Wednesday, January 14, 2009

clean eating for the new year with salmon & salad - recipe: Julie Garner's Brown Sugar Salmon recipe: Lynn Johnston's Maple Blue Cheese Salad

It's the beginning of a new year, so many of us are trying to eat "lighter" after the holidays. I'm not exactly known for my low-fat cooking (I prefer to take smaller portions of great tasting foods so that I don't have to deprive myself), but I must admit that I'm craving vegetables, salads and healthy proteins after indulging in my fair share of chocolate (and cookies and scones and potatoes and gravy, among other things).

My lovely "in-law-mother" Lynn (my brother's wife's mother) prepared an absolutely delicious salad for our annual Christmas Eve family get-together and I am so pleased that she passed along the recipe to me. This salad was one of the best I've ever tasted, and when paired with salmon, it makes a delicious, complete meal.

My dear friend, Julie Garner, makes a fabulous brown sugar salmon and she also agreed to share her recipe with me. Julie is one busy lady — she commutes daily to Toronto for work, is expecting her first baby next month, is married to a small-business owner — and yet still finds the time to cook and entertain often.

She has mastered creating delicious yet easy recipes, thus allowing herself more time with her guests.

When I called Julie to ask her for her recipe and for permission to mention her in the article, we got to chatting. She asked me what the theme of the article was and I replied, "healthy eating."

She chuckled (OK, she howled) and said, "Danes, Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, blue cheese, nuts and maple syrup — do you seriously consider this healthy?"

To which I replied (albeit defensively), "Yes — the main ingredients are mixed greens and salmon after all, and don't the leafy greens and vegetables cancel out the blue cheese, nuts and syrup?" Julie thought about it and then agreed — she classified this dish as "clean eating."

Julie Garner's Brown Sugar Salmon


  • four, five to six ounce skinless and boneless filets of salmon
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (for the best results, grate the Parmesan yourself, but if you're in a pinch, you can also used the pre-grated or jarred variety)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Combine the Parmesan cheese and brown sugar together in a shallow bowl. Add freshly-cracked black pepper to taste (I like a lot).
  • Coat all sides of salmon in the parmesan-sugar mixture and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (pat any extra parmesan-sugar mixture on the tops of the salmon filets).
  • Bake salmon for 12 to 15 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
  • Serve on top of a mixed green salad (see below).

Lynn Johnston's Maple Blue Cheese Salad

When I make the dressing for this salad, I double the below (original) recipe because I love to have homemade salad dressing on hand in the fridge — then there is never an excuse not to eat your greens.

The recipe below makes a generous half cup of dressing (the doubled recipe makes a little over one cup).

This recipe was adapted from Cottage Life magazine — it was a contest winner in 2004.


  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano)


  • Place all of the dressing ingredients into a 500-millilitre mason jar (see tip below) and shake until well blended.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.
  • To finish, toss mixed salad greens with desired amount of dressing and fresh vegetables and/or fruit.
  • Top each portion of salad with a filet of brown sugar salmon.

Note: The original salad recipe calls for green onions, cherry tomatoes, English cucumber, pecans and crumbled blue cheese.

When I made it, I added some sliced blood oranges and substituted walnuts for the pecans (walnuts are an amazing source of omega 3 fats and I recently read that eating plenty of these can increase your baby's IQ by as much as 10 points).

Lynn serves the blue cheese on the side, as not everyone likes it (more for me, I say). If you want, you can also substitute a tangy chévre or feta for the blue cheese.

quick tip

Lynn brought the salad dressing in a small mason jar, which is such a fantastic idea. If it separates, all you need to do is give it a quick shake. No risk of leakage either, so it's perfect for potlucks. I also discovered that this is the easiest way to make dressing with a fussy eight-month-old on your hip. Especially if he is teething and wants to put everything in his mouth, including a whisk.

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