I originally posted this as a Valentine’s Day gift wrap idea, but it also works for a beautiful holiday gift wrapping design. Enjoy this repost!
Category Archives: Health and Wellness
Sensational Salads: Nut Allergy Hack ~ Candied Chow Mein Noodles
A few weeks ago, I was having a friend over for lunch. We both love salad, but like so many people out there, she hates making them. I used to feel the same way, but over time, have found some fabulous dressings and short cuts, so I no longer dread making them. Check out my previous Sensational Salad posts for great recipes and tips.
On to today’s post….I often like to add nuts or seeds to my salads for that added crunch (and extra protein), but being allergic to both, I knew that wasn’t an option. It didn’t seem fair, that she had never even had the chance to enjoy them. It got me thinking about how I might be able to mimic the experience for her. I googled and found some good suggestions for nut substitutes, but still wasn’t left feeling too excited about any of them. One of my favourite salad add-ons is candied nuts. Since I was making a salad with a sweeter dressing (Holiday Lettuce Salad) and the recipe called for nuts, I thought I might see if I could come up with my own alternative for “candied nuts”.
I adapted a recipe for Candied Pecans by substituting the pecans with dry CHOW MEIN NOODLES. They turned out fabulous…nut allergy or not! They served their purpose perfectly by adding a bit of sweetness and crunch to the salad.
Candied Chow Mein Noodle Recipe
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 cups dry chow mein noodles
- Combine the first 4 ingredients in a skillet and cook over medium heat for a minute or two, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling.
- Add the chow mein noodles and cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring to coat the noodles in the glaze. *You may find that you want to add more than one cup of noodles to soak up the extra glaze.
- Remove from the heat, and spread the chow mein noodles out on parchment paper and let them cool completely.
- Break apart, and enjoy! I use my food chopper when I want the pieces smaller, but bigger pieces make a yummy and dangerously addictive snack! I’m not gonna lie…you might not want to make a full batch!
Give this simple recipe a try and let me know what you think!
Fibre One Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Clusters
I’m always looking for ways to meet my daily fibre requirements and for many years that meant starting my day with a big bowl of Fibre One cereal. However, over the years, I’ve turned more to a intermittent fasting type of a routine and often don’t eat breakfast. In an effort to somehow get this fibre packed cereal back into my daily diet, I decided to make little cookies that essentially kill two birds with one stone. I based the recipe on the Peanut Butter/Butterscotch Chow Mein noodle cookie recipe we made when I was a kid. These little cookies not only satisfy my sweet tooth, but also up my daily fibre intake. So simple to make and quite a nice treat! I only eat one per day, so I created this recipe to make a mini batch that yields 4 cookies.
Fibre One Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Clusters
- 1/2 cup of Fibre One Cereal (General Mills)
- 1/4 cup of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
- 1 Tablespoon of smooth peanut butter
Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish. (My microwave has a “melt” setting, but if yours doesn’t, I would lower the power and stir every 30 seconds or so to avoid scorching it.) I find that you don’t need to melt them completely. If you stop and stir every 30 seconds or so, the chips will melt as you stir. Once completely melted and smooth, stir in the peanut butter to combine. It will melt into the mixture as well. Stir in the cereal until completely coated. Drop by teaspoon full onto wax paper and place in the fridge to set. I keep my stored in an air tight container in the fridge. So easy and yummy!
Basic Nutritional Values Per Cookie:
- Fibre 5 g (20%)
- Calories 125
- Protein 2 g
- Fat 6 g
- Sugar 9 g
Let me know how you like them!
Sensational Salads #7: Undeniably Delicious Caesar Salad
Oil & Vinegar Style vs Creamy Caesar Dressing
Caesar salad is pretty much a staple in our menu. Everyone loves it and it is so simple to pick-up a Costco rotisserie chicken and make it a meal! (Those chickens are so awesome when you are battling the summer heat and trying to avoid cooking!!)
Of course, when you think of caesar salad, there are two basic versions: one that has an oil/vinegar type of dressing and the other more of a creamy style….think THE KEG (so yummy!) We enjoy both, but I thought that in addition to sharing my two “go to” caesar salad dressing recipes, I might add in the caloric value for both.
Caesar Salad ~ The Body of the Salad
When making caesar salad, I tend to stick to pretty standard ingredients, but I will add a few of the options we enjoy adding. My son is not a lover of mushrooms and neither of our kids like croutons, so you basically need to include what works for your family. Our work around is serving the croutons and mushrooms in side dishes that can be added at the table, so that everyone can enjoy the salad. I have not included the measurements because it really depends on how many you are feeding. Again, I always make my salads “greens” heavy.
- Romaine lettuce, washed, spun and torn into small pieces
- very thinly sliced red onion
- very thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
- finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- croutons of your choice
Great Additions/Substitutions to Consider:
- sliced avocado
- sliced red pepper or roasted red pepper
- chopped artichoke hearts (from a jar or can)
- rotisserie chicken (or other meat of your choice)
Best Caesar Salad Dressing:
My friend Kirsten graciously shared this recipe with me a few years ago and not only is it easy to whip up, but also very tasty. This particular recipe has an oil and vinegar base, but the garlic and anchovy paste give that authentic caesar flavour.
This dressing recipe makes a generous amount for one large salad. I tend to lightly dress my salads, so will often have some left over for another small salad. (It makes approximately 3/4 to 1 cup of dressing). The calorie count for this dressing is 921 calories (+78 if you add the egg) and there would be approximately 216 grams of fat in a full recipe. Of course, this does not include the other items that are in the body of the salad. To determine the calories in an individual serving, you would need to factor the portion of dressing used, as well as the other ingredients in the body of the salad. Finally, divide the total calorie count by the number of servings your salad provides. I’m not exactly sure how many starter size salads it might make, but I’m thinking about 8. That would mean approximately 115 calories per serving and about 27 grams of fat, but again I’m really just guessing.
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- anchovy paste* to taste (This is really about personal preference, but I am going to guess you’ll want between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon. Start with about 1/4 of a teaspoon and then make a note on the recipe for next time you make it, if you think you’d like more. Nothing worse than an overpowering fishy taste!)
- 1 raw egg, whisked (I have never added this)
- 1-2 minced garlic cloves (or more!!)
- 2 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of grainy mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Place all of the ingredients in a jar and shake to mix. Pour half of the dressing over the prepared salad and toss. Decide if it needs more and then either add more and toss again or place the extra dressing on the table for individuals to help them self, if they so desire.
Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing:
I’ve tried a few of Jenn Segal’s recipes and she is yet to disappoint. I love her Creamy Caesar Dressing recipe, but there are many other great ones at Once Upon a Chef. In fact, this dressing is so yummy that we will often use it as dip or add it to egg salad sandwiches.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup of Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s Real)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
Place first 5 ingredients in a jar and shake (or whisk). Add balance of ingredients and shake or whisk until well combined. Pour half of the dressing over the prepared salad and toss. Decide if it needs more and then either add more and toss again or place the extra dressing on the table for individuals to help them self, if they so desire.
Although this recipe calculates at a whopping 1840 calories (depending on brands used), it does make a generous 1 1/3 cups of dressing! Jennifer states that it makes enough for 10 starter salads. According to her calculations, one serving of dressing would be 184 calories and 19 grams of fat. We use half or less for a large family sized salad that is being served as our main course. The leftover dressing will keep for about a week in a sealed jar in the fridge. So, although the calories are crazy, when you really break it down it isn’t too nasty! Some might argue that olive oil in the first recipe is a much healthier fat. I’m not a calorie crazy person, but have been more in tune with my caloric intake over the past few months and decided to make the comparison out of curiosity. I always assumed the oil and vinegar dressing was healthier, but was surprised by the actual calorie and fat value comparison. Really, it’s all just food for thought…
I’m not really sure if there is a moral to this story or not. I guess for me it really comes down to personal preference when considering which dressing to use. I say if you love one style over the other, just go for it!
*Most stores carry anchovy paste, but it can sometimes be tricky to find. I’ve found it in both the dairy and meat sections!?# You might have to ask. (The one I buy comes in a small box with a tube inside ~ think toothpaste box/tube.)
I hope you enjoy both of these recipes as much as we do! Enjoy!
Sensational Salads #5: “To Toss or Not to Toss…Now that is the Question”
In doing this series of posts on salads, I thought it was worth some discussion on whether to toss a salad or not. So, here are my thoughts:
- The flavour is more uniform as it permeates the entire body of the salad.
- It is nice to serve a salad that is already dressed and ready to go.
- I find that when you put the dressing on the table, it can add to clutter of items on the table and can sometimes be messy to serve, especially when it is not being squeezed from a store bought bottle of dressing. (I guess one advantage of store bought is that they tend to be less messy.)
Why You Might Decide Not to Toss:
- Once tossed, the salad really won’t keep well, so any leftovers are pretty much trash.
- Everyone has different preferences when it comes to salad dressing. Some prefer it bathing in dressing, while others (like my daughter) often opt for NO dressing at all. By serving the salad plain, each individual can decided how they would like to dress their own salad according to their own personal preferences.
- If you are watching calories, you might like more portion control when it comes to the dressing. Years ago, I learned a technique that actually works surprisingly well for this. Use an individual little cup (think shot glass size) and put your dressing into it. Instead of putting your dressing on your salad, dip your fork into your little cup of dressing before each bite. Although there is no dressing actually applied to the salad, it does give great flavour and keeps your dressing usage to a minimum. The down side is that whatever you don’t used has to be tossed and thus is wasted, but I guess better those calories in the trash than in your body if you are trying to cut them!
In the end, it really comes down to personal preference. I find that I change it up depending on who I am serving the salad to, what kind of salad it is and if there is the potential for leftovers. Here is what I tend to do:
- Very lightly toss the entire salad (or a portion of it I think there might be extra leftover). By tossing it with minimal dressing, I am getting the flavour throughout the salad, but know the dressing won’t be too heavy. I then serve a side of extra dressing for anyone who wants to add more.
- If I make a salad for myself (say pack it for lunch), I always take a little container and just pour it over the top. I don’t ever toss it. It just works for me.
- Some salads actually need to be tossed in the dressing to soften the flavours or textures in the salad. I feel like kale might fall into this category. I might have more tendency to toss if I have kale in a salad, as it can be bitter tasting.
By now you’ve realized that I never really answered the question, but have just given you some options to consider. Stay tuned for more great salad recipes!
Sensational Salads #4: Our Family’s Favourite Salad
I came upon this recipe a few years ago and although I didn’t make-up the name for this salad, the title doesn’t disappoint. It is absolutely one of our favourites! I like to roast my own peppers and don’t always have artichokes on hand, so I do find it is a bit more of a “plan ahead” salad and thus I don’t make it as often as I’d like. This recipe for Our Family’s Favorite Salad is brought to you by Gimme Some Oven.
Our Family’s Favorite Salad
- 1 head red-leaf lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- (I am never too particular about the greens I use in my salads and will sometimes just opt for the store bought “Spring Mix” in lieu of above or just use a mixture or what I have on hand)
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly-sliced
- 2 (14 ounce) jars quartered artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped (I only use one but this is just personal preference)
- 1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced (I prefer OVEN roasting my own peppers! It is simple to do and can be done ahead of time. Here is a simple tutorial. One pepper is probably enough, but I would roast two and then decided if it looks like too much and if it does, just store the extra in the fridge for your next salad, pizza topping or omelette!)
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts*
- 1 batch zesty red wine vinaigrette (See below)
- optional garnish: extra freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
Place the ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Serve immediately, garnished with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.
ZESTY RED WINE VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS:
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is super yummy!!)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I sometimes substitute with avocado oil)
- 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, store-bought or homemade
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Place all of the ingredients in a jar and shake like crazy! Toss in salad and serve immediately.*
*Pine nuts can be pricey and I fine them to be quite bland. I will use them if I have them on hand, but will throw in other nuts or seeds when I don’t. I really like the salad with pistachios! We buy a large bag at Costco, so I pretty much always have them on hand. So yummy!!
Sensational Salads #3
A traditional basic salad basically consists of three main parts:
I’ve already alluded to some of this in my first post of this series, but wanted to revisit some aspects of it in more detail.
I believe that people get super bored with salad when they stick to the same old, same old. I love my dad, but if and when he makes a salad, it is the exact same salad I had regularly as a kid.
Iceberg lettuce + carrot + celery + cucumber + green onion + bottled dressing = BORING!!
I don’t love this salad. I tolerate it. In order to truly embrace and love salad, you really have to step out of your box and try different combinations.
- Greens ~ as previously mentioned in post one….MIX. IT. UP. I always keep Romain on hand. I use it solo, but also mix it with a variety of other greens. I love the “live” lettuce, spring mix, baby spinach and arugula blend, red lettuce, kale, and anything else that is leafy! Be adventurous. Varying your base of greens adds interests because of the various depths of green as well as colour with the hints of red. It also brings a variety of flavour and texture. I find that I will often couple a sturdier leaf with those that seem to wilt easily (like those from my garden).
- Vegetables ~ I mentioned how using different cutting techniques can help make your salad more visually appealing, but I felt that I had to bring up two other important things to consider when adding vegetables to your salad. Perhaps this is just personal preference, but I like to think of my vegetables more like a condiment/topping rather than a main ingredient. So for me, I’m thinking more like a dash, a hint, a sprinkling, a scattering, etc. When my husband makes a salad, it is always very vegetable heavy. By that I mean lots and lots of vegetables with greens added in. I very much appreciate his help in the kitchen, but I will usually offer to make the salad simply because my preference is for the vegetables to accent the greens. I find that a vegetable heavy salad often seems bland, especially when the vegetables are chopped. I find that each hunk of vegetable holds its own unique flavour ~ think chopped celery. A piece of chopped celery in a salad often tastes like….wait for it…wait for it….chopped celery! I just find that the flavours don’t unite and blend together to create an experience. I know this may sound crazy to others, but I really believe that the amount you add and the way in which it is cut makes a big difference. I challenge you to try it. For me, I use my salad additions sparingly. The greens are the body and main part of my salad and the veggies are added to offer interest, texture, colour and a hint of additional flavour. The way some vegetables are cut is not as important as others, but I really believe that very thinly slicing, spiralling and ribboning can tame the taste of some that can be over powering. The next time you prepare a salad, try it. Use less vegetables than you might typically use. Think of them more as a garnish. In addition, go out of your way to make very thin slices. Think of what you might normally dice/chop and ask yourself if there is a different way to cut it. I believe you too will see and taste a difference.
- A great dressing! I don’t need to go into much detail here, but I will challenge you to find homemade replacement recipes for the bottles you typically buy. There are so many additives in those store bought varieties and I promise a great homemade dressing recipe will knock your salad out of the park every time! I will be posting many great recipes throughout this series, but I know there will be some you don’t like. In fact, my personal umber #1 favourite dressing of all time (which I have yet to post so stay tuned), is not liked by the rest of my family😢 I always have a batch of this on hand because it is my absolute favourite, but when I use this dressing, my family will always opt for another. You may need to try several before you find your personal “go to’s”.
I would love for you to step up to some of my challenges and let me know how it goes!
Mystery Box Riddle #97
Sensational Salads #1
I’ve wanted to do a series of posts on salads for several months now. I’m not a picky eater and there are many foods I love, but I have to honestly say salad is one of my favourites. I used to say I enjoyed salad, as long as someone else made it. I always felt that by the time I chopped all the veggies and got it ready, it was some how disappointing. However, over the last few years, I have made a few discoveries which are primarily based on my own personal preferences. I can honestly say that salad is not only one of my very favourite foods, but would rank pretty high for my whole family. My 16 year old son will often request salad when asked what he wants for dinner. Here are a few tips to help you jump on the salad band wagon.
How To Really Get Hooked on Salad:
- Find a variety of salads that you love! DO NOT stick to the same old salad every time! We probably have at least 3 completely different salads each week.
- Make salad your main course and use meat as a salad topping. Although we are not vegetarian, I can say that we have definitely moved away from red meat. We still enjoy a steak, pork tenderloin and ground beef for burgers and spaghetti sauce, but it is much more limited than it used to be. We will often have meat as a salad compliment and chicken and fish are much more present in our regular diet than they were in the past.
- Be creative and try a variety of add-ons. For me salad is mostly about a great dressing. Once I find a dressing I like, I will often play with the other elements and change it up. Lately, one of my favourite salad additions is chopped brussel sprouts!
- Be creative in your presentation….I will often spiral, shred or ribbon cut my vegetables to add interest. A salad that looks amazing often tastes great too!
- Think colour! I often see a salad as art…I always try to add a splash of colour!
- Use a variety of greens to create different textures, flavours and colours in your finished salad.
- Cheese please! Although we don’t always add cheese to our salads (especially when we are being mindful of calories), it is a great way to add flavour. Some of our favourites include feta, Swiss, manchego, aged cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano!
- Double the recipe! We definitely have a few staples when it comes to salad dressing. I find that making a double batch will often last a week or more in the fridge.
- Be mindful! Although a salad is often packed with veggies, don’t fall into the same trap that I did several years ago. I would eat a delicious homemade salad for lunch at work every day. I always felt like I ate well and a list of the foods I was eating would have most people agreeing. However, despite what I felt were healthy choices, I noticed that I was starting to put on weight. Be mindful of what you are adding to your salad if weight/calories are a concern. Nuts and seeds are a great source for nutrients and healthy fats, but they are also extremely high in calories. After months of eating my “amazingly healthy salad”, I did a calorie count and discovered that my lunch salad was often exceeding 700 calories! Although they were seemingly healthy calories packed with nutrients, a calorie is a calorie and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I seemed to be gaining weight. I still eat nuts and seeds, but I am just more aware of what I’m adding to my salads and the overall caloric impact.
Sensational Salad Add-Ons for a Typical Lettuce Salad:
The fruits, vegetables, meat and other ingredients I add to a salad are often determined by the type of salad I’m making and whether the dressing is sweet or not. I will follow a salad recipe pretty close the first time, mostly to see if the dressing is a hit or not. After that, I will often use the dressing, but adapt the salad ingredients based on what flavours I think will meld nicely with it and what I have on hand. Below are some of our favourite salad fixings that go beyond the basic carrots, celery, cucumber and tomatoes.
- beets (I often spiral cut them with this inexpensive Starfrit machine I have)
- mushrooms (I like to slice mine paper thin)
- brussel sprouts (chopped)
- peppers (red, green and/or yellow)
- chopped artichoke (canned)
- red cabbage (and/or regular cabbage)
- granny smith apples
- fresh homemade salsa (fruit based is especially good and often means you can eliminate the dressing altogether)
- Nuts (pistachio, pecan, walnuts, peanuts, slivered almonds, pine nuts, etc. – I usually opt for raw nuts, but also love candied nuts with some salads)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, etc.)
- Cheese, freshly grated
- Meat (pork tenderloin, steak, taco meat, salmon, chicken breast/rotisserie chicken)
When I first started making more gourmet style salads, I really just sought out a few dressings that I loved that became my “go to’s” for a basic salad. I have actually posted this recipe a few times already, but it is definitely one I use regularly.
Lime Agave Vinaigrette – courtesy of Lyn Genet-Recitas (The Plan). I love this dressing because it is simple to make and the lime flavour gives it a very fresh taste. I will often add green apple or pear to this salad just because it goes so nicely with the lime flavour. (If you don’t have Agave, use honey or one of my favourites…maple syrup.)
Stay tuned as I will be posting several new salad and dressing recipes over the summer, but until now, here are some links to previous posts that highlighted some of our family’s favourite salad recipes.
- Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Poppy Seed Dressing (When strawberries are in season, we have this at least once a month – the dressing is great with other fruit as well.)
- Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing (Oh My!! So delicious!)
- Autumn Chopped Salad ( a perfect side salad)
- Island Pork Tenderloin Salad (courtesy of the P90X cookbook) I have to admit that we sometimes have this pork tenderloin without the salad….this is an absolutely delicious meat recipe!!
- Olive Garden House Salad (copy cat recipe)
- Yummy Greek Salad