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.