Tuscan Braised Short Ribs -a great way to star the New Year

tuscan-braised-short-ribs-with-mashed-sweet-potatoes

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”-Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I will not tell you about how glad I am that 2015 is finally over. It was a year of ups and downs, births and deaths, marriages and break ups, successes and failures, and of great sadness.

Instead, I am sitting at my desk, fountain pen in hand, staring at the blank pages of a 2016 journal and wondering what I shall write.

What will you write in your 2016 story? Will you tell us of travels to far your dream destinations, or of how you built something wonderful, or about love, or new beginnings. Will you tell us that you moved toward becoming the person that you want to be by learning something new, or by trying something that you have never tried before.

Whatever it will be; I wish you much love, happiness, success and good health in 2016!

If you are looking for a great dish to serve your family and friends I suggest these Tuscan Braised Short Ribs. I made them for a dinner party a few weeks ago and everyone asked for the recipe and raved about how much they loved it.

Happy New Year!

Tuscan-braised-short-ribs

Tuscan Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

4-1/2 to 5 lb. English-style beef short ribs (8 to 12 ribs)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
2/3 cup medium-diced carrots
2/3 cup medium-diced onions
2/3 cup medium-diced fennel
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1 to 2 tsp. paprika
1 to 2 tsp. ground coriander
1-1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup lower-salt beef broth
1 to 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Season the ribs with 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Add half of the ribs to the pot (or as many as will fit without overlap), and cook, turning with tongs, until nicely browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the ribs to a platter and repeat with the remaining ribs. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan.

Add the remaining 1 tbsp. oil, carrots, onions, and fennel to the pan. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the thyme, garlic, paprika, coriander, and anchovies, and cook, stirring, until well distributed and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour 1/2 cup of the red wine into the pot and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tbsp., about 1 minute.

Transfer all the ribs (and any juices that have accumulated) back into the pot. Pour 1-1/2 cups water, the tomatoes, beef broth, and remaining 1/2 cup red wine over the ribs and using tongs, arrange the ribs as evenly as possible and no more than two layers deep.

Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in the oven. Cook, turning the ribs with tongs about every 40 minutes, until they are fork tender, about 2-3/4 hours. (The meat may fall off most of the bones about midway through cooking; this does not mean that the ribs are fully tender.)

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the ribs with the sauce spooned over, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Make Ahead Tips

It’s best to braise short ribs a day (or at least several hours) ahead for a couple of reasons. First, this allows you to chill the sauce so it can be defatted thoroughly. Also, the flavors only get better with time. To reheat, arrange the meat snugly in a baking dish, cover with foil, and put in a 350°F oven. Reheat the sauce on the stovetop.

Recipe from FineCooking.com

Advertisements

Thai Red Curry Chicken with Avocado Foam

Wine-for-dinner---B-6720

Where do find your inspiration?

This past couple of weeks I have been bogged down with day to day living. I was not inspired to try new recipes, or to really cook for that matter.

So this weekend I packed my bag and headed off to see my sister, Cate, and brother in law, Chuck. They are both wonderful cooks and wine enthusiasts. My kind of people.

Since they live in the heart of Ontario’s Niagara wine region, visiting their beautiful home is like going to a resort. Weekends are filled with lunches out, wine tastings, and beautiful scenery. I also enjoy checking out the latest music playlists that Chuck has compiled from iTunes.

After an afternoon of visiting a local winery, we decided to crack open a great bottle of wine, turn on some music, and watch Chuck cook his famous Thai Red Curry Chicken.

Instant inspiration!

I am so happy that I took the time to connect with loved ones and let the rest of the world go past, while finding my inspiration.

thai-red-curry-chicken-B-6778

Thai Red Curry Chicken with Avocado

Ingredients:

2 tsp. coconut oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 cup zucchini, sliced
1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
½ medium onion, cut into chunks
1 cup mushrooms
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 avocado, peeled
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
⅓ cup of lime juice
4 tbsp. of water
salt to taste
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, loosely chopped

Directions:

Heat the coconut oil at medium heat and brown the chicken. Add in the vegetables and cook until chicken is done and vegetables are slightly cooked but still firm.
Add the coconut milk and red curry paste, stir and simmer for five minutes.

thai-red-curry-chicken-cooking-B-6741

In a blender or food processor combine the avocado, jalapeno pepper, water and lime juice. Add water as necessary to thin. Add salt to taste. Mixture will become foamy.

Serve the Thai Red Curry Chicken over rice with a dollop of avocado mousse on top sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

short-ribs-3320

I am finally going to acknowledge that winter is here!

I have been overly optimistic in thinking that maybe it will not be a cold winter, and maybe it will go by quickly. I even bought a light weight winter coat thinking I would be the stylish one on the subway filled with a sea of down coats and Canada Goose jackets. Well, last night I bit the bullet and bought a warmer coat.

Today I am walking around in my new toasty down filled jacket with a big smile on my face. There are giant snowflakes fluttering in the evening sky and I am smiling. The wind chill factor is well below freezing, but I am still smiling.

Since I am admitting that it is winter, I might as well feature a hearty winter recipe. These braised short ribs take a while to slowly cook but they are well worth the wait. The meat is so tender it falls off of the bones and the flavours are rich and satisfying.

I found the recipe on the FoodNetwork.ca website which was created by Chuck Hughes, a great Canadian chef from Montreal. It has a little different style from most braised short rib recipes with the addition of cocoa and cinnamon. The result is darker and richer in flavour so I served the ribs with a full-bodied red Valpolicella wine from the Verona region of Italy.

It was a match made in heaven!

short-ribs-3492

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:
2 large onions, roughly chopped
3 – 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
4 large carrots, peeled, trimmed and chopped in 2 inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. canola oil
6 beef short ribs (about 3 inches long)
1 cup flour
1 750 mL bottles full-bodied red wine
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 cup brown sugar
Handful peppercorns
A generous pinch coarse salt
Black pepper, freshly ground

short-ribs-in-a-pot-3028

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (177 C)
Prepare all vegetables and place in large bowl. Add herbs and spices, set aside.
Cut ribs between the bones, and trim all excess outer fat.
Season ribs well with coarse salt. Dredge in flour till well coated.
In a large Dutch oven or wide soup pot, pour in oil to coat bottom of pan. On high heat, sear the ribs so they are browned well on all sides (about 3 min per side). Set aside.

short-ribs-veg-in-a-pot-3032

In same pan, transfer all vegetables from the bowl, and stir to caramelize and pick up all the brown bits.
Add meat back into pot. Pour wine over. Ensure all is covered and if not, top up with water.
Sprinkle on cocoa powder and brown sugar, bring to a boil, cover with a lid or foil, and place in oven till meat is fork tender. (About 3 hours)
Remove ribs to a platter and strain out the solids to use for something else.
Boil the cooking liquid in a wide shallow pan till it is reduced by half. It will be richer, more flavourful and thicker. Add a nub of butter at the end for sheen and flavour.

Recipe adapted from Foodnetwork.ca-Chuck Hughes

Let’s get healthy with Hoisin Beef & Cashew Lettuce Wraps!

steak-salad-lettuce-wraps

“It is never too late to be what you might have been”– George Eliot

Everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes it sounds like we only list things that we want to stop doing, rather than creating a list of things we should start doing.

The beginning of the year is a good time to take stock of your life and update your goals. I prefer to make goals that can be adjusted or updated as time goes on.. Afterall; life is an ongoing journey where goals help us to navigate toward where or what we want to be.

When you close your eyes and envision yourself as the person that you want to be, what do you see?

Do you see someone who is healthier, more successful, more artistic, more compassionate or someone else? Do you see a musician, a scholar, an athlete, a caring mother or a scientist? If you constantly envision yourself as that person you will start to see the path to get there.

Some of my own goals include being fit, eating healthy foods, being the best person I can be for my family, and being the best photographer for my clients and for my own work.

It all sounds simple, right? It can be, if you break it down into smaller goals within each of the broader goals. These are the goals that you revise or adjust as you move down the path. For example; if I want to eat healthy foods I need to focus on making recipes that will get me there. I need to make it a habit, rather than a sacrifice. No diets, not gimmicks, just delicious, healthy food.

One of the benefits of eating healthy food this time of year is that it counteracts my desire to fill up on heavy comfort foods. I feel better and have no guilt about pairing it with a glass of wine, once in a while.

If I were to call this a diet, it would only last a day or two. Instead, I tell myself this is a lifestyle choice that will keep me healthy. Eating well does not have to be bland and tasteless. This recipe is so rich in flavour from the Hoisin sauce and the cashews and it is simple to make.

Hoisin Beef & Cashew Lettuce Wraps

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 lb. beef tenderloin or top sirloin grilling medallions about 1 inch thick
1/3 cup hoisin sauce plus extra for dipping
1 head boston or green leaf lettuce, washed and leaves left whole
1 red pepper, finely julienned
½ cup green onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked jasmine rice (cook according to package instructions)

Directions:

Add the oil to a grill pan and heat on high. Sear beef on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn over and baste with hoisin sauce. Continue to baste on both sides and cook to medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Fill a whole lettuce leaf with a scoop of rice. Top with the red pepper, carrots, green onions, and cashews.

Slice the beef very thinly and add to the lettuce wraps.

Serve with some extra sauce on the side for dipping.

Recipe from Food and Drink Magazine-Early Summer 2014 edition

Cookin up Some Slow Cooker Love and Beef Stew

beef-stew-101-B

What a great week this has been! I was published in Resource Magazine’s Fall 2014 edition in an article that my friend, Skip Cohen, wrote about me. If you get a chance to read that edition you might enjoy it. The theme for the Fall 2014 edition is food photography. In addition to working on that article, I have been building up my lifestyle portfolio and shooting regularly. I am really grateful that I get to spend time doing something that I love; photography.

I don’t know about you, but another thing that makes me happy is cooking up some comfort food on a cold day. Sometimes I am like a big old bear. As soon as the weather turns cold, I a find myself craving old favourites like stew, chili, or homemade pasta. You would think I am preparing for a long winter of hibernation. With the skating season just beginning I will not be hibernating, but out getting my exercise doing something else that I love. Life is good!

While you are out and about preparing for the holidays, take some time to stop and enjoy a meal with your loved ones. We all get so busy that we lose sight of those around us but those simple times together are the moments that they will remember for years to come.

beef-stew-104

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

3lb.stewing beef
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 yellow waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
2 parsnips, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

beef-stew-prep

Directions:

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker. Add the Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onion, garlic, mushrooms, thyme and bay leaf.

Whisk together the beef broth, wine, tomato paste and Worchestershire sauce. Stir the wet mixture into the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours, until beef is tender and vegetables are cooked through. Skim off fat.

Whisk flour in 1/4 cup water until smooth, stir into the slow cooker. Turn the heat to high, cover and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20-30 minutes.

Remove Bay leaf and thyme sprigs and serve.

beef-stew-102

Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary and Ginger

Chicken-tagine-styled-V2

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

I am hearing the call of distant shores. My travel bug is starting to itch and I find myself pouring over books and websites to learn about exotic destinations. I imagine what it would be like to wander the towns and villages and to taste the local cuisine. I imagine the photo possibilities and the local culture. I am particularly inspired by beautiful architecture or places filled with art and rich in history.

I love roaming the countryside and seeing where the local food is produced. I love to visit a cooking school or taste some local wines at a vineyard. Some countries like France and Italy have such wonderful rural villages they make you wonder why we visit the cities at all.

I have so many places that I want to see; the challenge is choosing which one to visit first. For now, I will have to settle for trying some interesting new cuisine in my own back yard. I will create a culinary journey by featuring some international dishes over the next few months.

I am very fortunate to live in a city where the cultural diversity is part of everyday life and little pockets of ethnic food shops are easily found. Today, I am featuring a wonderful Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary and Ginger from Morocco.

A tagine is a cooking vessel used in North Africa to cook stews of meat, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits. The recipe cooked in this vessel is also referred to as a tagine.I am new to cooking with this type of vessel, but I was able to find one by Staub that has a cast iron bottom and ceramic cone shaped topper. It worked perfectly for this recipe which calls for the tagine to simmer on top of the stove creating a lovely brown skin on the meat as it cooks.

Traditionally tagines are also used for serving the dish in Moroccan cuisine. Many traditional tagines are made of clay and are glazed with beautiful designs for that reason.

If you do not have a tagine you can make this recipe in a cast iron pot that has a lid.

The chicken turned out to be very moist and tender and the apricots and honey add just the right amount sweetness to offset the ginger, rosemary and cinnamon. I was so please with flavours of this dish, I invited my daughters to pop over and try some. We all agreed that it is definitely worth making again. I will have to try more tagine recipes as well.

Chicken-Tagine-v2Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary, and Ginger

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil with a pat of butter
1 onion finely chopped
3 sprigs of rosemary, 1 finely chopped, 2 halved
1-1 ½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 red chilies, seeded and finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
8 chicken thighs
3/4 cup dried apricots
2 tbsp. clear honey
1- 14oz. can plum tomatoes with their juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil

Directions:
Heat the oil and butter in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Stir in the onion, chopped rosemary, ginger, and chilies and sauté until the onion begins to soften.
Stir in the halved rosemary sprigs and the cinnamon sticks. Add the chicken thighs and brown them on both sides.
Toss in the apricots and the honey, then, stir in the plum tomatoes with the juice. (Add a little water if necessary, to ensure enough liquid to cover the base of the tagine and submerge the apricots.)
Bring the liquid to a boil, then, reduce the heat. Cover with a lid and cook gently for 35-40 minutes.
Season to taste, with salt and pepper. Shred the larger basil leaves and leave the smaller ones intact. Sprinkle them over the chicken and serve immediately.
This dish would be perfect served with couscous or rice.

Recipe from Tagine-Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Basan

Starting a Healthy 2014 with Brussels Sprouts and Steak Stir Fry

_PMP1864brusselsprouts-and-steak-Brussels Sprouts and Steak Stir Fry

When I look back on 2013 I think of the wonderful memories we had while traveling in British Columbia and Seattle. I loved the west coast so much I am going back next week for another visit. I also spent time in 2013 learning food styling at the culinary institute at George Brown College.

2013 was also a good year for my blog. I had more than 6300 visitors from 87 countries throughout the year. The most popular post of the year was Adventures in Baking Ukrainian Easter Bread-Paska.

Writing a blog is a labour of love. I love sharing my adventures with my readers. I also love pushing myself to try new foods and to develop my culinary skills. I love styling and photographing the dishes when they are done. It is great fun creating a mood or a style that matches the dish and makes it look irresistible.

Most of all, I love the new friends that I have made while writing this blog. I really enjoy reading other people’s stories. I read dozens of blogs every week to catch up on the news and to see what everyone is cooking. In 2013 my favourite blogs included Hold the Gluten Please, Cooking in Sens, Anna Shortcakes, Apt 2B Baking Co., and Baking with Sibella.

I hope you continue to visit in 2014 while I cook up a mixture of healthy recipes, decadent baked goods and culinary adventures.

This stir fry of brussels sprouts with steak and carrots makes a healthy meal for families on the go. It is quick and easy but it is chock full of flavour. I know some of you are thinking that brussels sprouts do not have flavour. Well, I can tell you honestly that I did not like brussels sprouts when I was younger. I think it must have been because I had only tasted sprouts that had been boiled until they tasted like bland little balls of boiled cabbage.

A few years ago a friend made me some oven roasted sprouts and I was shocked at how good they tasted. They were slightly crunchy and full of sweet flavour. Now I enjoy them by roasting, sautéing them, stir frying them or steaming them.

Did you know that brussels sprouts have been found to contain high amounts of sulforaphane which reduces your risk of cancer and other properties that lower your cholesterol? These little balls of goodness hold some of the same attributes that are found in kale and other green leafy vegetables. Brussels sprouts can be delicious and good for you at the same time.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. oyster sauce
3 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
4 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 lb. brussels sprouts, halved
8 oz. flank or skirt steak, thinly sliced against the grain
Kosher salt
4 scallions, whites chopped, greens sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp. chopped peeled ginger
2 medium carrots, peeled, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 sweet orange or red pepper, sliced thinly
Basmati rice (for serving)

Directions:

Whisk oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl; set sauce aside.

Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add brussels sprouts and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate; wipe out skillet.

Season steak with salt. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in same skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add steak in a single layer; cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until nearly cooked through, about 30 seconds. Add to brussels sprouts.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp. oil in same skillet. Add scallion whites, garlic, and ginger and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute, adjusting heat as needed. Add carrots and peppers and cook, tossing occasionally, until carrots are slightly softened, about 2 minutes.

Return brussels sprouts and steak to skillet and add reserved sauce. Cook, tossing occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve with basmati rice and garnish with scallion greens.

Brussel-sprout-and-steak-stir-fry-v2

Recipe from Epicurious Dinner Rush Magazine

Celebrating Family Time with Roast Chicken with Balsamic Peppers

roast-chicken-with-peppers

Fall has been toying with us. One day last week it was 28 degrees C, the next day it was 15 degrees C and then back up to 22 degrees C. You don’t know from one day to the next what you should wear.

As summer slips away I think about the events of the past few months. I remember our travels to British Columbia and how while exploring Vancouver Island we fell in love with the Comox Valley. I remember days of long walks on the beach, kayaking, photography, and exploring new places. We enjoyed the fresh seafood of the west coast which we paired with great BC wines.

This summer has also been filled with family events; some happy, some sad.

My daughter and son in law moved into their first house. While carrying boxes into her lovely Victorian town home I remembered when I moved into my first house. The world was full of excitement and anticipation of what was going to come next. What I did not know at the time was that it would be the birth of my daughter.

We also celebrated my niece being called to the bar as a lawyer and my nephew’s marriage to a wonderful girl who he met while traveling in New Zealand. All of these events were filled with laughter, great food and family.

We also endured a very sad event where we said good bye to a wonderful member of our family. He was a special person to us all and he will be greatly missed.

Today we are waiting for the arrival of a new baby girl. Her mom is in hospital as I write this blog. Again, we are looking forward to creating wonderful memories with her and with her parents when she arrives.

Life takes us through ups and downs; through endings and beginnings. The one thing that stays constant is family and I am blessed with a great one.

When I think of family dinners I cannot help but remember my mother’s love for chicken. She made it so often for us that we called her “Chicken Mom”. She would love this recipe that I found in Cooking Light Magazine.

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Peppers

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Cooking spray
2 cups red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1/2 tsp. salt, fennel seeds, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and oregano. Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; sprinkle spice rub over chicken. Add 1 1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil to pan. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute.

Arrange chicken in an oven proof baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until done.

Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve bell pepper mixture over chicken.

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine- November, 2012 issue.

Spinach Salad with Chicken, Strawberries, Feta and Almonds

chicken-and-strawberry-salad

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the  walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want  to see.”

John  Burroughs

While I still have my memories of our time in British Columbia I have started to land back in reality, once again.

The past 2 weeks have been an endless blur of rushing to and fro, catching up on family and work commitments that were put on hold, while we vacationed. I don’t think we spend enough time enjoying life as we should.

In North America we take our few weeks per year vacation and then promptly return to our routines, quickly forgetting about the special time that we spent. In Europe, many countries take longer vacation periods where people pack up and go to the beach for a month in the summer.

Most of the time we live to work; while they work to live. It makes you wonder which culture has the right idea, doesn’t it?

Although the weeks are passing quickly, we are able to savour our last days of summer. We need to pack in a few more Bar BQs and a few trips to the beach before the cooler nights set in.

I love to enjoy a nice light salad for dinner, when I can. It balances all of the indulging that we do when cooking for a crowd. This recipe for Spinach Salad with Chicken, Strawberries, Feta and Almonds is a great salad that you can serve as a lunch or dinner entrée.

I also enjoy a glass of wine with my dinner, now and again. I paired this salad with a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from the Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery in the Niagara Escarpment. This wine has a soft, subtle taste of mango and honey that lingers on your tongue. The aroma of citrus, mango and lime; are a perfect complement to the spinach, feta and strawberries. The wine is available in Ontario at the LCBO or directly from the winery.

Spinach Salad with Chicken, Strawberries, Feta, and Almonds

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey
1 medium shallot, minced
6 oz. loosely packed baby spinach leaves (about 6 cups)
8 oz. strawberries, stemmed and quartered (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese (about 3/4 cup)

Directions:

Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Pat the chicken dry and season with 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Cook, turning once, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest, loosely covered with foil, for 5 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil with the vinegar, honey, shallot, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries, feta cheese, and almonds and toss with enough of the dressing to coat. Arrange the salad on a platter or plates. Slice the chicken and arrange on the salad. Drizzle with some of the remaining vinaigrette, if desired, and serve.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Fresh & Quick Magazine