The 1st of March

2 03 2010

Ah, the 1st of March and so much to say. In Calgary it was sunny and 10C warm yesterday. I went for a walk at Glenmore Park, being outside is so refreshing. Bundled up, covered up and void of sunlight for months, when spring peeks it’s head out in Calgary smiles stretch across everyone you see. There were two men on park benches, elderly men, really elderly men, talking about their heart procedures and the technology that had extended their lives. They talked about in’s and out’s of how it went and how they felt. They have probably lived the same length of two generations of the previous centuries. Ponder that.

Food! Sunday’s in our house are usually saved for prepping food for the week, experimenting with recipes and menus not tried before or building a feast of favourites. This past Sunday was Wagamama Sunday. What’s Wagamama? For those of you that have been to Europe you might be familiar with this fresh and casual noodle eatery. When I was in London in 2002 we discovered it in Piccadilly Circus. It was just starting to take off in Europe. You sit at long shared picnic tables, the server writes your order on the paper in front of you and when the food comes it is fresh, sizzling and healthful. Mostly soups and stir-fries and the flavours are rich and have a lot of depth. When we went through Heathrow on our way home from Canary Islands last year I was over the moon to discover the Wagamama at the airport (well okay, I knew it was there, I of course looked it up before we left, nothing like planning a meal months in advance). I brought home their cook book and Sunday we made a few of the recipes and just in time to sit and take in the Olympic Closing Ceremonies. Edamame (classic and easy soybean dish), Yasai Itameru (veggie, tofu stir-fry on a bed of coconut ginger rice noodles) and for dessert Char-grilled Pineapple. This you have to try.

In a sauce pot mix 1 can of coconut milk, a few tablespoons of sugar (now choose this wisely, you can use any kind of sugar but try unprocessed sweeteners like Agave or Maple), juice of 1 lime and the zest of half a lime and  a 5 cm piece of lemongrass thinly sliced. Simmer 5 min and let cool. Char-grill slices of pineapple over high heat, 1-2 minutes a side, place in a serving dish or individual bowls. Strain the coconut sauce, warm gently on stove and pour over the pineapple. Tell me that isn’t great.

Welcoming in the 1st of March is always warming. What’s not warming is the ongoing natural disasters our world is facing. My opinion, we don’t have time to fight wars, we need to take care of each other and the planet.

Be well, eat well, Nat

Now That’s Fresh

25 02 2010

I finally made it, to Fresh, the iconic vegan restaurant in Toronto. I was out in the T.Dot with my friend Blythe for work and she was kind enough to put up with my child like excitement. Over the years, I had heard so much about Fresh from my friend Christine. She even bought me one of their cook books and the recipes and inspiration are a staple in our kitchen. Fresh started as a juice bar on the streets of Toronto and now has three busy locations. So what was it like? Delish. The food is of course, so fresh, layers of flavour, bright and good for you. The list of smoothies, veggie and fruit juices is devine. You feel better just walking in there! Of course I recorded the event.

We basically arrived in Toronto, checked in to our hotel, confirmed our Fresh date with Christine, found the subway and went straight there. I was overwhelmed by the choices, of course I wanted to try the original’s of the recipes I had made at home, but then I wanted to try stuff I hadn’t made or were new. My good friends offered to order a few different things so I could try as much as possible. Nice girls.

Both Blythe and Christine had the Carrot, Ginger and Curry Soup. OMG, warm goodness.

Christine had the Singing Grasshopper Wheatgrass Shake and I had the All Green Vegetable Juice. They were both like magic cleansing potions and after a flight made me feel much better.

For the main, Blythe ordered the Black Bean Burrito, it was full of veggies and beans but their dressings are amazing. The burrito had Chipotle Avocado. Christine tried the Macro Greens like kale, bok choy, broccoli with sweet potato and grilled tomato. It came in covered bowl with the Peanut Lime dressing on the top. I ordered the Beach (maybe because I am dreaming of my Mexico vacation coming up or because I wished it would make me beach ready) which was a big bowl of veggies like red pepper, zucchini and sweet potato with sun dried tomatoes. Goodness all around.

Toronto is full of great places to eat, the diversity of people and culture is incredible. We learned that a recent census placed the number of people born outside of Toronto at 52% and mostly from outside of Canada. Think about that. We thought Calgary might be similar with at least half of our population from Saskatchewan 🙂

One last thing, do you know the pronunciation of ACAI (the tropical berries packed with antioxidants)? I thought it was ‘a-cay-sha’. It’s not, it’s ‘ass-eye-ee’. I swear, but maybe the pronunciation grammar is a bit off, we sort of made that up under our clean food halo. 🙂 🙂

Eat well, Natalie

Anthony ‘WTF’ Bourdain

19 02 2010

Tony and I went to see Anthony Bourdain speak in Calgary  back in January. I had to post about this event. Besides laughing (with and at all the profanity) there was a wine and cheese after. Good value. If you’re into this sort of thing, keep your eyes posted for more of these ‘foodie’ events at the Epcor Centre. If you don’t know who Mr. Bourdain is, he is a ‘say it like it is’ food-travel-writer-chef. He doesn’t go to the places tourists go, he seeks out the traditions and culinary pride of the countries and cities he travels too. You can find him on the Travel Channel or Discovery Channel, NOT the Food Network. He does roll his eyes at veggies and vegans, but once you get past that (and he has been known to swoon over an organic tomato or two) you’ll realize he is doing more than eating ‘weird stuff’. He is encouraging us to explore the world, through the heart and soul of others, respecting cultures and experiencing where food traditions came from. He poo-poo’s poor travellers that expect to get the hamburger and pizza they are familiar with at home, he is especially hard on his fellow American’s. “If you are fortunate enough to have a passport and travel why the f**k would you go to a Hard Rock Cafe?”

In answering the question of why food shows have become so popular, he compared it to porn. “Watching people on TV doing things you’re not going to do anytime soon”. He ranted about fast food and the quality of food in America. “As an American it is my right that ammonia shouldn’t ever be present in my hamburger”, referring to a recent New York Times article about this very thing. Still want that hamburger? As a new parent, he goes on to remind us the power of marketing and just who the marketers are after – kids, with million dollar brainwashing campaigns. Still want that hamburger?

We appreciated his ability to remind us of how fortunate we are, that we can travel the world and explore other places. That we have food from all nations represented in the major cities of North America while others in the world go hungry. With that he ends, “We only have so much time at the table” and “The history of the world is on your plate”. Bon Appetite

Be well, Natalie

Just Eat It: Kale Chips

14 02 2010

My good friend Dana owns the Yoga Shala in Calgary. In her monthly newsletter there will be a section dedicated to good food, it’s called ‘Just Eat It’. This month we published Kale chips. I adapted this recipe from a raw food class I took. I really enjoyed the raw food class, some of it was basics I had known and other things I had just not bothered to try. I have been experimenting with raw food recipes for awhile now. I don’t eat all raw, there is something so nourishing about a good bowl of soup in the winter that I have a hard time giving up. I’d say raw is more prevalent in the summer months for me. But I have replaced my ‘fruit+hemp powder morning shake’ with a ‘green smoothie’ (fruit+lots of spinach or kale or any leafy green+water). I feel a big loss if I miss out in it in the morning. It is simply the easiest way to get 1-2 servings of fruit and 2-4 servings of veggies and all before lunch! Keep increasing the ratio of greens to fruit, it helps maintain blood sugar levels. Sip throughout the morning.

Kale chips seem to be a popular raw food snack. It is so easy and so good for you. Kale is a leafy green and is high in vitamins K, A and C, fibre and an antioxidant. This veggie packs a healthful punch and even Dana liked them (maybe because they are disguised like chips).

1 bunch organic curly leafed kale, washed and dried

1/8 cup walnut oil

1 Tbl lemon juice

1/2 tsp sea salt

Pinch garlic powder or 1 clove minced garlic (optional for sattvic yogis)

Tear kale off the thick stem into bite size pieces, place in bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. ‘Massage’ the oil mixture into the kale, so it is evenly coated. Place in single layer on sheets in dehydrator for 2.5 hours. Or, preheat oven to lowest setting (150F-175F), turn oven off. Place kale in single layer on baking sheets, put in oven. If you have an oven thermometer, check the temperature every 30 minutes and warm oven again when it drops below 90F. Your finished when kale is dry and crisp, about 2 hours. I have an oven that heats to 150F, I just leave it on, flipping and moving the kale around every 30 min. If you are a raw food purest, this would be inappropriate, but drying kale in the oven is still more beneficial than eating potato chips! If you love them, double or triple the recipe. Eat it.

Eat well, Natalie

My ‘Food Spark’

14 02 2010

Welcome to Health Food Junkies. This first post will pay homage to the women that gave me my ‘Food Spark’. Did you see the PBS special with Alan Alda called the ‘Human Spark’? It was a three part series that explored why and how we are different and unique from our primitive ancestors. It asks what the ‘Human Spark’ was that enabled us to displace Neanderthals and evolve to the creative and innovative human species we are today. I refer to an interest in food and health a ‘Food Spark’. I think mine comes from the remarkable women in my life, my mother and grandmothers. As kids our family kitchens were a place of gathering, tradition and creativity. Of course my long time yoga practice has a lot to do with my quest for healthful living.

I didn’t always keep the Food Spark alive. There were the university days when cheap and simple meals ruled like oatmeal, pasta and stir-fries. I did experiment with home favorites like Hungarian Spaghetti though (a sauce of butter, sour creme and ketchup, mmmm). When I ventured out to the ‘real world’ the spark burned brighter. I don’t enjoy eating out for lunch everyday so I made my own lunches and over a decade developed a pretty good repertoire of healthful brown bag lunches. Today I enjoy developing a menu and entertaining with friends and family experimenting with recipes to make them healthful.

These past holidays were spent as they normally are, helping my mom make perogies, cabbage rolls and the rest of the Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner. This year we documented the event so I could thoroughly learn an important tradition in my family. My mom has been making Christmas Eve dinner since before my Baba passed away in 2001. There is nothing like it. What is most amazing is that I can still taste the difference between my mom’s perogies and my Baba’s. Anyhow, I present to you a tour through the Kerekes Family Christmas Eve dinner. Enjoy.

Ukrainian Christmas Eve Dinner (Sviat Vechir): The meaning and tradition behind this dinner is to commemorate Christ’s birth. The evening before Rizdvo, Sviat Vechir, a ritual meal is prepared with twelve meatless dishes. My family prepares six of them religiously, the other parts of the meal include things like a fish dish, bread and pickled herring. Dinner is served over a table decorated with wheat stalks. When Christmas Eve comes, you are glad you lived healthfully the rest of the year because it is all worth it.

The Essentials:

Kutya, wheat, honey and poppy seed like porridge. Mash boiled poppy seeds in sugar and mixed with boiled pearl wheat and honey. It is the first dish of dinner.

Borshch a beet soup that many people are familiar with. Ready to eat with a touch of sour creme!

Holubtsi or better known as cabbage rolls. The rice and onion filling stuffed into softened cabbage and all ready for baking with tomato sauce.

Pyrohy a labor of love, known as perogies. From dough, rolled and cut out, just enough filling, the right folding and pinching technique and ready for the boiling water.

Mushroom Gravy, mushrooms, mushrooms and more mushrooms and oh yeah creme.

Salad, an old school one my Baba and mom have always made. Iceberg lettuce, diced tomato, cucumber and celery and sliced radish. Dressing of mashed scallions with sugar, light oil and white vinegar.

I’ll keep up my healthful ways until next year (well, until Easter when the perogies and cabbage rolls make another appearance 🙂