February 26, 2014

Moroccan Chickpea & Freekeh Salad with Mint-Orange Dressing

Is anyone else getting sick of winter yet? I just spent some time last week enjoying outdoor activites like snowshoeing and skating, but usually by the time March rolls around, I've had my fill of snow and cold weather!

To help ward off the winter blahs, I've been incorporating more bright and fresh ingredients into my meals, like pineapple and citrus. I posted this citrus protein bowl recently, and this week I've been eating another orange-infused meal, this time with a Moroccan twist!

The recipe for this salad was inspired by a moroccan salad with cilantro-orange dressing that I saw on Pinch of Yum recently and immediately bookmarked. I love trying new combinations of ingredients in my meals that I don't normally eat for dinner, so I was intrigued by her addition of dates and pistachios into a bulgur salad.

For my version, I used freekeh instead of bulgur - a grain that is full of fiber and protein and has a sturdy, chewy texture that holds up well in salads like this one. I also added chickpeas to bulk up the dish a bit more into a main dish salad.

In addition to the orange, spinach, dates, and pistachios, I added some currants, olives, shallot, and parsley because I thought they would pair well with the other Moroccan flavours. I also changed up the dressing a bit, using mint instead of cilantro and adding some garlic and cumin for extra seasoning.

With all of those ingredients, this dish definitely had a lot of flavour! I liked the contrast of the salty olives against the sweetness of the dates and orange, with a bit of bite from the fresh parsley too. If you're not a fan of mint, I found it to be pretty subtle once the dressing was mixed in, but feel free to use the original suggestion of cilantro instead!

Moroccan Chickpea & Freekeh Salad with Mint-Orange Dressing
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

1 (145g) package freekeh (about 3/4 cup dry)
1 3/4 cups water
Dash of salt
1/2 cup dates, chopped (measure before chopping)
2 tbsp dried currants
2-3 cups packed baby spinach leaves (chopped if leaves are large)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 large navel orange
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios

1 navel orange
1/3 cup packed mint leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp honey or agave nectar
Scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
Ground pepper

Prepare the dressing by adding all ingredients to a blender and pureeing until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

Cook freekeh according to package directions (I brought the dry freekeh and water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan, then reduced the heat to low and cooked, covered, for 20-25 minutes). Remove from heat and add the chopped dates and currants to the pot. Keep covered for 5 minutes, then transfer everything to a large bowl.

Add the spinach and chickpeas to the bowl. Remove the skin of the orange using a knife and cut the orange into segments. Chop segments into smaller pieces and add to the bowl. Chop olives and add them as well, along with the parsley and shallot.

Heat a small skillet on medium heat and toast the pistachios for a few minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from heat and add to the bowl (you can skip the toasting part if you want).

Pour the dressing over everything and toss well to combine.

Makes 4 servings.

February 19, 2014

What I Ate in Seattle

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first trip over to the US West Coast for a conference in Seattle. I was only there for about four days, but I made sure to squeeze in as much touring and eating as I could in between conference sessions!

I know Seattle isn't the most exotic place, but it is known for having a great selection of food options and local beer, so I thought it was worth sharing my experience on the blog!

We were staying downtown just a few blocks from Pike Place Market, which worked out perfectly because that was the one tourist spot that I really wanted to see while I was there.

I absolutely loved the market area; there was so much to see and so many treats to sample that I had to keep coming back to make sure I got to try everything that I wanted to!

On my first visit to the market, I passed by Cinnamon Works, a bakery that I had heard about that offers plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. While they are famous for their cinnamon buns, I had my eye on their giant cookies instead! It took me probably twenty minutes to make up my mind on what I wanted, but I finally settled on the pumpkin cookie. I found the texture to be a bit too dry, but I loved the flavour!

I never got the chance to go back for one of their cinnamon buns, because I only had time for one breakfast at the market, and I wanted to make sure I tried The Crumpet Shop, where they make crumpets fresh every day and top them with a variety of sweet and savory combinations.

This time I didn't have as much trouble deciding what to order - I knew right away that I wanted the lemon curd and ricotta crumpet, and it was even better than I was expecting! I never liked crumpets that much as a kid, but it makes a big difference when you try one freshly made and topped with creamy lemon curd! I also tried a bite of my sister's pesto, tomato, and cheese crumpet which was amazing too.

I still had some room in my stomach after the crumpet so I went around the corner and found a greek yogurt place that I had also heard good things about - Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt. With flavours like marionberry pie, passionfruit, lemon curd, latte, and caramel, you're basically getting a treat that tastes like a decadent dessert!

I got the lemon cheesecake flavour, which had swirls of lemon curd and crumbles mixed in and it was heavenly! The yogurt is super thick and creamy while still tasting fresh and natural. I'd definitely recommend checking this place out if you're in Seattle - you can also try samples of any of the flavours!

While I loved the crumpet and yogurt, my favourite treat from the market was the famous piroshkies from Russian bakery Piroshky Piroshky. I had the chance to go there for lunch on our last day and when I saw the huge lineup, I knew that was a good sign!

While waiting in line, I could see the pastries being freshly made and you could definitely taste the freshness when you bit into them! I got one savory and one sweet because I couldn't decide what type I wanted and both of the ones I tried were so soft and still warm from the oven. On the left is a potato and cheese stuffed piroshky and on the right was a rhubarb cream filled piroshky - not the healthiest lunch but I'm so glad I tried them!

Also on the less healthy side were these doughnuts from Top Pot Doughnuts that we went to one morning for breakfast. I'm not really much of a doughnut fan, but we had to try this place because we had read a lot of good reviews about it and they were voted best doughnuts in Western Washington!

I tried a blueberry cake doughnut and a lemon glazed old fashioned. They definitely had a lot of flavour, but they were a bit too sweet and cakey for my tastes, so next time I would go for one of their other options.

Of course, I didn't just eat pastries the whole time! The conference actually provided us with some pretty healthy lunches. The vegetarian options over the three days were a veggie-filled wrap, a salad, and a caprese sandwich, each time accompanied with fruit and a dessert.

I also enjoyed a few nice dinners, two of which were at Tom Douglas's restaurants (American chef, cookbook author, Iron Chef America winner, and James Beard Award winner). I had a delicious beet and goat cheese salad as well as chesnut gnocchi at his Italian trattoria called Cuoco.

My favourite dinner was this potato and rosemary pizza at his more casual pizza restaurant, Serious Pie. If you like handmade, wood-fired pizza with a perfectly crisp thin crust, you should give this place a try!

Overall, I loved the city and found the people there to be so friendly. Of course, they had also just won the Super Bowl, so the happiness and excitement level all around was probably a bit higher than usual!

I'm sure there are plenty of other local landmarks, food shops, and restaurants that I missed on this trip, so feel free to share more recommendations in case I ever get the chance to go back (or for other readers who might be planning a visit there soon)!

February 11, 2014

Raspberry Salad or Flatbread with Cocoa Balsamic Vinaigrette


With Valentine's Day coming up this week, I've been trying to come up with a cute Valentines-themed recipe to celebrate the holiday with.

In the past, I've made this miniature raw beet cheesecake, these baked banana, chocolate and strawberry wontons, and this pretty pink beet pasta, but this year I just couldn't seem to come up with anything unique that hasn't already been done.

So I gave up on trying to think of a heart-shaped or red-coloured dessert and instead decided to make something to serve as part of your Valentine's dinner menu - this elegant and tasty salad!

I happened to remember Courtney from The Fig Tree's Valentine's Day post from last year when she shared a raspberry salad with cocoa-balsamic dressing. I thought it was such a creative idea to use cocoa powder in a salad dressing, and of course her salad looked gorgeous too!

For my version, I made a couple of slight modifications to the dressing, and for the salad itself I used candied almonds to add more sweetness, goat cheese instead of parmesan, and added some fresh mint and cacao nibs. It may sound like a strange combination of ingredients, but I thought everything worked really well together!

I loved the crunch from the almonds and cacao nibs, and the raspberries paired perfectly with the subtle chocolate notes in the dressing. It almost tasted like eating dessert, but in the form of a salad that you can start off your dinner with instead!

Or if a salad doesn't fit into your menu, another option is to turn this into an easy flatbread - just toast a piece of naan bread in the oven, spread some goat cheese on it, and top with the rest of the salad ingredients. I usually like to have bread with my salad anyway, so this was a fun way to eat both together!

After trying the recipe both ways, I couldn't decide whether I liked the salad version or the flatbread best!

Whether you plan on celebrating Valentine's Day or not, this would still be a nice appetizer to impress a date or to share with a friend or loved one. I actually haven't figured out what I'll be eating on the day itself, but I do plan on making cookies to share - after all, even if a lot of people hate Valentine's Day, most of them still like cookies!

Raspberry Almond Salad or Flatbread with Cocoa-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Adapted from The Fig Tree

2 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tsp sugar
~4 cups spring mix or baby greens
fresh raspberries
1-2 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled
2-3 tsp cacao nibs (I used these coconut cacao nibs)
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 pieces of naan bread (optional for flatbread)

1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp balsamic Dijon mustard (or whole grain Dijon)
Salt and pepper

If making the flatbread, preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and sugar and toast for a few minutes, stirring often as the sugar starts to melt and coat the almonds. Keep a close eye on them and once the almonds are lightly toasted, remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.

To make the dressing, whisk together the first five ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place salad greens in a large bowl and toss with about a couple tablespoons of the dressing.

For salad: arrange dressed greens on two plates. Top each serving with a handful of raspberries (cut them in half first if they’re large), the goat cheese, cacao nibs, mint, and candied almonds. Drizzle remaining dressing over top.

For flatbread: Place two pieces of naan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Spread the goat cheese over the naan, then top with the dressed salad greens, the raspberries, cacao nibs, mint, and candied almonds. Drizzle remaining dressing over top. Slice into pieces (I found it easier to slice the naan before adding the toppings).

Makes 2 servings

February 04, 2014

Citrus Protein Bowl

If you read a lot of food blogs, you're probably well aware of the latest trends in recipes, for example, kale chips, grains for breakfast (like quinoa or amaranth with warm fruit), the one-pot pasta idea, black bean brownies, zucchini noodles, etc. (And of course, just because an ingredient or meal idea becomes trendy, that doesn't mean it has to go out of style - I plan on eating zucchini noodles a lot more once the weather warms up again!)

One trend I've noticed lately is the "bowl" concept, which is usually a base of grains like quinoa or rice, topped with a selection of veggies, a protein like chicken, tofu, or beans, and a sauce to bring everything together.

I've been wanting to try making my own bowl for awhile, and when I saw a whole chapter of bowl recipes in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new cookbook Isa Does It, I had to try one out!

The one that I chose to try first was her citrus tahini bowl - quinoa topped with oranges, bok choy, grilled tofu, and a citrus-soy-tahini sauce. Since the recipe seemed pretty adaptable, I changed things up a bit by using spinach instead of bok choy, baked tofu instead of grilled, and adding some edamame for extra protein and colour, and toasted almonds for a bit of a crunch.

While this wasn't the easiest or quickest recipe to make (I wouldn't recommend starting this from scratch on a weeknight after work), the extra effort was definitely worth it! Plus you can make things easier on yourself by preparing some or all of the components ahead of time and just assembling a fresh bowl for dinner on the night you want to eat it. I made this one night when I had some extra time and then just enjoyed the leftovers for the next few days!

The combination of ingredients in this bowl was just what I was going for - bright colours and flavours and a mix of textures. I loved the chewy baked tofu, which was marinated in the dressing first to soak up extra flavour, combined with the buttery edamame and the juicy oranges. My favourite part was the creamy tahini dressing with its sweet and savory notes.

I also loved how nutritious this meal was! I called this a protein bowl because it has three main sources of protein: quinoa, tofu, and edamame, so it will keep you full without feeling weighed down. Plus the spinach and oranges provide some extra vitamins, which we can all use at this time of year!

Citrus Protein Bowl
Adapted from Isa Does It

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice*
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Dash of salt
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 cup tahini (to be added later)

1 12-14 oz package firm tofu
1 bunch spinach
1 cup quinoa
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 large seedless orange (next time I might use two small oranges to get more orange pieces)

*I peeled one large seedless orange, blended the pieces and strained out the pulp. Zest the orange before peeling.

First, drain the tofu from the water in its packaging and slice in half. Press tofu between layers of paper towel with a heavy object on top for 15-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the marinade by whisking all ingredients except the tahini together in a bowl. Slice the pressed tofu into squares and place in a shallow dish (I used a square glass baking pan). Pour the marinade over top of the tofu and let sit for 30-60 minutes, flipping the pieces once halfway through.

Preheat oven to 400°F. When the tofu is done marinating, drain out the liquid (but keep it aside in a bowl) and transfer the tofu to an oven-proof baking dish (if it wasn’t already in one). Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through.

While tofu is cooking, wash spinach and remove stems. Tear or slice the larger leaves into smaller pieces. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Once quinoa is done cooking, let it sit covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Immediately transfer warm quinoa to a large bowl or pot and add the spinach. Toss well so that the spinach gets mixed into the quinoa, then cover with a lid and let sit for at least 5 minutes – the heat from the quinoa should help to wilt the spinach a bit.

Cook the edamame however you prefer, or according to package directions – either boiling, steaming, or microwaving. Set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds to the pan and toast for a few minutes, shaking the pan often, until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside in a small bowl.

Peel the orange (I like to use a knife to remove the skin). Slice each orange segment into two or three pieces.

Transfer the remaining marinade liquid to a blender and add the tahini. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a small bowl. (Note: feel free to add a bit more orange juice or lemon juice if you prefer a thinner sauce).

To assemble bowls, scoop your desired portion of the quinoa-spinach mixture into a bowl. Top with desired amount of each of the following: baked tofu, cooked edamame, orange pieces, and toasted almonds. Drizzle some of the sauce over top and stir to mix.

Makes 4-6 servings.


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