Saturday, April 26, 2014

The importance of Food Revolution Day.

I became involved in Food Revolution Day just over 3 years ago after I watched Jamie Oliver's Television series Food Revolution where he went to a town in the U.S. and tried to set up a pass it on movement to teach people where there food comes from and how to cook it to try and tackle their massive childhood obesity problem.   Jamie began his journey into this Food Revolution movement by trying to change the school lunches in the U.K. and found that there was a lot of resistance from the government, the schools and the kids in the schools at the beginning.  He managed to change a lot of things and the kids adjusted to the changes and their behaviour and learning in the schools improved.   This was just through the power of making some changes to the food that was being served to kids.  Jamie was on a mission.  What if he could spread this out all over the world to change what kids are eating and have people take control of what they are eating instead of relying on fast food nation.

The Food Revolution Global Day of Action began 3 years ago where Jamie and his Foundation's team recruited people like me to be Ambassadors to try and spread the word and try and get people involved.   This year Jamie wants to break a Guinness World Record to get schools around the Globe participating in making a Rainbow Wrap.
and he wants to get more people to spread the word and join in and attend an event or become an Ambassador or participate in some way in your area.

This overall mission is to "Get kids excited about food" so they will be inspired to learn all about it and learn how to cook and having cooking skills that will set them up for life.

This is my 3rd year participating as I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

The first year I held a dinner party at my home where I made a mostly vegetable dinner with very vegetable Lasagna, a huge mixed vegetable salad and meringues and strawberries for dessert.   Everyone loved the food and I was told by a few people that the lasagna was the best one they ever had.

Last year I wanted to expand it to be open to the public so I hosted a Mexican Fiesta at Aphrodite Cooks on Weston Rd.  It was a small group of people but we all had our hands on deck and created some great tacos/tostadas and non alcoholic margaritas and guacamole etc.   I set up a photo wall so we could all have a little fun with Sombrero's and props.

This year I am going to be teaching an Italian Cooking from Scratch Workshop on May 12th at The Depanneur on College Street in downtown Toronto.  I will teach adults and kids how to make a simple but delicious meal of handmade gnocchi, fresh tomato sauce, grilled asparagus side dish and a delicious cherry amaretto parfait for dessert.   Harper Collins Canada has generously donated some Jamie Oliver cookbooks as prizes and Sobeys has also generously provided the event with assistance and have donated some special kids packs to set up kids for future cooking skills.  Bernardin canning have provided Mason jars for guests to be able to take home a jar filled with some fresh tomato sauce and the dessert they create for themselves.

You can take part and join the Revolution by attending an event like mine or seeing how else you can Join in on the Food Revolution Website:

It is my hope that I can teach someone that has never cooked before how easy it can be too cook a meal using simple ingredients that even kids can understand and manage in the hope that they will be inspired to learn the value of cooking and sharing food and eating healthy food.   Many kids don't know what they are eating or where it comes from.  Hopefully they will be inspired to find out more and try new things and change their future health.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Food Films to see at the Hot Docs Film Festival

This week my 2 worlds collide when I will be spending lot's of time at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto.  I will be one of those people selling you tickets at the theatre box office and on my free time I will be checking out these 2 Food Related Documentaries.

1.  FED UP


Go see these films and a few other Film Related movies at Hot Docs this week.   Spread the word.
If you go see one of these films you will likely see me sitting in the theatre watching intently.

The Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival is one of the largest documentary festivals in the world and screens some really great films that you may or may not have a chance to see anywhere else.   If you care about your food go see these films but if there are other issues you are concerned about there are probably films about that or you can also see a documentary about Alice Cooper, Big Bird or George Takei or even the Iron Sheik.   check it out... see you there.. don't forget to say hi if you see me at one of the box offices.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Passover Seder Dinner- Jewish for a Day

My friend Brian decided that since both of us lost our parents we should find something to do for Passover this year.  He spent time with his sister on the first night but wanted to do something for the second night.  I haven't really done much for Passover in years.  Once in a while my cousins wife might do it but she is a busy working woman and I am sure she didn't have time to do anything on a tuesday night.  I suggested going to Caplansky's Delicatessen where Zane Caplansky has started an Annual Passover 2nd Seder Dinner.  He seems to be the only other Jew in town that understands Events outside of a Synagogue or Community Group.   My friend thought that $50 was kind of expensive for a meal.  But it did include a glass of wine.  I don't drink wine so that's lost on me anyway.  Somehow I came up with a stupid idea to maybe do it at my home.  And then my friend said we should see who else we can get to come instead of just the two of us.  I invited my Solo cousin who doesn't have any family here anymore and she was busy.  Her parents and sister have been gone for a long time so I guess she has found something to do over Passover for the past few years.   I just ignore it usually unless my other cousin invites me over.
When I was little my family would go to my aunt's house..  The solo cousin's mother and she would cook the whole meal and we would bring one or two things like my mother's red pepper salad or as she called it Salad de Pimente which my cousins called the red stuff.   Pictured above on the plate of various spreads.  I suppose my aunt had her daughters and husband help her make the dinner.  I was fairly young so I just showed up and ate and then left without having to do anything, so I never knew what went into doing the whole thing.   Later after she stopped doing it due to her health my mother started going to her best friends house on the first night to help her with her family's dinner.  They have a pretty large family.   My brother and I left to fend for ourselves most of the time on the first night.   Sometimes my mother would feel the guilt and make a big deal about having a Passover dinner on the second night after my dad passed away and would kind of do a half version of Passover.   She would make chicken soup, sometimes Gefilte fish, Chicken, potatoes and the red stuff and sometimes the odd other thing.  We didn't do any of the prayers we just ate what she made for dinner.  She would complain about how much work it was for weeks and would start the process two weeks before Passover.  We didn't really care about it as it didn't really feel like a tradition or an event but just to please my mother.   We would tell her not to bother if it was too much work.   I would help her with some of the things but some of it had to be made the day before or the day of so it was always a lot to do.  Lot's of dishes to wash with the salad plate, the soup, the main course and then dessert.  My mother would make a chocolate mousse or Angel Cake for dessert... the Mousse was my favourite.   She finally stopped doing it after we insisted it was too much and not necessary and we wouldn't care if she didn't do it.  It was never a big deal for me.   I liked the fish, and it was the only time of the year I ate chopped liver, sometimes bought and sometimes homemade.  My mother didn't make matzo balls but would use noodles mostly.   It wasn't so Kosher although she did use dishes we only used for company, but that's about it.  At my aunt's house she would have the full traditional meal with Brisket, although her Brisket was always charred to a crisp.  My cousin's wife on the other hand makes the most amazing Brisket and once she told me how she did it I understood the difference.

So fast forward to this year.  I probably wouldn't have tried to get some fish for myself and lately I have been making chopped liver trying to perfect it because it's cheap to make.  I probably would have made a chicken soup and probably would have made matzo balls since they are easy and it's the right time to eat it.   I wouldn't have done a full production for myself for sure.  I make chicken soup all the time when I have leftover chicken bones and vegetables I want to use up so that's no big deal for me.  I will freeze the rest and use it when I need it.

Well... so after I agreed to do it at my house and invited my cousin who couldn't make it but said it would probably cost me more than going to Caplansky's... I told her she was probably right but I didn't realize how right she was until I got in further.   My friend thought we should invite some of our friends from our Film Festival Group.  I didn't think many would be able to come since it was a tuesday night but 2 non Jewish friends decided to come and see what it was all about.  One is Irish who doesn't have family here and the other is English and something else but I can't remember what.  They never went to a Passover dinner so I decided to do it as close to what is normally done and the way my family did it.

That meant making

1. Brisket, I didn't want to make chicken because it's easier just to cook one piece of meat and then cut it up.
2. Chicken Soup from scratch but Matzo Balls from a Manichewitz Box.
3. Babaganoush
4. Roasted Peppers
5. Chopped Liver
6. Roast Potatoes
7. Roasted Brussel Sprouts
8. Cucumber, Tomato salad
9. Gefilte fish roll (bought from Metro) and Horseradish
10. Macaroons made from scratch for the first time.

and then I had to put the Seder plate together so I had to make sure I had an Egg, and a Shank Bone for the plate.  Not that we did that properly but I tried to get everything together.

Well the end result was that everyone loved the food and my friend said the food was better than the food he had the night before.  My other two friends weren't fans of the fish roll though..  but I didn't make it so that's ok.   My friends brought wine and one brought some fresh fruit.

All in all I spent probably just under $200 for everything and I went to 4 grocery stores and started cooking from Saturday to tuesday.  When I told my Jewish friend he said he never realized what it involved.  He's a guy so he probably just shows up to a fully blown meal and leaves after it's done and never has to help do anything.  That's how it was in my family although my cousin does cook and help his wife when she does it.  My brother never lifted a finger in all those years.   My friend finally realized that the Caplansky's dinner was probably a bargain, all things considered.  Although I am sure it wouldn't have been as much food or variety of food.   My friend said he would chip in $40 and appologized profusely and said next year we go to Caplansky's.   His other option was to go to some family relations of his that i don't even know.   That's not an option for me to show up at some strangers house and wait to be served.  It's not my thing.

Well all I can do at this point is reap the rewards of having some leftover Brisket and Macaroons and writing this Blog Post to encourage, warn or explain to people that don't know about Passover what it is.  It's really about a lot of traditions, prayers and history but when you are the one cooking for 3 or more days it becomes about organizing, timing, cooking, cleaning etc.   I worked so hard that I was in pain going to work on the monday and tuesday all day.

I insisted that my friend do the cleanup because I said I wouldn't do that too after working all day and then cooking as soon as I got home and getting things on the table.  I was wiped out.   He ended up standing around for a bit while the girls jumped right into getting the dishes started until one finally said he could jump in anytime.  I think both men and women should both understand what the WHOLE process is.  What it costs,  what it is, what it takes, how long it takes and what you have to do to organize it.   Everyone would appreciate it a lot more.

I found myself constantly wondering how my aunt and mother did it.   In my mother's case she had me as her sous chef and to pick up any ingredients from the store she needed but she spread it out over days to manage it.

What made it tough was using brand new dishes that had to be unpacked and all washed and repacked, and all the large heavy pots and pans that were needed.    You can see the results of my labour in the photos above.

I may never do this again unless people pay me to do it so this may be the only record of it.

My friend that convinced me to do it said I did a good thing and it was Karma.   I told him Karma isn't going to pay my grocery bills.  Did I mention I will be unemployed in two weeks... so probably not the best time to do this.... but I have to look at it as a learning experience and good content for this blog too.

P.S.  I took the rest of the Macaroons to the office I am working at and the disappeared pretty quickly.  One of the guys told me he loved them.   That was the first time I ever made them so at least I know I can cook food for Passover if I want to now.

And my 2 non Jewish friends became Jewish for a Day!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good Food and Drink Show in Toronto

The Good Food and Drink Show in Toronto

The Good Food and Drink Show just happened in Toronto this April and I was lucky to be able to attend it on the final day of the Festival.  I am sure it was probably the quietest day of the Festival but it was still a lot of fun with Vikram Vij and Mairlyn Smith in attendance.

Vikram Vij is the Rockstar of the West Coast Vancouver Indian Restaurant World and Internationally too.  He is also now going to be a Dragon on the Dragon's Den.  He is a Chef and and Entrepreneur with a line of frozen Indian Foods.  I hope to get my hands on some one of these days.

Vikram was there to do a demo and sign his latest cookbook.  I got my hands on a copy of it and hopefully will make some new Indian Food Recipes soon.

Mairlyn Smith from Cityline and Breakfast Television and everywhere there is food, was on hand to keep things moving and I think she moved more than anything else.  She was like the stand up comic side to the busy cooking chefs on stage.  Always fun watching her.  Vikram made a chicken curry but unfortunately we didn't get to taste it.

I also stuck around to see Terry from Top Chef Canada make some interesting Trout and Smoked Potatoes.  He couldn't say who won Top Chef but he did mention how intense the whole filming of it was.  We did get to try a spoonful of a dulce de lece pudding that was really good.

Fellow Dragon's Den Powerhouse Arlene Dickenson was also roaming around checking out booths and supporting her own large favourite picks that she supports from the show.

There was a food truck Alley where I ended my food tasting with a new Mexican Taco food truck where I tried a trio of tacos and then moved on to the Pancho's Bakery truck for a freshly made Churro for my last bite.   I started my day off with Indian Food having a really great Samosa and ended with Mexican Food.  That's the way I like it.

It wasn't a huge show in comparison to some others but it was fairly well rounded with some great vendors.   The ME.N.U booth was surrounded when I walked by later in the day so I am sure they sold a lot of rice balls.  These guys are becoming very popular on the local pop up food scene in Toronto and I think they are working on getting a food truck going.  I think they will have that rolling around Toronto in the not too distant future.

I sampled some tasty cheeses, some Chai Tea, and some yummy Salted Caramel ice cream from Kawartha Dairy.    It doesn't sound like all this food would sit well in my stomach but I guess my stomach was ready for a food adventure.

I hope to see it grow and have more vendors showing off some new things next year.

Gastropost Celebrates 100 Missions

GASTROPOST Celebrate's 100 Food Missions with it's Gastroposters

Last night I was invited to go to a new Italian Restaurant on Jarvis Street in Toronto called Osteri dei Ganzi - @GanziToronto to celebrate Post Media's Gastropost Section in the National Post and online who were celebration the 100th Mission.  Since the beginning of the creation of the Gastropost online community and weekly column in the National Post, I have been taking photos of everything I cook eat or drool over.  Then I upload pics that correspond to the Gastropost weekly Mission.  Last week it was Melt. Then I wait and see if it is selected to appear in the Saturday's Gatropost section of the National Post.  Apparently I have been published over 40 something times.  So I have sent them my fair share of food photos.  Last night's party was to celebrate the 100th mission.  In attendance were the Gastropost Team who have to sift through hundreds of photos every week to select their fav's for the paper and the rest are posted online.  There was a room full of Food obsessed people like me.  Some of us who have been there from the beginning have received a Gastrosketch of themselves and some were printed on cards with our choice of a mission and they were spread all over the restaurant.  I never found mine but maybe they didn't print one.  But it was fun to meet fellow Gastroposters who you have admired their photos over the past couple of years.  There are Gastroposters who I tweet and Instagram but haven't even met yet and even missed meeting them last night, but there were a few that knew exactly who each other were so that was fun.  I was even told on instagram that someone had a coworker that loved my food and wanted her to meet me.  It's very odd.  I mostly take photos while I am at home alone and then post them so I never get that much feedback but apparently a lot of people love all the photos and then there are a lot of people that just don't get it.  Oh well...there was a restaurant full of people that get it.  

You can see in one of these shots the waiter was bombarded not by hands grabbing the food right away but cameras jamming as close to it as they could to get the perfect shot.  The food was very good.  I filled up on mostly desserts because I missed the Arancini balls at the beginning...too bad..   
The Restaurant's staff ver very friendly and patient with all the crazy foodies in the room.
Also in attendance was Chef Corbin Tomacezski who was there to get people interested in the Culinary Challenge for Cook for the Cure for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.   I signed up last year and the woman who organizes the Challenge remembered me.   I need to make lot's of new friends with money before I can sign up again this year.
Everyone had a great time and there were even raffle prizes.  No I didn't win one, but there were only a few.  Thanks to our hosts Duncan, Rebecca, Chris and Adam for the great party.   
I even got a ride home from fellow Gastroposter Jenny Roger.  (pictured below light hair with Maria (dark hair) another Gastroposter)
Let's hope I will still be posting at the 200 mission mark and we celebrate at another great party.
Keep following to see everyone's photos.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Food Revolution Day Italian Getaway at the Depanneur

Things are coming together for my
FOOD Revolution DAY Italian Cooking Workshop
on Monday, May 12th, 2014 at 6:30pm

Join me for Food Revolution Day at the Depanneur on College Street in Toronto
for an Italian Getaway Hands On Cooking Workshop.

It's now available to BOOK ONLINE .  Space is limited.

Learn how to make Potato Gnocchi and Tomato Sauce from Scratch, 
Grilled Asparagus, and a Cherry Amaretto Mason Jar Parfait dessert!


There will be special gift packs for any kids that attend for 1/2 price when accompanied by their parents.

There will be a chance to take home some great PRIZES from 
SOBEYS,  Harper Collins Canada and BERNARDIN