Sweeten healthy meals with sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes truly are a sweet addition to any healthy meal. With fall just around the corner, there’s no better time to indulge in their soft, chewy goodness. To jumpstart my September goal of adding veggies to every meal, I opted to make my own version of a tasty sweet potato salad. This recipe pairs sweet potatoes with the healthy fat from olive oil and walnuts to help your body absorb all the beta-carotene these tubers have to offer.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 sweet potato
  • 1/3 red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. of parsley
  • 1 tbsp. walnuts
  • white wine vinegar
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Fill a pot with water and the 1/2 sweet potato and set to boil
  2. Keep checking on the potato. When you can stab it with a fork and get 75% of the fork’s teeth into the potato, it’s time to turn off the water
  3. The sweet potato will be hot but remove it from the water and wrestle the peel off
  4. Chop the sweet potato in smaller pieces
  5. If you’re really hungry, stick the sweet potato in the freezer for 5 minutes to help it cool off. Otherwise, wait
  6. Once the potato has cooled off, put it in a bowl and add the chopped red onions, parsley and walnuts
  7. Then drizzle lightly with white wine vinegar and olive oil

Serves 1 single serving

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Sweet-potato-salad-MB-Aug

Don’t let the picture fool you; this photo already spurred funny comments on Facebook but the salad is delicious! (The white part is this savoury egg salad: http://bit.ly/176bWU9).

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Vegetarian Enchilada recipe: filled with savoury herbs and additions

There are some things we really miss about our carnivorous past – OK, not that many things. But it is challenging to find a vegetarian enchilada on any menu. What will you fill the tortilla with, right? Here’s your answer: beans. Beans, and lots of ’em. This recipe combines traditional refried beans with a cluster of natural ingredients to form a savoury filling that is, well, filling.

Ingredients

  • 4 tortillas
  • 1 can of refried beans or 1/2 cup homecooked navy beans, mashed
  • 1 small tomato or 5 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 of a large onion, chopped (regular or red)
  • several leaves of cilantro, chopped
  • dash of oregano
  • 1 lemon for squeezing juice
  • 1 small block of cheddar cheese
  • taco sauce

Directions

  1. Mix chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro in a bowl. Add a dash of oregano and squeeze a lemon over top.
  2. Add refried beans to mixture and mix together. Add a light spritz of taco sauce.
  3. Spoon desired amount of now-flavoured refried beans down the centre of a tortilla.
  4. Fold the tortilla and drizzle a little more taco sauce over top. Grate cheddar cheese over top as a garnish.
  5. Repeat for select number of tortillas.
  6. Heat in toaster oven at 275 convection until cheese is lightly melted. Serve with sour cream/Greek yogurt or guacamole.

Makes 4 enchiladas

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Bruschetta toppings with a twist

Who doesn’t love bruschetta? Imagine sinking your teeth into juicy tomatoes smothered in olive oil…drool. Though you’ll never tire of my bruschetta recipe, I still suggest trying this take on bruschetta—with a twist.

In this recipe, I advise creating the bruschetta toppings and leaving them in a bowl. Serve the bread separately and allow your guests to spoon the concoction over top the bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 stalk green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt, to taste
  • garlic powder (optional)

Directions

  1. Dice the tomato and chop the green onion stalk. The bottom part of the stalk, which resembles a white onion, adds stronger flavour while the top part (thin, dark green) is more mild but adds to the presentation.
  2. Combine the tomato and green onion in a bowl, then add a light drizzle of olive oil, dried oregano and salt to taste. (Optional: sprinkle just a touch of garlic powder.)
  3. Serve with a side of bread and a serving spoon. Bet you can’t stop eating till it’s gone!

Serves 3

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Makimono review: Japanese buffet

Makimono is my go-to option for all-you-can-eat Japanese food. The restaurant (Woodbridge location) is super clean and conveniently located in the parking lot of a shopping plaza. This restaurant is family-, friend- and date-friendly.

Vegetarian options 9/10

My meal: I usually order the garden salad with ginger dressing, avocado rolls, cucumber rolls and the sushi pizza. I may also order some edamame.

Grain: 1
Fruits&veg: 3
Protein alt: 1 (if you order edamame)
Dairy: 0

This is the kind of buffet where you’re met with a list of menu items. You check off the food you would like to order (+ quantity) and the food is brought to you one course at a time. Make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach! You’re responsible for eating a certain percentage of everything you eat; otherwise you pay the price (literally…).

You can order rolls, sushi, nori, soup, etc., and ice-cream. With so many delicious options, it’s tough to limit yourself but you can always come back again! There is so much to try.

The Food

The ginger salad: I love this salad! I search for it on any Japanese menu I find. The dressing is super delicious. This small sample will get your appetite moving.

Avocado/cucumber rolls: They taste the same as anywhere—a familiar dose of creamy avocado and salty soy sauce. Be careful if you order the rolls with rice; you’ll get full sooner.

Vegetarian sushi pizza: I prefer the sushi pizza down the street but this is indeed tasty. My favourite Japanese treat!

Prices 8.7/10

What can I say, buffets usually charge the same: around $20 for an evening or weekend meal and a more reasonable $15ish for lunch. But it’s all you can eat!

Service 8.7/10

I’ve never had a problem with the service here and they time the arrival of your food quite nicely.

Atmosphere 8.8/10

Quite lovely! The décor is sophisticated and modern and there’s enough space to experience a different ambiance depending on where you sit. I’ve sat upstairs—which is comfortable and private—downstairs in a booth (comfy!) and at the corner table, which is a perfect spot for couples who wish to sit somewhat side-by-side.

Tip

Don’t order more than you can eat! After all, you can always order more later if you’re really that hungry.

Would I go again?

Yes! I’ve been at least four times and it’s the best Japanese buffet I know. Unfortunately, the downtown locations have strange hours so you may have to head to Woodbridge. But it’s worth it!

Mexican rice dish—ready in minutes

Mexican night at my house isn’t complete without a tasty rice dish. Why buy store-bought when you can make it better at home—and in only 25 minutes? This dish looks impressive too; your friends don’t have to know how easy it was to make!

Variation: For Mexican Rice Lasagna, repeat this recipe so that there is a layer of cheese in the middle, like a lasagna. Yum!

This must-have dish is so easy to make!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white rice (or whole grain, if we’re going to be good!)
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 cube (2 tbsp) of cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 stalk of green onion, sliced

Directions

  1. Put rice in pot, add enough water to cover the rice and set to boil. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until rice is soft (not crunchy!).
  2. Let the rice cool, then “pour” the rice into a casserole dish and mix in the salsa.
  3. Smooth out the top surface of the rice casserole and sprinkle on the cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the green onions on top as a garnish. You may choose to mix the green onions in with the rice and salsa, if your guests do not object.)
  4. Set the toaster oven to broil and cook the rice dish until the cheese has melted. Serve hot!

Serves 5 with some leftovers

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Chick Pea and Pasta Salad—just the right kick

Chick peas are a great source of protein and who doesn’t love pasta salads? I thought chick peas were essentially flavourless, but they add the perfect tasty kick to this simple whole grain dish.

So simple, so savoury! (Photo courtesy of iStock)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chick peas, dry (or canned, but dried is healthier and better for the environment)
  • 1/2 stalk of celery
  • 100 g whole wheat pasta of your choice (fusilli, penne, go wild!)
  • 3 strips of green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil Tuscan Italian dressing (Kraft)
  • salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Rinse one cup of dry chick peas and place in a pot, then fill with water. The water should be about an inch higher than the chick peas. Cover and let soak overnight.
  2. Dump the water and rinse the chick peas. Add half a stalk of celery and fill the pot with water again.
  3. Boil the chick peas for 1 to 1.5 hours, until tender. Add salt to taste. When the chick peas are done cooking, they will have grown to double their original size (so now we have two cups!).
  4. Remove the celery and let the chick peas cool. Then add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and refrigerate the chick peas. They make a great addition to any salad!
  5. Boil water. At boiling point, add whole grain pasta and cook following the directions on the pasta package.
  6. Let pasta cool. Chop green peppers.
  7. Then mix peppers, pasta, 1/2 cup chickpeas and 1/2 tablespoon of salad dressing. Delish!

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Pasta e Fagioli: my favourite dish! (even more than tacos?)

This is the one dish that can make me full. It takes 1.5 hours to make the beans and then 20 minutes to cook the pasta. Once the beans and pasta meet, your stomach will rumble. Once the beans and pasta meet your stomach, you’ll  be full!

A satisfying, complete protein that's bound to fill you up

Ingredients

  • 1 can Romano beans (540 mL) or 3/4 cup dried beans
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 carrot, peeled
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of cavatelli pasta or a small whole grain pasta
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  • chili flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Before you do anything, note that if you are cooking with dried beans (the healthy choice!), they need to be soaked overnight and then cooked for 1 hour before you proceed with this recipe.
  2. Heat up pot with 1 teaspoon of olive oil (for one minute or so).
  3. Cut the onion in two. Chop one half into tiny pieces. Add onion and carrot to olive oil and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pass tomatoes through a vegetable mill and set aside.
  5. When the onions seem to have started cooking,  add the tomato sauce to the pot and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Rinse the beans with water (the dried beans are already rinsed) and add beans to tomato sauce. Fill can with water and add water to pot.
  7. Cook beans for 1 to 1.5 hours, checking often.
  8. 45 minutes into the beans cooking, add salt and black pepper for taste.
  9. Once the beans are ready (taste test!), boil water and cook pasta.
  10. Serve beans and pasta in a bowl and add grated Parmesan cheese and chili flakes for flavour. Prepare to be satisfied!

Note: You may wish to double the recipe so you have leftovers for the next day. Yum! If you’re the only one consuming the above recipe, there is already enough for leftovers.

Serves 2

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