Caesar Dressing

I think salad for dinner is wonderful. It’s easy, you don’t have to actually cook anything (if you don’t want to), it’s a pretty good way to clean out your fridge, and you can eat just a ton of bread with it (you need to soak up the leftover dressing on your plate, right?) without feeling bad because you just did eat a LOT of veggies! You can make salads as easy or as fancy as you like, and I like to stick more towards the easy end of things.

I will tell you that my absolute favourite salad dressing is just oil and balsamic vinegar over greens (we’ve been really into arugula lately). You can get so many fun flavours of balsamic that it’s impossible to get bored with it. My personal favourite is a blueberry balsamic from All of Oils…UGH drool worthy, honestly. Oh, and fig balsamic. ALSO DROOL.

Sometimes though you just need to have some cheesy, crunchy Caesar salad, topped with all the good stuff. Caesar salad makes an awesome dinner salad, I think it’s pretty hearty. My mom often made grilled chicken and Caesar salad for dinner growing up, especially during summer when it was just wayyyyy too hot to turn the stove on. Also, it’s full of cheese and chunks of crunchy bread….YES.

BUT I find Caesar dressing really weird. First of all it has anchovies in it. ANCHOVIES. A FISH. In my dressing? That’s a no from me. And don’t tell me to just use the paste – because what the heck am I supposed to with the rest of the tube? Secondly, it’s made with raw eggs, that’s another pass from me – I prefer not risking salmonella. Oh, and the store bought stuff never has enough kick in it, it’s like they don’t put enough garlic or cheese in it.

The solution? An easy homemade version! I take out the raw eggs and the anchovies, and bam you have a nice, light (and less risky) dressing! If you have a food processor, this is wicked easy. Most of the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen! This dressing is cheesy, creamy, garlicky and easy. You can really play around with the flavours and add more or less to your own taste.

  • Don’t cheap out or skimp on the cheese. Use the good Parmesan, not the dry powdered stuff from the shelf. Parmesan takes FOREVER to go bad (does it actually go bad ever?) so buy some, and keep it on hand.
  • I like the kick from a lot garlic – if you’re planning on smooching or don’t like the spicy kick, only use 2 cloves.
  • Use nice mustard. It’s a huge flavour in the dressing. If you have cheap mustard it won’t be the same. I like grainy, beer dijon. French’s yellow mustard won’t cut it here.
  • Let the dressing sit for at least a 1/2 hour before serving to let the flavours get all cozy.
  • Use a mix of greens – The one I made last night I used romaine, arugula, and red leaf lettuce (that’s what I had in my fridge from earlier this week). Shake it up and get creative! You want this dressing to shine on fun lettuce.
  • This dressing can be EASILY vegan. Swap out the mayo for vegan yogurt or vegan mayo and use the vegan parm or nutritional yeast. We’ve already took out the anchovies, because yuck.

This makes a pretty good size batch. Leftover dressing can be kept in the fridge for a couple days, which is great for us make ahead queens. Tossed with some mixed greens, and your favourite toppings you got yourself an easy dinner or side salad! Leftovers can be used as a dip or spread!

When it’s this easy and tasty, you won’t want to go back to the bottled stuff – trust me! This dressing is a game changer.

Caesar Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp Mayo
  • 2-3 tsp Dijon mustard (I like the grainy kind)
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 garlic gloves (use less is you like – or roasted for a change!)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (plus a pinch extra ūüėČ )
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of Olive oil to blend

Put mayo, mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic and cheese in food processor. Blend.

While it’s blending, drizzle in oil until it’s smooth and creamy. Add less if you want it thicker (for a spread) or add more if you like it thinner.

Toss with greens and your favourite toppings, or use a spread or dip. I like cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons and shaved cheese, get creative!

Arugula Walnut Pesto

I’ve been finding myself eating a lot of pesto lately, mainly because I love my food processor, but also because it’s super easy to make and play around with the ingredients. That’s a pretty big plus because traditional pesto calls for pine nuts, and I’m not sure how many people buy pine nuts on a regular basis, but they are SO expensive! I like to buy few once in a while but I can’t see buying cups of them just to live in the shadows of basil.

Walnuts are relatively cheaper, I think they’re super tasty, and they have a pretty distinct flavour. You could toast them for a bit before you throw them into this and I’m sure it would give you a really different pesto-experience, but I was lazy and just popped them in the food processor.

But hey, how exciting is arugula? It’s like lettuce, but way better. Actually I take that back – it’s not a lettuce at all. First of all, it’s so much better than lettuce – but I think it’s a member of the mustard green family which may explain why it has that amazing peppery taste. It’s also super duper versatile. I’m not even lying, there’s a reason it’s a superfood (besides the fact that it’s a cancer fighting food!!!). You can make salads, you can saute it, roast it, mix it with grains, substitute spinach with it in pretty much anything, sandwiches, make pesto (duh), and I won’t lie, my all time favourite way to use it is putting it on pizza. If you have not tried this, you need to. I know this has nothing to do with pesto, but this has suddenly become important. Next time you make pizza, you make it with tomato sauce, cheese, your veggie toppings and prosciutto, and then when you take that baby out of the oven you top it with fresh arugula and balsamic. Every other pizza will seem inferior after you try it, trust me.

So anyways, getting back on track – my other favourite way to use arugula is definitely this pesto. The arugula adds a great peppery-ness to it, and the walnuts compliment it really nicely. And no surprises, I add lots of lemon. I bet you saw that coming though because you are all so amazing and read through all my blabber, which means you’ve probably read my pistachio mint pesto recipe where I confessed my undying love for lemon. Like any pesto, you can play with the flavours. Add more garlic or cheese, more or less lemon, omit the cheese completely if you’re vegan (or sub with vegan parm), and add more or less oil to get the consistency that you like – this is your pesto after all!

And as I’ve talked about before, pesto is so versatile, you can put it on ANYTHING. It’s also a wonderful sauce to keep on hand in your freezer. On Friday we ate this plain on bread with some cheese and wine. When I got home, I spread it on puff pastry with some cheese and baked it into pinwheels. I took the leftovers (this makes a good size batch!) and have it in the freezer stored next to my other pestos for quick use! What a superhero sauce!

Remember – pesto is the besto!

Arugula Walnut Pesto

  • 84 g. fresh basil
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh arugula
  • 1 cup walnuts (toasted or non toasted)
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon to whole lemon (depending on your taste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (to taste)
  • Cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil (or avocado oil/water) to blend to consistency

Add basil, arugula, walnuts, cheese, lemon zest and juice, garlic and pepper to blender or food processor (again, you can play with the ratios to your own taste and preference, I love the lemon taste with the arugula but have fun with it)and blend together until it becomes a fine, paste like mixture.

While still blending, drizzle in oil (or oil alternative) through the spout of your food processor until everything is finely blended and you have your desired consistency. I like it heavier and thicker for pasta and spreading, and thinner for dressings or to drizzle! Keep leftovers stored in freezer* for quick use!

*freeze in ice cube trays then store in ziploc bags for quick, single sized cubes of pesto*

Saluti!

Cranberry Sauce

Dinner at my grandmas was always a blast, she was so hospitable and generous, I miss those times so much. My brother and I used to fight over who would get to season the gravy..to be honest, I still don’t quite know how she made the gravy so good.¬† My grandma would set the table, often with mismatching glasses, put the vegetables in the microwave to steam, open up the box of stove top stuffing, and rub the pork roast down with seasoning salt. It was glorious and simple. If she didn’t make her delicious apple sauce (which I also regret not learning how she made) then she would open up a can of cranberry sauce. I can still hear the *slurp* when she would flip the can upside down into the bowl, the sauce still staying in shape, and seeing the creases from the can indented on the sauce. She would take a spoon and smush it down into the bowl, often breaking the sauce up into big gelatinous chunks of who knows what’s in there, and more importantly, breaking my little heart as I realized I wasn’t going to be getting her apple sauce, but instead this canned crap that was in no way made with love. It was served with love, just not made with it. I hated it.¬† I wouldn’t eat it.

Fast forward a few years of me avoiding cranberry sauce like the plague, to giving cranberry sauce a second chance and making it on my own. Almost as easy as opening up the can, but no comparison in taste! Once you make cranberry sauce, guarantee you’ll never be able to listen to the *slurp* of the canned stuff again without thinking “I could’ve made this way better”. Yes you’ll have to wash a pot after you’re done, but that’s a small price to pay for how delicious it is, and how much wiggle room for flavours that you now hold in your cranberry stained wooden spoon.

I wondered to myself “why doesn’t everyone just always make this from scratch? It’s so easy!”

I’ve often tripled or quadrupled my recipe, made it for a family dinner, and then my darling mother would take the leftovers and seal it in jars (she does amazing canning), and BAM we have delicious homeade cranberry sauce at our disposal. Everyone associates it only with turkey, but I used up the last jar a couple months ago to glaze venison meatballs. Last night I had some leftover cranberries from when I made cranberry white chocolate muffins the other night. I have guests coming over this weekend and wanted preserves to serve with brie cheese and baguette, so I figured, hey cranberry sauce would be great! So rewind to last night, home from the office at 5:30 and cranberry sauce on the stove by 5:35. The kitchen smelled like cranberry, orange and sage. It was amazing. I did stain one of my wooden spoons though, so now I have a dedicated “anything red” spoon, so just be aware of that.

So easy. You put the cranberries, liquid and seasoning in your pot and you let it boil until the cranberries burst open, and the sauce has reduced to a beautiful thick, jammy and saucy concotion of glory. Give it a few minutes for all those flavours to get cozy with each other and snuggle up. You can go so many ways with it, last night I used cinnamon and sage, but a sprig of rosemary is DELICIOUS, and dill is really good too! If you like it sweeter, you can add more sugar or vice versa. If you use storebought orange juice, I would suggest using less sugar because the juice is already pretty sweet. In the recipe below that’s me using fresh squeeze orange juice. Also, you can omit the cointreau/triple sec, but I think it adds some pizzaz and adults it up a bit, but whatever turns your crank. This stuff gets better after it sits, so it’s a great make ahead dish – I made it last night (Wednesday) and it was yummy, I packed it up and put ‘er in the fridge and it will be just as yummy on the weekend! I can’t wait to spread this good stuff over some brie!

Cranberry sauce, it’s not just for turkey anymore! Time to get rid of the *slurp*, and make room to hear the *pop* of fresh cranberries cooking on the stove!

Now that is glorious

Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 orange juice (fresh or store bought)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (more if you want it sweeter, less if you want it tarter or you used storebought orange juice, this is to your taste)
  • Zest from one orange
  • Cinnamon stick (or pinch of cinnamon)
  • Any add-ins, i.e. – fresh sage, dill or rosemary*optional*
  • Splash of cointreau or triple sec *optional, but recommended*

Add cranberries, water, orange juice, orange zest, sugar, cinnamon stick, any herbs to a medium size pot.

Bring to a boil and let simmer, stirring frequently. Stir in splash of cointreau or triple sec if you choose.

Continue to let simmer, until most of the cranberries have popped, and sauce has reduced to a thick, glossy jam like-sauce. Let cool for 30 minutes to let the sauce set. Remove cinnamon stick and any stems from herbs.

Serve with a twist of orange rind.

Can be made several days ahead and stored in the fridge. Seal any extras in jars to be used whenever you want!

Saluti!


Pistachio Mint Pesto (vegan optional)

I really failed at growing basil this summer. Hard fail. I couldn’t compete with my moms exploding basil plants. My mint on the other hand went crazy, which was great, because mint is delicious in everything, but I found out this week that it’s especially delicious in pesto!¬†It’s a nice shake up from traditional basil-pine nut pesto. It’s light, lemony and the pistachios make it¬†a¬†bit¬†creamy!

I recently got a beautiful food processor (thank you mom and dad!!) so I’ve made¬†pesto 3 times this week now, I’ve just been eating pesto on everything. This morning I knicked my finger and I swear it¬†bled pesto.
Pesto 1

I even made a vegan batch of it to bring to a vegan family member, but I used vegan parmesan instead of the real stuff, and it was still delicious. Gord will be so excited! I know people think vegan cheese is weird, but this stuff is almost indistinguishable from regular parm:
https://vegansupply.ca/collections/cheeses/products/earth-island-shreddded-parmesan-cheese-113g 
I happen to work not far from here, so I was able to pick some up!

Also, another bonus – pesto freezes really well! My mom¬†keeps her homemade pesto in the freezer, and now I have batches of this in mine. I froze mine in ice cube trays and then in baggies so I have the perfect little servings of this pesto. Mom, are you reading this? If you are, I’m making you some of this too, don’t worry!

Everyone should have a good pesto recipe, because pesto can be put on anything, and I mean ANYTHING.¬† This week alone I’ve had it with a bunch of stuff:

Pasta with roasted veggies (classic!)
I marinated and baked tofu in it (vegans and vegetarians rejoice!)
I thinned it out and used it as salad dressing
I ate it with a spoon, as did my roommate
and last night I just spread the leftovers on bread while I whipped up another batch…
I’m also planning to put it on crispy potatoes this weekend, so really it’s a miracle sauce

So pretty versatile, right? Pesto is the besto!

Pesto 2I put a lot of lemon in mine, because I LOVE lemon, but pesto is really all to taste, so put in more or less mint or parsley, more or less lemon, hell put in a whole head of garlic if you like! And if you’re cutting down on oil you can use water or broth – there’s really no wrong way to do this as long as you get a consistency and taste that works for you! Say goodbye to preservatives and chemicals in regular pesto, and¬†say¬†wazzzuppp¬†to fresh, bright delicousness!

 

 

Pistachio Mint Pesto

  • 1 cup ground pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups mint
  • 1 1/2 cups parsley
  • Zest & Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 – 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic (or more, depending on your breath preference)
  • Pepper to taste¬†( I find you don’t need salt if the nuts are salted, and parm is salty!)
  • Olive oil (or avocado oil, or broth/water) to blend to consistency

Grind pistachios in food processor.

Add mint, parsley, lemon, garlic, and cheese (again, you can play with the ratios to your own taste and preference, I like the way the parsley balances out the mint so I keep it equal)and blend together. Add pepper.

While blending, drizzle in oil (or oil alternative) through the spout of your food processor until everything is finely blended and you have your desired consistency. I like it heavier and thicker for pasta and spreading, and thinner for dressings or to drizzle!

Saluti!