Cucumber Carrot Salad with Sesame Seeds

It is the height of summer and the selection of fresh, local, in season fruits and vegetables is at its peak.   It is the perfect time of year to enjoy your favourites and try some new ways to prepare them.  This salad is fresh and delicious with Asian flavours that really make the dish pop.   The crunchy carrots and cucumbers almost become lightly pickled in the tangy lime juice, chili, rice vinegar dressing.  It is light and refreshing and just perfect for hot summer days.

Cucumber Carrot Salad with Sesame Seeds
Cucumber Carrot Salad with Sesame Seeds

Spiralizing fruits and vegetables is so fun.  My kids love to do it and it is an easy way to involve them in the kitchen prep. Wash well, trim the ends off the carrots and cucumbers, and spiralize away.  Straight vegetables tend to work better as you don’t have to reposition them as you go.  There is no need to peel the vegetables.

It’s all about having fun with Summer’s bounty this month with The Recipe Redux.  You will find loads of cute and playful ideas featuring fruits and vegetables made into noodles, spirals, shapes and fancy cuts.  Check out all the posts in the link below.

Cucumber Carrot Salad with Sesame Seeds

Serves 4

3 mini English Cucumbers, spiralized

2 medium carrots, spiralized

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Dressing

1 tablespoon lime juice, fresh

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch dry red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Directions:  Make the dressing first by mixing everything together in a small bowl and set aside for flavours to blend.  Spiralize carrots and cucumbers and toss together.  Add dressing and mix well.  Plate and top with sesame seeds.

Check out all the fun posts by clicking on the button below.

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Summertime…when the living is easy.  Salads like this and summer meals in general often come together almost intuitively, simply by picking what is fresh, ripe, colourful, and appealing.  There is nothing quite like the taste of a tomato or peach or English pea that is picked at its peak, bursting with luscious flavours.  Summer is for savouring these tastes that we have waited a long time to taste again.  It’s all about summertime in the July Canadian Food Creatives #cdnfoodcreatives event.  This hashtag on Instagram or Twitter will quickly help you find all the recipes and posts that are part of this special event, featuring fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables. Thanks to Cassie from Crumb Kitchen for putting this together this month.

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad
Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Combining beautiful ingredients could not be easier in this flexible summer salad. Zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and the first of the new red onions are combined with briny kalamata olives and salty, creamy feta all dressed in a delicious lemony dressing made with fresh oregano. Add some hummus and pita to the table and it is a terrific lunch.  This colourful plate  would look terrific as part of a BBQ spread or any summertime event.

Grilling the zucchini is easy. Trim the stem and ends and cut into half lengthwise, then cut each half into 4 long wedge shaped strips.  I like to brush the grill with oil and place the zucchini on top.  Grill on medium for about 3 minutes for each side, rotating the strips to get impressive looking grill marks on all three sides of the wedges. Remove and let cool.

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Serves 6

2 medium zucchini, grilled and cut into small bite size pieces.

3 small bell peppers, cut into bite size pieces ( I like to use one of each colour)

4 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 pieces

1/2 cup kalamata olives

1/2 cup cubed feta cheese

1/4 cup red onion, diced small

Dressing

1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, packed

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh chives

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions:

Make the dressing first so the flavours will blend.  Add everything to a small food processor or blender and blend until herbs are finely chopped and all the ingredients are combined.  Set aside.

Combine grilled zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and red onion and gently toss to combine.  Add dressing and gently mix to coat the vegetables.  Pour onto a serving plate or bowl and top with feta and olives.

10 Garden Fresh Summer Dishes
10 Garden Fresh Summer Dishes

 

Lentil Amaranth Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This recipe for stuffed portobello mushrooms is elegant and completely delicious.  Using both lentils and amaranth, these are a  great source of plant based protein and packed with many valuable nutrients.  Adding roasted peppers compliments the meaty flavour and texture of the portobellos and the tangy, creamy goat cheese brightens the dish.  To make this meal vegan, pine nuts would be a suitable substitute.

Cooking Lentils
Cooking Lentils with Aromatics

Cook the lentils and grains first, using water or stock for extra flavour.  I think I first learned to cook lentils many years ago from Deborah Madison’s excellent cookbook “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” where she adds flavourings to the cooking water. Adding aromatics to the lentils really supplements their flavour.  Seasonings like parsley, thyme, summer savoury, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf in whatever combination you have around work well with lentils.  Wash lentils, heat along with plenty of water and add aromatics.  Heat on medium until the water comes to a boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes or until cooked. Drain and remove aromatics.

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Lentil Amaranth Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

In this recipe I used amaranth.  Amaranth is an ancient grain that is naturally gluten free.  It is also a very good source of good quality protein and has a light nutty taste.  Studies show that the quality of protein in amaranth is on par with the quality of animal based protein.  Cooking amaranth is easy as it cooks in only 20 minutes.  It is a good addition to your morning oatmeal or mixed with rice or other grains to add variety and boost the nutritional profile. For more information on amaranth seek out a reliable source such as The Whole Grains Council. 

Lentil and Amaranth Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese

Serves 6

2 cups cooked lentils

1 cup cooked amaranth, quinoa, or other grain

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped green onions

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

1/4 tsp salt

fresh ground pepper

6 portobello mushrooms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together lentils and amaranth.  Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, herbs and mix well.  Gently stir in roasted red pepper, saving a few for the top to add visible colour.

Brush mushrooms to clean or wipe with a damp towel.  Remove stem and gently brush inside of cap with olive oil.  Fill mushrooms with approximately 1/2 cup filling, dot tops with remaining roasted red pepper, goat cheese, a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley and place on roasting pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool a little in pan before removing and plating.

 

 

Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Ancient Grains Salad

I am so excited to join the Recipe Redux Group!   I have been following some of these blogs for a long time and it is just so fun to be part of the group.  I love that the recipes are healthy, delicious and that we all support each other. The June theme is just that, celebrating each other.

I chose to highlight  Jeanette from Jeanette’s Healthy Living. When I first starting following her blog, I was attracted to the healthy focus, vibrant colourful recipes and learned a lot about ingredients and cooking for people with special diets.  The perfect example is this beautiful Mexican Corn Quinoa Salad.  It is gluten free, colourful, vegetarian and filled with protein and fibre. Thanks for the inspiration, Jeanette.

I made a half recipe of the salad as I had a smaller group to prepare for.  I used a mixed ancient grain blend of red quinoa, amaranth and millet in place of the quinoa but any grain could be used.  I added a little more spice as suggested in this easy to follow recipe. This is a terrific recipe to take to a picnic or barbecue and is great for entertaining as it can be made in advance.

Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Ancient Grains Salad. This delicious, very nutritious salad is vegan and gluten free.  It is the perfect dish to bring to a BBQ or a potluck.
Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Ancient Grains Salad

Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Ancient Grains Salad

2 cups cooked grains ( I used a blend of quinoa, amaranth and millet)

1 1/2 cups corn

1 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup black beans, cooked

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground

pinch cayenne

pinch chipotle

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped chives or green onions

1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

salt and pepper

Heat 1 tsp oil in pan on medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add corn and cook until lightly golden brown.  Add spices and cook a minute or two more.  Cool.  Combine grains, corn, black beans and dress with olive oil, fresh lime juice, salt and pepper.  Add cilantro and green onions or chives and mix well.  Taste to adjust seasonings if necessary.

I hope you will check out all the dishes to join us in celebrating The Recipe Redux Group.

Whole Bowls by Allison Day

 

Whole Bowls Cookbook by Allison Day

I was pretty excited to review “Whole Bowls” by Allison Day. As a nutritionist I tend to seek out other nutritionists or dietitians or those with a strong health focus. It is just my natural affinity.  I enjoy her blog, Yummy Beet, which is fun and friendly and has terrific recipes, all written with her easy going style.

Whole Bowls focuses on gluten-free vegetarian recipes, and many recipes are vegan. Included early in the book is a pantry guide, which includes information about the nutrition and benefits of many unique grains and seeds. The book offers ideas that any diet could include. I love how balanced the recipes are, with a strong focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.

I found the recipes easy to follow, such as Eat Your Greens Salad with Chickpea Croutons and Green Goddess Dressing, shown below.  It is an example of the many recipes within recipes, such as various salad dressings, pesto (Cherry Hazelnut pesto anyone?) and hummus (with green peas!).  I appreciate that many recipes use everyday ingredients, which makes it easy and approachable for every kitchen. For this salad, I simply gathered various herbs and greens that were ready in my garden.

 

Eat your Greens Salad with Chickpea Croutons and Green Goddess Dressing
Eat Your Greens Salad with Chickpea Croutons and Green Goddess Croutons

Whole Bowls is beautifully photographed.  Each recipe includes a photo which makes it a lovely book to peruse and also gives you an idea of what the recipe (might) look like once made.  The photographs echo the theme of the book: lots of variety, colour, texture and flavour.  The writing is fun, with playful descriptions that will put a smile on your face — “lime kissed”, “kale is the belle of the ball”, “embrace your inner tree hugger”, or “this bowl will make you want to hippy hippy shake”.
Reading Whole Bowls is inspiring me to compose my own special bowls. Thanks to Foodie Pages for sending me a copy of this gorgeous book.  I am enjoying it and would not hesitate to recommend it.  Although I was given a copy, all opinions are my own.

Yogurt Cake with Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb

I feel so lucky to have a small but beautiful garden where I can grow strawberries and rhubarb.  It was completely delightful to head outside and pick what I needed to make this recipe.  Although I have only a small space, I continue to be impressed with just how much food we can produce in our compact garden. We just started to grow strawberries a few years ago, but the rhubarb I have had for a long time. It has in many ways become a  travelling rhubarb plant. I have moved it many times, never ready to let go of it, but always leaving some behind for the new caretakers of my previous gardens.  Do you have any plants like that?

Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb
Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb

The rhubarb is a special plant for me.  It was given to me by my Mom many years ago.  It is a beautiful bright plum red rhubarb plant (the varietal is Valentine I believe) and it is what my parents grew in their garden when I was a child.  I remember well how my siblings and I used to take a small stalk and dip it into sugar, nibble on the end and then make outrageous facial expressions in response to the tart, sour, mouth puckering, tannic taste.  The sugar combined with the snappy rhubarb flavour started my love for rhubarb at a very young age.  My Mom used rhubarb a lot in both savoury and sweet dishes, and I learned many excellent recipes from cooking with her.  I can still taste her blueberry rhubarb pie that we loved so much.  Unfortunately she is no longer with us, but I know how much she would love a fruit topped vanilla cake.

Yogurt Cake with Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb
Yogurt Cake with Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb

This yogurt cake is light, yet moist and delicious but not too sweet to highlight the bright but intense flavours of the roasted rhubarb and strawberries.  The moist texture comes from the yogurt, which is wonderful in baking.  Like buttermilk, it adds a special tang which brightens flavours and makes cake taste richer than it really is.  This cake can be topped with any fruit, although I think it is especially divine in late spring when both the local strawberries and rhubarb are ready to harvest.  Roasted strawberries and rhubarb honestly just taste incredible.  The roasting intensifies the flavours, which become a little bit caramelized.  It is delicious on its own or on top of this pretty cake.

I am so excited and honored to be part of the #cdnfoodcreatives, a group of amazing ladies!  See more details below along with awesome ideas to use strawberries!

Yogurt Cake with Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb

Serves 10

1 1/12 cup fresh strawberries

1 1/2 cup fresh rhubarb, finely diced

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 6% MF

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup maple syrup or sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cup flour, all-purpose

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To make the roasted strawberries and rhubarb, wash and hull strawberries and cut in half.  Wash and finely chop rhubarb and add to strawberries.  Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup and toss to coat.  Line a pan with parchment paper and arrange fruit on it in a single layer.  Roast in oven for approx 20 minutes.  Fruit should be soft with some juices running but still holding its shape.  Let cool while you make the cake batter.  Adjust oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

Prepare pan by rubbing with butter.  In a medium size bowl, beat one egg and add yogurt, maple syrup and cooled butter.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Pour all at once into wet ingredients and mix well until lumps are out but not too much.  Pour into prepared pan, top with roasted fruit and place in oven.  Bake for 30 minutes until middle has risen and toothpick comes out cleanish (1 or 2 crumbs are ok).  I like to use a cast iron pan but it also works with a cake pan or pie plate.

Tip:  If you use a cast iron pan, melt butter in it and scrape most of the butter out into the batter but leaving enough to coat it so the cake does not stick.

Nutrition Facts based on 1 serving (the cake cut into 10 slices)

Serving Size 109 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 159 Calories from Fat 41
% Daily Value
Total Fat 4.5g 7%
Saturated Fat 2.7g 13%
Cholesterol 27mg 9%
Sodium 235mg 10%
Potassium 307mg 9%
Total Carbohydrates 25.1g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1.2g 5%
Sugars 10.6g
Protein 4.2g
Vitamin A 3% • Vitamin C 24%
Calcium 13% • Iron 7%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

More fresh strawberries recipes?  Thanks to Amanda from The Cinnamon Scrolls for putting this #cdnfoodcreatives group together!

Carrot Cashew and Apricot Energy Squares

 

These energy squares are fresh and light with freshly grated carrot, apricots and cashews. There is no sugar needed as the apricots provide natural sweetness
Carrot, Cashew and Apricot Squares

Energy balls, bliss balls, Lara bars, energy squares have become so popular and it is easy to understand why.  They are quick and easy to put together, are ready in only about 5 minutes and require no baking.  Flavoured with cardamom, ginger and orange zest, these healthy energy squares are great little snacks to pack for a hike, take on a camping trip, or for that mid afternoon energy boost.

Although they are sweet, they contain no sugar or added sweetener, the sweet taste is only from the apricots.  When fruit is dried, much of the moisture is removed leaving a concentrated source of natural sugar.  Dried fruit is ideal for making energy bars and squares as it provides quick energy,  sweet taste and also serves as the sticky substance to bind the ingredients together. Dried fruit can be combined with many different seeds or nuts to make an endless variety of dense energy snacks.

Dried fruit/nuts/seeds combinations can be dense in texture but also dense in nutrients and calories.  One way to lighten them up is with fresh fruits or vegetables, such as freshly grated carrots.  The carrots combine beautifully with dried apricots and cashews.  The spices add great flavours and the salt pulls all the flavours together. Fresh orange juice adds a little liquid to further bind them together.

In my experimenting  I also have an alternate version of these squares which have hemp seeds and milled flax.  The hemp offers valuable nutrients and protein and the flax offers important fatty acids and fibre.  They are equally tasty with slightly different flavours.

Carrot, Cashew and Apricot Squares

Makes 22 squares

1 1/4 cup grated carrot (not packed)

3/4 cup dried apricots

3/4 cup cashews, unsalted

1/2 cup coconut, unsweetened

1/2 tsp cardamom

Zest of 1 large orange

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp dried ginger

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

Variation:  Substitute 1/4 cup hemp seeds and 1/4 cup milled flax in place of the coconut.

Place dried apricots in food processor and pulse a few times to chop them up.  Add cashews, orange zest, and spices and pulse a few more times.  Add coconut and carrot and pulse until mixture is quite finely chopped and starting to hold together.  Add orange juice 1 tablespoon at a time until you can form mixture into balls or squares.  Place in refrigerator to firm up for about 30 minutes.   Store them in the refrigerator.

This recipe is vegan and gluten free and contains no added sugar.

Two squares contain 120 calories, 3 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fibre. Excellent source of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

People often ask where I got the silicone mat to make these perfect squares.  I use it quite a lot for small size snacks and treats like these energy squares or for my Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies (with black beans).   I got it from Michaels and it is made by Wilton.

This recipe was adapted from Wildhealthfood.com.