Saturday, December 31, 2011

Food Resolutions 2012




Every year we make New Year's Resolutions..right? And do we keep them? Not so much. Guilty as charged. Here are a list of New Year's resolutions that might be easier to keep in small changes that create big changes later.

1. Cut out as much processed food as possible.
If it comes in a box that has to be frozen it might not be so good for you.

2. Drink water and cut out pop and juices and fancy coffees. I am guilty of the fancy coffee one. Water does not add calories and will hydrate you and make your internal organs function properly. Yeah I like those flavoured drinks too but skip the liquid calories and save them for some tasty food.

3. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Try buying new vegetables you have never made before and find a great recipe and try adding it to your cooking repetoire. The more variety of vegetables the better the health benefits. And the added bonus will be that you won't get bored from eating the same vegetables every week.

4. White stuff. Cut down or cut out white foods such as Sugar, White Flour, Salt. Yeah they all make food taste good but we have increased our consumption of these things so much that they are killing us. Use Stevia or Agave in place of Sugar when you need to. Use other types of flours if you can substitute, like quinoa or rice flours or even whole wheat is a bit better. Salt.. use fresh herbs to bump up the flavour or use small amounts of things like parmesan cheese to get that salty taste.

5. Fried Food... BAD, BAD, BAD... but tastes GOOD, GOOD, GOOD. yes I love me some fried food. They say everything tastes better when it's fried and put it on a stick and then you have a fried party on a stick. But frying things changes their molecular structure and also adds a ton of extra fat calories. So I will try and limit or eliminate fried foods.

6. Red Meat... limit or eliminate this if you can. I know it's hard to give up your steaks and hamburgers but it's better for you and the environment. I am going to try and limit my consumption of red meat for health reasons and I am sure it couldn't hurt financially.

7. Salmon is your friend. If you like fish then Wild Salmon or Sardines will be your best friend when making food resolutions. Salmon and Sardines are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids which are great for things like depression, healthy hair, nails and even bones. Your body will thank you and people will notice how much better you look. Make sure you look for WILD Salmon instead of farmed salmon for the healthiest option.

8. Alcohol. While I don't drink much I am not going to tell you to give up your social drinking forever. Just think about what you are drinking and slow it down. A glass of red wine with dinner is a good thing. Cooking with Wine is a good thing. Drinking a whole bottle of wine without dinner and home alone is not such a good thing. Maybe limit your drinking to once a week and one or 2 drinks to celebrate occasions with friends. The average drink is roughly 100 calories. Think of a 6 pack of beer ...if you pass on the 6 pack of beer maybe you can get the 6 pack abs instead.

9. Cooking utensils. Go through your inventory of pots and pans and toss out all your old Teflon frying pans and invest in a cast iron skillet or grill pan. It will last forever if you take care of it and will add iron instead of toxic substances into your food when you cook with it.

10. Cooking methods. Try poaching, steaming, baking and broiling your foods. These are the best methods for keeping your food healthy. People say RAW is better. Buy a juicer if you prefer to drink your fruits and vegetables. Puree your soups and take them with you in a thermos if you need to. Think outside the cooking box.

I know it's hard to make these changes. I have struggled and been successful at some of these things. I recently had a party and made almost an equal assortment of healthy and not as healthy options. Unfortunately the healthy options were the less popular choice and the higher fat options were the things that were eaten the most. It's a work in progress. I am trying to find recipes that taste like high fat foods but aren't. I did make a healthier chocolate chip cookie that people liked so there is hope.
Don't give up. Try to do as many of these things as you can and even if you only take on 1 of these and carry it through 2012 you will have made a huge change in your health by the end of the Year.
I will try and take my own advice this year and hopefully make as many healthy changes as I can in 2012.

I have done it before and I know I can do it again. This is the year to make a change and stick to it.

Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a Healthier New Year too.

CHEERS!

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?



Here's an animated video of a prescription for better health.

This is what we know we should do but aren't doing it enough... myself included. Something to put into practice in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday EntertainingI


Everyone seems to be going to a Holiday Party or having a Holiday Party as in my case this busy month of December.

I don't have family to celebrate the holidays with so last year I decided to have a Holiday Open House Party with some of my friends in between Christmas and New years when some people are still off work but over the Christmas Holidays but still looking for something to do.

So Last year I started this when I was living in a house and had room for a couple of extra drop ins..but what they didn't know was that I planned to have a little gift exchange. Last year I knew I was probably going to have to be moving at some point soon so I decided to give away things that I wasn't using or never used. It was a whole assortment of things like candle sticks, makeup products and decorative items. Everyone loved it and were not expecting anything so it was a conversation starter and a fun thing to do. This year was a bit more of a challenge. Since I moved from a house to an apartment in July I had to get rid of a huge amount of stuff when I moved that I probably would have had things I could have given to my friends this year but I didn't have the space to keep it all so it went. I still wanted to do the gift exchange so this year I concentrated on little gifts that were things like food gifts like chocolates, mugs with hot chocolate, and a bunch of other things. It cost me more this year but it made everyone happy. Next year I think I will try something different. I will try and expend less energy and money and have everyone participate more in the party by bringing an unwanted gift and do a re gift exchange and maybe a food exchange too. That way it's fun and people can possibly give something they don't want to someone that might want it. One person's junk..... and when it comes to the food part... here's what I did and here's what I will do next year....

This year I made the above little brownie Santa hats... an idea I got from watching the show The Chew. It went over really great ... Next year I will do it again but next time use frosting instead of whip cream so I can do it all in advance and not worry about it keeping all day.

What i also did this year is make 2 big salads... next time I will only do 1... I made a super healthy one and nobody knew what to do with that so it stayed.

One new thing I made was a hot crab dip... that went over big and may do that again but I think next time I will find a way to keep it hot like putting it into a fondue pot or something so it stays bubbling longer.

I also had assorted cheeses..seems like everyone likes cheddar... will keep the cheddar and skip other cheeses... less mess... I had all sorts of crackers... good but will have 1 or 2 next time.. too many things equals too many plates, choices and things to clean up later.

I also had cut up veggies...next time I will just pick up a store bought veggie platter.. back to less prep work and less mess to clean up.

So I learned a few things...

1. Try and know what your friends like or don't like.
2. Don't do too many things.. it just takes a lot more time and things get overlooked.
3. Keep it simple and as fresh as you can get it.
4. Think about the cleanup afterward because that's part of the party too. I ran out of kitchen space from all the clean up of dishes and containers.

5. Make sure you have everything set up as much in advance so that you aren't spending your time setting up, serving and cleaning up during the party.

Next year... I am going to think Big Dishes...

1. A Casserole
2. A Big Salad
3. One platter veggies and dip
4. One hot dip and chips/crackers
5. A desert that doesn't require utensils

These are the things I have learned over the past couple of parties. Have good food and have more fun.




This is what it looked like before the food was everywhere... Too many things ...not enough room.

My Holiday Party Advice.. Although my friends loved the food... I know I could have made it easier on myself and had more room to move around if I kept things simpler..

I tend to get carried away and always like to have choices for people but then it ends up being just too much and goes to waste. I know I am not the only one that does this. I have a friend that could have 2 parties by the amount of food he has at one party. But you never know if someone will drop in or not. In my case a couple of people couldn't make it... so I know most of the food would have been gone if they came.

While I am no party expert I have learned a few things over the years and every year I try and do better. I get inspired from all the food and party planning segments on daytime television so if you don't know what to do take some cues from the experts that are on those shows..or there is always Martha Stewart.

Unleash your inner Martha Stewart and have a Fun Holiday Party.

Bigger and Better Next Year

Saturday, December 17, 2011

If you know better why don't you do better?


I know better so why can't I do better? In the case of eating healthy I know I should eat more vegetable based foods and eliminate processed foods....BUT I can't seem to stick to it and don't know how I can override my right and left brains.

I just watched the Documentary "Forks over Knives" that is all about the benefits of switching to a Whole Food Plant Based Diet to reverse diseases. It makes perfect sense so why aren't we all doing it? That's the question I keep asking myself. Why can't I do it? I worked in a hospital for 14 years of my life while not directly as a medical practitioner but as an observer and saw that the medical profession had it's limitations and that Doctors weren't interested in alternative medicines or other approaches to heal their patients. My father died at 65 of Cancer and had a history of Heart Disease. He didn't know better and loved meat and dairy and smoked cigarettes while having minimal exercise. But when you are in your 60's it's hard to reverse everything you have ever done in your life. The doctors told him to quit smoking and I am sure told him to exercise and eat healthier foods even though at the time I don't think all of the advice that doctors were giving were 100% helpful. My father didn't eat at McDonald's but liked meat pies and corned beef and bacon and eggs and so I suppose his diet and life stress levels caught up with him. My mother passed away this past year and she also had heart disease in her late 60's and was told to exercise and change her diet. The one thing that probably helped her the most was that she quit smoking after my mother died and didn't eat any fast foods but she had a preference for sweets and would bake occasionally. The also preferred a dinner consisting of meat and some sort of starch be it potatoes or pasta and sometimes other vegetables. She was raised in Belgium so she had a wide range of vegetables that she liked but not all were prepared healthily. One of my favourite vegetables that she made was Cauliflower au Gratin. I still love it but realize that the Au Gratin part kills all the health properties of the Cauliflower but it makes it taste so good that I can't resist.

Is that it? We can't resist foods that taste so good that we can't eat less high fat, high sugar, high sodium substitutes? FAT and SUGAR together make a kind of Golden Feeling in the Brain that nothing comes close to except drugs. Have we all become drug addicts to food?

I spent a year and a half on Weight Watcher's in the 90's and lost 40 pounds only to gain it all back when I stopped the diet plan. Why is it so hard to stick to things we know are good for us?

What I have been thinking lately since I am not working in an office full time is that we are influenced by what we see, smell and remember. Interestingly enough when I worked in the Hospital patients would bring in all sorts of sweets as gifts for the doctors in the hospital which they would share with their staff. During the holidays the office became a smorgasbord of all sorts of high fat and calorie sweets that called our names while we tried to focus on getting our work done.

With the consistent bombardment of television advertising, billboard adds, radio commercials and even in store food demonstrations enticing us to "Try this great new product" it will change you life or you will love it if you try it. So myself and many others are curious or lack will power and try the things we are pushing. Is it all our fault or is it the marketers that are preying on us? Or is it the government subsidizing meat and dairy farmers and trying to build consumer loyalty to these products? All I know is that when I smell bread or something sweet I have to have some. Once again I know better but can't seem to stay away for too long.

This brings me to New Year's resolutions to lose weight. I make them every year as do a majority of people that pack on the pounds over the holidays after everyone we see encourages us to eat a whole lot more of the things that aren't good for us. We feel tired and fat and bad about ourselves as the media machine starts to ramp up the weight loss programs and fitness centres to convince us that they will fix our problem. Studies show that mid way through January people start easing off going to the gym and start to give up on that so called miracle diet. Why do we keep repeating this cycle every year? Why can't we stay consistent and change the things we want to change? MARKETING...could go a long way.... what if we saw adds for Kale that looked like FOOD Porn. Would we run out and buy Kale? Why don't we see those kind of ADS? Kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat but it's not sexy so people don't want it. It doesn't melt in your mouth and make you drool over it. You can make Kale chips which are tasty but still don't have the immediate satisfaction of eating potato chips. That's unfortunate because if all we did was substitute oven baked Kale chips for potato chips for a year I bet that would have a huge health benefit.

Why don't we have vending machines in school that sell Kale chips in a bag instead of Potato Chips? Why don't we have Vegan products in schools if that's the healthiest food for us to eat? Don't we want our kids to be healthy and have the best chance in life?

My mother didn't know anything about nutrition and would just say "Eat your Meat" or "Eat your Vegetables". She didn't know about food pyramids and Vegan or Whole Food or Organic diets. She just went to the store and bought some meat, bread and vegetables and tried to prepare them in different ways.

Is it because we are too busy or can't be bothered? I admit that when I am starving and have things to do the last thing I want to do is wait a couple of hours to prep and cook something and this is when I break down and turn to the convenient have it in 5 minutes fast food.

I have always thought that a smart person would find a way to make healthy fast food and would make a fortune if it tasted good too. Drive up at a drive thru and order a side of Kale Chips with you Quinoa burger. Why not? Why hasn't anyone done this yet?

I would do it but for 1. I don't have the money to start it up. 2. I know that the marketing of a concept like this would cost more than the start up costs.

So this is my message to all the Rich people out there that are looking for something good to do with their money. Invest in FOOD.. Invest in healthier food for kids in schools. Invest in businesses that focus on delivering healthy food to busy parents and busy executives. If we had a healthy drive thru for every McDonald's drive thru imagine what the choice could do to change the Obesity rates in North America. I am sure people would get sick of burgers everyday and if they had an option of getting a Whole Food plant based meal that tasted good and was quick and affordable I bet they would choose that at least once a week if not more.

If I won the lottery tomorrow I would do this. If there is a smart entrepreneur with lots of cash out there this is what you can do to change the world.

But in the meantime I would suggest you watch documentaries like "Forks over Knives" or "Food Matters" or "Food Inc" to educate yourself on the power of food.

I am still a work in progress. I know better and am working on doing better. I hope you can too.

for more info on "Forks over Knives" check out their website: http://www.forksoverknives.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Scrambled eggs the right way


Gordon Ramsey just taught me that I have been making scrambled eggs wrong all these years. Do you make your scrambled eggs in a Saucepan? and why not? don't you know that's the right way to do it. Yes it does work.

I was watching Gordon Ramsey's Christmas Special and he made a christmas breakfast of scrambled eggs on a croissant. Gordon Ramsey making scrambled eggs, that's too easy, right? Well it turns out that there is a right way to make scrambled eggs so that they come out velvety and fluffy. You need to break out your saucepan instead of your frying pan. I tried it his way and this is what my eggs looked like..see photo above, and they tasted really good too.

How did he do it?

In a saucepan...yes not a frying pan.... on medium heat put in a couple of nobs of butter and then add your eggs but don't scramble them first and don't add salt and pepper yet. Just add the eggs whole. With a wooden spoon just keep stirring constantly until they are like a smooth liquid. Keep cooking until the eggs start to come together but are still a bit runny. Then you can add salt and pepper and Gordon Ramsey added fresh Chives. I didn't have fresh chives so I added dried chives, it works but it would probably taste better with fresh add another little nob of butter before the eggs are fully cooked and stir it in.

By that time I would say turn off the heat and the residual heat will continue to cook the eggs so that they aren't runny anymore.

And Voila! You have lovely fluffy, velvety smooth eggs. Now pass this on so that people in restaurants that cook all day brunch can get it right.

I went to a restaurant in my area recently where my friend ordered scrambled eggs... you would think that would be fairly safe. Not so much. First plate was a solid mass of brown eggs. My friend couldn't eat it and sent it back. Second batch came out less brown but still huge chunks of solid egg, not so much scrambled. She didn't eat it. I wish I had taken a photo of her eggs to show you the right way and wrong way to make scrambled eggs. But i bet 80% of you are doing it wrong now. So try it Gordon Ramsey's way and see if that works for you.

I will never use a frying pan again to cook scrambled eggs.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Morning Coffee - How do you like it?


This was the Cappuccino I made this morning. What's so special about it? Not much really but unusual for me. I don't usually make coffee for myself at home but I have been trying to make great coffee at home for when I have coffee connoisseurs come and visit. Normally I am one of those people that like to go out for coffee and usually I go to Starbucks and get something like a Peppermint Mocha Latte in the afternoon when I am feeling the afternoon sugar craving slump. This morning I woke up feeling like I needed some coffee or something to satisfy me and wake me up a bit. I decided to break out the french press that I picked up recently and the Nespresso milk frother that I also got recently. The Nespresso heats and foams milk in a little kettle like maker but the only thing I would warn you is that when it froths too much it leaks out of the top of it. I haven't figured out how to stop that in time so I am still experimenting with that. I am also trying to experiment to figure out how to make the perfect cup of French Press coffee. How much coffee to add, how long to brew and temperature etc. I still have a way to go to get it perfect but the end result of todays experiment was still better than what I get out of my Tassimo brewer. Although the Tassimo brewer is the easiest thing to make lattes, cappuccino's or even chai tea, but you can't control the kind of coffee or the kind of milk you want to use so it has limitations too.

You have to decide how you like your morning coffee, whether it's just fast and easy or customized to your taste. I used Mocha Java coffee in my Cappuccino instead of Espresso because that's what I had but I will continue to experiment and see what makes the best tasting cup of coffee.

There are a lot of coffee purists out there. Some people will only drink high end coffee from fancy coffee shops and others prefer Tim Horton's and others will drink anything that has caffeine in it.

Personally I like lattes, cappuccinos and more flavoured milky coffees so I have to go to the higher end to get a better coffee.

But I don't drink coffee everyday and try and limit it to only when I really want one these days. If you have too much of it you won't be able to function without it and you won't appreciate it as much.

So save it for rainy days and special occasions and Enjoy whatever tastes good to you.

Cheesy fun shapes


My favourite breakfast consists of some sort of bread and some sort of cheese.
One of my most favourite is currently Talleggio Cheese on a Baguette. Crunchy/smooth goodness.

I had a little fun with my grilled cheese bread this morning when I took it out of the toaster oven it kind of looked like a dog or some sort of animal so I took a photo. I didn't do this on purpose but it made me think about fun with cheese. I love cheese and could eat it everyday but what if you have kids that aren't crazy about it like me. My mother was raised in Belgium so there was always cheese in my house. My mother didn't eat peanut butter so I suppose cheese was like our peanut butter. My lunch was cheese in an Italian Bun. If you cut me I would probably ooze cheese.

So if your kids aren't cheese lovers yet but you want them to appreciate a good cheese then try different kinds and try melting them onto toast in funny shapes and let them play with their cheese and cut shapes and see how they melt. Make it a game and let them play and experiment. Try creamy brie cheese or hard parmesan cheese but try different kinds as everyone has a particular taste for different types of cheese. Have them play grown up and give them a fancy plate of cheese and have them comment on each one and give them grape juice or something and let them play a fancy kids version of a wine and cheese party. Make it fun and the kids will probably be on board.

No kids like me...just have cheesy fun with your friends. I started a new tradition last year that I am doing again this year by having a Wine and Cheese Open House party between Christmas and New Years. I started this as a way to get single friends and friends without family around in between the 2 big holidays just to feel like they can chill and have some fun. And is an easy way to have a party. Just get a few wines, a few kinds of cheese, some great breads and crackers and maybe some veggie accompaniments and some sweet things and you have a fun and casual get together.

So whether you are a kid or a grown up have some fun with Cheese.

Enjoy.

Wild Salmon - is it worth it?


Wild Salmon is a hard thing to find at every supermarket but is it worth the Hunt and the Price? I would have to say YES it is.

On my recent trip down to St. Lawrence Market I decided to pick up a piece of Wild Salmon because I know I need to include more salmon in my diet to get good Omega 3 Fatty Acids which are great for skin, hair and host of other good benefits for your body. It's kind of a super food. What's the difference between Wild Salmon and regular Salmon? A lot. Wild Salmon is a more sustainable process for one instead of farmed salmon which is just like the way the process all the cheap chickens. It's not good for the environment and it's not as good for you.

The other difference is in color and the most important factor is in taste.

This piece of salmon that I made was one of the best pieces of Salmon that I have had in a long time. I only bought one piece because I didn't want to freeze it or keep it in the fridge too long. The fresher the better.

I made it really simply and it tasted amazing.

This is how I made it:

1 Piece of Wild Salmon
Maple Syrup
Dijon Mustard
Oil
Salt
Pepper
Parsley
Lemon


In a flat bowl mix all of the ingredients except the oil and then place the fish into the marinade mixture. Let it marinate for 5 to 10 min. You don't need to marinate it very long because it will continue to cook in the marinade in the oven.

Place the salmon in an oven proof baking dish just big enough for the fish with a tiny bit of room around it. Pour the marinade over the fish and bake in a 350 Degree oven for about 15 minutes or depending on how thick the piece is just make sure it has a bit of spring back and the color has changed to a lighter color and the juices from the fat start to show up on top. Try not to over cook it.

As usual I am not giving you exact measurements because you can season to taste. If you like it sweeter use more maple syrup but if you like it spicy add more mustard and maybe some hot sauce or soy sauce to the marinade. It's up to you. As usual this is a guideline.

I always take an idea of a recipe and just wing it and then adjust it as it becomes a recipe i make more often. That way you always make stuff you like your way.

So experiment with the marinade but don't experiment with the type of salmon. Invest in Wild Salmon. Your body and tastebuds will thank you.

Get your Omega 3's on with some great Wild Salmon.

Enjoy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

If your kids don't like it Caramelize it!

When I was a kid my mother made the worst brussel sprouts the majority of the time she cooked them. What's odd was that she grew up in Belgium so you would think she would be able to cook something called Brussel Sprouts amazing. What did she do wrong you ask? Well they started off green and ended up kind of a dull yellow color after she boiled them for who knows how long and then just added salt and pepper to them... Blahhhhh..

Now I love Brussel Sprouts... what changed? I found out how to cook them properly to enhance the taste and take away the stinky and mushy texture.

What I found was that if you roast the brussel sprouts cut in half in the oven sprinkled with salt, pepper and olive oil and I add nutmeg to it to kick it up a bit and roast them until they are crunchy but not burnt and caramelized. Then the caramelization brings out the sweetness and the crunchy bits are chip like. I have seen people deep fry them. i don't do that because of having to deal with the oil and mess so I found the best and healthiest way is to roast them in the oven. If you want to kick it up a bit once you take them out of the oven add some balsalmic vinegar and some crispy bacon. Those 2 flavours are like the perfect marriage. They work well on their own but together it's like magic.


It's crunchy, sweet, salty, tangy goodness. It hits all the taste buds when you combine it this way and that's why it works. Put the brussel sprouts on a stick and I bet your kids will eat them. Try it and see.

The other thing that takes a vegetable that you don't know what to do with because you usually only see it in soup to something different is to cut up Butternut Squash into 1 inch chunks and put it in a baking dish and sprinkle it with vegetable oil and add maple syrup or for adults some Jack Daniels and a dab of butter and salt and pepper. The sugars in the alcohol and the maple syrup will condense and caramelize giving the coating of the butternut squash a deep caramelization and making it sweet and tasty.

You can do this with sweet potatoes too. I sometimes just add brown sugar and butter and a bit of alcohol just to make sure the brown sugar doesn't solidify.

It works and if you add the maple syrup maybe your kids will think it's dessert and the will try it.



And if you don't have kids but you have friends and family that don't like veggies.. yeah there are a lot of those people out there. I know a whole lot of them. Try this and see if they are curious enough to try it.

Either way...if you like veggies you will probably just like this caramelized way of making some of the ones a lot of people don't like taste a whole lot better.

Get over your fear of brussel sprouts.. caramelize them and see the difference.

Try it and Enjoy.

MMMM MUSSELS Parisienne style

Paris seems to be haunting me to come and visit soon as everywhere I go I see something that says Paris but I can't afford to go there right now but what I can afford to do is get a taste of Paris at home with some Parisienne inspired Mussels.

I was in the St. Lawrence Market area downtown in Toronto yesterday and decided to pop into the market and pick up some fish that is hard to find fresh in my area. I picked up some Fresh Sushi Tuna that I made tartare style last night and inhaled that so fast I didn't even take a photo of it. I also picked up some wild salmon which I haven't decided what to do with yet.. That's for dinner but Lunch today was a visit to Paris with Fresh Mussels.


Making Mussels is a great way to clear out your fridge. You can put whatever flavourings you like into the broth.

This is what I put into it:

Shallots
Red and Green Onion
Garlic
Parsley
Tarragon
Red Chili Pepper
Leek
Celery
Salt
Pepper
Cherry Tomatoes
White Wine
Pernod
Splash of Heavy Cream

The Tarragon, celery, leek, white wine, Parsley and Pernod really give it that fresh flavour and give it a French Style Flair. Add the quantities you like.. just a bit of each thing.. basically toss all the ingredients into a big pot and when you smell the flavours coming out toss in the Mussels and cover the pot with a lid and steam for a minute.

The cooking time is nothing.. but may take a few minutes of prep time just to get your ingredients together but depending on what you put in it could take anywhere from 2 min to about 15 min. Really that's nothing for a fresh bowl of Mussels.

People are scared to make them at home but really the tricks are to clean them and make sure there aren't any beards, little fibers hanging out of them and make sure they are closed before you cook them and all open after you cook them. That's the whole trick. The rest is just what you flavour them with. Thai, Italian, French whatever you think will give you a flavourful broth that you can dip a fresh baguette into to sop up all the flavour in the broth.

Save the waiter tips and try and make it at home. You can make as much as you want and have them whenever you want and you won't have to wait for a slow waiter to bring them to you.

Only downside that I can see is that you actually have to throw out more than you eat because the shells and the veggies that you don't eat are more than those tiny little mussels.

So the only real downside is the prep and cleanup so I would suggest finding an OCD friend that likes to clean to come over and help you clean up.

If I can't go to PARIS at least I can bring a taste of Paris home.

It's easy...try it and ENJOY!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rob Ford's Food Truck

Rob Ford's Food Truck

Created by Toronto Food Trucks

He would probably park it outside the front door of City Hall so he can have a constant flow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Farenheit makes coffee right

A friend of mine is a coffee connoisseur and wanted to meet up at a new coffee shop called FARENHEIT at Jarvis and Lombard. The only indication that this place was a coffee shop was a small sandwich board outside of the front door with a big letter F in red on it and in small little letters underneath it said Coffee.


It's almost like a secret club location. You would never know about it unless you happened to walk by and noticed the sandwich board or you knew someone who was an ex Starbuck's employee with an affinity for coffee. The owner is obviously passionate about making a quality coffee and has won awards doing it. I got to meet the owner and their in house baker while I was there. They were both very sweet and I hope they have a successful place.


I tried the Mocha and was impressed by the hand poured Turkey design on the top.
For me the mark of a good coffee is when I don't have to add sugar or milk to take away any bitterness. I don't like regular coffee and prefer cappuccino style or flavoured coffees. I normally have to add lots of sugar to most coffees I order but didn't have to add anything in this case.

I also tried the lemon Madeleine's. Nicely made and tasty.

What I am worried about is that this place may be missing out on potential business and may have a hard time sustaining itself. There is no sign that it is a coffee shop on the window on Lombard Street so you wouldn't know what the place is unless you looked in the window. If you are driving by and see the F sign you wouldn't know what it was because you wouldn't be able to read Coffee at the bottom of the sign. When you walk by and see the window you see unfinished wood counters that make the place look like it's still in progress. There is no seating whatsoever making it difficult to meet friends there unless you plan on standing at the counter tables. The only food is about half a dozen sweet baked goods so it won't promote people going in at all hours and spending more money. You would never know the quality of the coffee unless you knew someone that knew the owner or his previous shops.

So I do hope word of mouth spreads so that this coffee savvy owner has the chance to compete with the big coffee guys. Support your small local businesses and give FARENHEIT a try.

http://www.fahrenheitcoffee.com/

Sunday, November 27, 2011

White Beans elevated with Spanish flavours


I was watching a food network show from Spain recently and they were making a recipe with white beans and Chorizo so I thought that would be a pretty good combination so I attempted my own version today. As I finished it I was watching Jamie Oliver who was also making white beans and he added a dash of red wine vinegar at the end so I tried that with and without the red wine vinegar and I have to say that it gave it a really great boost of flavour.

Here's what I did to make it:

No measurements ... experiment to your liking on quantities.. I didn't use a recipe so you shouldn't either. I just used an influence. That influence was Spanish flavours. I took a little trip to Spain in my kitchen today.

Starting off yesterday I soaked a couple of cups of white kidney beans in water over night.
I rinsed them a couple of times this morning and then drained them.

I sliced about a 3/4's of a Chorizo Sausage. I used a Mild one but if you like it spicier you can use a hot one.

I diced a white onion
I small diced one stalk of celery
2 cloves of garlic
Parsley
Cilantro
Bay Leaf
Dried Thyme
Paprika
Smoked Paprika
Salt and Pepper
Butter
Flour
Bacon Fat
Water or stock
Tomato paste for color

I first started off rendering off the sliced Chorizo Sausage. I went lightly on the browning but would recommend getting a bit of color on them. Then I added the celery and onion and cooked them until softened.
I added the drained white beans and then added some stock and water to cover.

I added a Bay leaf and some dried thyme.
Add salt and pepper to taste

I tossed in some chunks of Garlic but you can crush it and add it when you toss in the onions. I was going to pick them out but they are big enough to fish out if you don't want them.

There will be scum that rises to the top after you cook the beans for a bit so make sure you skim that off.

Add a lot of paprika and I added some smoked Paprika for a smoky flavour.

I also added some chopped cilantro and fresh parsley for a little fresh flavour.

Let the beans cook for about an hour.

Just before they are done in a seperate pan cook a roux mixture of butter, flour and more paprika and cook until it the flour is cooked a bit.
Mix that into the beans.

You could add wine to the beans if you like. I added about a tablespoon to the butter/flour mixture.

At the end I added about a half tablespoon of red wine vinegar.

Cook the beans until they are soft and tender and the juices are like a gravy instead of a soup.

You can be fancy and garnish with the cilantro and parsley but I just dished it up as is in a bowl.

The beans should be creamy like mashed potatoes in the middle and the sauce should be velvety and spicy but it can be as spicy as you like it depending on how hot the Chorizo is and how much smoked Paprika you add.

I have had the dried beans in my cupboard waiting for a great way to make them and I think this way really makes it work out great.

I have been wanting to find new recipes for beans so that it encourages me to eat them more since they are cheap and healthy. I hope this recipe inspires you to cook some beans up soon.

Give your beans a Spanish Kiss and Enjoy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bread to Bread Pudding

I got a new Kitchen Aid mixer recently and decided to give it a test ride making a batch of bread. I never bake bread so I thought this would be a good test to see if it would be easy to make a loaf at home anytime I wanted fresh bread and didn't want to have to go to the store just to buy bread. I decided to use the recipe that came in the cooking instructions in the box just to see if it would work out. The only thing was that I didn't have enough all purpose flour so I mixed some whole wheat flour in with it. The whole wheat flour made the loaf a lot denser but at least it upped the health content. The batch I made mixed 2 loafs. It took about 3 hours to complete the whole thing so it wasn't a quick process when you add up all the resting time but mixing it was pretty easy. I would finesse it a lot more next time I make it and probably just use all purpose flour but other than that it came out pretty good.

Since it made 2 loaves of bread and I didn't have enough room to put one in the freezer it got really hard after about 2 days so I had to decide what to do with it. After all the work and time put into it there was no way I was going to just throw it out.

I had 3 options as I saw it.
1. throw it out.
2. Make bread crumbs or
3. the Best idea.. Make Bread Pudding

I decided on making the bread pudding. I could use all of the leftover bread to make something delicious. I suppose bread pudding was created in the lean years when people couldn't afford to waste any food but really even if you can afford to waste money on food it's still a delicious dish to make.

I made mine with a traditional custard mix of milk, eggs and sugar and then added cinnamon and vanilla. For a little extra kick I added some Brandy.

I tossed in some dried cranberries and dark chocolate chunks.

You have to make sure you cover all the bread with the custard mixture and let it soak in the fridge until the liquid is absorbed by the stale bread.

Mine was a little under on the custard so the whole top was like crunchy french toast.

This is another one of those great winter comfort foods that makes you want to stay at home and just relax with great food.

This is what the bread to bread pudding looked like. I added some french vanilla ice cream but you could add whip cream, yogurt, caramel sauce or whatever you like to top it or just eat it as is.


And since you asked.. they both turned out great. The bread was very dense but it had good flavour.

The bread pudding turned out fantastic. The top was like crunchy little french toast croutons and the odd bit of chocolate and cranberry here and there gave it an extra layer of flavour. The middle of the bread pudding was like a very moist cake and the bottom had more crunch bits and was more cookie like in taste as it caramelized and crunchified.

Most people have bread, sugar, milk and eggs and a few spices in their pantry or fridge so this is a great last minute pull together brunch or dessert item for drop in friends and family.

Try it and I am sure you will love it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Red Rocket Coffee moves to the Danforth

http://www.torontolife.com/daily/daily-dish/deathwatch/2011/11/18/red-rocket-leslieville-closes/




I just read this and my heart sank a bit. I have a special place in my heart for this little coffee shop. The owner Liako was kind enough to allow me to shoot my short film "Urban Zombies" there. We filmed it one afternoon while the regulars milled about the shop. After spending a few hours there I realized what a great neighbourhood cafe this place was. This place is like the Cheers of coffee shops. People go there everyday and bring families, dogs, friends and themselves with their laptops, books and newspapers. They grab a great housemade scone or cookie and a great tea or coffee and chill out for a while. I found this place very homey and relaxing and if I lived in the area I would have called this place my second home. I try and stop in whenever I am in the area and will miss it very much even though I don't get to go often. Even when I drive by I smile because I felt welcomed there and my short film couldn't have been made anywhere else. Even one of the staff members appears in my cast of characters.

Red Rocket Coffee will truly be missed in Leslieville but I hope that it's new home on the Danforth has as much or more success. I will drop by to support them whenever I can.

Good Luck Red Rocket. Hopefully your regular extended family will make it up to the Danforth to your new home.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gourmet Food & Wine Show - wine it up

I just got home from the Gourmet Food and Wine Show at the Metro Convention Centre. Well for a person that doesn't drink wine it's an odd place for me to be hanging out I guess. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against wine but I really only like to cook with it but the big reason for me going to the show was to see Chuck Hughes from Chuck's Day Off on the Food Network. Even though he says he isn't very good at doing the standing up in front of an audience and talking and signing autographs don't believe him. He is great at it. He cracks jokes and answers questions all the way through his cooking demos, although on his second demo his assistant Tracy pretty much did all the cooking while he was like a moving target roving around the audience answering questions. He is one of the most entertaining chefs I have seen at one of these food network demos, the only other one that comes close to the same humour and warmth is Chef Lynn Crawford. They both entertain while cooking amazing food. Chuck's Day Off is one of my favourite food network shows at the moment because Chuck pulls back the curtain on the restaurant industry and shows all the people it takes to run a successful restaurant, from the suppliers to the regular customers to the prep cooks and even friends that support him. Chuck is a very tough on the outside but big heart on the inside kind of guy who doesn't take himself too seriously and enjoys every minute of his culinary career. He cooks and lives with a lot of Passion and it translates into his cooking and to the people he meets. Even though Chuck didn't win The Next iron Chef he is going to be one of the chefs to look out for because I believe he is going to be a Jamie Oliver, Rachel Ray kind of big time celebrity chef. Loads of fans and trying to do good things. He will be coming back to Toronto on Nov 26-27 for Bobby Flay's Chef Challenge a huge Charity Event for Mount Sinai Hospital for Cancer research. You have to raise $2500 in donations just to be at the Challenge to compete. I would enter if I could raise that kind of money. Maybe next year.

So Look out for Chuck on a TV or at a show near you again soon.



You probably want to know about the rest of the Food and Wine Show too right? Well I only tasted one wine that was a sangria and it was the Barefoot something wine. It was good but I am no wine expert so I don't even want to try and give you any wine information. But what I did love was the Margarita mix. Great lime and Strawberry slushi margaritas. It was so hot in the convention centre that it went down so well.

Food to note that I really enjoyed was at the Barbados booth. Great Fish cake and they had sorrel and rum drink. I tasted a bunch of cheeses, my favourites being the goat cheeses with herbs and red peppers on them. I had some nice chicken curry as well.

The most fun food item was a huge sub that the chef from the Drake Hotel made. You name it and it was in it. I got a sample of that and it was packed with flavour.


Early in the day when I arrived the show was very subdued but by the time I left at 8:30 it was like a wild night in a club on a friday night. Friday and Saturday nights are quite the party so if you are looking for somewhere to go and drink instead of a club this would be a good choice for you.

The show ends on Sunday so it's not to late for you to go and check it out.

Chuck Hughes has probably already gone back to Montreal but there's lots of wine to be had if you like to try all kinds of different wines from around the world.

A couple of things to note. Return your glass before you leave and $1 will be donated to Second Harvest and please don't drink and drive.

Enjoy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jamie Oliver chats in his front room

I went to see Jamie Oliver last night at Roy Thompson Hall and all I got was this Cookbook.



But seriously... as Jamie said when he walked onto the stage: "Welcome to my Front Room" which was kind of how the evening felt.

I saw Jamie last year at the Metro Convention Centre where he was whipping up a couple of simple dishes and the smell of grilled meat that we couldn't taste was killing me. We got bags of chocolate chips on the way out but that didn't quite satisfy the beef craving that we had after smelling the cooking demo. We ran right over to a burger joint and inhaled a burger after the show.

This time Jamie was doing a sit down chat with Rosey Edey from ET Canada. They sat in some fancy black chairs on stage and just had a chat and Jamie answered audience questions along the way. It was like a chef talking about food with a thousand friends. A little weird for a chef to be just sitting there talking about his food likes, dislikes and food politics but he is a master story teller and has stories of all kinds of odd experiences from around the world.

He spoke about his Food Revolution show and movement that he has championed to make changes in both Britain and America.

He said he only does the sit down chat in Canada. Not sure why. Maybe it's because we have a whole lot of foodies here that like to talk and eat food.

I don't know but he was entertaining but I would have loved to have a Jamie Oliver amuse bouche or something at the show. I was a lot smarter this time and had dinner just before the show so I wasn't starving throughout the hour plus long food chat.

I love what Jamie Oliver has done and think it's great that one chef could change so many people's lives with a little help.

The power of food never ceases to amaze me.

Food makes a home feel like home

"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body."

— Benjamin Franklin: was a Founding Father of the United States

I love this quote because it really is true.

This morning I woke up and felt like baking so I made a batch of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. There is nothing that says home more than the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. I had to go out for a few minutes and when I walked back into my place I could smell the chocolate chip cookies wafting throughout my apartment. The best air freshener ever.


The best thing about these particular cookies are that they are almost guilt free. The recipe I used called for no eggs but I found that the last time I made them it was a bit dry so I added an egg to bind it a bit better. It has a lot of healthy substitues in the recipe such as Coconut oil instead of butter, shortening or oil and the flour is whole wheat flour. I even tossed in some Chia seeds to boost up the protein quotient. The sugar comes in the form of honey or maple syrup. I used both. There is chopped walnuts to add some omega 3 boost and you can use organic dark chocolate chips to boost the flavour while still staying on the healthy side. Oatmeal is also added for some great fibre so this cookie has all good things in it.

But the best part is the taste. It doesn't taste like a healthier cookie it just tastes like a decadent chocolate chip cookie with a hint of coconut and oatmeal walnut. A really great combination.

I found this recipe online and really love it and now prefer to make this recipe to regular chocolate chip cookies.

Try substituting some healthier ingredients for your traditional baking ingredients and experiment until you get the desired effect. Once you get it right you will never go back.

You can do it too...

Enjoy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Good cooking choices - yo mamma was right again.



I received an email with this article from the Environmental Working Group. They promote making better environmental choices in the products you purchase.

http://www.ewg.org/healthyhometips/JanesHolidayKitchen#cookware

I thought I would pass this along for those of you trying to build your cookware and pantry's.

It turns out that once again your momma and your grandma were right. Cast Iron and Stainless Steel pots and pans are the best option in cooking and for the environment so why did we screw it up and make toxic things we don't need to use?

Also we should go back to cooking real food, the kind that requires a knife to prep it and some sweat equity to make it into a healthy meal. Buying a can of something or a processed package of something really isn't the best choice but we have grown to choose these choices more and more with the lightning speed pace that our world is going in. I would suggest that after you read this article you get off the computer and go to a farm or farmers market and buy something organic and go home and practice your knife skills and prep it and cook it in your grandma's cast iron skillet and feed it to your family instead of sitting in a chair and staring at a lighted screen. Do this a couple of times a week and you can change the world. Yes really. It all adds up.

Bring back Sunday Suppers and go out on saturday and shop at a local market and plan for your sunday with friends and family. Spending quality time with friends and family is not only good for your health but good for the world.

Get inspired. Cook something Great and pass it on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frank's Kitchen - Review

I was at the Women's show all day on friday and was sampling away on little bits and bites but at the end of the day my friend came to meet me at the show after work and after we left the show we decided to go grab some real dinner somewhere. Where to go around the Metro Convention Centre? Well we couldn't think of anything great so we started driving and then we got up to Queen's Park and I thought we could try going to ICI Bistro on Harbord. My friend is a friend of JP Chalet's. It's a tiny place and it was full but JP gave us a recommendation to go to College Street and check out Frank's Kitchen. I never heard of this place surprisingly. I don't go to College St. often because I find the parking is tough to find especially on friday and saturday nights but we drove around for a while and got lucky and found a spot near the Royal Cinema. Just so happened that we were also able to stop in there and see the guy I am filming a documentary on working at the Reel Asian Film Festival on our way to the restaurant. So we ventured over to Frank's Kitchen with no expectations and only a recommendation from Chef JP. We walked in and immediately liked the look and vibe of the place. Not extremely noisy and very cosy but not cramped. We waited a few minutes and got a table near the back and across from the Chef's kitchen. What we learned from sitting there was that Frank was a former chef at Centro on Yonge Street and had many years of high end experience. Well it showed in the details of his own restaurant.
The service was immediate and friendly without being pushy.
We were presented with fabulous mini loafs of different breads with olives and a tasty dip.

My friend and I ordered the Tuna Tartare and the Seafoood Cocktail to share. We love tuna tartare and order it all the time when we go to Nota Bene so how would it stack up at Frank's?
Well I loved it. It was similar but different with a more acidic flavour to the tuna.
The seafood cocktail was a deconstructed plate with shrimp and lobster with an obviously homemade cocktail sauce. It was very fresh tasting and I loved the presentation. There was also a guacamole style dip that came with it.


Then we were presented with lime palate cleansers presented on lovely little spoons. It tasted a bit like grapefruit to me but I wonder if it was a mix of citrus.

Then we shared the crispy gnocchi... something I have never heard of before. I love gnocchi so I was curious to see what it was like. It was almost like a gnocchi tater tot. a light potato crunchy little gnocchi shaped and crouton looking bite in a pool of gorgonzola cream sauce. It was very interesting and a bit of a twist on the usual gnocchi. I liked it very much.


I ordered the desert to try to see what they were like. I was presented with a shot glass with some sort of milk shake concoction.. not too sure what was in it exactly. There was also a tiny scoop of rasberry sorbet and a 2 bite molten lava cake which I thoroughly enjoyed. Nothing out of the ordinary with the lava cake but it was still delicious.

We were then presented with tiny little chocolate truffles and our meal was complete.

We ended up with a great meal that we had no expectations about. I think that's the best way to check out a restaurant. Go on a recommendation of someone you trust that has a great palate and be open to whatever they have to offer and hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised.

Frank himself was very entertaining telling stories to the man at the table next to us. So it was a very enjoyable dinner and I would highly recommend going there and trying it for yourself.

Frank's Kitchen is east of the Royal Cinema on College Street.

J.P. Challet opens Bakery on Queen East



I have been hearing about this for awhile p glad it's coming soon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Cooks big tools

KitchenAid© Professional 5 Stand Mixer | Canadian Tire

I have been wanting to get a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer for quite a long time. They are kind of an investment piece with the price being about $299 and up. I finally deiced to pick this one up at Canadian Tire and add it to my Cooks arsenal of tools. There are so many models of this Kitchen Aid machine that it was tough to decide which one to get but when you can get the Professional 5 quart for what the normal classic one costs it's time to buy. I saved 40% or $200 so even though it was still $299 I was getting a better model. So I would recommend picking one up if you are in the market for this mixer.

I used to use my mother's old Stand Mixer but it was kind of ugly and after years of use was kind of grungy so it was time to say goodbye when I moved and I only had a hand mixer which doesn't quite cut it if you are looking to make something like bread or something dense. So I have been wanting this mixer for a long time. It's kind of drool worth for a foodie cook. It just looks like a piece of art you want to use to create art food.

I hope to do a bit more experimenting in the kitchen this winter and hope that this piece of equipment will be put to good use for years to come.

It also made me think of what were my favourite tools in the kitchen.

My pics would have to be:

My nice red Paderno Knives
My cutting board
My Cuisinart toaster oven... matches my new mixer too.

These seem to be the tools I use everyday and get the most use from.


What are your favourite kitchen tools? If you are a heat up and go it's probably a microwave... if you are salad person it's probably a bowl and a knife... What do you use the most in Your Kitchen?

If you had to only have 3 things what would they be? This is my Iron Chef challenge to you.

I suppose these would be my three.... assuming you get a plate and utensil to go with whatever you are making.

What would you choose?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Food and Wine Expo

Food and Wine Expo


I am planning on going to this Food and Wine Event in a couple of weeks. Chuck Hughes returns to Toronto for this show. He is becoming a very hot chef now that he is on the Next Iron Chef series. Although he has been one of my food network favourite chefs for a long time so I am rooting for him to win.

The Food and Wine Expo is at the Metro Convention Centre from Nov 17-20.

hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Low & Slow Food - Braised Short Ribs


Slow Food is coming back thanks to the Slow Food Movement and the improvement of crock pots and cookware.

I never had short ribs growing up because it wasn't something my mother ever made so it wasn't something I was familiar with. She would make beef stews using stewing beef and that required slow cooking so I was familiar with the slow cooking process but had never made short ribs until now. Short ribs seem to be the trend of high end restaurants as the hot thing to order right now. What braised short ribs is really is just short ribs prepped in a certain way with certain liquids and vegetables and left to simmer for a long time until the meat breaks down and basically will fall off the bone or just fall apart.

It may not be pretty food in the end but it's packed with flavour and vitamin infused vegetable beef broth.

This is how I did it:

5 strips of short ribs cut in chunks between each bone.
1 large onion, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup of red wine
1 cup of beef stock ( can be in a box)
2 tablespoons of oil
1 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon of tomato paste

How you make it:

Pat the beef dry with a paper towel and sear them until browned in a large heavy bottom pot like a cast iron pot with a lid.
Sear the meat in small batches so that they don't steam and get a good sear. Take them out and set aside as you brown them.

After they are all brown toss the onions that have been fine diced into the pot and sweat them out for a minute. Toss in the carrot, parsnip, celery all diced into small pieces into the pot with the onions. Mix well and then add the flour and mix until the flour disappears. Add the chopped garlic cloves and the thyme strips from the stalk.
Add the bay leaf.

Add the tomato paste and stir well.
Add the wine.
Make sure you scrape off the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and mix well into the wine.
Add the beef back into the pot.
Add the beef stock.

Cover and put into a 300F oven and cook for 1-3 hours depending on how thick the meat is and how tender you want it and also how much liquid is left in the pot. If it gets thicker than you like just add some more stock or even just some water and mix well.

The longer you let it cook the more the flavours will develop from the vegetables cooking down and the meat breaking down and absorbing the flavours.

It's not an exact science because it depends on the meat really and how thick it is and how you like the consistency to be.

You can also just dump it all into a crock pot after you sear the beef and just let it go on low for the day while you are out doing errands and come back to a full flavoured bowl of goodness.

Sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley on it at the end of the cooking process so you keep the fresh flavour.

I made it with mashed potatoes to soak up all the gravy goodness. You could make egg noodles, rice or even polenta and it will all soak up the juices and make you feel fully satisfied.

This is a great winter dish and something you can just prep and forget for a while. You can feed a large family or you can freeze it for a quick heat up after work on a cold winter night.

Either way it's going to be tasty and great comfort food.

If you had it at a restaurant I am sure it would cost you between $12-$25 dollars depending on what restaurant you go to. Why not attempt to do it yourself. It just takes a bit of prep work and some time left alone to do it's thing.

You will be very proud to serve this to friends and family because it's not the kind of thing you can get at your local take out restaurant and it will bring you back to the good old days when moms cooked that way for a sunday dinner.

Break out your crock pot and have sunday dinners any day.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Delicious New Show in Toronto

I went to the DELICIOUS FOOD SHOW at the CNE in Toronto today. It's a new Foodie show that had vendors and celebrity chefs and food specialists.



It's called the delicious food show but unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot of fresh food available. It was mostly things like sauces, dips, jams, teas and a lot of packaged goods. Maybe because it'a a new show it still hasn't gotten a lot of new vendors on board yet but I am finding a lot of these food shows are repeating the same vendors at every show. One vendor that I finally got to after seeing at a couple of other foodie events that were too busy to get to was the cupcake food truck. Can't comment on the cupcakes yet but I picked up a chocolate coconut and a red velvet cupcake that I will try when I get hungry later.

The best food I had at the show I paid for. That was the Pulled Pork Parfait at Hank's. That's the kind of thing I like to see at a show, something familiar but with a twist. It was pulled pork in a plastic ice cream parfait cup with mashed potatoes and bbq sauce. It was yummy.

One of the most impressive things of the day was Colin Cowie the Event Planner to the Biggest Celebrities in the World like Oprah Winfrey. He showed photos of some of the events he has done as well as his own home and different ideas. It was so inspiring to see what life lived at it's fullest looks like. Something to aspire to. I would have loved to see how he would have set up this show if he was organizing it.


One of my favourite Food Network Chefs who was in attendance was Lynn Crawford from Pitchin In and Restaurant Makeover and she also has her own restaurant in Toronto called Ruby Watch Co. which I have yet to go visit but it's on my to do list of places to check out. Lynn is one of the funniest chefs around with a huge passion and joie de vivre for food. But she didn't actually cook this time. She got a couple of people from the audience to compete in an Iron Chef type of competition to make the best risotto recipe from Lynn's instructions. I wish I would have gone up there. I make a mean risotto and could have done it without any help.
Lynn had loads of fun roaming around in the audience and taking lots of photos with people. She is a great fun to see.


What else did I do there? Well I sampled a bunch of things and picked up a few things. I won a little cooking package from spinning a wheel at the Liason College booth and donated to charity at the same time.

This is what I picked up:


Cupcakes from Cupcake Diner a food truck that has been floating around town.
My favourite tortilla chips from the Mad Mexican with some Salsa verde.
Teopia Holiday Blend Tea.
Bistro Tea's Lemongrass Tea
and some Macaroon's from Ruelo.

None of it cheap but all good quality stuff that's harder to find.

So was it a successful show? I don't know.. but I did enjoy Colin Cowie and Lynn Crawford so I guess it was worth it just to see them.

The Show continues until Sunday with different celebrity chefs each day.

Check it out if you are in the area. Tickets are $20 at the door.. a bit expensive considering you don't even get a bag or anything when you enter the show but there are some samples.

www.deiciousfoodshow.com

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Delicious Food Show

http://deliciousfoodshow.com/

A NEW EVENT

The Delicious Food Show

I just saw this advertised on TV and thought I would post the iink for all the Toronto Foodies. It is next weekend Oct 20-23 downtown Toronto.

Lots of food network chefs on hand and I am sure lots of great food too.

I am going to try and check it out so hope you do too.

Bringing the South to the North with Grits



SHRIMP AND GRITS

It's a rainy, windy, gloomy and cold day today. The perfect day for some comfort food that's warm and satisfying. When you think of comfort food you think of Southern Cooking. I took the comfort of the South and brought to our Northern climate. Since I can't just pop down to get some home cooking in the South I decided to make a batch of Shrimp and Grits.

Here's how I did it.

For the Grits:

1 cup of ground cornmeal (grits or Polenta) Old Mill makes one
2 cups of milk
2 cups of water
pinch of salt and pepper
tablespoon of oil
3-4 teaspoons of butter
3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. more or less to your liking.

Directions

Add the milk, water and oil and salt and pepper to a large pot. I used a cast iron casserole pot to do this.
Bring liquids to just about a boil and then slowly whisk in the cup of Ground cornmeal or grits. Immediately turn the heat down to low and keep stirring.

Place a lit on the pot and stir every 5 minutes or so to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom or get lumpy. It should take about 25 minutes to cook. Cook to a smooth consistency and taste to see if it is creamy and smooth. When it is cooked add the nobs of butter and grated cheddar cheese and serve immediately.

For the Shrimp:

1 pound of shrimp
1 tablespoon of oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp of chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp of chili powder
1/4 tsp of paprika or a pinch of cayenne if you like it hot
1 slice of lemon
handful of parsley

In a cast iron or heavy frying pan fry the fresh shrimps without the shells in garlic, oil and butter and add the spice seasonings. Cook until shrimp has turned opaque and are fully cooked. When cooked garnish with chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

To plate add a big spoonful of grits onto the plate and add the shrimp on top.

DEEELISH and gives you that warm and satisfied feeling. Like corny mashed potatoes. It's easier than mashed potatoes because you don't have to peel and cut the potatoes or worry about them going bad. A bag of cornmeal can sit in your pantry for months and can be always on hand for those cold and gloomy days when you don't know what to eat.

If I would have had some collard greens I might have made that to go with the grits and it would have been a complete meal.

Mix it up and make what you like but you can bring the South to wherever you are in the world.

Keep it Simple for a 5 min. Meal


Are you tired of eating bad take-out foods all the time? Me too. I stopped cooking a lot over the last few years because my life was so crazy that I didn't have the time to keep up with the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up, but lately I have been home and trying to ease back into cooking more regularly.

Cooking a full meal can be time consuming if you add up the time you spend going to the store to get the groceries and loading up the car and unloading the groceries and then you have the prep time of the food, then the cooking of the food and once that's all done you have to wash the dishes and put things away. Are you getting tired just reading this? Yeah I know, that's why I put cooking on the back burner over the past few years.

But I am trying to bring easy cooking back. You don't have to spend loads of time in the kitchen if you cook smart. Lately I have been getting into shopping at Farmer's Markets because there are no check out lines and things are fresh, fresh, fresh.

I went a bit nuts and bought everything that looked good but you have to think about what you will be able to cook before it goes bad. That's something I need to work on. Sometimes I plan to make a whole bunch of things but then I get busy, or tired or not in the mood to eat those things so what I have learned is Simplicity is the answer. KEEP IT SIMPLE and you will be able to cook more.

Look at the picture above... that was a 5 minute meal. Asparagus is the one vegetable that doesn't require a whole lot of prep time. All you have to do is whack off the stems at the end that are tough and give them a quick wash and then you can boil them or grill them or even roast them. It takes less than 5 minutes to do the whole thing if you cook them in a grill pan.

The meat, that was a veal cutlet that I short cutted by only dusting with spice infused flour. I didn't even bother to do a full breading. You can add whatever spices you like, parsley, basil, paprika, garlic etc. The trick to making it all taste like restaurant style is really easy. Just grab a lemon and squeeze it on the whole thing and drizzle some olive oil over it when you plate it. You can also add balsamic vinegar. Those are the tricks of the restaurant trade... Drizzle something over it and it adds flavour and pizazz. EASY Peasy as Jamie Oliver says.

This whole thing took about 5 minutes and because I cooked it in one grill pan there wasn't a huge clean up involved either. You can add an easy tomato, cucumber salad using the same olive oil and lemon or vinegar and you have a complete meal. If you like carbs just add a piece of good toasted bread to it.

So you see it can be done. Get a good grill pan and get cooking.

These are a couple of my essential tools to have in your kitchen to make it easy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner for 1


What is Thanksgiving? Is it a Holiday that has turned into a tradition to eat certain foods and celebrate with family while watching football or whatever families do when they get together? What if you don't have family to spend this big Turkey dinner with? What do you do then? Do you do without the great meal and sit at home alone with a tv dinner? Hell NO!.. My mom passed away last April and even though we never had the turkey dinner tradition, my mom was European so she didn't do Thanksgiving Dinners but we would have a chicken and potato dinner or something simple like that and just stay home on the holiday. But now that she is gone and I don't have to spend time with my brother and don't really have any other relatives to spend Thanksgiving with, so I decided to just make a Thanksgiving Dinner for myself. Turkey Dinner for 1. Since I didn't grow up with the tradition of making a turkey it's been a challenge of mine to make a great tasting Turkey. Since it was only going to be for me I decided to just buy a large Turkey Breast on the bone. You still get the flavour of the skin and the bone but you don't end up cooking it a whole day and with left overs for weeks.

I took the turkey breast and put butter mixed with ground sage and bay leaf and stuffed it under the skin to flavour it while cooking. I added a bit of paprika for color and roasted it with a red onion, carrot, and a cut in half head of garlic.

I took the turkey out of the oven and let it rest and when it was cooled down I cut the breast off the bone and cut it in slices. First dinner was a turkey sandwich. I did it backwards because I prepped the turkey first so that I could then make the gravy and make turkey stock from the leftover bones.

I also made cranberry sauce in advance using frozen cranberries but added a little orange zest, orange juice and some brandy and a little bit of ginger for a kick. A lot better than the stuff in the can and really easy to make.



Then I roasted up some sweet potatoes and let them cool and scooped them out into a bowl and put that in the fridge for later.

I made as much as I could in advance, even making a batch of nectarine crisp to use up some nectarines.

I went to the farmers market and picked up some fresh peas and had to shuck some peas today to add a little green to the plate.


I decided to have my turkey dinner for lunch so that I could just go into a turkey coma and watch tv and clean up later instead of leaving everything for dinner and being too tired to clean up the kitchen.

So today I made up a batch of stuffing using some stale baguettes... didn't come out as great as planned so this is a recipe I need to perfect still.

I then cooked the peas and placed some marshmallows on top of the mashed sweet potato and put that and the stuffing in the oven with the tin foil wrapped sliced turkey.

I heated up the gravy and just let everything cook up... and then it was done about 30-40 minutes later. Turkey Dinner for 1 Including:

Fresh Peas
Sweet potato with marshmallows


Turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce

Nectarine crisp for dessert waiting.

If you want Thanksgiving turkey dinner don't wait around for an invitation to possibly come just make it for yourself and enjoy every bite. Oh I did get an invite but it came at 3pm after I had already eaten my delicious turkey lunch. Being an afterthought or last minute invite isn't as good as deciding that you are number 1 and making it just for you because you can.

It's ok to spend Thanksgiving alone... eat what you want, eat it when you want it and you don't have to spend it with people you don't like.

Enjoy your Solo turkey dinner and just think of the meals you don't have to cook from scratch for a few days afterwards.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the people that don't have friends and family to spend it with.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend at St. Lawrence Market


Thanksgiving is the perfect time to thank local farmers for providing the Fall Harvest for Your Thanksgiving Meals. There is no better day to do that then a sunny summer like saturday afternoon at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

I very rarely have time to head down to the Saturday St. Lawrence Farmer's Market but today I had to meet up with a friend for her Birthday and I headed over to the market first to get some great local fresh food. The North Building Farmers Market is akin to going back in time when you knew who grew your food. It's like going back to your roots...or in the farmers case the soil of the land. They say that Organic Food now is what regular food was over 20-30 years ago. All I know is that I never heard anyone talk about organic food when I was a kid. A tomato tasted sweet and juicy when you went to the store to get it in the summer. Fruit didn't come from half way around the world and you knew what the fruits in the store were because most of them came from somewhere familiar. Now you can get foods that won't grow in North America delivered to your grocery store any time of the year. Is that a good thing? Well sometimes I just feel like having some exotic food and maybe that happens in the dead of winter. But are we losing something in the process? Yes we are unfortunately. We are losing our eco system and good and healthy food. Food free of pesticides, hormones and genetically modified concoctions made to sit on the shelf for a while. Organic food is expensive now but i think the only way to make it less expensive is to shop from local farmers if you can and buy Organic when necessary and show the buyers that you prefer these foods. Loblaws has started putting local foods front and centre in their grocery stores now. That doesn't happen by chance, it happens because we choose it.

Because we live in Canada, although you wouldn't know that it gets cold here from the past 6 months of fabulous and hot weather, but we can't always go to the farms and farmers markets because they don't operate year round but St. Lawrence Market does. Try and go to a farmer's market year round if you have one near you. It can be a planned outing and it will also connect you to the regular folks that sell their products at the markets. I hope to be able to frequent the markets more often this winter depending on the weather. If you can try and go as much as you can to markets that try and have the most Organic produce they can stock. It's a win win situation for everyone. It doesn't take massive trucks to drive the produce from different countries and it also saves energy on huge big box stores that need refrigeration and shipping and receiving and stock rooms. I love my big stores but sometimes I just love to have a tomato that tastes like a tomato the way it was intended to taste.

I am excited that they are building a Whole Foods close to where I live because they do try and sell the best foods possible.

My parents never had a lot of money but our fridge was always stocked to the max with fresh fruits and vegetables. Buying cheap crap saves you money in the short term but costs you Big money in health costs in the long run. Don't sacrifice your health for a Big Screen TV. When you get Cancer because you have eaten toxic bad food all your life you won't care how big your tv screen is. Make food a bigger priority and you will reap the rewards later.

Don't get me wrong. I just got a big tv but I have spent my past few weekends shopping at farmer's markets and in the kitchen whipping up food that tastes delicious and is good for all things in a good life.

Shop local and stay healthy.

Back to School & Work Lunches

September is either a sad or happy time of year.  You are sad that summer is over but if you are going back to school you can be excite...