Kale and Peach Caprese Salad

Kale and Peach Caprese Salad | Breaking Bland EatsThey say moderation is the key to healthy eating.  Well, I seem to lack moderation when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer months.  To say that I bought too much fruit on our road trip this past weekend would be an understatement.  But how could I pass up 20 pounds of BC peaches for $12, or fresh sunrise apples, tree ripened prune plums, or field tomatoes? Plus, with all the local garden produce available right now I’ve been up to my ears (literally) with fresh fruit and produce lately.  But that’s a problem I don’t mind having, but I may have to invest in a second fridge…

One of my all time favourite salads is an Italian Caprese salad.  Sometimes the simplest of foods can be the most delicious.  I’ve taken the classic combination of fresh sliced tomatoes, basil, and bocconcini cheese (a type of small fresh mozzarella), and added juicy peaches and kale.  Don’t worry, this isn’t any old kale salad; take a look at these beautiful heirloom tomatoes and peaches. Breaking Bland Eats

 

Breaking Bland Eats The kale is simply dressed in some lemon juice and oil, which when massaged into the kale helps to tenderize the otherwise tough leaves. This salad makes a perfect side dish alongside grilled meat or it’s hearty enough to eat on its own for lunch or dinner. I’ve got the rest of those 20lbs of peaches to deal with and I’m thinking that my favourite peach pie would make a perfect dessert for this weekend.

Kale and Peach Caprese Salad

Serves 4-6

1 large bunch of kale, thick stems removed and chopped into bite sized pieces (~6 cups)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large ripe peach, sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup chopped basil, ~10 large leaves
150g (5 oz) bocconcini cheese, sliced or cubed depending on the size
drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar (or balsamic reduction)
salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. In a large salad bowl, combine chopped kale with lemon juice, oil, and a small amount of salt and pepper.  Massage by hand until all the leaves are coated.  Don’t worry about being gentle, the kale can handle it.
  2. Set the kale aside and prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Before serving, top the kale with the peaches, tomatoes, bocconcini cheese, basil, and drizzle with  balsamic vinegar.

Kale and Peach Caprese Salad | Breaking Bland Eats

New Potato Salad with Green Beans and Basil

New Potato and Green Bean Salad

New Potatoes are such a treat in the summertime.  They are small, freshly harvested potatoes, that have a natural sweetness, and hold their shape after cooking – making them a perfect potato to use in salads.  For this easy side dish, I’ve lightened up a summer favourite, -the classic potato salad.  A tangy lemon-dijon vinaigrette loaded with tons of fresh herbs make for a refreshing twist on the traditional mayo-based dressing. Plus, I’ve added some crunch with tons of green and yellow beans, fresh from my father-in-law’s garden!

Blanching the green beans is an essential step to help them keep their vibrant green hue. Simply boil water, add the green beans, boil for 2-4 minutes depending on their size, then submerge the green beans into an ice-bath (a large bowl filled with ice and some water).  This “shocks” the green beans and stops the cooking process, sealing in the bright green colour and crunch.  I also like to blanche broccoli whenever I make a broccoli salad or even when I assemble a veggie platter – everyone always asks how I got the broccoli to look so green, so now you know.

If you’ve been following my previous posts this tip will be a repeat. Whenever you make a grain, pasta, or potato salad, ALWAYS toss the starch with the dressing when the starch is still warm.  This way, as the starch cools down it will absorb all the flavours, rather than just coating the outside.

New Potato Salad with Green Bean and Basil

New Potato Salad with Green Beans and Basil

Serves 6-8, as a side

2 lbs new potatoes, washed
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed, sliced into 1 inch pieces

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 green onions, sliced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook the new potatoes whole, for 12-15 minutes, or until a fork pierced into the potato comes out easily. Remove the potatoes from the water with a slotted spoon, and set aside to cool slightly – reserve the water to blanche the green beans.

2. Bring the water back up to a boil, then add the sliced green beans and cook for 2-4 minutes.  Prepare the ice bath by combining ice and a bit of water in a large bowl.  Test one of the beans at 2 minutes to see if it’s cooked to your liking, if not, continue to cook in one minute intervals.  As soon as they are cooked, drain the beans in a colander, then quickly submerge into the ice bath.  Once the beans are cold, strain the beans and set aside to dry.

3.  While the potatoes are cooling, prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar, dijon, garlic, and salt and pepper.

4.  When the potatoes are cooled enough to handle, slice into rounds and toss with the vinaigrette in a medium bowl.  Add the green beans and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.

5.  Before serving, add the green onions, celery, basil, and parsley.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Mango Quinoa Salad


Breaking Bland Eats

Having just returned from our honeymoon I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the bright tropical flavours we enjoyed while we were away. Luckily, I found a sale on perfectly ripe mangos the other day, and I knew I wanted to use them in a veggie-packed quinoa salad.

This salad is like summer on a plate. Filled with vibrant colours, sweet mango, coconut scented quinoa, and a refreshing lime dressing. Feel free to sub in your favourite vegetables or whatever you have on hand. I love using edamame beans (soybeans) in salads, as they provide a complete source of protein, which is great if you don’t eat meat or are just trying to use more vegetable protein sources.

One tip to turn bland quinoa into something delicious is to cook it in something other than just water. I usually like to sauté some onions and garlic first, then cook the quinoa in vegetable or chicken stock. However, for this recipe, I decided to do a play on coconut rice and used coconut milk instead of stock.  The coconut milk provides just a hint of coconut flavour and helps to keep the quinoa from drying out. Fresh lime juice and cilantro make a simple dressing for this salad, and helps to balance the sweetness of the coconut milk.

This recipe does requires a little bit of planning ahead, since you want the quinoa to be cooled completely before you assemble the salad. A speedy way to do this is to spread the quinoa out on a plate or shallow dish when its hot. This increasing the surface area and allows the quinoa to cool much faster. At this point, you can place the quinoa in the fridge and start prepping the rest of the ingredients.  Speaking of prepping mangos, I recently saw this amazing life hack on how to peel a mango, you can see the video here.  Life changing isn’t it?

Avocado Mango Quinoa Salad

Avocado Mango Quinoa Salad

Recipe by Kirsten.  Serves 4 (main dish) or 6-8 (side dish).

For the quinoa:

  • ½ cup dried quinoa
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk*

For the salad:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup shelled edamame beans, cooked and cooled
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium carrot, grated or julienned
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of two large limes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • mixed salad greens (to serve).
  1.  In a medium pot bring coconut milk to a boil, add the quinoa, cover with a lid, and reduce to low heat.
  2. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat, and let the quinoa to rest for 5 minutes. Allow the quinoa to cool completely– see tip above if you are pressed for time.
  3. To assemble the salad, in a large bowl mix the cooled quinoa with the rest of the ingredients except the salad greens.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and more lime juice if needed.
  5. Serve the salad over a bed of mixed salad greens either as a main course or as a side dish to grilled fish or chicken.

* You can freeze the leftover coconut milk and use it at a later time in your favourite curries, stir-fries, or blended into fruit smoothies.

 

Chickpea Salad with Fresh Mint and Greek Yogurt Dressing

 

Chickpea salad with fresh mint and greek yogurt - BBEIt’s reached that time of year again.  It’s officially too hot to use any appliance in our small, one-bedroom apartment.  Dinner-sized salads have edged out comforting soups and stews on my dinner rotation.  I came home from work needing something quick to eat.  Since I didn’t have any leftover protein in the fridge, I went to my trusty cupboard and grabbed a can of chickpeas. These little beans pack a punch of protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as heart healthy fibre. You’ve heard me talk about fibre before and for good reason.  Most of us simply don’t get enough! By adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and these versatile legumes into your diet, you can easily boost the amount of fibre you eat.

This salad has all the key ingredients of a delicious and satisfying meal-sized salad; crunchy vegetables, tangy dressing, protein-packed chickpeas and a burst of flavour from the lemon and fresh herbs.  I can already picture this salad going perfectly alongside grilled meat or fish, or even wrapped in a tortilla for a quick lunch.

Continue reading

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans.jpg

Happy New Year everyone! We had a busy Christmas this year with lots of family and friend get togethers, which meant I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but don’t get me wrong I enjoyed ever minute of it.   This salad was my contribution to an after Christmas potluck dinner.  It was the perfect side dish to offset all the rich food we’d been eating over the holidays.  Even my sister-in-law, who doesn’t like fruit in her salad, ate all of the leftovers!

Fennel Bulb

Do you ever cook with fennel? Personally, I think it’s an under-appreciated vegetable, probably because many people don’t know what to do with it.  Fennel has a mild anise, or licorice flavour, and is extremely versatile.  The white bulb can be eaten raw, like in the salad recipe below, or it can be cooked along with the tougher green stalks into pasta sauces, stir-fries, or any recipe which calls for onions or celery. You can use the wispy green fronds as a fresh herb on baked salmon or tossed into salads for a faint licorice flavour.

 To prepare the fennel, remove the green stalks from the white bulb.  Slice the bulb into quarters and remove the hard inner core.  If your recipe calls for sliced fennel you can use a mandolin or simply slice diagonally with a sharp knife.  For a nice side dish try cutting the fennel into 1 inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes until soft and golden brown.Julienned Carrots and Apple

To add texture to this salad I decided to julienne the vegetables, which is a fancy term for creating match stick shapes. For carrots, slice diagonally into long ovals, place each oval flat side down, and cut into long strips. Use the same technique for the apples.

Image

Candied pecans are an extra special addition to this salad and are easy to make at home. A lot of recipes I’ve found require using an oven, but my go-to recipe uses only the stove and takes less than 15 minutes to make.  I’ve included the basic recipe below, but try experimenting with different flavours such as cinnamon, cumin, or add some heat with cayenne and black pepper.   The recipe makes more than enough pecans for this salad, so keep the extras in an air-tight container for use at a later time.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4-6

Candied Pecans: 
1 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 teaspoon water
optional add ins: pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin etc.

Dressing:
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1/2 medium fennel bulb, sliced
1 large apple, julienned or grated
1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
½ red onion, sliced
Half of a 10oz bag of spinach
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup candied pecans

Directions

For the candied pecans: In a small pot or frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add brown sugar, nuts, water and add-ins if using.   Stir constantly for 5 minutes until sugar is melted and nuts are evenly coated, be careful not to burn the sugar or nuts. Transfer nuts to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to cool.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Start with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and taste, add more as needed.  Add sliced fennel, apple, carrot and red onion to the dressing and stir to coat.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the vegetables to soak up the dressing.  This can be prepared a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use. The acidity from the dressing will keep the apples from browning.

When you are ready to serve the salad, add the spinach, feta and candied pecans to the fennel/dressing mixture and toss lightly until combined.   Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Barley “Risotto” with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese

Beet Barley Risotto {Breaking Bland Eats}

To help kick off the holiday season I thought I’d share this festively coloured beet “risotto”. This isn’t a traditional risotto, since it’s made with barley instead of arborio rice, but the result is a deliciously creamy dish with roasted beets and tangy goat cheese. The barley adds a wonderful nuttiness and it’s almost impossible to overcook, so no need to worry about a mushy risotto!

When shopping for beets, I like to pick bunches with the green leaves still attached. It’s like getting two vegetables for the price of one, what a deal! Those leafy greens wilt down beautifully and can be added to anything from pasta dishes to soups or stews. I often prepare the greens as a side dish, sautéed in a little olive oil, garlic, and finished with a squeeze of lemon juice and a good pinch of salt.

You can roast the beets in a 400F oven for 45-60 minutes, or if you are pressed for time you can achieve similar results in the microwave.  Simply place the beets in a microwave safe dish with a few tablespoons of water, ensuring you poke a few holes in the beets so they don’t explode, cover, and cook for 5-15 minutes depending on the number and size of your beets.

Now time to start my holiday baking, stay tuned for recipes!

Barley “Risotto” with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese     Serves 4-6, Recipe created by Kirsten

1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of pearl barley
6-7 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
2 medium beets, with greens attached
¼ cup of goat cheese
¼ cup of parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare beets:
– Remove the beetroot from the leaves. Wash the leaves and roughly chop, set aside.
– Scrub beetroots and roast in a 400F oven for 45-60 minutes or covered in the microwave (see directions above).
– Allow beets to cool slightly before peeling and dicing into 1/4 inch cubes, set aside. Tip: if you don’t want to stain your hands I recommend using disposable kitchen gloves for this job.

Make the risotto:
– Bring stock to a boil in a medium pot and keep warm over low heat on a back burner.
– Meanwhile in a large heavy bottomed pot sauté butter, oil, and onions over medium-high heat until translucent, about 3 minutes.
– Add garlic and barley and stir for another 5 minutes or until barley become lightly toasted and brown.
– Slowly add hot stock, about ½-3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed.
– Repeat this step with remaining stock until barley has absorbed all the stock, about 30 minutes. If it seems too dry you can add more water or stock to get to your desired consistency.
– Add roasted beets, beet greens, and goat cheese. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until barley is cooked and beet greens are wilted.
– Season with salt and pepper, and before serving stir in parsley.

Note:  You can substitute kale or spinach for the beet greens.

White Borscht Soup

DSC03451

You may be asking yourself, “What is white borscht?” Well that’s exactly what I asked myself when I walked into a small café and saw the soup of the day.  Borscht is something I’ve made many times in the past, but it always has a distinct purple colour thanks to the beets.  So what made it a white borscht? The waitress could obviously sense my confusion and she offered to give me a sample. After one sip I knew it was exactly what I was going to order for lunch. As it turns out, white borscht is a lot like beet borscht, just minus the beets!

It was so good, I came home that same day and tried to recreate it. I couldn’t find anything online that resembled the flavours or texture of the soup I’d had at the café, so I made it up.  The result, although not exactly the same, was a delicious marriage of fresh dill, tender chunks of cabbage and potato and a light creamy broth. I topped it with a generous dollop of sour cream, more fresh dill and served it with warm cheddar biscuits (see biscuit recipe from this post).  This may not be a traditional white borscht, but nonetheless, this soup is delicious and perfect for these cold Fall nights. 

White Borscht Soup
Recipe by Kirsten, serves 6-8

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 dried bay leaves
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups of water
4 cups of low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 small head of green cabbage, (approx 600g), thinly sliced
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of sour cream (I used light or 5%), plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped.  If you don’t have fresh you can use dried dill – start with 1 teaspoon and adjust to taste.  

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Sauté onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and green pepper for 5-8 minutes or until onions start to become translucent.
2. Add remaining ingredients, except the sour cream and fresh dill.  Cook for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.
3. Next stir in sour cream and fresh dill. To serve ladle into bowls and top with more sour cream and dill.

Note: one of my favourite grocery store finds was a tube of tomato paste; think of a toothpaste tube but filled with tomato paste.  I’ve never made a recipe that called for the whole can of tomato paste and always ended up having to freeze the leftovers.  The tube is perfect because you can use what you need then put the cap back on and it’s ready for the next time you need it.

Creamy Sweet Potato Dahl

Creamy Sweet Potato Dahl by Breaking Bland Eats

My aversion to meat as a young child forced my mom to come up with creative ways to transform vegetables, and occasionally chicken or fish, into delicious meals for the whole family. We often ate vegetarian meals and to this day, even though I’m not quite as picky with meat, I still like to make a lot of meatless meals.  I always keep dried legumes and canned beans in my pantry so I can whip together nutritious meals even when my fridge isn’t well stocked. Beans and lentils are inexpensive, a good source of protein, and packed full of fibre – which helps to keep you full and satisfied!

This recipe is my take on an Indian lentil stew called Dahl. I added sweet potato and coconut milk for a touch of sweetness and fresh spinach because the bunch in my refrigerator was starting to look questionable.   All you need to complete this meal is some cooked basmati rice or naan bread.

Trust me you won’t miss the meat in this dish!

Creamy Sweet Potato Dahl

Serves 4-6, recipe by Kirsten

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and minced or ½ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala*
3 medium carrots, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced
1 cup dried brown lentils
3 cups of water
1 can of coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
4 cups of packed spinach
1/4 cup cilantro (optional, but highly recommended!)

Cooked basmati rice or naan bread for serving

Directions:

1.  Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot, add onions and cook until soft – about 5 minutes.
2. Add ginger, garlic , jalapenos and spices and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes until spices are fragrant.
3. Add lentils, carrots, sweet potato, and water. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally
4. Add coconut milk and salt, cook for another 10 minutes.
5. Add tomatoes and spinach and cook for 3 minutes until lentils are soft and spinach is wilted. Adjust seasoning to taste and stir in fresh cilantro if using.

*Note: Garam masala is a blend of ground spices which you can find it in the spice section of most grocery stores.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

Having many green thumbs in your family means occasionally having to come up with creative ways to use fresh produce.  This was the case this past summer with a seemingly endless supply of eggplants from my parent’s garden. I used this opportunity to make baba ghanoush, a roasted eggplant dip, which just so happens to be one of my favourite dips.  As I was browsing through recipes I realized how the ingredients in baba ghanoush were almost identical to those in hummus, so combining the two just made perfect sense!

The result is a deliciously creamy dip, with just a hint of smokiness from the roasted eggplant, and a nice kick from the garlic and fresh lemon.  The roasted eggplant serves two purposes: one to add extra vegetables into your diet (always a bonus!), and two it adds extra moisture so you don’t have to use a ton of excess oil.  You can find tahini, or sesame paste, in most super market alongside other nut and seed butters.

This dip is great served with whole-wheat pita, tortilla chips, cut up vegetables or as a substitute for mayo in sandwiches or wraps.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

Recipe by Kirsten, makes ~ 3 cups of hummus.  

2 globe eggplants, or 4 Japanese eggplants.
2 lemons, juiced
¼ cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 19oz (540ml) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed under water.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Smoked paprika (optional garnish)

 Directions:

  1. Roast the eggplants: using a fork pierce the eggplant a few times then place on a on tin-foil lined baking sheet.  Roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes, until insides are soft and the outer skin is slightly charred and wrinkled.
  2. One cooled, slice eggplants in half and scrap out inside, leaving the charred skins behind. Set aside
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, minus the eggplant, into your food processor and blend together.  Next add the roasted eggplant and pulse a few times to combine.  This will yield a slightly chunky dip so if you prefer a more creamy consistency continue to blend.  Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper to taste. If needed you can add a tablespoon or two of water if the mixture seems dry.
  4. Transfer to a serving dish and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Garnish with smoked paprika and a drizzle of good quality olive olive.

Kale Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Image

I love walking around a farmer’s market and seeing what’s fresh and in season. I always end up buying more produce than I can realistically use, but having too many vegetables is a challenge I am willing to accept! This simple salad was inspired by one of these occasions.

Raw kale isn’t for everyone.  I’ve used different varieties of kale and found that I prefer the flatter black kale versus its curly relatives.   This salad has the perfect balance of flavours: acidity from the dressing, sweetness from the corn and tomatoes, earthiness from the greens, and saltiness from the feta.  If kale isn’t your cup of tea this salad works equally well with spinach or mixed greens.

One tip when making any kale salad is to massage the dressing into the kale leaves by hand.  Raw kale tends to have a very tough texture and massaging the leaves help to soften and tenderize them. We enjoyed this salad right away but the leftovers were even better the next day for lunch.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Kale Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

Serves 4, recipe by Kirsten

Dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
2 teaspoons of maple syrup or honey
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1 large bunch of kale, washed and dried.
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
2 cobs of corn, cooked and kernels removed,  approx 1 cup.
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup of crumbled feta

Directions:

  1. Prepare dressing by whisking all ingredients together, or as I prefer place ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine.
  2. Chop or tear the kale into bite-sized pieces, removing hard inner stem, and place in a large serving bowl.  Add half of the dressing and massage the leaves by hands, don’t worry about being too rough, the kale can take it.
  3. Add the tomatoes, corn, feta, basil and remaining dressing to the kale. Note: depending on the size of the bunch of kale, you may have more dressing than you need.
  4. Cover the salad and place in the fridge until ready to use.