No Croutons Required - The Winner

The winner of the August dressing challenge is Trisha who submitted this gorgeous Blueberry Vinaigrette. Congratulations Trisha for coming out ahead of some tough competition.

Holler will be hosting the September edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge this month is to make a vegetarian soup or salad with fruit.

Red Lentil Soup with Baby Arugula

Red Lentil Soup with Baby Arugula

From the archive of "ridiculously fast and simple recipes to make when no prior thought was given to dinner at all" comes this tasty and warming lentil soup that takes no more than 5 minutes of preparation or 30 minutes of stove top time. Wilted baby arugula (or regular arugula, chopped) comes off with a beautiful mellow bitterness and sweetness at the same time — lovely with salted and slightly spicy preparations.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Muffins

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Muffins

Savory biscuits and muffins are a favorite of mine, great for serving with dinner or for eating as a snack — I'll even own to eating them for breakfast. These savory muffins combine some of my favorite ingredients — sun-dried tomatoes, soft unripened goat cheese, roasted peppers and spice — meaning they didn't last long at all! The result was a deliciously moist, slightly spicy, savory muffin that deserves to be appreciated all by itself, though it is a good choice if you are looking for a side bread option to serve up with dinner.

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Wilted Spinach with Pine Nuts and Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

Wilted Spinach with Pine Nuts and Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

This lovely little warm wilted spinach dish will enhance a quiet summer evening meal of pasta, bread, olives and cheese with a loved one … there's no need to tell your special friend that it's especially nourishing and healthy besides.

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Minted Tamari Quinoa and Cauliflower with Pine Nuts

Minted Tamari Quinoa and Cauliflower with Pine Nuts

With just a little alarm I noticed the other day that it's been over two months since I've made anything with quinoa. I would put that unfortunate fact down to the sumptuous laziness I indulge in the summer, but how much more work is the light scrubbing and soaking of quinoa than having to rinse white rice? Physically nothing to speak of at all, so the laziness is strictly in my mind. Fortunately I'm too lazy right now to bother berating myself for the lack of attention I've given it, and even mustered up the forethought to prepare this delicious and simple summer quinoa dish that takes wonderful advantage of the fresh local cauliflower practically bouncing off the market shelves these days, as well as the fresh mint overwhelming the other poor herbs in my garden.

Though not technically a grain, quinoa walks and talks like a grain … except even more so, with an almost perfect amino acid balance that's extraordinarily rare in plant foods. Also a good source of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins B and E, it's a wonder I've seemed to stop setting an example to myself and my readers.

Mint and tamari are not an intuitive combination of tastes, but proved to be irresistible when mixed with the nutty flavor and slightly crispy texture of quinoa and the added crunch of toasted pine nuts.

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No Croutons Required - Dressing - The Roundup

Considering how easy it is to whip up your own salad dressings in whatever quantity is desired, I'm amazed at how much shelf space is devoted to pre-prepared salad dressings in grocery stores. Not only do you avoid a whole list of preservatives and additives by making your own, the taste of freshly made dressing far surpasses the store bought varieties. Most homemade dressings will last up to a week in the fridge if stored in a covered container.

Thanks to Ricki for suggesting the theme for this month and a big thanks to all who contributed a dressing recipe. Do vote for your favorite in the comment section or by email. Please note that Holler and I do not qualify for the crown.


Our very first entry this month is from Ivy of Kopiaste, who submits a traditional Greek Ladolemono. In it's simplest form, this refreshing dressing is made with an equal mixture of lemon juice and olive oil, and seasoned with a bit of salt and oregano, though you can also add garlic, capers, black pepper and fennel to suit your taste. This sounds like an ideal way to enhance the flavour of your favorite blend of vegetables. (Athens, Greece)

Helen of Food Stories makes a mouth watering Raspberry Vinegar and Poppy Seed Dressing that is just perfect for hot summer days when you don't feel like cooking. This saucily elegant creation is then splashed over fennel, orange slices and purple radish shoots. Fit for the finest of tables, this would be an ideal salad to make if you are looking to wow your dinner guests. (London, United Kingdom)

Srimathi comes up with another few minute wonder with this Green Devi Salad Dressing that she tried while out for dinner. Though she usually doesn't enjoy dressing, Srimathi helped herself to seconds of this rich and creamy delight consisting of olive oil, avocado, apple cider, garlic, lime juice and cilantro. (San Diego, California, United States)

Our next submission is a gorgeous Blueberry Vinaigrette from Trisha who posts at The Zest. The idea of this dressing consisting of blueberries, yogurt, white wine vinegar, honey and herbs was inspired by some leftover Blueberry Soup. Trisha drizzled her dressing over baby greens, almonds and crumbled blue cheese. What better way to celebrate blueberry season? (Phoenix, Arizona, United States)

Tessa of The Portobello Kitchen whips up a Beetroot Vinaigrette that she says is ideal for the summer time. This colourful dressing of cooked beets, honey, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic and olive oil was served over a Nectarine and Gorgonzola salad with rocket leaves and endive leaves. Cheese, fruit and veggies all on one delicious plate! (Portobello Road, London, United Kingdom)

Inspired by an overripe mango staring out accusingly from the fruit bowl, my co-host for this event, Holler of Tinned Tomatoes, came up with this tempting Mango, Basil and Balsamic Dressing. This fresh and creamy dressing was used to dress up some basil leaves, cucumber, celery, strawberries, and chunks of feta cheese. This is yet another salad ideal for a warm summer day. (Scotland, United Kingdom)

Val of More Than Burnt Toast submits an intriguing New Age Caesar Dressing. A twist on an old classic, this creamy dressing is made with tofu, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, tamari, Dijon mustard, oil, Parmesan, and parsley. Served with some Romaine lettuce and croutons, this could easily be a satisfying light meal all by itself. (British Columbia, Canada)

OhioMom of Cooking in Cleveland comes up with a delicious Herb Dressing that she drizzled over fresh salad greens, plump blueberries and yummy chunks of feta cheese. You just can't go wrong with a blend of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, paprika, oregano, garlic, basil and honey. (Cleveland, Ohio, United States)

Wandering Chopsticks dresses up some steamed strips of eggplant with a Chinese-Style Dressing. This classic blend of soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar and sesame oil would be a perfect enhancement to a wide variety of vegetables. (Southern California, United States)

My contribution this month is a creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette. Sun-dried tomatoes are a staple in my kitchen; whisked together with balsamic vinegar, garlic, oregano, black pepper and olive oil, this turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to some leafy greens, sliced red pepper, pitted olives, chopped tomatoes from my garden, feta cheese, and a few chopped cremini mushrooms. (London, Ontario, Canada)

TS and JS of Eating Club Vancouver share a delightful recipe for Miso-Sesame Dressing made up of red miso, tahini, rice vinegar, a touch of honey and a dash of soy sauce. This was tossed with some strips of tofu, baby spinach, and strips of carrot and red pepper and served up at a birthday dinner. (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

A big fan of artichokes, Andrea of Cooking Books prepares an irresistible Curried Ginger-Lemon Vinaigrette. The combined flavours of lemon, egg yolk, curry powder, ginger, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, olive oil and scallions are poured into the center of a cooked artichoke. It's no wonder her vegetarian friend can never resist this tempting dish. (Manhattan, New York, United States)

In an attempt to make tabbouleh with quinoa, Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe comes up with a refreshing Lemon Dressing. Lemon juice, olive oil, cider vinegar, honey, black pepper and garlic are whisked together and tossed up with some quinoa, pea, avocado, tomato, mushrooms and parsley. This fine salad would be ideal anytime of year. (Melbourne, Australia)

From Allie of Yum in the Tum a serving or maybe two of Minty Salad Dressing. Mint, olive oil, lemon juice, feta, and marjoram are combined in a container and splashed over a salad of greens, carrots, palm hearts, carrots and feta. This pleasing salad is nestled next to some steamed potatoes and artichokes, complete with some drawn butter with lemon. (Houston, Texas, United States)

Last, but not least, is this Creamy Avocado Dressing from Victoria of The Days are Just Packed. A ripe avocado was combined with the goodness of lime juice, garlic, yogurt and a bit of milk and tossed with some pumpkin seeds, salad greens, radishes, pine nuts and almonds. Certainly a lovely addition to any meal. (Southwestern, Pennsylvania, United States)

Holler will be hosting the September edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the end of the month for the theme and the winner of this month's challenge.

Baked Blueberry & Peach Pancakes

Baked Blueberry & Peach Pancakes

Fresh local peaches and blueberries are just bursting with juices and flavors right now in southwestern Ontario, and I'm lucky to keep my hands off of them long enough to consider the incredible things that can be accomplished by combining fresh fruit with the basic kitchen essentials of flour, eggs, dairy and sugar. If nothing else were ever needed in a woman's diet I shouldn't complain, but I do have one regret — I only made one of these baked blueberry and peach pancakes when two would have been just as easy (and would have lasted no longer).

Baked Blueberry & Peach Pancakes

This is a slightly denser but just as simple and delightful variation on the baked strawberry pancakes I shared during strawberry season last month, but now that other fruits are in season, there's no reason why strawberries should have all the fun. Perfect on a weekend morning with a hot cup of coffee or tea, or even for a summer's evening dessert.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

The theme for No Croutons Required this month is dressings. Wednesday is the deadline for entries, so there are still a few more days left to get your entries in. As salads are a staple item on most dinner tables, the more recipes on hand for homemade dressing the better.

Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

For my contribution this month, I settled on a zesty sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Homemade salad dressings are a snap to whip up, and add a terrific boost of flavor for ordinary garden salads when you use quality ingredients. And sun-dried tomatoes add even more of a flavor kick! For the salad base, I tossed together some leafy greens, sliced red pepper, pitted olives, chopped tomatoes from my garden, and a few chopped cremini mushrooms. I sprinkled each serving with some chunks of feta cheese and drizzled on the vinaigrette. Yum1

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Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Generally when I bake, I make biscuits, scones or muffins as I prefer to limit my sugar intake and just so happen to be blessed with a preference for savory over sweet. Still, there are many sugary delights to experiment with and this is where friends and family come in. I can enjoy a little nibble of sweetness before the majority of the creation gets passed along to others.

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Parmesan Potato Puff

Parmesan Potato Puff

Normally when I pay a visit to my Dad, I end up spending several hours in the kitchen cooking up special meals. Despite the torrents of rain that kept me inside, I just didn't feel like fussing around much this past weekend as I have been out of the habit of cooking up more elaborate meals these days. Summer time calls for easier preparations for nourishment. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to cook in my Dad's fine kitchen, nor desiring to leave all the dinner preparations up to him, I did decide to whip up a simple potato dish to accompany one of our meals — light and fluffy whipped potatoes baked with Parmesan cheese for a brown and crispy exterior.

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Spicy Tamarind Black Beans


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Spicy Tamarind Black Beans

Black beans may not be the most flavorful of all legumes but their cooking broths are among the richest and creamiest, inviting all varieties of vegetables, herbs and spices to join in to make warm, tasty and colorful sauces. Tamarind and dry-roasted cumin combine to lend the sauce in this Indian-style black bean chili a lovely and unique sweet and sour but smoky blend of flavors.

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Dumplings in Blueberry Syrup

Dumplings in Blueberry Syrup

As I prefer savory over sweet, I don't tend to make desserts very often, but I never can resist treating my friends and family to the fruits of my kitchen. This past weekend, I paid a visit to my Dad. As blueberries are currently in season, on this particular occasion I decided they were to be the focus of my attentions. Dumplings are gently simmered in a blueberry syrup, and the final result is surprising like a baked pudding. Much enjoyed by the diners in the house, this is an easy, yet satisfying dessert.

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Turkish Sour Cherry Pilaf

Turkish Sour Cherry Pilaf

If you can imagine the sweet and tart perfume of fresh cherries, just multiply that thought by a dozen or more factors and you'll have an idea of the most perfectly cherry-like of aromas that is obtained by cooking dried sour cherries. And if that isn't reason enough to add this very unusual Turkish sour cherry pilaf to your next Middle Eastern themed summer menu, try imagining the warm tangy flavor of caraway seeds combined with the tart but refreshing sourness of cherries and the soft butteriness of perfectly cooked white basmati rice…

…it's like nothing else than a light and fluffy, slightly sweet but mostly savory dinner cake spooned into the most astonishing little morsels on your plate. If this picture sounds inadequate it's because this dish pretty much exhausts my powers of description. But don't let that stop you — this rice, adapted from Martha Rose Shulman's Mediterranean Harvest, is a perfect accompaniment to any light and garlicky Mediterranean summer meal, like the Turkish yogurt hummus I served with fresh vegetables.

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Turkish Yogurt Hummus

Turkish Yogurt Hummus

The meze table — or selection of "little foods" — that greets guests in eastern Mediterranean homes is not only a wonderful tradition for entertaining but a wonderfully varied source of inspiration for feeding oneself in the hot summer months when appetites are not so enormous. And if hummus is already one of the classic staples of "little food" tables, what could be more appealing on the very hottest and most humid of summer days than a light and fluffy hummus made with yogurt instead of tahini, as in this refreshingly tangy Turkish version adapted from Martha Rose Shulman's Mediterranean Harvest?

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Spiced Urad Dal Rice


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Spiced Urad Dal Rice

Rather more than just a side dish, this spicy fragrant South Indian rice is full-flavored and delectable enough to be the centerpiece of a meal. The preparation's timing is somewhat involving, demanding soaking of ingredients both the night before and several hours prior to cooking as given in the recipe below, but the vigilance is well worth it not only for the taste but for the pungent aroma of dry toasted seeds and peppercorns that lingers in the kitchen for hours afterwards. And the actual cooking is quite straightforward and simple and takes little time.

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Red Kidney Bean Summer Salad

Red Kidney Bean Summer Salad

Food, just like life, is best served up light and easy in the summertime. This colorful kidney bean salad is easy to make, packs plenty of vitamins, minerals and easy-to-digest proteins, and has a laid-back spicy zest that goes well with a glass of red wine or a cold beer.

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No Croutons Required - Dressing

The winner for July's Herb Challenge is Jackie Vetter who made a hearty Peasant Soup with savory. Congratulations to Jackie who faced some tough competition this month.

It is my turn to host this month's edition of No Croutons Required, a monthly vegetarian event focusing on soups and salads.

Many thanks to Ricki for commenting on my Creamy Sesame Miso Salad Dressing, as she suggested dressings should be the theme for August and so it shall be. Make any dressing and post about it until the 20th of this month, including a description of what you dressed up. Submission guidelines can be found here.