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Vietnamese Summer Roll Salad

Vietnamese Summer Roll Salad

When I came across the idea of a Vietnamese summer roll salad on Tasty Kitchen I immediately knew that I would have to try it! Vietnamese summer rolls, goi cuon, consist of meat, vegetables, rice noodles and fresh herbs that are rolled up in rice paper and served at room temperate, without deep frying, accompanied by a dipping sauce. I like to make my summer rolls with shrimp along with plenty of fresh vegetables like cucumber, peppers, carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts, etc and fresh herbs like basil, mint and cilantro and since they are served at room temperature or even cool, it makes them a truly amazing treat on hot summer days. Vietnamese summer rolls are usually served with a dipping sauce the most common of which are a fish sauce based nuoc cham or a Vietnamese style spicy peanut and hoisin sauce. As you can see these summer rolls are practically already just salads wrapped up in rice paper so it is pretty easy to transform the rolls into a salad and to change the dipping sauce into a dressing and I did just that for this salad!

Crispy Baked Avocado Fries

Crispy Baked Avocado Fries

Up next in my series of baked vegetable 'fries' is avocado fries and given my obsession with avocados I really cannot believe that it has taken me this long to get around to trying them out as fries! Like the other vegetables fries these avocado fries are super simple to make, you pretty much just need to slice up the avocados, dredge them in flour, dip them in egg and panko and then bake them until nice and golden brown and crispy and good! In total they take less than a half an hour to make so you can easily make them whenever you have a craving for fries or avocados! You might be a little surprised to learn that avocados work really well when cooked or baked and they are especially nice in these fries coated with the crispy panko bread crumbs! I served the baked avocado fries with chipotle ranch and basil ranch sauces for dipping.

Asparagus, Baby Artichoke, Pesto and Goat Cheese Quiche with Quinoa Crust

Asparagus, Baby Artichoke, Pesto and Goat Cheese Quiche with Quinoa Crust

I don't know what it is about spring and asparagus but at this time of year I always seem to think about asparagus quiches which I never tire of and I always love experimenting with. This year was no different and I wanted to try something a little different, a quinoa crust instead of the more standard all butter pie crust. Up until recently my favourite crust for quiches has been a brown rice pie crust and I figured that quinoa should work equally as well as a pie crust. The quinoa pie crust is pretty easy to make and all you need to do is cook some quinoa, mix in an egg and some cheese as binders and pre-bake the crust until golden brown before continuing with your quiche recipe as normal. For this quiche I had to go with the asparagus which had been on my mind, along with baby artichokes and I flavoured the quiche with a healthy dose of fresh homemade basil pesto and some creamy and tangy goat cheese. This asparagus, baby artichoke, pesto and goat cheese quiche may take a bit of time to make but it is well worth it and it definitely makes for one impressively tasty weekend breakfast or brunch! With the quinoa crust and the use of milk rather than heavy cream you can enjoy this healthy quiche with little or no regret!

Carne Asada Tacos

Carne Asada Tacos

Speaking of grilling, after making the carne asada a few weeks ago I have been obsessing about it and I just had to make it again. The carne asada is flank steak that is marinated in a tasty Mexican style mojo with orange juice, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro and then grilled until a perfect medium rare, or well done if you prefer. I used the last batch of carne asada that I made in a carne asada salad but I had been dreaming of carne asada tacos ever since. I hardly need an excuse to grill some steak so the carne asada tacos quickly made it to my meal plan! I kept things nice and easy to let the grilled steak shine and used a homemade pico de gallo along with some dice avocado and crumbled cotija to complete the tacos. It is always wondeerful to see such simple ingredients come together to make something so fantastically good! What a great way to enjoy some steak and to get outside and to use the grill!

Spring Quinoa Bibimbap with Asparagus, Fiddleheads, Fava Bean and Ramps

Spring Quinoa Bibimbap with Asparagus, Fiddleheads, Fava Bean and Ramps

This past weekend the farmers market was full of new fresh local produce including ramp (aka wild leeks), fiddleheads, favabeans and asparagus. I had left some slots open in my meal plan this week to pick up some of the new arrivals to make a dish or two but now that there was so much selection I just could not decide what to get! In the end I decided to get a bit of everything and I was already thinking about what to use them all in on my walk home. Bibimbap is a Korean 'mixed rice' dish where vegetables and meats are served over rice and then all mixed up before eating and it seemed like a great way to enjoy all of springs bounty! Although bibimbap is normally made with rice, I like to make it with quinoa both for the extra nutritional value and because of the great texture that quinoa has. This dish is really easy to make though if you are starting from scratch rather than using leftovers it can take a bit of time to cook all of the vegetables but it is well worth it. Most of the vegetables are steamed or blanched and then optionally sauteed in a bit of oil along with the ramps. This spring bibimbap is finished with a fried egg with a runny yolks and a spicy gochujang sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

With the warmer weather here I have been thinking about grilling more and burgers definitely come to mind! When I went over all of my burger recipes I noticed a glaring omission; where were the buffalo chicken burgers? I am a huge fan of all things buffalo chicken and it is always a treat to grill up some buffalo chicken burgers in the summer. I like to start my buffalo chicken burgers off by grinding some boneless and skinless chicken in the food processor to which I add some buffalo chicken flavours including carrots, celery, onions and blue cheese in addition to the buffalo hot sauce. In general I like to avoid fillers like egg and breadcrumbs in burgers which means that the patties are a little more delicate but as long as you flip them gently they still hold together quite well. Once the patties are assembled all that is left is to grill them until cooked and slightly charred before serving them up in a bun with your favourite condiments. For buffalo chicken burgers I like to keep the condiments simple and my faourite topping is a blue cheese slaw whether it be a cabbage slaw or as in this case a broccoli slaw. These tasty buffalo chicken burgers are all set to impress at your barbecues this summer!

Avocado and Goat Cheese Alfredo Pasta

Avocado and Goat Cheese Alfredo

Not too long ago a reader asked me if I had ever combined avocado and goat cheese in a pasta dish, which I had not, but since I am a huge fan of both ingredients I was immediately intrigued. I have used avocado and goat cheese in a lot of recipes together but mostly where other ingredients were the star of the show with the avocado and goat cheese there as backup and it was about time to let them shine together. I already had plans for dinner that night but I had both avocado and goat cheese on hand so I threw them into the salad that I was having with the meal and that only confirmed that the two ingredients are indeed truly magical together!

I had avocado and goat cheese pasta on my mind for the next few days as I ruminated various pasta recipes and in the end I decided to go with a simple alfredo style pasta. An alfredo pasta is a pasta with a sauce made from butter and parmesan to which I like to add cream and I figured that that would be a great base to melt the goat cheese into. On the avocado side of things I knew that I would have to add some lime juice to brighten things up and from there it seemed only natural to continue with the theme and add some cilantro and jalapeƱo pepper. (At this point I was thinking that this was almost like a guacamole and goat cheese pasta!) I did not want to cook the avocado too long so I pureed it in a food processor and mixed it into the goat cheese sauce and heated it just until it was warm before tossing it with the pasta. This avocado and goat cheese pasta is super easy to make and all things said and done this recipe takes less than 20 minutes to make so it is definitely doable on a busy weeknight.

I had some pretty high hopes for this goat cheese and avocado pasta and they were easily exceeded! The creamy avocado and tangy goat cheese is an amazing combination and it goes fabulously well in this pasta!

Strawberry BBQ Chicken Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Avocado and Goat Cheese

Strawberry BBQ Chicken Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Avocado and Goat Cheese

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After making the strawberry BBQ chicken club sandwiches with bacon, avocado and goat cheese I still had plenty of the roasted strawberry BBQ sauce leftover and I knew just what I wanted to make with it, a strawberry BBQ quinoa salad. I have been wanting to try making a BBQ chicken quinoa salad with black beans and corn for a while now but a strawberry BBQ quinoa salad suddenly sounded like a much better idea! I used a lot of the same flavours as in the strawberry BBQ chicken sandwich in this quinoa salad including the avocado, bacon and goat cheese since they worked so amazingly well together. I filled the quinoa salad out with baby spinach along with some green onions and cilantro. If you have the cooked chicken on hand, this salad is as easy to make as cooking the quinoa and throwing everything together and despite that it is so fantastically good!

Crispy Baked Asparagus Fries

Crispy Baked Asparagus Fries

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I have really been looking forward to spring and the fresh local asparagus and one of the first things that I wanted to make with it was some crispy baked asparagus fries! Ever since I discovered that you can coat vegetables in panko bread crumbs and bake them that they would become healthy 'fries' I have been doing it with pretty much every vegetable that I can get my hands on. Given that asparagus is already in perfect 'fry' shape it seemed only natural to turn them in fries and it couldn't be easier to do so! You pretty much just need to dredge the asparagus in flour, dip in egg, coat in panko breadcrumbs and bake until crispy. All said and told you can be enjoying these healthy baked asparagus fries in about 20 minutes so you can make them whenever you want. If you are a fan of asparagus, you will definitely enjoy these asparagus fries and they might just be that one new asparagus that you absolutely need to try this spring!

Strawberry BBQ Chicken Club Sandwich with Bacon, Avocado and Goat Cheese

Strawberry BBQ Chicken Club Sandwich

Armed with my shiny new roasted strawberry BBQ sauce I was ready to use it on something grilled! Before I had even made the strawberry BBQ sauce I was already thinking about using it in a grilled chicken club sandwich with lettuce, tomato and bacon in addition to the grilled chicken and the BBQ sauce. Even though the sandwich would be great just like that I really could not resist kicking it up a bit! I find that a creamy and tangy goat cheese tends to go really well with fruity sweet and spicy sauces like this strawberry BBQ sauce so I had to include some and a chicken club sandwich always benefits from some cool and creamy avocado! The flavours in this grilled chicken sandwich meld together magically and you will definitely be licking you fingers clean after eating one! With grilling season about to begin these strawberry BBQ chicken club sandwiches are a great way to kick things off this upcoming long weekend!

Roasted Strawberry BBQ Sauce

Roasted Strawberry BBQ Sauce

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Grilling season is quickly approaching and I am getting ready by making some homemade BBQ sauces starting with this seasonal strawberry BBQ sauce. This strawberry BBQ sauce was inspired by the flavours in my strawberry and balsamic grilled chicken salad and my balsamic strawberry and chicken pizza with sweet onions and smoked bacon which predominantly feature the strawberry and balsamic vinegar flavours along with some Asian influences. I really wanted to be able to taste the strawberries in this BBQ sauce so that meant starting with a lot of strawberries and roasting them to concentrate their flavour. I like a BBQ sauce with a nice sweet side so for the sweetener I went with a combo of maple syrup and some homemade strawberry jam to add even more strawberry flavour. Up next was the balsamic vinegar for some tartness, soy sauce for the saltiness and a smoky and spicy chipotle chili in adobo. Continuing with the Asian influence I added plenty of garlic and ginger along with some BBQ sauce staples with a fresh cilantro finish. I have to say that this roasted strawberry BBQ sauce is addictively good! The strawberry flavours shine through and it has a really nice balance of sweet, spicy, tart and salty and lets not forget those sultry smoky undertones.

For my next batch I plan on adding bacon since both the salad and the pizza that inspired this dressing include bacon!

Crispy Baked Quinoa Crusted Chicken Parmesan

Crispy Baked Quinoa Crusted Chicken Parmesan

As many of you know, I am a big fan of quinoa and I have been ever since I first tried it. You can use quinoa in surprisingly many ways and I have been enjoying experimenting with different ways of using it over the last few years. My next experiment was to use it as a replacement for breadcrumbs to get a crispy coating on chicken (or other things) that was inspired by the fact that when you bake or toast cooked quinoa it gets nice and crispy. One of the first things that came to mind to try the quinoa coating on was chicken parmesan which typically consists of breaded chicken that is fried or baked and then covered in a marinara sauce and melted cheese. The recipe for the quinoa crusted version of chicken parmesan could not be simpler, you pretty much just take your basic baked chicken parmesan recipe and replace the breadcrumbs with cooked quinoa.

The cooked quinoa coating on the chicken toasted up nice and crispy and golden brown on the chicken just like bread crumbs and I quite enjoyed the texture of it! Now that I know that the quinoa coating works I can't wait to try it on other things! Crispy quinoa crusted zucchini fries anyone?

Trout Amandine

Trout Amandine

The other day I noticed a sale on trout which reminded me that it has been a long time since I last made a fish dish and it was the perfect excuse to do so. Fish amandine, or in this case trout amandine, is a super quick and easy dish where the fish is fried and then served in a browned butter, lemon and almond sauce and it can be made with any number of different fish fillets. Essentially after frying the fish all that needs to be done is to brown the butter in the pan, add the almonds and toast in the butter until lightly golden brown and then hit the sauce with some lemon juice before serving over the fish. This dish is definitely easy enough to tackle on a weeknight and it is also sure to impress at a dinner party.

Carne Asada Salad

Carne Asada Salad

Normally I would tend to use a fresh batch of carne asada carne asada to make some carne asada tacos but since April is the National Salad Month it seemed only appropriate to make a carne asada salad. I mean you really cannot go wrong starting a salad off with some grilled medium-rare meat, right? I used lettuce for the base of the salad and then I build it out with some homemade pico de gallo, which contains all sorts of good things like tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers and cilantro, and then I continued with some creamy avocado and I finished the salad off with some black beans, corn and crumbled cotija. The only thing left to decide on was the dressing and what better to use for the dressing than the marinade that carne asada was marinated in? The carne asada marinade is a mojo style sauce with a base of sour orange, or a combo of orange and lime juice, and garlic and this one I season with jalapeno, cilantro, cumin and and oregano. All in all this is one really nice, refreshing, filling, tasty and healthy salad and a great way to enjoy some carne asada!

This salad work great with warm or room temperature carne asada so in the unlikely event that you have some leftover carne asada from some other use, this salad is a great way to enjoy it!

Carne Asada (Grilled Marinated Steak)

Carne Asada

Next up in my exploration of Mexican meats is a classic that is perfect for the warming weather, carne asada or grilled steak. Carne asada can be as simple as grilling up a steak seasoned with salt and pepper or it can be marinated with a number of different marinades. Marinades for carne asada often contain lime juice which helps to tenderize the steak which is commonly a flank steak or a skirt steak. I like a mojo style marinade with a base or orange and lime juice that is seasoned with garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin and oregano which, although simple makes for some really tasty steak! Carne asada is typically cooked well done but I prefer mine a nice moist and tender, medium-rare. Of course carne asada can be used in a number of dishes from tacos to fajitas to burritos to salads, etc.

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas, a crispy Mexican style pulled pork, can be used in a number of different dishes and sometimes simple is best, especially when you want to experience the carnitas in all their glory, and tacos fit the bill perfectly. My initial thought for tacos is almost always to simply throw some diced sweet onion and cilantro in along with the meat but carnitas and salsa verde are such a great combo that I cannot resist adding them to the mix. For carnitas tacos I very often go with the simple combination of carnitas, salsa verde, pickled red onions and the cilantro with an optional touch of crumbled cotija and this combo shows off the carnitas nicely.

Carnitas (a Lighter Version)

Carnitas

Carnitas are a Mexican pulled pork dish where the pork is crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. Traditionally a pork butt or shoulder is braised in lard until tender and then the heat is turned up so that the pork fries and gets crispy on the outside. For todays home cook looking to replicate carnitas an easier way is to simmer the same fatty cut of pork, a butt or shoulder, in a liquid until the pork is tender, then to turn up the heat until the liquid is gone and the fat has rendered and then let the pork fry in its own rendered fat until crispy. This is the way that I have been enjoying carnitas for a while but I wanted to try something a little lighter without having to sacrifice anything in the way of flavour.

The way I see it there are 3 required characteristics of carnitas including that it is a pulled pork, that it is moist and tender and crispy at the same time and that it is full of flavour, so that is what I was seeking with this new recipe. I decided to use the same cut of pork, the butt or shoulder, but this time I trimmed the excess fat to make it lighter. To start building up the flavour the pork is browned in the pan and then all of those brown bits of tastiness from the bottom of the pan are scraped up into the simmering liquid. The pork is then simmered in a simple orange, lime and garlic mojo style liquid until tender but this time it is simmered covered to retain the liquid which is just packed with flavour. After the pork has cooked the liquid is skimmed of ant remaining fat, reduced and concentrated and then mixed into the pork before it is broiled until crispy. The final result is indeed a super tasty pulled pork that is both moist and tender and crispy at the same time and simply irresistible!

Note: This recipe can easy be made in a slow cooker or crockpot and I have included the instructions for that in the recipe below.