Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites

zucchini rounds front

I’ve been having a great time coming up with fun and delicious ways to use up zucchini this summer as I have more than I know what to do with growing in the garden.  Of all the recipes I’ve created/found (Chocolatey Zucchini Banana Brownies, Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini BoatsZucchini & Parmesan Fritters with Lemon Zest) to name a few, THIS one has to be my favourite.

 

A few weeks ago I decided to bread some zucchini and fry it up as an appetizer.  I served it with a simple lemon, dill dip and although it was tasty, I knew I could do better.  I find zucchini, even fried zucchini, quite bland.  I also love fried pickles but sometimes find them to be too ‘pickly/sour’.  SO, I decided to combine the two flavours, add some cheese and lemon and voila!  I came up with fried Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites!

These turned out GREAT.  The longer you soak the zucchini in the pickle juice the more intense the pickle flavour becomes.  I recommend a minimum of 4 – 6 hours but you could even let them sit over night.  The zucchini is actually delicious eaten right out of the pickling liquid but once you bread them, fry them and serve them with dip, they are insanely tasty!!  A MUST TRY!

NOTE:  If you have a very large zucchini you may want to scoop out the centre ‘spongy’ part.  In this case, you could cut the zucchini into ‘moon’ or half circle shapes instead…

zucchini wedges

RECIPE (serves 4)

  • 1 medium zucchini (sliced into 1/4″ rounds – around 20 – 25 pieces)
  • pickle juice (enough to completely cover the zucchini)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs, if you prefer)
  • 2 small eggs – beaten and seasoned with salt
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • vegetable oil – enough for frying (about 1 cup)
  • salt (for sprinkling on zucchini before and after they are fried)
  • pepper

Click link for: Lemon Dill Dip to serve with the zucchini bites!

METHOD

  • Slice zucchini into about 1/4″ rounds and soak for 4 – 8 hours in pickle juice.
  • Remove zucchini from juice and pat dry with paper towel.  Salt BOTH sides of the zucchini generously and sprinkle pepper on one side.

zucchini salt and pepper

  • Arrange 3 large bowls.  Add flour to one, panko and parmesan to another and egg, salt and lemon zest to the third.  Whisk egg and lemon zest together.
  • Dip each zucchini round in flour and tap off any access.
  • Next, dip into egg mixture ensuring each piece is well coated in egg but not dripping.
  • Lastly, add zucchini round one to three at a time to the panko mix and press down on both sides to ensure zucchini is getting as much panko mixture on it as possible.

zucchini panko

  • Repeat this process until all the zucchini is nicely breaded.
  • Heat oil in a large pan until quite hot.  NOTE:  Test heat by dipping a zucchini round in the oil using tongs.  The oil should sizzle and bubble.  If it doesn’t, the oil is not hot enough.  It is CRUCIAL that the oil is hot enough of the zucchini will become soggy instead of nice and crispy.
  • Add zucchini to oil in batches ensuring you are not overcrowding the pan (overcrowding will bring the heat down too much causing the zucchini to become soggy).

zucchini one side uncooked

  • Watch the heat and increase if the zucchini is not browning fast enough (or turn it down if zucchini is browning too fast).
  • Watch closely and check zucchini often to ensure it’s not getting too browned.
  • Once brown and crispy on one side, flip and brown other side.

fried zucchini

  • Remove from heat and place on an even layer on paper towel (to soak up any access oil) and immediately sprinkle with salt.  (NOTE:  do not stack zucchini on top of each other or overlap right away because this will cause the zucchini to go limp).

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with lemon dill dip!

The Best Okanagan Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

cobbler

It doesn’t get much better than perfectly ripe fruit at the height of summer.  Of all the summer fruit available in British Columbia in July and August, the local blueberries and Okanagan peaches have to be my two absolute favourites.  I had bought a dozen peaches at the local Farmer’s Market last week and still had a bunch of fresh blueberries in my fridge.  I also had vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, so naturally cobbler came to mind!  I looked up around a half dozen recipes and took what I think is the best parts of all of them, added blueberries and came up with the most delicious cobbler recipe I have ever tried.  I literally ate cobbler and ice-cream for DINNER three nights in a row!  (Don’t judge.  It’s summer and it’s too hot to cook!).  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family did!  I can’t wait to make it again (:

INGREDIENTS

filling

  • 6 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (I peel them with a vegetable peeler)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen then thawed)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Crumble topping

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup granola (I used almond maple but any kind would work!)
  • MIX TOGETHER:  3 Tbsp white sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon

METHOD

  • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
  • In large bowl, combine all ‘filling’ ingredients listed above and toss to coat evenly.
  • Pour into a baking dish (NOTE:  choose the size of dish according to how thick you want the filling to be.  I like mine pretty thin because the topping is my favourite part!) and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • Remove fruit from oven and pour topping evenly oven it.
  • Sprinkle the cobbler with the sugar/cinnamon mixture and bake until topping is golden (about 30 minutes).
  • Let cool for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Enjoy on its own or with iceceam, whipped cream or BOTH!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolatey Zucchini Banana Brownies

brownies

The amount of zucchini growing in my garden right now is ridiculous.  Just about every day I go outside to find a new one the size of my arm.  This is awesome except for one problem – I’m the only one in the family who actually likes zucchini on its own and truth be told, it’s far from my favourite vegetable.  Which leaves me asking myself, ‘what the hell am I going to do with all this zucchini?!’

I’ve come up with some very tasty recipes such as zucchini fritters and a great corn, zucchini and feta salad and I’ve started shredding it and adding it into everything from rice, to quinoa to pasta sauces.

Yesterday I had a few very ripe bananas sitting around that were starting to attract fruit flies so I decided to give a zucchini and banana bread a go.  I knew my eldest (who is 7) wouldn’t eat it unless I added chocolate, so that’s what I did.  I was hoping it would turn out good enough that the kids wouldn’t turn their noses up at it.  To my surprise this recipe turned out better than I could have hoped for!

It’s less of a bread texture and more of a dense, rich, chocolatey, satisfying brownie texture!  I made a whole pan yesterday and the kids had eaten the entire thing by today.  My 5-year-old says it’s the best ‘cake’ he’s ever had, which I’m still in shock over.

This brownie/cake is so moist because of the zucchini and the banana chocolate flavour is wonderful.  There’s so many things you could top this with – whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate or vanilla frosting, peanut butter, caramel, melted chocolate…..  you get the idea.  I wanted to keep it healthy so I just topped mine with fresh strawberries.  The kids enjoyed theirs with left-over chocolate frosting.

I made this in a 9 x 9 inch baking dish.  It can easily be cut across one or two times and layered with any of the above mentioned ingredients to make a layered brownie/cake.  I’m thinking for my next one (which I’ll probably make again in a few days!)  I’ll cut this ‘brownie cake’ into 3 and put in a layer of whipped cream, a layer of camel sauce and a topping of chocolate peanut butter frosting.

I love that this is a pretty guilt free recipe because it’s loaded with bananas and zucchini.  A perfect summer dessert!  It’s also great in the morning with a cup of coffee (:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (dark cocoa powder if you want a dark chocolate taste)
  • OPTIONAL:  1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups packed shredded zucchini (no need to drain liquid)
  • 2 medium or 3 small very ripe bananas

METHOD

  • Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and powder and cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Cream together oil, sugars, vanilla and banana.
  • Add eggs one at a time and mix.
  • STIR in shredded zucchini and pour wet mixture into dry mixture.
  • Fold together until everything is mixed.
  • Pour into a greased 9 x 9 inch baking pan.
  • If adding chocolate chips, sprinkle them evenly on top of mixture (or you could stir them right in!)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean.
  • Let cool and enjoy on its own or with your favourite topping!

Curried Lentil and Vegetable Salad

curried lentil and veg salad in bowl

My favourite thing about summer isn’t the beach or the warm, sunny weather.  It’s not the longer days and mid-afternoon cocktails (although those things are wonderful too!).  My favourite thing about summer is the abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from my garden and/or the local Farmer’s Market!

I LOVE making salads during the warmer months.  They’re light, healthy, delicious and there are a million different ways to make them.  I came up with a salad a few weeks ago for a get together at my  place and everyone agreed it was very yummy.  We snacked on this salad along with buffalo mozzarella and heirloom tomato flatbreads, smoked salmon platters and grilled baguette slices topped with everything from mushroom duxelle to garlic and basil marinated cherry tomatoes.  And of course the rose, bubbles and Sauvignon Blanc was flowing (:  It was a perfect afternoon (and evening) on the patio spent with my favourite people, great drinks and wonderful food.  My idea of HEAVEN.

This salad is incredibly versatile.  If you really like an ingredient, by all means add more of it.  If there’s a vegetable you don’t like, just leave it out or substitute it with something you do like.  For example, you could use kale in place of cabbage or just use cauliflower if you don’t like broccoli.  You could use cilantro instead of parsley and cashews instead of almonds….  You get the idea.

Have fun with this salad and enjoy it by itself or topped with some grilled chicken or fish for an amazing, healthy dinner entrée!  Serve salad warm or chilled.

NOTE:  I use the trio of organic lentils and the organic quinoa that you buy in bags from Costco so the cook times mentioned below are based on that specific type of lentils.  If you’re using a different kind, ensure you follow the cooking directions on your package so you don’t over or under cook them or end up with tonnes of extra liquid (if you do, just drain it).

pictures of lentils and quinoa in bag

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 large salads or 6 small)

Cooking in pot:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 cup cabbage (or kale)
  • 1/4 cup white onion
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp curry powder (I used a mild curry but use whatever you love!)
  • 1 1/3 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp salt

Adding to above ingredients just before serving:

  • 3 cups broccoli (or cauliflower or BOTH)
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers (red, yellow, and/or orange)
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes (or whatever amazing summer tomatoes you want!)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (or raisins)
  • 1/2 rough chopped unsalted almonds (or cashews)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste
  • OPTIONAL:  1/8 cup olive oil to finish

METHOD

  • Finely dice/chop carrot, garlic and cabbage OR just buzz in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
  • Add olive oil, garlic, cabbage, carrot, salt, curry powder, and cumin into a pot and sauté on medium heat until ingredients are softened and fragrant (about 5 minutes).
  • Add water (or stock) and bring to boil.
  • Add lentils and quinoa and reduce heat to simmer.
  • Simmer for 8 minutes then remove from heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, chop broccoli (and/or cauliflower) into bite sized florets and steam for 2 minutes MAXIMUM.
  • Run under cold water or plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.  You want the broccoli to still have lots of crunch!
  • half or chop the tomatoes, dice the peppers into bite size pieces and chop the parsley.
  • Once slightly cooled, transfer lentil mixture to large bowl and add vegetables, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice, chopped almonds and cranberries.
  • Toss together to combine.
  • Add feta and mix gently so the feta doesn’t fall apart and turn the salad ‘creamy’.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon juice to your liking.

Transfer to bowls and serve on its own or topped with grilled fish or chicken.  Enjoy!

curried lentil and veg salad in bowl w spoon

 

 

 

 

Rosemary, Mushroom & Leak Risotto with Parmesan Cheese

creamy mushroom risotto

I love a good risotto.  Lobster risotto, crab risotto, and my absolute favourite – mushroom risotto.  I decided to make lamb loin chops for Father’s Day.  It was cooler and raining out and it seemed like the perfect afternoon to make a delicious, creamy mushroom risotto to go with the lamb (I also LOVE risotto with any kind of braised meat, particularly braised lamb shank or beef short ribs!).

Great risotto is all about technique and quality of ingredients.  You don’t want to rush it and you want to use the best stock and parmesan cheese you can afford.

I’ve had bad risotto MANY times and it’s so disappointing.  If you don’t take the time to do it right and then take it off the heat at the just right time you either end up with slightly hard, chewy pieces of rice OR you end up eating something that tastes like a big pile of mush.  The key to a perfect risotto is allowing the starches to be released slowly to ensure you get that amazing creaminess without overcooking it.  You want to be able to tell you’re eating rice and not porridge.  And of course, seasoning properly and using excellent ingredients is always incredibly important as well.

I like using a good-quality mushroom stock and grana padano for this risotto.  When it’s a really special occasion, I use the best mushrooms I can find as well (chanterelle, morel, shiitake, Portobello, oyster, etc – or a combination of any/all).  However, this risotto is also delicious using good old button mushrooms is you don’t have access to, or don’t want to pay for, the more expensive kinds.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1.5 cups Arborio rice (can be found in any grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced leak (white part only)  *use white onion if you don’t have leak
  • 1/4 cup white/Spanish onion – diced
  • OPTIONAL:  1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbsp garlic – minced
  • 1.5 tsp fresh rosemary – minced
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 – 4.5 cups mushroom, vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1.5 packed cups mushrooms (button or any kind you like!) – large dice
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • OPTIONAL:  1/2 cup frozen or fresh cooked peas

METHOD

  • Bring stock to a boil in a pot and set aside.
  • In a large pot, add butter, leak, garlic, onion and rosemary and sauté on medium-low heat until onion is translucent.  A few minutes.  Ensure there is no colour on the onion.
  • Add arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more or until rice starts to become translucent around the edges.  Again, don’t brown the rice.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Turn the heat up to high and deglaze with white wine, if using.
  • Cook out for 1 – 2 minutes or until wine is almost completely absorbed.
  • Using a ladle, start adding boiling hot stock to arborio rice, ONE CUP AT A TIME.
  • Allow the rice to absorb the stock almost completely before adding another cup to it.
  • Ensure you are stirring the rice constantly over medium-high heat as it’s absorbing all the liquid.
  • When the last of the liquid is almost completely absorbed and risotto is still quite liquidy and creamy, turn heat off.  (It will continue cooking and absorbing liquid so you want to turn heat off JUST before it’s ready!)
  • Add peas (if using), lemon zest and parmesan cheese.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of cheese on top.

Enjoy on it’s own or with your favourite meat or seafood on top and serve with a nice, big glass of wine!

Thai Vegetable & Rice Salad with Warm Peanut Sauce

thai vegetable salad

Last weekend I was going for a ‘girls night’ at my friends house and I wanted to make something  interesting, fun, simple and delicious to bring for dinner.

(My friend is a vegetarian so I didn’t include meat with this recipe but some strips of pork, steak or even chicken would be great with this dish.  Prawns would also be AWESOME).

This recipe turned out REALLY well.  We all agreed it was a keeper.  It’s inexpensive to make, full of amazing flavours and textures, incredibly nutritious and satisfying enough to eat for dinner without feeling hungry half an hour later.

NOTE:  Rice, peanut sauce AND eggs can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and simply reheated when you want to serve with salad!!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

Sauce

  • 1 red Thai chile, seeded and minced
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 heaping Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • pinch salt

Salad

  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 packed cups green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup scallions/green onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup beet, shredded
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced thin on bias
  • 1/2 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, sliced (red, orange and/or yellow)
  • 1 cup english cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • OPTIONAL:  1/2 cup bean sprouts and/or 1 cup mango chunks for garnish!
  • GARNISH:  1/3 cup – 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

Rice

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Thai chile
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

METHOD

Sauce

  • Using a blender/hand-held mixer, pulse all ingredients together until blended and smooth.
  • Transfer peanut sauce to a small pot/saucepan and add 1/4 cup water.
  • Heat over low heat, whisking often, until smooth and hot.
  • Keep warm over very low heat until you’re ready to serve the salad.

Eggs

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add eggs and cook for 8 minutes.
  • Run eggs under cold water (or put into an ice bath) until cooled, then peel and set aside.

Rice

  • Add coconut oil, garlic kaffir lime leaves and whole thai chile to pot and sauté on low heat until garlic is fragrant.  About 2 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk, water and salt and bring to boil stirring often to ensure you don’t burn the coconut milk.
  • Add rice, stir, cover with lid and reduce heat to very low.
  • Cook rice for 55 minutes (or whatever the cook time for the rice you’re using reads).
  • Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Remove lid and take out the lime leaves and thai chile.
  • Taste and adjust salt as desired.

Salad

  • Prepare all the vegetables and herbs as instructed above.
  • Mix together in bowl and season generously with salt.

ASSEMBLY

  • scoop warm rice into four bowls.
  • Add the salad into the bowls on top of the rice.
  • Drizzle each salad generously with warm peanut sauce.
  • 1/2 the eggs, season with salt and pepper and add an egg to each bowl.
  • Top salad with peanuts (and mango chunks if using).
  • Put extra peanut sauce into a small bowl so everyone can add extra sauce as desired.

veggie salad with peanut sauce

 

 

Tips for Being Fabulously Frugal!

piggy bank

Money just doesn’t stretch far anymore.  It seems like I can’t leave the house without spending at least $50 – and that’s when I’m just going out for fruits and vegetables.  My average Costco bill runs around $200 – $400 a WEEK and a light sushi lunch with my husband and 2 small children is NEVER under $60.  Even something like going to a movie or taking the kids bowling somehow runs us around $100 after a few snacks!  It’s frustrating because I don’t want to stay home all the time but I need to find a way to have a little fun while avoiding sinking into debt.

That’s why I try to ‘pinch pennies’ wherever I can.  It’s not about being ‘cheap’.  It’s about being mindful of my spending in order to save money whenever possible.  Being mindful of where my money is going, and making small changes in my habits in order to save it, has been a huge step in having more money so I can treat myself (and/or my family) to something special once in a while.

It might seem like tiny changes in your habits won’t make a difference but it DOES.  Even small savings add up to big savings over time.  EVERY.  PENNY.  COUNTS.

Below are a few suggestions on ways to be frugal that are really working for me!

  • Split your coins up into separate jars for nickels, dimes, quarters, etc. and put all your spare change in them.  Every six months or so roll all your spare change and take it to the bank.  You’ll be shocked at how much you have!   TIP:  Involve your kids so they can see first-hand how even small amounts of money can really add up over time!  (My kids both have piggy banks and whenever they get/find money, they put it in there to save for something special.  It really helps teach them about the value of a dollar).

money in jars

  • Whenever you can, buy items in bulk instead of pre-packaged.  Some items I buy in bulk that saves me TONNES of money are rice, quinoa, pastas, dried fruits, nuts, seeds (such as pumpkin or sunflower), granola, chocolate chips and pretty much everything for baking – and most importantly, SPICES!!!!  Buying spices from bulk bins will save you HUGE amounts of money.  (I buy clear jars and containers from the dollar store to store everything in!).

bulk bins

food in bulk

  • Buy yearly memberships (to the gym, for instance).  The more you pay up front the more you save.  (If I bought a monthly gym membership it would cost me $55.80 per month.  If I buy a yearly membership, the cost is $515.84.  I save $153.76 buy paying for a year up front).
  • When looking for something you need (such as gardening equipment, kids bikes or sports equipment, items for your pets, etc.), try looking for good quality USED items instead of buying new and you can potentially save a LOT of money.  For certain things Craigslist and other second-hand stores (Once Upon A Child is Coquitlam is one of my favourites) can offer amazing deals.  (For example, when I needed a new dresser for the kids room, I found a beautiful and well-built one for $40 at the Salvation Army!  With a little love and some paint, it looked brand new and I saved hundreds of dollars).
  • Shop around for the best deals.  Buy things like pop, chocolate bars, candy, holiday supplies, kitchen gadgets and gardening equipment at the dollar store.  You’ll save a LOT of money.   (The cost of a chocolate bar at Dollarama is around .75 cents.  You’ll pay $1.50 for the exact same thing at 7/11).
  • Wait until after holidays to stock up on things like wrapping paper, Christmas lights, Halloween decorations, cards, etc.  You’ll save 40% – 70% and have everything ready to go for the following year!
  • Keep your freezer bags to reuse them (if you’ve frozen something on a tray ahead of time and marked the bag, just keep using the same bag over and over again.  I’ve been using the same freezer bags for 3 years now!
  • wait for things to come on sale and grab non-perishable items whenever you see a good deal.  (I found a case of 12 cans of mushrooms soup the other day for $4.99!  That’s $0.41 per can.  The average cost is $1.29 – $1.69 per can)!
  • Buy meat and fish in large quantities, then divide into individual meal portions and freeze.  Buy anything you can in large quantities to save money (toilet paper, canned goods, rice, etc) as long as it won’t go off/bad before you use it.
  • Zest your citrus fruit before you use the juice – even if you don’t need the zest in the recipe.  You can use this zest in everything from dips to salads to a topping for fish!   If fresh herbs are starting to rot, puree them in the food processor with olive oil and freeze them into ice-cube trays.  Then pop them out as needed to use in soups, stews, sauces, etc.  Do the same thing with older fruit.  Then pop into smoothies right from the freezer!
  • When buying roast chicken from the Super Market, always save the bones.  Also, save your onion, carrot, celery scraps and parsley stems in a zip lock bag in the freezer and just add to it each time.  When you have enough scraps, you can make a homemade chicken stock to use in everything from soups, to cooking quinoa/rice/beans, to reducing and deglazing a pan for a nice sauce.
  • Always use a spatula to scrape out the last bits of sauce, or whatever your using, from jars/containers.  Those little bits add up to a lot and will save you money over time.  (See my blog post about using a spatula to save money).
  • save water by not running it while brushing your teeth and ensure you don’t have any leaky taps/faucets.  Also, get a ‘rain catcher’ of some kind and use the water to water plants (I use my extra garbage can and keep it in the backyard to catch rain which I use to water my gardens).
  • Shop for items in places that offer rewards/points.  For example, where I live in British Columbia, Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart for hygiene and beauty products.  Super Store has a points reward system for President’s Choice products.  Costco has a membership fee but you get a rebate check in the mail that ends up being more than the cost of a member ship.
  • when your shampoo, body wash, face soap, hand cream or anything in squeeze bottles seems empty, just add a few teaspoons of water and shake.  You should get 2 – 6 more portions out of it!  If it’s in a plastic container with a pump, cut the bottom off with scissors.  You’ll get another few WEEKS worth of product that you would have otherwise thrown away!
saving money on hand cream

hand cream at bottom of container that seemed empty!

These are just a few ways I practice being frugal.  As I mentioned above, it might not seem like you’re saving much money at the time, but over a year the savings add up to THOUSANDS of dollars.  

Being conscious of your spending will also encourage you to really think about how much you need something before purchasing it and hopefully will make it easier to avoid impulse buying.  It’s also setting a good example for your kids to follow.  Lastly, it’s often much more environmentally friendly to be frugal.  Recycling, reusing and wasting less is always a good idea (:

 

 

 

 

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad

watermelon salad

I’ve been making this incredible salad for years now.  I first saw an even simpler version of it in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Forever Summer.  Over the years I have played around with it and in this case I have added tomato and cucumber because I love both of those ingredients and am always pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy the taste of watermelon and tomatoes TOGETHER.  The olives and feta add a wonderful saltiness, the herbs add freshness and the lime juice adds the perfect amount of tang.

This salad is delicious on its own for lunch, or if I don’t feel like anything too heavy for dinner (like most nights in the summer), I just pair this salad with juicy barbecued chicken, sausage or kabobs and I have dinner ready in under 15 minutes without having to turn on the stove!

I love the simplicity of summer cooking/eating.  The prep should be quick and fuss free and the food should be satisfying without making you feel too full to move.

The most important thing to keep in mind when making this salad is the freshness and ripeness of the ingredients.  Each ingredient should be wonderful on its own.  This salad is only as good as its parts.  If you have bland tomatoes, spongy watermelon and limp, seedy cucumber, the salad will be mediocre.  Ensure your ingredients are at their best and this salad will be amazing.  This is why I only make it in the spring/summer so I can get everything locally (preferably my back yard!).

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 large or 4 small)

  • 3 – 4 cups watermelon – large bite-size chunks
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint – chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley – chopped
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp lime juice + 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • 1/3 cup red onion – sliced very thin
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives (you can use kalamata as well, but I prefer black)
  • 3/4 cup cucumber – sliced or diced (whatever you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup grape tomatoes – quartered
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Garnish:  1/4 cup or more crumbled feta and drizzled olive oil

METHOD

  • Combine all ingredients except feta cheese in a bowl and toss gently to combine.
  • Taste and add more lime juice, salt and/or pepper as desired.
  • Transfer to serving bowl and top with feta and a drizzle of olive oil.

Enjoy alone or paired with your favour meat or seafood!

Spring Asparagus, Orange and Spinach Salad

orange, asparagus and spinach salad

I saw some beautiful baby asparagus on sale for $2 a bunch at the corner vegetable market yesterday and immediately decided that I would buy it and find a way to incorporate with the fish I had thawed out for dinner (Snapper).

bunch of asparagus

It’s been unusually warm on the West Coast this spring and when it’s hot out I just want light foods like fresh fish/seafood or grilled meats paired with delicious salads and vegetables.

This is a light, tangy, healthy salad and it’s great on its own or as a side with your favourite meat or fish.  I absolutely love the combination of slightly crunchy asparagus spears, juicy orange, crunchy almonds and salty parmesan cheese.  I’ll be eating this salad a lot in the coming months!

About the recipe:  I decided to throw some chickpeas, avocado and almonds into this salad for added fibre and healthy, filling fat since I didn’t want to cook a grain/starch…  I used shallots because I LOVE shallots and ALWAYS have them on hand but if you don’t have them, red onion would also work.  I garnished with shaved parmesan but feta or even goats cheese would also work beautifully in this salad.

NOTE:  I made the dressing and cooked the asparagus in the pan with it to infuse the flavour because I wasn’t using the BBQ.  If you are barbecuing, I would suggest grilling the asparagus on the BBQ and making the dressing separately because grilled asparagus is AWESOME.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 large salads or 4 small ones)

  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas (pre-cooked and rinsed) – or other bean/lentil
  • 1/2 large avocado – diced
  • 1/3 cup orange segments + 1/4 tsp zest
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (or grainy dijon)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice + 1/4 tsp zest
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp shallot, diced
  • OPTION:  1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Garnish:  1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese & a handful unsalted almonds

METHOD

  • Trim off the fibrous/tough ends of the asparagus (note: to figure out where to cut the bottom off, simply bend a piece the asparagus.  It will break at the point where you should discard the bottom part).  Cut asparagus on a bias (angle) into bite sized pieces. NOTE:  IF GRILLING THE ASPARAGUS, DON’T CUT IT UP UNTIL AFTER IT’S COOKED OR IT WILL FALL THROUGH THE GRATE.
  • Zest and then segment the orange (see how to segment and orange): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQr9QQLtBU0
  • Add shallot and olive oil to a pan and cook on medium-high heat for one minute.
  • Add asparagus and sauté until asparagus is tender with a slight crunch (al dente).
  • Add chickpeas.

chickpeas and asp in pan

  • Turn heat to high and add red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to reduce for about a minute.Turn off heat and allow the asparagus and chickpeas to cool in pan with the dressing.
  • Meanwhile, using a large bowl, add your spinach, diced avocado, orange segments, orange and lemon zest, cherry tomatoes (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add cooled asparagus, chickpeas and using a spatula, scrape down all the dressing from the pan and add to bowl.
  • Gently combine all ingredients and check seasoning.  Add lemon juice and/or salt as desired.
  • Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese and almonds (whole or slivered).

Serve alone or with your favourite fish/meat!

 

 

 

Whole Wheat Couscous, Tomato and Herb Salad

couscous salad

As soon as it starts to warm up, dry up and stay light outside longer I feel an immediate shift in the kinds of foods I want to cook/eat.  (I also start leaning more towards a nice crisp white wine as opposed to the reds I enjoy so much when it’s darker and colder outside).

Instead of craving roasted meats, hearty pastas, comforting soups, root vegetables and other winter staples, I start shifting towards lighter foods.  Fresh fish and seafood, grilled meats and lighter salads filled with all kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I love this couscous salad because it’s incredibly quick and easy to throw together, super healthy and delicious and really versatile.  I enjoy this salad on its own for lunch or I throw salmon, grilled chicken or prawns on it for a wonderful and fuss-free dinner!  It’s great both warm and cold so you can make this ahead of dinner and just serve it at room temperature, which makes it the perfect dish for entertaining or when you want to get most of the dinner prep done way ahead of time!

About the recipe:  I use whole wheat couscous to make it healthier and use chicken broth for flavour.  You can, of course, use regular couscous OR substitute couscous for quinoa!  If you’re a vegetarian, just use water or vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.  If you don’t have fresh basil on hand, this is wonderful with just parsley or you could even throw some mint or cilantro in there!  Personalize the salad however you want!

INGREDIENTS  (serves 4)

  • 1/2 cup boiling hot chicken broth (or water/vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp shallot – small dice (use red onion if you don’t have shallot)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (or use whatever kind of olives you like!) – sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley – chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil – chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper – diced (red, orange and/or yellow)
  • 1/4 cup green onion – sliced
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomato – quartered or sliced
  • 1/4 cup feta – crumbled + a little more for garnishing on top
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh pepper
  • OPTION:  1/2 cup diced english cucumber (if serving the salad cold)

METHOD

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine couscous, salt, pepper, shallot, lemon juice and half the olive oil and stir to mix.
  • Pour BOILING hot chicken broth or water over the couscous and immediately cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  • Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Mix in all other prepared ingredients in with the couscous.
  • Top with a little more feta and herbs for garnish and enjoy on its own or with grilled chicken, seafood or fish!