Several chefs and health practitioners are trying to get you slimmer, and they all believe it all starts at the beginning of your meal — with your appetizer.


Whether you’re a chef or an amateur cook, you want to impress your guests and yourself with a great tasting meal. Sandy Schwenger, a registered dietitian, is also creating her own tailored salads to help people stay healthy this summer.

“Your salad can be different; you don’t always have to use cucumbers or lettuce. Pick delicious and low fat ingredients and you can’t go wrong,” Schwenger says.

Her Mediterranean Couscous salad has only 121 calories and three grams of fat per serving (about three cups). The salad is topped with grape tomatoes, red pepper, and feta cheese, and is drizzled in virgin olive oil.

Schwenger places importance on portions and maintaining what she calls a healthy ration.

“Canadians are low exercisers and something as simple as adding a salad to your meal can help your metabolism and make your meal healthier,” Schwenger says.

Meanwhile, Renée’s Gourmet started the Great City Salads competition to test Canadian chefs. The catch — they had to make a great salad to reflect the city they live in and make it with Renée’s dressings. Renée’s and the Canadian Culinary Federation called on chefs from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto to take the challenge.

“People can make their own great food if they just look in their fridge,” says Wandee Jefferson, a chef who emigrated from Thailand in 1993 and went to Fanshawe College. Now she makes impressive meals at Great Hall Catering where she is the sous-chef.

Jefferson, impressed the judges with her Metro Connection salad with Portobello mushrooms, marinated pineapple, and yellow tomatoes using Renée’s Gourmet new Fig Balsamic and Tuscan Italian Wellness Dressings which have Omega-3 oils.

Jefferson’s imagination won her $1,000 and a chance to show off her original recipe on Renée’s website (

Schwenger’s Mediterranean Cous Cous Salad

INGREDIENTS: 3/4 cup of couscous; 3/4 cup of boiling water; 1 lemon juiced and zested; 10 oz. of grape tomatoes, finely chopped; 3 green onions; 1/2 medium red pepper, diced; 1/2 medium green pepper, diced; 3 oz. of low fat feta cheese; 10 oz. can of palm hearts, drained and diced; 1 cup of chopped parsley; 1 tsp of salt; 1/2 tsp of pepper; 1 garlic clove; 1 tsp of olive oil


1. Zest and juice lemon

2. Put couscous into small bowl and pour boiling water over it. Add half of the lemon juice and fluff couscous with the fork, set the mixture aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, peppers, cheese, parsley, and palm hearts and set aside.

4. Once the couscous is cooled at room temperature, add all of the ingredients together and serve.

5. Refrigerate for storage.

Southwest Caesar Salad

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS: 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro; 1/4 cup light sour cream; 1/4 cup fresh lime juice; 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese; 2 cloves garlic; 4 green onions, coarsely chopped; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 anchovy fillets (optional); 1 small jalapeno pepper (or more to taste), seeded; 1/2 cup olive oil 8 cups romaine lettuce (about 1 head); 1 sweet red pepper, seeded and diced; 3 cobs sweet corn; 1 tbsp oil Tortilla or nacho chips (about 24)

Steak: 2 tsp chili powder; 1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander; 1/2 tsp each salt, pepper and granulated sugar; 1 lb top sirloin or other grilling steak, 1/2-inch thick

DIRECTIONS: In a blender jar, combine cilantro, sour cream, lime juice, Parmesan, garlic, onions, salt, anchovies (if using) and jalapeno. Process until finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add 1/2 cup of oil and blend until smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.

In a self-sealing plastic bag, combine lettuce and red pepper; seal and chill until serving time. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and sugar; rub on both sides of steak. Lightly brush corn with 1 tbsp oil. Lightly oil grill and heat to medium-high.

Place corn on grill; close lid and cook, turning often until slightly caramelized or blackened, 15 to 20 minutes. When corn has cooked for 8 to 10 minutes, add steak to grill. Cook, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare or until desired doneness.

Remove steak and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Let corn cool enough to handle. With a sharp knife, cut kernels from cobs. In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, red pepper, corn and enough dressing to coat well. Divide salad among 4 dinner plates. Slice steak into thin strips; arrange on salad. Drizzle some dressing over steak. Garnish with chips. Dip any remaining chips in dressing.

Nutrients per serving: 454 calories, 35 g protein, 23 g fat, 27 g carbohydrates.

Tip: For faster cooking, cut raw corn kernels off cob. Spray or lightly oil heavy skillet. Cook corn over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly blackened, stirring occasionally.

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