Potato salad (without mayo!)

Most potato salad I’ve come across in my life are very different from what my mom used to make (which obviously is what I consider the standard to which all other potato salads need to measure up to) and if I never had my mom’s or my own inspired by her, I would have to say, I’m not a fan of potato salad. That’s because pretty much they main ingredient is mayonnaise and I can’t stand mayo – I don’t like the texture (slippery slimy like my other food foes butter, raw tomatoes and oysters), taste (all I taste is a fat film taking over my entire mouth) or the ingredient list (mostly a bunch of fats, sugar and calcuim disodium edta, a pollutant and chelating agent which sounds both natural and healthy). Yuk. However, it’s an illusion to think potato salad = a few chunks of potatoes floating in a sea of mayo.

This potato salad is, in my biased opinion, 100 times better and a 100 times healthier. The second being a fact – the only fat in this salad is heart healthy olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • about 10 small potatoes, cut into chunks and steamed until soft (do not overcook)
  • 1 large cucumber (field or English)
  • 4 pickled cucumbers, cut into small chunks
  • 2 green onions, sliced and/or a handful of chives
  • 2 table each spoons olive oil and vinegar for dressing
  • 1 table spoon of mustard (I prefer the grainy Dijon kind)
  • 1 cup of warm broth (I used vegetable broth)
  • salt and pepper to taste

imageMix olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, add broth and warm potatoes. Let this sit for about 1 hour, gently stirring to have ensure all the potatoes are soaking up some of the broth. Then, when it’s cooled off, add cucumbers, pickles and green onion and/or chives, season with salt and pepper. Great as a side to BBQ meats or vegetables and this can easily be prepared ahead of time.

The potatoes I used were young potatoes from our garden which by the way came out of a few large potatoes cut up into chunks, then buried into a trench in some soil where nothing else grows, then you need to do some uphilling while the plant grows but is otherwise a very easy garden plant.  You could also use other young potatoes or regular large once, but don’t use russet potatoes or other potatoes you’d use for mashed or baked potatoes, instead use the kind that stays relatively firm – what you would use if you fried them or made hash browns.

Healthy Pizza

Yes, you read that right – pizza from scratch is both easy and healthy if done right (read: whole wheat flour dough loaded with vegetables and real mozzarella). A note on mozzarella: what I call mozzarella is called boccocini or buffalo mozzarella here in Canada and is tasty and relatively low in calories and fat for cheese. What they call mozzarella here, we call plastic in Europe. Why would you eat that?
Now, I’m kinda lucky because I LOVE the taste if whole wheat dough – it’s sweet and chewy and so much more flavourful than its white counterpart. I say I’m lucky because life’s a lot easier if you naturally like what’s good for you and naturally dislike what’s bad for you. Now back to the pizza.
Making dough from scratch is much easier than most people think and if you don’t take the time it needs to rest and rise into consideration, it takes less time than waiting for your oven to heat up.
Dinner for 4:
For the dough:
Ingredients:
– 3.5 cups (500g) whole wheat flour (substitute for rice flour if you’re celiac, look up ratio for water – flour)
– 2.5 tsp salt
– 3 tsp (20g) yeast
– 2 1/4 (3 dl) water
– 2 tbsp olive oil
Direction:
In a bowl, mix flour and salt. Create a hole in the middle of the flour mix. Dissolve yeast in water, pour water/yeast mix and oil into the ditch. Mix and knead until smooth. It’s so therapeutic! Cover with cloth and let it sit for about an hour.
For the toppings:
The other great thing (other than being easy and healthy) about this recipe is that the variations are endless: vary your toppings and you’ll never get tired of it. Believe me, I tried! For this one, I used:photo(3)
– 1/2 zucchini, washed and sliced very thin
– a handful of mushrooms, washed and sliced very thin
– one pepper, washed and sliced very thin
– 12 cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half
– 1 buffalo mozzarella
After dough has risen, pre-heat oven to 395 °F (200 °C). Roll out the dough on area with flour until about 1/4 inch thick (5mm). Put on parchment paper, then onto a baking sheet. Distribute vegetables and cheese, season with herbs if you like, and sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Vary vegetables, add tomato sauce, meats (ham, ground turkey) or tuna (sustainable dolphin
friendly, of course)  if you like and create your own favourite!

Triple Green Pasta

Twice this week, I realized half way through the day that all I had that day was sugar and caffeine. Not good. Why is it that we glorify being busy again? So when I came up for air, I decided what my body needed was good carbs (as in whole grains) and vegetables, preferably green. I remembered a recipe from a book and tried to recreate it: Whole wheat pasta with three kinds of greens. Delicious and perfect for fueling.  Side note: if you love pasta and eat is as often as I do, go whole wheat. I remember my mum making it and I HATED it but in the meantime, I love it so much that eating white pasta grosses me out. True story!

For 2 people:

photo(1)Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat pasta (I make app. 100g/person or 0.5lbs)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 green onions, washed and roughly chopped
  • a good handful of snow peas, washed and cut in half if too big
  • a good handful of fresh organic spinach, washed
  • 1 cup/250ml Broth
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook pasta according to packages. Once water boils, scoop one cup of water out and dissolve broth powder, if you are using instant broth (which I was because I’m out of my home made broth).

In the meantime, wash and chop your vegetables. Heat oil and add green onions, then snow peas. Turn down heat, add broth and let it simmer until snow peas are soft. Turn heat off. Add pasta and spinach, mix well. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Vegetable Medley

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Making gnocchi from scratch is quite a bit of work. Consider yourself warned. So worth it though, especially these made with yams or sweet potatoes. If you don’t feel up for the challenge, you can buy regular gnocchi or use pasta for this recipe. I have made it with Spaetzle before too but that’s just as much work. But hey, I’m not suggesting you whip up this dinner from scratch after a 10h work day with a 3h commute as my day was today. What I did instead: I made a big batch of gnocchi in advance, threw them in the freezer in 2 people portions and just cooked them in boiling water for a few minutes when I need them. The rest of this meal takes 5 minutes and the result is a healthy, fast and delicious meal.

For the gnocchi recipe, click here (minus the sauce part – but that recipe is delicious too). If you buy gnocchi or pasta, cook according to package.

For the sauce:

Ingredients for two people

– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 onion, chopped
– 1 organic pepper, cubed
– 1 small organic zucchini
– 4 organic mushrooms
– 1 cup (250ml) broth
– a few tbsp sour cream, plain yogurt or some type of soft cheese

Directions:

Sauté onions. Add peppers. Add broth. Bring to boil, add zucchini and mushrooms. Turn off heat after a few minutes, add gnocchi and whatever dairy you choose. I had some leftover Boursin and threw that in. You can leave it out all together if you don’t eat dairy, I just like it a bit creamy.

Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Voilà!

Mashed Cauliflower

I have been wanting to try and create a recipe for mashed cauliflower ever since I had it at one of my favourite restaurants. Not just because I thought it could be a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes but also because it tasted amazing and poor cauliflower is such an underrated vegetable, I couldn’t wait to give it center stage. So here my version:

Ingredients:

– 1 whole head of organic cauliflower

– 1 tsp olive oil

-1 tbsp milk

– 3 cloves garlic

– a few chives, chopped small

-sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees (350 Fahrenheit). (I made a piece of meat in the oven to go with the mashed cauliflower which was a good idea – heating up the oven just for the garlic could be a bit wasteful). Cut the top few mm of the garlic off, wrap it in tinfoil and bake it for 30-45 minutes (depending on your oven). You won’t need all cloves so either freeze the additional ones for another time or enjoy with a cracker as an appy.

Wash and cut cauliflower into smaller pieces, steam until soft.

Mix steamed cauliflower, oil, milk and 3 cloves of garlic and mash using a fork, blender or whatever you would use to make mashed potatoes.

Season with chives, salt and pepper. I had it as a side to a piece of meat but you can substitute it for mashed potatoes anywhere – at your holiday table, in Shepard’s pie, as filling for perogies or whatever else you can think of.

 

Stir fry – My mum’s Chinese dish

This is a variation of one of my favourite childhood meals my mum used to make – her “Chinese”. After going to a Chinese wedding a few years back, I realized our idea of Chinese food has very little to do with the real thing. 10 courses later, I left the wedding hungry and disillusioned – obviously what Chinese restaurants serve in the Western world is not Chinese food, but what Westerners think Chinese food is. Same here – so don’t expect what I didn’t eat at the wedding (Jellyfish, Shark Fin soup (I would NEVER!), tentacles from some unidentified seamonster, insects and 6 other courses that sometimes make their way into my nightmares). I don’t mean to offend anyone who likes the “real” Chinese food, but here a toned down version. Sorry also if I just ruined your appetite.

For 4 people:

Stir fry

  • 1lb (300 g meat (I use either  chicken breast or beef and slice them, you could do Tofu as well)
  • Soy sauce
  • Ginger, piece the size of your thumb, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp sesame seed oil
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 cup/250ml Sherry or Broth or a combination of the two
  • Vegetables : carrots, bok choy, peppers, mungo sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach or whatever else your heart desires or your fridge has in it.
  • Rice (perfume, jasmine, or brown) or Asian noodles

Directions:

Marinate the meat or tofu 1 h in soy sauce, sesame seed oil, ginger and garlic. See image for how the meat should be sliced.

If you are going with rice, cook according to package (usually 1 cup of rice with 2 cups of water). Turn off heat about half way through, put a lid on pot, and let it sit. With the right ratio of water and rice, it should turn out perfect and be ready when your stir fry is. Plus you save some electricity. Win-win. If you have a rice cooker, just let it do its thing.

Wash and chop vegetables. Carrots into small sticks (image). No matter what vegetables you use, you should have about 2-3 cups (500-750 g) vegetables in total.

If you use noodles instead of rice, bring 1l of water to a boil and cook noodles according to package now.

Heat peanut oil in Wok or large frying pan. Add vegetables according to length it takes to cook them: carrots first, then broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, bok choy… Sprouts and spinach last.

Stir cornstarch into sherry or broth in a glass, set aside.

Fry meat in separate pan – shortly, but all the way through. Set aside.

Add more ginger and garlic to the vegetable mix, add soy sauce and if you like, the meat marinade. Stir well, add sherry or broth and meat as well as the noodles if you chose this option. Heat up, taste. Add water if too salty or more soy sauce if not enough. Serve with rice if you didn’t add noodles. What’s your favourite combination?

A few thoughts on Salad

I love salads. Which is lucky, I would be a lot less healthy if I didn’t. I often make a side salad for dinner and a few times when I had people over, they would ask me for the recipe. Thing is, I don’t have one. Which isn’t what people want to hear. And it’s certainly not ideal when you write a recipe blog.

Image Courtesy by Lavoview

Image Courtesy by Lavoview

My idea of a good salad is about the opposite of your average cafeteria salad. Quite frankly, I hate those: a few sad looking pieces of Iceberg lettuce (which is a great crunch adder for wraps, tacos or burgers but rarely makes it into my salads because it’s about as exciting as plain water on a cold day), topped with an insanely heavy dressing that has more calories than the daily special would have and if you’re lucky, a few shredded carrots. Thanks, but no thanks. How is that supposed to be healthy? Not to mention tasty..

My go-to is what I refer to as “discovery salads” and usually constitute of what I find – discover – in my fridge. Are you thinking, thanks, I could have figured out that one myself? Ok, here’s a very general recipe:

    • Basis: greens of some sort. I love Spinach, Butter lettuce, Arugula, or Romaine but choose what you like and can find. Mix if you like.
    • Vegetables: I frequently add peppers, cucumber (shredded or cubed), carrots (shredded or cubed), tomatoes and celery (sticks). A bit more special are beets or (mixed) mushrooms tossed in warm vinegar. Is cabbage a vegetable? Either way, needs to be listed too, so good.
    • Fruit and Berries: Apple and Pear (both either shredded or cubed) go verywell with most salads. Make sure you add it at the very end and sprinkle it with lemon juice because both oxidize quickly and look ugly. If you add fruit, leave out some of the veggies. Raisins or dried cranberries and fresh berries in the summer (Black-, Blue-, Straw- or Raspberries) also add some sweetness.

      Image Courtesy Felixco, Inc.

      Image Courtesy Felixco, Inc.

    • Protein: Sliced chicken (baked or cooked, seasoned if you like), canned tuna or salmon, eggs, Feta cheese, goat cheese, grated Parmesan. I would stick to one or two. Chicken goes well with any of the cheeses listed, fish well with eggs. Sliced Parmesan on Arugula with a simply olive oil and Balsamic vinegar dressing is one of my favourite salads.
    • Healthy fats: Avocado, seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin..) or nuts (almonds, cashews, pine, walnuts or your favourite). What’s delicious and super fancy tasting is if you warm up the nuts in a bit of water in a frying pan, add some brown sugar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and stir over low heat until there is no liquid left, only gooey yummy sticky candy-like nuts.
    • Grains: quinoa, barley, couscous, even lentils, have made it into my salad bowl. De-li-cious. Where do chickpeas fit in? A must try!
    • Toppings: green onion, purple onion, olives, artichoke hearts, cilantro, parsley, mint, lime or lemon zest. I’d stick to one leafy topping per salad but it’s your choice.I personally absolutely detest cilantro but most people I know love it and think I’m crazy, so I felt compelled to list it.
    • Salad around the world: give it a South American feel by adding corn and black beans. Or Asian, with peanuts or sesame seeds and a soy sauce dressing. Please don’t be offended if you’re South American or Asian and think I’ve simplified things. I’m Swiss and people think all I eat is cheese and chocolate. And they are right. No, seriously, to me that tastes South American or Asian.

Obviously I never add everything I just listed, that would be quite ridiculous, but I encourage you to be creative and you’ll be surprised at what goes well together. Oh and check out these dressings to make any salad (even the one from your work’s cafeteria) more interesting.

What is your favourite creation?