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Buffalo Chicken with Buttermilk-Feta Sauce and Spicy Escarole

Buffalo Chicken with Buttermilk-Feta SauceTHE VERDICT:

Most of the time, when you try to make a healthier version of a favourite junk food, you end up eating a bland and unfulfilling imitation of your favourite calorie-laden treat. Luckily, that is not the case with this recipe. Okay, it’s not exactly the same as eating hot wings with blue cheese dip, but the dish is flavourful and pleasing and will satisfy your cravings when you can’t make it to the pub. The spicy escarole (or in our case, romaine, because we couldn’t find escarole) was a unique side dish that complemented the main course very well. We will definitely be making this again.

If you want to try it yourself. . .

THE RECIPE:

Buffalo Chicken with Buttermilk Feta Sauce (source: Clean Eating magazine)

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt

2 Tbsp. nonfat buttermilk (substitution: 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice, let stand for 10 minutes)

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1/3 cup low-fat feta cheese, crumbled

3 green onions, chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 tsp. sea salt

4 Tbsp. hot sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. paprika

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs.), each cut into 2 3-inch pieces)

Olive oil cooking spray

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, buttermilk, vinegar, feta, onions and salt. Cover and refrigerate mixture until ready to serve for up to 2 days.
  • In a small bowl, combine hot sauce, oil and paprika.
  • Place chicken in a large shallow dish. Pour hot sauce mixture over chicken, tossing to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes at room-temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 400F. Mist a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Remove chicken from hot sauce marinade, discarding marinade, and place chicken on baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (no need to flip). Top with buttermilk-feta sauce, dividing evenly, or pour sauce into a separate bowl for dipping. Serve with Spicy Escarole (see recipe below).

Spicy Escarole (source: Clean Eating magazine)

2 tsp. olive oil

1 head escarole, cored and coarsely chopped (Note: escarole is a type of endive characterized by wide pale-green leaves)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. hot sauce

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

  • Heat oil  in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add escarole and saute for 5 minutes or until slightly wilted. Add garlic and hot sauce, stirring occasionally, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until escarole is completely wilted. Sprinkle pepper flakes and sesame seeds over top and serve immediately with Buffalo Chicken.

Makes 6 servings.

Hands on time: 20 minutes. Total time: 1 hour.

Nutrients per serving (4 oz. chicken [about 2 pieces], 2 Tbsp. sauce, 1 cup Spicy Escarole): 274 calories, 10 g fat, 11 g carbs, 34 g protein, 605 mg sodium, 68 mg cholesterol

Nutritional Bonus: 1 Tbsp. of paprika has 71% of your vitamin A requirement.

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Garlic Scapes Pesto and Tipsy Salad

Pesto & SaladTHE VERDICT:

One of the best parts about shopping at the farmers’ market is discovering new things. For the last few weeks, we had noticed that some of the stalls were selling garlic scapes (the stalks of the garlic plant that roughly resemble a curled version of the green portion of a scallion). We love garlic, so we figured anything associated with garlic must be good, but we had no idea how to cook with them. Luckily, we came across a recipe for garlic scapes pesto at one of the booths and decided to be adventurous and try it out. We were well rewarded for our efforts. The scapes have a lot of garlic flavour, but it comes in a milder form. They made a wonderful base for this simple pasta sauce, but I think they would also do well mixed with some Greek yogurt as a dip.

We paired the pasta with a salad we nicknamed the tipsy salad because of its boozy ingredients. We picked up some mixed salad greens at the market along with a brick of Tipsy Jill cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. We diced the cheese, which is infused with blackberry wine, and tossed it with the greens along with some dried cherries and sunflower seeds. We drizzled a homemade raspberry-champagne vinaigrette over top. Enjoyed with a glass of the remaining champagne, it was quite a meal.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Garlic Scapes Pesto (source: Trout Lake Farmer’s Market)

1 pound garlic scapes

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

olive oil (about 1/2 to 1 cup)

pine nuts, if desired

  • Chop the garlic scapes into 3 inch lengths. Put in the food processor and process until pureed.
  • Add the parmesan and pine nuts (if using) and process until smooth.
  • Slowly add the olive oil as the food processor runs and continue until all the oil is combined into the garlic and the desired consistency is reached.
  • Store in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator.

Tipsy Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

Several handfuls of mixed salad greens

1 small brick of Tipsy Jill cheese or similar wine infused cheese

1 or 2 handfuls of dried cherries

1 handful of sunflower seeds

  • Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with your chosen salad dressing.

Raspberry-Champagne Vinaigrette (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp. champagne

1 Tbsp. raspberry jam

A sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and/or sea salt, if desired

  • Combine ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until combined.
  • Alternatively, you can combine the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

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Chicken Bratwurst, Pancakes and Rhubarb Compote

Farmers' Market BreakfastTHE VERDICT:

Okay, so we cheated a little on this one. Other than the compote, none of this breakfast was made from scratch. But it was made from some of the goodies we picked up at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning and the results made for a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning. It was also a great opportunity to use our Griddler: we opened it up flat and made one half a griddle for cooking the pancakes and the other half a grill for cooking the brats.

We decided the chicken brats would be an excellent alternative to sausage or bacon, and we were certainly right on that score. They are made by BeerBrats, one of Justin’s favourite stops at the Trout Lake market and a company that specializes in making bratwurst with, you guessed it, beer. With regional microbrews, to be exact. Our Driftwood Farmhand Chicken Provencal bratwurst is just one of four flavours they sell for you to take home and cook yourself, but they also sell bratwurst dogs and breakfast wraps on site. In fact, our Saturday morning breakfast consisted of two incredibly mouthwatering wraps made with their Red Devil Chorizo sausage. All in all, it was a good weekend made all the better by tasty BeerBrats.

We got the mix for our pancakes from The Flour Peddler. This was their first weekend at the market, and we were excited to sample their wares because we had heard so much about them from other farmers’ market fiends. Their booth is hard to miss thanks to the guy grinding grain with the help of a stationary bicycle. We suggested they hook up a few kids’ bikes to some grain mills and offer a child minding service to their customers; we’ll see if they put our idea to good use next week. The Peddlers are extremely friendly, happy to joke around with customers as well as talk seriously about their product. We took our pancake mix home knowing exactly how to store it and what went into it. We chose the Red Fife Heritage Wheat Whole Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix and found it to be much heartier than traditional pancakes; we were still full hours later. 1 cup of the mix makes enough pancakes for 2 people, so we will probably get 3-4 breakfasts out of the bag we bought.

The pancakes went very well with the Rhubarb Compote that we decided to use instead of syrup. And the leftover compote also went very well with the Vanilla-Coconut Rice Pudding that we made for dessert that night.

THE RECIPE:

Rhubarb Compote (source: previously reviewed on Tonight’s Dinner; you can find a link to the recipe here)


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Steak Tacos with Avocado Cream Sauce and Tomato & Baby Cucumber Salad

Heirloom cherry tomatoesTHE VERDICT:

We had friends over on Sunday night and prepared this meal. We apologize for the lack of proper photo and must blame it on being distracted by the witty banter of our guests (Thanks Joy, Paul, Jen and Sam for a great evening).

The steak tacos are a meal we’ve prepared twice since purchasing our first copy of Clean Eating magazine. The instructions in the recipe are very clear, and the meal is really quick and easy to prepare. They are also really filling and tasty, and I really like the spice rub. Our only complaint is that there is often a ton of leftover Avocado Cream Sauce, and it really does not make good salad dressing despite what the recipe claims. We think it does have potential as a dip or a condiment for burgers or sandwiches, however.

The salad is one of our favourites because it is so simple to throw together and goes great with other casual fare like these tacos. It was also a wonderful way to showcase the flavours of the variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes (pictured) that we picked up at the farmers’ market. They added a lot of vibrant colour to the dish.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Steak Tacos with Avocado Cream Sauce (source: Clean Eating magazine)

For the tacos:

3/4 lb. lean round steak, thinly sliced into 1/4-inch-thick strips

1 tsp. Mexican seasoning (we made our own with oregano, chili powder and garlic powder)

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 clove garlic, minced

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

olive oil cooking spray

8 corn tortillas (we used whole wheat)

2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced

1 cup torn green leaf or romaine lettuce (we actually used shredded cabbage because we had some leftover)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced (optional)

For the cream sauce:

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

6 oz. nonfat Greek-style yogurt

1 jalapaeno pepper, cored and seeded

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, whole (optional, if you live in our house, at least)

  • Prepare Avocado Cream Sauce: add avocado, yogurt, jalapaeno and whole cilantro to a food processor fitted with a standard blade. Pulse until well-blended. Set aside.
  • In a large resealable plastic bag, place steak, Mexican seasoning, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, salt and pepper. Seal bag and shake to evenly coat steak with seasoning.
  • Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-high, mist skillet with cooking spray and saute steak, turning occasionally for about 5 minutes for medium doneness (steak will be slightly pink, but not red in center). If you prefer medium-well doneness, cook steak for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  • To serve, lay out tortillas. Add steak, tomatoes, red pepper and lettuce, dividing evenly among tortillas. Sprinkle with minced cilantro, if desired and top each with 2-3 tsp. of Avocado Cream Sauce. If you have any leftover sauce, store it in a resealable container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It can be used as salad dressing.

Makes 4 servings.

Tomato and Baby Cucumber Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner; original recipe)

We made 2 modifications this time around:

  1. We used an assortment of heirloom cherry tomatoes.
  2. We used a fruit vinegar instead of balsamic.

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Spinach Pesto with Garlic Shrimp

Spinach PestoTHE VERDICT:

My nut allergies mean that I must usually avoid pesto as it is traditionally made with pine nuts, and if you skip the pine nuts, you lose a lot of flavour. But this recipe for pesto packs a huge flavour punch thanks to the addition of spinach, which also increase its nutritional values. For parents with picky eaters (kids or spouse), this dish could be a sneaky way to sneak extra vitamins into a meal.

We are trying to eat fewer processed foods in our house, so we now fore-go the store bought dressing and add an equivalent amount of oil, vinegar, spices and parmesan cheese with positive results. This dish is quick and easy to whip up, especially if you have a Mini-Prep or other small food chopper. The only downside is that reheated leftovers tend to be a bit dry.

As for easy alterations, we have used a variety of squashes for this dish from acorn to zucchini. Other veggies could also be added like red onion or broccoli. And when you’re in the mood for a little extra protein, we find shrimp or chicken pair very well when tossed in with the pesto and noodles. We even have plans to replace the spinach with arugula this week to see how that tastes. And of course, you’re not limited to putting the sauce over pasta. Use it however you would normally use pesto.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Spinach Pesto (source: Better Homes and Gardens magazine; original recipe)

Garlic Shrimp (source: Tonight’s Dinner; original recipe)

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Umberto’s Basic Tomato Sauce

Umberto's Tomato SauceTHE VERDICT:

This is one of our favorite pasta sauces.  The majority of it is made with fresh ingredients – tomato paste is the only packaged product required.  This definitely gives it a more complex flavour, especially depending on what tomatoes you use.  I’d definitely want to try this with some local heirloom tomatoes from the Trout Lake Farmers Market.   The original recipe calls for the sauce to be strained and then used as a base for other recipes, but in this case we chose to forego the straining and use the sauce as-is.  Tasty and simple!

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Salsa di Pomodoro (source: Umberto’s Pasta Book by Umberto Menghi)

1 large white onion, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 can of peeled Italian tomatoes, finely chopped, and liquid

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. fresh basil, finely chopped

1 whole clove, crushed

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup dry red wine

salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 Tsbp. olive oil

  • Saute onion in butter and olive oil in a saucepan for 1-2 minutes until soft and transparent.
  • Add celery and carrot to saucepan and saute for approximately 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, tomato liquid, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, basil, cloves, sugar and red wine to saucepan and simmer, uncovered, on low heat for approximately 1 hour.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Strain sauce through a fine sieve. This tomato sauce should be a rich thick sauce. If sauce is too thin after straining, return to saucepan and continue to simmer until sauce reaches the correct consistency. If sauce is too thick, add a little water.
  • When sauce has reached the correct consistency, remove sauce pan from heat. Add olive oil on top, but do not mix in. Allow sauce to cool, uncovered and unrefrigerated, for at least 4 hours.

Note: This tomato sauce can be made ahead and stored in your refrigerator in a sealed plastic container for up to a week.

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Pork Tenderloin, Rhubarb Chutney and Lemon Parmesan Green Beans

Rhubarb ChutneyTHE VERDICT:

Having made a number of sweet rhubarb dishes since rhubarb season began, I decided it was time to try out a savory recipe. I’ve always wanted to try making my own chutney, so this recipe immediately appealed to me.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make chutney (I’m not quite sure where I got the impression that it would be difficult), and the results were quite tasty. But the recipes makes about 6 times more chutney than you would need for the 2 pork tenderloins it also calls for. If you plan to try it, try to plan a second dish that would go well with chutney later in the week. I did not plan that well and the leftover chutney went to waste.

The side dish was a fairly simple one. It was a good combination of flavours and would pair well with a number of main dishes. I don’t think the green beans are quite good enough to become a house favourite though we will still probably make them again from time to time.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Pork Tenderloin with Spiced Rhubarb Chutney (source: www.epicurious.com; original recipe)

Green Beans in Butter and Lemon with Parmigiano Reggiano (source: Closet Cooking; original recipe)

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Breakfast Risotto with Rhubarb Compote

Breakfast Risotto with Rhubarb CompoteTHE VERDICT:

We love starting our day with a hot breakfast, but until we discovered the joys of slow cooker porridge, a hot breakfast was a special treat on weekends or involved going out to eat. Since making this important discovery, we have sought out breakfast recipes for the slow cooker at every opportunity, including this recipe for Breakfast Risotto. Slow cooker recipes, especially breakfast recipes can be rather hit or miss, but this one was a success. Like most slow cooker recipes, it was quick and easy to prepare. It paired very well with the rhubarb compote though I think it would also taste delicious on its own, especially if you use nice, tart apples to prepare it.

Rhubarb is currently in season, and our weekend trip to our local farmers’ market at the Lonsdale Quay inspired me to incorporate it into a few dishes this week. If you like rhubarb as much as I do, then this compote recipe is definitely one you should try. It is incredibly simple to prepare, and its small number of ingredients really allow the rhubarb flavour to shine. It was a wonderful addition to this breakfast, but would also taste great at dinnertime over pork tenderloin or for dessert poured over ice cream. We combined leftover compote with leftover quinoa as a spontaneous dessert, and it actually tasted pretty good. This week we plan to use the compote to flavour plain yogurt as a snack.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Breakfast Risotto (source: www.wittyliving.com; original recipe)

Rhubarb Compote (source: www.epicurious.com; original recipe)

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