Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread for Passover & Easter

This week I had a meeting with people who celebrate both Passover and Easter so what do you make to please a variety of people during a holy week?

My answer was to make Chocolate Chip Banana Bread   In order to make it ok for Passover I used Matzoh Meal and Potato Starch.

I looked through a bunch of different recipes but I didn't like the combinations so I made up my own version.   It was an experiment but luckily it worked.  Everyone loved it.

So for this crowd pleaser you need to do the following:



Dry Ingredients:

1 cup Potato Starch
1 cup Matzoh Meal
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup coconut
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup walnuts

Wet Ingredients:

½ cup or 2 sticks of melted butter
 1 bunch of over ripe bananas mashed
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

And it's easy to put together:


Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter a loaf pan and set aside. You can also line it with parchment paper to release easier.

In 2 separate bowls mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and all of the wet ingredients in another bowl.  Make sure the eggs and butter are room temperature.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until it’s fully combined.

Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 60 min. or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.   Cool on a wire rack.
 I found it very mushy in the middle so I cut it in slices and then put it back in the oven and it toasted it up a little bit more and added a lot more flavour.     You might want to test it to make it as dry as you like.   Because it doesn't have any baking powder it won't rise.   This amount will fill a loaf pan.

Friday, March 22, 2013

World Water Day - Imagine a life without water.

Today is World Water Day.

I never take for granted the fact that I have clean drinking water that is accessible to me and there are others in the world that don't.

Water is necessary for life:

We need water to:

  • Grow our vegetables
  • Hydrate our animals and ourselves
  • Keep ourselves clean
  • Sustain the eco balance of the world
  • Cook our food
  • Keep us alive.
I live in a multi-story apartment building and every time they shut off the water I realize how much I take having running water for granted.

I wake up everyday and can brush my teeth with clean water,  then go to the bathroom and flush the toilet and take a hot water shower.
Then I can go into the kitchen and boil an egg in water and wash the dishes after I finish breakfast and then use the water to clean up the kitchen.   I can get water to make tea or coffee or to have ice water and lemon even.  I can water my plants and keep moisture in the air.

All of these things are necessary to live a healthy life and are taken for granted by many people in the world.   And then there are those that don't have these things at their disposal on a daily basis.   

Imagine waking up and not being able to keep yourself properly cleaned and be able to have water on hand to drink when you are thirsty or sick or to cook your food or clean your vegetables.   What if you had to walk for miles to get a little bit of water that you had to make last.   I don't know how I could do that after growing up my whole life with it being like having fresh air.

Water is essential to Food and Sustainability.   We can't survive without it.  Our plants feed our animals which feed our plants which feed us.   It's the cycle of life and Water is the Key to this Cycle.

We need to find ways to make sure that we don't lose what we have and find ways to provide for the people that don't have this necessity.

*worldfoodday website

85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet.
783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. 
6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
Various estimates indicate that, based on business as usual, ~3.5 planets Earth would be needed to sustain a global population achieving the current lifestyle of the average European or North American.
Global population growth projections of 2–3 billion people over the next 40 years, combined with changing diets, result in a predicted increase in food demand of 70% by 2050.
Over half of the world population lives in urban areas, and the number of urban dwellers grows each day. Urban areas, although better served than rural areas, are struggling to keep up with population growth (WHO/UNICEF, 2010).
With expected increases in population, by 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50% (70% by 2050) (Bruinsma, 2009), while energy demand from hydropower and other renewable energy resources will rise by 60% (WWAP, 2009). These issues are interconnected – increasing agricultural output, for example, will substantially increase both water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water between water-using sectors.

Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.
Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies).
Economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water. Producing 1 kg of rice, for example, requires ~3,500 L of water, 1 kg of beef ~15,000 L, and a cup of coffee ~140 L (Hoekstra and Chapagain, 2008). This dietary shift is the greatest to impact on water consumption over the past 30 years, and is likely to continue well into the middle of the twenty-first century (FAO, 2006).
About 66% of Africa is arid or semi-arid and more than 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment – meaning that they have less than 1,000 m3 per capita (NEPAD, 2006).

If you have the power to make a difference and give people water for life then what can be better than that?   I don't have financial or political power but I have the power to share this information with you and hopefully you have the power to share it with someone that has the power to make a change.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Food - Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's pie

While it may be English for some reason people think about Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie as some people call it when they think about St. Patrick's Day or at least I do. I used to make Shepherd's Pie a lot in the winter months because it's that nice homey full meal that is really satisfying on a cold winter day.  I have been craving a good Shepherd's Pie for a while so I finally decided to use St. Patrick's Day as my inspiration.

My mom used to make it for years but I always knew there was a better way to make it because the way she would make it was to just put seasoned raw ground beef into the bottom of the casserole dish and then add peas and then she would add mashed potatoes and then slices of Kraft slices cheese and bread crumbs on top.  The cheese would form a solid layer of crust on top and the meat would be one solid lump of meatloaf on the bottom and very dry.    I changed it up over the years and constantly developing it until this version that I think is the best version I have ever made.  I took a few tips from Gordon Ramsey and some quality ground beef from local Cumbrae Meat Market to make this version.

Here's the RECIPE:

1 1/2 pounds of Lean Ground Beef
3 Russet Potatoes
2 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. Grated Cheddar
t 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp. Parsley
1 Tsp. Thyme
1 Tsp each Salt and Pepper
1 cup of Frozen peas and carrots mix
1 Tbsp Worcester Sauce
1/2 cup red wine or Guinness Beer 
1/2 cup of water
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup milk or buttermilk
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tsp ground nutmeg
1 small onion grated
2 cloves of garlic grated


In a large pot boil peeled and chopped 1 inch pieces of potatoes in salted water until fork tender.  Approx 15-20 min.

While the potatoes are cooking in a skillet brown the Ground Beef and add the grated garlic and onion and salt and pepper to taste.   Drain any excess fat if necessary. Add the flour and mix into beef mixture.  Add the cayenne, paprika and tomato paste.   Add the Worcester sauce and then add the wine or beer to deglaze the pan.  Add  the frozen peas and carrots (you can use fresh too but I would suggest cooking then separately first to par cook them. Add the water and cook until the mixture thickens and forms a gravy type of consistency from the liquids.

When the potatoes are cooked drain the water and add the butter, milk, nutmeg, half the parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Mash the potatoes and set aside until the beef mixture is done.

In a large casserole dish add the ground beef mixture then add the mashed potatoes on top and use a fork to fluff up the top layer.  Add the cheddar and parmesan cheese on top of the Shepherd's Pie.

Bake in a 350ºF oven for about 25 minutes or until the top is bubbly and browned slightly.

Serves 4.   

Great for freezer meals.
History of Shepherd's Pie

The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle ages. Game pie, pot pie and mutton pie were popular and served in pastry "coffyns." These pies were cooked for hours in a slow oven, and topped with rich aspic jelly and other sweet spices. The eating of "hote [meat] pies" is mentioned in Piers Plowman, and English poem written in the 14th Century. (Cooking of the British Isles, Adrian Bailey, pages 156-7) The Elizabethans favored minced pies. "A typical Elizabethan recipe ran: Shred your meat (mutton or beef) and suet together fine. Season it with cloves, mace, pepper and some saffron, great raisins and prunes..." (Food and Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson, page 273). About mince and mincemeat pies. Maine style Chinese Pie descends from this venerable culinary tradition.
The key to dating Shepherd's pie is the introduction (and acceptance) of potatoes in England. Potatoes are a new world food. They were first introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish. Potatoes did not appeal to the British palate until the 18th Century. (Foods America Gave the World, A. Hyatt Verrill, page 28). Shepherd's Pie, a dish of minced meat (usually lamb, when made with beef it is called"Cottage Pie") topped with mashed potatoes was probably invented sometime in the 18th Century by frugal peasant housewives looking for creative ways to serve leftover meat to their families. It is generally agreed that it originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep--hence the name. The actual phrase "Shepherd's Pie" dates back to the 1870s, when mincing machines made the shredding of meat easy and popular." (The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, page 717). Related dishes: Chinese pie & Rappie pie.
Where does "Cottage Pie" fit in?
"In present day English, cottage pie is an increasingly popular synonym for shepherd's pie, a dish of minced meat with a topping of mashed potato. Its widening use is no doubt due in part to its pleasantly bucolic associations, in part to the virtual disappearance of mutton and lamb from such pies in favour of beef...But in fact, cottage pie is a much older term than shepherd's pie, which does not crop up until the 1870s; on 29 August 1791 we find that enthusiastic recorder of all his meals, the Reverend James Woodford, noting in his diary Dinner to day, Cottage-Pye and rost Beef' (it is not clear precisely what he meant by cottage pie, however)."
---An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 92)

Enjoy it with some Green Beer if you like.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

D.I.Y. Cooking from Scratch-Bread & Pasta

I have been using my time without a full time job to take the time to do some
D.I.Y. from Scratch recipes like our Grandparents did before everything came in a convenient package.


People used to bake their own breads or get it from their local Bakery.  When was the last time you saw a local Bakery in your neighbourhood?  More than likely you get your bread from a huge supermarket that gets it shipped from who knows where and if you are lucky they might bake it probably from a ready made dough on site.   There is nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread.  It makes your place feel like HOME.

I have been trying to perfect a No Knead dough recipe that has been going around.   What I need to perfect is how to make it without spilling flour all over myself and my kitchen.  I think I got the bread almost perfect now.  It's not exactly no knead in my books because you still have to semi roll it out and then form a ball and it's a long process.  It takes about 20 hours of resting time and approx. 25 minutes to bake.   But this is what it looks like after taking it out of a dutch oven.


The next thing I attempted is to make Pasta or specifically Orrechiette which is "little ears" in Italian.
I used a combination of Semolina flour and all purpose flour but I think I should have added eggs to make it a bit lighter.  It turned out a bit chewy.  I used equal parts of semolina and flour and then added
water.  I will try it with just semolina next time and see how it turns out.

What I realized from this experiment is that it's a whole lot easier to just pick up a box of great pasta as it's less of a mess and a whole lot less time consuming.   But  when it comes to making GNOCCHI the DIY way is way better than the frozen version as it makes Gnocchi that are as light as pillows instead of frozen rocks.


And the last thing in the Bread and Pasta attempt from scratch was a Pizza dough and pizza made from '00' flour from Italy.

This is another one that I haven't perfected yet but it did work.  When I was a kid my best friend's mom who was from Italy used to make fresh pizza dough on a saturday night and we would cut up the toppings and put it on the pizza and then she would bake it off for us.  It was the best Pizza I ever had anywhere.  It was light but had a crunchy bottom crust, more like a focaccia bread but it was delicious with fresh toppings and crushed tomatoes 
instead of a commercial sauce.

I want to get to the point where my homemade version brings me back to that great tasting pizza dough that I remember as a kid.   It wasn't the wood oven type of thin crust but a thick and light crust that just tasted fresh and great.  This one take a lot more elbow grease to knead the dough even if you use a mixer you still need to stretch out the dough.

Although it's a whole lot more work trying to make these things from scratch the one thing you get when you make them is the Pride that you DID IT YOURSELF and if you master these recipes you will know that you can whip up an amazing dish just with a little flour, some water, maybe some eggs and add a little tomato sauce and cheese and you have some GREAT FOOD.

Everyone should know HOW to DIY some basic
recipes that our Grandparents made on a regular basis and didn't even think they had an option to do it any other way.

Teach your kids or grandchildren these skills so they don't die off with future generations.

The way things are going with our foods and the trust factor of mass producers it's nice to know that you can try and get a few ingredients and make things yourself and know what is going into them and control what you eat and how it's made a whole lot more.   While I doubt we are ever going to grow our own wheat and grind it, this still reduces the risk of what goes into our bodies.    Of course if you have an opportunity to have a garden or a farm then you know that you have the option to control a lot of what you make from scratch.

I am not suggesting you spend all day in the kitchen making everything from SCRATCH but I am suggesting that you KNOW HOW to DIY and know how it's made and know that you CAN DO IT.

I know that I CAN and have the choice to do it or not now.   DIY and feel the Pride!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Food Revolution Day - Toronto 2013

This past week myself and a small group of dedicated Food Revolution Day Ambassadors from the GTA got together for a meeting to make plans for Food Revolution Day 2013 in Toronto and Vaughan.   Although Vaughan already has plans in the work, but the Toronto Team are just getting things organized.  We met for a casual and healthy dinner that we all contributed to.   I made the No Knead Bread recipe that seems to be super popular these days.  It came out perfect and we all enjoyed it with our Vegetarian Chili, Bean Salad and Olive bites.
And Adell brought her new cookie creations for us to sample.

This is our Second Year planning Food Revolution Day in Toronto a Global Initiative created by Chef Jamie Oliver's Foundation to be an ongoing project to get people around the world inspired to cook REAL FOOD at home and to eat healthier foods.

We have a few things already planned in different stages.  There is a community program in the works, a hands on cooking class and information for kids and their parents, a cooking class and I am trying to work on creating a family friendly event if all goes well.  Waiting to see if it gets confirmed.

We want to inspire you and everyone you know to join us and participate in FOOD REVOLUTION DAY 2013 on MAY 17th,
It's an ALL DAY Global event of small dinner parties to big events.  If you want to participate or to join us in some way you can find out more information from the official Food Revolution Day website where events will start to get posted soon.

I hope that you can attend one of our events or be inspired to have a dinner party or even take a cooking class on that day or even visit a farmer's market.  The main thing we want you to do is SHARE and think about REAL FOOD.