A simple supper salad made with fridge finds

Sassy salad greens with poached egg and balsamic vinaigrette-sauteed mushrooms and grape tomatoes

Salad greens with fried egg and balsamic vinaigrette-sauteed mushrooms and grape tomatoes

I get paid to say nice things about eggs. As the Food and Nutrition Specialist for Egg Farmers of Ontario, it’s my job to promote the nutritional goodness of eggs and the many different ways they can be prepared.

Before I signed on for this gig, I was already an egg lover, readily extolling the virtues of eggs. One of the reasons I was – and still am – a fan of this nutritious and economical food is that it’s quick to cook, so versatile and always available.

The other night I came home late from work, tired and hungry. There wasn’t much in the fridge except for some mushrooms, eggs and salad greens. Within minutes I had put together a simple supper salad and was sitting down to eat.

To make the salad I sauteed sliced mushrooms in a little balsamic salad dressing, tossing in a few halved grape tomatoes partway through cooking. Before the mushrooms and tomatoes were completely cooked, I cleared a space among them in the middle of the pan and cracked an egg into it. I covered the pan with a lid and within a few minutes had a steam-basted sunny side up egg that resembled a poached egg. (I cooked the yolk so that it was still runny but it could also be cooked thoroughly if desired. And, instead of “frying”, the egg could have been soft- or hard-poached in simmering water.) The mushroom/tomato mixture and egg were then spooned over a plate of salad greens, and dinner was served!

Easy, fast and very good!

Asian pears and caramelized walnuts top simple salad


Spring Mix Salad with Asian Pears and Caramelized Walnuts

This salad would make a tasty starter for any meal. Its great taste belies its simplicity.

You can vary some of the ingredients to suit your personal preference:

  • instead of Asian pears, try pears or apples
  • substitute blue cheese, chevre or Parmesan cheese for smoked Gouda
  • Honey-Dijon dressing can replace Raspberry Vinaigrette

I use Kraft Raspberry Vinaigrette as the dressing, but you can prepare your own from scratch, if you like. The caramelized walnuts will need to be made in advance.

Spring Mix Salad with Asian Pears and Caramelized Walnuts
(Makes 6 servings)

6 cups (1.5 L) spring mix lettuce
2 unpeeled Asian pears*, thinly sliced
Grated smoked Gouda cheese
Caramelized walnuts (see recipe below)
Raspberry Vinaigrette

Divide lettuce on 6 salad plates. Arrange Asian pear slices over top. Sprinkle cheese and walnuts over Asian pears. Drizzle Raspberry Vinaigrette lightly over top.

To make Caramelized Walnuts: In a small saucepan, combine 2 teaspoons (10 mL) butter or hard margarine, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) honey, and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) ground allspice. Heat over medium heat, stirring until butter is melted. Add 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) walnut pieces. Stir until bubbling and golden. Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Let stand until cool, about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes enough for about 12 individual salads.

* Asian pears (also known as Chinese pears, Japanese pears, Ya pears, and apple pears) can be round or pear-shaped in appearance, and yellow to yellow-green in colour. They are firm and ready to eat when purchased. No ripening period necessary! Asian pears have a crisp texture and are juicy, with a sweet-tart, apple-pear flavour. They will keep well in the refrigerator for a couple months.

Ringing in the New Year with a convenience store supper!


The "Flag Wave" at the opening of the Canada vs U.S. game at the World Juniors on Dec. 31st! The huge flag started its trek around the arena in the section where we sat. It traveled "overhead" around the arena a couple times.

It was a New Year’s Eve to remember.

Instead of the usual evening of fondue or munchies and a movie, this year I travelled back to Ottawa on Dec. 31st – this time with Murray – to watch the much-anticipated Canada vs US hockey game in the World Junior series.

We were there along with 20,000-plus crazed Canadian fans who screamed and cheered noisily through most of the game. Although things started out shakily with the U.S. quickly racking up three goals in the first period, the Canadian boys worked hard and won the game 7-4.

We were back in our hotel room at the Marriott by 10:30 p.m., the hot dogs we’d eaten at the game a distant memory. (Thankfully, as they weren’t that good!) After Murray took some painkillers to help with a headache he’d been suffering all evening (probably from all those screaming fans), we decided to try the Toulouse Bistro in our hotel for a bite to eat. But we were out of luck. Although the restaurant was scheduled to be open until 1 a.m., when we arrived at 11:15 p.m., the kitchen had just stopped serving food. Something about being really backed up with orders…..

There weren’t too many other restaurants in the immediate vicinity of our hotel. But, there were a couple other options.

We could order pizza from one of the flyers that had been shoved under our hotel room door while we were at the game.

Or, we could head to the Byward Market area where there were lots of restaurants. We weren’t really interested in pizza, and it was so cold out (-20-ishC with a strong wind) that wandering through the Byward Market held no appeal either.

Instead we decided to dress up warmly and dash over to a 24-hour Hasty Market convenience store and deli about a block away on the main floor of the Minto Suites where I often stay when in Ottawa on business.

After a search of the short aisles of the Hasty Market, we chose a small container of tuna pasta salad, a couple of buns and slices of Swiss cheese and cooked turkey, single-serve packets of mayonnaise, a bag of Snack Mix, and a tub of Haagen Dazs Triple Chocolate ice cream! Back in our room by 11:45 p.m., we devoured our late-night New Year’s Eve supper, toasting in 2009 with a diet Coke and orange juice. It may not have been the finest New Year’s Eve food we’d ever eaten, but that night, everything seemed especially tasty.

Although the following Nicoise Pasta Salad does not have the same texture or all the same ingredients as the creamy tuna and pasta salad I enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, it shows another delicious way to enjoy the combination of tuna, pasta and veggies.

Nicoise Pasta Salad

(Makes 4 servings)

3 cups (750 mL) penne or fusilli
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 sweet green or yellow pepper, cut into strips
Half of a red onion, sliced
1 can (7 oz/198 g) chunk tuna, drained and broken into pieces
1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced black olives
3 tablespoons (45 mL) red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) lemon juice
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup (75 mL) olive oil
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh basil
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

Cook penne in a large pot of boiling water until tender but firm, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain well and place in a bowl. Add tomatoes, sweet peppers, onion, tuna and olives.

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and garlic. Gradually whisk in oil. Pour over pasta mixture. Add basil. Toss gently to combine. Garnish with egg slices.

Tabbouli-style Salad a quick meal when life is busy

This recipe is one of my fallback favourites. (Rather fitting, given the season.) It’s one of those treasured recipes or meal solutions I turn to when in need of (make that desperate for!) something quick and easy and I’m too rushed for time or lacking energy to be super creative about what’s going on my plate. September is an exceptionally busy time of year for me so I’m always on the look-out for ways to save precious minutes in the kitchen. This salad is one of those time and energy savers for me.

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad is made by cooking beaten eggs in broth, then adding couscous. While the couscous cooks for a few minutes, I chop up whatever vegetables I have on hand and whip up a simple dressing. Everything then gets combined along with fresh herbs, if I have some on hand.

This salad can be served as a main dish or a side, and either warm or chilled. I make it frequently, especially when life is busy (like these days!), or when I need a fast, easy contribution to a potluck. It’s simple and it tastes good, and after making it so often, the method and ingredient proportions are etched in my brain.

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad

Tabbouli-style Egg and Vegetable Salad
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1-1/4 cups (300 mL) chicken OR vegetable broth
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) couscous
2/3 cup (150 mL) regular OR low-fat Italian salad dressing
2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh lemon OR lime juice
1 teaspoon (5 mL) chili powder
2 cups (500 mL) diced fresh vegetables (e.g. cucumber, carrot, sweet pepper, celery, zucchini or seeded tomato)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh cilantro, mint OR parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Slowly add eggs in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Cook for a minute or two, whisking constantly, just until eggs are set. (They will look curdled.) Remove saucepan from heat and stir in couscous. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl or cup, combine salad dressing, lemon juice and chili powder, stirring well to break up any lumps of chili powder.

When couscous has stood for 5 minutes, stir it to separate grains and break up any clumps. Stir in vegetables and cilantro. Pour dressing over couscous mixture; toss until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or cover and chill until ready to serve.

* Try substituting another vinaigrette-style dressing for the Italian dressing.
* Couscous can be found in most grocery stores and bulk food stores. If desired, instant rice can be substituted.

4-Ingredient Coleslaw an Easy Fix

This is an easy shredded cabbage salad you can make in less than 5 minutes. I took full advantage of its simplicity a few days before Christmas. Enroute to work one day, I suddenly remembered we were having a staff potluck lunch. What to do? I could stop at a grocery store and pick up a prepared salad, or the ingredients for a green salad or a coleslaw. I opted for the latter. After a hasty stop, I had the necessary ingredients for this creamy, crunchy, quick colelaw.

Buying a package of pre-shredded green and red cabbage and carrots took most of the work out of this salad. Of course, you can shred your own cabbage if you wish. Count on needing about 4 cups (1 L) or a medium head of cabbage.

I chose a green apple because it made for a festive-looking salad with the red cranberries. Of course, you can use whatever type of apple you wish, or have on hand. For flavour, I prefer a Honeycrisp, Crispin or Granny Smith apple.

The store I stopped at didn’t have plain dried cranberries, just orange-flavoured sweetened dried cranberries. The citrus flavour turned out to be a nice complement to the apples and poppyseed dressing.

The amount of each ingredient needed is really up to you and your taste preferences.

If you wish, toss in a handful of toasted walnuts.

Quick Coleslaw with Apple and Cranberries
(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

1 pkg (l lb/454 g) coleslaw mix
1 large apple, cored and diced
Prepared poppyseed dressing, to taste
Handful of dried cranberries

In a medium bowl, combine coleslaw mix, apple, poppyseed dressing and cranberries. Toss to blend ingredients. Adjust amount of dressing, if necessary.

Serve immediately, or better yet, refrigerate for an hour to blend flavours.