Thanksgiving Butternut Squash & Apple Feta Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you’re all able to take a moment this weekend to soak in all that you are thankful for: family, friends, health, laughs and of course the exquisite tables of never-ending food that we are fortunate enough to prepare over hours with love and devour within just a few minutes! I am remarkably thankful for this holiday as it truly allows me to press pause on my life for just a moment and in that moment realize that even though our world is struggling in many ways, there is still beauty, resilience, love and a positive energetic force that goes on around us, let’s embody those forces and emit them to the world around us. In that little message I am going to share with you a little sumthin sumthin that I whipped up yesterday to bring to the table of feasts at my family dinner, with overwhelming positive feedback on my Thanksgiving Butternut Squash & Apple Feta Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic, I will pay it forward to your table of thankfulness and hope you and your loved ones truly enjoy!

I signed up for the salad category as my contribution to my mom’s always INCREDIBLE Thanksgiving dinner this year, I wanted make a hearty but still fresh, seasonal salad that encompassed Thanksgiving colors and flavors. I hummed and hawed on what type of salad to make and decided to go with what I had on hand and hope for the best! I had a giant butternut squash lying on the counter top, a head of fresh kale/sweet kale super food leaf mix in the fridge, a pot full of herbs, a mound of golden apples, half a red onion bulb and some of my fav fixings like pecans, hemp, pumpkin seeds and that salty delicious feta! Then I got choppin and cookin and this salad came out better than I could have imagined!

So if you need to bring something to dinner tomorrow… (sorry this post is a little late, but I had to share!) now you’ve got a seasonal salad to impress the fam jam with and it keeps well for the next day so you can keep a little for yourself to snack on the day after indulging!

Here is what you’ll need and hopefully have lying around!

Serves 6-8 people:

4 cups of butternut squash – peeled & cut into small cubes

1 tbsp fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried)

1 tbsp fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)

2 tsp onion powder

2 large golden apples – sliced into matchsticks

8 cups of soft curly kale (I did 4 cups of kale and 4 cups of the Eat Smart Sweet Kale Salad mix)

1/4 red onion – very thinly sliced

1/3 cup pecans whole (tossed in 1 tsp honey & 1/4 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt)

1/4 cup light feta – crumbled

2 tbsp pepitas

2 tbsp hemp (I buy bulk at Superstore/Save on Foods)

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Salt & Pepper to taste

Pomegranate Balsamic Salad Dressing:

1/2 cup fresh pomegranate juice

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

Salt & Pepper to taste

How to make:

Heat oven to 400 Fahrenheit

Take diced butternut squash & toss with a small amount of olive oil until just coated, toss in fresh herbs, onion powder, salt & pepper.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake squash for 20 minutes, flip half way.

In a large salad bowl add your kale/kale mix, apples, red onion, apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper and toss well.

Take your pecans & toss them in 1 tsp of warmed liquid honey, cinnamon & a pinch of salt, when your squash has 6 minutes left to bake, add to your baking sheet and bake 3 minutes a side.

When your squash & pecans are done, let them cool.

Crush pecans and top your salad with crushed pecans, squash, hemp, pepitas & feta.

Add all your dressing ingredients together and mix well.

Pour dressing over your salad when ready to serve, enjoy your Thanksgiving Butternut Squash & Apple Feta Salad!

Happy Thanksgiving and sending much love, XOXO!

 

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Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek, Mushroom & French Lentil Salad

Well September is here and I feel like I have permission to slowly return to my daily routine after an overly busy summer filled with change, a new home, numerous renovations, new adjustments, sporadic road trips, the company of tremendous friends, summer events, festivals and a lovely end of August vacation exploring Canada’s West coast. I’ve always found it pressing to have to let go of summer months and face another Canadian winter, but I’m learning to embrace what each season brings, as it is inevitable! With inspiration from the West Coast, a change in season’s, that brisk bite to the air in the evenings and a longing for the savory comfort foods that come with fall, I have created a dish that envelopes this all, Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek Mushroom & French Lentil Salad for my next recipe!

My husband and I spent over a couple of weeks via road trip with the good ol’ Flagstaff tent trailer not far behind, travelling and delving into the culture, food, seasonal produce, hiking and golfing scenes that British Columbia has to offer. We often try to stay off the beaten path and get recommendations from the locals on where we can find prime food, hiking, secret spots etc. I mean, sometimes you just have to do the touristy thing because it’s famous for a reason… but many times there is so much more to be found and treasured. Our countries beauty never ceases to amaze me and now more than ever I can appreciate the diversity and uniqueness of the bountiful produce Canada provides. I wanted my next recipe to be a representation of Canadian grown produce and I tried to captivate the beautiful seasonally available fresh picked mushrooms, fresh and wild caught cod as well as Canadian grown lentils. It all led to a healthy, earthy and nature inspired recipe that I know you guys will adore to celebrate the summer memories we created and to open our arms and minds to a hopefully warm and bright fall.

The Rainforest Loop outside of Tofino.

I’ve wanted to create a lentil recipe for quite some time now, than summer hit and the lentil inspiration fell off my radar! Then while hiking through the lush and green temperate rain forests on the West Coast Trail, my craving was re-ignited, after many kilometers of coastal forest and the salty ocean breeze, I was suddenly longing a nutritious, earthy, protein packed meal and I thought of lentils and the main fish catch at this time in and around Tofino and Ucluelet is white, flaky Cod. Then I was educated about the competitive and bountiful mushroom foraging scene near Tofino, chanterelle mushroom season (aka the white gold rush) starts in mid August, so I thought, why not throw some mushrooms in the mix as well, who doesn’t love mushrooms! I was able to get my hands on some chanterelle mushrooms while there for a pretty penny (I wasn’t brave enough to pick my own as apparently it is quite the competitive and territorial sport), but I wasn’t able to find them here in Calgary, so I went with lovely oyster and brown cremini mushrooms instead for this recipe.

The Lighthouse Trail in Ucluelet.

Lentils are particularly impressive you guys, so packed with protein that they count as a meat alternative on the Canada food guide! I chose French Lentils for this recipe because they are, what I think, the gold standard of lentils, they have a unique speckling in colour and they absorb flavor so well, they are a little peppery with an earthy flavour. I found them at Planet Organic in the Bulk section, for I believe under 50 cents/100 gram. I also love that they are locally sourced, did you know Canada is now the world’s leader in lentil export to the global marketplace, 99% grown in Saskatchewan and that 1% in Alberta, woohoo! They are truly complimented by the garlic, Dijon and sautéed leeks, it’s so delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek, Mushroom & French Lentil Salad is ready in under 30 minutes, it’s hearty, filling, packed with protein, classic flavors and it’s great re-heated for lunch or dinner. You can make it a vegetarian dish by omitting the fish or swap out your favorite protein like chicken, it’s so versatile. Now let’s get to cooking this end of summer and intro to fall dish!

Makes 4 servings:

Ingredients:

2 cups dried French Lentils

4 pieces of fresh wild Cod – rinsed

1/2 tbsp avocado oil (or oil of choice)

2 cloves garlic – minced

1.5 large leek (white part only) – finely sliced (approx. 1 cup)

2.5 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme (or 1 tbsp. dried)

2tsp paprika

1.5 tsp salt

1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper

1 cup cremini brown mushrooms – sliced

1 cup oyster mushrooms – chopped

3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

3tbsp. seedy Dijon mustard

1/2 cup vegetable stock

For the fish (per fish fillet)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp caraway seeds

course ground pepper to taste

Now, how to cook lentils, I personally soak my lentils prior to cooking, but it isn’t necessary. I find that when I soak them beforehand they cook quicker and I like to soak them in water with apple cider vinegar to help break down the starches, which then aids our bodies in digesting the lentils when cooked, it’s totally up to you whether you want to give these bad boys a soak beforehand. I soaked them for no longer than 8 hours which decreases the cooking time quite a bit. But again, this is not necessary. After the soak, I rinse them well and add them to a pot with salted water (3 cups of water to 1 cup of lentils) & 3 whole sprigs of thyme, let it come to a full boil then turn down the heat so a calm boil remains and cook for 20-25 minutes or until your desired consistency is met.

While you are cooking your lentils, in a large sauté pan add your leeks to heated oil, garlic, fresh thyme, paprika, salt & pepper and sauté over medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes until the leeks soften, then add your chopped mushrooms, sauté another 5-8 minutes until your mushrooms begin to soften. Add the Dijon mustard and lemon juice, mix well, then add the vegetable stock and allow it to simmer and develop the flavours. Your lentils should be done, strain and add them to your mushroom/leek mix, mix in well.

Take your cod and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and caraway seeds, make room in your pan and add your cod directly onto the heated pan over medium heat, cook cod for about 4-5 minutes per side or until opaque and flaking. You can cook your cod in a separate pan if you desire, but I’m all about less dishes… remove your cooked cod then dish out desired amount of warm lentil salad into a bowl and top off with cod! There you have it, your own Spiced Cod on a Warm Leek, Mushroom & French Lentil Salad! I hope everyone’s post Long Weekend and intro into a new routine has been lovely, let me know what you think of this recipe! XOXO

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Black Rice Salad with Apricots, Beets, Herbs & Goat Cheese

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay in new recipes… project reno house has been rather time-consuming, but don’t you worry I’ve got you covered with a new recipe for the week. Have you seen all the stunning stone fruit flowing in from B.C. at the markets?! I can’t get enough of all the local produce I can get my hands on, its endless and I wish we had it all year round. I bought a huge flat of apricots from B.C. as they are my absolute fav, then after eating them straight up and like I’d never see them again… I decided to get creative and create something filling and fresh to share with all of you, how about a Black Rice Salad with Apricots, Beets, Herbs & Goat Cheese?! I also received an incredibly beautiful and bountiful herb basket from a very thoughtful colleague at work and knew I had to incorporate it somehow! I love the idea of a grain salad with fruit, herbs and crunchy salty nuts combined into a glorious salad, so that’s how this Black Rice Walnut Salad with Apricots, Beets & Fresh Thyme Goat Cheese was born. Wait until you taste this combination of earthy and fresh ingredients!

I stumbled upon black rice aka Forbidden Rice at Planet Organic a few months ago, I had to try out this dark and mysterious rice, I was so positively delighted and my senses were captivated by this little deep purple grain, I’ve been dying to use it in a recipe to spread the word of its existence! I wondered where it came from, how it differs from regular white/brown rice and did it have any added health benefits from regular rice? Well, I did some research and legend tells us that black rice was once only served to Chinese royalty back in the day, oh and it does have some impressive health benefits. Black rice has this rich, slightly sweeter and nutty flavor, it’s becomes soft and sticky when cooked and really shines in the nutrient department. This forbidden black rice holds powerful disease fighting anti-oxidants, it is rich in fiber, iron and a good source of plant-based protein, it smokes white rice off the charts! It’s popularity is gaining and I’m seeing it pop up in health food stores around Calgary, your best bet is Planet Organic in the bulk section! Cook up a pot of this black rice and watch it turn deep purple after it’s cooked, it’s amazing!

Now for the rest of this salad! As I mentioned before, I had an entire flat of apricots to put to good use, I’m a huge advocate of fruit in salads, trust me, the combination here of the nutty and slightly sweet rice, with earthy red beets, the unique tart nectarous flavor of the apricots all topped off with fresh soft goat cheese coated in fresh thyme and those crunchy salty walnuts… we are talking serious salad business! I was leaning on the more traditional dijon, balsamic dressing for this salad, but I wanted the rice to have a light coating of something creamy… a thought came to me, what would happen if I mixed balsamic and TAHINI!? It sounded odd, it couldn’t possibly work… only one way to find out! I whipped together tahini, dark balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey, fresh thyme, salt & pepper, drizzled it over my salad, closed my eyes and took a huge bite, OMG YUM, it was marvelous! The flavors of roasted sesame from the tahini just enhanced the earthiness of this salad even further.

Alright, enough talking and more recipe blogging! Here is how to make this beautiful Black Rice Walnut Salad with Apricots, Beets & Fresh Thyme Goat Cheese!

For the Salad, approximately 4 servings:

1 cup of black rice (I find it at Planet Organic or Community Health in the bulk section)

2 medium red beets – roasted & chopped

2-3 fresh apricots – chopped

2 tbsp soft crumbled goat cheese

1 sprig of fresh minced thyme

Handful of halved walnuts

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground pepper

For the Tahini Balsamic Dressing:

1.5 tbsp dark balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp tahini

1/2 tbsp warm water

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp honey (I used Drizzle Spring Honey)

1/4 tsp salt

Ground fresh pepper

Pinch of fresh minced thyme

How to create your own Black Rice Walnut Salad with Apricots, Beets & Fresh Thyme Goat Cheese:

Turn oven on to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash and cut end off beets, place in an oven safe dish, fill with water until just under half of the beets are immersed in water, cover with lid/tin foil and roast for 45 minutes or until a fork is easily inserted into beet.

Add 1 cup of black rice to a pot, add 2 cups of cold water and 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a slight boil then turn down to low and cover with a lid, cook for 30 minutes.

Once your beets are roasted, the skin should peel off very easily, chop them up.

Chop up your apricots.

Crumble soft goat cheese and make them into mini balls, roll them in the fresh minced thyme.

Mix together the cooked rice, beets, apricots and top off with herbed goat cheese, halved walnuts, salt & pepper.

Mix all your salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk until well blended, pour over salad and toss!

I make extra rice and roasted beets so I can throw this Black Rice Walnut Salad with Apricots, Beets & Fresh Thyme Goat Cheese together for quick lunches and dinners!

There you have it, your own beautiful salad for dinner! Let me know what you think, I absolutely love hearing from all of you and seeing how I’ve inspired your dishes each and every day, nothing makes me happier. Have a lovely week and enjoy everything our last days of summer have to bring, xoxo!

 

 

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Fresh Shaved Asparagus & Roasted Tomato Salad

You guys, guess what… it’s officially asparagus season! This excites me way more than it probably should, but I always forget how marvelous fresh and in season asparagus truly is. So I’ll be highlighting these lovely green spears in a couple of recipes over the next couple weeks. The task of which recipes to share has proven to be really difficult for me because asparagus is so versatile and I had so many ideas! I fell in love with this idea for a salad and it couldn’t have turned out any more delectable, here is my, fresh Shaved Asparagus & Roasted Tomato Salad!

You’re probably saying, um Andrea, you do realize asparagus is typically in the groceries stores all year round, don’t you? I realize that! I don’t know about you, but I walk right past them when i see that $5.99/lb price tag on limp, leaning and pathetic looking spears, so when I saw $3.00 per gorgeous bunch at the market, I bought 3 bundles (I know, slightly excessive). Asparagus is typically harvested from February – June, so keep an eye out at your market for those green, crisp spears with beautiful purple ends! You buy and I’ll provide you with a recipe, deal?

So, here is my asparagus recipe for the week I’d love for you to try! I wanted to highlight how delicious asparagus can be in its raw state and got carried away with my peeler to create a masterpiece of a salad I’d say! My Shaved Asparagus & Roasted Tomato Salad, is authentic, simple and true to the freshness of the crisp asparagus. First of all, I was way too entertained while shaving away at those spears creating asparagus ribbons, I’m sure I had a massive grin on my face the entire time! There is nothing more perfect than sweet and bursting roasted tomatoes to pair with those crisp ribbons and soft buttery lettuce, mmm. Then I thought, why not throw on (actually, be gentle!) a perfectly poached soft egg and let that golden yolk ooze into the layers of the salad. I closed off this masterpiece with large flakes of savory Parmesan and my easy Creamy Honey Mustard dressing. Divine!

Have an amazing week of warm weather and asparagus buying! XOXO

 

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Sicilian Style Blood Orange Fennel Salad with Roasted Honey Chili Pistachios

Remember that picture of my wholesome market finds from Thursday? Well, this particular market trip I was accompanied by my beautiful and curious friend K, who pointed out some gorgeous golden beets and questioned the flavor of those mysterious blood oranges, well that got my innovative culinary cogs turning! As promised, I present to you, on this splendid spring forward an hour Sunday morning, a simply gorgeous Sicilian Style Blood Orange Fennel Salad with Roasted Honey Chili Pistachios!

Isn’t this salad so visually appealing and SENSATIONAL!? I could stare at it all day, I actually felt felonious eating it after the photo shoot was done. My husband didn’t… he dug right in, so I clearly had to get in there as well or I would be left without a single bite! There are so many distinctive and delicious flavors going on in this salad that erupt in your mouth. I love how the golden ribbons of beet have an alluring sweet and earthy flavor that I felt would contrast well with the mild licorice flavor of the crunchy shaved fennel. The incredibly stunning blood oranges speak for themselves I’d say, with that raspberry hued orange flavor! I’ve always loved the warmth of dill, it had lemony hints and I thought it would compliment the citrus profiles of this salad. I finished this salad off with the finest, roasted pistachios and of course, feta cheese! I was craving salty and spicy on this particular day, so I grabbed a handful of buttery pistachios, tossed them with Drizzle Honey, a pinch of chili powder and salt, then a quick roast on those suckers … oh my goodness… divine!

I adore blood oranges, I get weirdly enthusiastic when they are in season and stock up on those ruby beauties. So where do these oranges come from and how do they get that unreal color and orange-raspberry flavor? Well, you probably already guessed by the title of this post… they are primarily grown in Italy and they acquire their red color, when temperatures drop at night due to anthocyanin. Anthocyanin (an antioxidant) is the pigment in these oranges and this red pigment continues to accumulate even after harvest, neat huh! Therefore, these oranges can only be cultivated in the cooler months of fall and winter, explaining why we don’t see them all the time in stores!

The Sicilians boast a salad using Tarroco blood oranges, typically comprising of blood oranges, fennel, olives and onions. Unfortunately, during my travels across Sicily I did not get the opportunity to try this traditional salad, but I do remember the juicy and luscious fresh oranges as well as candied oranges, served for dessert! The Sicilians have world famous food for a reason, it’s unreal! I could go on and on about the enticing food we ate, the crystal clear turquoise waters, exceptional white sand beaches, the active and glowing volcano of Mt. Etna and of course the white knuckle driving craziness!

The crystal clear waters in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily we swam in!

My Blood Orange Fennel Salad with Roasted Honey Chili Pistachios salad is truly effortless and undeniably delicious. I am hoping to deliver you some joy and hopes of warmer weather with colors of spring and yummy eats. Now get to the market and get a hold of those beautiful blood oranges before they are out of season! Happy Weekend and start of a new week that will bring us all a little more sunlight! XOXO

 

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Kale is Where it’s at!

Good morning…almost afternoon, how time flies on weekends off! On Saturdays I rarely have time to be cooking up a filling and nutritious lunch time meal in between all the activities. But one dish I can always count on is my crafted with love, Warm Kale Mushroom Salad. This is no ordinary kale salad, this is one you will be making repeatedly after you taste one scrumptious forkful, I promise!

 

 

The kale scene has really blown up in the last couple years, as so it should because kale is just so damn tasty and holds super powers, hence the nickname super food! Alright, perhaps kale doesn’t hold actual super powers… but it sure has unbelievable health benefits for such a simple leaf. Kale is a powerhouse food and packs more nutrition than any other whole food out there, apparently an ounce of kale comprises more iron than an ounce of beef! In one heaping cup you’ll have met your daily Vitamin K, A and C levels for the day, be filled with an outstanding amount of anti-oxidants and kale is said to have cancer preventative benefits.

I simply adore kale, I know not everyone does due to its tougher leafy nature and at times bitter taste, but it’s all in its preparation and highlighting it’s attributes when it really shines! When buying kale I recommend looking for the organic, softer, small-leaved curly kale, it tends to be less tough, slightly sweeter and absorbs any flavor you throw at it. When preparing kale, ensure to cut off the hard stems, wash it in warm-hot water to assist in softening the leaves, then I dress it while prepping the rest of the salad, this will ensure soft and savory kale leaves!

My Warm Kale Mushroom Salad has so many mouth-watering flavors, earthy garlicky mushrooms, carmelized onions, lemon pepper basted kale leaves, topped off with melting creamy goat cheese and crunchy buttery walnuts. I absolutely love this salad and have converted several non salad eaters into believers, I have testimonies! Try it out today for a lunch to help you power through your Saturday! XOXO

 

 

 

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