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…