Category Archives: Greens

Healthy Eating at the Buffet

I was at a wonderful all inclusive resort last week in Rose Hall Montego Bay teaching fitness and enjoying some sunshine. I was planning on giving a quick nutrition talk on healthy eating on vacation and at the buffet, however the plans were changed. I still gave the talk plenty of thought and wish to share it here.

All you can eat buffet, does that mean we should eat all we can? The short answer is no it is not a good idea to eat all that you can. Food is for nourishment and enjoyment. Our body is rebuilt on a daily basis, so we need food as fuel. Eating excessive quantities of food essentially causes illness when there is too much food for your system to digest. There is a spectrum of how much food our appetite and bodies can handle. Ever notice how special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving can prompt us to eat extra? A buffet is a similar concept with even more choice and more volume of food. At an all inclusive resort, we have the privilege to choose just about anything we want. That’s the first concept to keep in mind, it is a privilege to have access to such a vast quantity of food, so the first rule is to minimize waste.

The most appealing aspect of a buffet is the huge variety and choice there is. I recommend taking a walk around the entire food selection and noting what seems most appealing to you. Often the desserts appeal most to me, which is something I have loved since childhood. A sweet childhood memory is going to look at the desserts right away and plotting out which ones I would try first.

Once you have taken it all in, carefully select the foods the have the most appeal to you. I like trying many different dishes, so I partake in a few bites of many things. I find inspiration in learning new flavours and cooking techniques. In addition, make yourself a proper meal that has a mixture of protein, fat, carbohydrates and most importantly, vegetables with the selection that is available.

There was one day that I tested out the possibility of eating all that I could, so I ate a bit extra. I noticed my appetite decreased the next day and then I continued to stick with the concepts I mention here for the rest of my holiday. I did manage to put on a pound or two even with daily exercise. An all you can eat buffet is a lesson in self mastery with a little self discipline.

Salad meals…we make our own

I have always wondered how a person could eat a salad for lunch or dinner, as it has always been an unsatisfying meal for me. I have ordered salads from all sorts of restaurants and specialized ‘healthy’ food places to feel disappointment in having a salad as a light lunch, never mind as dinner. A UK trainer friend shared the nutrition and healthy lifestyle tip of learning how to make your favourite food very well as a way of motivating yourself to cook. In my case of having a salad for a meal, the idea always sounded good, but it never worked until I started making lunch salads myself.

After a year of getting into the habit of having salads for lunch on a regular basis, I maintain it is best that you make your own to suit your own tastes, nutritional and digestive needs.  Salads are a great way to enjoy raw foods, in other words, natural, whole foods with the only processing being chopping. Selection of the raw foods makes a difference in digestion and energy levels when you pay attention, as every person is different. Here are some salads I have found be  satisfying meals:

pear arugula salad

Arugula and pear salad

Arugula pear salad with honey, shaved cheese and pecans: The combination of sweet, tart pear with the bite and slight bitterness of arugula is a classic combination. Dress the arugula leaves with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then top with sliced pear, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of honey then shaved grana padano cheese and pecans.

mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken, avocado, mango, cilantro and lime

mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken, avocado, mango, cilantro, lime and a sprinkling of string cheese

Mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken and mango: This salad is a fusion of several sources of inspiration. I ate the most delicious Mexican taco salad with slow cooked chicken at the San Francisco airport this year and I came home and wanted to make my own slow cooked chicken right away. Chili infused macadamia oil is a discovery I made in Hawaii a few years ago then mixed together with cilantro and lime from a farmer’s market for a most delicious, fresh salad dressing. This salad of chopped romaine and any other mixed greens on hand, is topped with green onion, sugar snap peas, cucumber, avocado, cilantro. Dressed with salt, pepper, a drizzle of chili infused macadamia oil, a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice, tossed and topped with slow cooked chicken, fresh mango pieces and a sprinkling of string cheese (just happened to have it on hand from a Lebanese store).

Greek salad with grilled halloumi

Greek salad with grilled halloumi

‘Greek’ salad topped with grilled halloumi cheese:

A Greek friend explained to me years ago that a greek salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. I have taken creative liberty with this concept and my greek salad consists of romaine lettuce (other greens if available), green onion, cucumber, cherry tomato, chopped olives, fresh mint, parsley and oregano, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, tossed and served with grilled halloumi cheese.

I hope the salads I mention above look appealing and inspire you to create your own. What the salads have in common is a slightly longer list of fresh ingredients with flavour and the technique of salting the salad greens first (a key step in bringing out the flavour of the greens), drizzling with oil then citrus juice. Also works the same way with any other type of dressing. The possibilities in making your own salad combinations are unlimited in your choice of greens, other veggies or fruit, protein sources, flavourful  toppings like fresh herbs, cheese, olives, crunchy toppings like nuts or seeds. Enjoy!


Recipe: Dandelion Greens with Lemon

I developed a surprise liking for dandelion greens last summer in Italy. I ordered the sauteed greens on the menu at a pizzeria, and a plate of greenish grey cooked leafy greens arrived on a plate smothered in olive oil. The unappealing looks were deceiving, as what appeared to be overcooked greens were absolutely delicious. I looked through the leafy greens available at the grocery store and determined I had eaten cicoria, Italian dandelion. I bought the cicoria and tried to lightly saute them with garlic and was not able to replicate the deliciousness I had at the local pizzeria.

I was reluctant to try dandelion greens at home, as they looked a bit different, and I got over my reservations. I also learned that they need to be lightly boiled in salted water to mellow the bitter flavour. Squeezing the cooked greens removes excess water and allows for a better saute. Dandelion greens can be delicious without overcooking, the secret is to be generous with the olive oil and lemon. In addition to being delicious, dandelion greens are a source of vitamins A, C and K, iron and calcium.


1 bunch dandelion greens, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 clove of garlic, sliced

Olive oil to your taste, probably a minimum of one tablespoon

salt and pepper to taste

lemon juice to taste

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add dandelion greens and return to a boil for a minute or two. Rinse with cool water in a colander. Once greens are cool, squeeze excess water with your hands.

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until it starts to brown slightly. Add dandelion greens and cook until warmed through and thoroughly coated with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Greens at breakfast, lunch and dinner

Eating greens at breakfast, lunch and dinner is dietary advice I recently discussed at an all inclusive resort in Jamaica.  I believe that having the intent to put greens on your plate at breakfast, lunch and dinner helps to create the lifelong healthy habit of eating greens daily. I will admit that having greens for breakfast is not a daily habit I have, however, I have eggs and greens whenever I can. Callaloo and eggs are one of my favourites.

Eggs and callaloo with plaintain

Eggs and callaloo with plaintain

I have noticed that lots  of people do not like greens, and my suggestion is to keep trying until you find some green vegetables you like to eat. There are so many green vegetables to choose from that there must be some that you will like. Try to see eating greens as a culinary adventure-Making Life Good recommends to try a green vegetable you have not eaten in the past week, every week.

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts were not on my list of regular veggies for a long time. My mom served them boiled a few times during my upbringing, no one liked them and I stayed away for a long time. Even delicious versions of brussels sprouts at Campagnolo and Momofuku Daisho did not motivate me to cook them. We had roasted brussels sprouts with Christmas dinner and I discovered they were tasty!!

Brussels sprouts are of the cruciferous family of vegetables with sinigrin and sulforaphane as antioxidant, detoxifying nutrients in addition to vitamin A, C, E and lutein. Roasting (caramelization improves the flavour) and sauteing are the best ways to go with cooking brussels sprouts. Lemon juice, vinegar, and nuts are good accompaniments. Here is a super simple recipe:

1 pound brussels sprouts, washed, and cut into halves or quarters for even size pieces

1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil

1/4 cup dried cherries (optional)

salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss brussels sprouts in shallow baking dish with oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with dried cherries if using. Roast for 10-15 minutes until desired doneness. Season further with salt, pepper and lemon juice as desired. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Roasted brussels sprouts with dried cherries

Roasted brussels sprouts with dried cherries

Recipe: Herb Lentil and Rice Soup

This is my favourite soup lately for the cold weather and as lighter fare for the holiday season. The brightness of fresh herbs and lime juice adds an interesting zest of flavour.

1 cup red lentils, rinsed

1/4 cup rice, rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 plum tomato, finely diced

1 bay leaf

5-6 cups vegetable stock

1 lime, juiced

1 cup chopped dill, cilantro and parsley

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute garlic, onion, carrot, celery until softened. Add tomato, saute for another minute. Add vegetable stock, bay leaf, lentils and rice, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils and rice are desired texture. Season with salt, pepper, lime juice. Stir in fresh herbs and enjoy.


Recipe: Cabbage Soup

While I was in Italy this summer enjoying quantities of parmesan cheese with my dear friend JK, he mentioned that his family makes a great soup with parmesan rinds. I had veggie stock in need to a soup recipe last week and came across a cabbage soup with parmesan in the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. Here is the recipe inspired by Plenty. I must say this cabbage soup was a delicious surprise. Omit the chili if you prefer no spice, however, I believe it adds a special complexity to the flavour of the soup.

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 red chili pepper, finely chopped seeds removed

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 medium napa cabbage, cut finely or shredded

1 medium potato, peeled and diced finely

4-5 cups vegetable stock

1-2 parmesan rinds

salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon to taste

In a large pot, over medium heat, saute onion, garlic and chili until soft. Add diced potato and cabbage, saute for a minute or so. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add parmesan rinds reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow the soup to sit covered until it comes close to room temperature. Remove and discard the parmesan rinds. Using an immersion blender or a food processor, pulse until soup is fairly smooth. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste-enjoy!

Recipe: Kale Salad

Kale salad is something that I eat occasionally, and enjoy the most at Foxley restaurant in Toronto. My good friend Kathryn recently served me a kale salad in Tuscany based on the salad she frequently orders at a Toronto restaurant. Perhaps it was the Italian kale-her salad was a vast improvement on the restaurant version and inspired me to make it! This salad is incredibly easy to make and a delicious, healthy choice of greens. Kale contains vitamin A, K and C, antioxidants we all need. I brought home some fig flavoured pecorino cheese from Italy, which was a special touch. Otherwise pecorino cheese works well.

1 bunch of black kale, stems removed, cut very finely horizontally across the leaf

Juice of 1 lemon or more to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons currants

Grated pecorino cheese, to taste

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix together kale and lemon juice thoroughly with your hands (‘massage’ the kale with the lemon juice). Drizzle olive oil and mix well. Mix in currants and toss with grated pecorino. Let stand for 15 minutes, or refrigerate covered, overnight. Add sunflower seeds and ground pepper before serving, enjoy.





Recipe: Italian Green Salad

Here is a green salad recipe that I created upon my arrival in Tuscany after my first trip to the grocery store. I found sea asparagus at the fish counter, and it is called ‘algae’ here. Not the most appealing, but sea asparagus is a delicious and nutritious plant food. Everyone enjoyed this salad and the key is the infused olive oil.

For Infused Olive Oil:

1/2 red chili pepper, sliced

1 clove garlic, sliced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

coarse salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, stir together sliced pepper, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let oil infuse for a few hours or a day.

For green salad:

6 cups mixed baby greens

1 small cucumber, diced

1 tomato, diced

1 green onion, sliced

1 cup green beans, cut in half

1/2 cup sea asparagus, rinsed (optional)

Balsamic vinegar to taste

Bring a medium pot of water to boil, add green beans and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add sea asparagus briefly. Take off heat, drain, and rinse under cold water.

In a large bowl, toss baby greens, cucumber, tomato, green onion, green beans and sea asparagus with desired quantity of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons). Drizzle balsamic vinegar to taste, enjoy.





Recipe: Sauteed Kale with Apple

Here is a recipe that I have used for a few years inspired by Eating Well magazine and Feeding the Whole Family cookbook. I generally like organic black kale best for the milder flavour and texture. The mix of butter, brown sugar, dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar brings the flavours of kale and apple together very nicely. This is a veggie side dish that is finished up quickly!

1 bunch organic black kale

1-2 royal gala apples, cored and sliced thin

1 tablespoon of salted butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat, saute apple slices and sprinkle with brown sugar for 2-3 minutes. Add kale and saute until kale is bright green and desired tenderness, 2-3 minutes. Stir in dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar.  Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Sauteed Kale with Apple

Sauteed Kale with Apple