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Happy Gourmand

Eat your crusts!

Do you remember hearing your parents say that when you were young? The rest of the comment was usually reinforced with the fact that there were children starving in Africa. Guess what? There are still children starving in Africa (as well as many other places) and there are reports and studies released that say the amount of food we waste here does have an impact on poverty and hunger in the world. Our parents had it right all along!

One report full of interesting data was commissioned by the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. They discovered that the amount of food wasted by consumers in North America and Europe is equal to the amount produced in sub-Saharan Africa – 222 million tons. Per capita, we waste over 100 kilograms of food per year, while people living in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia waste only 6-11 kilograms per year. In addition, the reasons food get wasted are different. For us, it is more often a case of throwing food in the garbage, whereas in developing countries it is often due to poor conditions in getting the food to the consumer (this is called “food loss” instead of “food wastage”). Those are sobering figures, aren’t they?

This dilemma gets even more intriguing… have you heard about the drought in California? Did you notice the lack of snow this past winter? That means there is less water around to be used for irrigation, not to mention the water that was not in the ground this spring as farmers planted their crops. I wonder, is it more of a shame if we use water to grow crops that end up getting wasted? It’s rather a vicious circle, isn’t it? Hopefully the question has come to mind, “How do we make it better?”

One important thing to remember is that we have a voice (I know, I sound like Oprah; well, on this point she was right!) Consumers can make a difference by letting suppliers know their preferences and their desires. Superstore started advertising this year that they were selling "ugly vegetables" (so far this program has only operated in Ontario and Quebec). If you don’t mind buying crooked carrots, let your grocer know. Someone from a country full of hungry people once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I believe Mr. Gandhi had a good point.

Another point worth considering is that processed food accounts for a larger proportion of food waste than raw food (items you prepare yourself). The package of frozen French fries you bought is made from potatoes that were sorted and then also re-sorted as fries, with all the bits not included in your package usually being wasted. Your homemade fries are more likely to include end pieces of potato and fries of different sizes.

The comment that struck me the most in the report was this simple statement:

Abundance and consumer attitudes lead to high food waste in industrialized countries.

We can afford to waste food. It can be cheaper to buy a large package of broccoli at Costco than it is to buy the one head you need; even if you throw some out you saved money, right? This seems to go back to that old comment… just because you don’t feel like eating those crusts doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the impact that waste has on a larger scale. We could say we have worked hard to afford such luxury, and everyone is doing it. But that just makes me think of another old parental comment: “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you do that, too?”

I for one, am making a concerted effort to cut back on abundance. I only planted one zucchini plant in the garden this year. I am sowing smaller rows of radishes and lettuce alternately so it doesn’t all come up at once. These small measures will help me remember the importance of respecting my food. It would be rude of me to waste things when there are children starving in the world. If I do end up with more bounty than we and our friends can manage, I plan to donate it to the local food bank or one of the soup kitchens.

In closing, I'd like to offer one more quote from Mahatma Ghandi:

The future depends on what we do in the present.



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Ready, set...go summer!

When I was a kid I dreaded the May long weekend. It was the time when my mom planted the back yard and vegetable gardens, and my dad made sure the lawn was mowed, and the garage got cleaned up for summer use... it was a weekend for chores. We didn't have a pool or a boat, so there didn't seem to be any immediate reward for all that work. Garden veggies take months to grow, and by the time I was done I was too tired to sit on the freshly mowed grass :) The irony of all this, of course, is that now I love gardening and getting ready for summer. Nevertheless, I'm still too tired to sit on the grass.

What do you do on the May "Two-Four" weekend? Is it a chance to break out the patio furniture and a flat of beer with friends? And no, that's not the origin of the name "Two-Four"; it comes from the date of Queen Victoria's birthday, May 24th, the reason for the long weekend in Canada, even since before Confederation. Did you know we were celebrating even before she died? Festivities started in 1845, and the day was commemorated in the late monarch's honour as Victoria Day in 1904. Canada is the only country that has a national holiday in honour of Queen Victoria, and nowadays there are many ways Canadians show their enthusiasm and appreciation. Maybe this is the first weekend the boat gets out on the water? Or a time-honoured sports tournament? A crazy backyard party perhaps? Since it is the unofficial start of summer in the Great White North, it's a well-deserved big deal.

So, how about a few ideas to get the party started - or keep it going? I know we live in wine country, and there are many local craft beers to enjoy as well, but let's kick it up a notch. I'm going to give you a cocktail, and a few nibbles to enjoy, both savoury and sweet.

 

MOJITO

A refreshing cocktail that uses mint, one of the first herbs to appear in gardens. Add seasonal fruit to make it even more decadent!

  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 10-12 fresh mint leaves
  • 1-1/2 ounces white rum
  • soda


Put mint leaves in a glass with a bit of crushed ice and muddle (smash it) with a muddler or the handle end of a wooden spoon. Top with more ice, then add rum, lime juice and simple syrup. Top with soda.

* add fruit juice, and even a couple of pieces of fresh fruit to be muddled with the mint if you wish.

 

CREAMY RADISH DIP

A fun dip for veggies, pita chips or anything else you like to dunk!

  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed
  • 125 g cream cheese
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste

Put radishes in food processor and pulse a few times. Add cream cheese and lemon juice, and blend until radish pieces are small and mixture is smooth. Stir in lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with veggie sticks, chips, etc.

 

TOASTER S'MORES

These are best over a campfire or at least the coals of a grill, but in case you don't have that option, here's a way to have the same fun.

Per s'more:

  • 1 Jet-Puffed marshmallows (or other similar large size)
  • 2 graham wafer squares, or digestive cookies if you prefer
  • 2 pieces of chocolate (dark or milk, your preference)
  • 1 tbsp caramel spread (Caramoomel makes a great one, or look for other "dulce de leche" brands)

Spread the caramel on the wafers. Stick the chocolate in the marshmallow. Put the second cookie on top and create a sandwich. Place these sandwiches on a baking tray and put in a toaster oven or regular oven at 350F for approximately 3-5 minutes. (Time varies, just watch for melting marshmallow and chocolate.) These are messy but worth the trouble!



Give Mom a break

It's that time of year again when we are all supposed to give Mom a break. Cook a meal, clean the house, walk the dog ... Pitch in a bit extra as a way of saying thank you for all she does. Perhaps too Mother's Day is a chance for the rest of us to walk a mile in Mom's shoes?

Moms - and I'm including Grandmas, step-moms, and any other female caregivers you might know - do a lot. Nurturing another human being is a many-faceted responsibility. As such, we have many opportunities to show our gratitude. Unfortunately it's all too easy to forget everyday things and Moms are usually a big part of our everyday life. Mother's Day is our official reminder.

We can certainly do the traditional things like making Mom breakfast in bed or taking her out to a restaurant. If your Mom would enjoy this then go for it! My only advice here is make a reservation for the restaurant and plan a reasonable menu for breakfast in bed. Don't attempt to do either of these last minute unless your family is used to the challenges that come with spontaneity (translation: everyone needs a sense of humour).

Or, how about trying something out for the box for Mom?

  • Maybe she's not a foodie and you're not much of a cook. Then ordering pizza or Thai or whatever is fine; your special gesture is planning on her not cooking or doing dishes. Add a card or something else personal, just from you, and you're set!
  • How many things do Moms look after that they'd rather not? If you could take one thing off her plate what would it be? You would do it for a friend, doesn't Mom deserve the same?
  • What is usually the most rare commodity these days? Time is a beautiful gift to give Mom, even if it's a simple walk in the park. Create a memory - it doesn't have to cost a penny.

 

Maybe Mom lives far away. If you can, call her on Mother's Day. Moms love to hear our voices. Emails and online cards are fine, but there is nothing like hearing the actual words, "I love you." When I was younger and away from my mom, she used to say that hearing my voice helped her place me in the world and know I was safe.

If you're like me and not a mom you might want to recognize other moms too. I have some wonderful girlfriends who are great moms for their families and have been an inspiration to me as a woman.

More than anything, just don't let Mother's Day pass by without recognizing at least one Mom you admire.

And, in case you need a recipe for breakfast in bed, here's one that never fails :)

 

CHEF MARTIN'S HOMEMADE FRUIT GOOP

(great on pancakes or French toast, and awesome on yogurt, or ice cream!)

  • 8 large apples, cut in medium pieces and peeled and cored if necessary

(you can use any crispy-fleshed apple variety, any kind of berries, rhubarb, pears, peaches, plums - or a combination. Try to pick fruit in season or go for frozen pieces)

  • 2 cups water (use only 1 cup if your fruit is frozen)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1-1/2 tsp cornstarch in 2 tbsp water, added at the end to make it a bit thicker if you wish

 

Optional:

Other spices - cloves for apples or pears, ginger for rhubarb or pears, nutmeg for peaches - use your imagination!

 

Method:

In a large saucepan, combine the fruit, apples, sugar, spice and lemon zest, and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is tender but not mushy and the mixture is a bit thicker, around 10 to 15 minutes. If you wish, here is where you add the cornstarch. Remember this mixture will also thicken a bit as it cools off; you still want it to be a sauce, not a jam.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature before serving.

French toast tips:

  • add a touch of cream with the milk to make it richer (try coconut milk if you want dairy free)
  • Add cinnamon, nutmeg too if you like, and a splash of vanilla extract - or even rum, if a grown up is helping :)
  • Cook on a hot griddle or pan and keep extras warm in a 200F oven.
  • Serve with syrup, jam or other accompaniments at room temperature (not cold out of the fridge, they have more taste when a bit warmer)


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May Day! May Day!

May 1st has long been known as a day of celebration throughout much of Europe. “May Day” as it is sometimes called, represents the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. In ancient times it was known as the first day of summer, the festival of the goddess of flowers, Flora; February 1 was then the first day of spring. (This is how you end up with “Midsummer’s Eve” being on June 25th.) Putting up a decorated maypole was one of the customs of medieval times in many European countries. It is said to perhaps signify a reverence for trees, perhaps a pagan worshipping ritual; or it may have been just an urge to gather and celebrate. There are romantic notions that flowers under a girl's pillow on May 1 would allow her to dream of her mate. Young men in Germanic countries in the 16th century would place a small maypole in their favourite girl's front yard as a gesture of affection.

When I checked into all this history I was also reminded of the other meaning of this expression when the words are strung together – “mayday” is a distress signal, not in relation to the celebrations but from the French words meaning to help someone: “m’aider”. Living in such a bountiful part of the world, this seemed like an appropriate sentiment to cultivate as the growing season begins and we all have the opportunity to pitch in and be neighbourly.

Thankfully, we are getting to the time of year when we can enjoy the spoils from closer to home. The farmer’s market is now open, and gardens are valiantly working to sprout local veggies and flowers for us to enjoy. I am pleased to be working again as part of a Growing Chefs team, an organization that goes to elementary schools to teach the kids about where veggies come from (as in the earth). We grow a garden and taste all kinds of veggies, and learn about composting. It's fun to see them getting excited about their food.

I love gardening and seasonal traditions and symbols so I have put some Lilies of the Valley in my sensory garden out back, in keeping with the French tradition of May Day. Bouquets of these little white flowers are given to loved ones on May First, something that began with King Charles IX when he received them as a lucky charm and passed them to the ladies at court. Between those blossoms and the lavender planted at the garden gate for luck, the gardens at Rabbit Hollow should be set for a great gardening season!

I know with the Spring Wine Festival starting there will be much in the way of celebration going on. (You can check out all the events at their website.) Remember to eat something hearty with all that wine flowing, and perhaps you can include a fresh sprig of something to symbolize the fact that spring is underway and summer is not far off. I have posted more recipes on my Happy Gourmand blog, and Martin’s website has videos too, if you need ideas.

The magic of new shoots and fresh tastes is sure to inspire the spring fairies to awaken their kin and bring the spirit of summer into full regalia. If you feel the urge to dance through a field, carry on!



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BBQ Tips

About the author...

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, being someone who is passionate about people having a good time . Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, marketing and service programs. Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column.

She says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that "sense of place" from where the food has come... the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had.

Happy Gourmand is about enjoying life and living in the moment; sharing that joy with others is how I keep those good vibes going!"

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 




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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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