Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dandelion Salad

Spring is the time of year to get out and pick your own salad and connect to the natural world. The dandelion greens are best eaten early in the season when they are young and tender. Bursting with caratenoids (plant vitamin A), vitamin C, iron and fibre, they are a true spring tonic! Avoid picking greens from lawns, some roadsides and golf courses that use fertilizers and herbicides. Basically, do not pick from an area unless you know its history. If you can't pick your own dandelion greens you can buy them at most supermarkets.

Serve with the Maple Dijon Vinaigrette I posted earlier. Using a sweet dressing will help to cut the bitterness of the dandelion greens. I mixed half dandelion greens with half salad greens but you can use all dandelion if you wish.

Makes 10 x 100 g servings – about 500 ml each.

2 liters dandelion greens, raw, chopped 8 cups
2 liters salad, field greens 8 cups
250 ml sunflower seeds, dried, unsalted - 1 cup
Dandelion flowers and/or buds

Wash greens by soaking in plenty of cold water.  Remove dirt and debris. Cut into 5 cm (2 inch) lengths if desired.
Combine in large bowl with mixed field greens.
Divide salad among plates and top with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and a tasty vinaigrette.
Optional additions: dandelion and pansy petals, sprigs of bergamot (bee balm), grated carrot, sliced cucumber etc.  I often cheese curds to increase the protein and staying power of my salad. Thornloe Cheese is a northern Ontario cheese maker just north of New Liskeard, Ontario and they make wonderful cheese curds.

NUTRITION FACTS (per 100 g – 500 ml serving): 100 calories, 7 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 50 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 3 g sugar, 5 g protein. % Daily Values: 160% vitamin A, 25% vitamin C, 10% calcium, 15% iron.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Stuffed Peppers Two Ways - Meat or Vegetarian

I wrote this recipe to be 1/2 vegetarian and 1/2 meat as lots of times we need both to satisfy a crowd.  If you're vegetarian skip the meat instructions and double or triple the amount of rice .  You can use leftover cooked rice in this recipe or any cooked grain such as quinoa or millet.  If you have leftover meat filling bake it in a small oven proof bowl and use it as a mini-meatloaf  or sliced for sandwiches.

Click on this link to print recipe.

1 cup brown rice, raw - 250 ml
6 sweet peppers, medium - I used 2 each red, yellow and green
1 jalapeno pepper (optional)
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup white onion finely diced
1/2 cup ketchup, barbecue or tomato sauce
2 eggs, medium
1 cup mushrooms, chopped fine
1 cup carrot grated - 250 ml
2 tsp each basil, ground cumin and chili powder
1/2 tsp sea salt - 2.5 ml
1/2 cup water - 125 ml for bottom of baking dish

Variations for this very flexible recipe: grated cheese for top of peppers.  Use any type of spices or herbs you like and have on hand such as Italian seasoning, dill, black pepper etc.  You can also used frozen mixed vegetables instead of the fresh and leftover cooked rice.  Other cooked grains like millet and quinoa also work well in place of the rice. 

Preheat oven to 350'F (190 'C)
1.  Cook the brown rice in unsalted water according to package directions.
2.  Cut peppers in half vertically through the stems and discard inner seeds and membranes.  Keep the stems on as they look nice and help to hold in the filling.

3.  Mix all the ingredients except for ground chicken/turkey/beef with cooked rice.  Set half aside for the vegetarian batch.  Omit the egg if you are vegan.  They won't stick together as well without the egg but it will still work.  Add 90 ml water and 30 ml flour for some "glue" for vegan stuffed peppers if egg is omitted.

4.  Add ground chicken/turkey/beef to other half of rice and mix well.

5.  Fill half the peppers with vegetarian rice mixture and the other half with the meat and rice filling. You can mound them fairly high.  Arrange in a baking dish and add water to bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle over grated cheese of your choice (optional).  The picture below shows the vegetarian stuffed peppers.

6.  Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is set and peppers are cooked through to an internal temperature of 175'F (77'C).

Nutrition Facts (per 1/2 meat stuffed pepper): 160 calories, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrate, 2 g fibre, 5 g sugar, 250 mg sodium, 10 g protein. %Daily Values are 2% calcium, 6% iron, 6% vitamin A and 200% vitamin C.

Yours in good taste, © Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.

Pumpkin Stew with Fresh Chiles & Feta Cheese

I am making this hearty, comforting pumpkin dish tonight.  It is one of my daughter's favourites and it reheats well.  I use pumpkin and squash interchangeably in most recipes depending on what I have on hand.  Use fresh and not canned pumpkin which is pureed. Alternately, a good substitute is a dense orange squash like butternut.  The original recipe was from Peru and it was made with serrano peppers which are 5 times hotter than jalapenos.

Below the cayenne peppers are spread out to ripen in the house.  I had them near the fire for a week or two which helped totally dry them out for storage

Click this link to print recipe.

Makes six servings about 300 grams each

1 Tbsp (15 ml) sunflower or other neutral oil like grapseed
1 cup (250 ml) onion, raw, chopped - I use red
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh cayenne, serrano or jalapeno pepper, minced (to taste) - I used 2 dried cayenne
2 potatoes, with skin, raw, cut into cubes - I prefer red potatoes but any will do
8 cups (2 liters) pumpkin, raw, cubes (or squash or sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup (60 ml) water - add more as necessary
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk or cream (coconut milk works if you need a non-dairy version)
1 cup (250 ml) Ontario cheese like brebis, feta or semi-soft goat cheese (skip cheese for non-dairy or vegan version)
1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) sea salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup (125 ml) cilantro, fresh, minced (or parsley, oregano)


1.  Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Saute chopped onion, minced garlic and chiles until soft and fragrant.  I used a few of my dried garden cayenne peppers.

 2.   Scrub potatoes but leave the skins on for extra fibre and nutrition.  Dice into bite-size squares.

3.  Peel and cut fresh pumpkin (or squash) into cubes.  I use a very sharp chef's knife to split the pumpkin in half and set aside the seeds to dry for the summer garden.  I cut it into strips, peel and cube as below.  It is a bit of work but worth the effort. 

I save my vegetable scraps in a bag and freeze them.  I will use them later to make a fragrant vegetable broth.  Pumpkin is really nice in vegetable stocks as it imparts a sweet flavour and golden colour.

4.  Add diced raw pumpkin and potatoes with water to the skillet.  Cover and cook over medium low heat until the pumpkin and potatoes are tender.  I cooked mine 10 minutes and thought it was too long.  I like the pumpkin a bit less mushy.

5. Stir in the milk (or cream) and crumbled cheese and heat through.  I used goat cheese in tonight's version but I usually use feta.  It would also be good with the Brie, Brebis or Camembert cheese.  Brebis to me is the French equivalent to feta - a creamy, soft, unripened cheese made with sheep's milk.  PC brand is 26% MF and very delicious. If you want a dairy free version you can use coconut milk and skip the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh minced cilantro.  You can substitute fresh or dried oregano and/or parsley instead of the cilantro. 

Don't toss the pumpkin seeds!  You can dry them to plant in this summer's garden or toast them for a tasty snacks.  I will sit down and remove the "gunk" and spread them out on a tea towel to air dry.  I have good results and rarely have to buy pumpkin seeds.  I also save the seeds from any organic squash I buy at the store and grow some for myself.  Roast the seeds in a 350'F oven on a lightly oiled pan until lightly brown and toasted.

NUTRITION FACTS: Pumpkin a very versatile and nutritious vegetable that is very good in cookies, muffins, pancakes, pie, savoury quiche, soup, stews and casseroles.  The dark orange vegetables like pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potatoes and carrots outshines all others in beta carotene which our body converts to vitamin A. Research has found that a diet rich in beta-carotene can reduce your risk of developing certain cancers and helps prevent heart disease. Beta-carotene also maintains good vision and fights infection. They are also packed with fibre, antioxidants, vitamins B6, C and K as well as calcium, potassium and folate. The flesh of the pumpkin is lower in calories and carbohydrate compared to sweet potatoes.

Per 300 g/approximately 1 cup serving of the casserole has:
190 calories, 9 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibre, 5 g sugar, 7 g protein.  % Daily Values are 60% vitamin A, 45% vitamin C, 20% calcium and 10% iron.

Yours in good taste, © Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"the Eat Well Gourmet" Chickpea & Carrot Salad

I learned to make this salad in the early '80's when I was managing the Beaches location of the Eat Well Gourmet in Toronto.  The owner, Josephine Ingrao, was an administrative dietitian who created a successful take-out and catering business featuring healthy, gourmet foods.  I learned a lot from her as she was honest in her feedback and inspirational!  I got the job by combing the yellow pages for ads I liked and companies I might want to work for.  This is a recipe I go back to time and time again.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have gone mainstream in Canada largely since the spread hummus became popular.  I love hummus and often make it with peanut butter instead of tahini as I don't always have the latter around.  Here chickpeas are featured in a marinated salad which keeps well in the fridge up to a week.

The local foods used in my salad are fresh carrots, parsley I had frozen last summer and the mint in the vinegar.  I don't know if chickpeas are grown in Ontario or not?  My understanding is that they are mainly grown in the prairie provinces.  Eating vegetarian meals, like this salad, reduces your carbon footprint.

The rest of my ingredients are organic.  In my opinion, organic spices taste a lot better than conventional and if they are certified organic they are free of chemical pesticides and residue.  I am not an expert in organic food rules but there is opportunity to add non spice ingredients to spices.  Recently I heard of flour being added to a chili powder blend creating problems for people needing to follow a gluten free diet. Buying organic spices and other organic foods also allows you to avoid genetically modified crops.

Click this link to print recipe.

INGREDIENTS - all homegrown or organic
Makes 10 x 250 ml (1 cup) portions

6 cups (1.5 L) chickpeas, cooked
2 cups (500 ml) carrots, diced
1 cup (250 ml) parsley, fresh, minced
2 Tbsp (30 ml) paprika, sweet
1 Tbsp (150 ml) fennel seed
1/4 cup (60 ml) XV Olive Oil
1 cup (250 ml) herb or good vinegar*
1 tsp (5 ml) black pepper 

*Note: the vinegar I used was organic mint and white wine vinegar I had made back in August when the mint was fresh and plentiful in the garden.  Mint goes really well with this salad.  Other good choices are plain apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar..... something bold!  Black olives aren't part of the original recipe but they would go well.  The original Eat Well Gourmet recipe used diced canned artichoke hearts as well.


1.  Measure the cooked chickpeas into a good size salad bowl that you can store in the fridge.  If you are using canned rinse them under cold running water to remove some of the salt.  The equivalent is approximately 2-3 of the 598 ml cans drained.

2.  Cut carrots into quarters and slice across.  Lightly steam carrot chunks.

3.  Toss all together and garnish with minced parsley and a good sprinkle of paprika.  I used organic paprika and you might have noticed that it is not garrish red.  I suspect much of the mainstream paprika has added red dye.  This seems like a lot of vinegar but it gets soaked into the beans.  Using more vinegar also allows you to cut back on the higher fat and pricey olive oil.  You can adjust it to your taste. 

The photo below is of some local parsley I bought at the farmer's market.  I freeze it in zip-lock freezer bags.  Frozen parsley is a snap to slice and you can take what you want and put the rest back in the freezer for another recipe. 

Leave salad to marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving.

This salad is lower in fat than what is shown below as you wouldn't typically eat all of the dressing.

NUTRITION FACTS (per 158 gram or approx 1 cup - 250 ml serving): 230 calories, 9 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 25 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 6 g fibre, 6 g sugar, 9 g protein.  % Daily Values based on a 2,000 calorie diet are 100% vitamin A, 20% vitamin C, 8% calcium and 20% iron.

Beet Salad Morrocan Style

I dabble in Moroccan cooking and notice the recipes include a lot of my favourite foods like beets, pumpkin and squash. These foods are easy to grow and keep well which fits in with me being more self-sufficient. 

I have also been trying to get young people to eat beets and I am surprised how few of them like beets. Ian said they taste like dirt! Most of them were never served beets at home. And yes, they do taste a bit like dirt! I am attributing this to their high mineral content. I did a bit of research and did in fact learn that the taste of the beet reflects the elements in the soil where they are grown. Makes sense.

Print a copy of this recipe.

Makes 8 or more 1/ 2 cup - 125 ml servings

1 lb beets or approximately 4 cups/1 liter peeled and cubed) 
1 fresh lemon, juiced - about 1/4 cup (60 ml) 
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1/8 tsp (.6 ml) cinnamon, ground
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
Optional additions: chopped red onion, tbsp of honey, zest of the lemon, 1/4 tsp ground cumin and/or paprika.

1.  Cut the green tops off leaving an inch (2.5 cm) or so. Leave the tap root intact as well.  These steps reduce "bleeding" of the beet juice into the cooking water.  Wash beets and boil in a covered saucepan until tender.  This can take longer than you think!  Let them cool in the cooking water.
2.  Use your hands to slip off the skins.  Chop them into cubes and place in bowl.
3. Combine rest of ingredients and pour over beets.  Toss to coat.  Let marinate for an hour or so before serving.

NUTRITION FACTS (per 125 ml serving): 50 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 55 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, 1 g fibre, 5 g sugar and 1 g protein. % Daily Values (based on 2,000 calorie diet are 2% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 2% calcium and 4% iron.

Yours in good taste, © Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.

Fun Fruit & Herb Vinegars

Over the years I have come up with numerous herb, fruit and flower combinations that I use when making flavoured vinegars.   I like to give these beautiful bottles as hostess and Christmas gifts.  It is ideal if you make these throughout the summer from your garden herbs and local berries.  I will mention a few that you can create during the winter months with fresh or frozen fruits and fresh herbs you can get from the store. 

Below is a photo of some of the summer vinegars I made (left to right): strawberry balasamic vinegar, apple cider with sage and cranberry and raspberry white wine vinegar.  I use them to add inspiration to my winter salads!  Follow this link to get a print copy of this blog post.

Vinegar is fermented wine derived from the French word vin aigre.  It contributes a bright, sharp flavour to food and can seriously reduce the amount of salt needed in recipes.  Vinegar, and other acidic foods such as tomatoes and lemon juice, have been shown to lower the glycemic index of the dish they are used in.  This means food is more slowly digested and leads to a slower rise in blood sugar.  Vinegar has next to no calories and is a friend of those watching their weight or those changing their food ways to manage heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

The type of vinegar you use to make your flavoured vinegars depends on your preference, what you like to cook and your pocket book.  Higher prices are attached to the best vinegars.  I don't use everyday white distilled vinegar for much other than cleaning my toilet (did I say that?).  Vinegar lasts quite a while and gets used slowly so I buy the good ones and enjoy them.  The photo below shows the types of organic vinegar I have been using.

Apple Cider Vinegar is my everyday all purpose vinegar.  I buy a raw, unpasteurized, wood aged and organic apple cider vinegar from Eden organics.  It has the live "mother" or vinegar culture which appears as a cloudiness in the bottle.  This type of vinegar pairs well with fruits like apple, cranberry and pear.  It also goes well with strong herbs like tarragon, thyme, sage and rosemary.

Balsamic vinegar is traditionally made from Trebbiano grapes and aged in oak barrels.  It has a sweetish after-taste.  I have a Silver Leaf traditional Balsamico organic vinegar from Greece.  The real balsamic is aged 12 years for "vecchio" and 25 years for "extra vecchio."  Much of what we buy in the store is actually a wine vinegar with added caramel for colour and flavour. 

Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice or rice wine alcohol.  It has a subtle, sweet flavour.  Buy the unseasoned one without added sugar or salt.

Wine vinegars - white or red wine grapes are fermented in oak.  They range in flavour from mellow to sharp.  The white wine vinegar I am using is from Spectrum Natural and it is organic and a product of Modena, Italy.  They say it is a blend of Italian white wines that has been slowly fermented and aged.  The Inari red wine vinegar I am using is also organic and contains mother.  It is from Italy as well.

Use on green salads, fruit salads or as part of a marinade for meat or poultry.  The vinegar will tenderize tougher cuts of meat and the taste will cook off (trust me)!  The benefit of using frozen berries is that they are cleaned and ready to go. 

1 cups (250 ml) fresh or frozen berries (e.g., cranberries, raspberries, blueberries)
Sprigs of fresh herbs, cleaned and dry
3 cups (750 ml) cider or other vinegar

Experiment!  Try:
- fresh apple slices, thyme and apple cider vinegar
- cranberry, sage and apple cider
- cranberry and rosemary with any vinegar is particularly festive for Christmas
- blueberry thyme and balsamic vinegar
- strawberries in balsamic vinegar
- raspberry, mint and white wine vinegar 


1.  Stuff berries and herbs into clean and sterilized bottles.   You can wiggle things around with a chop stick or skewer to get an artful arrangement.  The quantities above for berries and vinegar are approximate. 

2.  Pour vinegar of your choice over.  I like to use a funnel when I do this.  Make sure the herbs are completely covered as they can grow mold if they are not.  Add a bit extra if possible as the fruit and herbs will absorb a bit of the vinegar as they sit.  

3.  Seal, label and date.  Store in a cool place or refrigerator as berries have a tendency to ferment.  Read further down for more tips on the process.

You will need fresh herbs to go with the berries.  They are a bit pricey but there is a good selection in most grocery stores.  You can also add dried herbs to the vinegar if you prefer.  The flavour will be good but they are not as pretty.  When you begin using the vinegar be sure to remove any exposed herbs as the bottle empties.  If you don't take this precaution molds can grow on the exposed herbs.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.  This is your opportunity to clean and sterilize some bottles and jars that you like.  The first photo in this post shows (left to right) recovered whiskey bottle, tamari bottle and juice bottle.   Use bottles or glass jars that are free of chips or cracks.  Good choices are clear wine and liquor bottles.  You can pick up decorative bottles at many dollar stores but I prefer to recycle when I can.

Thoroughly soak and wash the bottles.   Remove old labels.  A baby bottle brush is handy for this task.  Sterilize them by immersing in a pan of water and simmering for 10 minutes.  Once sterilized, remove from water and invert on kitchen towel to dry.  Use while warm.

You can buy stoppers at a wine making store.  They usually have cork or plastic stoppers.  I buy the plastic as they are easy to put through the dishwasher and keep clean.  I also buy the heat shrink covers they put over wine bottles.  They shrink around the bottle when immersed in boiling water.  You can also use steam from a kettle to shrink the wraps.

Yours in good taste, © Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Red Quinoa with Pumpkin, Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds

Have you tried red quinoa (say KEEN-WAH)?  I love quinoa but when I first made this salad I hadn't seen this beautiful red variety before.  Since then I found out there are white, black and red varieties.

Red quinoa "is similar to the other quinoa varieties: high in protein, gluten-free, easy to digest and quick to cook. Red quinoa is predominately grown in Bolivia; other quinoas come mostly from Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador (and more recently, the United States). Rinse and cook red quinoa as you would other varieties: for breakfast, in salads, and mixed in with other grains for polenta and pilaf-like side dishes."  Click link to access a very concise whole grain glossary.

In this recipe I have combined red quinoa with toasted sunflower seeds, bog cranberries and more pumpkin.  You can use diced pears or apples if you don't want the pumpkin!  I have been on a bit of a pumpkin fest as I use up my winter supply and dry seeds for the garden.  My favourite way to cook quinoa is to use my rice cooker.  Follow the package directions for quinoa to water ratio and the rice cooker will take care of the rest

Click on this link to get a printable recipe.
Makes 4 servings.

1 cup (250 ml) red quinoa
2 cups (500 ml) water
2 cups (500 ml) pumpkin or firm winter squash like kabocha or butternut (peeled and diced)
1 cup (250 ml) fresh or frozen cranberries, halved or chopped as you prefer
1/2 cup (125 ml) red onion, diced fine
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ginger, fresh, grated
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil, extra virgin
1/2 cup (125 ml) sunflower seeds, raw (or pecans, walnuts)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin, ground
1 tsp (5 ml) curry power
1 tsp (5 ml) turmeric, ground
2 Tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup - I used Schloesser's, Trout Creek
2 Tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar (like Eden organic)
1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) Sea salt

1.  Toast quinoa over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan for 2 minutes.  Shake it and move it around with a wooden spoon so it doesn't burn.  Toasting quinoa burns off the surface saponins and gives it a nuttier flavour.
2.  Then toast sunflower seeds in a large dry skillet. Heat until fragrant while shaking to prevent burning.  Pecans and walnuts are also favourites of mine in this salad.
3.  Bring 2 cups (500 ml) of water to a boil and add quinoa; reduce heat to low and cover.  Use a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water.   Cook for 15 minutes or according to package directions until grain is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Add frozen cranberries during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Turn off heat and set aside to cool.

4.  Cut the pumpkin or squash in chunks and steam until tender (not mushy).  I noticed they sell cut up squash at the store so you could use that if you want a quick solution.

5.  Heat oil in a non-stick pan and saute onion, garlic and ginger with the cumin, curry and tumeric over medium high heat for 3 minutes or until softened.  Remove from heat.

6.  Toss with the cooked quinoa, steamed pumpkin, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and minced fresh parsley.

NUTRITION FACTS (per 1 cup/250 ml): 190 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre, 10 g sugar, 6 g sugar, 8 g protein.  % Daily Values (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) are 30% vitamin A, 40% vitamin C, 8% calcium, 35% iron.