Cooking with Alison

Archive for the ‘Sides and Sauces’ Category

Great Salad Dressing Tip from Extreme Cheapskates

In Sides and Sauces, Soups and Salads on July 11, 2014 at am

For a while, I was obsessed with watching TLC’s show, Extreme Cheapskates.  In this show, people go to revolting, albeit sometimes creative, extremes to save money.  Surprisingly, I picked up a good salad dressing tip from one of the episodes.  🙂  When you finish a jar of jam, before you wash the jar and recycle it, make a salad dressing in the still-slightly-jammy jar.  This will not only add sweetness and a hint of fruit flavour to your dressing, it will also save you from having to wash additional dishes.  Of course, this also reduces your food waste.


To make your salad dressing:  Add some vinegar/lemon juice, olive oil, and mustard powder/dijon mustard to the almost empty jam jar.  (Note:  A good starting ratio is 1:5 for vinegar/lemon juice to extra virgin olive oil.  The mustard helps emulsify the dressing.)  Screw the lid on tightly, shake vigorously until the dressing is well mixed, and then adjust the ingredients to taste.  For example, you might want to add additional vinegar, a pinch of salt and/or black pepper, honey/maple syrup, etc.


Creative Uses for Avocado and Tips for Making Them Even More Delicious

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Sides and Sauces on July 6, 2014 at am

I love avocados and often eat them straight out of the peel with a spoon.  Here are a few creative ways to use avocados and some tips for making them taste even better (other than just adding them to everything and anything you can think of):

  1. Be sure to try warming up your avocado (peel and pit removed) in the microwave.  I love warm avocados, especially in a sandwich, pita, or wrap.  I’ve also seen recipes where people bake avocado halves in the shell.
  2. Have you ever tasted avocado tempura (Japanese deep fried avocado)?  It’s delicious – probably in part because of the warming effect.  You could easily deep fry slices of avocado at home, by either using a tempura batter or an egg wash followed by a coating of panko crumbs.
  3. I used to eat avocados plain until my friend Aurelie told me that in France, a lot of people eat their avocados with a dollop of Dijon mustard.  I’m so glad that she told me that, because I’ve been doing it ever since.  My preferred brand of Dijon mustard is Maille.
  4. I’ve also discovered that I like eating avocados with a light drizzle of honey.  But, oddly, I don’t like the taste of honey mustard on avocados.
  5. Try using half of an avocado, still in the shell, as a carbohydrate substitute and bowl for your favourite tuna, crab, chicken, or ham salad.  See a tuna salad recipe here.  You could even place a fried egg in the avocado half.  I’ve also seen recipes where people bake avocado halves in the shell (pit removed) with eggs or cheese, etc.
  6. Use avocado to make a delicious and healthy mayonnaise substitute.
  7. Make smoothies or other types of drinks using avocados.  Don’t forget alcoholic drinks like avocado margaritas.
  8. I’ve even seen recipes for avocado soup.  Let me know if you’ve tried this and what you thought of it.
  9. Make an avocado frosting for your baked goods.  These are often vegan friendly.  The natural green colour is great for St Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas themed parties.
  10. Avocado can be used as a fat substitute in vegan baking.  John and I plan to try making black bean and avocado brownies.  If they’re really good, I’ll share the recipe.
  11. Lastly, I’ve put avocado popsicles on my list of things to try.

Just to be thorough, here are some of the ways that I use avocados in every day cooking:  in all sorts of salads, in sandwiches, as burger toppings, in wraps, in pitas, in tacos, in quesadillas, in sushi (maki rolls or hand rolls), in guacamole (see recipe here), in salsa with exotic fruits atop fish, in breakfast or egg dishes, as toppings or garnish for some soups, in fish tartare or ceviche (see recipes here), in appetizers served in wonton cups (see recipe here), etc., etc.  Let me know how you like to use avocados!

Must Try in Malaysia: Sabah Vegetable

In Asian, Other Asian Foods, Seafood, Sides and Sauces on May 10, 2014 at am


When I traveled to Malaysia in May 2013, I tried many new foods in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, and Kuala Lumpur.  One of my top three favourite things was sabah vegetable.  The stems of this leafy green vegetable have, in my opinion, the perfect crispy and crunchy texture.  To my knowledge, Sabah, Malaysia does not export this local vegetable, so be sure to look for it in restaurants the next time you’re in Sabah, Malaysia.  I tried it stir fried with sambal belacan.

Mini Potato and Green Bean Salad with Maple Dijon Dressing (with or without Tuna)

In Fish / Seafood, Main Course, Sides and Sauces, Soups and Salads on December 23, 2013 at am

I have made this potato and green bean salad many times, because it’s flavourful, it can be served warm or cold, it’s quick and easy to make, it’s a one pot meal, it only requires 4 total ingredients, and it’s a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes and/or green beans.  I like to add tuna when I’m serving it for lunch or dinner.  It’s also a great option for pot lucks as it is gluten free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian, and vegan (as long as you don’t add the tuna).


My family and John love the taste and I love how easy it is to make.  I should note though, that this salad does not keep well.  So if you are serving it warm, it should be eaten soon after it was made.  If you are serving it cold, be sure to cool all of the other ingredients first and then toss them with the dressing just prior to serving.

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Macaroni and Cheese Bites (or a Delicious Baked Macaroni and Cheese)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Sides and Sauces on November 20, 2013 at am


I love macaroni and cheese and these mini macaroni and cheese bites turn a comforting pasta dish into finger food fit for any party.  These can also be made gluten free!  I used grown-up cheese and made two versions of macaroni and cheese bites for John’s housewarming party.  If you only own one mini muffin pan, which I do, these can be tedious and time-consuming to make.  But they can be made hours in advance and then reheated in the oven prior to serving.  You could also bake these in a standard muffin pan and serve them as a side dish for a sit down meal.  This recipe also happens to make the best baked macaroni and cheese dish I’ve ever had, especially cheese mixture #2.  I used the leftover ingredients to make individual baked macaroni and cheese dishes as shown in the photo below.

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Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrot Recipe

In Asian, Other Asian Foods, Sides and Sauces on November 3, 2013 at am

One of the reasons why I love love love Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi), is that they contain pickled daikon radishes and carrots.  These pickled daikon radishes and carrots are very easy to make and are a great side dish to almost any meal.  Enjoy them with a bowl of Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho tai) (see recipe here), or a dish of meat and rice, or add them to your rice paper rolls (see recipe here).  These are also a great accompaniment to Korean food (see my beef short ribs (kalbi) recipe here).  I love making my own pickled vegetables, because I can control the salt and sugar content.  If you are not sure what to do with your leftover daikon radishes, you will find a list of different recipes that use this radish here.


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Best Cornbread Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Breads, Breakfast, Sides and Sauces on October 9, 2013 at am


When I set out to find the best cornbread recipe, I learned that there are people that prefer sweet cornbread, and there are people that prefer savoury cornbread.  Personally, I prefer cornbread that is savoury and plain.  I tried a few cornbread recipes that were, in my opinion, far from appetizing and had almost decided to give up on cornbread.  But when I saw a cornbread recipe in The Modern Baker (a cookbook that I received from an old neighbour), I thought, let’s try one more.  I am so glad that I did, because this cornbread recipe put all others to shame.  This was very flavourful, and the texture was the perfect balance of crumbly and moist.  I finally understand why so many people love this stuff.  John, who is much more familiar with southern food than I am, said it was the best cornbread he’s ever had, and my dad couldn’t get enough of it.  According to Nick Malgieri, this recipe is a Southwestern American version of cornbread.  Another great thing about this recipe is that it works well with added ingredients, such as chedder cheese and jalapenos.

More recently, I turned this recipe into finger food for John’s housewarming party, by baking it in a 9 inch x 13 inch pan and cutting it into 36 mini wedges.  I recommend freezing the cornbread first, as it was much easier to cut while it was still semi frozen.  I had a lot of cornbread leftover after the party and people were very happy to take extras home with them.


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Thai Mango Salad Recipe

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Other Asian Foods, Sides and Sauces on September 1, 2013 at am


This Thai mango salad is delicious and very easy to make.  The key to success is to use mangoes that have the perfect ripeness, just starting to ripe and still firm.  Some recipes call for green mangoes, but I’ve found that using green mangoes results in a crunchy salad that lacks mango flavour and colour.  I made this for my sister’s lunch group at work and everyone loved it.  I served it as an appetizer to a cold Thai noodle salad (recipe here).

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Hot Chili Oil Recipe

In Other Asian Foods, Sides and Sauces on June 19, 2012 at pm

Chinese hot chili oil is versatile, delicious, and cheap and easy to make.  Use this as a condiment (e.g. for dumplings), use it in sauces (see bang bang chicken recipe here), soups (hot and sour soup recipe here, Chinese borscht (lor sung tong) recipe here), add this to a noodle dish (even instant noodles), or use it as a substitute for cooking oil to add heat to any dish.

Normally, this is made using whole, dried red chilies, which gives the hot chili oil a red colour.  However, I happened to have a lot of red chili flakes on hand, so I used that instead.

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Brussel Sprouts with Shallots and Bacon

In Sides and Sauces on March 26, 2012 at pm

I made this brussel sprout side dish for Christmas one year and, to my surprise, it was my dad’s favourite dish of the meal.  I love brussel sprouts, even when they’re simply steamed with a sprinkle of sea salt.  I’m surprised by how much they usually cost at the grocery store, because I discovered this past summer that they’re actually really easy to plant.

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Favourite Coleslaw Recipe

In Sides and Sauces, Soups and Salads on March 17, 2012 at am

This coleslaw has been really really popular with everyone that’s tried it.  The cider vinegar adds a really nice sweetness.  I like to serve coleslaw with heavier meats such as pulled pork (recipe here) sandwiches, but my family likes to eat it on its own as a snack too.

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Green Beans with Shallot Butter and Crispy Bacon

In Sides and Sauces on December 10, 2011 at am

I made this side dish for my brother and sister over Thanksgiving weekend, 2011 and we all loved it.  This is simple yet elegant, and it’s subtly flavoured, making it a great side for any entree.

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