Thursday, October 30, 2014

You Don't Have to Be a Foodie to Enjoy a Good Vinegar...

There is hardly a day goes by without my digging into a salad of some kind.  My lunch is usually a very large huge plateful of salad with some lean protein for staying power, topped by a tasty dressing… and my dinner plate often has a salad of some kind on it as well.

It isn’t seasonal for me. I am not one who starts to crave fresh, crunchy veggies when the weather starts to warm up… perhaps because I live in a Mediterranean climate where the temps are fairly moderate all year long. I love fresh, raw, crunchy veggies all year round.  And in mass quantities.

My salads do vary a great deal from day to day, and week to week. I tend to get into a groove with a particular taste or ingredient and enjoy it to the fullest before moving on to the next.  For example, a few weeks ago, most of my salads had some capers and green olives on them with some light feta that I found at Trader Joe’s last time we crossed the border. 

And sometimes my concoctions get quite creative when I have bits and pieces in the fridge that need to be used up.  Do you do that too?

My salads usually start out with some mixture of greens: romaine, spinach, chard… and sometimes I have mixed greens that come pre-washed in cello bags.  I also like a bit of cabbage, and the pre-packed slaws and broccoli slaws are a favorite.  I love those little English cucumbers, green onions, white mushrooms, and grape tomatoes.

Then I add some protein: canned tuna, chicken, wild salmon, sardines, or leftover chicken, pork, roast beef, or even slivers of lean deli ham.  Hard boiled eggs are a favorite, and I might opt for cheese occasionally too.  Feta is usually my favorite.

I like to change the flavor and the crunch factor with little extras such as capers, olives, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds,hemp seeds, or even slices of fruit such as pears, strawberries and blueberries… I have even been known to toss in chunks of cooked leftover squash or a few green peas occasionally. 

My salads are often very simple… and other times quite elaborate.  The sky is the limit!

And I have thrown all the 'rules' about what goes with what out the window.  For instance, I thought I would never put tomatoes and fruit in the same salad, but when in Colorado this past Summer, I ordered a Chicken and Raspberry Salad from a golf course lunch menu, and it came with cherry tomatoes. And I loved it.  Who knew?

I have found a few commercially prepared dressings that I like…. Trader Joe’s has a couple and so does Kraft… I have even been known to choose Wishbone fat free Blue Cheese... (sssshhh!) but for the most part, I like to make my own dressing.  And the ingredients I choose will depend on the items in the salad.  If I use an oil, it will be a light extra virgin olive oil or perhaps a light grape seed oil that has little to no flavor of its own.  I also have a little stash of flavored oils that my friend Kate gave to me a while ago.

And I love to use flavored vinegars.  Open my pantry door and you will find a good variety: apple cider, red wine, light and dark balsamics, rice, raspberry, and even white…. and lately a couple of new stars on the shelf that I am very excited to tell  you about. 

They are Cucumber Blush Vinegar and Morning Meadow Honey Vinegar, 2 of the many flavors that are handcrafted by Mr. Vinegar… a home-based operation in Hamilton Ontario.  I was thrilled when Joyce (would she be Mrs. Vinegar?) offered to send me some… and I have been enjoying them immensely ever since.

Mr Vinegar 001
These bottles are 155ml in volume… that is about 5 to 6 ounces for my American friends.

I chose to try the Cucumber Blush Vinegar first.  It is their best seller.  Mr. Vinegar describes it thus:

100% whole cucumbers are pureed and then fermented fully with Merlot. A precise balance offering fresh spring like flavours with Merlot at the front and crisp late after notes of cucumber on the finish. Oak aged.

Mr Vinegar 002
Looks like wine!

I chose to use it on a simple salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and white onion slices over a bit of cottage cheese… no oil… just spooned a bit of the vinegar over the top. I thought that would be a true test of of the taste.

Mr Vinegar 003
Look at the beautiful color.

Mr Vinegar 006
A bit of pepper and voila!  Lovely.

I have also used it several times mixed with a bit of EVOO.  I particularly like it on salads with feta cheese.

Mr Vinegar2 004

And I have also added a spoonful to a chilled glass of Mott’s Garden Cocktail… makes a lovely non-alcoholic cocktail!

I chose to try the Morning Meadow Honey Vinegar over a salad that has fruit in it.  From the Mr. Vinegar web site:

100% pure Ontario Honey is first fermented into a quality Meade. It is then fermented to very high quality honey vinegar and aged in Apple Wood. Honey flavours at the front and lasting wild flower after notes.

Mr Vinegar2 001
Golden nectar!

I made a lovely lunch salad with a few well-chosen ingredients that I thought would go nicely with the slight sweetness of the vinegar… spinach leaves, white onion, ripe pear, light feta, and a few pecans.  Drizzled the Morning Meadow Honey Vinegar over the top.

Mr Vinegar2 002

And I have also mixed it with EVOO and enjoyed it over other salads with berries, too.  It is truly special.

The Captain is not normally a vinegar fan but he really likes both of these because they are light and tasty.. not the normal over-tart or sometimes even sour taste that we tend to associate with commercially-made vinegars.

All of the vinegars in the line-up take at least a year to make.  And Mr. Vinegar has won 17 international awards… 2 of them being double gold.  It’s not hard to see and taste why. They do not contain sulphites, colouring, or artificial ingredients.

So, where can you find Mr. Vinegar, to learn more about the company, see the growing line of products (yes, there is a mustard now, too) and get your hands on some for yourself?

Check the web site…  Mr. Vinegar … you can order directly from there.  

And do look for them at The One of a Kind Christmas Show in Toronto from November 27th through December 7th, 2014.  You can also find Mr. Vinegar at FEAST in Toronto, on Queen Street West.

Here is Mr. Vinegar himself… Roger Lambert. Picture from

Are you a fan of flavored vinegars?  Have you a favorite?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Black Bean Noodles with Thai Peanut Sauce

When I first gave up gluten a couple of years ago and stopped eating wheat-based pasta, I found brown rice pasta… and also occasionally enjoyed the white rice pasta favored by The Captain’s sister.  I never cared for either cold though, in pasta salads.

Then I decided to try a Paleo diet for a few months, and started using spaghetti squash in place of noodles. The firm strands of the baked spaghetti squash make a nice replacement for noodles in many dishes, particularly with tomato-based sauces.  But like the rice pastas, I just didn’t care for it cold at all.

Then I got a spiralizer and discovered zucchini noodles.  Zoodles quickly became my pasta of choice and I love them with both hot and cold sauces.  But lately, just when harvest here should be at its peak… sadly, the zukes are not very nice at all.  They are either too large and subsequently quite tasteless, or way too small to put through the spiralizer to make zoodles.

Lucky for me that I had come across and purchased this Organic Black Bean spaghetti at Costco a few weeks ago.  It has a high protein content 23g per serving, is gluten-free and quite tasty.  And for the low-carbers out there, it has only 5 net carbs per serving too…. and that all works out to 3 Points Plus if you are a Weight Watcher.  Oh yeah... it is also vegan and kosher.

I admit, the color of the cooked noodles does tend to put me off a bit, but the texture and the taste is very good.   They are good hot or cold.  And they only take 6 minutes to cook… I wish I had discovered them while we still lived on the sailboat.

Organic Black Bean Spaghetti

Organic Black Bean Spaghetti NI

The first time I tried them I ate them hot with a tomato and ground beef sauce.  Delicious.  Filling with great staying power.

Organic Black Bean Spaghetti with meat sauce

And then I decided to try them cold.  And because The Captain would much rather have plain old wheat pasta, I made a single serving, just for me.

I cooked the 50g suggested amount for a single serving in boiling water for about 7 minutes.  Then I drained the noodles in a colander and held it under the cold water tap for a couple of minutes to cool the noodles as quickly as I could. I wanted to eat my lunch right away… if I had had more time, I would have left them in the fridge for a while to chill even more.

I made up a sauce with some PB2 and some gluten-free soy sauce (tamari) and then added some unflavored North Coast Naturals whey protein powder… to thicken my sauce and also give it a nutritional punch.  A few slices of red pepper and green onions and I was good to go… and gobble it all up! 

Next time I might add a bit of minced fresh garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  I am sure any unflavored protein powder would work, too.  If you used a pea or rice protein instead of whey you could make it vegan.  A few chopped peanuts or cashews would make it company-worthy!  And of course you could serve this quick sauce over any cold pasta, or zoodles.

Black Bean Noodles with Thai Peanut Sauce

Black Bean Noodles with Thai Peanut Sauce
Makes 1 serving
  • 2 Tbs PB2
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 Tbs tamari
  • 1/2 scoop NCN unflavored whey protein powder
  • 1/3 medium red pepper
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 serving noodles of choice, prepared and chilled
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. Mix the PB2 and water in a small bowl until creamy.
  2. Add the tamari (soy sauce) and blend well.  Set aside.
  3. Slice the red pepper into thin strips.
  4. Cut the green onions into short lengths.
  5. Place the noodles in a serving bowl.
  6. Pour the sauce over the noodles and then arrange the veggies over the top.
  7. Serve with salt and pepper to season.
Per serving, sauce and veggies only.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 129; Protein 20g; Carbohydrate 11g; Fat 2 g; Fibre 4g.

Oct 14 Black noodles and sauce 001
50 g is a very generous serving. You may be happy with less. Yup, the color is not very appetizing at all.

Oct 14 Black noodles and sauce 002
Prep your veggies and make the sauce.

Oct 14 Black noodles and sauce 004
Assemble and dig in!

Have you tried black bean noodles?

Are you a fan of PB2?

Do you like to punch up your dishes with added protein/protein powder?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup

My latest Fall soup is thick and delicious!  I was going to use a butternut squash in this recipe, but when I cut the squash open, it was brown inside and I threw it out immediately… so The Captain spent a few uncomfortable minutes peeling the shell from a kabocha squash so I could use it instead.  The result… Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup.  Lovely.

Normally if I were going to use kabocha squash in soup, I would bake it first so that it can be easily scooped from its shell.  But there was no time to do that and it all turned out very nicely… but it is a difficult beast to peel raw so if you have time, do cook yours first. 

There is just a hint of curry in this soup. I think it is just right, but if you like more, by all means… go ahead and add it.  I also like to add a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt when I serve it… makes it creamy and just Heavenly.

You can use any kind of broth you prefer... I used my homemade turkey broth, but you could also use chicken stock or a vegetable broth if you want a vegan or vegetarian version.  I don't think it would change the taste much at all.

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup
Makes 8 one-cup servings
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 cup white onion, cut into large dice
  • 3 cups stock of choice
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 cups kabocha squash, peel removed and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups carrots, cut into 1” lengths
  • 1 cup cauliflower, cut into chunks
  • 2 Tbs curry powder, more or less to taste
  • Salt and pepper to season 
  1. Melt coconut oil in large stockpot over MEDIUM heat. 
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook about 5 minutes, till translucent, taking care not to brown.
  3. Add the squash, carrots, and cauliflower and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the curry powder and stir to coat veggies.
  5. Add the stock and the water.
  6. Cover the pot with a lid, bring to boil, then reduce heat to SIMMER and cook for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and cool several minutes.
  8. Blend/purree till smooth.
  9. Serve hot with salt and pepper to season.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 2.
Calories 61;  Protein 2g; Carbohydrate 11g; Fat 2g; Fibre 3g.

If you are following the Weight Watchers Simply Filling Techniquer or Simple Start, there is nothing to count… the coconut oil would only be 1/4 tsp per serving, therefore negligible.

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup 2
Bring veggies and stock to the boiling poing, then cover, and let simmer for about 45 minutes.

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup 3
Purre in stockpot with immersion blender for minimal cleanup.

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup 4
To serve, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with Greek yogurt if you like.

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup 5
Stir it in for maximum creaminess!

Curried Kabocha, Carrot, and Cauliflower Soup 6
You can freeze the leftovers or store in the fridge if you will use them in a few days… just as tasty after reheating on the stove top!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

5 Fabulous Fall Soups

There is a lovely aroma in our apartment right now… a new Fall soup on the stove… this one with kabocha squash, carrots, and cauliflower… and onions and garlic, of course! I love to make soup when the days become a bit shorter, and a bit cooler, and the local farmers are flooding our produce markets with sweet potatoes, root veggies,  and all kinds of squash.  Mmmmm.

I have a usual method that I use to make vegetable soups… and the variations are endless depending upon the veggies and spices and broth you select. You can make them gluten-free, paleo vegetarian, and even vegan if you choose the right ingredients.  They are are all delcious.

You really can’t go wrong.

I will share this new soup later, but today I want to share some other favorite Fall soups from the last couple of years.

5 Fabulous Fall Soups

In no particular order… just click the picture to find the recipe.

Curried Coconut Sweet Potato Soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Carrot Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Jan 11 Butternut Squash Soup 003copy

Cauliflower Coconut Soup with 4 Spice Variations

Of course there are lots more on my blog and you can find them under my Soups, Salads and Dressings  tab… If you give any of my soups a try or Pin them, I would  love to know!

And if you are looking for some other ideas for homemade soups, check out these articles too:

Do you like to make Fall soups, too?  What’s your favorite?