Thursday, February 13, 2014

Perfect Valentine's Day Gifts for Foodies

You have no clue what to get for your significant other or someone you fancy for Valentine's Day?
If they are Food Lovers or Cooks or Bakers then here are some suggestions for things besides the usual standbys of Flowers and Chocolates.   

Don't get me wrong, some people love flowers and chocolates but if you want to look like you have put some thought into a gift for the one you love then try one of these ideas.   If they are on a diet or hate to cook then there are still a few things on the list that they might like.

1. Le Creuset Red Dutch Oven -  with a cooked meal in it.  They get to enjoy the meal and any future meals cooked in this oven for many years.

2. Fancy French Macarons from Nadege or Sweet Escapes or a Class to learn how to make French Macarons with my friend Mardi Michaels from Eat, Live, Write -

3. House Cleaning or a Professional Organizer - 
I used this company when I had to sell my house and downsize to an apartment.  They also helped me organize my kitchen in my apartment after I moved in to maximize the limited space.

4. Dinner at a high quality intimate restaurant where the service is impeccable like RUBY WATCHCO  (Chef Lynn Crawford) or ICI BISTRO (Chef JP Chalet)  or FABBRICA (Owned by Chef Mark McEwan)

5. Cheese Club Membership or a Gift Basket from Cheese Boutique or a Class or Fondue at Cheesewerks.

7. Private Chef to cook an in home meal. - or take a Knife Skills Class at a Community College or a private Academy like Cirillos or Aphrodite Cooks or take the family to Petits Chefs Academy

8. A great cookbook and some basic ingredients from their favourite Chef's cookbook, pick up some rare cookbooks at The Cookbook Store.

9. A beautiful tea set with samples of different kinds of GOURMET TEAS like great french tea KUSMI or Canadian Tea Company DAVIDS TEA, TEA EMPORIUM or another Fav is NUMI Teas.

10. Instead of Flowers get a Fresh Herb Planter that will last at least a whole season and will be used to freshen a space and add flavour to lots of meals.


The Key is to put some thought and effort to whatever you do and make it as special as you can for that special person in your life.   If you don't have a special person you can even share some of these ideas with a group of friends.

Spread the Love and Share the Food -  HAPPY VALENTINE"S DAY

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mom's cold remedies

I have had an annoying cold all weekend and found myself thinking about the things my mom would do when I got sick when I was a kid.   So I decided to list the ones I have been using all weekend.
My mom's cold and flu remedies:

1. TEA - The first thing my mom would do when the first sniffle would start was to shove tea with honey and lemon down my throat.  I always associated Tea with being sick after that.  And still drink Tea when I am not feeling great for whatever reason.   Here's why it works:  The lemon gives you Vitamin C which you need to fill up on.  The honey coats your throat to prevent sore throats.  The tea well it is just a way to get more liquids down unless you use a really good organic herbal tea that has all kinds of medicinal properties.  I have been drinking Green Detox Tea mostly.

2.  CHICKEN SOUP- My mom's other stand by was always something that I always had when I was sick.  My mom always called it Jewish Penicillin.  Why it works:  There seems to be some sort of magical properties in boiling down the bones of a chicken mixed with vegetables like onions, celery and carrots which all have different health properties that are all distilled into a clear vitamin boosted broth that clears out your system while loading up on detoxifying, antioxidant, vitamin boosting vitamins.  If you add ginger and garlic to the broth you can boost your immune system even more.

3.  VASELINE - while it's not a food it is something you don't take for granted when you have a cold and blow your nose so much that you look like your nose was under a magnifying glass in the sun.  I went down to the drug store in my building because I put some cream on my nose that burned and wondered if there was a non greasy alternative to vaseline.  The pharmacist said probably not because the Vaseline adds a protective coating so that your skin doesn't dry out.

5.  WATER - This one is a no brainer.   The more fluids you can get into your body the better to flush out all the toxins that have built up and you rid your body of all the excess of mucus and other gross things.

6.  HONEY - I have found that honey has been working better than throat losenges for coating my throat.  The losenges kind of leave a pasty and burning effect while the honey just coats the throat with a nice smooth sweet flavour bonus.

7.  HUMIDIFIER/VAPOURIZER - While it's not food either it takes your basic H20 and puts it back into the air in the winter to get rid of the dry air that is caused by the extreme cold and the dry indoor heaters.  My throat and skin have been so dry that it's been uncomfortable.  So I finally broke out the vapourizer and added a couple of drops of Eucalyptus oil into it.  It's one of those subtle things that works and you only notice it when you don't have enough moisture in the air.  The one thing about keeping the room humid is that I heard that it is the skin in your nose drying up and cracking that will open up and let your nose suck in the airborne germs.  Sounds gross but true.  I know that our extreme cold and dry winter has probably contributed to people around town sneezing away.   I noticed it the last couple of times out on the subway and in stores.   That's probably how I got sick.  Everyone is getting sick right now.

8.  REST - Getting proper rest is hard when you try and sleep and your nose starts running and you have to sit up and blow your nose.  But the more rest you get the more your body can heal itself.  The body regenerates when at rest.  Unfortunately my body doesn't seem to like to rest at night so I am trying to get whatever rest I can get when it is ready to rest.

9.  EGGS - This one is a maybe on whether it's good or not.  My mom used to always make me a fried or hard boiled egg.   And she used to concoct this thing she called "guggle muggle" which was an egg yolk beaten with sugar and vanilla, I always loved the taste but I don't know where that came from and if it worked but it tasted good.  I don't know if I would have it today with the chance of salmonella from raw eggs but it seems like when I was a kid you could eat raw eggs and raw meat without it being as big of a concern as it is now.

10.  TOAST - I think the toast mostly was given to me because it was a safe thing to eat most of the time.  She always made me toast when I had the flu.  I guess maybe just to soak things up and have something to prevent dehydration or who knows why but it's also something easy to make when you are home alone sick and don't want to make anything but need to eat.

Anyway.   The fact is that all of these things are simple things that have been around for generations and are basically things that have stood the test of time.   I am not a big drug person and got some syrup  from the pharmacist but found that the tea and honey worked just as well and I know what's in it.

The most important thing is what I haven't been very good at is building up your immune system with loads of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables so that you can fend off these little annoying colds and flu's during our long winter season.

I suppose some of this stuff is working because I have enough energy to write this blog post now and couldn't even stop for less than 10 minutes without blowing my nose the first couple of days.

I hate being sick,  My skin is pale, chapped and my nose is red.  My hair is dry and lifeless and it just makes me look and feel old.   So anything that will help me look and feel better quicker is well worth it.   These are the things that have been worth doing for me.

I am sure everyone has their own home remedies and some people just load themselves up with drugs.  I don't like going the drug route because it always leave some sort of residue that you have to detox later.   Skip the drugs and find a more natural alternative if you can.

Stay Well and Skip the Kleenex Box.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Giada de Laurentis in Toronto for the Chef's Challenge

Yesterday I was invited to go to a Press Conference with Giada de Laurentis the California based Celebrity Chef and mini mogul.  I mean mini because she is a teeny tiny chef who looks like she doesn't have to be surrounded by food all day.   This mini mogul has written many cookbooks with the current one called "Giada's Feel Good Food which is geared to all of the healthy practices, tips and recipes that she uses in her life, including yoga, packing tips and other things she does to keep herself healthy and fit.

She is in town this weekend to be the Head Judge for the "Chef's Challenge" - The Ultimate Battle for a Cure 2014.  An event that has amateur fundraising cooks paired up with some celebrity Chefs like Mark McEwan, David Rocco and Vikram Vij to compete against each other in teams with some random ingredients revealed to them on the day of the competition.  This is the 4th year of this event and Giada got involved after speaking with her friend Bobby Flay about his experience hosting it last year.  It is being held at the Toronto Congress Centre on Saturday, Feb 8th.  (today) as I write this.  and the proceeds of this event will go towards Research of women's Cancer diseases for Mount Sinai Hospital.

Giada has personal family experience with Cancer and wants to take this opportunity to "give back" as she puts it.

The press conference was held at the Hazelton Hotel in their screening room with a select group of mostly food bloggers like myself.  It was an intimate space where we were allowed to ask her questions.  I asked her if she thought chef's were going to far mixing too many different ingredients to think outside of the box.  Her reply was that she thinks there are chefs that use too many ingredients and she thinks that more than 8 ingredients is too much.  She thinks that food should be "clean" as she referred to it and she also thinks it's hard to make things that are made simple with a few ingredients and made well.  She thinks that the food gets muddy when you mix too many things.  At the Challenge she is looking to see things that we all know with a twist like chicken parmigiana with grilled chicken or some other twist.  She said that if anyone knows her they will know the flavours she likes.  Hint: She is partial to citrus flavour if anyone is reading this that is participating today.

She also chatted about her book and her busy life trying to keep up with her tv shows, her products and endorsements, her family and she is now opening a restaurant in Las Vegas that is a huge new venture for her.  She says she has to take care of herself so that she can keep up with her busy travel schedule and hectic life where she finds she must multi task all the time to keep up.

Giada is the first woman chef to open a restaurant on the Las Vegas strip and also the only restaurant that will be located in a small boutique hotel which was a 2 story parking garage which she will convert to indoor and outdoor seating.  She said this was the only one of it's kind on the Vegas Strip.

She is a powerhouse chef with many things in the air.  She said she hasn't been to Canada very much but we hope that she can find the time to come back again a lot more in the future.   Maybe a restaurant in Canada one day??  Who knows what's next for this busy chef. @gdelaurentis