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Light and Fresh - Southeast Asian- Inspired Chicken and Vermicelli Salad

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday spent with family and friends. My husband and I took a two week-long  road trip, visiting both sets of families. It was wonderful to see all of our loved ones, but I am definitely feeling the effects of two weeks of overindulging on rich and heavy foods. Whenever I feel like eating light and healthy, I often make Asian-inspired dishes, particularly Southeast Asian. I love how clean, fresh and flavourful that style of cuisine is. I also think it is extremely visually appealing.  You know what they say - you eat with your eyes first






Southeast Asian- Inspired Chicken and Vermicelli Salad - serves 6 or more
(This salad would be a beautiful dish to bring to a potluck dinner. Add peanuts right before serving.)


8 oz. uncooked thin rice vermicelli noodles, prepared according to package directions (drain noodles when they are slightly undercooked, they will continue to soften in the dressing.)
1 large carrot,  julienned
2 ribs celery, strings removed,  jul…

Cauliflower Fritters - "Potato Pancakes"

I don't think it is a secret at how much I looove potatoes of any kind. Big or small, mashed, smashed, baked or fried -  I simply adore them. But things weren't really working out between us, so after careful consideration - we have decided to part ways. We will continue to remain friends and have the highest level of love and respect for each other.


Psst! I have a confession to make...  I have been getting a little action on the side. His name iscauliflower and he has been the best thing that ever happened to me. He shares all of the good qualities of potatoes but none of the bad. We are looking forward to a long and healthy relationship.



Cauliflower Fritters -( tastes just like potato pancakes)
serves: 4

1 1/2 lb. cauliflower, leaves removed, left in large florets
1/2 onion, finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

Blanch cauliflower in a large pot of salted boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and plu…

Chicken Pot Pie with a Sweet Potato Dumpling Crust

This cold, snowy weather we having been having recently, has really given me a craving for the comfort foods of my childhood-  hearty soups, pot roast, old-fashioned stews, pot pies of any kind ( any savory dish that is encased in pastry is my idea of comfort food heaven.) It is as far from fancy-schmancy as you can get, but it definitely hits the spot on a cold day. I took one of my favourite chicken pot pie recipes and I played around with it a bit, to make it a little lighter. I reduced the amount of butter and flour in the sauce and added a cornstarch slurry as a thickener. I also cooked the vegetables in cooking spray instead of oil, which shaves off a lot of fat and calories. I  added sweet potato the the topping, which reduced the amount of butter but still gave it a nice tender crust. My husband and I both really loved this one. It is belly-warming, soul-satisfying perfection on every level.





Chicken Pot Pie with a Sweet Potato Dumpling Crust
serves: about 6

Filling:

2 Tbsp. butte…

Slow Braised Beef Stew with Balsamic and Rosemary

Beef Stew has to be the ultimate cold weather, cozy comfort food. Call me crazy, but I find the whole process of making the stew to be therapeutic. Peeling and chopping the vegetables. Carefully browning the chunks of meat in small batches until they are a deeply caramelized. Slowly braising that tough, chewy cut of meat for hours- until it is so tender it melts like butta in your mouth. Not to mention the mouth-watering aroma wafting through the air, making you so hungry you can hardly stand it.

I have discovered that adding balsamic vinegar to the braising liquid is the secret to the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef and gives the stew a wonderful deep, rich flavour. This stew will need to cook for at least three hours- not the kind of meal you would want to make on a busy week night.


Slow Braised Beef Stew with Balsamic and Rosemary
serves: 6 to 8

2 lbs. chuck roast, excess fat removed, cut into 1 1/2 " chunks
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves, chopped
4 cups beef stock
3 Tbsp. Wo…

Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic

Traditionally, Fettuccine Alfredo is a simple dish made with heavy cream, lots of butter, lots of Parmigiano Cheese and pasta.  Delicious? Yes!   Figure friendly? No!   A couple of months ago, I would have had no problem inhaling a big bowl of this buttery, cheesy goodness, but times have changed and I am now really trying to be aware of every bite of food that I eat. Whenever I am contemplating eating higher calorie foods, I ask myself - " Is it worth the calories?" The answer is almost always no. I have discovered that I can make a healthier, lower calorie version of almost any dish that I am craving, that tastes just as good- if not better- than the original.



Light Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic
serves: 3 to 4

1 tsp. olive oil
2 whole heads of garlic, roasted and peeled
4 oz. light cream cheese, cut into cubes ( let cream cheese come to room temp.)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano, plus extra …

Chicken and Broccoli in Peanut Sauce

There is no doubt that take -out style Chinese food is delicious, but it is loaded  with sodium, sugar, fat and calories. Making it yourself is a much healthier option, but just as yummy. I think some people are intimidated at the thought of making Chinese food at home but it really isn't that difficult. Because every thing is cooked so quickly, it is important to have every single ingredient prepped and ready to go - this is called " mise en place" which means every thing in place. Whenever I make any Asian-inspired  dishes, I make sure the flavours are well balanced - sweet, salty, sour and spicy, as well as a variety of textures. Throw away all those take-out menus that are cluttering up your junk drawer, you aren't going to need them any more.



Chicken and Broccoli in Peanut Sauce
serves: 2

! boneless, skinless  chicken breast, sliced in thin strips
1 1/2 cups of broccoli florets, blanched in boiling water until tender-crisp
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh peeled …

Spaghetti Squash with Browned Butter and Parmigiano Cheese

Incredible. Fabulous. Scrumptious. Delectable. Amazing. Mind-blowing. Wildly Delicious. Heavenly. Mouth-watering. Luscious. I don't have enough words in my vocabulary to adequately convey just how incredibly delicious this dish is.This deceptively simple little side dish is jam-packed with browned buttery goodness. A little browned butter magically transforms plain ol' spaghetti squash in to a dish that is so incredibly rich and sinful tasting you will feel like you are totally blowing your diet. No need to worry. When butter is lightly browned, it is so highly flavourful, a little goes a long way. There is no doubt about it - browned butter makes everything better.



Spaghetti Squash with Browned Butter and Parmigiano Cheese

1 whole spaghetti squash
butter
freshly grated Parmigiano
salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 375 F. Lay a lightly  dampened cloth underneath your cutting board (this will keep the cutting board from moving around while you are trying to cut the squash, actually you…

Guilt-Free Buffalo Chicken Bites

Who doesn't love Buffalo Chicken Wings? Or any deep-fried, salty, crispy- skin chicken  for that matter. Especially when they are paired with an icy cold pint of deliciousness. Or two. Or three.


There is no doubt that deep-fried chicken wings are one of the best inventions since sliced bread, but my thighs don't really care for them, thank-you very much, so I have had to come up with a healthier, lower fat and lower calorie version. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts ( boneless chicken thighs would also work), sliced them up and marinated them in hot sauce before lightly breading them. They were then baked in the oven until crispy and golden brown. I like to serve these with carrot and celery sticks and a low fat blue cheese dressing. These are seriously good. I think I actually prefer this version. No bones to deal with and not as messy!



Buffalo Chicken Bites
serves: 2


1 large boneless, chicken breast
1/3 cup hot sauce, I used Frank's Chili Lime
3/4 cup flour (whichever …

Bacon and Egg Pasta with Brussels Sprouts

Bacon and Eggs. Undeniably one of the greatest food pairings of all time. The other day, I was contemplating what to make for dinner. I knew I wanted to have pasta, and I have been planning on making a pasta dish with Brussels sprouts for a while now. I almost always have a good-sized chunk of back bacon in the fridge, as well as the usual pantry items, onions, garlic, white wine vinegar and olive oil. OK, that sounded pretty good, but it still needed something. *DING* How about topping the whole thing with a poached egg? WOW! It is amazing how such humble, unassuming ingredients are transformed in to something so crazy, out-of-this-world delicious. So delicious, in fact, I practically licked my plate clean. Umm, I mean, I ate it in a very dignified and lady-like manner. *Whistles nonchalantly*








Bacon and Egg Pasta with Brussels Sprouts
serves : 1 hungry person

1 egg
1 Tbsp. white vinegar

3/4 cup Brussels sprouts, bottom cut off, outer leaves removed,
 sliced as thinly as possible
2 1/4 inch …

Caramelized Onion Turkey Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze

As part of my new healthier lifestyle I have recently embarked on,  I have been replacing higher fat and calorie foods with  healthier choices, such as extra lean ground turkey in place of  fattier ground beef and pork.  Extra lean turkey is practically fat free, so it really needs a little extra love to ensure a moist, flavorful meatloaf.  I recently posted about French Onion Turkey Burgers that were out-of-this-world delicious and  I wanted to make something similar, only in the form of meatloaf.  I caramelized the onions as I did in the Turkey Burgers and it really transforms plain old meatloaf into something truly spectacular. I served this over a hash of potato and shaved brussels sprouts and drizzled a little balsamic glaze over top. The tangy balsamic glaze contrasts nicely with the sweet caramelized onions.



Caramelized Onion Turkey Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze
serves: 6


3 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
olive oil
1/4 cup dry red wine
chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 lb. ex…

Turkey Pie

Turkey Pie - AKA -Thanksgiving leftovers get a makeover. The result is meatloaf meets shepherd's pie meets Thanksgiving dinner. It looks like dessert but it tastes like a turkey dinner with all the fixins'.



 Canadian Thanksgiving  was celebrated this past weekend. As it was only the two of us this year, I decided to cook a chicken instead of a turkey. I made stuffing (my favourite ), mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted vegetables, and beets. Everything was great, but as usual, I made way too much and had lots of leftovers. I wanted to turn the leftovers into something completely different, and I am really happy with the way this dish turned out. I don't think my leftovers have ever looked so cute or tasted so delicious. I think Turkey Pie will be making an appearance every year.



Turkey Pie
(serves 4 - 6)

1 lb. lean ground turkey (uncooked)
1 cup traditional bread  stuffing, moistened with a little chicken stock
3/4 cup cooked vegetables, finely chopped ( I used carrots, celery and o…

Pot Roast Braised in Onions and Red Wine

A tough cut of meat  is slowly braised with red wine, balsamic vinegar, garlic and a mess of thinly sliced onions for nearly three hours. The end result is so flavourful and tender it can be cut with a fork, no knife needed. Served alongside roasted garlic mashed potatoes and buttered baby carrots and you have the epitome of cozy, comfort food.



Red Wine and Onion Braised Pot Roast

3 lb. chuck roast
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
chopped thyme leaves
canola oil, for cooking
salt and pepper

1 Tbsp. (or more) cornstarch

Pat roast dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium-high heat and sear roast on all sides until browned. Heat oven to 325 F. Place roast in small roasting pan or casserole dish. Top with all ingredients except for cornstarch. Seal tightly with aluminum foil. Cook until roast is tender and can be pulled apart easily with a fork, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove from oven. Pour…

Lightened- Up Beef Stroganoff

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been making a lot of changes to my diet. I am trying to incorporate tons of fruits and veggies in to my meals while replacing the empty calories.  I am really enjoying the challenge of taking a  high-calorie, fat laden, classic dish and putting a healthy spin on it.






Traditionally, Beef Stroganoff  is made with either heavy cream or full-fat sour cream, lots of butter or oil for sauteing the steak and  mushrooms, and is usually served over a bed of buttered egg noodles. I replaced the full-fat sour cream with fat-free sour cream, adding a tablespoon of light cream cheese for extra richness. used cooking spray and a non stick pan for sauteing the steak and mushrooms. So, how did I make the buttered egg noodles lighter in calories? Well, those aren't noodles at all, they are actually very thin slices of summer squash. Crazy! OK, I am not going to tell you that a bowl of squash is as soul-satisfying as a big bowl of buttered pasta, because it i…

French Onion Turkey Burgers

I had a life-changing moment, recently. In a split-second, my entire life was changed forever. For the first time in years,  I weighed myself. I was horrified at the number staring back at me.  Seriously!! Are you kidding me?!  Maybe the scale was broken. I stepped off and tried it again - same number.  I gave it another shot - same number. That is when I had my  ah ha moment, as Oprah would call it. My inner fat chick died right then and there. In the past, my inner fat chick would have said, " OK, tomorrow you are going on a (pick one - I have tried them all)  low carb diet, cabbage soup diet, juice cleanse,  sugar- free diet,  starvation diet,  liquid diet, a food combining diet, so that means you need to go on an  inhale- everything- you- can- get- your- hands-on-while-you-have-the-chance-pig-out tonight. You can see why I really needed to get rid of her.

I am now trying to make small, healthy changes to my diet. I am finally beginning to learn the meaning to the word modera…

The Best Potato Pancakes

If you are a regular reader of this blog you have probably noticed that I really love potatoes. I love them baked, I love them roasted, I love them mashed, I love them fried, I love them pureed, I love them scalloped. I love them smothered with sour cream and chives, I love them buttery, I love them cheesy, I love them in salads lightly bathed in a tangy, dill dressing,  I love them crispy,crunchy,smooth and fluffy. I love them all.  I really have not met a potato dish that I didn't love.

One of my absolute favorite ways to prepare potatoes is to make potato pancakes. I don't make these very often -  my taste buds may love them , but my thighs definitely do not!  Not even a little bit.

 I have found that the secret to making the best potato pancakes;  is to grate them right on top of a clean kitchen towel, then squeeze the heck out of them, to drain off all the potato liquid. It is actually really surprising how much liquid potatoes have. They also oxidize really quickly, so…

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia and is located on Vancouver Island, about a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride from the mainland of British Columbia.















It is famous for its Aboriginal Arts, fishing, wildlife, mild climate, and local seafood.















We ended up spending a few days here recently. It was not nearly long enough.






Pasta alla Carbonara with Summer Corn and Back Bacon

Nothing says Summer like fresh corn on the cob. Where I live, Taber corn is thought to be the best corn around. There is a real excitement in the air when the first batch of Taber corn makes an appearance at the local farmers markets. We bought a half dozen ( plus one extra that was thrown in for good measure) at the market last weekend. We thoroughly enjoyed a couple ears apiece, with just a little butter and salt and pepper. 
 The next day, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I had a chunk of back bacon ( also known as Canadian bacon) that needed to be cooked, as well as a couple of ears of corn. Since I was in a pasta kind of mood, I decided to make  Pasta alla Carbonara.  Pasta alla Carbonara is a very simple pasta dish that has only a few key ingredients : bacon or pancetta, eggs, Parmesan or Romano cheese, and pasta. The raw eggs and the cheese are tossed into the hot pasta, stirred vigorously, and the eggs and cheese magically turn into a creamy sauce, without …

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Hummus is a popular Middle Eastern dip that is made with cooked chick peas (garbanzo beans), garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and tahini ( sesame paste). I have never really been a huge fan, even though chick peas are one of my favorite foods. I realized that it was the tahini that I didn't like - I find it a little on the bitter side.  I just made an awesome version of hummus. I used roasted carrots which gave a nice natural sweetness, and I used toasted sesame oil instead of the tahini which gave lots of sesame flavour, without any bitterness.
Who knew hummus could taste so good?




Roasted Carrot Hummus
2 cups peeled, chopped carrots olive oil, salt and pepper for roasting
1 16 oz. can chick peas, drained and rinsed cooked carrot juice and zest of one lemon 1/2 tsp. ground cumin 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika 1 or 2  cloves garlic, crushed ( use 2 if you like it really garlicky) 1/4 cup E. V. olive oil 1/4 cup cold water about 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp.  pepper 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
Preheat oven to …

Bacon, Sun Dried Tomato and White Cheddar Beer Bread

Simple Pleasures...

Daydreaming
Laughing so hard it hurts
Freshly washed cotton sheets
 Peanut Butter cups
The feeling of hot sun on bare skin
White sandy beaches
Sharing a smile with a stranger
Dim Sum
Foot rubs
Campfires

Family
Nanaimo bars
Laughing babies
Lazy Sunday mornings
Hot buttered popcorn
Getting lost in a good book
Creamsicles
Sea glass
Bike rides
Wine and cheese
Singing to yourself when nobody is around
A long hot bath on a cold day
Chocolate chip cookie dough
Old family photos
Antique stores
Discovering hidden treasures
Hot stone massages
Summer Rain
Mom's home cooking
Handmade presents
Indian Summer
Sightseeing
Picnics
Car dancing
Tulips
White Sangria
Penny candy
Finding the perfect gift
Fresh seafood at the beach
Learning something new
Partying like it's 1999
Making someones day
Grapefruit scented soaps
Farmers markets
Reliving your youth
Rooting for the underdog
Holding hands
Birthday cake
Helping out someone in need
Shakin' it like you are gonna break it
People watching
A good hair day
Fitting into your old…

Cool as a Cucumber Gazpacho

Gazpacho is one of my favourite no - cook recipes. It is just so cool and refreshing on a stifling hot summer day.  This is a good basic recipe. I used fresh dill in mine, but other fresh herbs such as cilantro or basil would also be good. Garnish the gazpacho with finely diced vegetables, diced ripe avocado or cold, cooked shrimp or crab meat. Add a loaf of crusty bread and an icy cold beverage  and you have the perfect summer meal.

Gazpacho (serves 4)
2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes, seeds removed 2 cups tomato juice 1 head of peeled, roasted garlic 1 peeled, seedless cucumber, chopped 1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped 1 or 2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed for less heat, diced 1 tsp. sugar 2 Tbsp. e. v. olive oil 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar or the juice of one lime chopped fresh dill  1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce celery salt and black pepper,  to taste
Pulse all ingredients in food processor. Season to taste. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. Serve chilled. Garnish with desired …