How To Make The Best Avocado Greek Salad!

Avocado Greek Salad
Avocado Greek Salad

There’s one salad that my husband and kids can all agree on, and that’s my Avocado Greek Salad! It’s also a hit with guests at our summer barbecues, and all year-round. It’s very easy to make, and with the avocados, feta cheese, and olives, it’s a filling and delicious salad. Most people ask for the recipe after they’ve tasted it.

Greek Salad, like most foods these days, means different things to different people. There are so many variations at restaurants and in homes. Some Greek Salad is made with iceberg lettuce, others with romaine lettuce. The type of feta cheese used (sheep or cow) can make a difference in taste, as can the type of tomato (plum versus hot house versus beef steak or even cherry tomatoes).

And, the original Greek Salad is not likely what you’re having when you go to a Greek restaurant in North America. The traditional Greek Salad, called Horiatiki, is made with tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, and cucumbers – without any lettuce. It’s dressed with sliced feta, kalamata olives, salt, oregano, and the best olive oil and (sometimes) vinegar — this is what you’ll find served in most restaurants in Greece.

Although the traditional Greek Salad is delicious, my family likes it with the addition of romaine lettuce and a whole avocado. Yes, I said avocado! We all know the health benefits of avocados: they’re low in saturated fat, contain zero cholesterol, and are high in potassium. There’s also something about the avocado that lends a creaminess and dimension to the salad. Continue reading

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Chicken-Ginger Noodle Soup – Perfect For This Freezing Weather!

Chicken-Ginger Noodle Soup

With wind chill values of -35 degrees celsius in Toronto, a bowl of warm Chicken-Ginger Noodle Soup sounds just right! It’s been so very cold these last few weeks in this part of North America and we’re spending a lot of time indoors. That means plenty of time with family and friends and lots of time to cook and experiment with new recipes.

A few weeks ago, I received the cutest package from Blue Goose Pure Foods, a Canadian organic meat producer that works with Canadian farmers who are committed to treating animals humanely. Blue Goose products are sold in grocery stores and specialty retailers across Canada, and they are easily identifiable by the illustrated blue and white chicken on the labels.

This is not the first time I’ve received a pre-arranged delivery from Blue Goose. The last one was a whole chicken and a recipe for Beer Can Chicken. You would’ve seen the details on my Instagram Stories, and the end result was a delicious, moist, tender chicken, which you can see here:

Beer Can Chicken made with Blue Goose Pure Foods Organic Chicken
Beer Can Chicken made with Blue Goose Pure Foods Organic Chicken

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Say Hello to Stress-Free Meal Planning with HelloFresh Canada!

Sesame Beef Stir-Fry by HelloFresh
Sesame Beef Stir-Fry by HelloFresh

It’s the little things that make a big difference. Last week, not having to plan, shop, or think about my meals made my week so easy – this, thanks, to a delivery from HelloFresh Canada.

I usually do the meal planning, shopping, and cooking for my family and I love doing it. Being a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom, I have more flexibility in shopping and cooking than most households but, every once in a while, I find myself in a rut and out of time and out of meal ideas. The kids complain that the meals aren’t up to their expectations and ‘why can’t we have something good’! I’m not upset when I hear those words – I just ask them to make a list of their top 5 favorite foods and I go from there.

Having said that, getting HelloFresh Canada delivered to my door last week was such a treat!

Roasted Pork and Peppercorn Sauce by HelloFresh
Roasted Pork and Peppercorn Sauce by HelloFresh

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, HelloFresh is a service that makes meal prep and family time fun. The chefs at HelloFresh come up with meal ideas based on in-season produce, and they source everything locally, which I love.

All you have to do is go online, choose your meals, and then get everything delivered to your door. You choose the type of plan you want (pronto meals, which are ready in 30 minutes or less; family meals; or veggie meals), the number of people you want to feed, and the delivery date. It’s a subscription service that you can stop by following the instructions online.

HelloFresh Canada Delivery
HelloFresh Canada Delivery

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Seven Tips For Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday Party

fullsizerender-29For the past few years, I’ve hosted a holiday luncheon for about 40-50 people, kids included. It’s the one big party I have every year to invite the people that have included us in their family celebrations throughout the year and that we see on a regular basis.

The first year or two, the party planning was stressful, mainly because I wasn’t equipped with all of the plates, cutlery, serving dishes, chafing dishes, and coffee maker that I needed and I wasn’t sure about the timing of getting things done. Recently, though, I’ve figured out how to make it as stress-free as possible and I can say that this year’s party was the easiest. It only took 5 years, but that’s okay! If you’re considering hosting some form of holiday party, I hope some of these tips will help:

Tip 1: Give as much notice of the party as possible. I try to give the guests about 3-4 weeks’ notice. Because I hold the party at least 3 weeks before Christmas, most of the guests are still ‘free’ and not caught up in the holiday shopping or other parties. It’s also a fun way for you and the guests to ease into the holiday season.

Tip 2: Start cleaning out the freezer and fridge two weeks before the party. Go through the fridge and freezer and make a mental note of what you can use in the next week or two and toss what is expired. Start buying fewer perishable items like fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, so that your fridge remains clean and empty. Cook meals that won’t have too many leftovers.  And, consider ordering in or eating out for the last two days before the party… bonus for you and the husband and kids!

fullsizerender-31Tip 3: Bake ahead. Sounds easy enough, but this means that your freezer, from the tip one above, has been cleared out and can handle all of the desserts you are making ahead and freezing. It also means you have made a list of the desserts you are planning on making and that you have on hand storage containers, plastic wrap, waxed paper, and all of the required baking ingredients. Start baking two weeks ahead so the last week can be spent on prepping the house and buying fresh food for the party. Continue reading

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5 Of My Favorite Tomato Dishes

img_0738I love tomatoes!  And, it’s still tomato season in Ontario.   Maybe, like me, you have a few too many in your fridge if you were tempted by the tomato baskets at the grocery store and at farmer’s markets.  It’s been hot and dry this season, making conditions perfect for growing beautiful tomatoes.  So, I thought I would share a few recipe ideas and links in hopes of inspiring you to try something new.

But, first, let’s take a look at why tomatoes deserve our attention:

  • Although they have a ‘season’, tomatoes are available year-round (thanks to hot-houses) so they are affordable and you can try different recipes all year long.
  • There are so many varieties of tomatoes that come in different shapes, colors, and sizes (roma, plum, heirloom, beefsteak, grape, cherry, etc. ) making it easy to mix things up and keep dishes colorful.
  • Tomatoes are good for you: they are 95 % water, contain Vitamin C, and are low in calories.
  • Tomatoes make a great snack, especially the smaller ones that can easily be packed into a lunch or for eating on the go.
  • There are so many ways to use tomatoes: in sauces, in quick salads, and in cooked dishes.  My family does not can or jar tomatoes, but I know that many families have the tradition of spending a fun day making tomato sauce to be stored and used  all year long.
  • Finally, tomatoes are easy to serve.  They are often my fall-back dish. You can slice them, drizzle them with oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, add some basil, and you have a salad in minutes.

img_0314While I was researching this post, I came across this fun fact:  An Ontario Member of Parliament, Mike Colle, proposed a bill to make July 15th Tomato Day and to make the tomato the official vegetable of Ontario.  The current status of the bill is: First Reading Carried, so stay tuned!

Here are a few of my favorite tomato dishes in photos.  There are so many obvious dishes that I haven’t put in here like caprese salad, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza, and green salads.  Because the point of this post was to get you thinking about some different tomato uses, I’ve linked recipes rather than including them in full.

Quinoa Tabouli: Being Lebanese, I grew up eating tabouli as the main salad at family meals.  My mom makes it 3-4 times a week, and it makes sense to have a quinoa version. Here’s one you can try from Epicurious. Continue reading

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Lemon Spaghetti…With Shrimp

IMG_0219It’s the summertime and I want to be outside as much as possible, meaning I want to be in the kitchen as little as possible!  Enter lemon spaghetti with shrimp. It’s one of my go-to meals because it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.  Plus, I always have shrimp in the freezer.  My family loves this dish and I make it a couple of times a month.

I first saw this recipe on Everyday Italian with Giada de Laurentiis on the Food Network.  I must have talked about the show a lot because that Mother’s Day, I received Giada’s Everyday Italian cookbook.

A few months later, we were visiting my sister-in-law and I made lemon spaghetti for dinner when company was coming.  Everybody loved it, down to the toddler who ate only the lemon spaghetti!  It’s still a favorite at my sister-in-law’s house.

IMG_0216The recipe is so easy that you don’t really need the book.  I play around with the measurements sometimes and it still tastes great every time.

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How To Host A Fun & Easy Christmas Coffee Morning

Christmas Coffee Morning - Self-Serve Tea and Coffee
Christmas Coffee Morning – Self-Serve Tea and Coffee

The days leading up to Christmas are some of the busiest of the year.  They are also the most festive days on which to entertain.

Last week, I hosted a Christmas coffee morning for some of the moms at my kids’ school.  It’s something I have done in the past and all the moms enjoy taking time out to relax and catch up before the holiday break.

Christmas Coffee Morning - All Kinds of Goodies
Christmas Coffee Morning – All Kinds of Goodies

For me, it is a chance to invite friends over while my house is somewhat clean and orderly!  Plus, it’s decorated for Christmas, which makes entertaining that much easier and more fun. It’s also easy in that the season sets the theme for everything from Christmas doilies, napkins and serving dishes to Christmas-themed centerpieces.

Here’s what was on the menu: Continue reading

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Vegetables with Lemon Oil – Easy

IMG_6682On busy school nights, I admit that preparing supper can be a challenge. I am always looking for short cuts and neat ways to shave time off my food prep and clean up. There is a fancy grocery store in my area and, after school, we go in to buy some fresh bread for dinner. Often, there are tasting tables. In particular, there is a tasting table for oils and vinegars. And, my kids and I cannot stay away. Continue reading

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A Weekend Brunch

A Weekend Brunch photo copyright 2015 Alex R
A Weekend Brunch
photo copyright 2015 Alex R

My parents recently visited from overseas for 3 weeks. It was great!  They live in a part of the world where heavy meals are usually lunch-time meals and dinner meals tend to be much lighter fare.

Our North American lifestyle was hard to change during this period: because the kids were in school, their lunches were light and so they needed a substantial dinner meal. So, my poor parents had to eat heavy meals at dinner to accommodate their hosts.

On the weekends, I thought I would try and balance things out by treating them to a North American brunch! Continue reading

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