Archive | September, 2012

Jicama: Fresh, Flavourful, and Full of Fibre!

21 Sep

Today I bring you another installment of my adventures with jicama. Did you know that the slightly sweet taste of jicama is due to its high inulin content? Neither did I. Inulin is a dietary fibre with several documented health benefits. Studies have shown that inulin can reduce blood triglycerides. It also acts as a prebiotic— food for the healthy ‘probiotic’ bacteria in your gut.

With its high fibre content, jicama may increase satiety and assist with weight control. One cup of sliced jicama contains a whopping 6 grams of fibre and only 48 calories. A healthy diet should contain 25 to 38 grams of fibre daily; unfortunately, the average Canadian only consumes 14 grams of fibre each day. If you consider yourself to be an average Canadian, add two cups of jicama to your day and ta-da! You’ve met your fibre requirements.

Enough about my nutrition ramblings… onto the food! I stumbled across this recipe for Jicama with Peanut Sriracha Dip while browsing at Indigo one evening. It comes from the cookbook ‘Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables.’ Ripe is the type of cookbook that you could proudly display on your coffee table yet it could just as easily live on your kitchen counter, full of stains and dog ears. The photos are works of art and the recipes look delectable. Of all its reviews, this one from the Portland Press Herald is my favourite…

“Open the cover and let the fruits and vegetables seduce you. From beets with bedroom eyes to come-hither coconuts, the new cookbook “Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables” reads like a love letter to produce…”

The dip combines two of my favourite flavours: coconut and peanut. It was pretty good as a dip but could have used more acidity to cut the creaminess of the coconut milk and peanut butter. We had lots of extra dip so E and I used the leftovers as a sauce for a shrimp and tofu stir-fry. It was heavenly!

Jicama Spears with Sriracha Peanut Dip


Jicama with Peanut Sriracha Dip
(from Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables)

Sriracha, affectionately known as “Rooster sauce” is a Thai hot sauce made from chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.  It can be found in the Asian food section of most major grocery stores.  Add as much Sriracha as you can handle.  The heat intensifies as the dip chills.

2/3 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup natural peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
3/4 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp Sriracha sauce, or more, to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped, unsalted, roasted peanuts (optional)
2 medium jicama

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cilantro, chopped peanuts, and jicama.  Whisk gently over low heat until smooth and warm, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro.  Cool to room temperature.  Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours or overnight to allow the flavours to blend.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the jicama with a sharp paring knife.  Cut into sticks roughly 1/2 inch wide.  Cover and refrigerate the sticks so that they’re nice and cold.
  3. When ready to serve, taste the dip with a jicama spear to check for heat and balance.  Because the jicama is sweet, tasting them together is important.  Add additional Sriracha, one squeeze at a time, to achieve your desired heat level.  Top with chopped peanuts before serving.

Makes 1 cup dip and 30-40 jicama spears.  Per 2 tbsp dip (without chopped peanuts): 80 kcal, 4 g CHO, 0.8 g fibre, 6.3 g fat (1.7 g saturated), 2.5 g protein, 54 mg sodium.


Jicama and Orange Spinach Salad with Ginger Dressing

17 Sep

Contain your excitement, please.  This week I bring you not one but TWO recipes that use a relatively uncommon vegetable.  Jicama, pronounced ‘heek-ah-mah’ (also known as yam bean), is a starchy sweet root vegetable native to Mexico.  With a crispy texture resembling a cross between a potato and a pear, jicama is commonly eaten raw in salads and slaws or dipped into salsas.

Jicama keeps a low profile. An addictively crunchy texture is revealed once its unassuming fibrous exterior is peeled away.


While living in London, I tried to get my hands on jicama for what felt like forever.  Coincidentally, every time it was on my grocery list jicama was nowhere to be found.  I did spot it the odd time (London is not that small) but never had the confidence to pick it up without a recipe in mind.

Now that I’m in Toronto, jicama is readily available at some of the larger grocery stores.  I’ve fallen in love with its crispiness and subtle sweet taste.  It’s the perfect snack straight up: no dips or dressing necessary.  For my first jicama attempt, I followed a recipe for an orange, jicama, and red pepper spinach salad with a soy-based vinaigrette.  The salad wasn’t particularly fancy but the flavours worked really well together.

My next jicama attempt?  Stay tuned…

Spinach salad with Jicama, Orange, Red Pepper, and Red Onion.


Jicama and Orange Salad with Ginger Dressing
(from Rose Reisman)

2 cups peeled jicama, sliced into strips 1/2 inch wide by 3 inches long
6 cups baby spinach
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 large orange, peeled, membranes removed and cut into thin strips

4 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
2-1/2 tsp sesame oil
2-1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
1-1/2 tsp water
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger

Garnish (Optional):
1-1/2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

  1. Place the jicama, spinach, red pepper, onion, and orange in a large serving bowl
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, olive oil, water, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.  Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro, if using.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 137 kcal, 3.9 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 24 g CHO, 5.3 g fibre, 2.9 g protein, ~100 mg sodium.

WANTED: Recipe Ideas for a Box of Scrumptious Produce

12 Sep

I just couldn’t contain my excitement over today’s Fresh City Farms box so I had to share!

Food Box

Clockwise from the bottom left:
White acorn squash, Shitake mushrooms, Pea shoots, Strawberries, Cherry tomatoes, Collard greens (again!), Carrots, Blue grapes, Lobo apples, and Yellow potatoes.


Do you have any recipe suggestions to help me enjoy this box of goodies?

Appeasing a Dietitian and a Meat-Lover at the Same Time: Apple-Fennel Stuffed Tenderloin

9 Sep

As promised in my last post, a guest entry from E.  Disclaimer: I have nothing against meat.  -Lisa

Living with a dietitian can be tricky at times, especially when you’ve been given a nickname like ‘the living black hole’.  For those who don’t know me, I eat everything, and a lot of everything.  Even spinach.

While I do enjoy tickling my sweet and savory taste buds, nothing beats salivating over a perfectly cooked piece of meat, biting into its fleshy tenderness, spilling flavorful juices onto your tongue, and firing up all those umami taste buds.  This sensation is heightened to heaven when the meat is well marbled, with fat of course.

May I remind you that I live with a dietitian.  Apparently, too much animal fat in your diet is not good for the ticker or the physique.  So one must tread carefully when suggesting meal ideas that revolve around meat to a dietetic girlfriend.

I’ve learned that you have half a fighting chance when you talk up the dish and make it slightly more extravagant than just a slab of meat.  For instance, you can “butterfly a lean pork loin” and “stuff it with fennel and apples, roast it to perfection” as well as “serve it with a side of sautéed greens with garlic” (I’ve highlighted the words that you may want to stress when describing this dish).

This dish in theory should serve four relatively hungry adults.  It only lasted one evening between the two of us.  The meat came out tender and juicy and the fennel and apple added a natural and subtle sweetness to the dish.  Enjoy!

Apple and Fennel Stuffed Pork Tenderloin


Healthy Apple-Fennel Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
(lightly adapted from The Rachael Ray Show)

1 pork tenderloin, roughly 1.5 lbs (~700 g)
1 tbsp canola oil
Light sprinkling of salt and pepper
Half of a small fennel bulb, cored and julienned, plus a pinch of chopped fronds
Half of a firm apple, such as Gala or Honey Crisp, cored and julienned
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, preferably whole wheat
5 sprigs fresh thyme, stems discarded and leaves reserved
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a rimmed baking tray with aluminum foil and lightly grease with canola oil.  Set aside.
  2. Trim pork loin of silver skin.  Use a small paring knife for this job.
  3. To butterfly the pork loin, place the loin on its side so it naturally sits with the widest side on the cutting board.  With a sharp butcher’s knife, slice the loin lengthwise so you can open up the loin like a book, leaving about ½ an inch at the end of the loin.
  4. Cover the pork loin with Saran wrap and using a meat hammer (or the side of a pot), pound the loin out to ¼-inch thick.
  5. Place extra-virgin olive oil into a skillet over medium heat.  Add the fennel, apple, onion and garlic.  Sautee for 8 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme leaves.
  6. Add the apple juice and breadcrumbs into the skillet and mix well to make stuffing.  If stuffing is too dry, add additional apple juice as needed.
  7. Place stuffing onto the pork loin leaving about an inch of meat on each side uncovered.
  8. Roll the pork loin up and place seam side down on a baking tray.
  9. Rub 1 tbsp canola oil on the pork loin and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Transfer the pork loin into the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
  11. When the meat comes out of the oven, let rest before serving by covering it with aluminum foil for 10 minutes.

Makes 4(ish) servings.  Per serving: 345 kcal, 41 g protein, 10 g fat (2 g saturated), 20 g CHO, 2 g fibre, 405 mg sodium

Eat Your (Collard) Greens!

7 Sep

Say the name ‘collard greens’ and I immediately think of Southern cooking. Since I’ve never purchased or cooked them before, it was a pleasant surprise to receive a bunch in my first basket from Fresh City Farms last week  (I’ll take photos of next week’s glorious basket, promise).

“Eat Greens for Health – Feed Right to Feel Right”
British poster, 1939-45
…a postcard given to me by a good friend

My initial fear was that the collard greens would be overly pungent, regardless of how they were cooked.  Thankfully I was wrong!  In this recipe, the combination of sauteed garlic and shallots subdued the natural bitterness of  the collard greens.  They were full of flavour with only the faintest bitter undertone, which actually enhanced the dish.

To accompany the braised greens, we took a walk on the wild side with an apple and fennel stuffed pork tenderloin that was artfully prepared by E.  Stay tuned for a guest post from him, entirely unedited.  Okay… maybe only slightly edited.

Braised collard greens + a sprinkling of turkey bacon


Braised Collard Greens with Garlic and Shallots
(from The New American Plate Cookbook)

Note: the turkey bacon was a good, but not great, addition.  Feel free to omit it.

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
3 medium shallots, minced (about 1/3 cup)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch (about 1 pound) collard greens, stems removed, leaves washed, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fat-free reduced sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 strip turkey bacon, cut in half lengthwise, then across into 1/4-inch strips

  1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute.  Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the greens, add the broth, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover the reduce the heat to low.  Cook for 10 minutes, until the greens are bright in colour and tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook the turkey bacon in the remaining 1 tsp of oil until crispy and golden, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  When the greens are done, stir in the turkey bacon and its pan drippings.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 110 kcal, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 13 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 5 g protein, 129 mg sodium.

The Ultimate Comfort Food: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

3 Sep

Yesterday I made a tomato soup that almost burned down my kitchen.  Was it a pleasant cooking experience?  No.  Would I do it again?  Probably.

While visiting my parents last weekend, I spotted a recipe for a roasted tomato basil soup in one of my mom’s cookbooks.  The recipe looked easy enough so I knew I had to make it while tomatoes were still in season. First step: roast a pound and a half of plum tomatoes.  The halved tomatoes were tossed in olive oil, spread onto a baking sheet, then placed in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Simple, right?  Within 5 minutes, a loud sizzling noise could be heard from the oven.  Through the window I saw a haze of smoke.  Uh-oh.  I glanced over at the ‘culinary oil smoke points’ magnet on my fridge and read: Olive Processed – 428 degrees Fahrenheit.  Phew.  Everything is going to be okay, I thought.  Looking back at the magnet, all feelings of calm were erased once I noticed the last line: Extra Virgin Olive – 331 degrees Fahrenheit.

Panic ensued.  I frantically phoned E asking him to purchase a fire extinguisher on his way home.  My google search of “oven fire” led me to realize that a fire extinguisher was not, in fact, necessary so I phoned him back to tell him not to bother. (Aside: I still plan on buying one because it’s probably a good thing to have around).  I opened every window and door in my apartment.  I cleared floor space, making sure there was unobstructed access to the oven and the smoke detector.  And then I waited.  And waited.  The tomatoes continued to sizzle in the oven although the smoke had somewhat subsided.  I nervously peeked through the window every 2 minutes, ensuring I would be able to react quickly when/if a fire were to erupt.  After 45 minutes (which felt like 2 hours), the oven timer beeped and the tomatoes were ready to be removed from the oven.  They were perfectly roasted with a slight char and my kitchen remained intact.  Success!

The soup was rich in flavour and absolutely delicious.  Totally worth the stress.  Would I make it again using olive oil to roast the tomatoes?  Not likely.  Canola oil would probably work just as well and doesn’t run the risk of burning down your kitchen.

The ultimate comfort food


Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
(lightly adapted from The Best of Bridge Presents… A Year of the Best)

1.5 lbs ripe, Roma (Plum) tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 tbsp olive oil (use with caution!)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (use 1/4 tsp for a spicier soup)
Half of a 28 oz can of plum tomatoes and juice (preferably no-salt-added)
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (preferably low sodium)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toss tomatoes with 2 tbsp oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, heat 2 tsp oil and saute onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes until onion starts to brown.
  3. Add canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and broth.  Add oven-roasted tomatoes, including any liquid on baking sheet.  Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.  Puree in batches using a food processor or in the pot using an immersion blender.  Add additional salt to taste, if needed.  Serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 165 kcal, 16 g carbohydrate, 3.8 g fibre, 10 g fat, 2.7 g protein, 641 mg sodium.