green bean, pea + asparagus salad with vanilla vinaigrette

I’ll admit I’ve never felt strong feelings towards green beans, most likely something I’ve carried through from childhood. Surely the only green things children like are green snakes, green smarties, green leaves (yeah, not that spinach stuff, I mean the sugary spearmint leaves) and so on and so forth. I often scream with excitement when my children eat a couple of green peas (on the inside of course; on the outside I’m truly too scared to even breath or even move in case they sense my satisfaction and then proceed to spit it out and completely ruin my moment of triumph). So when my son saw me eating my vanilla greens, he was quite confused as to how it wasn’t in the shape of a cake. Can you blame him?

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I thought it was about time I put my big girl pants on and acquaint myself with green beans, because if I can love other green veggies, why not spread the love ’round? And if there’s a recipe for persuading even the most stubborn greens eater, this is the one. The warm vanilla vs the zingy apple cider vinegar vs the mint…it just works. These three greens go fabulously together but you can choose whatever you like, such as leek, snow peas or even just simple spinach. I’ve served this salad with fish and even red meat, but it is delicious in it’s own right, not to mention super healthy. It’s safe to say I won’t be neglecting the humble green bean anymore.

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green bean, asparagus + pea salad with vanilla vinaigrette – serves 1, or 2 as a side

you’ll need…

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • 100g green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla powder, or seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • handful of mint leaves, to serve

here’s what you do…

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil and add a few pinches of salt. Once boiling, pop in your asparagus, beans and peas and put your timer on for 3 minutes (if your asparagus is quite thick, you might need to cook for longer, in which case put it in before the beans and peas and time accordingly). Drain and refresh in cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, combine the oil, vinegar and vanilla and season well.
  3. Assemble greens on the plate, slicing some asparagus spears and beans lengthways in half for presentation. Drizzle over the dressing, scatter with mint leaves and season accordingly.

barley, tofu + spinach salad with miso dressing

barley tofu spinach salad miso dressing

I often get stuck in between meals during the transitional months, not quite sure whether its warm enough for a bowl of leafy greens or cool enough to slurp soup. Autumn is funny that way, with its crisp, cool mornings. You’re fooled into thinking you’ll be needing your trackpants all day long, before the sun peeks its nose out from behind that cloud and suddenly you’re sweating underneath all that fleecy clothing. That’s why I welcomed this dish, brimming with warm barley and cool greens – the perfect combination for an autumn evening.

ImageDon’t let the word ‘salad’ deceive you. I was positively satiated once finished, with not one bit of room for anything else (except maybe a piece of chocolate). The barley is packed with both soluble and insolube fibre, the former of which is linked to reducing cholesterol and therefore reducing the risk heart disease. The insoluble fibre keeps your bowels healthy by feeding the good bacteria that live within the gut, and I know you want a healthy bowel. You’ve got your good fats from the avo, protein from the tofu (although I’d recommend not to go crazy on soy-based products unless they are fermented – think miso, soy sauce, tempeh & natto – see more here) and gut-friendly miso for more healthy insides, plus detoxifying asparagus. What more could you want in a midweek meal? Oh, and don’t be shy with the ginger – especially if its cold, as ginger can increase your blood circulation, helpful on those cool evenings.

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What I particularly loved about this salad was the saltiness of the miso balanced with the acidity of the rice wine vinegar, and how it all blended seamlessly with the fattiness of the avocado and the crunchy sesame seeds. A lot of texture in this dish, a lot of flavour. Absolutely worth it, thanks Chrissy Freer. You’ve got to get a hold of her Supergrains book – even if you’re not gluten intolerant, but simply need a bit of a shake up when it comes to your tried and tested recipes. I’ve placed the modifications I made to the recipe in brackets after the original suggestion. This is perfect for vegetarians, or if you simply want a meat-free meal. Enjoy!

barley tofu spinach salad miso dressing

barley, tofu + spinach salad with miso dressing (adapted from Supergrains by Chrissy Freer) – serves 4

you’ll need…

  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed in colander
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, halved lengthways and cut into 3cm lengths
  • 250g (or thereabouts) of marinated tofu (I used plain), sliced
  • 1 firm, ripe avocado, halved, pit removed, peeled and sliced
  • 120g spinach leaves
  • 1.5 tbsp sesame seeds (I used 2tbsp black sesame seeds)

miso dressing

  • 3 tbsp white miso paste (or whatever colour you can find – just don’t use the sachet soup stuff, its not the real deal)
  • 3 tbsp mirin/Japanese cooking wine (I didn’t have any – I used more rice wine vinegar instead)
  • 2 tbsp tamari (I used soy sauce)
  • 1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (I used raw sugar)

here’s what you do…

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the ginger and garlic, stirring for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add barley and stir for 2 minutes, then add stock and 2 cups of water, bringing to the boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 25 min or until barley is soft but still with a slight firmness. Drain and rinse under cold water, then transfer to large bowl.
  2. Blanch asparagus in saucepan of boiling water (I boiled water, threw in asparagus and left in there for 5 min). Refresh under cold water, then drain well.
  3. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  4. Add the asparagus, tofu, avocado, baby spinach and half of the dressing to the barley, gently tossing to combine. Divide the salad between serving plates/bowls, drizzle with a bit more dressing and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. You may want to season and pan-fry the tofu if you choose the plain one if you’d prefer, but I felt the miso dressing lent enough flavour to the tofu anyway.
spiced apple and kale salad with poached chicken

spiced apple + kale salad with poached chicken

I love kale. Partly because its ridiculously good for you (antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory, cousins with broccoli and cauliflower) but its versatile, and doesn’t mind being hurled into a smoothie or lovingly massaged to become part of a salad such as this one. It’s the latest ‘in’ thing. Love it, or hate it, but I urge you to do the former. Sure, kale does require a bit of extra TLC in the prep department, but don’t let that put you off – kale stays super crispy in the fridge, so you can make a double batch and this baby will keep smiling for at least a couple of days. No reason not to eat healthy, right? Except if you’re going through a break up, in which case, put this down and arm yourself with the nearest chocolate brownie. Shhh, it’ll be our little secret!

This juicy number is from the latest Woolworth’s food mag, which I don’t read often but this one stood out. Super simple, tasty, full of anti-inflammatory turmeric, quercetin-rich (good for your allergies), and a little bit exotic, there isn’t much this salad can’t do except maybe read you a bedtime story. Here, I’ve topped it with shredded, poached chicken for a super-healthy protein punch.

spiced apple and kale salad with poached chicken

spiced apple and kale salad with poached chicken

spiced apple + kale salad (adapted from the Woolies Fresh Mag)

you’ll need…

  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tbs avocado oil (I used EVOO)
  • 2 apples (I used Pink Lady’s)
  • 1/2 bunch kale, tough inner rib of stalk removed and leaves shredded
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped roughly
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 tbs currants (I used sultanas)
  • mint and parsley, to serve
  • poached chicken breast, if desired
here’s what you do…
1. whisk lemon juice, honey and curry powder together, then slowly add in oil. season.
2. quarter, core and slice apples thinly, then toss in dressing to prevent browning.
3. drain dressing on top of sliced kale in large bowl, and massage for 3-4 min or until kale is softened. add in pecans, spring onions, celery and currants and toss to combine.
4. add apple and herbs (don’t be shy with the herbs), finally topping with poached chicken
if using poached chicken, here’s how you do it…
1. place chicken breast in saucepan (if its accompanying a salad, I normally work it out to be 1/2 chicken breast/person). cover with stock (and any other flavourings you desire i.e. spices, herbs, lemon etc) and bring to the boil
2. once boiling, cover with lid and take off the heat, letting it sit for 25 min.
3. check your chicken is cooked – should be slightly pink, lovely and moist! you can then shred or slice it on top of your salad. enjoy!