Arugula Salad with Grilled Peaches and Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese

peach-salad-2

“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” -Tony Robbins

For a little more than a year I have been changing my life by adopting a healthier diet and exercising more. For years I barely exercised because of time commitments, work, children and any other excuse I could come up with. Then I started to see the negative results of my sedentary life; I was diagnosed with hypertension. With a family history of cardiac disease I decided that was my wake up call.

I started exercising regularly, eating less carbs and bad foods and exercising portion control. I took up cycling, skating, running, power walking and Zumba. I feel 10 years younger and I have more energy than I have had in years. I have a whole new wardrobe that is 2 sizes smaller and more stylish. My doctor tells me to keep up the good work and to wear a helmet when skating.

It has been an amazing year!

My concern is that this past month I have been slowly losing my focus. I can give you lots of excuses why this has happened like work commitments, school, computer problems, bad weather and just plain laziness. They all sound quite logical but the truth is I need to give myself a shake and get back on track.

From now on I plan to get out running more and have started power walking home again. My wonderful bicycle, Victoria, is going to get a workout while I push her along the trails in the hope of beating my own distance record from last season.

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz 1937 – American football coach

As I get back on track I will be eating some healthy dinners like this Arugula Salad with Grilled Peaches and Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese. I found the recipe on Eatingwell.com and changed it up by grilling the peaches and changing the dressing. The flavour of the peaches is enhanced by the grill and the honey adds a subtle sweetness to the dressing that works very well with the goat cheese.

My friends say it is the best tasting salad that I have ever made.

Arugula Salad with Grilled Peaches and Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 4-oz. log goat cheese
6 cups baby arugula
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
4 firm peaches, halved and pitted
3 tbsp. honey

Directions:

Place pecans in a frying pan and toast slowly over med-low heat. Chop finely.

Spread out chopped pecans on a cutting board. Season with 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Roll goat cheese log in the pecans to coat. Refrigerate the log until firm, if necessary, then cut into ¼ inch slices.

Grill peach halves until slightly soft, about 1-2 minutes per side.

Place arugula in a medium bowl. Whisk oil, vinegar and 1 tbsp. honey in a small bowl. Add to the arugula and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.

Serve arugula in individual salad plates. Top with grilled peaches and goat cheese rounds and drizzle each salad with 1 tsp. honey.

Recipe adapted from one on EatingWell.com

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Asparagus, Fingerling Potato and Goat Cheese Pizza

Asparagus-Pizza

Writing a food blog is about passion. You need to have passion for food, for cooking, for baking or for sharing your love of life. I am passionate about the joy that great food brings to our lives. Many of my fondest memories include times when I have shared meals with my dear old friends, loved ones and new friends. It is amazing how you can bring people together by sharing a meal with them.

I remember times when I was a child and my family was all gathered around a table having a traditional Sunday dinner. When we got older and moved out on our own we started to experiment with different cuisines. We would gather together a my sister’s ski chalet and create amazing dinners with each person taking responsibility for a course. We experimented with fine French cooking and many Italian dishes. Fondues were a popular way to warm up the evening.

In those days we would all return from a day of skiing and gather around the fire with a glass of wine to recant they day’s events. The stories were always entertaining. Some of us were racers; skiing with the best on the mountain. Others were eager to learn and happy to just enjoy the sunshine and the exercise. I was one of the latter. I never really got to be an expert skier but I always enjoyed the day. I looked forward to coming home to a great meal, a glass of wine by the fire and great times with family and friends.

Last week I went back to Blue Mountain for the first time in many years. The mountain has undergone major development and there is an amazing ski village at the foot of the hill. We stayed in a beautiful condo about 100 yards from the lodge the had a fireplace and a full kitchen. It was like being there so many years ago. A glass of wine by the fire, followed by a dinner in a local bistro made all of those wonderful memories come rolling back.

While we were there we were hit with a major snow storm. We woke up to snow-covered trees right outside our door and a winter wonderland that was breathtaking. Everything was covered in a blanket of sparkling white, fluffy snow. Our thoughts were so far from the drive home. All we were thinking about was living in the moment. My skills on the hills are still not the best, but I had a wonderful time.

I still am experimenting with new foods and discovering new cuisines but I still love to cook Italian food. I enjoy discovering new ways to bake a pizza. This recipe offers a sensational combination of fingerling potatoes, goat cheese and asparagus. This vegetarian pizza is a healthy, yet delicious choice.

Asparagus, Fingerling Potato, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Makes 4 -6 servings

Ingredients:

5 ounces fingerling potatoes
Cornmeal or Semolina (for sprinkling)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Pizza dough (for recipe see below)
1 garlic clove, pressed
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
4 oz. soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
8 oz. asparagus, trimmed, each spear cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2 to 3-inch pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Asparagus-Pizza-on-paddle

Directions:

Place potatoes in small saucepan. Cover with salted water to 1 inch above the potatoes. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut potatoes into thin slices.

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Place pizza stone in bottom 1/3 of the oven to heat. Sprinkle with ¼ cup cornmeal.

Roll and stretch pizza dough to 16 inch round. Transfer to a pizza paddle that has also been sprinkled with cornmeal.

Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic in small bowl. Brush garlic oil over dough. Sprinkle green onions over dough, then mozzarella, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Top with potato slices and goat cheese. Toss asparagus and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium-sized bowl. Scatter asparagus over pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then lightly with salt and generously with pepper.

Reduce the oven temperature to 450°F.

Slide pizza from pizza paddle to pizza stone carefully.

Bake pizza until crust is browned and asparagus is tender, about 16-18 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut into pieces.

Recipe modified from Epicurious.com

For Pizza Dough recipe click here

Tomato and Goat Cheese Quiche

We are approaching the last weeks of summer and the weather is changing. We have had a few rainy days and in the air there is a feeling of cooler days ahead. I always remember that the middle of August was the start of cooler nights in Toronto. That said, we are still enjoying our wonderful city and the summer days.

When I am not out training for my walk and run I have been working on building a new website. I had forgotten how much work it was to create a special showcase for your work. Stay tuned for the go-live. I have also done some travelling that I will feature in my next post.

In addition, I have been touring many of Toronto’s markets and local eateries.Even though I live a big city our local farmers markets are a good source of fresh organic produce from the surrounding area.

I love the abundance of the seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. One of my favourite things in August is the taste of a fresh picked tomato off of the vine. I have been growing my own herbs but not any vegetables although some of my high-rise neighbours grow cherry tomatoes on the their balconies and patios with great success.

This recipe for tomato and goat cheese quiche makes a great dish for brunch or lunch that is packed with flavour.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Quiche

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 branches of cherry tomatoes on the vine
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
4 large eggs
½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
2 tbsp. (30 ml) oregano leaves
8 oz. (250 g) soft goat cheese

Directions
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry large enough to line the bottom and sides of an 11 x 5 inch (28×12 cm) rectangular tart pan. Gently press the pastry into the pan and trim the edges. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Chill for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Bake the tart shell for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). On a small baking sheet drizzle the tomatoes on the vine with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the garlic, sugar, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Roast until the tomatoes are slightly blistered, about 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the custard.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Break the goat cheese into pieces and scatter over the tart shell. Carefully place the tomatoes in the tart shell. Pour the egg mixture over the cheese and tomatoes.
Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). bake the quiche until the filling is set and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Trim the edges if desired, remove quiche from the pan, cut into portions.

Recipe from Pitchin’ In by Lynn Crawford

Tomato, Goat Cheese and Ricotta Tart

My favourite vegetables are tomatoes. I know technically tomatoes are a fruit but in the culinary world they are referred to as vegetables. When the fresh heirloom tomatoes start to show up in the markets during the summer I am in heaven. I love tasting all of the colourful varieties in various shapes and sizes. When you bite into a freshly picked tomato you taste a burst of flavour that makes you smile from the inside out.

Just add a little salt and pepper, a touch of good olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic glaze and you have heaven on a plate.

This Tomato, Goat Cheese and Ricotta Tart has a great mix of flavours from the herbed ricotta and goat cheese layered with fresh tomatoes and baked on a light fluffy, puffed pastry crust. It would make a wonderful appetizer or a great lunch tart served with a green salad.

Tomato, Goat Cheese and Ricotta Tart

Tomatoe-tarts-on-a-pizza-board

Ingredients

½ lb. (225 G) ready rolled puff pastry, thawed (1/2 package)
3 tbsp. roasted pine nuts
2 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. large leaf basil, chopped
5 oz. (150 g) ricotta cheese, drained
4 oz. (100 g) crumbly goat cheese
4-6 assorted seasonal or heirloom tomatoes, sliced (look for a variety of colours and sizes)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the pastry into 2 pieces and lay on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Turn the edges over by 1/3 inch to make a rough border. Scatter the crust with pine nuts and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Put the ricotta in a small bowl, mix in the herbs and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spoon the mixture onto the pastries. Crumble the goat cheese over the ricotta mixture. Lay the tomatoes over the cheese mixture arranging the colours around for variety. Sprinkle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and the cheese golden. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Food and Travel Magazine

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Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Compote

The holidays are over and the weather is getting colder in Toronto. We have started to work on our New Year’s resolutions to eat healthy, exercise more and to de-stress our lives. I look at the New Year as a new beginning where I can reset my life by making changes as needed and move closer to my goals by making my annual lists. I make lists of personal, career, and financial goals that I want to achieve in the coming year. I often include things like exercising regularly, or maintaining work-life balance or expanding my photographic portfolio. Others have their own way of approaching the New Year but in the end we all want to make our lives better and more fulfilling.

You may want to spend more time with the ones that you love or you may want to travel more or you may just want to pay off the holiday bills. We all have something that is important to us and in these economic times many of us want to keep life simple.

When I think of entertaining in a low stress fashion I look for recipes that are simple, yet elegant to serve. This simple but elegant meal is a compilation of 2 recipes that I found online.  The Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin is from the Food Network Canada and the Cranberry compote from the LCBO Food & Drink Magazine.

I decided to use cranberry compote with the tenderloin because I love the way that the pork and cranberries complement each other, the compote is tart and fruity while the pork is rich, creamy with goat cheese filling. The marriage of the fruit compote with the pork is light and flavourful yet textured enough to be interesting.

You can make this dish any time during the year and for any occasion.

 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Compote
Makes 6 servings

Cranberry Compote

Ingredients
1/3 cup (75 ml) finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons (25 ml) water
2 cups (500 ml) fresh cranberries, divided
¾ cup (175 ml) dry red wine
½ cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
1 large apple or almost-ripe pear, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons (10 ml) freshly grated ginger
1 cinnamon stick

Directions
Combine onion and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile cut ½ cup (125ml) of cranberries in half, set aside. Stir remaining cranberries, red wine, sugar, apples and ginger into onions. Add cinnamon stick.
Bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Adjusting the heat as needed, briskly simmer mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir in reserved cranberry halves, simmer another 5 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate until need. (Compote can be made 2 to 3 days ahead)

Recipe for Cranberry Compote from the LCBO Food & Drink Magazine-Holiday 2009 edition

Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients
2 Pork tenderloin, centre cut approximately 6 inches in length
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup (175 ml) goat cheese, crumbled
Zest of 2 lemons
1 ½ tablespoons (22 ml) fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cracked pepper
Butcher twine

Directions
Preheat oven to 395 degrees F (201 degrees C)
Use a sharp knife to “butterfly” the pork tenderloins. This is done by making an incision mid way through the length of the tenderloin (so it opens like a book). Be sure to leave ½ inch uncut at the base.
Season both sides with salt and pepper. Cover loins with cling film and pound with a meat tenderizer until the surface is flat. Do not over pound the meat as it will affect the texture of the pork.
In a medium sized bowl mix together the goat cheese, lemon zest and basil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pepper. Mix gently to combine being careful not to bruise the basil.
Remove plastic wrap from loins and spoon goat cheese mixture down the centre of each loin leaving ¾ inch border all around. Roll up making a compact and even roll. Tie with butcher string down and around each loin with a tie at 1 inch intervals ensuring the roll stays intact. Cut off excess string.
Rub outside of each loin with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season both to taste with salt and pepper.
Set a large skillet over medium high heat, add the remaining olive oil and heat 30 seconds. The pan should be hot but not smoking.
Place pork loins in the skillet and allow them to cook until deep golden brown caramelized crust forms. Turn and repeat until both loins are golden brown. Place skillet in preheated oven and allow them to cook for another 12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and place the loins on a plate and cover with foil. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. This will allow the meat to rest and give the filling a chance to firm up.
To serve slice 1 inch pieces of pork using a sharp knife. Divide the pork onto plates with 2 tablespoons of the cranberry compote on the side.
Serve immediately.

Recipe for Goat Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin adapted from a recipe on the Food Network.ca by Angela MacRae