Quick pickled avocado slices

Easy preserving method yields a very tasty treat!

I adore pickles and find they are the easiest way to add a punch of colour and flavour to any meal. The great news about pickling is it doesn’t have to be a time consuming endeavour – it’s really easy to make small batch ‘quick pickles’ which get stored in the refrigerator so there’s no need to process the jars in a boiling water bath. All sorts of  fruits and vegetables can be transformed into delicious pickles and you can find loads of quick recipes on this blog including pickled grilled corn, pickled turnips, pickled apples and pickled blueberries. I recently spotted a photo of pickled avocados and knew I just had to give it a whirl. The results are amazingly delicious – I plan to use my first jar in Tex-Mex steak sandwiches and fajita bowls this week.

quick pickled avocado slices

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 1 large or two medium firm avocados, sliced

quick pickled avocado slices

Method

  • Put vinegar, water, salt, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, sugar, peppercorns, and chili pepper flakes in a microwave-safe container.
  • Heat on high power for 1 – 2 minutes until mixture comes to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Let cool for 20 minutes until lukewarm (10 minutes if refrigerated).
  • Place avocado slices in a 250 mL canning jar (I like wide mouth jars for this purpose). Pour the cooled pickling brine over top, making sure seasonings also go into the jar.
  • Let jar sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate overnight before consuming.
  • Pickles can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Makes one 250 mL jar; recipe can easily be multiplied.

Avocados are ideal for pickling and can be used in many different dishes

 

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Super summer sandwich tips

A portable lunch transformed from simple to sensational!

I have a confession to make….I really don’t like sandwiches. I am sure it stems from way too many years of having to pack my lunches for school and work, but often I just find the very thought of making or eating a sandwich absolutely fatigue-inducing. Having said that, I readily admit that there are times when a sandwich is definitely the best option, especially when it comes to road tripping, something I absolutely adore. I recently packed a picnic to enjoy with friends and they commented that my sandwiches were deli-worthy, which made me very happy. This lead to a conversation about simple ways to spice up your sammies, and I was pleased to offer the following tips:

  • Think outside the bun: Why not make delicious soft pretzels (or buy some – they’re often found at Farmers’ Markets) to split and fill with your favourite sandwich ingredients? While you’re at it, ditch the lettuce for another form of crunchy nutrition – try sliced apples or pears, spinach leaves or, my personal favourite, pea shoots. And don’t forget to jazz up your condiments, too. Fancy mustards and mayonnaises can give a sandwich a huge flavour boost!

soft-baked pretzel sandwich

  • Press it, heat it or grill it: Most sandwiches taste even better when they are warmed. I love stuffing pitas with sliced pear, crumbled bacon, spicy chutney and brie; a short spin in the microwave melts the cheese and makes this sandwich sensational. Most bread or bun-based sandwiches are tastiest when either pan-fried or grilled in a panini press (and the outside will be extra delicious if you spread a little mayonnaise or butter on it before pressing). Trust me on the mayonnaise. If you’re sceptical, try a grilled cheese made with mayo instead of butter – it’s amazingly easy and tasty!

Build a better grilled cheese with mayonnaise instead of butter

Homemade microwave potato chips

What are your favourite ways to transform your sandwiches from simple to stunning? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Tips for transforming sandwiches

Disclosure: I received products from Maille Canada which were used in preparing this post; all opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

 

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Vietnamese -inspired pasta and vegetable salad

A flavourful vegan dish that’s also great with fish, chicken or beef!

I love pasta salad, though definitely NOT with creamy dressings – I’m a vinaigrette girl all the way (unless, of course, I’m using pesto thinned with the hot pasta cooking water as an alternative). True to form, I rarely make the same pasta salad twice because I really enjoy coming up with delicious ways to shake up familiar favourites. My latest creation follows the same technique I use for all my pasta salads which includes blanching the firmest vegetables (in this case, broccoli and carrots) in the same pot as the pasta for the final two minutes of cooking time. It’s a great method because it saves on dishes and the salty pasta water adds a delicious flavour to the vegetables. The Vietnamese-inspired dressing I’ve concocted is really flavourful and best of all, it makes a super marinade for grilled or pan-fried salmon, beef or chicken, all of which just happen to pair exceedingly well with this salad – you can just sneak a tablespoon or two of the dressing from the batch and drizzle it over the salmon before cooking. You can prep the dressing and cut up all the vegetables ahead of time and pull this salad together in just 15 minutes for a quick dinner or spontaneous picnic. As a bonus, gluten-free pasta would work really well in this recipe. Win-win-win!

Vegan pasta salad with Vietnamese style dressing

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (23 mL) soya sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili garlic paste (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) grated fresh gingerroot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) maple syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) canola oil

Pasta and vegetables

  • 1 cup (250 mL) small broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) thinly sliced carrot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) uncooked fusilli pasta (or rotini)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) finely sliced cabbage
  • 1 cup (250 mL) slivered red pepper

Garnish

  • 1 cup (250 mL) fresh pea shoots, sliced in half crosswise *
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) sesame seeds
  • Lime wedges, for garnish

* Can substitute with sliced spinach, though pea shoots add so much flavour and crunch

Vegan pasta salad with Vietnamese-style dressing

Method

  • Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a jar with a tight lid. Shake to blend and set aside. Refrigerate if not using within 2 hours.
  • Prepare the broccoli and carrots so they will be ready to blanch when the pasta is almost done. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. Add the salt, stir, then add the pasta. Cook until pasta is just about al dente.
  • While pasta cooks, prepare the peppers, cabbage, pea shoots, green onions and cilantro.
  • When pasta is nearly done, add broccoli and carrots; cook for 2 minutes more then drain and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Drizzle with dressing (it’s best to do this while the pasta is still warm) and toss for 3 – 4 minutes to combine well (the pasta will absorb some of the dressing).
  • Add peppers and cabbage and toss for 1 minute more.
  • When ready to serve, add pea shoots, green onions, cilantro and sesame.
  • This salad is best served at room temperature; if made in advance you can refrigerate then gently microwave to take the chill off before adding garnishes.

Makes about 6 cups / 1.5 L of salad; delicious as a main course or a side dish.

Vegan pasta and vegetable salad with Vietnamese-style dressing

Posted in Asian, Salads, vegan, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sweet & spicy rhubarb chutney

A zippy, versatile condiment that’s easy to prepare!

Anyone else feel like their garden is on the verge of becoming a jungle? We’ve had so much rain this summer that when this week’s heatwave hit, I swear I could see the plants growing several inches each day, including the last of the rhubarb left to be harvested.  I have always loved the flavour of rhubarb and find it to be a much more versatile fruit (well…technically, it’s a vegetable) than people give it credit for. It seems like everyone cooks it up in pies and jams, but there is so much more you can do with rhubarb. Some of my favourite recipes include Rhubarb CollinsRoasted Beet and Rhubarb Salad, Rhubarb Spritzers and Upside-down mini rhubarb ginger cheesecakes. I had a huge bag of chopped rhubarb in my freezer from last year and decided to transform it into chutney to clear some space for this year’s crop. This condiment is packed with flavour and would be ideal with grilled fish, pork or chicken. I also like to serve it with brie on top of baguette slices or crostini. You can adjust the heat to suit your preferences – I found that seeding just one of the jalapenos gave it a nice little kick that wasn’t too overpowering, but if you like things spicy, don’t seed either of the peppers!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) cider vinegar
  • 2 cups (250 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground cardamom seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) cut fresh or frozen rhubarb, in 1/2 inch pieces (slice thick stalks lengthwise before chopping into pieces)
  • 2 medium jalapeno peppers, minced (remove seeds and ribs from one of the peppers before mincing)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) golden or Thompson raisins
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) grated fresh gingerroot (no need to peel it)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced garlic
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped yellow onions (about 1 medium)

Method

  • In a large, heavy saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar, ground ginger, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cloves, black pepper and cayenne. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thick, stirring often, for about 1 hour.
  • Fill clean, hot canning jars with hot chutney to within 1/2 inch of the top. Wipe the rims and give the jars a tap on a towel placed on the counter to displace any air bubbles. Add sealer lids.
  • Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Note that you don’t need to process if you are going to store the chutney in the refrigerator (for up to 6 months).

Makes about 1 litre (4 cups) of chutney.

 

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Lightened up Piña colada

A low-calorie cocktail that doesn’t skimp on flavour!

Summertime is finally here and I just want to eat all the fruit and vegetables in the world. I crave things that are light and refreshing when it’s hot outside, and that includes lighter cocktails. This version of the ever so popular Piña colada is fantastic, and simple to make. You’ll want a heavy duty blender (I love my Vitamix for this) because the frozen pineapple pieces are absolutely rock hard. One of the things I love about this low-cal recipe is that it doesn’t have any ice in it, so the flavour of the drink doesn’t get diluted as you sip it.

Light Pina Colada

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup chilled, unsweetened coconut water
  • 6 – 8 tbsp chilled premium rum *
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks

* my new favourite is  Noxx & Dunn’s 2-4-5 Florida Rum, now available at the LCBO. It has a really fantastic flavour that’s perfect for this cocktail!

vitamix

Directions:

  • Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until frothy and smooth.

Makes 2 delicious, refreshing cocktails.

Lightened up Pina colada

 

 

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Homemade back bacon

A truly Canadian breakfast or brunch treat!

I remember the first time I tasted back bacon as a kid. I loved that it was so much less salty than ‘regular’ bacon though I couldn’t understand why it was also known as peameal bacon when it was actually rolled in cornmeal. There are just so many food mysteries in this world, aren’t there? (I later learned that pre-World War II, dried yellow peas were ground up and used for making what Americans refer to as ‘Canadian bacon’.) As Canada’s big 150th birthday party is fast approaching, I decided to try my hand at making my own peameal or back bacon and the good news is that it was surprisingly easy to prepare and fantastically delicious! Inspired by Montreal’s famous Joe Beef restaurant’s recipe, this will be the perfect addition to any Canada Day brunch menu. If you want to make some ‘regular’ bacon as well, here’s a simple, fool-proof recipe plus one for candied bacon which is always a hit whenever I serve it.

Ingredients

  • Boneless pork loin roast (approximately 2 lbs / 1 kg)
  • 6 cups (1.5 litres) cold water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) curing salt (Prague Powder) *
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) cracked black peppercorns
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) coarse kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) dried split yellow peas or coarse cornmeal

* you can find curing salt at outdoor shops like Cabela’s, or order online from my very favourite spice shop.

Method

  • Find a plastic container (with a tight lid) that is big enough to hold the pork roast and the brine, and deep enough so that the meat will be completely submerged.
  • In the container, mix together the water, maple syrup, curing salt, coriander seeds, peppercorns and salt.
  • Remove 2/3 cup (180 mL) of the brine. With a marinade injector, inject the 2/3 cup of brine directly into the pork loin, inserting the needle every 1/2 to 1 inch, to a depth of about 1/2 to 3/4 inch. This step is essential and marinade injectors are very inexpensive and useful to have in your kitchen or barbeque arsenal.
  • Place the injected meat into the container of brine, weighing it down with a saucer if necessary to keep it submerged. Cover and refrigerate for four full days.
  • After four days, remove the meat from the fridge and discard the brine.
  • Grind the dried yellow peas to the texture of coarse meal in a food processor or heavy duty blender.
  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels then roll it in the peameal or cornmeal (do not roll coat the cut ends of the roast in the meal).
  • Let the meat rest, uncovered, for one more day in the fridge before slicing thinly.
  • To serve, fry up slices in a lightly greased pan, along with a light drizzle of maple syrup if desired.
  • Uncooked sliced back bacon can be frozen for up to 4 months.

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Maple iced coffee popsicles

Beat the heat with this deliciously cool caffeine fix

When I was a kid, my mom typically made us popsicles out of Kool-Aid. Sometimes she’d get all fancy and add a little Jello powder to the mixture, which gave them a weird but oddly appealing texture. I still love frozen treats, especially in the summer, but the thought of either Kool-Aid or Jello is definitely not appealing to me now. I’ve crafted this new maple-sweetened treat in honour of Canada Day, and these popsicles are as tasty as they are easy to prepare. You can use whatever milk product you like; I find that the almond milk adds a great pop of flavour plus it makes the popsicles vegan-friendly too. You can even add a teaspoon or two of liqueur to the mixture but don’t overdo it as the popsicles won’t freeze solid if there is too much alcohol in them. However, you could choose to add a generous splash and serve them as slushies instead!

Ingredients

  • Strong brewed regular or decaffeinated coffee (I like to use a Melitta pour-over cone which makes it easy to monitor and adjust the strength of your brew)
  • Almond, soy or cow’s milk (or cream) to taste
  • Maple syrup to taste

Method

  • Refrigerate prepared coffee for several hours or until completely chilled.
  • Combine coffee, milk and maple syrup to suit your tastes.
  • Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until firm.
  • Repeat often.

 

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