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Healthy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

30 Apr

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that we eat 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. For many people, getting in enough fruit is no problem. Sweet and portable, it makes an easy snack. Vegetables, on the other hand, tend to be harder to squeeze in. That’s where an easy, yet tasty and healthy dip comes in handy.

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When I don’t have the energy to plan out my lunches for the week, I tend to throw together a picnic of sorts. This usually consists of an easy protein like hard boiled eggs or canned tuna, whole grain bread or crackers, and two to three cups of chopped veggies with dip to meet my daily quota. But it’s hard to find a truly healthy vegetable dip. Most are mayo or sour cream-based, and loaded with fat and calories. So I turned to the Internet in search of a tasty yet healthy make-at-home option.

I was initially drawn to this ranch seasoning recipe because of the blogger’s stunning photos (which I poorly tried to recreate at home). But once I tried it out, it became clear that this recipe is a winner. Buttermilk powder forms the base (found at bulk food stores) and is pumped up with onion and garlic powder, and dried herbs like parsley, dill, and chives. As a bonus, the seasoning mix can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge to be used whenever you need a quick and easy dip.

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Low-fat Greek yogurt is the perfect foundation for any vegetable dip. It’s thick and creamy, yet low calories and high in protein. For the best flavour, I’ve found that adding a dollop of light mayo adds just the right amount of tang for a next-level vegetable dip. Low-fat sour cream can also act as a healthier dip base, but lacks the nutritional boost that Greek yogurt offers.

If you’re not meeting your recommended daily vegetable quota, try throwing together a batch of this skinny ranch dip. It will make raw veggies sing!

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Healthy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

2 tbsp homemade ranch seasoning mix (see below)
1 cup 2% plain greek yogurt
2 tbsp light mayonnaise

  1. Mix ingredients in a small bowl until combined. Can be served immediately or left overnight for flavours to meld.

Makes 1-1/4 cups. Per 1/4 cup serving: 91 kcal, 3.3 g fat (1.4 g saturated), 7 g carbohydrate, 0.5 g fibre, 8 g protein, 106 mg sodium

 

Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix (from www.gimmesomeoven.com)
1/3 cup dried buttermilk powder
2 tbsp dried parsley
1-1/2 tsp dried dill weed
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried chives
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

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Brilliantly Bright Borscht

10 Feb

My job has serious perks.  As a food lover, it hardly feels like work to sample an array of vegan products that I may eventually recommend to my patients or feast on a spread of Mardi Gras-themed dishes that may make their way onto the cafeteria’s menu.  Lucky for me, I had the pleasure of doing both this week.   Events like these are side projects that our dietetic interns are involved with over the course of their training.  As a former intern not too long ago, shopping for interesting food products and perusing the web for recipes was a nice break from the clinical work, case studies, and research projects.

In the fall, an Ontario borscht was sampled at an event that I was unable to attend.  It received such rave reviews that the recipe was sent out to all of the dietitians.  Earlier this week, I stumbled across it in my inbox so I made it my mission to cook up a pot this weekend.

Borscht

Never having made borscht before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The colour is stunning (never wear white when cooking or eating borscht) and the flavour was more complex than I anticipated.  Beets can be overpowering but subtle potato and cabbage flavours shone through.  It’s a shame that I couldn’t taste all of the different vegetables in this dish (there were a lot!) but I was reassured by knowing that I was getting all of their nutrients.  Best of all was the texture.  In this particular recipe, the cabbage retained a bit of crunch and provided nice contrast to the rest of the softer vegetables.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch, since I read that borscht is supposed to taste better the next day.

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Ontario Borscht
(from Foodland Ontario)

Since it’s the middle of winter, I wasn’t able to use nearly as much Ontario produce as the recipe calls for.  This is the perfect autumn dish, when everything is in season.

2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
6 Ontario Beets, peeled and shredded
4 Ontario Leeks, chopped
2 cups (500 mL) sliced Ontario Mushrooms
2 Ontario Carrots, shredded
2 cloves Ontario Garlic, minced
1 Ontario Onion, chopped
1 Ontario White Turnip, peeled and shredded
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 Ontario Potato, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
7 cups (1.75 L) beef or vegetable broth
2 tbsp (25 mL) tomato paste
2 cups (500 mL) shredded Ontario Cabbage
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp (50 mL) red wine vinegar – I used 4 tbsp
1 tsp (5 mL) granulated sugar
Salt and pepper
Sour cream and snipped chives or green onion tops

  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add beets, leeks, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, onion, white turnip, celery, potato and bay leaves; cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
  2. Stir in broth and tomato paste. Bring to simmer and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in cabbage and beans; cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Season with vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste, adding more vinegar and sugar if needed (there should be a nice sweet and sour balance).  Discard bay leaves. Place dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of chives on each serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. Per serving (based on 10 servings): 157 kcal, 3 g fat, 25 g CHO, 7 g protein.

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.

 

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
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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)
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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.

Cajun-spiced Lotus Root Chips

23 Aug

As much as I love taking advantage of the local produce during this time of the year, curiosity gets the best of me and I can’t help but gravitate towards exotic fruits and veggies every once in awhile.  A trip to Chinatown on the weekend led to several impulse purchases…

Goodies from Chinatown

No, that’s not a sweet potato with a snout, a kiwi, or a lime.  Instead, clockwise from the left you have lotus root, sapodilla, and june plum.

Lotus root was a foreign vegetable to me until I met E.  With a beautiful appearance and slightly fibrous texture, it is commonly stir-fried or braised in Chinese cooking.  Lotus root has a relatively mild taste that is akin to a potato but a bit sweeter.  Nutritionally, it’s very similar to the potato but with slightly less starch and more fibre.  Per 100 g lotus root:  66 kcal (vs. 86 kcal), 16 g carbohydrate (vs. 20 g), 3.1 g fibre (vs. 1.4 g).

A cross-section of the unpeeled root

Peeled and sliced

The inspiration behind my recent lotus root purchase came from a recipe I stumbled across on the Internet: oven baked lotus root chips that promised to taste delicious and look gorgeous.  While the process was fun, the final product was subpar.  I can’t blame the recipe here.  Instead, I’ll blame my atrocious knife skills.  The lotus root slices all ended up being of a different thickness so some of the chips burned while others were undercooked.  Nevertheless, I managed to gobble them all up (even the charred ones) in record time… they were delicious!  With a mandoline, perfectly cooked chips would be a cinch.  Another kitchen gadget to add to my culinary wishlist…

An interesting technique to blanch the lotus root slices in the microwave

The final product: baked lotus root chips

 

Oven Baked Lotus Root Chips
(from Grouprecipes.com)

1/2 lb lotus root (about one medium)
2 tsp cajun seasoning (or your own concoction of spices)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vegetable oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash and peel the lotus root, removing any brown bits as you would with a potato.  Slice 1/8 inch thick (or use a mandoline if you have one!).
  3. Slide the roots onto bamboo skewers and string across a microwave safe bowl (as pictured above).  Microwave on high for 2 minutes to blanch.  Immerse immediately in a bowl of cold water with 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or lemon juice and a couple of ice cubes.  When cool, drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  4. Mix the lotus root slices in a large bowl with the oil, spices, and salt.  Spread out onto a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet (or for easy clean-up, a baking sheet lined with foil and lightly coated with cooking spray).
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove the chips when they are brown and golden, just like a potato chip.

Makes 2 servings.  Per serving: 125 kcal, 20 g carbohydrate, 5.6 g fibre, 4.6 g fat, 3 g protein, 340 mg sodium.

Tofu: the Culinary Chameleon

5 Feb

Tofu seems to be gaining a little bit more respect from the masses than it used to garner.  Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that it’s still considered to be bland and unappealing by most.

One of the beautiful things about tofu is that it easily takes on the flavour of other ingredients.  It’s truly a bona-fide culinary chameleon.  After a conversation about protein with a couple of friends several weeks back (you know– a usual Saturday night topic of discussion!), I went looking for a hummus recipe that incorporates silken tofu.  I thought this might lend a nice creamy texture to hummus while adding protein of a higher biological value.

The recipe I found was titled “The Most Awesome Hummus Ever.”  While tasty, I still think “my” spicy roasted red pepper hummus is the most awesome. Ever. No question about it.

Tofu and Chickpea Hummus

The tofu-hummus was a milder, creamier version of traditional hummus.  Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was a fan– the chickpea flavour wasn’t nearly as potent as I’m used to– but over time I really came to enjoy its subtleness.  This hummus is also a lot creamier than usual (thanks to the tofu), making it ideal for dipping.  Like a fine wine, this hummus gets better with age.  Wait at least one hour to taste this hummus, particularly if you’re weary of tofu in the first place.  The tofu flavour is just barely noticeable at first but vanishes with time.

With the extra tofu, I decided to make silken chocolate pudding.  A true testament to the chameleon nature of tofu: the same ingredient was used in both a garlicky hummus and a rich chocolately dessert!  Believe it or not, the tofu was virtually undetectable in the pudding (again, providing you allow the pudding to sit for at least one hour).  If you can’t resist the temptation to lick the bowl/spatula/any other surface that comes in contact with the chocolate pudding… be warned: you will taste the tofu, and you’ll probably be turned off of the entire dessert.  However, if you’re patient the result is an incredibly rich, chocolately mousse-like pudding… that also happens to be high in protein for a dessert.  It’s particularly amazing topped with sliced bananas. Yum!

Silken Chocolate Pudding

 

Chickpea and Tofu Hummus  (from Circle B Kitchen)

1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup silken/soft tofu  (approx a third of a package)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Blend ingredients in food processor until very smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover. Let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.  Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Makes approximately 2.5 cups.  Per 1/3 cup serving: 110 kcal, 5 g fat, 5 g protein, 2.5 g fibre, 175 mg sodium.

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Silken Chocolate Pudding
(from Moosewood Restaurant’s Cooking for Health cookbook)

This is the scaled down version of the recipe, which will allow you to use up all of the tofu leftover from the hummus.

2/3rds of a 16oz package of silken tofu
2 tablespoons icing sugar
5 ounces semisweet chocolate (I’ve used as little as 3 ounces and it still tastes sufficiently chocolately)
4 tablespoons water (or milk)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. In a food processor, whirl the tofu and icing sugar until well blended.  In the microwave, warm the chocolate, water/milk, cocoa, and vanilla until the chocolate melts.  Stir until thoroughly mixed. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.
  2. Pour the chocolate sauce into the food processor with the tofu mixture.  Whirl again until smooth and silky.
  3. Spoon into 4 serving cups and chill for at least one hour.  Tastes best if left to sit overnight.

Per 1/3 cup serving (of 4): 245 calories, 14 g fat, 6 g protein, 3 g fibre, 9 mg sodium.

Revelations in the Kitchen: Pita Chips and Crostini

17 Sep

I’ve been doing a fair bit of entertaining in the past couple of weeks and I’ve made some interesting– maybe even life-altering?– revelations in the kitchen.  Let me share…

Roaming the aisles of the grocery store last week, I found myself appalled by the price of crackers.   A box of crunchy baguette-style crackers was priced close to $5. Five dollars!!! What a rip off.  I continued to roam and stumbled across a freshly baked baguette.  Hmmm… could I really make my own crackers?  I was about to find out.

My “Best Light Recipe” Cookbook has become a trusty advisor in the kitchen.  It contains detailed recipes for even the most basic things.  I was in luck: they had directions for homemade crostini (baguette-style crackers) and homemade pita chips to serve alongside the-best-hummus-ever.  Both were so easy to make, I’m almost embarrassed I hadn’t discovered them sooner.

Crispy Pita Chips (with what little remains of the hummus!)

For the Homemade Pita Chips

4 whole wheat pita breads
Cooking spray (preferably olive oil spray or butter flavoured spray, but ordinary canola oil spray should work just fine)
1/4 tsp salt

Adjust your oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Split 4 whole wheat pita breads into 8 thin rounds.  This can most easily be done using kitchen scissors to cut around the perimeter, but you can also tear with your hands, just be gentle!  Cut each round into 6 wedges.  Arrange wedges, smooth-side down, over 2 rimmed baking sheets.  They will be crowded but don’t worry!  Spritz the top of each wedge with cooking spray , then sprinkle with salt.  Bake the wedges for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they begin to brown.  Flip the wedges and reverse the positions of the baking sheets (the one on the top rack will now go on the bottom rack and vice-versa).  Bake for another 8 to 10 minutes or until chips are fully toasted.  Enjoy!  (Chips can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days)

For the Homemade Crostini

1 baguette, preferably whole wheat
Cooking spray (preferably olive oil spray or butter flavoured spray, but ordinary canola oil spray should work just fine)
1 clove garlic, peeled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Diagonally slice baguette into thin slices.  Spread the slices out onto a baking sheet and spray the tops with a spritz of cooking spray.  Bake for 4 to 5 minutes, then flip toasts and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes or until bread is dry and crisp.  While still hot, rub one side of each toast with the raw garlic clove.  Enjoy!

The Summer Squash Conundrum

10 Aug

I was at the garden on Monday morning to tend to “my” bean plants, which haven’t been doing so well.  I call them my bean plants because I have a bit of an attachment to them; back in May I was assigned the task of planting the kidney bean-like seeds along the west fence of the garden.  Since then, I have diligently watered and weeded around the seeds, anxiously waiting for the plants to flourish.  Some have grown significantly while most have had their tops eaten off by the deer.  Sigh.  On a positive note, a few of the plants have recently flowered so it looks like there will be beans (if only a few) after all.

While at the garden, I picked up a few treats: a turnip (great for turnip “fries”, which look just like french fries but have that characteristic turnip bitterness), a few patty pan squash, and a handful of these odd looking berries:

Cape Gooseberries (aka Ground Cherries)

After a bit of research, I discovered that these are called cape gooseberries (also known as ground cherries) and grow inside of a husk-like pod, which creates a beautiful “leaf” at the top of the berry when opened.  As for taste, they are kind of like a sweet, fruity tomato.  Not my favourite, but they’re pretty and make a nice garnish.

Now, to the squash.  I picked up two patty pans that were lying in the middle of the garden after having been dislodged from their respective plants after a thunderstorm the night before.  I also picked one that was MASSIVE because I figured it would have otherwise gone to waste.

The patty pan squash family

While trying to decide what to do with my squash family, I went online to read up on patty pans.  They come in 3 different colours (yellow, green, and white– we have the white variety in our garden), have a similar texture and taste as zucchini, and are normally cooked when they are no more than 2 to 3 inches in diameter.  Uh oh.  My little guy fit the bill but the massive one was more like 8 inches!  Apparently there is no harm in eating larger patty pans but they tend to lose flavour and tenderness with age.  With that, I decided to slice and saute the two smaller ones in a little bit of olive oil (delicious! tasted just like sauteed zucchini) and I chopped up the massive one to make… a SOUP!

This soup was totally improvised so the recipe below is just a guide.  The best (and most necessary) part is the Moroccan spice mix.  I had some leftover from a snack I made last week (roasted chickpeas, which I am still determined to perfect… more on that another day) and decided to throw some in.  It’s a super flavourful spice mix that will definitely become a staple in my spice rack.  For this soup you can use just about any summer squash– zucchini, yellow summer squash, or patty pans.

Summer Squash Soup

Summer Squash Soup

1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 extremely large patty pan squash or 4 zucchinis, chopped into 1 inch cubes
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
2 tsp Moroccan spice mix (see below)
salt, to taste (optional)

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until softened and beginning to brown.
  2. Add squash and saute for another minute.  Add spice mix and saute for 1 minute, or until spices become fragrant.
  3. Add vegetable broth, cover pot, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. Remove pot from heat, allow to cool slightly, and puree in a blender or food processor or with an immersion blender.  Add salt to taste.  Serve warm or cold.

Makes 3 servings.  Per serving: 105 kcal, 3 g fat, 3 g fibre, 300 mg sodium

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Moroccan Spice Mix    (from Fine Cooking magazine)

2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp sweet paprika (I used regular)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of ground cloves

Mix all spices together and store in a glass jar.

Mock-A-Mole (+ Super Easy Homemade Salsa)

8 Aug

Mock-a-mole, as in mock guacamole… not the arcade game “whack-a-mole.”  Confused?  Let me explain.

I had a couple of friends + my sister over for dinner a couple of weeks ago.  I decided to go with a Mexican theme and do tacos since they are so tasty but not something I would make for just one or two people.  As a bonus, most of the work can be done in advance.

Super Easy Homemade Salsa (scroll down to see the recipe)

Guacamole was a must, and this was the perfect opportunity to try a recipe for light guacamole that I had been eying since I purchased “The Best Light Recipe” cookbook last summer.  The cookbook is written by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, a magazine renowned for its “near obsessive dedication” to finding the best methods in home cooking.  Each recipe reads like an elaborate experiment (perfect for the science nerd in me) with the authors testing and re-testing an array of different ingredients and cooking methods in order to obtain the best product.

The Best Light Recipe cookbook

For this lightened up guacamole (aka Mock-a-mole), 2 out of 3 avocados were replaced with cooked, pureed lima beans.  It sounds odd, but the end result was not much different in taste from traditional guacamole.  The flavour was actually a bit brighter, perhaps due to the addition of a dollop of low-fat mayonnaise for added creaminess.  The downside?  The skin of each lima bean had to be removed by hand (otherwise the puree won’t be as smooth), which was easy but time consuming.

According to the recipe, most traditional guacamoles contain 100 calories and 9 grams of (healthy) fat per 1/4 cup serving while this light Mock-a-mole has 70 calories and 4 grams of fat.  In the end, I’m glad I tried it but I’m not sure the handful of calories saved were worth the effort!

Mock-a-mole

Light Guacamole aka Mock-a-mole   (from The Best Light Recipe)

Note:  I omitted the tomato and cilantro, but only because I had a couple of picky eaters over for dinner

1 medium tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped fine
1 cup frozen lima beans
1 medium ripe avocado
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 tbsp minced red onion
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
ground black pepper

  1. Place the tomato in a small colander set inside a bowl and set aside to drain.
  2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.  Add the frozen lima beans and cook until tender and creamy, about 5 minutes.  Drain the beans and rinse under cold water until cool.  Pat the beans dry with paper towels then remove the skins by pinching the beans so the skins slide off.
  3. Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and scoop out a quarter of the flesh. Puree a quarter of the avocado, skinned lima beans, lime juice, mayonnaise, and salt together in a food processor until smooth, 1 to 1.5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  4. Cube the remaining three quarters of the avocado into 1/2-inch pieces and scrape into a medium bowl.  Add the pureed lima mixture, drained tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, onion, garlic, and cumin; stir gently to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.  The guacamole can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 day if covered with plastic wrap pressed flush against the surface of the dip.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 2 cups.  Per 1/4 cup serving: 70 kcal, 4 grams fat, 3 g fibre, 210 mg sodium

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Super Easy Homemade Salsa   (from Allrecipes.com)

This is a great alternative to store-bought salsa.  It’s incredibly fresh in flavour and a cinch to prepare in the food processor.

1 can (28 oz) stewed tomatoes, drained
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 cup canned sliced green chiles (or canned pickled jalapenos)
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt, to taste

  1. Reserve several of the canned tomatoes and chop coarsely.
  2. Place remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend on low to desired consistency.
  3. Add coarsely chopped tomatoes and stir to combine.

The Best Hummus… Ever

6 Jul

This is the best hummus you will ever eat.  Seriously.  The roasted red peppers give it a mild sweetness which is countered perfectly by the spicy cayenne pepper.  The roasted red peppers also add a ton of moisture, meaning you get a nice smooth texture without having to add excessive amounts of water (which dilutes the flavour) or oil.

This hummus is so good that I’m at a loss for words.  Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
(from Allrecipes.com)

1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Process on medium to high speed until the mixture is smooth and slightly fluffy.  Periodically scrape the mixture from the sides of the food processor.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Makes 2 cups.  Per 1/4 cup serving: 64 kcal, 2.2 g fat