This couscous salad includes some unique ingredients that complement each other incredibly well! The original recipe is from 30 Minute Meals: A Commonsense Guide and I have tweaked it with a few healthy adjustments. Although there are many components to this salad, the preparation is fairly straightforward. My fiancé has mastered this recipe and it is delicious both warm and cold.
- 2 cups apple juice
- 2 cups couscous
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/3 cup toasted pistachio nuts
- 8 dried apricots or figs
- 1/3 cup green olives
- fresh mint
- fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp ras el hanout (to create this spice blend yourself please find recipe here)
- 2 chicken or turkey breasts
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp mint
- 2 tsp ras el hanout
- 1 tsp honey
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush a thin layer of olive oil on it.
- Preheat the oven to 350°, and put the baking sheet in the oven while it heats up.
- Cut the chicken or turkey breast into strips and coat with the ras el hanout.
- Once the oven has reached 350° place the strips on the baking sheet.
- Cook for 12-15 minutes, flip and cook for another 5 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking heat the apple juice in a pot until hot.
- Put the couscous in a heat-resistant and pour the apple juice overtop. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
- During this time thinly slice the red onion, apricots (or figs) and green olives.
- Fluff couscous with a fork and add the onion, pistachios, apricots and green olives.
- Roughly chop a handful of mint and parsley to add mix in the salad.
- The final step is to make the yogurt dressing. Combine the yogurt, chopped mint, ras el hanout and honey in a bowl.
- To serve, fill a bowl with a generous amount of the couscous salad, lay some strips of chicken or turkey on top, then add a spoonful of the yogurt dressing.
Mint comes in many varieties that are available year round (Spirling and Daniels, 2011). The two most common mints used for cooking are peppermint and spearmint (often simply labelled mint). These aromatic herbs are well known for aiding with intestinal ailments and symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, indigestion and bloating. Research has shown that mint’s soothing qualities are due to its ability to lessen smooth muscle contractions in the intestines by blocking calcium channels while also decreasing the passage of calcium into cells (Baliga and Rao, 2010). Interestingly, a double blinded placebo-controlled study found that ingesting peppermint oil capsules prior to a colonoscopy lessened procedure time, colonic spasms and pain (Shavakhi, et al., 2012). A great deal of research has also shown positive results surrounding the topic of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A study by Cappello, et al., (2007) completed a double-blinded study with participants ailed by IBS. They were given either peppermint oil capsules or a placebo for a series of weeks and results showed an evident decrease in IBS symptoms among 75% of the group taking the peppermint oil capsules. These results have been mirrored in other studies and are very promising for individuals who unfortunately suffer IBS and other gastric disorders. Mint has also been shown to improve cognitive functioning. A noteworthy study demonstrated that peppermint aroma increased both alertness and memory among 144 participants who were randomized to various aromas (Moss, et al., 2008). In addition to improving cognitive performance, peppermint has an abundance of healthy minerals and vitamins such as fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B and C (USDA, 2012). Taken as a whole, this breath freshening (Zirwas and Otto, 2010) herbal plant is not only healthy to consume but can be fantastically versatile in fresh fruit salads, mains and soothing tea.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger
- 1 red onion
- 1 red pepper
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 dried chili
- salt & pepper
- 1 mango
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan, and then add the garlic, ginger and chopped red onion. Saute for 5 minutes or until onions are tender.
- Thinly slice the red pepper and add to the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Cut chicken into thin strips and add to the vegetables.
- Add the thyme, curry, chili powder, dried chili, salt and pepper. Make sure the spices are evenly distributed.
- Cook for 3 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the thinly sliced mango, fresh lemon juice and vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the fresh cilantro, mixing thoroughly.
- Pair with your favourite rice and garnish with cilantro.
Chicken is one of the most commonly consumed poultries in the world and its popularity continues to rise (Padilla, 2010). Chickens were first domesticated in southern Asia eight thousand years ago and are now one of the world’s primary animal protein sources (Wirén, 2011). They are also one of the least expensive livestock to rear because of their small size and short generation length (Kearney, 2010). Chicken is an excellent alternative to other animal meats because of its low fat and high protein content which makes it extremely lean. As well, chicken is a great source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins A, B and D (USDA, 2012). More specifically, chicken contains niacin, which is vitamin B3 and essential in the human diet. In fact, deficiencies of this micronutrient have been linked to DNA damage and cognitive decline (Ames, 2001). An interesting study by Morris et al. (2004) assessed the cognitive functioning of people aged 65 years and older for six years. It was found that including adequate levels of niacin in your diet may protect against both age related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to chicken containing valuable amounts of niacin, it also has high levels of selenium. This trace mineral is essential for proper cellular function. Selenium is involved in DNA repair and synthesis, and plays an important role in various metabolic pathways (Hatfield et al., 2011). Overall, chicken is an excellent lean protein full of beneficial nutrients and could also have less of an impact on the environment. It is well documented that chickens produce much less methane and carbon dioxide than ruminant animals such as beef and lamb (McMichael et al., 2007). Since agriculture is such a major contributor to the global greenhouse gas emissions (Friel et al., 2009), making more informed choices on where to procure your protein can only be beneficial.
Kebabs are an excellent summer meal; they are easy to make, you can load the skewers with vegetables and you get to fire up the BBQ. There are many delicious marinade recipes and this one tops the list! It’s best to marinate the meat for at least 2-4 hours.
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- Any vegetables you like (ex. red pepper, eggplant, white onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
- Whisk the lemon or lime juice, oil, yogurt, chopped garlic and tomato paste together.
- With a mortar and pestle, combine the oregano, salt, pepper, cardamom seeds and cinnamon. Add to the yogurt marinade.
- Cut chickens into bite sized pieces and add to marinade.
- Leave in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
- Skewer the chicken with any chopped vegetables and pop on the grill.
Yogurt can be a quick and easy snack, and is increasingly being used as a substitute for oil and butter in many recipes. This fermented dairy product is a great source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and vitamins B2, B5 and B12 (Dairy Farmers of Canada, 2012). As well, high quality yogurt has live bacteria, such as lactobacillus casei, which strengthen your immune system and ultimately improve ones immune response to various diseases and inflammatory bowel disorders (Baharav et al., 2004). A study done by Meyer et al. (2006) investigated cellular immunity by measuring T cell lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that fight infection, in women consuming yogurt daily. It was found that daily consumption of yogurt increased the immune cells ability to protect the body from viruses, yeasts and parasites. In addition to yogurt improving your immune system, it can aid in the balance of ones cholesterol levels by helping to lower LDL while raising HDL (Fabian et al., 2006). It’s well known to most that yogurt contains calcium which is important for good bone health, however, yogurt also has high levels of the iron binding protein lactoferrin (Cornish et al., 2004). This glycoprotein enhances the activity of osteoblasts, which are the cells responsible for building bones, while also lowering osteoclasts, which break down the bone matrix to release calcium into the bloodstream (Nijweidi and Feyen, 1986). So try yogurt as a marinade, your bones are begging you!