Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eat Your Crusts

She says:
Do you remember hearing your parents say that when you were young? The rest of the comment was usually reinforced with the fact that there were children starving in Africa. Guess what? There are still children starving in Africa (as well as many other places) and there is a report just released that does say the amount of food we waste here does have an impact on poverty and hunger in the world. Our parents had it right all along!

The report I speak of is one commissioned by the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. They discovered that the amount of food wasted by consumers in North America and Europe is equal to the amount produced in sub-Saharan Africa – 222 million tons. Per capita, we waste between 95 and 115 kilograms of food per year, while people living in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia waste only 6-11 kilograms per year. In addition, the reasons food get wasted are different. For us, it is more often a case of throwing food in the garbage, whereas in developing countries it is often due to poor conditions in getting the food to the consumer (this is called “food loss” instead of “food wastage”). Those are sobering figures, aren’t they?

It’s gets even more interesting… did you know that some food gets wasted because it’s not pretty enough? Suppliers won’t take items like crooked carrots from farmers as they cannot be peeled in one easy stroke, and even unpeeled, apparently, we (consumers) don’t buy carrots that aren’t straight.

There is more – the resources used to produce the food that is wasted are also wasted. That means the greenhouse gas emissions that add to the global warming we talk about are in vain. It’s rather a vicious circle, isn’t it? Hopefully, you are now asking the question, “How to we make it better?”

One important thing to remember is that we have a voice (I know, I sound like Oprah; well, on this point she was right!) Consumers can make a difference by letting suppliers know their preferences and their desires. I know the Save-On Foods in Westbank was making efforts to find more local produce this season in response to comments from their customers. If you don’t mind buying crooked carrots, let your grocer know. Someone from a country full of hungry people once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I believe Mr. Gandhi had a good point.

Another point worth considering is that processed food accounts for a larger proportion of food waste than raw food (items you prepare yourself). The package of frozen French fries you bought is made from potatoes that were sorted and then also re-sorted as fries, with all the bits not included in your package usually being wasted. Your homemade fries are more likely to include end pieces of potato and fries of different sizes.

The comment that struck me the most in the report was this simple statement:
Abundance and consumer attitudes lead to high food waste in industrialized countries.
We can afford to waste food. It can be cheaper to buy a large package of broccoli at Costco than it is to buy the one head you need; even if you throw some out you saved money, right? This seems to go back to that old comment… just because you don’t feel like eating those crusts doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the impact that waste has on a larger scale. We could say we have worked hard to afford such luxury, and everyone is doing it. But that just makes me think of another old parental comment: “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you do that, too?”

I for one, am making a concerted effort to cut back on abundance. I only planted one zucchini plant in the garden this year. I am sowing smaller rows of radishes and lettuce alternately so it doesn’t all come up at once. These small measures will help me remember the importance of respecting my food. It would be rude of me to waste things when there are children starving in the world.

Thanks for listening.

He says:
Wasting food while knowing that in our beautiful country some people can’t find enough food is crazy. Yes, some wastage in food is necessary, like when you buy an egg you don’t eat the shell or you eat meat but not the bones. Even if you can make soup out of bones, you still won’t eat  them.

What really blows my mind is when you hear stories of farmers in the Okanagan choosing not to pick the fruit off the trees because it’s not worth it financially to actually pay staff to pick the fruits because the price on the market is so low no profit can be made. How sad is that! There has to be a way to avoid things like this and I don’t believe subsidizing farmers is the solution. I would much prefer our government create rules that prevent certain countries to come in Canada with extra cheap food and dump it on our market at such a low price that no local farmers can compete with that… Let’s create a solution where our farmers can sell their crops locally first; it’s better for the environment, and would help reduce the wastage of food. The good old adage throwing money at a problem is not a good answer. If a restaurant cannot make money the government does not come in with a grant and pay the difference so that the restaurant can stay open forever. I have huge respect for farmers as it is an extremely hard business to be in and they choose to stick with it, but our government needs to create a system other than subsidies that make sense. Then maybe we can avoid some huge wastage of food.

Supporting our local food bank or shelters is also a great way to get rid of extra food you don’t need. Most shelters in town will take fresh food just about any time of the day.

There’s my two cents…

This is the FAO link:

Friday, May 27, 2011

The sunshine on a cloudy day

It has been cloudy quite a bit lately, and at our house things have been hectic, so in that environment of course it is easy to get stressed and down. We all have our ways of pulling out of that blue funk and so this week when I had to use a couple, I thought of sharing them with you.

One of the things that I find works really well is music. Mind you, it has to be the right music – if you need to be uplifted, I don’t recommend you put sappy love ballads on to play. I am a fan of Louis Armstrong myself. I love to tap my toes to that trumpet and it always makes me smile to hear his deep ebullient voice sing those classic tunes.

Another great thing to do is watch a good movie or TV show (as rare as those are these days), or read a good book if you are so inclined  – it can help you escape the trials and tribulations of the day and it might even inspire you.

You have likely guessed my most favourite way of finding a ray of sun on a cloudy day. Food is something that gives me comfort and excitement too.  A really good meal is like a work of art, with all the elements in balance to produce this beautiful canvas which you can jump into! The thing about food is that it is interactive – you don’t just look at it, you taste it and feel it. Not that I am proposing you need to roll in it, but I do love the reward of fragrance that comes from rubbing a lavender or rosemary bush, or the explosion of flavour in your mouth when you bite into a grape or a cherry tomato. Putting a combination of flavours together on the plate is a real achievement, and one you and your guests should revel in. Even a homemade cookie is a special thing – love and attention all wrapped up in a portable package.

I suppose what I am trying to convey here is that you need to immerse yourself in an experience to fully enjoy it, just the way you tend to soak up the suns’ rays on a sunny day. Even those people who like to sit in the shade enjoy a bit of warmth. On days like we have had the past week, the best thing I know of is to find something that warms your heart and take full enjoyment in it. A great song on the radio, a funny e-mail you got from a friend or a delectable morsel even munched at your desk at work can be the start to a brighter day. I am making cookies this weekend, so that if it is cloudy on Monday again, I will be well armed!
Cookie recipe

The All-In Cookie

This is a recipe that I found in the Frog Commissary Cookbook years ago. (It was a little storefront restaurant in Philadelphia in the 70’s.) I have adapted it a fair bit, and I invite you to do the same, as it takes modifications well. I hope you enjoy them!

1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar (brown sugar makes them taste a bit more like molasses, yellow sugar adds a bit more sweetness – choose what you like)
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (don’t skimp – use real vanilla!)
2 tbsp milk
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 to 1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats (not instant – it will make the cookies gluey)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips (you can substitute raisins here, or add more choc. Chips instead!)
¾ cup walnuts AND/OR coconut – your choice (you can make it with one or both and it will work)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the butter with the sugars in a mixer or by hand. Add the vanilla, milk and eggs. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to the creamed mixture and beat to combine. By hand, stir in the oats, chips and nuts. Drop 1-1/2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet (or one that has a silicone baking mat). Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just brown. (I like to turn the trays in the oven halfway through to ensure they cook evenly.)


Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Restaurant, Oups it’s gone!

He says:
I was reading about a trend in New York called, “Pop Up Restaurants.”
These are the equivalent of raves for the food industry. A few people get together, find a location, renovate it and open a restaurant. Now the trick is they only stay open for a month or two, after that they close shop and go do another one somewhere else. Wow, anyone who had a restaurant will tell you that opening a restaurant is madness. Opening day is nothing short of insanity, you work 36 to 48 hours straight, you eat nothing and you usually snap at every employee including your spouse non-stop. Why would you want to do it over and over and over again? Craziness! Yes, restaurants are extremely high risk, often failing within the first few months to few years, but that’s no reason to close the door after a month. It takes your staff conservatively 3 to 6 months to really find their feet and become really good in that new concept.
How about from a customer’s point of view… you drive around and see this cute little restaurant, you walk in with your office colleagues, sit down and eat an amazing meal. A month passes, then you decide to take your new girlfriend because you have been talking about this new restaurant who serves the most amazing crab cakes, you dress up, stop to pick her up at home, and drive across town to find out that they closed a few days ago… for good… they’re gone!
I am the first one to tell you - it is hard to make money in our business, but I am not convinced that these pop up restaurants have the answers by opening and closing before the paint is dry.
She says:
I have to agree, it sounds a bit on the insane side to want to build and re-build a restaurant. I have heard of underground travelling dinner clubs, serving fancy meals in changing locations to avoid any problems with health inspectors and the like; but who wants to move, and re-paint, and re-train staff? I like the world in between the idea of being in a rut and seeing places get old and tired, and the concept of needing to change everything like you change your socks, all the time. So, how about a few suggestions for places that might be new, but are ones we hope will stick around so they can become favourites for a while??
First, there is Okanagan Street Food (812 Crowley Ave.). We have mentioned this place before, but it really does rock. How can you not like homemade fries like Mom used to make, but with truffle mayonnaise and blackberry ketchup? Then there is Fish Taco Tuesday, a phenomenon that could be called “pop up”, I guess, as apparently it was created by regulars. A bunch of people just show up and order fish tacos on Tuesday. Any day of the week suits me – I just think they’re wicked. This is a place where homey AND cool is a great combination.
Next there is a place we haven’t been to yet, but I know we have to try, so it’s on my list for this weekend. De Bakker Kitchen (1014 Glenmore Dr.) is a tiny place across from the Kelowna Golf & Country Club that has a wood-fired oven. They used to sell their bread at the Kelowna Farmer’s Market, but now have a store-front operation, and the word from our foodie friends is that their pizza is awesome! Since we have a pizza oven at home that Martin built, we have to go check this out.
Last, is a place that works if you want to grab something for home – whether you want it just to heat up, or if you are cooking up a storm. It’s one of Martin’s regular haunts when he shops for his clients, and it’s the kind of place I like to browse in the way most women browse in shopping malls. Valoroso Foods is now also on the Westside (Kelowna – 1467 Sutherland Ave.; West Kelowna – 2441 Main St.) They have sundried olives that are addictive, and wonderful cheeses and cured meats that go great with the fresh buns, or on a pizza dough that is ready for baking. The staff are knowledgeable, and the shops are open till 6 pm so you can stop in on your way home from work. These guys have stuff that Superstore doesn’t carry – it’s worth the stop!
The big thing with patronizing any business, especially a food-related one as they don’t ever seem to make lots of money, is that your loyalty counts for a lot. If you are loyal with one of these “pop up” places, it doesn’t really matter as they don’t last long enough for it to make a difference. But if you have a place you like, make sure you tell your friends, and stop in as often as you can, as it might make the difference to them staying a bit longer. Life is short, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work on making our favourite moments (or meals) last a little longer.
Enjoy your long weekend -Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

65th birthday Tapas Menu

ON my way to do a 65th birthday for a fellow who has travel to these countries through out his career - I made a kind of trip around the world Tapas menu for him... looking forward to it.

Asia, Africa, North America, Europe, and Australia.   

As people are arriving:
Australian Shrimp on the Barbie
Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Radicchio

Sit down Appetizers #1:
Spicy Asian Coleslaw with Ahi Tuna

Sit down Appetizers #2:
Greek Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese

Small Main course:
Moroccan Lamb Kebab with Curry Bulgur Salad

Small Main course:
Wild Mushroom, Asparagus and Asiago Cheese Risotto with a Pork Tenderloin

Chocolate Baileys Birthday Cake with Caramel Sauce

Monday, May 16, 2011

Taboo BBQ Baked Beans from yesterday

·         2 pound navy beans
·      12 cups water

2  500ml cans red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
2  500ml cans romano beans, rinsed, drained
1 to 2 cups barbecue sauce to taste
2 cup apple juice
3 red peppers, chopped
2 onion, chopped
burnt ends (optional)
2/3 cup dark molasses
1 to 2 cups brown sugar to taste
1/2 cup yellow mustard
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp dry mustard
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2  tsp cinnamon
1/2  tsp nutmeg
1/8  tsp clove
cayenne to taste
salt & pepper at the end
Soak beans for 4 hours in water, then drain. Combine beans and 6 cups water in a large pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 2 to 3 hours on a low heat, stirring occasionally. After the beans have softened add salt and continue cooking until the beans are soft enough to mash between your fingers.
In pot, cook the onion and peppers until soft. In a large Dutch oven or a large aluminum pan add your burnt ends, and add all remaining ingredients and cover with foil. Bake for 1 to 2 hours hour at 300F carefully stirring once in awhile. Remove your foil for the last 30 minutes

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dirty Toes & Sticky Fingers

She says:
This weekend will mark the official beginning of the “sunny season” at Rabbit Hollow. It’s more than spring, as it runs into summer, but it’s the feeling that lasts right through till September. You know, when we get to be outside and soak up the sun. Sometimes that is just a decadent relaxing thing, but other times it means doing those outside things you love… at Rabbit Hollow that’s gardening for me, and barbecuing for the Chef.
I was lucky enough to have my greenhouse this year (thanks to a thoughtful hubby who gave me the perfect anniversary gift). That means I have been watching my little seedlings and have been nursing my plants from the farmer’s market and my green thumb foodie friends with tender loving care. Some of those plants will come outside this weekend, and they will be kept company by the seeds that will be sowed in the newly tilled garden with a brand new fence!
I like to plant wacky things in our garden: Easter Egg radishes that come in a bevy of colours, purple carrots (the original look, believe it or not), fingerling potatoes… they don’t just sound cool, they are fun to eat. Many of these plants are heirloom varieties as well, which means they have “true” seeds – ones that will grow the same as your original plant if you plant them. (Hybrids like much of what we buy at the grocery stores will often not produce any fruit.) This is a great way to eat healthy and get reconnected with Mother Earth. You may think I sound a bit too much like a hippie, but on this topic I do agree that knowing where your food comes from is a wonderful thing.

Even if don’t want to get esoteric, I still think the simple act of “digging in the dirt” is great therapy for any of us; it’s a pause from the hectic nature of our lives and a chance to enjoy being outside. Let yourself get into it. Take your shoes off and let your feet feel the grass. Let your toes get dirty (you can wash them later with the garden hose.) And, when you do sit back with a drink in your hand, you can admire your handiwork as it grows and changes throughout the entire sunny season.
*If you are looking for heirloom plants for your garden, ask at your local farmer’s market, or at one of the private nurseries (we love the folks at Dogwood, near our place – they know lots and have a great variety. In downtown Kelowna, I have also had great experiences at the Flower Farm.)

He says:
I have two ways to unplug myself from the craziness of my busy life. One: I go for a hike and pick mushrooms and two: I make smoke. This Sunday marks our first party of the summer, ribs and chickens with friends. I am driving the big rig to their house and smoking all afternoon, and then, we eat! It should be fun, a bunch of people we have not seen in a while from local wineries, restaurants, hotels and in general foodies looking to have fun. I will start ribs around 11am and chicken around noon to be ready to eat around 5pm. This is a great opportunity to practice in front of a crowd who knows good food, so that I can be ready for our first competition on June 10th and 11th in Washington.  There will be lots of sticky fingers Sunday night!
I’ll post a few pictures on my blog and Twitter Sunday afternoon and Monday. I’d love to hear your comments.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pleasuring 8 ladies today

I am on my way to cook for 8 ladies wanting to  have a good time and learn a few things about good food. I look forward to it, those dinners are always way too much fun. I love my job!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Meat Glue

Say what?
When I heard of this product I was could not figure out what my friend was talking about. Is this is one of those funny videos from YouTube? Is this even about meat? … I really had never heard of anything like it.

I need to let you know that this video can be a bit gruesome and certainly shocking at times. 

What I am told is that meat glue can be called something else and approved for use in Canada…

I know that food products like Cheese Whiz can be a bit scary when you start figuring out how they are made, but you kind of expect that, to use my example, it’s cheese in a jar! When you buy meat you expect it to be just that… meat. Not a meat reformed into a steak.

Wow, is this crazy or what?

Send me some comments please … it will tell me there is a chance this world will stop doing these kinds of things and start realizing how screwy this is…

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mum’s the word

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, but my Mom was just here for a whole glorious ten days from Easter onwards, so I got my dose in early. We got to just hang out, which is something we have enjoyed my whole life. My Mom and I like to talk – not just chat, but talk passionately about things that matter to us – and it is far more fun to do it in the same room sharing the same bottle of wine, as opposed to over the phone long distance, with our own glasses in our hands. I am really glad when I get to share time with my Mom, no matter what we are doing. I just like having her around.

We got to walk the dogs together. It was funny to see our unruly Simon (the German Short-Haired Pointer) with my Mom, as he is often a real handful with people. Mom just put on her stern “I’m the Mom, and I’m in charge” voice, and he shaped right up!

We had coffee together. I prepare more coffee when my Mom visits, but we don’t always drink more, as we can just as easily end up being caught up in a discussion of supreme importance (at the time) and the water never gets poured, or the pump never gets pushed, or the coffee in the cups gets cold and we have to start over. But we can come dangerously close to solving the problems of the world.

We got to sit on the deck together. My Mom could have been an architect or a landscape designer. She has redesigned my house(s) and garden(s) in the air over the years so many times she should get an honourary degree, I am sure. I am the kind of person who just goes with an idea, and then fills in the rest. She has a plan and can tell you which style it is, from which part of the world and from which century… and whether your neighbor has done a good enough job to keep up with you if you decide to make your changes. The best part is though, she IS a Mom, and Moms are the ones who when you go off in a completely different direction (one that seems like it could go completely wrong – as in, you will be laughed at or will end up in tears)… they stand by, at the ready, and they are there to give you a hug and say “It’s OK” if it does blow up, or with equal love and enthusiasm, “Bravo!” if it goes right.

The crowning glory, if you will pardon the pun of course, was that we got to watch ANOTHER Royal Wedding together. I still remember sitting up and discussing every little detail of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding, thirty years ago. It seemed only proper that we share this regal moment as well, and so Mom planned to be here on the special day.

We had grand plans of an elegant party, with spiffy appetizers throughout the wee hours. In fact, all we managed was to finish the chocolate sponge cake that Martin made for us, so we could have something special with our bubbly. But we did wear hats with our jammies, and we waved our flags as the cars headed to Westminster Abbey, just like all the well-wishers on the streets of London. We giggled at some of the more outrageous outfits (didn’t William’s cousins Eugenie and Beatrice look like the two stepsisters from Walt Disney’s Cinderella? And how is it the wife of the British PM didn’t get whisked away by the Protocol Police for not wearing a hat to the ceremony??) We oohed and aahed at the more elegant guests and we admired the new Princess’ vision of creating a forest in the Abbey. (I thought it looked like the wedding of Robin Hood and Maid Marion when they all came down the aisle, with Pippa holding the hands of the young girls and all of the greenery framing their way). It all went swimmingly well, really, and we agreed the bride and groom looked much more “in the moment” than William’s parents all those thirty years ago. It made my heart swell to see their smiles, and I know Mom wiped a few tears away.

As we clinked glasses and watched them begin their Happily Ever After, I thought how wonderful it was to live in the moment with my Mom, “yet one more time again”, as she is fond of saying. I cherish every moment we get to share, but I do love being able to stack them up!

One of my first Mother’s Day cards said, “To Mumsy, with love from Clumsy”. I am here today, many years later, saying, “Thanks Mumsy, for showing me the classy side of clumsy”. That and so many other things you have shared with me. I feel like I have my own Queen for a Mom, so I guess that makes me a Princess, too, doesn’t it?

Happy Mother’s Day to all those wonderful role models out there.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Taboo BBQ Sampling

I will be at Save on Food in Westbank / West Kelowna today from 11:30am until about 4:30pm.
Sampling barbecue sauce on baby back ribs... come visit...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are you going to eat that?

I have been working with kids in after school programs and one of the things I try to do is show them new foods. My biggest discovery is that kids seem to say no less easily to a stranger like me versus their own mom or dad. I have asked many kids and most say they don't it at home but they don't mind trying it with me. So don't be shy to send your kids somewhere else so they can experience new food. 

Here are some ideas that have been fun to try:

  1. it's OK to bribe, push, manipulate, scheme or even force your kids to try new foods - no one will call social services on you...
  2. pick a new fruit and get the kids to taste it – star fruit, kiwi, mango, papaya, passionfruit… let them pick something when you go shopping!
  3. have them try a hot pepper (jalapeno will do to start) – try it yourself first so you can time the heat and then you can tell them that it will dissipate after 20 or 30 seconds (I did this with my daughter and she got to try many spicy foods this way)
  4. show them how to cook simple ingredients like pasta or rice – older kids can even have this as a job to help with at dinner
  5. if you have a group, get them to work as an assembly line with dishes like wraps or rolls – great for spring rolls where you can see the insides once you roll it!
  6. try a blind food tasting to see if they can describe how food tastes – what does it remind them of? (Kristin’s brother said when he was a kid, he thought papayas tasted like the zoo!)
  7. You are what you eat - so help them become better human being!

You can even show them fun ways to set the table, like different ways to fold napkins!
Get your kids involved in the kitchen and they will learn to respect the food and the cook. Years later when they come home to visit, maybe they will cook for you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why are carrots purple?

She says:

I have been looking at the garden seed catalogues trying to plan out what we will grow this year in our wonderful garden, but it seems every year the dilemma of deciding becomes more difficult. It is bad enough I have to choose between beets and turnips or decide whether the extra space at the back is best for potatoes or squash – now I have to choose what colour I like my vegetables to be! (For those interested, the beet versus turnip debate is actually no contest, as the Chef does not like turnips, no matter what colour they are.)

I know we live in a world where technology allows for life to go at the speed of light, and traditions and old ways are meant to be expanded and revamped, but really, do we need to change the colour of our vegetables? Where does it stop??

Don’t get me wrong – I am not talking about Mother Nature’s variations, like green and yellow beans. A little bit of variety is a good thing – the spice of life and all that. However, in the first place, what is the point in having a funny-colored veggie if it doesn’t stay that colour when you cook it and in the second place, if the colour is only skin deep, does that even count?  Aren’t we supposed to consider what is inside?? Perhaps this is a sign that we should only eat food uncooked and unpeeled. (Certain trend-watchers would say this is a topic for another column!)

Part of me is intrigued by these fantastic foods. There is a Roald Dahl aspect to the idea of a garden that has an imagination of its own, like the Giant Peach or Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. You have to choose wisely to maximize your exotic efforts, as often it seems to take extra energy for the plant to produce a more unique product. Sometimes the Chef just smiles and shakes his head, but I enjoy the taste of lemon cukes and green zebra tomatoes. He did use some of our weird and wonderful tomatoes in his menus last summer, and he liked the striped Chioggia beets we planted. However, purple dragon carrots were most impressive in name, and orange cauliflower was just more difficult to grow than the white variety. Creativity is required when appreciating Mother Nature, though, and what would a garden be without a little experimentation?

I guess at the end of the day (or the summer) I should just marvel at it all – even the green vegetables that grow quietly in their rows. I suppose having a colourful garden plot is another way to salute individuality… and besides, can someone who, as a girl, liked to wear red and pink striped socks with her favourite purple jumper really judge what colour a carrot should be?

He says:

I really like being able to choose vegetables from our own garden for cooking, and I enjoy visiting the farmer’s market when it is in season, too. I don’t specifically look for weird or exotic foods, but they are fun to use from time to time. One of my contributions to the garden was some golden raspberry canes, and I don’t mind saying, they are very tasty!
I don’t mind yellow kiwis either. Actually, in the last few months I have used broccolini for many high end dinners I have done for people. The comments were nice, as many people had never tried broccolini before. It’s not a very complex vegetable: it’s a cross between broccoli and rapini (which is also known as broccoli raab). It’s long and skinny and tastes similar to Gai Lan, a Chinese green vegetable. (It takes very little time to cook, so watch it carefully.)

I don’t really mind what they cross vegetables with as long as it is another natural vegetable and not part of the genetically reproduced stuff that we hear about on the science network. Although, if the children of farmers don’t decide to take over our food chain as farmers themselves, who is going to feed us veggies in 30 years from now? Maybe genetic veggies will be the only choice left. Over the years, Hot Houses have created the perfect tomato, always the same color, the same size and the taste is also always the same… BLAND as hell! So this year, I will chose to plant heirloom tomatoes just like last year. Go visit for good seeds.

Support your farmers and promote good eating!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jamie Oliver’s is back at it…

Last Tuesday on ABC the second season of Jamie Oliver TV show “Food Revolution” started. This time Jamie tries to create change in the school system in Los Angeles. Although the producer’s emphases a bit too much on the reality TV style/drama controversy instead making it into a documentary style show, it was very interesting.
I will make a point to watch it mostly because I do believe Jamie has his heart at the right place and his main goal is to feed kids better food. Yes, it’s TV show, yes he does make money off that show, but let me tell you he works for it… having to go meet with the school board superintendent requires a lot of self control and should be rewarded with money. I wonder how long is he going to take to come to Canada to do this. I am convinced that our schools are not that far behind the American schools. Kids obesity is a problem in Canada and many meals are eaten at school.
If the school would to stop selling fast food of any kinds, no kids will die from it. No kids will pass out in class, no kids will get worst grades. It is simple, if the choice is fast food then that’s what they eat. If the choice is real food, then they will eventually get hungry and start eating it too. Kids are not stupid, when they get hungry they will eat!
I am not saying strawberry milk, burgers, pizza and brownies are never going to end up in a child’s hand, but why make it so easily available for them…
My two cents

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing?

This week we watched the movie, “Supersize me” again, about a fellow who takes on the experiment of following a diet of only McDonald’s food for thirty days. He does this to see if that kind of diet actually produces people who fit the then-developing trend of being obese. The movie is almost ten years old but it is still very relevant, for as we know that then-developing trend has now become a somewhat established statistic.

I knew you would want to know the statistics, so here they are: (BMI stands for body mass index, indicating the proportion of fat that exists in your body. The term obesity is used when you are 20% or more above the normal weight for your height).

The first thing to mention is that this data is from 2006, and that it of course has variables. I found out that although Canadians do rate better than Americans, our data is mostly “self-reported” and according to the Public Health Agency of Canada the actual rate from 2007 is more like 25%. In fact, they have a measured rate in 2005 of 25%. That seems to indicate we are not exactly off the hook.

Okay, so this illustration is not quite as graphic as watching someone try to consume one double Quarter Pounder after another, but it does seem to make the point, doesn’t it? Even a country like Germany or France, where there are plenty of rich foods (think of all the charcuterie in Germany, and the beer – in France there is cheese and baguettes and wine) and yet they seem to be living much healthier lives. I don’t know that everyone wants to take up a diet of sushi and other Japanese food, but there is something to that, too, don’t you think?? In the movie the fellow also took on the lifestyle of the average obese person, only walking 5,000 steps per day as exercise. He noted that this meant he had to stop walking as much as he used to, and started to take cabs and use his car more. Perhaps that is part of why the Europeans and Japanese are healthier in weight?

Of course you can argue that too much of anything is not good. Ironically enough though, the one person interviewed in the film who had consumed over 19,000 Big Macs in his life was one of the people that looked reasonably healthy and did not have a high cholesterol rate. It’s not just the food. The girls who tried to sue McDonalds for being the cause of making them obese did not win their suit, as they couldn’t prove their case sufficiently (this is one of the reasons for the film – the judges had said if the plaintiffs could prove eating McDonalds food every day was dangerous, that might make their case).

Fast food is not going away, and the hectic lifestyle we lead is not going to stop either. But I have to say, this was a powerful message for me, how much effect it can have to take something totally to heart (this fellow gained 20 pounds in 30 days, and became very unhealthy, just by mimicking the lifestyle of someone who does eat those kinds of foods). The thing that struck me the most was him mentioning the fact that he was moody and depressed. He was eating more than his body needed and yet once he got used to the diet the only time he felt really good was when he was eating. I was so saddened to think how my relationship with food could be turned inside out if I took the route of eating more fast food (or meals similar to fast food in terms of nutrition).

I love food – I am a self-professed gourmand. But I love the flavours and the colours and the smells and the taste… not just that it fills my tummy up. Even too much of your favourite thing is not good, that we all know. And McDonalds is certainly not the only fast food company. Perhaps the old idea of variety is best? Some fresh food, a walk to the market or even the park, playing a bit of Frisbee or catch with your kids? As spring arrives, let’s all get out there and enjoy the world instead of letting ourselves be eaten up.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The pleasures of the Okanagan

It’s that time again - the famous Okanagan summer is just around the corner. It seems everything that people love and often choose to move to the Okanagan for is connected to the summer weather.
We moved here 7 years ago and we are not going anywhere. We fell in love with the Okanagan easily because our first month here was April and that year it was exceptional so we loved it from day one. Now we enjoy the long growing season in the garden, the great camping weather, and the days at the lake letting the dogs swim till they drop of fatigue (we sometimes join them in the water to swim too!). The fact that we now have fruit trees on our land is also a very therapeutic reason why we would never leave the Okanagan.  Neither of us had a cherry tree or plum tree on our land before and there is a certain decadence in waiting for the sunny days to make your very own delicious fruit.
The Okanagan is a great place to live and we should do everything we can to keep it that way. I don’t hate progress, but let’s try to keep the values and reasons intact that are why people moved here in the first place. We need to make sure that the power people know what we want and what we don’t want. Tell your new and old political leaders to maintain the Okanagan lifestyle the way it is and stay away from all those ideas that corrupt the big city. We like the fact that we have small local shops, and local farmers selling their bounty of fruits and vegetables. We should even encourage businesses to do more 4 x 10 hour sifts to allow employees to have three days off each week to go to the lake and put their toes in once in a while. It is up to the employers / businesses of the Okanagan to retain their employees and use what this area has to offer and use the Okanagan to their advantage. Create work schedules that are conducive to your employees having a life outside of work giving them extra energy once they are back at work on Mondays!
The Okanagan is a unique place where people come to enjoy the lake any way they can and get a taste of what life should be!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Meat on a bun

He says:
Last weekend I was in Vancouver for business and also some pleasure. I had done some research to figure out where I was going to eat my meals and this is the breakdown of “my meat on a bun trip”
Day one was lunch at RE UP on the street in front of the Vancouver library. (700 Hornby St corner of Georgia St.) They specialize in pulled pork sandwiches. Last year the City of Vancouver gave away a bunch of licenses for new street vendors offering something else besides hot dogs and nuts and RE UP was one of them.  The sandwich was large enough and the bun was fine but nothing special. Because I am a big barbecue fan, my expectation was a bit higher for the meat but it was cooked right and tasted pretty good – just not much barbecue on it. The sauce was very good and the slaw on top also very good, making it a pretty good eat for lunch. Overall, I strongly recommend that you stop if you ever drive by their trailer, it was $8 and it will fill you up.

Day two was a burger at Romer’s on 4th Avenue, almost on the corner of Burrard St. The buzz on the net was that this is THE place for burgers. So I thought it would be a great place to take my daughter and her very tall hungry boyfriend for dinner. Let me start by saying the burgers were awesome. Great bun and great meat without extreme bread filler which make a well balanced burger. There were many different kinds of topping to choose from, I had the port-braised onions, creamy Stilton and fresh thyme leaves and it was sublime. My daughter had the Standard and loved it too and her friend had the Magic Mushroom and also woofed it down very easily. The fries were handmade and perfect, and I know my fries. Now when you get the bill, just keep in mind that it is good food, well prepared and you are in Vancouver; it’s not cheap but very worth it.

Day three was the grand finale, a place called Meat & Bread in Gastown (370 Cambie St., corner of Hasting St.)This place is going to be successful for a very long time as it is a simple concept without any frills or gimmicks… just good meat on a bun. This is certainly worth the stop the next time you go visit the big city. It is very much like what we see back East in my homeland. You can sit at one long table with 30 other people, you can sit at a bar-like table with other people or you can stand at the back and eat your sandwich. Kristin and I had the pulled chicken sandwich with a potato salad and a couple of fancy artsy sodas. Great food and a fun experience to eat with others.

You may think I am crazy to search where I am going to eat before I leave, but this is the only way I know how to travel. I also had my usual stops at Sweet Obsession pastry shop and at the donut shop on Granville Island. All in all a great trip, aside from a parking ticket.

She says:
We live to eat, as you have undoubtedly noticed. When we travel, we plan food itineraries like most people plan activity itineraries. Even in Vancouver, close to home, we like to explore and to have our fave cravings. For me, the trip in Vancouver was more about wine, as I was there for the Playhouse Festival with work, but that certainly wasn’t a hardship. An international wine festival for a wine geek like me is a bit like summer camp. I got to sample sherry with olives, Spanish sausage and potato chips; aged port with foie gras in a mole sauce; new port with chocolate infused with pop rocks, and even… rhubarb bread pudding with nut brittle and a Stilton milkshake, paired with a fortified muscat from Australia. How cool is that?! (Okay, the translation would be something like… going to a country club for a round of golf; stopping in at a very hip coffee shop that maybe had an art show or a live musician; seeing your favourite band in concert, and then getting up the next morning to ride a rollercoaster! Does that make more sense?)
I can only handle meat on a bun one day at a time, so I just met Martin at the Meat and Bread place. Best potato salad I have had in a long time, and my Mom makes wicked potato salad, so I oughta know. I got a great idea though; I had a Dandelion and Burdock soda made in Vancouver. I was musing about my garden planning, having seen the blossoms in Vancouver and the impending greenery of spring, and it occurred to me that if the weeds get out of control again as they have in the past, I might be able to make some money supplying the soda company with roots!
 I know Martin mentioned getting a parking ticket but that seems to be the cost of visiting the big city. The other side of the coin is, we didn’t get a ticket the day we went to Meat and Bread, even though we forgot to fill the meter. Living in paradise, we hardly ever think of such a thing. Life is good.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If it come down to it! eat your TV

In professional kitchens, we have many sayings, and one of them is “You can’t buy shrimps for the price of lobster”. I like lobster as much as anybody else, but I can be happy with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil and a piece of bread.

Don’t let your income spoil your meal! Treat yourself with food as often as you can. If you need to make adjustment on your monthly spending in order to eat good meals, so be it. You know, if you only have a 20” TV instead of a 50" or if you need to say no to your kid who wants the newest iPad in order to eat better, it's all good... Your TV will not make you or your family live longer, but good food will…of course we all have a limit on how much we can spend on groceries, but I would cut other luxuries before I cut my food budget.
Now, if budget was never a consideration, I would still want to eat the same way as I am eating now, but I would perhaps change some of the brands I buy! For example, organic food is still a bit expensive for my chef’s budget on a daily basis. By force of habit, I always look for deals (organic or not) before I buy something. I grew up eating KFC as a kid and canned green peas were my source of green vegetable. So, I can be happy with simple things and see the value of being able to eat whatever I want now. I never ask for deals from the stores I shop at - sometime I get deals and sometimes I don’t, I want the store to make some money too so that they stay in business for a long time and we don't all get stuck buying our food at Walmart.

Kristin and I shop at the Lakeview Heights grocery store, Save-on-Foods, Extra Foods, Valoroso, L&D Meat, Hooked on Seafood, Artisan Bread, Cod Father, Matterhorn Bakery and a few more… I support the people that support me and give me a great service.

My wallet is an intricate part of my meals, but I do not let it tell me what I can and cannot eat. We eat good food, and Kristin will eat all leftovers for lunch at workJ We usually eat a nice dinner like rack of lamb, jumbo scallops or even a gourmet desserts once a week. The rest of the week we eat well-balanced simple healthy foods prepared at home with love!

Spend it on food!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recession Food Stock Piling

Although I still consider myself fairly young in the grand scheme of things, I have seen what kind of devastation a recession can do to restaurants. In times of hardship people watch where they spend money and they look for great value.

The feeling I get right now is that Canada is slowly recovering from a nasty world economic disaster. Although countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal are still feeling it pretty badly we are doing really right here in the Okanagan.

I am totally for saving money in the kitchen, but please cut down at the right places.

The best way to save money on meals is to follow these simple rules;

1-      Having visited hundreds of people’s homes with The Chef in Stead, I have seen many kitchens and many pantries. The first place I would cut down if I were you is to start by emptying your current food stock to a minimum. People in general have a huge pantry or cupboard full of food. Plan your meals around what you have sitting in your pantry until you have just about emptied all the old stock. Start with the foods that have been there since you got married and work your way towards the fresher stuff!!

2-      Once you have reduced your food inventory make sure you spend wisely to restock everything. If you noticed that it took you 2 years to eat a certain can of soup, don’t go buy another one like it. When it is time to re-stock your pantry go buy the basic foods once they go on special: tomato sauce, a few different pastas, a few kinds of rice, extra virgin olive oil, cans of tuna, etc… but keep in mind that one to two months of food supply is plenty. Any more than that can go stale before you get a chance to eat it.

3-      Empty the freezer in the kitchen and then your deep chest freezer in the garage. Frozen food does not last forever either… stop buying loads of foods that just sit there and get old. Freezers are a great place to store a few chicken breasts or a few whole chickens, stewing beef cubes, pork roasts or even fish - all bought once on special. Meat or fish should not be stored for more than 6 months. Plan to only buy enough so that you empty everything every few months. Label and date all foods in your freezer.

4-      Even if your family is only 3 or 4 people, always cook huge batches of food. It is way cheaper to buy big and cook big so that you can freeze a few portions for the days where you don’t have any spare time and can’t make a good dinner from scratch.

There is a whole generation of people that have lived through tough times like during wars, the Depression or even some smaller recessions, but these crazy events are not an excuse to store food up to the ceiling. If your 89 pound, 75 year old mother lives alone and stores 16 cans of tomato soup, 28 boxes of macaroni pasta and 11 cans of tuna it’s time to start cooking! And if you do decide to buy more food, it would be a good time to start buying food products from Greece, Ireland and Portugal to help them get out of this financial ugly mess…

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Self Service

I am worried about the future of the Okanagan hospitality industry. With our old farm house, I have been sneaking to Home Depot at every time of the day like it’s my mistress and I have started using the robot self checkout counter to make things faster when I only have two little things to buy.

With The Chef in Stead business I buy lots of food and I am at Save on Food every other day… they too have the robot self checkout counters to speed things up when you only have a few items. The idea of robots replacing jobs is not new at all, it’s been happening for 40 or 50 years. I have to say I never thought that the cute friendly cashiers at the grocery store would be replaced by a very uptight frigid computer voice which cannot for the love of God understand any of my jokes!

The other day, I went to our Canadian iconic store “Canadian Tire” and guess what they too now have - the same constipated computer voice self checkout counter. I totally understand why because businesses are having such a hard time finding good reliable staff since our younger generation of kids is not that keen to work in those stores. OK I get it, Canadian Tire and Home Depot is not a cool place, it’s a place for parents.

Now to the point that worries me! I had a dream last night that I was sitting at Moxies, (it could have been Earls, Milestone, Montana’s or any one of those type of restaurants.) Once the time came for me to pay my bill I was told to proceed to the cash area which you have guessed it, a frigid voice told me “Your bill is $49.25, please push the yellow button if you wish to leave a tip for robot #57 who served you your Caesar salad.” I did wake up in time to figure out that this is not here yet! But I got a feeling that this automation wave is only around the corner for Okanagan the hospitality industry. They are having huge issues finding staff, retaining staff or even having staff that care enough to show up for work everyday.

May God help us! Well as long as God doesn’t come down to give us a replacement robot with a constipated voice like everyone else!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Break

He says:

Last week I gave a cooking class to a bunch of 10 kids, aged 7 to 11 years old. I introduced them to some exotic fruits and vegetables, and had them taste these foods raw and cooked. Then for kids in the class that could see on top of the stove, I also had them learn the basic skills to make the perfect omelet.

I had a blast and I would like to tell all the parents out there, you should do the same during spring break. Any day is great, actually, but during the break usually there is a bit more time to spend together. Older children can also show younger siblings. Your children need to be introduced to different foods if you want them to be able to fend for themselves once they leave the family nest. Start as early as possible and force them to experience the kitchen. Yes, I use the word force because some kids need to be pushed until they do. Force them to touch food, cook food, and of course they have to taste everything too. It is also a great idea to have them read labels of what they eat to realize what’s in it. So many kids have health problems, weight problems, attention problems and energy problems. You are what you eat, so teach them to eat better and when they leave your house they will have the skills necessary to give themselves the proper nutrition they need to become our next world leaders.

If anything, do it for the same reason as I did - I just want to be able to have a great meal when I go visit her when she is living on her own.  I started teaching my daughter at 7 years old so she had lots of time to practice! Yes, it’s a selfish reason, but she eats well and knows how to cook basic meals at age 17.

She Says:

I hope I can help illustrate the Chef’s point, as I can tell you that many of my memories of Spring Break as a child did involve cooking. We didn’t go away when I was little, so entertaining ourselves in the kitchen was one of the ways we could entertain ourselves. Even when I got older and we did go on a ski holiday, I remember being in a condo that had a kitchen and making fun meals like gourmet pizzas and chili. It is memories like these that turned me into the Foodie I am today!

We need to be reminded on a regular basis that we are connected to the rest of the world, and what we do (or don’t do) makes a difference. One of the most basic ways we can do that is with our food. It is a product of our planet, and our culture. It is the history and the future all wrapped up in nice little packages. Doesn’t that sound a bit like our children? Such precious cargo, we need to remember to take good care of every single bit of it. Children need to know that every moment in their lives have the potential to make a difference so they can take all those moments in and value each one. So should it be with the food they eat.

I don’t mean to sound preachy, but since everything is connected, doesn’t it make sense that we should have good habits about how we fuel ourselves? And since we are a species that can enjoy an experience, should we not make the most of those experiences? We have to eat, so why not enjoy the process? If children learn to think about enjoying and respecting their food, then it naturally becomes a part of their lives, enriching them not just with nutrients but also with memories.

Please try to spend some extra time with your food this week or maybe try a new food this weekend that you see at the grocery store. If you don’t have kids to challenge you, see if you can think like a kid and make your food fun!