber, red pepper, tomato and a bit of broccoli slaw. I put a bit of ham and feta in the mix, along with fresh dill, salsa, red wine vinegar and fat-free Italian dressing. Another winner! This salad was nice and light, and was the perfect pre-pool party lunch for Friday when I knew I’d be nibbling all afternoon.

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This is not a very good photo (I only have two hands, and I don’t have my own personal photographer), but I am attempting to show you a little trick I learned from Rachael Ray: when stripping corn off the cob, stand the corn up inside your bowl vertically, and run your knife down the cob – then all your kernels will end up in the bowl!

This may seem like a lot of salads, but starting today, it won’t be like that the rest of the week. I’ve got two lunches out planned (thanks groupon and wagjag), a BBQ/dinner planned with family and some friends visiting from BC, a potential girls’ pool party (rescheduled from last weekend), and we’re hosting two BBQs on the long weekend….so wish me luck! This is going to be one of those weeks when the 20% of the 80/20 rule won’t be enough for all of the splurging I want to do!

Do you like eating salad all summer, or do you get sick of it?

Oats, peas, beans and barley grow

19 Jul

Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,IMG_2208
Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
Can you or I or anyone know
How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?

…anyone else know this song? I feel like it may have been a Sharon, Lois and Bram classic. Anyways, that’s what was going through my head as I picked snow peas and beans from my garden today. I just need some oats and barley to complete my song! Or maybe I could rewrite the lyrics: “herbs, peas, beans and zucchini grow”? Any takers?

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So you know me, almost as soon as I got those guys outta the ground, I had to get them into my stomach! Exhibit A: my delicious watermelon, ham and veggie salad for lunch yesterday (there are peas and beans under all that pink-ness, I promise!). My greens were spinach and garden-fresh arugula, the vegetation was red pepper, cucumber, yellow and green beans and snow peas from the garden, cucumber, red onion and tomato. I used up the last of the watermelon leftover from the fruit bouquet and 4 slices of lean deli ham (preservative-free, thank-you-very-much). For herbage, I added some fresh cilantro.

I topped this all off with salt and pepper and a delicious vinaigrette made from schmancy maple wine vinegar, fat-free Italian dressing, oil and Dijon mustard. Once again, another salad winner, folks! Peppery arugula, sweet and juicy melon (just that combo alone was FANTASTIC), crunchy veggies, and herb-y freshness from the cilantro: summer perfection! Another added benefit? The lovely pink hue. Nothing like a salad in your favourite colour to get your week off to a good start!

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Exhibit B: The delicious bean side dish I made for supper last night. It was a riff on a Martha Stewart recipe I made last summer for my mom’s birthday called Neapolitan Green Beans. The original recipe calls for simmering the beans with fresh tomato, slice garlic, chili flakes, and basil. I have done my own variations on this dish several times, and they all turn out great. Here is a loose recipe guideline to help you re-create and/or re-invent this dish.

Neapolitan Green Beans

Adapted from Martha Stewart

  • Green and/or yellow beans to serve as many as you’d like
  • Tomato/some sort of tomato product (you can use any kind of fresh tomato – plum, cherry, regular, or canned tomatoes, or tomato sauce, or any combination of the above) This time, I used a bit of frozen spicy tomato sauce and part of a fresh tomato.
  • A pinch of chili flakes (omit if you don’t like things spicy or if you’re using spicy tomato sauce, as I did this time)
  • Fresh garlic, sliced (use as much or as little as you’d like)
  • A few sprigs fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the beans and cut in half. Place the beans, chili flakes, garlic, tomatoes and salt and pepper in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes. Add basil sprigs (leave whole), increase heat to medium and simmer, uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes until liquid is slightly reduced. Remove basil sprigs and serve.

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When the beans have simmered for about 10 minutes and look like this, it’s time to….

 

 

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….add the basil! Then simmer away some more.

 

 

 

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This is what it looks like when it has simmered and is ready to go…just take the basil out first!

 

 

 

This is a seriously simple side that tastes amazing! It will be even better when made with the fresh tomatoes that will arrive in my garden in a few weeks. No taste better captures the essence of summer than fresh tomato and basil, if you ask me.

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Now, what to pair these beans with for a garden-fresh summer meal? So glad you asked. How about a Sobey’s Compliments Chipotle BBQ chicken breast, quinoa with balsamic sage mushrooms, and corn on the cob? Yes, I think that would be nice.

All joking aside, this was one tasty, summer-licious meal. The only downside? A lot of pots to clean – between cooking the quinoa, the beans, the corn and sautéing the ‘shrooms – that was 4 pans!!! Good thing there was no clean up from grilling the chicken! Smile with tongue out

Do you have any favourite “unconventional” summer sides (besides the usual suspects – potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, etc)?

Chill out!

16 Jul

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It’s summer…and the weather is HOT! (NOT that I am complaining…I am a summer baby, and I can take the heat). But sometimes, our bodies just crave the cold stuff. If the picture at the top of this post confuses you, it’s because there’s a bit of tromp d’oeil going on (that’s French for “tricking the eye”) – this soup was downright chilly!

I got the idea on Tuesday, when I was thinking of what to have for lunch, and what I had in my fridge. IMG_2124I was thinking that the crushed San Marzano tomatoes I had would make a lovely soup with a roasted red pepper, some Laughing Cow and fresh basil. But I didn’t want to go to the time, temperature and trouble of making a hot soup. So, I thought, why not use these ingredients to make my own version of a cool and creamy gazpacho?

For those of you who don’t know, Wikipedia tells us that “Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup, originating in the southern region of Andalusia.” I use the term gazpacho loosely, as I’m sure mine isn’t authentic (and, quite frankly, I enjoyed it more than any gazpacho I’ve had), but it was absolutely amazing, can be made in the bowl it’s served in, and uses only 4 ingredients (plus water, salt and pepper). What more could you ask for?

Creamy Cold Tomato and Red Pepper Gazpacho – serves one

*Some quantities are approximate, as I didn’t measure, just threw stuff in. I don’t think a little more or less of any one ingredient will ruin the dish, you’ll just give it your own unique spin.

  • About 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes (use San Marzano if you can find them – they’re amazing)
  • 1 jarred roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 2 wedges light Laughing Cow cheese
  • A generous handful fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About the same amount of water as crushed tomatoes

Put the cheese in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 30 seconds until softened. Add all remaining ingredients (except for the garnishing basil leaves) and puree with an immersion blender until smooth (if you don’t have one, you could throw this in a blender, but you REALLY should get an immersion blender, it makes life so much easier (unless you give yourself stitches with it…but that’s another story)). Chill in the fridge until nice and cold (or go for a few minutes in the freezer if you’re in a rush). Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy – that’s it, that’s all!

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Paired with roasted cauliflower and a grilled cheese on a thin bun, this was the perfect lunch – the summer version of everybody’s favourite comfort food classic – tomato soup with grilled cheese. Please, please PLEASE try this soup. It is dead easy, and tastes like summer in a bowl. Totally refreshing, no heating up the kitchen, and minimal clean up – what more can I say to convince you?

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Well, Ill try this: I loved the soup so much that I made it again on Thursday – exactly the same, didn’t change a thing. This time, some garlic scapes accompanied the cauliflower (both roasted), and I swapped out the thin bun grilled cheese for a quesadilla made with goat cheese, fresh basil, and grape tomatoes plus a few slices of full-sized tomato. Other than the tomato making the flatbread slightly soggy, the whole meal was delicious.

Now see that bottle in the back left? That was one of my delicious impulse buys at Winners on Wednesday. I should really stay away from the “home” and checkout sections of that store .Why? Because I go in to look for oven mitts and a spoon rest, and come out with this:

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The spoon rest (at least I got one thing on my list – they didn’t have any oven mitts that I could see), rose water (it’s one of those things I see in recipes from time to time but can never find. Now that I have it I probably won’t be able to think of/find  a recipe that uses it, because that’s the way my life goes), fudge brownie coffee (the crazy thing about this, is that I would tell you I don’t drink coffee – I just bought this stuff to add variety to my iced coffee drinks), freeze-dried apple/strawberry combo (I’m a sucker for freeze-dried fruit, love the stuff) and truffle (the mushroom, not the chocolate)-infused balsamic vinegar (it was fancy, French, and came in a spray bottle….I couldn’t say no!). And the crazy thing is, that’s not even everything I wanted to buy. I resisted the urge to get fancy tea (darn that promise I made to myself not to buy more until I used up my overflowing stash) and cute bowls that were ON SALE.

…anyway….I misted that vinegar over the roasted veggies and it was actually quite delightful. I love things in spray bottles – just so perfect for finishing things like roasted veggies and adding a touch of flavour. I will certainly re-use this bottle when the tasty vinegar is gone.

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Speaking of cool, check out this AMAZING mega-salad that I had after UFC class with Donna Wednesday night. It’s a pumped-up summer time version of the watermelon/feta salad of a few weeks back. My greens were garden lettuce and arugula. Veggies: lightly cooked asparagus (the last, I’m afraid, until next year), cucumber, red pepper, tomato, and grilled zucchini and Vidalia onion. The herb-age was tons of fresh basil.

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For added protein power, I grilled a Sobey’s BBQ Chipotle chicken breast (I did this and the veggies, along with steaming the asparagus and chopping the melon at lunch time, as I knew I would be home later, and I wanted there to be minimal time between getting home and enjoying this salad. The plate you see to the left, along with the chopped melon were waiting for this sweaty beast when she arrived home). IMG_2165

I threw all of the above into my standard “big salad” bowl (Pampered Chef medium square bamboo bowl, in case you were wondering) with a cup of watermelon and honeydew chunks (leftover from the Edible Arrangement), salt and pepper, and feta crumbles! My dressing was made with schmancy blueberry wine vinegar, fat-free Italian dressing, Dijon and olive oil. The fruity flavour went perfectly with the salad.

All in all, pretty much a perfect summer salad. Some people see eating salad for dinner as punishment, but I can ensure you, it is not so with this salad. It was the perfect mix of cool, crunchy, sweet, spicy and salty, and it was totally and completely satisfying.

What are your go-to cold recipes for hot weather?

Sweet and Salty Salads

28 Jun

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It’s no secret that I love all things sweet and salty. Pretzels and peanut butter, salted caramel…I could go on (and on and on)….but sweet and salty salad? Seems a bit more unlikely, but trust me, it’s good! In the last week, I’ve tried 2 sweet ‘n salty salad combos, and both have worked out delightfully.

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My first attempt was for a lunch last week. It seems like in the food world (blogs, magazines), I’ve been seeing the watermelon feta combo EVERYWHERE for the last few summers. It’s always intrigued me, but I’ve never tried it, and since I had watermelon in the fridge leftover from Father’s Day, I decided the time was right to give it a go. My base was spinach leaves, which I topped with watermelon and feta, fresh mint, tomato (I feel like I’ve seen those 2 in many of the recipes I’ve come across), Vidalia onion (because I love ‘em, and WHY NOT?) and steamed asparagus (because it’s in season, and I put it in practically everything I can this time of year).

I made a fruity vinaigrette with one of my schmancy wine vinegars from Niagara to top it all off. The verdict? Yum! Perfectly cool and refreshing…could be a new summer classic! I love the salty feta paired with the sweet watermelon, and the mint added a nice freshness. I will definitely do this one again (although, since asparagus season is drawing to a close, it sadly may not make an appearance).

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SSS (sweet salty salad) # 2 was created for last night’s (low carb day of the week….last one for June) supper. I was home later after signing up for my one month cheapie membership at the Athletic Club and trying my first class which reduced me to a quivering pool, and wanted something quick and cool (and of course, low in carbs) and that used up stuff in the fridge.

This salad’s greens were lettuce, chives and parsley FROM MY GARDEN (sorry, didn’t mean to shout at ya there, just lovin’ the local). I topped them off with “normal” salad veggies for me (cucumber, mushrooms, red pepper, Vidalia onion), then some grapes that had been in the fridge since, as Katie would say, “Jesus walked on water,” sliced fresh strawberries (I would have gone all berry, but my desire to use stuff up won), diced ham (had some in the fridge, also leftover from Father’s Day, that needed to be used) and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds for crunch. I mashed a couple of strawberries into my dressing, created with another one of my fancy wine vinegars (maple this time).

Results? Also delicious. Sweet and salty wins every time. Now, it’s no peanut butter and pretzels, I’ll admit, but still incredibly fresh and delicious.

Two side notes:

1. I am STOKED about my one month membership at the Athletic Club. And although my Shape up for Summer challenge officially ends as of Thursday (full summary/recap to come), I think this is just what I needed to push myself more in my workouts, if my soreness from my first class (TRX, a totally cool weight class which uses this crazy harness thing, your body weight and resistance) is any indication. Just glad they also have a pool so I can use that to recover!

2. I am also STOKED about the huge bump in my site stats the last 2 days. I don’t know if I’m done anything in particular to draw in new readers, but my numbers went WAAAAY up Sunday and yesterday. So a big thank you to everyone who stops by to hear my ramblings and follow my journey. I truly appreciate you all and I hope you enjoy reading this little blog as much as I enjoy writing it.

Question: What’s the most unusual salad combination you’ve ever created?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Secret Ingredients

7 Jun

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Do you make something that has a “secret ingredient”? You know, that one thing that enhances your dish somehow, but no one would ever guess what it was? Saturday was “secret ingredient day” over at HHH.

I went to my grandparents’ for dinner on Saturday with my mom, and she asked me to make a salad (see above photo). I just threw a bunch of veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, celery, green onion, broccoli slaw mix) together for a slaw-ish salad, and it turned out really well. But the secret ingredient’s in the dressing: pickle juice! I was pulling out ingredients for the salad, and was putting fresh dill in anyway, and I saw a pickle jar with one lonely dill pickle (which I ate), and thought, why not? It’s just dill-flavoured vinegar, and I would have put in vinegar anyway. Confession: after eating the pickle and putting the juice in my dressing, I ate some of the garlic straight outta the jar! Embarrassed smileThe other dressing ingredients besides the pickle juice were: ranch dip mix, Epicure French Onion dip mix, Dijon mustard, fresh dill and chives, and fat-free Miracle Whip. Mmmm….really good! Use this on any coleslaw/broccoli-type salad this summer – sure to be a winner at any BBQ or potluck!

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After dinner on Saturday, we went over to my Aunt’s house and I brought cupcakes since her birthday is today (happy birthday Auntie Rue!). But not just any cupcakes – black-bottom cheesecake cups – and healthy ones at that! What makes them healthy? That’s the secret ingredient! There are no butter or oil in these babies, instead they use….

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…PRUNE BABY FOOD! I can’t take credit for the idea, it’s an old Weight Watchers recipe. It’s kinda like the applesauce idea, keeping the moisture, cutting the fat. But the prune thing would only work in chocolate baked goods I think – you’d get some pretty funky cookies if you put in just a chocolate chip cookie dough or something like that! Smile with tongue out The recipe calls for almonds on top too, but I omitted them this time, because my cousin’s allergic to nuts. That means there’s even less calories, so I can have 2, right? With the nuts though, these cupcakes only have 151 calories and 3.5 g fat each – a bargain if you ask me!

Black-bottom Cheesecake Cups – makes 18

from Weight Watchers: All things SweetIMG_1672

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon instant coffee

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 4 oz jar prune baby food (my jar was 4.5 oz, so I ate a bit…it was actually pretty good! Mind you, I like prunes)

1 cup water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 ounces (one tub) fat-free cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 large egg

cooking spray

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup toasted chopped almonds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine prune butter, water, vinegar and vanilla; stir well. Add to flour mixture, stirring with a whisk until blended. Set chocolate batter aside.

3. Beat cream cheese in a bowl at medium speed of a mixer (or vigorously with a spatula and a fork) until smooth. Add icing sugar and egg, beating until well blended; set cream cheese mixture aside.

4. Place 18 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Divide chocolate batter evenly among muffin cups; spoon cream cheese mixture evenly on top of chocolate batter in each up. Sprinkle chocolate chips and almonds over cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans and let cool completely on wire rack.

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Now since these  are so healthy and all (practically fat-free, and think of all the fibre from the prunes!), I think it’s only right that I licked the bowls pretty clean, don’t you? Winking smile Good, glad you agree. If you do make these, make sure you get a bit of both kinds of batter on your spatula, so you can lick the chocolate and the cream cheese goodness at the same time!

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These are a great go-to recipe for those times when you want to take a dish to a get-together, and you want it to be something you can indulge in without going over the top, and you also want it to be something everyone will LOVE! I promise you, no one will ever guess the secret ingredient if you don’t tell them!

 

 

 

What’s the most unusual “secret ingredient” you’ve ever used (that is, if you’re willing to share your secrets)?

Full of Beans

5 Jun

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Have you ever heard that expression before? I remember my mom using it growing up to say that me or my sister were kind of silly/crazy. Although I would describe myself as being “full of beans” in the crazy sense quite often, that’s not what this post is about, it’s more in the literal sense. Winking smile The beans in question? Garbanzos (aka chickpeas). I am a BIG fan of canned beans. For 99 cents (if you buy no-name), you can get 4 servings of a protein and fibre-packed food that is both tasty and extremely versatile. Win, win! So that’s one layer of the post title. The second meaning comes later on, keep reading and scrolling.

I love healthy eating/cooking blogs (and some not-so”healthy” ones too). Seriously, I don’t know what I did without them. While I come up with many of my own meal ideas, I love getting ideas and inspirations from all you other brilliant bloggers out there. I sometimes think there’s not enough hours in the day to read all the blogs I love! So when I saw this recipe over at Oh She Glows, it immediately piqued my interest. Fresh herbs? Chickpeas? Lime and cumin? I’m in. But the funny thing is, Angela adapted it from another blog, then I adapted it from her. Follow the link for the original recipe, below is what I did.

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Cilantro (and other herb) Lime Chickpea Salad (adapted from Angela who adapted it from Heather)

Makes 2 small or one large serving

1/2 can chickpeas, drained

Fresh cilantro, parsley and chives (I didn’t think I had enough cilantro yet in my garden to go ALL cilantro. Also, the original recipe called for fresh spinach, which I didn’t have, so I upped the herb-age).

About 1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped red onion

One clove garlic, chopped

Small spoonful of Dijon mustard

Generous pinch of cumin

Lime juice

Fat-free Italian recipe (original called for olive oil, I swapped it out for this)

Splenda (swapped in for sugar in original)

Salt and Pepper to tasteIMG_1623

Process all ingredients except chickpeas, onion, salt and pepper in food processor (action shot). 

Combine the dressing with the chickpeas and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit in the fridge for a bit if you have time to develop flavours.

I used this in lunches 2 days in a row last week as part of a larger, “enhanced” salad (I know, more salads, but I warned you)!

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Salad one (on the left) was a basic Romaine and fresh veggie salad (plus more fresh herb-age) with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the side, which I poured over right before serving. Good, but not WOW.

Salad 2 on the other hand, really hit the spot. This one was a “combine-with-dressing the night before and let sit” kinda deal. Lightly cooked asparagus, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, fresh parsley and chives, broccoli slaw mix, red pepper. Dressing: the “juice” from the chickpea salad, a bit more lime juice, red wine vinegar, Dijon, fat-free Italian, salt and pepper. Mmmmm! Those flavours combined and marinated to absolute perfection. This was Friday’s lunch, where I was supplying at a track and field day, so my multiple ice packs kept this nice and chilled in my bag and I was SO ready to dive in at lunch time!

My only “downside” to this chickpea salad was that I wish that I had enjoyed it on its own/in something that allowed its flavours to stand out a bit more. I liked what I did, but I don’t feel like I really let the chickpea salad take the starring role that it could have.IMG_1627

Now, if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I DO NOT like letting food go to waste. You also might know (although I haven’t mentioned it as often) that I have sort of a fear/paranoia about slimy canned beans. So, once a can is opened (sometimes even before), I am thinking about how I can incorporate the rest of the can into upcoming meals. Case in point: the aforementioned garbanzos.

I had seen the idea for the salad and wanted to make it, but didn’t want to make the whole one-can batch as originally posted. What to do with the other half of the can? Make a seriously delicious veggie-packed vegetarian (and even vegan if you leave off the cheese)-friendly pasta dish, naturally! Here’s how it all went down (this recipe serves 2). IMG_1628

I sautéed chopped asparagus, mushrooms, onion and garlic in 2 tsp olive oil in a non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, then added the remaining little bit of a can of tomatoes that was in the fridge. I reduced heat, added salt and pepper, then let it simmer away.

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Meanwhile, I cooked 4 ounces whole wheat macaroni. Towards the end of the sauce cooking, I added in a cup of chickpeas (the other half of the can), and generous portions of fresh oregano, basil and parsley. *Fresh herb tip: add fresh herbs right at the end of cooking time. While you can add dried herbs in early, fresh herbs have a more delicate flavour, which can be cooked out if you add too early.IMG_1630

Add the cooked pasta, and a bit of that starchy cooking water (thanks Rachael Ray), crank the heat back up, and simmer for just a few more minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.

 

 

 

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Spoon into bowls to serve, and top with crumbled goat cheese (unless you’re going vegan). Mmmm….so good! Fibre-packed and full of veggies. Healthy, fresh, and incredibly delicious. I believe my mom’s words after eating this were: “that was exactly what I wanted, even though I didn’t know it yet.” Smile

Now for the second meaning of this title….

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Know what these are? If you guessed the bean plants in my garden, you’re right! This is what they look like 1.5 weeks after the seeds are planted. One is yellow, one green (can you guess which is which Smile with tongue out?). I just love planting things and watching them grow! Even better when I know I will get to eat them eventually!

What is your favourite bean dish (using canned beans or otherwise)?

A Succession of Salads

2 Jun

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So this is not the first of the salads you’ve seen on here lately. And it will not be the last. Here’s a few reasons why:

1. It’s getting hotter. And when it gets hotter, I crave cooler, which means MORE SALADS.

2. I am still (even a week later) getting back into the swing of things after vacation. That means my body craves lots of veggies: salads fit the bill.

3. Salads fit perfectly into my “low carb-ish” plan (which I am now over, but as per the Shape Up challenge, I am trying to do one day a week).

But, this first salad is a little different. It’s based on a Hungry Girl recipe from her first cookbook, but as usual, I tweaked it a bit and gave it my own spin. The salad I am about to present is, get this, a cheeseburger salad! Basically, it combines the cheese-y/pickle/mustard/ketchup flavour of a cheeseburger, with the nutritional benefits of a salad. Win win! SmileAnd you know what’s even more winning? I ate this salad OUTSIDE!IMG_1606 I love warmer weather! Wanna make it? Let’s get started!

So for the salad part, you can use your choice of lettuce/greens and vegetables. I went for spring mix, steamed asparagus, mushrooms, red pepper, onion and tomato (I wouldn’t skip those last 2 though, they really add to the all around “burger” experience). For more burger-y goodness, chop up a dill pickle and throw it in. And since I wanted to walk on the wild side, I added a few chopped pickled jalapenos (totally optional though).

For the dressing, I wanted to capture that essential ketchup and mustard combo that I love on burgers so much. I combined a good squirt each of ketchup and mustard (plain ol’ yellow stuff, nothing fancy!) with 1 tsp olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, fat-free Italian dressing, just a touch of tomato juice from a can of tomatoes (you could leave that out, I just had a partial can in the fridge) and a touch of Splenda. Shake it all up and toss with your salad.

The burger was a BOCA from Buffalo (but you could use any veggie burger, or even a meat one of your choice). I microwaved it to thaw, then cooked in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. After flipping, I topped it with one Velveeta cheese slice (again, you could use another type of cheese, but it might not have the same authentic cheeseburger taste), and put on a lid to help the cheese melt better. When cooked through, chop up the booked burger and top your salad. Summer in a bowl (or on a plate, your choice)!  Burger meets salad and they are oh-so-happy together!

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The second salad is one that I ate, but not one that I made. Yesterday, I went out for lunch with my BFF to chat and catch up (I hadn’t seen her since before my vacation) at the Barrel, a local Italian restaurant that is one of my long-time favourites. It has a recently-opened patio, and since the weather was so nice, we wanted to check it out (it was quite lovely, except they had nothing to weigh down their umbrellas, and as it was very windy, one took off into the parking lot and Megan had to chase it). I ordered to go-to safe bet for healthy lunch when dining out: house salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. I know, I know, kind of boring, but the Barrel seasons the chicken really nicely, so it’s pretty satisfying. I had a couple of bites of one breadsticks, as well as a few of Megan’s fries and a bite of her sandwich. Perfect lunch for outdoors on a hot day, and good to catch up.

What foods do you crave in the summer?

Salad Days

27 May

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Eating lots of salads to get back on track and help shed a few pounds sounds kind of brutal, doesn’t it? Visions of scarfing down endless bowls of greens sounds sort of like punishment. I ate a nice, big healthy salad for both lunch and dinner yesterday, and it was anything but boring. And although it was healthy, it didn’t seem like “diet food” to me.

Just look at that big, beautiful salad (last night’s supper) – doesn’t it look yummy? I’m not sure if I will remember all the veggies in it, but I will try. I started out with some mixed greens, then added:

  • multi-colour grape tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • cauliflower
  • snow peas
  • orange bell pepper
  • asparagus (just slightly cooked, so it was still tender-crisp)
  • fresh parsley and chives (thank you, perennial herbs in my garden Smile)
  • red onion
  • frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • jarred roasted red peppers
  • broccoli slaw mix
  • sliced sundried tomatoes

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My protein was this PC Blue Menu Mediterranean Herb Turkey Filet (I split the whole thing between 2 salads for my mom and I). This was my first time eating this turkey and it DEFINATELY won’t be my last! I cooked it on the grill, and it was soooo tender and tasty!

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This is what the whole thing looked like after I grilled it. I let it rest for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I didn’t want it steaming hot on the salad, and also, if you cut meat right after you take it off the grill, all the juices run out and it’s not as tender and juicy (it’s true, not just something they say on tv).

I layered the chopped turkey on top of all the other veggies, seasoned with freshly cracked garlic sea salt (Epicure, of course Winking smile) and black pepper, and topped the whole thing off with sliced avocado. My dressing was a mix of 1 tsp olive oil, Dijon mustard, fat-free Italian dressing and some simply delicious Raspberry Baco Noir wine vinegar I bought in a fancy wine vinegar mini six-pack back in March when my sister and I had dinner in wine country). These vinegars ROCK! As I said to my mom, often on fancy-sounding vinegars like that, the names are just for show, but you really CAN taste the unique flavour in each one.

Everything came together fantastically for an absolutely amazing salad. IMG_1562Seriously, sooo good (and huge too, I like that in my food). But even better still? I concurrently made a salad for today’s lunch! Everything was the same, minus the corn, turkey and avocado, and plus some chopped deli ham. I love making supper and lunch at the same time – saves on all the chopping and prep.

 

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I did the same thing on Wednesday night when I made a fantastically tasty pork tenderloin for supper (made a quick rub of garlic salt, fajita seasoning, cumin, chili powder and Epicure salsa seasoning) and then threw it on top of an Asian-style broccoli slaw for yesterday’s lunch….don’t you just love cooking ahead?

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So you may be wondering, how’s the low carb thing going after 2 days (even if you’re not, I’m gonna share)? As you can see, it’s involved a lot of salads and lean proteins. But I’ve also come up with some tasty sweet options (which I will share on the weekend). I will never say that I like not eating carbs (you know how much I LOVE my desserts, and my beloved vitatops, and bread…), but honestly, it hasn’t been that bad. I think my body was just craving lean options (mostly veggies and fruit) so much that it’s been happy with the change. But mind you, this is me after only 2 days….we’ll see how long it lasts!

I’m hoping to get my veggies and herbs in the ground this weekend (maybe even tonight), so expect an update on that to come too. Happy Friday everyone!