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Monday, July 29, 2013

[Rustic Greek Salad] A Great Vegetarian Summer Salad

A big bowl of salad is one of my favorite lunch item. I often fill an oversize GLAD(or Ziploc) with vegetables, proteins and fat, and bring it for my lunch, along with a small salad dressing container. It's actually bigger than a meal size salad, but I don't feel too guilty to eat lots of salad, even if there are more cheese cubes or/and fish or meat, in the salad, than lettuce. In these days, Greek salad is a hot item in my kitchen, mainly because it's the time of the year to savour feta cheese, tomato and cucumber. :) As you may have figured, there is a reason why Greek salad is called summer salad. 

Yes, it's because all the ingredients are very simple summer vegetables, apart from feta cheese and olives. A great thing about Greek salad is that you don't need to look for difficult ingredients. :) And you can make it really quickly. Also, this simple country-style salad does cool the heat off while filling your stomach with healthy scrumptious food. :) I like to keep my Greek salad as simple as possible, i.e. without any North American addition of bell pepper, either green or yellow.  Of course, it's your choice to add bell pepper to the Greek salad. Oh well, but my Greek salad is not so authentic though, since there isn't any lettuce in a real Greek salad. 
However, I am proud of introducing the most simple, but delicious Greek salad recipe. :)

4 large vine tomatoes, cut into wedges
10 romaine lettuce leaves
1 English cucumber, roughly cut
½ a red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup black olives, preferably Kalamata olives
150 g (5 oz) Feta cheese (or more, if you are a big feta cheese fan, just like me :))
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 extra large lemon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon dried basil
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper (or to taste)


1. In a bowl or a large measuring cup, whisk  olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper , to combine. 
Make it ahead and chill it in the fridge at least for an hour.

2. Cut feta cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut tomatoes into wedges and tear washed lettuce into bite-sizes.

3. Place all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl, and add feta on top, just before serving.

4. Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to combine.

(It's surprisingly good)
Then, a mouth-watering juicy Mediterranean salad is ready! :) 


Juicy Greek Salad

Thursday, July 25, 2013

[Guacamole & Tomato Salsa] Summer delights to accompany grilled Fajita - in 10 minutes

The other Saturday, Mr. D suggested grilling beef and chicken and asked me to make tomato salsa and guacamole for the accompaniments to the fajita, to which I quickly agreed since we had a few over-ripe avocados.  I am always desirous of avocados. Thus, I often buy more avocados than needed. However, I found out that I could eat no more than one avocado a day. I do eat a lot of other things daily, so an avocado on top of all my daily food I eat is already more than a lot. Anyway, that is how I end up with very very ripe avocados, more than often.

Luckily we had all the ingredients, including tortillas, to have a fajita lunch. I could prepare salsa and guacamole in time. Do you know how and why you can prepare both salsa and guacamole quickly? I think it's a 'well-known' secret, but let me still tell you this. It's because the ingredients for the two famous fajita companions are almost identical. The only (?) difference would be avocado. You will be surprised to see the similarities of the ingredients to season them. Very simple and but very tasty salsa and guacamole can be prepared in 10 minutes.

Oh by the way, I looked up what fajita was, even though I've always known that the dish was from Mexico.  

Fajita often is served with pan-fried green bell peppers and onion, along with sour cream,shredded cheese, tomato salsa, and guacamole.

Here goes the recipes for fajita, tomato salsa, and guacamole! These are a great fajita threesome!

Beef & chicken Fajita
(adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 pound beef and/or chicken breast
1 tablespoon of lime juice
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Green bell pepper
1 yellow or orange pepper
Optional: 1 JalapeƱo pepper, seeded, ribs removed, finely chopped.
, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, including stems


1. Mix all marinade ingredients. 

2. Coat the steak with the marinade and let it sit at room temperature at least for an hour, or longer in the fridge. 
Meanwhile, prepare tomato salsa and guacamole.

3. Slice all the vegetables.

4. You can either grill or cook meat and vegetables on the stove top in a cast iron pan or griddle.

Tomato salsa recipe is here.
(adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

1/2 medium white onion, chopped 
1 small jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (optional),
2 small medium-red ripe round tomatoes or 4 to 5 plum tomatoes, chopped 
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, as much as you want, but at least 3 tablespoons2 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice 
Coarse salt


1. Chop tomatoes, onion, jalapeno pepper and cilantro.

2. In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, onion, jalapeno pepper, cilantro and lime juice well.

3. Season with salt and cover & refrigerate for an hour or more.

And now here's the recipe for the guacamole:
(adapted from All Recipes)

2 large avocados (or 3 medium avocados)
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 onion, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 HH tomatoe, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic


1. In a bowl, mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. 

2. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. 

3. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.

It was a wonderful backyard lunch. We liked it a lot. 

As both Remi and Pablo are huge fans of Tex-mex cuisine, we all enjoyed the grilled fajita very much.

Fajita with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole

Monday, July 22, 2013

[Fluffy Strawberry Muffins] Soft breakfast muffins with real fresh strawberries

One of the many ways I consume strawberries we pick every year is to chop a lot of them and add into strawberry cupcakes. 

But, this year I decided to omit, of course on purpose, not to disappoint the kids who love the strawberry butter cream, but to turn sweet treats into breakfast muffins. Our fridge was flooded with our own strawberries we picked at the Ovens farm since we went strawberry picking two weeks in a row. And sadly, last weekend was the last weekend of this year's strawberry season :(  Strawberries were so red, so delicious and so pretty. We ate a lot on our way home, but there still were lots of strawberries to take care of. As I said in the other day's oatmeal muffin posting, the easiest breakfast item on a busy morning is muffin. The base of the strawberry cupcake was really soft and fruity so that I just reduced the amount of sugar and used only all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. 

The strawberry muffins turned out so fluffy and sweet enough in spite of a little twist, which was not bad at all :) For a big muffin fan like me, it's not easy to pick only one muffin over all different types of muffins. But, I find myself leaning to the muffins that use the fresh ingredients such as strawberries, blueberries and carrot. So, this strawberry muffins were just my taste :)

Here goes the recipe for the fluffy strawberry muffins.
(adopted from Martha Stewart Living)
I made two dozens, but you can halve the recipe to make 12.

3 + 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 + 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1 + 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Line muffin tins with paper liners. 

3. Sift or whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. 

4. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. 

5. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.

6. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk and ending with dry, 

i.e. 1/3 dry ingredients → 1/2 cup milk→ 1/3 dry ingredients → 1/2 cup milk→1/3 dry ingredients.

7. Add chopped strawberries and mix with spatula.

8. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each full. Ice cream scoop is very useful in baking muffins! :)

9. Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 25 - 30 minutes. 
Let cool in tins on wire racks. Forgot to take a photo of this part :(

It's as soft as a cupcake. And you will taste strawberry sensation on your palate. :)
One is not enough for my breakfast. I usually take two with me :)
(I'll post strawberry butter cream some time)


Fresh Strawberry Muffins

Thursday, July 18, 2013

[Cold Summer Spaghetti] Refreshing Fresh tomato Pasta for a hot summer day

It's so hot and humid. One of my coworkers who had gone outside came back and told me, "C'est l'enfer, dehors" (It's hot as hell outside). That is exactly why I just refuse to get out of the building during the day. I prefer keeping my cardigan, because of air conditioning, all day. It has been hot like this in Ottawa since last Sunday. Ottawa is under extreme heat alert until tomorrow. And hopefully it will cool off in the weekend. Unlike Mr. D who thinks 2 weeks of summer is more than enough, I like all the four seasons. I can handle the heat quite okay. The problem with me is the humidity. Humid air tires me who gets tired rarely otherwise. The average humidex in Ottawa has been 10 degrees higher than the real temperature. While the real temperature was only(?) 32 degrees C this afternoon, humidex was 42 degrees C. It felt like 42 degrees outside...  Oh, by the way, I didn't know that the humidex, short for humidity index, was therm used only in Canada. "The humidex is an index number used by Canadian meteorologists to describe how hot the weather feels to the average person, by combining the effect of heat and humidity." (Reference:

In this sweltering heat, even though we all like pasta, I don't feel eating any warm food, including pasta. Still I make pasta, but with some cold sauce(?). The best thing about this pasta is that you can make it ahead of time to leave it in the fridge so that it will be cold and ready for the dinner when you come back home from the work! Wouldn't it be a nice treat for yourself? But, of course, you can make it right there and then. It will be still cold enough :) I have made this a few dozen times, at least. My very Italian friend Mila tasted it and asked for the recipe. So I would say it's quite good enough to be liked by an Italian who lives on pasta. :)

Here goes Colleen's cold summer spaghetti recipe!

(4-6 servings)
1 pound spaghetti
2 large ripe tomatoes
4 or more tablespoons sliced black olives
2-3 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons caper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh Italian parsley, chopped
10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped


1. Over a medium heat, add about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Then add onions and cook diced onion until translucent. 

Leave aside to let cool.

2. Cut a + on the bottom of the tomato.

3. Place a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Then, dip the tomato on a slotted spoon in the boiling water. Remove it after 15-20 seconds or when the skin begins to peel.

4. It will peel easily.

5. Chop anchovies, dice tomatoes, and chop & tear parsley and basil leaves.

6. In a large bowl, add diced tomatoes, olives, onions, anchovy, caper, Italian parsley and basil. Add red wine vinegar and olive oil, and whisk. Season with salt and pepper. Leave it in the fridge for an hour.

7. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold running water. 

8. Toss the pasta with the chilled sauce. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. 

You can eat right away or, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for later.

It's a refreshing dish on a hot summer day. I highly recommend  it!


Cold Summer Spaghetti