christmas guacamole

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super easy, super pretty – perfect for the holidays

Who doesn’t love guacamole!? It’s such a great party appetizer, it’s healthy, and it takes minimal effort to make it. With December just around the corner, our weekends are already starting to fill up with Christmas parties and gatherings (’tis the season!). And along with that my mind starts spinning for new ideas for dishes while hosting and also thinking about what yummies I can bring to other parties. I was staring at my fruit basket on the counter and noticed the pomegranates beside the avocados…and it occurred to me that bright vibrant red beads of this juicy, tangy and sweet fruit might be a pleasant surprise in a smooth creamy bite of guacamole.  So I decided to give it a try…and guess what? It’s so good, so beautiful, and so much fun. The pomegranates not only add a festive touch but they are a sweet and textural pop in your mouth!

what you need:

  • 3 avocados
  • 1/2 pomegranate
  • 1 small garlic clove – finely grated
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped green onion
  • 1 lime (zest and juice)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

what to do:

  1. Remove pomegranate fruit from pith. One way to do this is to shallowly slice along the outside of the fruit all the way around – then use the tip of the knife to split it open.  Carefully remove the red jewelled fruit from the white pith (juices will stain your clothes so be careful!).
  2. Cut avocados in half and remove the pits. (Best way to do this is to cut in half, twist to open, then carefully use your knife to spear the pit, twist and remove).
  3. Scoop avocado flesh into a bowl.  Add garlic, cilantro, 1 tbsp green onion, lime zest and juice – mash with a fork until mostly smooth.
  4. Add a little bit of salt and pepper – taste and adjust.
  5. Spoon mixture into serving dish and sprinkle pomegranate and remaining 1 tbsp green onion over top – serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!CSC_0822.JPG

pan seared ginger chicken with tangy roasted grape tomatoes

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nothing like a home cooked meal

We are back from two weeks of travels (and eating out) and absolutely craving good old home cooked meals.  And I missed my kitchen and cooking for my family!  Don’t get me wrong – I had so much fun trying different foods and dining out.  Not having to worry about lunch and dinner prep or grocery shopping…pretty different from my typical week of juggling work, home life and scrambling to get good food into everyone’s bellies.  As much as I feel overwhelmed and crazy at times (I cannot count the number of times I have said to my kids “mommy is not an octopus”) – I love my time in the kitchen and cooking is MY time, my therapy, and it feels good for my soul (okay maybe not when the girls are screaming and running around me and it’s chaotic, but these are the joys of having children right?).

Anyway, this dish was a hit for dinner last week and provided ample leftovers for 3 lunches (that’s a win, always). When I roast chicken my husband always comments on how juicy and tender it is – but this time he was really surprised at how moist the meat was, especially the white meat. I think it is because I pan seared it first (sealing the juices in) then finished it off in the oven over a bed of grape tomatoes, which popped in the heat and released their juices.

I have to say the kids were not fans of the tomatoes (in fact, piepie was bribed to finish at least 3 tomatoes… “I don’t like it mom! it pops slimey” and boss just outright opened her mouth “blah” and it fell to the floor) – however they loved the sauce over top of their rice and they ate up all their kale and chicken. Good enough:)

what you need:

  • 1 whole chicken (organic or local best!)
  • 2.5 cups grape tomatoes, washed
  • 3-4 thick slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 green onions, cleaned and cut into 2″ long pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly smashed
  • cooking oil (I used grape seed oil)
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic powder

what to do:

  1. Butcher your chicken into pieces (breast, thigh, drumsticks, wings) – keep the middle back bone for chicken stock for another time (you can freeze it).
  2. Season the chicken lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. In a baking dish, add grape tomatoes and garlic. Toss with 1 tbsp oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. img_9399
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. (350 F for convection ovens)
  5. In a frying pan on medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add the ginger slices and green onions. Saute for about 1-2 minutes, until you can smell the aromas of the ginger and green onion.img_9398
  6. If the pan seems dry add 1 tbsp cooking oil. Add chicken pieces to the pan, skin side down, you will have to do this in two batches (don’t overcrowd the pan or the chicken will steam instead of sear).  Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. img_9400
  7. Transfer chicken to baking dish and place the pieces right on top of your tomatoes.
  8. Pan sear the rest of the chicken just like step 5 (add more cooking oil too!). Once all the chicken is pan seared, place it evenly over top of the tomatoes and transfer the ginger and green onions over top as well.img_9405
  9. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes – 35 minutes (convection oven is faster) – the tomatoes will pop and shrivel a bit, and there will be lots of juices at the bottom of the pan (great over greens or rice). Check one piece of dark meat to be sure it’s cooked (cut right near the bone and make sure the juices run clear).
  10. Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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    perfect over hearty greens (e.g. kale) & rice

honey glazed sweet potatoes, cranberries, and green bean salad

 

hearty wintery salad

After a weekend of eating out twice at dinner time (we ordered pizza with some friends one night and then had a decadent dinner at downtown Ottawa’s Beckta), we were feeling a little in need of a healthy, lighter dinner.  Everything in moderation, right?  If we were totally clean eaters I suppose I should have left out the feta cheese – but this bite of saltiness just works so well against the honey glazed sweet potatoes and adds a creamy texture to the dish!  You could sub in sautéed olives instead (but my husband hates olives…sad for me!). The fresh cranberries play a key role too, as their tart tanginess counteracts the sweet and salty of the sweet potatoes and feta.  The green beans need to be just blanched so that they retain their crisp bite, adding a crunchy texture to the salad. You can serve this salad at room temperature (just crumble the feta last minute!) or when all the ingredients are warm. Either way, it’s delicious! Even piepie (our 3 1/2 year old) ate it up!

Note: I didn’t make a dressing for this salad – but if you find you need one, try lemon juice and olive oil, or balsamic vinegar and olive oil (about 3:1 ratio of vinegar:oil) to give it more zip and moisture.  Also – if you’re looking for more protein and nutrients, try topping this salad with salmon. We had left some over pan seared salmon that went really well with it!

what you need:

  • a bunch of green beans (about two large handfuls)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 can (540mL) chick peas
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp raw honey
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 – 2 tbsp cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil)

what to do:

  1. Prep everything – wash and clean green beans (take off the rough tips).  Wash sweet potato thoroughly and peel if desired (I left the skins on).  Rinse the cranberries. Cut the lemon in half. Chop up garlic roughly. Drain and rinse chick peas. Preheat oven to 425 F (400 F if you have convection).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the sweet potato into cubes (bite size) and toss on the baking sheet with the fresh cranberries, and 1 tsp- 2 tsp cooking oil – season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the cookie sheet into your oven, for about 15-20 minutes, until sweet potato is tender and cranberries pop.
  3. Blanche the green beans quickly. To blanche – bring a pot of water to a boil, add the green beans, wait about 1 minute, then immediately remove them from the water and cool down by shocking them in cold water to stop the cooking process. This will maintain it’s crispness.
  4. Check on your sweet potatoes – at this point, glaze with honey (if your honey is too thick, heat it up slightly so that it drizzles onto the sweet potatoes and cranberries). Use a wooden spoon to gently stir everything and return to oven for remaining time to bake.
  5. In a large pan on medium-high heat, heat up cooking oil and garlic, then add chick peas and green beans, stirring occasionally until coated with the garlic oil (this won’t take very long, just a few minutes) – season with salt and pepper as desired and remove from heat. Transfer onto serving dish, squeeze lemon all over.
  6. Remove sweet potatoes and cranberries from the oven and layer them onto your green beans and chick peas. Crumble feta on top and enjoy immediately, or serve later at room temperature!