Friday, 28 June 2013


Salad Dressing

Dressing can make or break a salad.  Yes, the salad ingredients are key (can we say crumbled feta and fresh olives anyone!) but the dressing pulls everything together, making sure every bite has great flavour and texture.  It can be sharp and tangy, or sweet and spicy, super simple, or overly complicated.

The dressing aisle in grocery stores seems to have expanded over the last few years, with dozens of line extensions touting different oils and flavours, vinaigrettes or creams.  It's tempting to explore a variety of different options, filling the fridge door with new bottles.  But back at home, it never seems to taste as good as you thought it would.  And a quick review of the ingredients on the label shows there's a lot more in there than olive oil and parmesan.

I personally love a good salad.  It can be really tasty when you experiment with more than cucumbers and plain lettuce (I use whatever happens to be in my fridge or cupboard at the time), and it's a quick and easy lunch to pack for work or school.  But if the dressing isn't good, I don't want to eat it.  On the other hand, if the dressing is amazing, it can make a salad much more appealing than a greasy burger - or whatever you may be craving at the time.

So, I started making my own dressing for these everyday salads.  Nothing fancy or complicated, just a few simple ingredients poured into a mason jar, given a vigorous shake, and spooned over my greens.  There are some very simple vinaigrettes and yogurt based dressings that are healthy, full of flavour, and will have you loving your salad in no time.

You can make a small amount for one salad to try, or keep a full jar of your favourite in the fridge ready to go.  You can customize based on your taste or health preferences, and you always know exactly what is going into your meal.  It's a no brainer.

Jamie Oliver's Jam Jar Dressings are my favourite go to.  He explains the simple equation for a vinaigrette (3 parts oil to 1 part acid) and gives recipes for French Dressing, Yogurt Dressing, Lemon Dressing, and Balsamic Dressing.  My all time favourite is the  French Dressing, because it has all the ingredients I like best - garlic, oil, and vinegar.

From there you can experiment on your own, or try new recipes every week if you like.  Even try asking the next time you have a great dressing at a restaurant what the ingredients are, then work with what you know about the equation to try and recreate it yourself.  Salad doesn't have to be boring!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013



If you really want to spice up your regular summer barbeque fare, grilled pineapple is the way to go.  It's as simple as slicing up a fresh pineapple and placing the slices directly on the grill for a couple minutes each side.  No additions or ingredients necessary.  The result is a winner every time.  

The natural sugars heated on the grill, gives the fruit a wonderful caramelized flavour, intensely tropical and sweetly satisfying.  Every bite is a surprisingly full and complex taste, sweet and fresh at the same time.

Grilled pineapple is more than enough served on it's own, but if you still want to kick it up a notch, serve with honey greek yogurt, or top with a scoop of real vanilla ice cream.   Summer, please don't ever end.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


This weekend marked the beginning of summer on the calendar, and the weather responded accordingly by finally giving us a bit of heat!  Although it came with a few downpours, I was happy to stroll out into bright sunshine this morning, soak up the rays and even the humidity.

Besides the sunshine, one of the best things about summer time is the berries.  In the winter, berries are hard to come by, expensive, and they lack in flavour and colour.  And then suddenly in June, there is a strawberry explosion.  Ripe, juicy, bright red, pieces of heaven are being picked daily by farmers and eaters alike.  The best part is, it's all happening right here in Ontario.


After having a few containers of packaged and shipped strawberries from the grocery store, I was happy to be switching out my frozen for fresh, but I was also craving the kind of fresh strawberries that smell like earth and sunshine, and taste of juicy sweetness.  I needed fresh picked Ontario strawberries.

So when I strolled by the Leslievillle Pumps Kitchen and noticed a new fruit stand out front, my heart skipped a beat.  If you haven't heard of the Pump's before, it's one of Toronto's unique little eateries, hidden inside one of the least likely places for good food - a gas station.  But it is good food, offering up breakfast and lunch sandwiches with ingredients like maple glazed smoked peameal bacon and farmer's sprouts with sides of corn fritters or poutine, to name just a few.  Tack on an outdoor patio equipped with picnic tables and greenery and you've got a winner.  Add in a strawberry stand, and well, you've got a bonus cash prize!

A basket of the delicious red fruit goes for $5 which competes with the usual St. Lawrence market prices, and the stand will be there every Saturday (and possibly Sunday if it continues to go well) all summer long, offering whatever fruit they have picked from the farm that morning.  Strawberry fields forever!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


I'm crazy about crackers.  Before going gluten free, I always had a wide arrangement of options in my cupboard.  Triscuits, Wheat Thins, herb crackers, artisan crackers, and more.  Now I only have rice crackers.  I really like rice crackers.  But I miss my previous cracker variety too.

Enter, homemade gluten free crackers!  I recently bought a new gluten free cookbook and these crackers were the first thing I wanted to make.  Made with almond flour, and offering a few recipe variations, I couldn't wait to try them out.  I decided to start with the Herb Cracker recipe, as it promised a wonderful smell while baking.

Homemade Crackers

Extremely easy to put together, this recipe literally involved mixing with a spoon.  The toughest part here, was stretching my patience long enough to pick enough leaves from the rosemary and thyme sprigs (one of my most disliked things in the kitchen!).  But I had lots of time, and the smell of the herbs was heavenly.

Cracker Recipe

The dough was easy to roll out, with no complications like cracking or breaking.  The squares are cut before baking, so everything is already done by the time you take them out of the oven.

Cracker Recipe

After 15 minutes in the oven, the were lightly golden, with a nice solid crunch to them.  The recipe asks for 30 minutes to cool before serving, but they smelled so delicious, I could only wait about 5.

Cracker Recipe

The result is amazing.  Crisp but solid, these crackers have the perfect herb flavour, maximized by just the right amount of sea salt.  I was immediately elated at the success of the recipe, and also very disappointed that I halved the recipe.


Originally intended for a homemade avocado dip that I had in my fridge, these crackers were so delicious that I actually ended up just eating them alone.  I think I'll be making more of these soon...

The cookbook I used is The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam.  She has lot's of similar recipes on her website  You can find a very similar cracker recipe here.  Just use thyme to replace half the rosemary in the recipe to make the same one I featured in this post.

Friday, 7 June 2013


Fruit waters are popular in warm climates like Mexico, but recently they have started to pop up more and more in our North American summer season as well.  Refreshing, light, and versatile, these waters are a new take on the standard lemonade.

At it's most basic, fruit water is really just that - a sweet summer fruit blended with water.  However, depending on preferences and tastes, it can get sweet or sophisticated with just a few additions.


Watermelon really epitomizes summer for me.  It's virtually unavailable and forgotten during our chilly winters, and then it leaps back into the scene come spring, ready to be the star of the party at barbeques, soccer games, street festivals, and basically anytime the sun is shining.

So when the weather suddenly jumped into the humid 30's here, I started thinking about watermelons!  Unfortunately, watermelons are heavy, and it took a few weeks for the giant green fruit to actually make its way into my grocery cart.  Now, it's back to being a bit "fresher" outside again, but I'm still determined to have my watermelon water!


Traditionally, these waters are made by simply mashing the fruit with a fork and mixing it with water, but if you have a blender available, it's much easier that way.  For the most basic version, blend half of a large watermelon with 6-8 cups of water, squeeze in the juice of 2 limes, and serve cold!


For a little more excitement, add some sprigs of mint or basil, and a splash of Perrier (maybe even a splash of vodka if it's an adult event :).  If you prefer a sweeter beverage, just add in some agave syrup when blending.


If you plan on drinking through a straw, you'll need to strain the liquid through a sieve first.  However, if you don't mind a thicker drink, it's just as good as is.


Hello summer!

Thursday, 6 June 2013


Who knew the people of Toronto love to eat this much?  This city is so full of foodies, that The National Post has created a program called 'Gastropost' for all those with a love of food.  Not only can you share your fave foods and check out others, but your food photo could even be featured in the Saturday paper.

The idea is simple and based around weekly "missions".  Each week there is a new mission posted on the Gastropost site, and emailed out to all subscribers.  The mission can be anything from 'Brunch' to 'Asparagus', and your job as a food lover is to consume that item that week.  When you have completed the task, you must share your photo and experience with Gastropost, through either Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or just by posting it directly to the site.

Throughout the week, Gastropost pulls all contributions for the mission and posts them all on their site for visitors to scroll through.  If you submit yours before 10am on Wednesday morning, you also have the chance to be featured in the National Post newspaper, in a two page spread of the Saturday Toronto edition.

This week's mission is "Citrus Smile".  To learn more about Gastropost, submit your food experience, or just take a look at all the different posts, visit

Citrus Smile:  Lemon water every morning.  Orange-Lemon because it's Thursday!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


A few months ago, I purchased a vegetable spiralizer.  The idea was to create long, thin, twirly pieces of vegetables that resembled pasta.  The idea worked, and my favourite "spaghetti" is now as simple as fresh, raw zucchini.  Crunchy, mild in flavour, and full of nutrition, zucchini spaghetti will have you wrapped around it's twirly little finger in no time.

Zucchini Noodles

At first, pushing veggies through the spiralizer gave me a bit of a hand cramp, but as soon as I got the hang of it, I was zucchini twisting pro!  I use the GEFU 13460 Spiral Cutter, but you could also use a mandolin for straighter pieces as well.

Vegetable Spiralizer

It takes about 5 minutes to do a couple of zucchini's, and then you can dress your noodles however you like.

Zucchini Noodles

My all time favourite way to use zucchini noodles is just like you would spaghetti, with your favourite tomato or meat sauce poured over it and a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  The crunch of the fresh zucchini, mixed with the warm, flavourful tomato sauce, makes for a very tasty twist on a well known dish.  Plus, if you make a big batch of your spaghetti sauce and keep portioned bags of it in the freezer ready to go, this can be an very quick meal for nights when you are short on time or have unexpected guests.

Zucchini Noodles

Another easy option is to just make a fresh garden salad with them.  Mix them up with whatever veggies you have on hand, like tomatoes and cucumbers, and toss with salad dressing.  It's a good change from the usual greens, and it looks pretty too.  This is dinner party material!

Zucchini Noodles

I also experimented with a new creamy avocado pasta sauce for my zucchini noodles this time.  A great vegetarian option, I mixed one avocado, a clove of garlic, the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper in my blender.  A quick toss with the noodles, and a sprinkle of lemon zest, et voila!  As an avocado lover, this is my heaven.  It's smooth and creamy, and delicious.  If you wanted to beef it up a bit, simply place some grilled and sliced chicken breast on top.  And if children are the intended target, just remove or reduce the garlic in the sauce.  For an extra creamy sauce, try adding a 1-2 tablespoons of greek yogurt to the sauce mixture.

Zucchini Noodles

That is the wonderful world of zucchini spaghetti!  Beyond just the nutritional benefits of replacing your wheat pasta with raw vegetable, it's a new way to get all those delicious sauces and toppings into your belly.  And it's just plain tasty too.