Dressings and Dips

Keeping the Whole Family Happy

One of the reasons “Zoë’s Kitchen” was born was because I was tired of a turned up nose every time dinner time came around. It’s been a wonderful project to have both of my girls more involved in the preparation of dinner and they do appreciate the food more.

However, I still hit a wall when I try to serve them some kind of salad. They don’t do lentils in any form, barley is a no-no unless it’s in a soup and beets are way too brightly coloured to be sensible food (don’t talk to me about brightly coloured crayons, I don’t have an answer to that).

Still, I refuse to stop making salads. I know how important it is for the girls to see what we eat and enjoy and their tastes will develop as they grow older. In the meantime, I have to include something on the table that they will like with the ultimate goal being able to sit and enjoy dinner with the whole family without having to get up. Haven’t achieved it 100% yet but ever hopeful!

Tonight’s dinner was Barley and Lentil Salad with Beets. It’s a one-pot sustaining dish that is yummy but the girls, I know, wouldn’t touch it. So I defrosted some soup I had in the freezer and served it alongside a basket of bread. Following the principles that Ellyn Satter outlines in her books, it’s important to have something on the table that everybody will eat. Even if it is bread – be patient and the bread will become boring and the interest for the salad will pique. I’ve seen this happen in my older daughter – who will now venture into a green salad – but that’s not to say I wasn’t doubtful along the way. It’s hard to imagine, but rest assured – it will!

Meanwhile, the Lentil and Barley Salad was delicious. It wasn’t based on a strict recipe – as salad so isn’t but it’s something like this:


1 cup pot barley, cooked*
1 cup lentils, cooked*
1 cup cubed beets, cooked*
1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup sliced red onion
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1/2 fennel, chopped (optional)
3 miniature sweet peppers, alternative colours, chopped
2 cups shredded arugula
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
6oz chopped goat cheese

Salad Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp mustard
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/8 cup flax oil (can substitute with extra-virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Set your ingredients out so everything is ready to mix together.

Set your ingredients out so everything is ready to mix together.

Always keep an eye on toasting nuts. Pine nuts can go from pale to burnt in seconds

Always keep an eye on toasting nuts. Pine nuts can go from pale to burnt in seconds

In a stainless steel skillet over a medium heat, brown pine nuts, then set aside to cool.









I love my Magic Bullet for making dressings.

I love my Magic Bullet for making dressings.

Make salad dressing using a blender or chopping all ingredients finely and shaking vigorously in a mason jar. Set aside.

Chop vegetables (carrot, celery, fennel if using, onion and peppers). Set aside in a small bowl. Prepare torn arugula and cilantro and set aside.

Mix cooled barley and lentils together in a large bowl. Pour in enough dressing to coat and flavour ingredients. Add in cubed beets and mix until pink hue spreads evenly. Add in pine nuts, carrot, celery, onion, peppers and cilantro.

Distribute salad on a serving platter and sprinkle crumbled goat cheese over top.


Colourful, nutritious and delicious salad.

Colourful, nutritious and delicious salad.


Note: Flavour intensifies over time so make sure you save some for tomorrow’s lunch. These types of salads are even better the next day.

* Cook barley in salted water for 45 minutes, then drain. Cook lentils until soft (30-40 minutes) in salted water, drain. Scrub beets and roast with skins in 400ºF oven for approx 1 hour. Let cool slightly before peeling and chopping.


Toppings for Greens

We all need greens in our diet but it’s hard when you struggle to eat them. Adding toppings can totally change the flavour so you can really enjoy your food and benefit from these wonderful vegetables at the same time.

Steam the greens for 2 minutes, drain them and toss them with any of these toppings:

– Sliced mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil until browned. Add 1 tbsp of chopped parsley, salt and pepper and a slash of balsamic vinegar. Cook for 1 more minute before mixing with the greens.

– Saute 3 cloves sliced garlic with 1 cup drained and diced no salt added canned whole peeled tomatoes in 2 tbsp olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup shredded parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

– Toast 1/4 cup pecan or walnut pieces in a skillet until browned. Add to greens with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

– Saute a large sliced onion in 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet until golden brown and caramelized, approximately 10-15 minutes. Season with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. This goes well with the toasted nuts above.

– Whisk together 2 tsp toasted sesame oil, 1 tbsp tamari and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Add 2 tbsp sesame seeds and 2 tsp grated fresh ginger.

Ideas adapted from The Healthy Cook at Nutrition Action Newsletter

Zoë’s Kitchen – Coconut Chicken Fingers

This is probably one of the most successful meals I’ve made for the kids. The whole family enjoyed it and it made for an awesome lunch. Because I am at home with the kids and therefore, we live on one salary, I can’t justify the ready-made chicken strips to make this so I cut up a whole chicken, included the legs and made broth from the bones. (I’m only telling you this because the picture isn’t going to look like perfect chicken finger strips).

We made the chicken fingers, and the sauce, Zoë had Mark help her BBQ the corn from this week’s organic box and we steamed some broccoli for our greens.

While serving up, we put some chicken fingers in a bento box, with some dipping sauce and pieces of steamed broccoli that Zoë can dip in as well tomorrow at school. Add a bread roll, the cinnamon apple and the snacks and ….. done. It all went. I’ll definitely make this again.


Coconut Chicken Fingers with Lime Dipping Sauce

For Chicken Fingers:
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tbsp plain flour
1/8th tsp sea salt and freshly ground pepper (each)
2 tbsp plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

For the Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp lime zest
1 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the chicken into 1/2″ strips if not already. Place in a bowl and sprinkle flour and seasoning. Toss to coat, then add the yogurt and coat well.

In a resealable bag, place the coconut and the garlic. Add the chicken, close and shake to coat.

Remove the chicken and lay in strips on the baking tray. Make sure all the strips are covered well.

Bake, turning halfway through, until chicken is golden brown and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the sour cream, lime zest, juice and honey. Set aside 1/4 cup for lunch and enough chicken strips for lunch. Serve remainder immediately.

Recipe adapted from Eshun Mott, author of Whining and Dining.

What’s Cooking? Creamy Cucumber Salad

This idea came to me from my green box courtesy of Mama Earth. They included an Ontario cucumber which I sliced with a mandolin so it’s super thin. Then I sprinkled the slices with 1 tsp of salt and left it in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse the slices and pat them dry.

In the meantime, thinly slice half a red onion and soak the slices in cold water for 15 minutes.

I made up the following dressing and tossed all the ingredients together.

1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

So simple and quick, it works well particularly with baked fish or chicken but goes with just about anything.

What do I do with …… Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the curly shoots at the top of the garlic plant. Farmers trim them off so the energy can be directed into the bulb. But rather than throw them away, they are treasured by many chefs for their mild garlic flavour.

Only available for a few weeks a year (we are coming to the end now), they can be used for anything that you would put garlic into. Risotto, omelettes, soups but best of all, pesto. Garlic scapes make a great pesto.

Trim the tough stalks of the bottom, wash them and put about 1/2 lb of them in a food processor together with:

1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup walnuts (or toasted pinenuts)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

The pesto is so versatile, it can be used a sandwich spread, pasta sauce or spread on top of baked fish.

What do I do with …… Kale?

Kale is a superfood. Packed with vitamins and flavonoids, antioxidants and anti-cancer nutrients called glucosinolates, it’s a wonderful and easy addition every day since it’s also very versatile.

The older the kale, the more bitter it is so choose a bunch with smaller leaves. It may be worth buying the organic version for this reason. Store it in a plastic bag in the fridge if you aren’t using it right away, it starts to wilt (even in the vegetable drawer) quite quickly.
Unless you are juicing it, you need to strip the leaves from the stem.

For breakfast, juice it or strip the leaves from the stem and add it to a smoothie for a powerful greens drink. Try it with watermelon and banana.
In a cooked breakfast, strip the leaves and gently saute with garlic and a little cayenne. Serve with a poached egg on top and some toast.

For lunch, prepare it in a salad by using it a base or mixing it with other greens. If you prepare it in the morning, a dressing made from olive oil, half the amount of lemon juice and a dash of honey will reduce it’s bitterness by lunchtime. You can also chop it in a food processor if you find it tough. Add some raisins, toasted walnuts or pinenuts and some grated parmesan cheese.
It would also be great with a homemade caesar dressing. In fact, the possibilities for a salad are endless.

Kale works wonderfully in a soup too (try it in a bean soup) since it’s hardy enough that it doesn’t break up. Strip the leaves, roughly chop and add to the soup 5-8 minutes before the end of cooking time.

Finely chop the kale and mix in with a couple of beaten eggs, salt and pepper and smoked paprika for a delicious and nutritious omelette.

As a snack, kale chips are great! Easy to do too. Strip the leaves off a fresh bunch of kale, wash and pat dry. Roughly chop, toss with olive oil and sea salt and bake on a baking tray at 350°F for 15-20 minutes until crispy but not burnt.

For dinner, saute or steam chopped kale as a side dish or prepare as a salad. You can add it to a pasta dish, a soup or a stew 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

The following is a good dinner idea for this time of year, as the temperature goes down, keep the quinoa warm, as it goes up, cold quinoa will make a cooling salad.

Kale Quinoa Salad

1 bunch kale washed and chopped
1 cup quinoa cooked
1/4 c parmesan cheese (optional)
Handful dried cranberries
1/8 cup goat’s feta cheese
1 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
Pinch pepper and salt

Prepare the dressing in a small bowl or a jar (shake well to emulsify).

Toss together kale and quinoa and pour in dressing. Mix well and add remaining ingredients.

Words of warning:
1. Although kale is not on the top 12 “dirty dozen” list of heavily contaminated fruits and vegetables, it is a runner-up so is sometimes worth buying organic, especially for somebody with a compromised immune system.
2. Kale is part of the brassica family which, if eaten raw, can be hard on the thyroid. If you have thyroid issues, steam it for a minute or two before preparing it.
3. Kale can aggravate a gallbladder attack, if you suffer from gallstones, do not consume it every day.

If you are healthy however, eat as much as you like in any form! It’s a wonderful food.