No Croutons Required - The Winner for July

no croutons required

The challenge for July was to come up with a vegetarian legume salad. The contributions are sure to stimulate your appetite and culinary imagination. We do have to crown a winner though and the most popular this month is Rachel Cotterill's Warm Halloumi Salad with Lime Dressing. Bursting with flavour and goodness, the textures and variety in this salad are impressive. Congratulations Rachel. I can't wait to try your dish.

halloumi salad

Jacqueline will be hosting the August edition of No Croutons Required. Check back soon for the theme.

Sweet Potato Chickpea Soup

sweet potato chickpea soup

After a week of high temperatures and humidity, there is again a chill in the air and a fair amount of rain. A hot bowl of this colorful and gently spiced homemade sweet potato and chickpea soup is just the thing to heat the body up and raise the spirits. So simple to make, the act of putting together and simmering a pot of comforting soup to warm and nourish yourself and your loved ones is sure to brighten your day and table, and the tender pieces of sweet potato have a wonderfully sunny disposition, don't you think?

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Pinto Bean and Avocado Burritos


Summertime is perfect for easy meals that can be enjoyed on the patio. Mind you, these zesty and creamy pinto bean burritos would be delicious any time of year but wrapping up vibrant Mexican-spiced goodness in a handheld burritos seems especially suited to warm summer days. Apart from a bit of chopping and cooking the beans, this fresh-tasting burrito filling with avocado, corn and cilantro all comes together in very little time. Vegans may leave out the cheese and sour cream, of course, and the results would still be most pleasing to serve up. Spicy and cooling, and packed full of flavor, this one comes highly recommended from my kitchen.

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No-Bake Lemon Cherry Cheesecake

cherry cheesecake

No-bake is just about right at the moment, with temperatures soaring over 30 degrees in addition to the humidity which steps things up another 10 degrees here in southwestern Ontario. I never mind the heat, really, but even for me, who was freezing to the point of sickness for the duration of a never-ending long Canadian winter, it's a bit much. Perhaps more surprising is that this savory girl wanted to make a dessert in the first place, but sugar in moderation isn't going to hurt you and this cake has some healthy additions besides.

cherry cheesecake

This recipe appealed to me in particular because it didn't have a graham cracker base, but a blend of oats, walnuts and dried fruit. The original recipe called for raisins, but I used a combination of dried cherries and cranberries instead. Either way, you are in for a treat, especially when fresh cherries are in season for a wonderful fresh-tasting no-cook cherry sauce served over top.

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No Croutons Required - Bean Salads

The challenge for July was to come up with a vegetarian salad featuring legumes. It's plenty hot this month and salads are an easy way to provide nourishment without too much fuss or heat in the kitchen. A special thanks to all the cooks who submitted an entry. I kindly ask that you vote for your favorite in the comment section or via email. Please note that neither my submission nor Jacqueline's is eligible for the vote. Without further ado, let's serve it up.

Our first entry is this healthy Sprouted Black Chickpea Mixed Salad from Anshu of My Mom's Recipes. Intended as an entree salad, this one is a feast for the eyes and the body. Here sprouted black chickpeas are tossed with cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper, red onion, carrots, cucumber, beets, jalapeno, seasoning and olive oil and served over fresh greens and drizzled with some Italian dressing and garnished with Parmesan. That is one fancy salad that sounds perfect for hot summer days.

couscous salad

Next up is Elizabeth of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary with this colorful Three Bean Couscous Salad that is a complete meal in itself though it was made as a side dish. Either way, this combination of red onion, couscous, red pepper, cannellini, flageolet and adzuki beans, sultanas, seasoning and parsley makes for an impressive patio dish that will surely impress your dinner guests.

chickpea salad

Janet from the Taste Space enters this month with a most flavorful Morrocan Carrot and Chickpea Salad that makes good use of pantry ingredients. Carrots, chickpeas, dates and cilantro are dressed with a mixture of cumin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, sweetener and some seasoning. Sweet, earthy, tart and obviously nourishing, served alongside a bed of brown rice, you are in for one delicious supper.


Kavitha of Techie Cookie Freaky shares an innovative Kosambari (With Strawberry) that I am certain I could not resist. Mung beans star here, along with grated carrots, lime juice, strawberries, olives, seasoning and red onion if you please. Certainly a lovely balance of flavors in this dish and yet another ideal summer meal.

black-eyed pea salad

My contribution this month is a Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Indian Spices that is sure to impress your dinner guests, especially if served in some radicchio leaves. I've combined earthy black-eyed peas, simmered with some salt and turmeric, and then tossed with tomatoes, green onions, ginger, fresh mint, chillies, chat masala and lime juice and then tempered with cumin seeds, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika and some rock salt. Simple, but most nourishing and light for a perfect summer meal on the patio along with some goat cheese toasts with fresh dill.

Potato and Bean Salad with Zingy Herb Dressing

My lovely friend and co-host of NCR, Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, has prepared a substantial Potato and Bean Salad with Zingy Herb Dressing that cannot fail to please. This celebration of beans is comprised of wholegrain rice, jersey royal potatoes, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, ripe tomatoes, red pepper and dressed with fresh coriander, olive oil, lemon juice and freshly cracked black pepper. Comforting and delicious indeed.

halloumi salad

Our final entry is from Rachel Cotterill. This gorgeous Warm Halloumi Salad with Lime Dressing surely would make for a lovely lunch or light dinner to be enjoyed outdoors with some chilled wine. Halloumi is marinated in lime juice and olive oil and then seared, and combined with lightly steamed green beans, asparagus and edamame beans. The vegetables are arranged over salad greens and coriander and topped with the cheese. Elegant and an ideal summer time meal that may be filled out with some crusty bread.

Jacqueline will be hosting the August 2013 edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of the month for the theme.

Cracked Black Pepper Rice

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
cracked black pepper rice

This dish has been a staple rice dish in my kitchen as it is easy to prepare and appeals to a wide variety of tastes. It is best served chilled or at room temperature, so if you are making a more complex meal, you can make it up ahead of time. The process is rather unique, as you use a large quantity of water for a relatively small quantity of rice and cook the rice at a full boil instead of reducing the temperature to a simmer. The result is a nice sticky, zesty rice. It's such a treasured rice dish, so I am sharing this again, with updated photos.

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Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Indian Spices

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
black eyed pea Indian salad

With sweltering weather hitting much of the Western hemisphere, more salads are served up on kitchen and patio tables. Spice it up is my motto, and so I was inspired to make an earthy Indian-style black-eyed pea salad with a hot, tart and tangy seasoning that required very little prep and cooking time. While the peas are boiling, chop up the ingredients needed and measure out the spices. It all comes together in no time at all once the black-eyes have cooled a bit.

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Paneer and Pea Curry Smothered in a Cashew Tomato Gravy

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
paneer curry

Since I started cooking Indian food some 20 years ago, shortly after becoming a vegetarian, paneer curries were one of my most delightful discoveries. Whenever I acquire a new cookbook or when I browse through talented bloggers offerings, paneer dishes usually end up bookmarked for future reference. One reason that I am not a vegan might very well be luscious chunks of paneer cheese transformed into a spicy curry. I just can't see myself giving that up, nor other treasured cheeses for that matter. Eggs I could do without, but not paneer, though it only appears on the menu every month or so.

My latest experiment, that was met with much praise from my diners, was this paneer and green pea curry simmered in a fresh and lightly spiced cashew and tomato gravy. Rich, yes, especially if you fry your paneer in ghee or butter, but easy to digest and truly fit for royalty, although it is really easy to prepare. As I often say, simplicity often results in the most gourmet and satisfying dishes that will grace your table. I dare say it is as good as my classic mattar paneer — maybe even better.

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Toor Dal Soup with Sweet Potato, Dried Apricots and Coconut Milk

lentil soup with apricots and coconut milk

This is not the first time I have used dried apricots in a soup and surely it won't be the last. Here Indian spicing comes together with earthy dals, sweet dried apricots and sweet potato tempered by refreshing coconut milk. Yes, soup is more of a winter meal for most of us, but I adore soup anytime of year and although it is hot outside, this spicy dish will help you cool down. Try it yourself and see if you don't agree.

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Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins with Cherry Jam

blueberry goat cheese muffins

Homemade muffins are a perfect quick breakfast solution or healthy snack to take to work for break time. I especially like muffins that are low in sugar, and with the addition of creamy goat cheese, these are especially satisfying and filling. A bit of cornmeal adds a nice crunchy texture to the muffins and cherry jam complements the other ingredients to perfection. Berry season is coming up, and fresh local plump blueberries ought to be savored and enjoyed, packed full of anti-oxidants as they are. Of course, they are wonderful to snack on, just as is or perhaps with a little yogurt, but when I bake I often find myself turning toward berry treats. The last baked blueberry delight I made was a heavenly blueberry lemon cream cheese loaf.

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Chickpea Potato Koftas with Ricotta Cheese

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
chickpea potato koftas

I adore koftas and have experimented with many varieties in my kitchen. Popular in the Middle East and India, they are often made with ground meat, vegetables, legumes and almost always spices and herbs. They are typically served smothered with sauce or a gravy, though sometimes just a small amount of sauce or chutney is all that is needed. As a vegetarian, I of course don't cook meat, and you won't miss it when you try these little bites composed of chickpeas, potato, a little creamy ricotta cheese and a generous amount of spices to really impress the senses. Rather like a falafel, these are great for serving in rotis or chapatis along with some leafy greens and a tomato chutney or perhaps this sun-dried tomato paste. Perfect patio food, and they take very little time at all to make once the potato and chickpeas are cooked.

I've included ricotta cheese here as I had some in the refrigerator that I didn't want to go to waste. Yogurt will do just as well, or give them a try with some soft goat cheese.

An added bonus is these are baked rather than fried, meaning less mess and less oil. If preferred, you can shallow fry them in a few inches of oil, in batches, for about 5 minutes, taking care to lightly brown both sides. Drain on paper towels to get rid of excess oil if you choose this method.

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Asparagus and Pesto Risotto with Mushrooms

asparagus risotto with mushrooms

Asparagus has such an extraordinarily fresh and unique flavor that all I typically need to enjoy the local asparagus in season is a quick steaming or roasting, a pat of butter, a drizzle of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sea salt. But this elegant summer vegetable is quite deserving of a more elaborate treatment when you want to make it the spotlight of a special meal, so long as it is paired with similarly simple but fine flavors.

A simple creamy risotto provides the opportunity to lend even more distinction and flair to asparagus. Fresh lightly sautéed button mushrooms and a simple basil pesto add refined and delicious adornments that enhance the taste experience of asparagus without overshadowing it. Quite easy to prepare and make and just requiring attention, this risotto is really quite a stunning gourmet way to enjoy the asparagus season.

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Blueberry Lemon Cream Cheese Loaf

If there are multiple dimensions, then surely this bread should exist in each and every one.

blueberry cream cheese loaf

As noted many times in this space, I am a savory girl, although I do like to bake and enjoy the fruits of the experience in moderation. My husband and friends have no trouble sharing with me. More often than not, my favorite baked goods are berry treats, such as muffins or loafs and of course cheesecake. This moist and creamy loaf, bursting with fresh blueberries, brings together that treasured cheesecake experience, with a loaf twist. Already I have made it twice so as to share the perfected result with my readers.

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No Croutons Required - The Winner for June and the Theme for July

The challenge for June was to come up with a soup-like smoothie that included at least one salad green or vegetable. There are lots of lovely entries to browse to quench your thirst and nourish your body. Not everyone was up to adding greens, so there was a bit of cheating going on, but no matter, because it's really a delicious spread. And, a winner we have. Congratulations to Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen who contributed this tempting and gorgeous Fresh Fruity Surprise Juice. Packed full of fruity and vegetable goodness indeed, what a way to kick start your morning.

fruity surprise smoothie

I am hosting the July 2013 edition of No Croutons Required. The summer is heating up so salads are in order. This month the challenge is to come up with a stunning legume salad. I was mulling over a theme and as I adore legumes of any kind, and considering how well they are suited for salads, that is what we are going with for the challenge this time around. As always, this is a vegetarian challenge, so no meat, fowl or seafood.

All you need to do to participate is come up with your bean salad, post about it on your blog, mentioning I am the host this month with a link to this announcement, and submit your recipe via the linky tool at the end of this post by the 20th of the month. Please note that only one entry per blogger will be accepted. We look forward to your delicious creations to enjoy on the patio or cozy kitchen.