Saturday, January 30, 2016

IDS2016 New ideas in design

Want to get the biggest BANG for your buck in Design?  

I recently attended the Opening Night Party and Media Preview at the INTERIOR DESIGN SHOW IDS2016 in Toronto to see what's new in Home Design. I have been wanting to go to IDS for the past few years but it always seemed to happen when I had other things going on.  So I was really happy that I could attend this year, although I did end up having work conflicts and was only able to go to the Opening Night Party but I was determined to see everything at the show that night.  The alcohol and assorted food bites were flowing but I ventured throughout the Metro Convention Centre to look at all of the Design Displays.  The photos probably don't do the design justice but it will give you a bit of an idea of a few of the things I checked out including this Lego House.  I wonder if Lego could be the homeless solution of the future?  Maybe I should build myself a Lego House on a Lake or something... HMMM..  

 One of my favourite Canadian stores Urban Barn was there with a great booth of all the things I would love to buy in the spring.  I bought a lot of my furniture from them.

I am not sure exactly what this oval piece is meant for but I am guessing it's a man cave thing of possible a music player?  There wasn't anyone there to ask at the time.

I really like Black Classic but with a slight edge so this booth of black and white really caught my eye.  Solid pieces that would probably stand the test of time. I love all of these pieces.

 Oh Look it's fashion Santa on the wall of this huge living room booth.  Looks cozy.  I wonder how long these people sat there.  They look very comfy.

A trend that I saw seemed to be Wood everything including these sliding doors and this very interesting Modern Table.

In one of the Kitchen's was Chef Devan Rajkumar from OMAW whipping up some delicious Shrimp and Grits.  I am sure he doesn't get to cook in a kitchen that clean and roomy everyday.  I would love to have a kitchen with a fridge that large and a visit by Chef Devan wouldn't hurt too.

I thought this Fridge was interesting.  You know how you lose things at the back of your fridge?  This fridge is shallow and you can see everything in it very easily.  Might not be great for Big Birthday Cakes though.

 I also thought this bowl was interesting functional design.  It's a bowl that is also a strainer and it has a handle that you can use if you need to pout out the contents.

The one thing I have learned over the past few years of shopping for a new space is that you need to have function and beauty together for a piece that you will want to keep for a long time.  Design without function is just art but create a piece that is beautiful and functional then you have Great DESIGN.  I saw a lot of great design at IDS2016.  Lot's of solid wood, lot's of granite and other similar  types of counter tops, interesting finishes in wood and laminate flooring and modern and high tech kitchens and bathrooms.

I was hoping to write this post in time for you to still visit the show but unfortunately you will have to wait until next year to go to the show but you will see some of these designs on local daytime TV Shows and in retail stores soon where you can purchase some of these beautiful things.

For more information about the show and some of the Vendors that were in attendance check out :

#IDS2016  Follow more photos from the show on Twitter and Instagram.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fudi by Foodies -New product contest

Fudi is a new Boil in Bag Frozen Food Product that you can pick up at your grocery store for under $10.  All you have to do is boil 2 bags for 15-17 minutes and just open and serve and you have a complete meal.  Fudi sent me 5 different samples of their new meals.  These are great for people that want a fast meal but maybe have small kitchens, or don't have all the chef skills it would take to make a meal like these.  In each bag you get a bag with raw Kale, unseasoned.  Another bag containing pearl barley and the seasoned Chicken.  The chicken comes in 5 flavourings right now.
Pollo Jerk, Pollo Tandoori, Santa Fe, Cacciatore and Cajun.  Fudi also makes seasonings so the flavours of the seasonings are spot on.  I preferred the flavour of the Tandoori one the most.

A few of Toronto Food Bloggers were also given some samples and we were all tasked with taking photos of the products and we are competing for the best photos that Fudi have selected.

They chose the photo of the POLLO JERK meal that I made.   You can help me win a Supply of these products that I will share with my readers if I WIN.

I just need your help to VOTE for my photo.  You can vote everyday until January 27th.  The most votes for a photo wins the products.   So if I WIN,  you WIN.  I don't have room in my freezer so I will share with many of you.

Here is the link to VOTE: .  it's the POLLO JERK under my @lindamatarasso name

You can vote on their Facebook page or their website.
 Follow Fudi on Social Media to see who wins.

Twitter: @fudi_ca
Instagram: @fudi_ca
Facebook: Fudi Canada

Thanks for you support and let me know if you have tried any of these products.

This one is going to be tough since there are a lot of my Toronto Food Blogger buddies also competing in this contest so even if I don't win at least I will be happy for one of my pals.

*Disclosure:  I was not paid for this post but I was given 5 sample products to review.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pantry Raid: Tips for a Fresh New Year


Getting Organized for a FRESH New Year

I have been on a mission to start 2016 fresh and clear out any clutter and bad things or habits from previous years.

It started when I started feeling like my small space felt cluttered with accumulated stuff from events, things I bought on impulse and gifts and other things.

I started to gather the stuff I didn't really need or want anymore and made a huge pile and then decided to have a Holiday party and give most of it away to my friends instead of buying gifts that I can't afford to purchase.  The clutter clearing and party organizing set me off on a space cleaning and clearing mission.  I think it's probably a good feng shui practice to keep your space clean and clear for good things to be able to be brought into your life.  Since my life needs some good things to be brought into it this year it kind of kick started me into a domino effect of non stop cleaning and organizing.   What I always find is that once I start on a cleaning or organizing project that moving the things around creates a domino effect and what starts off as a plan to spend a few minutes turns into hours of a bigger project.

Case in point.  This week for some reason I started moving a few things around in my kitchen and ended up deciding to go through a basket that had little bags of spices from the bulk store and other things.  Then it turned into an exercise of making space to be able to see all of these spices so they don't get lost in the back of the cupboard.  I got rid of all the little bags and put things into Mason jars or other containers.  Then I decided I had too many boxes of different salts and re organized that.  Then I moved onto flours, sugars, and other bags of things and moved them into vacuum seal plastic containers that can be stacked.   This little short task that I started turned into a 4 hour re-organizing of 2 out of 3 large cupboards.  The Third one isn't too bad as most things were organized not long ago.

Here's the thing about the benefits of spending the time doing this:

  1. You see what you have or don't have.  I realized that my cornstarch had an expiry date. 
  2. You put the food into containers that may preserve them from leaking, getting stale or dust or bugs.
  3. You can see exactly how much of the contents you have if you store it into mason jars or clear plastic containers.
  4. Label everything so you know if it's flour, sugar, cornstarch or icing sugar so you never grab the wrong thing.
  5. You save lot's of time looking for things and this saves time in cooking and shopping.

The other benefit is that you feel like you have accomplished something and know that everything is fresh and clean and your spices aren't 10 years old.

I would suggest that it's a good way to start off a New Year.  Clean your pantry, check your spices when you just want to stay inside when the weather is too cold outside.  It's a great time to get organized and if you plan on losing weight or working on your New Year's Resolutions this can only help lessen your to do list later.

It makes you feel great when you see everything and don't have to spend 20 minutes looking for something you only use once a year that is buried under a pile of bags of stuff way at the back.

Here's the Best Tips for getting this done:

  1. Get a label maker or fancy labels that you can write on with chalk
  2. Mason Jars make excellent re usable containers and come in different sizes and can stack
  3. Square, rectangular Vacuum containers let you open things quickly and keep things sealed tight and also stack for maximum space in your cupboards
  4. Take everything out and sort like with like before you figure out which containers they need to be moved to.   
  5. Try and use a container that can be filled to the top so you don't waste space with empty jars or boxes.
  6. If you bake a lot maybe you can put all of your baking supplies into a basket and then you just pull out the basket when you need it.  You can do the same with spices.
  7. There are all kinds of organizers you can get for your cupboards like multi level shelves or dividers or lazy susan's or even cheap dollar store baskets can help so think about how to maximize the space.
  8. If you are able to leave room to grow if you know you have to purchase missing things.

I will also give you my list of some key pantry ingredients you should have for many things:

Pantry Staples:
  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Cornstarch
  • Coconut Oil or Olive Oil or Canola Oil.
  • Sugar (White, Brown, Icing, Raw etc)  depends on baking or other needs
  • Salt (Sea, Kosher, Rock or Himalayan) depending on your needs
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Flour
  • Rice/Pasta
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Canned or dried beans or lentils
  • Oatmeal
Notice something interesting about this list?  Well it's probably pretty similar to what your mother or grandmother bought with the exception of maybe Coconut oil which wasn't as readily available as it is now.

But here's the thing with this list.  You can cook, bake a whole lot of things.  Some of these things can be used as beauty treatments or cleaning products and health treatments.  

  • Mix salt with lemon to clean copper pots
  • White vinegar and baking soda to clean sinks
  • Baking soda to clean stainless steel pots
  • Coconut oil to cook and also as a moisturizer or in coffee even
  • Cornstarch can thicken sauces and keep things dry
  • Oatmeal can be used as a breading, a topping, a hot breakfast and a beauty treatment
I wish I had a before and after photo of what I started with.  It didn't look really bad because I had a lot of stuff in containers but it is functionally better.  I still have to use up a few things and organize a few more things.  Being a blogger makes you accumulate food and food styling things you need for plating etc.  I am trying to just keep things I really need as much as possible moving forward.

It's always a work in process.  I have been working on this pantry organization for a long time because I have an obsession with spices and seasonings that take up a lot of space but can change a meal on a time with a few ingredients.  I can travel the world through my kitchen.

If you open your cupboard and things keep falling out then maybe it's time to get everything out and a garbage bag and get some containers and a label maker and make a big cup of tea and get to it.

You will thank me later.   

Happy Organizing and I hope this brings you great Feng Shui for 2016.

Party for the Future of Food at Recipe for Change



I love to support local Charitable Events that are both fun and do a whole lot of good for a whole lot of people in the local community so I am happy to tell you about this upcoming event in February.

It combines the great food and beverages of Toronto's Top Chefs and Beverage producers to raise money for Healthy Food and Education programs for young and old alike.

Please SAVE THE DATE and pick up a Hot Ticket for this event soon. 

On Thursday, February 25, 2016, Toronto’s St Lawrence Market South Tent (Lower Jarvis and
the Esplanade) will play host to FoodShare’s seventh annual RECIPE FOR CHANGE fundraising
event presented by Tangerine, with support from Hain Celestial Canada, Urbanspace Property
Group,The Daniels Corporation, St. Lawrence Market, NOW Magazine and Pattison Outdoor
Adver tising.The feast, which is second to none, boosts healthy food and Food Literacy in our
schools.  Join us in supporting the next generation of healthy eaters, growers, and sharers.
As in the past, FoodShare will collaborate with chefs, brewers and master winemakers at this
year’s Party for the Future of Food. 

Participating Sponsors Include:

Colette Grand Bistro’s Executive chef Amira Becarevic and her vegan mushroom soup served            with pickled mushrooms and truffle oil.
Dailo’s Nick Lee and his Big Mac Baos
Biff ’s Bistro’s Amanda Ray’s French bistro fare
Mnandi’s hand crafted, Zimbabwean meat pies
The Tempered Room featuring Chef Bertrand’s French pastries
SOMA Chocolate makers bean to bar chocolate treasures
Mata Petisco Bar with Felipe Faccioli
Karelia Kitchen with Nordic open faced smorrebrod
Santo Pecado’s Paola Solarzano’s Mexican bites
Pizzeria Libretto with Chef Rocco Agostino
Carmen Cocina Espanola’s Luis Valenzuela
Sweet Sammies ice cream creations
Beamsville Bench’s Good Earth Winery’s Therese De Grace food and wine
A selection of Black Oak Brewing and Beau’s All Natural craft beers
VQA Wines including offerings from Chateau des Charmes, Good Earth Winery, Grange of                Prince Edward CountyVineyards and Estate, Southbrook Vineyards and Frogpond Farm                      Organic Winery
Specialty coffees by Crema Coffee Co. and organic teas by The Love of Tea

FoodShare is once again engaging some of the school children they work so closely with in their various programs, to get their hands in the mix. Students from FoodShare’s work on the school farm at Bendale Business and Technical institute, will be serving guests at one of the chef stations.

This is a chance to be part of a unique annual event, to try lovingly crafted food by some of Toronto’s top toques, have it expertly paired with craft beers and wines – all while supporting a truly worthwhile cause. Pull up a seat at Toronto’s finest dining event - you won’t want to miss this!

Tickets are from $132.48–$158.85
For more event details or to purchase tickets, please visit:
#RFC16 @FoodShareTO

If you are unable to attend this event but you like the programs that this supports then please make a donation of either funds or give them some of your time to help them keep their great programs going.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Take the Pulse Pledge for (IYP) International Year of Pulses

I went to a fantastic event last night called Pulse Feast that was held at the Design Exchange in Toronto. It was presented because 2016 was formally declared by the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to be  the International Year of Pulses (IYP).

Chef Michael Smith
It was a room filled with growers from all over Canada and Chefs, Dieticians, Nutritionists, Food writers, bloggers and a whole lot of people interested in the Pulses Industry.

It was hosted by PEI Chef, Author, Business owner and Media personality Chef Michael Smith.

It was one of those events that you feel good about going to for so many reasons.

1.  Because it was just so much fun.
2.  Because it launched a great Pulses Program the Pulse Pledge
3.  Because it promoted a healthy product that is good for the world

But then there was also so much great food made with Pulses (beans, lentils, peas) that we sampled all evening.  There was so much that I missed trying a few things that I was told were really good but I just didn't have any more room to eat more.

Quiche, crabcakes, Chorizo and rapini with beans, lentil slider, donut, croquettes
A couple of my favourite dishes were surprises on how good they were and the fact that you couldn't tell what was in them.

1. Sweet Polenta and beans
2.  Brownies with Passion fruit glaze
3. Cheddar Biscuits made with yellow peas.

I need these recipes.  I had 2 pieces of the brownies because they were just too good to resist. Rich chocolate flavour but a perfect balance of richness.
The polenta was sweet and flavourful.  The biscuits were flaky but held together and were still moist and again full of great flavour.
All of the food was prepared by Ivana Raca from Raca Cafe.  I need to get over there one of these days.  Ivana honed her skills working for Chef Mark McEwen and working to set up his first grocery store and countless catering events.  It seemed like the food was effortless since it was so good but I am sure a lot of busy bees contributed to making it all so great.
Ok so besides the food we were there for a reason.  Chef Michael Smith has been named the IYP Ambassador for  Canada.  It's kind of a big deal especially for Canada because there are over 22,000 pulse farmers in Canada.  It is exported to 150 countries and Canada exports most of the pulses in the World.   It contributes over $3 billion to Canada's economy.

Canadian Pulse growers
Share your love of pulses  #lovepulses #IYP2016 #pulsepledge and Follow @lovepulses

— Start your new year with a resolution that’s healthy for you and the planet:
Take the Pulse Pledge to eat pulses at least once a week for 10 weeks: (starting January 1) Tweet #pulsepledge

10 Great things about Pulses: Delicious, Nutritious, Sustainable
1. Pulses are a fantastic source of protein and fibre
2. Pulses have a low fat content and contain zero cholesterol. They are also gluten-free.
3. Pulses are rich in minerals (iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc) and B-vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, and folate)
4. Pulses have a low carbon footprint and use just one-tenth to half of the water of other proteins.
5. Pulses are affordable, drought tolerant and contribute to food security at all levels
6. Pulses are a versatile, easy to-prepare ingredient that can be used in entrees, salads, breads and desserts.
7. Pulses taste great: They can be prepared savoury or sweet and are like little flavour sponges. 
8. Eating Canadian pulses supports our farmers and the economy: Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of dry peas and lentils and a major supplier of pulses to over 150 countries around the world.
9. Pulses have been shown to reduce “bad” cholesterol and help control blood sugar levels, which help in the fight against heart disease and diabetes.
10. Pulses enrich the soil where they grow reducing the need for chemical fertilizers

Chef Michael Smith has a great recipe for Pulse Tacos if you would like to swap your meat for a healthier Taco that still tastes great.  Click here:  Pulse Taco recipe
This is a Global Initiative so do something good for the Globe and sign the #PulsePledge and start making some great recipes with food that's is a Good thing for both you and the World.
All you have to do is consume 1/2 cup of any pulse at least once a week for 10 weeks.  I have already had hummus today which counts since hummus is made from chickpeas which are a pulse in case you didn't know that.   See it's easy but look for new and interesting ways to include more in your diet.  I am going to try and for sure I am going to make some Pulse Brownies very soon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Don't fall into the Resolution trap.

It's a New Year and you are feeling like crap right?  Why? 
Well, because you went to a whole bunch of Holiday Parties or had big Family dinners that you likely don't have the rest of the time of year.

Then January comes and your clothes don't fit well and you are tired and feeling bad about yourself because you now have to think about going on a diet or something.

People join gyms first thing in January and then they start falling off a couple of weeks later when their regular life sets back in.

Why again?  Well because you are really getting sucked into Social pressures and the messages you get from the media.

I admit that I am not happy with my weight but it's because I don't have the energy to do all the things I would like to do and maybe because I can't buy the clothes I want to buy that will make me look good and professional but mostly because I think of my health and what it will be like in the future.

But I am not going to make a Resolution to go on a DIET.  Why? Because they only work for short term and they make you feel miserable and then you give up and gain more weight after you stop.  Don't believe me check the statistics.  It's a FACT.

How can you not feel bad about yourself when starting January 1st every TV show tells you how to lose weight.  New Year, New You.   Like you aren't good enough the way you are.   Every commercial is for a gym or some sort of weight loss centre or pill you should take.

January is also the start of Awards season in Hollywood where all you see is slim Celebrities in fabulous outfits with perfect hair, skin and bodies and if they don't have all of these things together they are judged on all kinds of TV shows including fashion shows, daytime talk shows and night time entertainment shows.   You feel like if these celebrities who all have style teams get judged and they have all the help in the world then what about you because you can't possibly look like that so you feel bad about yourself.  At this time I am watching a commercial about how people have an "I hate my body moment".  Yes we do.  But you don't have to buy into it.

Here's what I have learned over the year's doing makeup, being in a media related industry, working in the healthcare system and having my own weight issues.


Every single person that I have done makeup on has had some issues with the way they look.  Even those that most people would say are gorgeous.

If OPRAH who has all the money in the world to have personal trainers, personal chefs and whatever else it takes to lose weight still struggles and has teamed up with Weight Watchers because it's the 1 thing in her life that she hasn't been able to tackle.

If it was about money don't you think Oprah would have been able to fix it?

Here's the RUB...   Weight isn't just about weight.  It's about stress,  it's about self esteem,  it's about environmental issues, it's about general health, it's about the world we live in now.

If it was easy for everyone to lose weight there wouldn't be a billion dollar weight loss industry.

Here's the thing about the Weight Loss industry.  They succeed if you fail because they can blame you for not following or sticking to their program.  So you lose weight at the beginning and then it stops and you give up and then you gain it back and more and then you find some other diet to start when at the beginning of the year you feel the pressure from the media to be a better YOU and from friends and family to lose weight.

Yes, I am one of those people unhappy with my weight but I am not going to make a RESOLUTION about it.  Instead I will make a GOAL.

Here are my GOALS:

1.  Try and stay ahead of the game in my life so that I don't have the stress of rushing things.
2.  Keep life in balance as much as possible with eating, sleeping and living life.
3.  Eat well 80% of the time and eat whatever I like the rest of the time.
4.  Waste less food.  I am going to try and buy the best quality food and try to not waste any of it.
5.  DON"T BELIEVE THE HYPE.  Magazines are all Airbrushed, celebrities all have doctors, and a special team devoted to making them look the way they do.  They don't wake up looking like that.
Don't fall into the pressure that you have to join a gym or join Weight Watchers because Oprah says so.

I like what author Michael Pollan says about health ""Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
This makes a whole lot of sense to me.

It also seems to me that the way back to health is to go back to eating the way people did before we got sucked into buying a whole bunch of commercial convenience products.  While not ALL are horrible and there are a lot of foods that are more convenient now.  Things like Passata tomatoes which are just strained tomatoes.  The old way was using a food mill.   We buy bread but we could make bread if we had the time.

But if you are busy it's easy to just grab something from the freezer and heat it up.   I just tried a new boil in bag frozen meal.  It doesn't have any junk in it and I can say that it's a good alternative to the common frozen meals full of sodium and other preservative.  I will review it as soon as I try all the samples and write a post on it.

Yes I will struggle because I know that people judge me because of how I look and I learned that watching the way models I had done makeup for were treated.  Guys you should have seen what they looked like when they walked in before the makeup and hair were done.

I am also not going to join a gym,  the last one I went to just stressed me out.  I found myself getting annoyed by rude inconsiderate people and it didn't help me lose weight.
I have also joined Weight Watchers in the past and faithfully spent my money going for a year and when I stopped the weight came back and then some.

I am going to try and remember that all the media stuff is designed to shame you into buying into all this stuff.
My mom lived to the age of 88 and she never joined a gym and she never went to weight watchers and she was active until the last year of her life.  Why?  Probably because she ate real food and didn't go to fast food restaurants.  She cooked probably about 70% of her food from scratch and she was constantly moving, working into her late 60's and cooking, and doing other household chores for herself until she couldn't anymore.

My mom had more energy than I do and that's what I base my health on.

Life is all about Energy.  Do you have enough energy to live your life?  Well that's something I want to work on as my Resolution or GOAL.  To have as much energy as my mom did well into my old age.

My goal is to live better in 2016 than I did in 2015 and keep doing that.

The GOAL is to DETOX the things the things in my life that aren't good for me.