Sunday, January 29, 2012

Salad Pizza... a new Superbowl tradition

This afternoon we were at my in-laws for lunch. I had offered to bring something as I always do. I was stumped on what to bring. What was planned quite casual. Sandwiches with fresh deli and fresh bread, deviled eggs and the like. It was delicious, by the way.

Earlier in the week, when the menu was discussed I decided to bring something healthy, something that didn't require forks and something that went with the casual theme yet still nice enough to impress the in-laws.

So, I put my thinking cap on and mentally went through some of the options and I flipped through a number of cookbooks. I'll try to explain the best I can the journey my brain takes me on during my "creative process".

My best idea at this point was a cold vegetable pizza. I have made them before, using a refrigerated crescent crust, baked off and spread with a mixture of cream cheese and ranch dressing, then sprinkled liberally with finely chopped vegetables. It is delicious, but hardly impressive and definitely could be healthlier. So, I recalled something I had at a meeting once - something I call bagel bites. A bagel, cut into 6 wedges and spread with cream cheese cand topped with different fruits and vegetables. But, what I really wanted to bring was a nice salad. A salad requires a fork - how can I make a salad you can eat with your hands? So after a few more rounds of mental ping-pong I came up with this salad pizza. Yes, a salad you eat with your hands!

Mediterranian Flatbread Salad


1 12" multi-grain flatbread

1 8oz pkg cream cheese (light), room temperature

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp dried oregano

salt & pepper

1/4 C red pepper, finely chopped

1/4 C green pepper, finely chopped

1/2 english cucumber, peeled & finely chopped

1 roma tomato, chopped

1/4 C red onion, finely chopped

3 tbsp black olives, drained, pitted and chopped

1/2 C feta crumbles


Place flatbread on a pizza pan.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a pastry brush, brush the flat bread with the olive oil mixture and bake according to package directions. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

In another bowl, place the cream cheese. Add 3 tbsp of the olive oil mixture. Mix well.

Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the flatbread. Sprinkle with peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and olives. Top with feta and drizzle the remaining dressing.

I can made ahead and refrigerated at this point.

Prior to serving, slice into wedges.

This was a new way to serve salad, and will definitely do it again. I plan to make it for the Superbowl, for the Scout potluck dinner, and even at the cottage.

As an additional note: instead of mixing olive oil with the other ingredients, you can use bottle Greek salad dressing. It would taste (almost) as good. I had a co-worker once from Greece and have me his recipe for Greek salad dressing. I may never use store bought again.

I also wanted to mention, while testing this recipe I cut up WAY too many vegetables, so I plan to make a Greek Salad wrap. I'll use my vegetables with some cooked chicken, the feta and a little dressing; all wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just the Flax, Ma'am

It is a cold, blustery day out there. This morning it was -38 with the windchill. A good day to stay in bed and watch the Food Network. Unfortunately, that it's an option today. It is also a good day for a nice hot bowl of slow cooker comfort food! But, I would like to share a little secret ingredient... a nutrional powerhouse that can make any dish, even your favourite comfort food a little healthier. It is FLAX!

I add ground flax seeds to something almost everyday. From pancakes to cupcakes this veratile seed is a staple in my house. There are 3 major nutrional components to flax seeds. (1) OMEGA-3 (2) LIGNANS (3) FIBRE

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which means it's a "good" fat that your body requires but cannot produce itself. It helps protect us from heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer as well as increase your HDL (good) cholesterol. It is also aids in retina and brain development in infants.

Lignans are compounds that help protect us against some cancers particularly colon and breast cancer. Lignans also help the body flight viruses and other infections.

Fibre is an important compontent of any diet to help regulate the digestive system and to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

So, to use flax seeds effectively, you need to know a couple things. (1) The flax seeds must be ground to be readily absorbed into the body. Whole flax seeds will pass right through. You can buy ground flax seeds in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or in health food or bulk stores. (2) Since it contains oil, it can go rancid so keep it in the fridge, in an air tight container.

So, now that you know my secret what's for dinner tonight?

Chili Con Carne

You can make this in a slow cooker or large sauce pan. I prefer the slow cooker.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
1/4 C ground flax seeds
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
3 C tomato sauce
1 5.5oz can tomato paste
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C Mexican beer (like Corona) or beef broth
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp New Mexico chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp caynne pepper - or more to taste
2-3 poblano peppers, chopped
1 serrano pepper or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 lime
shredded monteray jack or cheddar cheese


In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and allow them to sweat. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula while it cooks. Add flax seeds.

Transfer meat mixture to a slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, beer and spices. Cover and turn on low 6 - 8 hours or on high 3 - 4 hours. PLEASE: DO NOT use pasta sauce, use tomato sauce. Pasta sauce contains extra sugars, salt and other ingredients.

One hour before serving at peppers, stir, cover and place on high it not already.

After an hour, zest and juice 1 lime and stir. Serve with shredded cheese on top.

Apple Crumble


1 C oatmeal
2 tbsp flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C ground flax seeds
1/3 C butter
pinch of salt
3-4 apples
2 tbsp flour
1/3 C sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, salt, flax seeds and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until resembles coarse crumbs.

In a 8" round cake pan, or 8" sqaure pan place apples that have been peeled, cored and cut into wedges. Toss with flour. Sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle topping over the apples and press slightly. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes, until the apples are tender.

Now if that doesn't warm us up, nothing will.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Well, the kids are back at school and activities have started up again. Things are starting to feel "back to normal" after the hussle and bussel of Christmas. We had a nice holiday, fairly low key. My dad broke his ribs outside my son's school after the Christmas concert so we simplified things a fair bit this year. It definitly shifts your priorities... makes you remember what's important and what Christmas is really about.

So, we start a new year and as usually we make promises to ourselves to improve our lives. This year my New Years Resolution is a health related one. Like most of us, I would like to lose a few extra pounds. But instead of the big New Year's Resolution of "I'm going to lose weight this year", I'm making smaller ones that will propel me to my goal. So, here are my New Year's Resolutions...
1. I am going to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, therefore reducing the amount of diet soda consumed
2. I am going to eat 5-8 servings fruits and vegetables a day
3. I am going to go to the gym at least 3 times a week.

You may want to ask... how is a meal plan going to help me? Well, when you make your meal plan you make healthier decision. Plan your sensible meals and grocery shop according to your plan. You keep less junk in the house and fight the temptation in the grocery store. Secondly, when you know you have the chicken thawed when you get home, you are less likely to grab the fast food on the way home.

So, my advice to those making New Year's Resolutions is this...
1. Make small, measurable, obtainable goals
2. Make a plan to reach your goals.

So, what's for dinner tonight?

Well, tonight is swimming lessons and they happen to be right at dinner time. So, what works for us is, a small meal before swimming and a small snack afterwards. So, tonight we are having scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast and a tossed salad. After swimming will be yogurt and a piece of fruit. Not complicated at all, but happens to be one of my kids' favourite dinners. (We call it "Scrambies") My husband is working late and has taken leftovers from a previous night. He'll have that and a salad for dinner.

I should mention the importance of leftovers. I will usually make enough of any dinner so I can package them up as lunches or dinners. I place them in plastic containers, label them and place them in the freezer. I keep them as single servings. It's like a TV dinner but made with love, not to mention all your own ingredients. Much healthier than the store bought counterparts.

Good luck everyone with those New Year's Resolutions!