Thursday, January 31, 2013

Food Failures to Food Successes

I wondered if I could make a jar of DIY Nutella and had a look at the label ingredients.   I wanted to attempt to make it without measurements of course and I tried to do some better substitutions like using Coconut Oil instead of Palm Oil and some other stuff they put in it.   I had a lot of hazelnuts and I had cocoa and lots of coconut oil so I tried to see what would happen if I tried to combine them.

Well first I put the nuts into a blender and used the ice crush button to grind them.  Then I added the oil and cocoa, sugar and some milk and tried to blend it smooth.   It didn't quite work the way I wanted it to.  It didn't taste anything like Nutella and it didn't look as smooth either.   It was a bit gritty because the nuts didn't process into a paste.   It wasn't exactly what I was looking for and didn't spread well on bread or whatever.   The oils separated from the rest of the mixture so it was oily on the sides,  kind of like when you get natural peanut butter but it didn't mix back together smoothly.   It was kind of a food experiment failure.  Although there wasn't anything totally wrong with the mixture it wasn't what I was aiming for.

 Then I wondered what I could do with it to turn it into something better.  I decided to turn it into a muffin, cupcake or brownie type of thing.

I started by putting the mixture into a pot and added a bit of butter to loosen it up and melt it to make it easier to mix.  I then added 2 beaten eggs and vanilla and some cinnamon and some added sugar.  I mixed it and then added flour and baking powder to blend it all together.   I didn't measure any of the ingredients so I can't tell you exactly how much I put into to it of each ingredient.   I was just trying to blend a mixture that I could put into a muffin tin to try and bake.

I lined the muffin tin with the liners and then scooped the mixture into the cups.  I put it into a 350 degree oven and just baked it until it looked like it formed a crust on top.  I took a toothpick and stuck it in to check to see if any came out.  It was dry so I took them out.   It took about 18 minutes I think to bake them.

They didn't turn out like muffins or cupcakes but they kind of turned out more brownie like.   I made one huge brownie in a bread baking tin and then 6 in the muffin tins.

I have to say it turned out much better baked and it tasted like hazelnut nutty chocolate brownies.  A lot better than grainy spread.

Don't be afraid to take your failed food experiments and turn them into successful thinking outside of the box experiments.   This one wasn't way out of the box but it did save my failed Nutella spread attempt.

The great thing about failing in food is that it isn't life or death or the end of the world.  If it's flour and sugar that you fail with you can always start again or in a lot of cases make something else with it.

Some of the best foods invented were actually food failures.   French Dip was invented when the chef dropped a bun into a roasting pan by accident.  Voila...the French Dip.

This is the only thing in life where you can fail and it's still ok and can be better even.

Go into your kitchen and try some experiments.. You never know what you will end up with.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ratatouille - The French do Vegetarian Right

I made something today that I haven't made or eaten in years.  Although it seems like something that it's spectacular and unusual I never think to make it because making it right does take a bit of time and effort and lot's of chopping.

What is it? .... RATATOUILLE.   The French Version of Vegetable Stew.


A vegetable dish consisting of onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, fried and stewed in oil.

Ratatouille,  photo by Linda Matarasso
Ratatouille is a great way to make a One Pot Meal in the Winter that has all the warm and flavour of your favourite comfort food without any guilt.

My mother used to make it once in a while but I think my spice expertise kicked it up just a bit from the way she used to make it.  I like it spicy and full of flavour so it doesn't taste like you are eating boring vegetables.   My mom's recipe was good but I think mine might be better.

My version is probably pretty classic but I added chili flakes which might not be as traditional.

Here's my recipe:


1 Eggplant cut into cubes
2 zucchini's quartered and cut into chunks
3 small onions roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper seeded and chopped into chunks
1 green pepper seeded and chopped into chunks
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp honey


Cut the eggplant and zucchini and set into a collander and sprinkle with salt to release some of the water and bitterness.  Let sit for a half an hour.  Rinse if you have added a lot of salt. Prep all of the ingredients  and set aside for your mis en place (everything in place) and get a dutch oven heating on the stove top.    Add the olive oil to the pot and then add the chopped onions and then the chopped garlic.  Mix and cook until the onions have softened.  You could cook the onions low and slow to caramelize them but they will continue to cook with the rest of the ingredients so it's up to you.  I didn't.    Once the onions are translucent add the chopped tomatoes and add a bit of water if there isn't much water in the can of tomatoes.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and add the thyme, basil, parsley, chili flakes, paprika and honey.  Continue to cook until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit.  Roughly about 15-20 min.  Then add the peppers.  Let cook another 15 minutes.   Add the drained zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes.   For added flavour I sauteed the eggplant chunks in a frying pan with a little bit of oil and salt and pepper just to get a little bit of caramelization on the eggplants to develop the sugars in the eggplant.   Just sautee for a couple of minutes until you see it turn a little golden.   Add the eggplants into the rest of the mixture in the Dutch Oven.

You can continue to cook the Ratatouille on the stove top and mix occasionally.  It should take another 30 minutes or until everything is softened and the flavours have developed.

You can also cook the Ratatouille in the Oven at 350 degrees with the lid on and cook for about 25-35 minutes.  Check it after about 15 minutes as every oven is different and it will depend on how condensed you like it.

This is what it looks like when cooked on the stove top.

This is a perfect dish to make on a sunday morning and have it for a long slow sunday lunch or dinner and have the leftovers for a Meatless Monday the next day.

It's a great dish for the reluctant vegetarian or the Parisienne wannabe.   Either way it's a win win dish for a cold winter day.

Even meat eaters might like this one because the eggplant adds a great meatiness to the stew.

You could probably also do this in a crock pot but it might take a bit of experimenting to get it right.

This dish brings me back to when i was a kid and my mom had loads of vegetables in the fridge and she would make this so that she could just chop it all up and let it cook away on the stove while she watched an old hollywood movie on tv.

So make up a big pot of Ratatouille and get out your Old Hollywood or New Hollywood Movie and grab a big bowl and a piece of crusty bread and sit back and enjoy.

Even better... get a French Foreign Film to watch while make it or while eating it if you are alone.  You will feel all warm and cozy and it will be comfort food for the soul kind of lunch or dinner.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Real Food Cold Cures

If you don't like to shop or cook and eat out all the time so never think about what happens when you can't?  Well what if you live alone and nobody lives anywhere near you?  You need to plan for those days where you might not be able to go to the drugstore or family doctor for a quick fix.   That's where the Real Food Home Cures comes in.

If you are going to keep the bare minimum in your house at all times I would suggest these things.  If you get sick and can only muster boiling water and plopping some stuff in a cup or a bowl then these things will keep you going.

1. Water.. most important thing for survival.
2.  Honey
3.  Lemons
4.  Green Tea
5.  Ginger - I have crystallized ginger... lasts a while.

Cold and Cough Cure which I am currently doing myself.

Boil water, in a cup add a teaspoon of honey, the bag of green tea, one piece of ginger and squeeze an eighth of a lemon.   Add boiling water to the cup and let the bag steep for a couple of minutes then remove.  Stir the ginger and honey and lemon and remove the bag.   Now you have a cough and cold cure with not a whole lot of effort hopefully.

The 2nd Food Cure is Homemade Chicken Soup.

This is where you plan ahead and either buy some chicken soup that you can freeze or make a batch of chicken soup after you roast a chicken and already have the leftover bones on hand.   I try and do the leftover bones method.   Try and always have Chicken Soup in your freezer because you never know when you might need chicken broth for a recipe or you get sick and don't have the energy to make a whole fresh pot.

Chicken Soup is also called Jewish Penicillin and it works without side effects.

These are my tried and true take care of yourself cause you don't want to go to a doctor unless something is totally broken.   These 2 things kept me away from doctors my whole life.  If I so much as sniffled my mother would want to drown me in tea or chicken soup.  She didn't use ginger or green tea but that's my modern kicked up health boosting version.   Ginger is an antiseptic.  Look it up.  Really.  And Honey coats the back of the throat to line it and protect it from coughing irritation.  Yes, Really.

So do as your momma would have done and make sure you have your Tea and Chicken Soup at the ready.   It's better than a Gun which won't help you if you get sick.

Spice Chart

Spice Chart

This is a great reference for Spice Pairings *from Adventures in Spice

Thursday, January 10, 2013

50 percent of food produced never reaches someone's table.

Here's an Idea, what if food producers produced more food to be eaten closer to where it's produced and food that never goes to retail because of physical appearance is donated to people near the producers who have food insecurity issues?  

50% of the food in the world is tossed out while probably about the same amount of people in the world go hungry.  

There must be a solution that can be figured out here.   

Read the shocking statistics in this new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Halton Waste Treatment Plant where some of what people throw out ends up.

New report: as much as 2 billion tonnes of all food produced ends up as waste

Institution of Mechanical Engineers calls on urgent action to prevent 50% of all food produced in the world ending up as waste

10 January 2013

A new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that as much as 50% of all food produced around the world never reaches a human stomach due to issues as varied as inadequate infrastructure and storage facilities through to overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free offers and consumers demanding cosmetically perfect food.
With UN predictions that there could be about an extra three billion people to feed by the end of the century and an increasing pressure on the resources needed to produce food, including land, water and energy, the Institution is calling for urgent action to tackle this waste.
The report ‘Global Food; Waste Not,Want Not’ found that:
·       between 30% and 50% or 1.2-2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year never reaches a human stomach;
·       as much as 30% of UK vegetable crops are not harvested due to them failing to meet exacting standards based on their physical appearance, while up to half of the food that’s bought in Europe and the USA is thrown away by the consumer;
·       about 550 billion m3 of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer;
·       it takes 20-50 times the amount of water to produce 1 kilogram of meat than 1 kilogram of vegetables;
·       the demand for water in food production could reach 10–13 trillion m3 a year by 2050. This is 2.5 to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today and could lead to more dangerous water shortages around the world;
·       there is the potential to provide 60-100% more food by eliminating losses and waste while at the same time freeing up land, energy and water resources.
Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said:
“The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.
“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one free offers.
“As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods.
“But in order for this to happen Governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN must work together to help change people’s mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers.”
By 2075 the UN predicts that the world’s population is set to reach around 9.5 billion, which could mean an extra three billion mouths to feed. A key issue to dealing with this population growth is how to produce more food in a world with resources under competing pressures – particularly given the added stresses caused by global warming and the increasing popularity of eating meat – which requires around 10 times the land resources of food like rice or potatoes.
The world produces about four billion metric tonnes of food per year, but wastes up to half of this food through poor practices and inadequate infrastructure. By improving processes and infrastructure as well as changing consumer mindsets, we would have the ability to provide 60-100% more food to feed the world’s growing population.
The ‘Global Food; Waste Not,Want Not’ report recommends that:

1.    The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) works with the international engineering community to ensure governments of developed nations put in place programmes that transfer engineering knowledge, design know-how, and suitable technology to newly developing countries. This will help improve produce handling in the harvest, and immediate post-harvest stages of food production.
2.    Governments of rapidly developing countries incorporate waste minimisation thinking into the transport infrastructure and storage facilities currently being planned, engineered and built.
3.    Governments in developed nations devise and implement policy that changes consumer expectations. These should discourage retailers from wasteful practices that lead to the rejection of food on the basis of cosmetic characteristics, and losses in the home due to excessive purchasing by consumers.

·  The Institution of Mechanical Engineers was established in 1847 and has some of the world’s greatest engineers in its history books. It currently has about 100,000 members, representing mechanical engineers involved in a diversity of fields such as the automotive, rail, aerospace, medical, power and construction industries.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cooking like a TV Chef

I started cooking at about 12 years old or it could have been earlier but that's about when I remember actually having a say about what was being cooked in my kitchen at home.   My mom who actually didn't like cooking would cook dinner almost every night.  She wasn't too good with the breakfast and lunches and I was kind of on my own to work that out.  My dad was the master of weekend breakfasts though so at least I would get a big breakfast most weekends when he was in the mood to make what he liked.

When I was a kid and most other kids were watching cartoons and teen shows or whatever was geared to kids,  I was watching Cooking Shows like Julia Child and whoever was on at the time.   I learned a lot of things about food that my mother didn't know and got to see that there was an unlimited amount of ideas when it came to food and recipes.  I am still addicted to watching cooking shows on TV and one of my favourite shows that I try and watch everyday now that I am at home is THE CHEW on ABC.  I love this show because it has some of my favourite people as hosts who all contribute their own individual personalities and experience to the show.   It's not just a cooking show it's kind of like an entertainment hour that is wrapped around food.  I used to watch Mario Batali's cooking show years ago and love that he brings all kinds of Italian dishes to the show.  I also love Clinton Kelly who is also the host of What not to Wear, a show where I learned that a lot of people don't know how to dress themselves.  He brings his touch of craftiness, style and entertaining to the show.  Carla Hall was on one of the Food Network competition shows and that's how I was aware of her before the Chew.  She has a Southern Charm and brings her recipes from the South to the Show and her catering knowledge.  Michael Symon I only knew as an Iron Chef prior to the Chew but I love Michael Symon and his love of all Pork products and his infectious laugh.  He brings the party and the rock n roll to the show.  Daphne Oz brings the balance to the show when it comes to indulgence and provides recipes that are more health concious, due to the fact that she grew up in a healthy household as Dr. Oz's daughter and had written a book about losing weight when she was in College.

I watch the show as much as I can and I laugh while I get inspired to cook new recipes.  Yesterday Daphne made a Sweet potato and kale Soup recipe that was like a super charged super food soup.  All the things that boost your immune system and help fight cancer and other diseases in one bowl.  It looked interesting and I realized that I had all those ingredients already and could make a pot of it.   So this morning I got out all of my ingredients and whipped up a batch for lunch.  I kicked up the spices for a warming effect that also boosts the thermogenic properties in the soup.

I pretty much made the recipe pretty similar to Daphne's Recipe but I didn't follow the amounts and added a couple of things.   I added mustard seed, leeks, shallots instead of the onions.   I used frozen Kale because I had that and didn't have any fresh Kale.  It probably made it easier because it's already blanched and chopped so all I had to do is dump it into the soup.  I had frozen chicken stock so I used that instead of water for the soup.

I had a whack of vegetables and this soup made it easy to get your 7-10 servings of vegetables in your day.  This is a great winter soup and I will freeze the rest of it for those days when I need a health boost and some warm soup.

Thanks Daphne for the Inspiration and thanks to the Chew crew for making me laugh and learn everyday.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Eat more Veggies in the New Year

One  of my Resolutions for the New Year is to eat more Veggies but also to try and find new ways of making them and maximize the flavour profiles while maintaining the integrity of the vegetable.

On a grocery shop trip to St. Lawrence Market last weekend I picked up some Asparagus, although they are not in season they were cheap and they are always quick to make.  It was only $1.50 for a small bunch but for me I knew I wouldn't waste a big bunch of it.
One of my favourite ways to make them is to just saute them in a grill pan or in this case I just used a flat cast iron pan and then I add Salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and sometimes I will add Balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar.  I have also added grated parmesan on top and chili flakes.   I was tempted to make asparagus tempura but it didn't seem worth it for a small bunch of Asparagus.  I need to find a few new ways of making Asparagus and not having them be boring or over cooked.  My mother used to boil them until they were limp and had lost all of the green color.  I never boil them anymore.  Blanching maybe...but I prefer to cook them in a way that retains all the vitamins.   A lot of people don't like Asparagus because of either the smell, the texture or the after effects.  It will be my mission to try and find new ways of looking at this skinny green veggie.
The other Veggie that nobody seems to know what it is or what to do with is Celeriac.  My mom used to grate it and make a cold salad with lemon and mayonnaise.

This week I decided to make a puree out of it to go with the Salmon I made instead of rice or mashed potatoes.   This is one of the other white vegetables instead of potatoes.  They can be eaten raw or roasted like any other root vegetable or boiled and mashed into a puree the way I made them.  It's a pretty versatile vegetable but I think most people are scared away because they look really ugly and dirty until you cut off the outer layer of it and chop it up.   It can be a bit bland but you can add things to it like you would with potatoes.

When you get the Celeriac cut off the nobby top end and the root end and then start cutting down the sides to cut off the outer layer.   Rinse it and then cut it however you need to prepare whatever you are making.  I cut mine in chunks and boiled them.

I added nutmeg, parsley and dill butter and heavy cream and salt and pepper to season it.    If you are vegan you can skip the butter and cream and add some vegetable stock to puree it.
Things like chives, cheese, dill and even Tarragon or some other spices to bump up the flavour.

These are the simple ways to make these two under eaten veggies.

I will try and attempt to cook more vegetables this year and increase my recipe repetoire  in making them a lot more drool worthy.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Better, Not Boring DINNERS

New Year's Resolution - Better Food that's not Boring.

Panko Crusted Salmon on Wilted Kale and Cereriac Puree with Asparagus,
Photo and  Food Styling by Linda Matarasso

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to get Healthier and Thinner would be great but Healthier and more Energetic is the Goal.  I am not willing to go the cottage cheese and celery sticks and total deprivation of all tasty foods route though.  Years ago I did Weight Watchers and over the course of about a year I lost about 40 pounds slowly.  I did it by calculating everything I ate and trying to get all the nutrients I needed in a single day.  The reason I was able to last on it for a full year was because I didn't eat Diet Food.   I searched for healthy alternatives to my usual favourites.  I tried baked fries, I gave up drinking a can of Coke every afternoon and started drinking water.   I ate a lot of Chicken Souvlaki in a Pita which saved me most days because it had everything I needed in one little package.

This time I want to try something that might be a little more work but a lot less calculating.  I want to search for Recipes that make food taste the best it can be and with the maximum nutrition without sacrificing taste.  I want boring vegetables to taste better than Junk Food.  You think I am crazy if you are addicted to Junk Food.  I have a food blog for a reason.  When I am not lazy or busy and I am motivated I can cook almost anything.   I might not be able to do the fancy pastries and Cake Boss crazy cakes but I can whip up some tasty food in the kitchen with a little inspiration.

Today's attempt at Better, Not Boring started after watching Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa make a recipe for Salmon that was smeared with mustard and crusted with Panko Bread Crumbs.   Hey,  I can do that!  I had the Salmon that I picked up at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday waiting for a good idea.  I also had a big ball of Celery Root sitting on my counter and a bunch of Asparagus sitting in a cup of water also staring me in the face on my counter.  Hmm,  I think these things might go well together.

So here's what I did to put the whole thing together.

I took 1 piece of Salmon Filet and patted it dry and then smeared the top with Dijon Mustard.
I then made a mixture of chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley in a bowl with half of a lemon zest.
Salt and Pepper and a couple of tablespoons of Panko Bread Crumbs.
I mixed the bread crumb mixture and then pressed it on top of the mustard coated salmon.  
Make sure you don't put anything on the skin on the bottom.
Set aside for a minute while you prepare the pan and oven.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a cast iron pan add just enough oil to coat the pan and then wash the trimmed Asparagus.   Heat the pan on high and then when it's hot add the Asparagus that is slightly drained.  A little water on it is good to steam it cooked so that it doesn't burn, but it might spit in the pan with the oil in the pan.  You can add a bit of salt to the asparagus in the pan.   Once the Asparagus has turned bright green and it's ok if it has a bit of char marks on it but it's still crisp and not soggy then remove it from the pan and put in on a plate and add Lemon Juice, you can also add lemon zest if you like.  Pepper and more salt to taste and a drizzle of Olive Oil.  You can also add balsamic vinegar or other vinegars instead of lemon juice.   Set aside.

Asparagus - Photo and styling by Linda Matarasso
In the same cast iron pan that the Asparagus was cooked in that is still hot on the stove place the piece of Salmon skin side down in the pan and then cook it for 2 to 3 minutes until the skin has enough time to get crispy.   Take the whole cast iron pan and then place it into the preheated oven and cook for approximately 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the Salmon Filet.  The panko bread crumbs should turn Golden Brown on top.

Once the fish is cooked serve it with the Asparagus and I also made Celery Root Puree which i will post the recipe for in a separate post.  You can also use Mashed Potatoes, sweet potatoes or even Cauliflower to complete your meal.  Or Rice for that matter.   It doesn't matter,  use what you have as a side.   I used the celery root to boost the nutrition and skip the white potatoes.

On the plate I first put a bed of wilted Kale, but you could also substitute for wilted Spinach and then added the Celeriac puree and then the Salmon and Asparagus Spears.

 Voila a Healthy Non Boring Dinner.

My inspiration for today's dinner was Ina Garten.

Find your Ina Garten or whatever will inspire you to make a better meal.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A spot of Afternoon Tea at the Old Mill

A friend of mine invited me to go for Afternoon Tea at the Old Mill in Toronto because her husband received a Gift Voucher but had no interest in going, so I was the lucky next person in line to go with her.  Also one of the perks of not working a day job is that I was available to be able to go with her.   I like to feel like I am still doing something productive and will take these opportunities to blog about the experience.

Imagine 3pm on a gloomy grey Friday afternoon in the New Year.  Where is everyone?  We arrived at the Old Mill and walked through a cavernous, dark and empty restaurant to a large window bright little room where there were only 1 table of guest seated beside where we were seated.   They were only there for about 15 minutes into our visit and after that we pretty much had the whole restaurant to ourselves.   It kind of felt like we were in Old Time Jolly Old England in some Great Mansion House that had Servants...think Downton Abby style.  Very old fashioned but at the same time really relaxing and peaceful.  It felt more like a loungey Sunday afternoon.

We were presented with a menu of Teas from which we were to choose one flavour of Tea.  My friend chose the Masala Chai Tea and I went all English and had a Black Harrington Tea.  I think i drank at least 2 pots of my tea.

What occurred to me later was that it seemed to be an old tradition that could probably use a bit of a modern makeover.   The practice of Afternoon Tea is a good idea.  It lets you slow things down in a relatively quiet environment and catch up with friends.   Drinking Tea is a great thing because of all the Health properties of a really great tea like Chai or Green Tea.

The thing I think I would like to shake up and modernize is the decor,  make it a little more of a balance between modern and traditional.   Less flowery and dated and more zen and relaxing.   The food was a lot of sugar overload and I think this is where a creative pastry chef or healthy chef could work some magic.

 I think that the little finger sandwiches might be modified to use a whole grain bread with high nutrient, low calorie items in the sandwiches like maybe some goat cheese and roasted red peppers,  or some turkey salad made with low fat yogurt and maybe some curry.   I am sure there are some creative options that a talented chef could come up with.   The pastries,  that's where a huge overhaul might be needed.  With so many people giving up white flour, sugar, salt and fat, with so many people going gluten free out of necessity or choice and so many others with high blood pressure and diabetes and other conditions these days.   Maybe it's time for a revamp of this nice Afternoon Tea experience to make it more like the Experience of a Tea Ceremony in Japan.  An event that leaves you feeling better when you leave than when you went in.   Maybe a kicked up Spa type menu but maybe less Spa deprivation and more flavour and health boosting properties.
I have been baking a cookie recipe recently that uses whole wheat flour, no butter, and no white sugar.
They still taste delicious and everyone loves them. Maybe that's the answer to reviving this Old School Traditional Tea.

Yes, I would do this myself if I had the Royals bank account, but alas I am not independently wealthy so all I can do is dream about the kind of place I would like to spend my Sunday or Friday afternoons in sipping nice tea with friends.

There is a trend to high end Tea shops but they are just grab the tea and tea accessories and take them home to enjoy there.   What if there was a Tea Starbucks shop?   Instead of Venti, half foam...etc...  there was a Green Tea with Ginger and Blood Orange with some Agave Nectar on the side?   Add a health scone on the side instead of a piece of cake.   Hmm... wonder if that would become the next big trend?   Well I am putting it out there for anyone that has Millionaire cash to burn and need a place to put it.   You could give it to me and I will make it happen for you...

One can have Fancy Tea wishes and Afternoon Tea Dreams.

Photo credit: Joanne Vekar and Linda Matarasso

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Healthy Food Resolutions for 2013

How many times have you heard this saying at the beginning of a New Year?

New Year, New You!  and how many TV shows do you flip through that talk about New Year's Resolutions and pretty much the overwhelming thing they talk about is people making Resolutions to LOSE WEIGHT and get HEALTHY.  I have been working away on a bunch of little things at home today and have the TV on and every show that was on TV talked about Diet and Exercise and why you should do all the things they say to GET FIT in the New Year.   So even if you didn't plan to lose weight you get brainwashed to think that you aren't good enough the way you are.   The pressure to conform to a certain way of looking is really high at this time of year.   What if you are already fit?  Do you still feel like you aren't doing enough after the bombardment of all the media stories and commercials?  If you are Obese does it make you feel like there is too much pressure to do all the things they say?

Well I guess I am one of those people that feel like it's a good time to start to work on a Healthier Living Plan.  The New Year's Resolutions aside it's just a reminder and also because there are so many experts on tv telling you how you can look like a supermodel by following their tips.   I am trying to take in some of those tips and modify them to my needs.  

My resolution for this year is to try and modify what I eat to eat better quality food that my body can process properly so that I can increase my energy throughout the day so that I feel better.   I am not committing to a NUMBER but choosing to just modify what I normally do.

Today I was trying to think about what to make for dinner with the ingredients I had in the fridge.  I had some chicken breast defrosting and I had some leftover vegetables from a party that I had last week that I wanted to use up.  While watching TV and getting things done around the house I saw one EXPERT make a Stir Fry with Tofu.  Bingo!   Stir fry with Chicken Breast.   Inspiration.   I was already half way there with some of the vegetables I already had semi prepped.  They used Brown Rice... hey I have some I never think to use... so less than an hour later and Viola!  

Chicken Stir Fry


2 pieces of Chicken Breast cut into chunks
1 tbsp cooking oil

1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp siracha sauce
1 tsp soya sauce
2 garlic cloves finely chopped/grated
1 tbsp Fresh Ginger grated

Green, Red, Yellow Peppers cut into chunks or strips
1 Onion cut into chunks
1 large carrot cut into 1/4 pieces or baby carrots
1 cup of broccoli florets
1 celery stick cut into chunks

Marinate the Chicken in the Marinade for at least a half an hour to develop the flavour.
In a Hot Frying Pan or Wok add Oil and heat until the pan is hot.   Add the chicken Breast and cook until almost cooked.   Take the chicken out of the pan and reserve on the side.

Add the vegetables into the pan and add water if there isn't any liquid left in the pan.   Stir Fry the vegetables until they are tender.   Add the chicken back into the pan and toss the whole thing together and cook until everything is fully cooked.  

Serve on a Bed of Brown Rice.

AS FOR MY NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS... this is what I am going to attempt to do:

  1. Use Brown Rice instead of White Rice
  2. Cook with healthy proteins like Turkey, chicken and Salmon
  3. Cook with Spices and Garlic and Ginger to boost flavours - I already do this but will bump it up more.
  4. Increase the amount of Vegetables I consume during the day.
  5. Try and decrease the amount of sugar in food.
  6. Cut out fancy coffees
  7. Switch to healthier whole grain breads or make my own bread.
  8. Eat and cook with less processed foods.
  9. Try and plan what i will eat so that I don't break down and get junk food.
  10. Try and find new recipes that increase nutrition while keeping flavour and calories down.
I am not going to obsess about it and I won't be hopping on the scale every 5 minutes with the pressure of obtaining a certain number.   The goal is to feel better and have more stamina so I will be able to measure that by how much more I can accomplish during the day.

Diets don't work because as soon as you say you can't have certain foods and restrict certain things you end up wanting them even more.  I am going to try and eat better more than I eat badly.   More of an 80/20 rule..  Eat well 80 percent of the time and leave room for favourite things 20 percent of the time.

I watch all the Shows and Know all the right things to eat and do but it's the willpower to keep going that is the tough part.   

Most people feel compelled to start a diet because they can't fit into their skinny jeans anymore after binging on Holiday Party foods throughout the holidays.   I didn't go to a bunch of Holiday Parties but I finally have the time to focus on taking better care of myself.

It does take a bit more time to go to the store and buy fresh groceries that need to be prepped and cooked, instead of just picking up some fast food.   It does take a bit more planning to try and make a variety of things that hold your interest in keeping it up.   I am going to try and take all of my Food knowledge and whatever culinary skills I have to try and eat better while still enjoying what I eat.

As I experiment with different recipes I will post any great results here.    And if it works and I lose weight I will post the results as well.    I am at a point in my life where the weight is really stubborn so I am not going to beat myself up if I don't lose numbers on the scale.   Just feeling better and doing what I need to do to prevent any future illnesses is what I need to focus on.

Wish me luck!  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Panettone Spiced Bread Pudding

At this time of year people bring Food Gifts as Hostess Gifts or for whatever other reason or if they don't know what else to bring.   One of my friends brought a Panettone over for a Fondue  Holiday Potluck Party that I had recently.  Only a portion of the Panettone was eaten and for a few days I stared at the Box of Panettone and was trying to decide what to do with it because I knew I couldn't eat the whole Panettone bread myself.  It's now New Year's Day and I thought about making some sort of Brunch style thing for breakfast so I looked at the Panettone sitting on my counter and decided to make a Bread Pudding.   Bread Pudding is a great way to use up leftover bread, cake or even croissants or Challah bread.   I also decided to toss in a few ingredients that I had leftover from some holiday baking.

Panettone Bread Pudding

Here's what I did.

Panettone Bread Pudding


Panettone Bread
2 cups of Half/Half Milk  or Milk and Cream seperately
2 tbsp sugar
6 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 pice of crystallized ginger * optional
1 tbsp dried cherries *optional
2 tbsp chocolate chips *optional but worth it.


Cut up the Panettone Bread into small chunks.  If the bread is still soft you can add it to a large baking pan and toast it off in the oven until it's dried out.  In a separate bowl mix Eggs, Milk/Cream, all of the spices and the Sugar and Optional items (chocolate chips, cherries and ginger)  You could also add nuts  if you wanted to on top if you want a crunchier topping.

Pour the egg/milk mixture on top of the bread in a large baking dish.  I used a Lasagna Pan.   If you use a shallower pan you will get more surface crust.  Make sure the milk/cream mixture covers all of the bread and if it doesn't add some more milk/cream until it soaks it all up.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35 -40 minutes or until the top is brown and crisp.

You could serve it with Vanilla Ice Cream or Greek yoghurt if you wanted to have it as a dessert but it's a great brunch Item for a large group of people.

Easy Leftover Baked Dish.

As usual adjust to your own taste and feel free to change the spices or optional items.