The Fresh Sheet…Grapefruit

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For many of us, January is NOT the time when we think of anything being fresh and in season. But after the holiday festivities, fresh is exactly what I am craving. Luckily, while many parts of Canada and the US are under a few feet of snow, it’s citrus season under sunnier skies.

Luscious red grapefruit are a much sweeter, friendlier variety than their paler cousins and they just what the New Year ordered. Ruby hued grapefruit is full of the skin-loving phytochemical lycopene, along with a dose of vitamin C to help fend off cold and flu season.

When choosing grapefruit, look for fruit that are quite heavy for their size which means that they will be juicy and delicious! They will do fine on the counter but I love my grapefruit chilled.

Grapefruit are lovely on their own as a snack, broiled with a bit of brown sugar and chili flakes or in a smoothie but they also make a lovely addition to salads. No matter how cold it is outside, I am a salad girl. In the colder months, I tend to gravitate towards chewier leaves like parsley and kale. Stick-to-your-ribs kind of greens…if you can call greens stick-to-your-ribs.

If you are on the healthier path this month and looking for a dense, hearty salad to begin the year with a clean slate, we have just the thing. This salad will actually fill you up with plenty of heart-healthy fats and even has a bit of ginger to help settle an over-indulged tummy. Did I mention the scent of grapefruit helps to quell appetite?

Eat well. Heather and I wish you all the best for the year ahead!

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Ginger Lemon Dressing

Serves 4-6

1 large bunch of your favourite kale, de-stemmed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces (about 8 packed cups of leaves)
1 large red grapefruit, peel and pith removed and sliced into bite sized pieces
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1/2 cup raw almonds, whole or slivered

2 tbsp avocado oil or other lightly flavoured oil like almond or grapeseed
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp honey
pinch of salt

Wash and spin kale leaves so they are nice and dry and place in a large salad bowl. Save the stems and mince them for use when making a soup or stir fry. Don’t waste good food!

Mix dressing ingredients together and then pour over kale. Using fingers, massage dressing into kale leaves until they wilt and shrink by about 50% in volume. Magic!

To make the grapefruit seem juicier, use a knife to slice off a 1 cm (1/2 in) piece from top and bottom. Then use a knife to cut off all of the peel and pith so you are left with just juicy fruit. Cut the fruit into pieces, placing your cuts so you don’t get any of the skin on the outside of the slices to reign in all that juicy goodness.

Toss grapefruit, avocado and almond with kale and serve.

Tip: to make this a complete meal, serve with shredded leftover chicken or some pan-fried tofu, cut into “croutons”

From the Root Cellar: Carrot Apple Slaw

carrot apple salad

Getting ready for summer means eating up the winter fruit and vegetables you have in storage. I seem to have gone through all my frozen blueberries, blackberries and all my preserves. However, there always seems to be a carrot or two and the odd apple hanging around in my pantry – it’s not really surprising since both are widely available throughout the year. There are those days that I find myself gawking at those simple carrots and apples wondering what the heck do I do with them. The spring sunshine demands a fresh departure from the hearty, savoury dishes of months past; I need that burst of summer flavour that will inspire the rain clouds of April to disappear into the sunny days of the coming summer.

Slaws are a very traditional side dish and we usually remember them as creamy and rich and laden with cabbage. However, any combination of fruit and veggies works in a slaw form and a light vinaigrette is the perfect match for the energizing freshness of spring.

This recipe can easily add colour and flavour to dinner or fit into your lunchbox. I also enjoy it for an afternoon snack when the rain is pouring down and I’m trying to convince myself to get out for a walk. It’s natural sweetness makes it a hit with the kiddies too.

carrot and apple salad - close up

Carrot Slaw
Makes 4 servings

2 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
1 apple, unpeeled and grated (about 1 cup)
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh mint or parsley, chopped

Toss grated apple with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning. In a bowl, toss grated carrot and apple together. Cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent further browning if not serving right away.
In a small bowl, combine orange juice and red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Drizzle over carrots and apple and toss until well mixed. Add parsley or mint and toss to combine.
This sweet slaw is perfect for lunches, an afternoon snack or with dinner. If life is extra busy, simple toss grated carrot and apple with freshly squeezed orange juice and some chopped fresh mint for a super quick slaw.

Fresh Sheet…Asparagus

Nothing says spring like the earthy, sweet taste of asparagus. These brave spears burst through the soil as the weather warms, unlike the shyly unfurling fiddlehead or the quietly persisting leafy greens.  Their flavour and delicate crunch awakens our palettes, lulled into submission by an endless parade of root veggies. Their very green-ness makes me ever more excited for all the tasty treats to come.

Like many greens, asparagus is rich in folate for a healthy nervous system and vitamin K for healthy blood clotting and strong bones. However, asparagus is also a good source of glutathione, which is a energizing anti-oxidant. No matter how nutritious asparagus may be, it is the sheer pleasure of eating it that excites us again and again.

To buy asparagus, look for bright green stalks and tightly closed tips. The stalks should be straight and firm with minimal white ends. That bargain asparagus in the supermarket? By the time you snap off all the woody end, it isn’t such a bargain. When you can find it, hand-harvested asparagus will be all tender stalk, the perfect showpiece for your spring feast. Store fresh asparagus by wrapping the bottom of the stalks in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic bag. Use within a day or two as asparagus degrades quickly.

To use, snap off the end where it naturally breaks and rinse well. Asparagus is delicious grilled, roasted, sautéed or when it is really fresh, in a beautiful salad. We also published a delicious asparagus risotto recipe earlier this spring. Enjoy!

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Beets and Hazelnuts

This salad is spring on a plate. The subtle sweetness of local asparagus (don’t bother with this recipe out of season!) paired with the earthiness of fresh thyme, a bright splash of citrus and rich hazelnuts is delivers all that is best about the season.

Serves 2 or 4 as appetizers

1 lb local asparagus, washed (do not trim dry ends)
1 lg (or 2 small) beets, peeled and trimmed
1/2 c hazelnuts
1 cup chèvre or 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)
1 tbsp lemon zest

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste

To shave asparagus, start by snapping off the heads of asparagus and setting aside. Keep dry ends so you have a handle for shaving – don’t use in salad. Use a very sharp peeler and, holding on to dry end, peel thin ribbons off the asparagus. The longer the asparagus is, the more the ribbons will turn out like pasta. Set aside.

Use the peeler to shave beet ribbons or use a spiral mandolin to make long, spaghetti-like strands. Arrange the asparagus, beets, cheese (if using) and hazelnuts on plate. Sprinkle lemon zest over the veggies.

Meanwhile, shake up remaining ingredients in a jam jar and pour over salads. You may make the dressing ahead of time but the salad is best prepared fresh.

Fresh Sheet…Chickpeas Part III

When the weather warms up, I can hardly resist the urge to eat mezze-style: a patio in the sunshine, assorted delicacies to nibble at one’s leisure, delicately arranged on a platter and supplemented by perhaps a glass (or two) of chilled rose.

This salad blends all the elements of spring – the brightness of citrus, the earthiness of chickpeas and tahini, the vibrant green of pea shoots and parsley and the sharp, cleansing bite of radishes. Enjoy in good company and linger for the afternoon…

Middle Eastern Salad with Chick Pea Croutons
Makes 4 small salads or 2 meal size salads. 

1 cup pea shoots
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup kalamata olives
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup sliced radishes
2 cups chopped cucumber

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the chick pea croutons (see recipe below) and set aside. Toss the first 6 salad ingredients together in a bowl. In a jam jar or sealable container, mix remaining ingredients together. Dress the salad right before serving and top with croutons. Croutons and dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance; note that garlic flavours will intensify as dressing rests.



Chickpea Croutons

1 medium carrot, grated
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1-1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1-19 oz/540 ml can chick peas, drained and rinsed or 2 cups of cooked chick peas
1/4 cup hemp hearts
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a food processor, combine grated carrot, spices, olive oil, lemon juice and water. Pulse until carrot is coarsely pureed.Add chick peas and hemp hearts and pulse a few times to combine ingredients, but not puree the chick peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Create croutons by forming about 2 teaspoons of the chick pea mixture into balls or square shapes. Place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone nonstick mat or parchment paper. Bake until golden, approximately 30 minutes, turning baking sheet once through baking. Allow to cool.

Heart Shaped Cucumbers and Chocolate Spiced Cookies

While grocery shopping the other day, I was surprised to find heart shaped cucumbers. That’s right, heart shaped cucumbers. The cucumbers are grown in heart shaped molds and look similar to regular ones, but when you slice them you get mini heart shaped slices. What a fun way to serve up a simple cucumber salad for your loved ones on Valentine’s.   

Simple Asian Cucumber Salad
Makes 4-6 servings.

2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sweet thai chili sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp sugar
a pinch of salt
¼ -½ tsp sambal oelek or crushed chili pepper
1 english cucumber or 4 mini heart shaped cucumbers

In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, sweet thai chili sauce, sesame oil, sugar, pinch of salt and sambal oelek. Set aside.

Using a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly slice cucumbers. Just before serving gently toss cucumbers with dressing. This salad is best served right away.

We think Valentine’s is best enjoyed with some good quality chocolate and I’m sure you’d agree too. I also like to celebrate Valentine’s by baking chocolate goodies for my friends and family. This spiced chocolate crackle cookie has been getting rave reviews and requests to bake more, so we’re sharing the recipe so you can enjoy it too. 

Spiced Chocolate Crackle Cookies
Borrowed from McCormick Gourmet website.
Makes about 40 cookies.

12 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided
¾ cup flour
2 tsp roasted cinnamon (regular cinnamon can also be used)
1 tsp ground ancho chili pepper
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate in a double broiler. Set aside. Coarsely chop remaining 4 ounces of the chocolate. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine flour, roasted cinnamon, ancho chili pepper, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugars together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Add melted chocolate and beat until well blended. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Stir in chopped chocolate. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons about 1½ inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake about 10 minutes or just until cookies are set and slightly cracked on top. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Happy Valentine’s!

Third Time’s a Charm: Wheat Berry Salad with Smoked Paprika and Mint

My holiday wish list included the much anticipated cookbook: Whitewater Cooks with friends by Shelley Adams. It’s full of “great recipes that are meant to be shared” as Shelley quotes in her third cookbook. This likely explains why I love her cookbooks: they are full of delicious recipes and gorgeous photos, plus I love to share food with my friends and family. Meals and snacks are so much more when they’re shared with great company and conversation. Just ask those on my cookie delivery route who had the pleasure of trying the Whitewater Cooks fabulous molasses & 3 ginger cookies.

I’m always on the lookout for creative new salad ideas for my lunch. With a mouthwatering photo that spoke of rich hearty and healthy goodness and spiced with the striking flavour of smoked paprika and refreshing mint, it was no surprise that this salad caught my eye. It’s satisfying and perfect for sharing at a potluck or divvying up into containers for a week’s worth of lunches.

Recipe borrowed from Whitewater Cooks with friends by Shelley Adams

ancient grains and edamame with smoked paprika vinaigrette
makes 6 servings

1 ½ cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 ½ cups wheat berries
The original recipe called for ½ cup each of wild rice, farro and quinoa. But since we have an abundance of wheat berries, we stuck with this healthy Canadian grain.
1 ½ cups frozen and shelled edamame beans, thawed
½ medium red onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped

Vinaigrette:
½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
¾ tsp smoked paprika
¼ cup olive oil

Toss corn kernels in 1 tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp of smoked paprika and roast in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool.

Place wheat berries in a medium saucepan with 3 and ¼ cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain away excess water and spread cooked wheat berries onto a baking sheet to cool.

Place wheat berries in a large bowl and add roasted corn, edamame, onion and mint.

Whisk lemon juice, sherry vinegar, smoked paprika and olive oil together in a small bowl until blended. If desired, season with salt. Pour vinaigrette over wheat berry mixture and toss very well. 

Soul Nourishing Salad

Does something as simple as a salad have the ability to slow down your day and provide a little yoga-like relaxation?

We sure think so.

It was one of those work days. The emails start accumulating before the day begins, the meetings are back-to-back and long and you’re lucky if you get lunch. So you eat off the side of your desk while catching up on a few things. The challenge with this scenario is that you don’t really get a break to rejuvenate and recharge your energy and mind. Balancing my lunch in one hand and typing with the other, I desperately tried to get a few more things done. Then, I popped a bite of my Chewy Wheat Berry and Kale Salad into my mouth. Like its name implies, this salad is chewy. There’s no gulping this salad down in a matter of minutes. It’s a salad that demands savouring bites to indulge in every flavour and texture it has to offer. As I slowed down to properly chew my lunch, I started to relax and truly savour in all its delicious flavours. It was a great reminder of the importance of taking the time to enjoy my meal, especially that lunch in the middle of a busy day. Not only did I feel more satisfied and ready to take on my afternoon, I was more relaxed when I got home from work to enjoy my evening.

We definitely dream of the day when our culture is built around meals, rather than trying to squeeze fast bites into busy days. We believe that food and meals are so much more nourishing when enjoyed to its full extent. So, until that dream day arrives, slow down and enjoy this soul-nourishing creation. We packed it full of winter-fresh kale (it’s that super nutritious green leafy you’ve probably heard lots about), whole grain wheat berries, colourful red pepper and fruity dried cherries. Kale is hearty and doesn’t easily wilt, so this salad can be tossed ahead of time to allow the dressing to soak into its leafy curves.

Chewy Wheat Berry and Kale Salad
Makes 4 servings

1 cup wheat berries
2 1/2 cups water
4 cups kale, chopped (about 1 small bunch)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped (You can substitute dried cranberries or dried apricots if you like.)

Dressing:
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp honey
1/ 4 cup shallot or red onion, finely minced

Bring wheat berries and water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain away excess water and spread cooked wheat berries onto a baking sheet to cool.

Once wheat berries are cool, toss with kale, bell pepper and dried cherries. To make the dressing, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Sweeten with 1 or 2 tsp of honey, depending on your preference. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in shallot or red onion. Toss dressing with wheat berry mixture. Enjoy or pack into containers for lunch during the week.