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Happy-Gourmand

Eat dirt on Earth Day

The news is full of items on all the trends about food and eating – Slow Food, the Food Revolution, the 100 Mile Diet – but does any of it really make a difference?

In the grand scheme of things, is it better if I support the local farmer growing something here instead of supporting someone who can grow the same thing more easily farther away?

If I am healthy, what difference does it make if a family somewhere in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world is unhealthy from obesity, or from mal-nourishment? How responsible are we for the world? (Are you feeling guilty? Is your morning bagel getting stuck in your craw?)

I don’t mean to sound callous; I just wanted to get your attention. I was thinking that with Earth Day approaching, it is a good time to stop and think just how much we want to do to support our planet and its fellow inhabitants.

I am a big believer in consistency – even if you only want to commit to a small amount of effort, if it happens consistently, that speaks volumes. I also believe that we should be honest with ourselves, and we should be selfish about enjoying our own lives.

Don’t say you want to save the planet for your kids – do it so that you can breathe easier tomorrow. Then, your kids will know you mean it.

Does that mean we should eat dirt on Earth Day? Well, a bit of dirt wouldn’t hurt… like the dirt on the carrots you can buy at the Kelowna Farmer’s Market, open now for the season.  I think they taste better with a bit of dirt still on them.

Let’s face it, fresh garden carrots taste better any way you eat them, dirty or not. I wonder if people were mass-produced like some veggies, would they lose their character too?  I think I remember reading about that in a sci-fi novel years ago.

It probably isn’t the best day to visit a fast food joint. Something about eating processed food, even if it is now in a recyclable container, seems to go against the grain of the event. Perhaps you could work on eating meals from around the world next week.

That could be fun! Not local, but fun.

If local is your thing, maybe visiting a locally owned restaurant would do the trick, even if it served ethnic food from another place. Maybe just thinking about the food, enjoying the bounty, is the thing to do.

If we just take a drink of water, breathe in the air, feel the sun on our faces and the grass between our toes,  that might be enough to remind us of all that we have. In the 40-odd years since Earth Day was started, we don’t seem to be making great progress in improving.

But then, don’t they say that life begins at 40?



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Chicks, bunnies and tulips

Well, here we are, already at Easter. Are you ready? Probably not. In today’s world, time flies.

There never seems to be enough moments to make the most of a day; we are always rushing to fill all our obligations.

Easter is a celebration that rates the same magnitude as Christmas – there is much to be done for it to be heralded in with the appropriate amount of fanfare and indulgence.

Whether you are celebrating the end of Lent or planning an Easter Egg hunt for the kids, it is and should be a big deal. The catch is, big deals just don’t materialize overnight.

Are you feeling like I am?  Do you feel as though you just put away the Christmas decorations and here you are trying to find a pastel-coloured tablecloth and napkin rings that match the tulips you bought?

Does it irk you that you can’t decide which sheets to put in the spare bedroom so that it looks bright and springy? Well, the one saving grace is the reward that awaits us at the end of all the agonizing decisions… chocolate!

I am not trying to make light of what many consider to be a serious occasion, but I must say that I enjoy the frivolity of Easter. Bunny tails and fuzzy chicks make me smile, and chocolate makes me smile even more. Jelly beans are one of the four Easter goodie food groups and that is not a bad thing either.

If you are making kids hunt, think of the learning and sense of accomplishment that comes from following directions or solving the riddle given. The end justifies the means – let them eat chocolate.

Hunting for your Easter “loot” is one more reason to enjoy every morsel. One year when I was a kid we had a poem from the Easter Bunny whose rhymes gave hints on where to find the eggs – it included a quote from Macbeth that was to lead us to the eggs hidden in the washing machine.

The reference was obscure when I was 10, but I’ve been dying to use it for an adult Easter hunt.

Easter also has a much more solemn and important historical significance. Whatever your faith, Easter is a time to celebrate and gather together. The renewal of spring seems to echo the sentiment that is the theme of Holy Week. A feast at the table is a logical part of such celebrations.

Even if you are not religious, it is likely you are entertaining this weekend. It’s always good to finish with a bang, so here is a great dessert recipe perfect for a small crowd. It fits the chocolate Easter theme, too.

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY CHEESECAKE

  • 750g or 3 packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 300ml heavy cream (33% plus) PLUS more for decorating if desired
  • 1 ½ cup frozen whole raspberries
  • 2/3 cup semisweet Callebaut chocolate chunks (available in bulk at most grocery stores)
     
  • Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease a 9 inch (22 cm) springform pan.
  • Combine cream cheese and sugar, mixing with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, two at a time, beating well after each addition. Add heavy cream, zest and vanilla.
  • Pour mixture in your greased pan. Add raspberries in the pan and mix carefully so they go everywhere. Drop the chocolate chunks in the pan too – do not swirl.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes depending on your pan. Watch for an even motion on top (the filling should be solid enough not to “slide” as a liquid). Loosen the cake from the rim of the pan; cool before removing the sides from the pan. (Leave cheesecake on pan base.)
  • Place cheesecake on decorative plate if desired. Decorate with fresh raspberries and whipping cream.

Makes 12 large servings, 16-20 smaller servings. Store leftovers in the fridge, covered.

TIP: Run a large chef’s knife under hot water before cutting slices to get a clean cut.



A sip of coffee history

Take a break; be a part of history

Perhaps it is the slow coming of spring and my need for a bit of extra warmth, but I have been thinking a lot about coffee lately.

With my ever-curious brain and its search for more trivia, that led me to thinking about the whole psychology that goes with our coffee culture. Why has a simple beverage become a ritual for us, an intrinsic part of our every-day life?

Even people who don’t partake, know the steps in the coffee ritual, and the places that support such rites are now rife with adaptations for these non-believers. No one wants to be left out, after all.

Thanks to Oprah, you can visit Starbucks and be caffeine-free.

Did you know that the discovery of coffee apparently gets credited to an Ethiopian shepherd who lost his sheep and later found them dancing around a red cherry bush? The bush was a coffee plant, and when he tried the red cherries (unroasted coffee beans) he began to dance around the bush too.

He recounted the story to the local monks and they told him they make a drink from the beans As you can see, celebration was obviously an early part of the coffee ritual.

The first coffee shop opened in Constantinople in 1475, and in those days coffee was so important to the people that a woman could legally divorce her husband if he did not provide her with her daily quota of coffee. (Now doesn’t that make an interesting Timmy’s commercial.)

When Pope Clemente VIII was asked to place a ban on coffee drinking, he refused saying, "This beverage is so delicious, it would be a sin to let only misbelievers drink it!"

There is much research and documentation to prove the relationship coffee has had to the development of our culture. Bach wrote a Coffee Cantata. Many a politician and literary personality developed their craft in coffee houses around the world.

The Boston Tea Party made drinking coffee a very patriotic thing to do in the new United States. You can consider yourself in good company the next time you sit and sip your grande, non-fat latte.

Coffee is, however, not the only way to enjoy a peaceful break. If you are not a coffee fan, do not dismay. I don’t want you to feel like you cannot be a part of history as well.

Consider another trend that has created a culture around itself, that all familiar treat – ice cream. It too, has existed since somewhere in the second century B.C. although there is no record of the inventor.

We do know that personages such as Alexander the Great, King Solomon and Emperor Nero were all fond of iced concoctions reminiscent of today’s treat.

Marco Polo is credited with the somewhat modern version of sherbet and then advancements allowed for the adaptations with cream. It was a delicacy that was mostly reserved for the rich, as storing frozen goods was no mean feat in the days before refrigeration.

It was not until the 1800s that insulated ice houses became the start of an industry in America. (A few years before, President George Washington spent the tidy sum of $200 on ice cream consumption one summer. Perhaps he invested in ice houses.)

During the Second World War, ice cream was a symbol of America’s prowess — the armed forces took great pride in being able to serve it to the troops, with the piece de resistance being a floating ice cream parlour the Navy built in the South Pacific.

When the war was won, Americans celebrated by eating ice cream: they consumed 20 quarts of the stuff per person in 1946.

Nowadays, as with most things, ice cream has become an expanded concept. It can now include soy or rice milk products. You can have it scooped, or blended with bits of extra stuff. You can even have it as mini melts, tiny balls that are flash frozen, which apparently seals in more flavour to every mouthful.

Perhaps that is the way to bridge the gaps we have in our world, to bring generations and cultures closer together over a cup of half-caff extra hot caramel latte or a cup of mini melts.

There is long tradition in sharing ideas while taking a break from the hectic pace of every-day life, and we all certainly deserve a break, don’t we?

Maybe we won’t solve the problems of the world, but at least we can say we enjoyed ourselves for a moment or two.

There are lots of great coffee shops and ice cream salons in Kelowna and surrounding areas. You could even make it a goal to try all of them.

 One of our favourite places, where they serve coffee and ice cream, is GioBean, next to the Delta Grand Okanagan on Water Street.

If you’d like to try the taste of ice cream or coffee at home, here’s a fun recipe courtesy of my hubby. This coffee-infused crème brulée recipe can be made as usual, or if you take the custard and put it in an ice cream maker, you have coffee ice cream.

Bon Appetit!





Foolish food

April Fool’s Day is today, so I thought I would use that as inspiration to be a bit goofy.

It could be cabin fever – the delayed arrival of spring has made me a bit stir-crazy. I don’t know about you, but I just feel that a little bit of whimsy is the best way to weather the storm.

I hope you will forgive the lack of nutritional value in this week’s recipes and take pleasure in knowing this topic give you water cooler fodder for the week to come!

Did you know that a real seasonal spring food is Peeps? They are a traditional sweet made by a company called Just Born, in Bethlehem, Penn.; they come most commonly in the form of baby chicks.

If you have never seen or heard of Peeps, check the Easter section of the larger grocery stores. If you’d like to see how Peeps are made, you can check out this factory video.

Peeps have a very loyal following, with some people taking their appreciation to quite imaginative heights. 

There are even such Peep pastimes as Peep Jousts.

  • Arm your Peep with a toothpick under his wing for a lance, then put him in the microwave with another combatant and after placing your wagers on the winner, push the ON button. The winner is the one that expands enough to engulf his unwitting enemy.

There is Peep art.

  • Patterns of the charming little fellows glued on canvas that sell for hundreds of dollars. (Peeps do come in an array of colours, allowing for numerous permutations in design, so it’s not as silly as you might think.)

Simple indulgence in Peeps is ample goofiness, and you needn’t feel guilty eating them. They are only 32 calories each, and there are 350 million of them made each year, so they are certainly not endangered.

I suppose if you prefer natural foods, you could just stick to regular marshmallows.

Did you know they have been around for 200 years and that originally the root of the marshmallow plant was what made them sticky and gooey? This plant was also used to soothe sore throats. I don’t know if you could attest to a marshmallow doing that, but it arguably does make you feel better when you eat one.

Whether you like them pre-stuck to Rice Krispies in a square or roasted over an open flame will not diminish the smile that seems to get stuck on your face after eating them.

I have a few final notes for you if you choose to let whimsy strike and indulge in the spongy confection...

  • Beware anyone brandishing a roasted marshmallow – flaming and sticky is not a very safe combination in the air.
  • If you do get melted (or manhandled) marshmallow stuck somewhere it shouldn’t be, remember to remove it as soon as possible or it will become like Super Glue.
  • The best remedy for unsticking marshmallow bits seems to be licking them off, so try to aim for something or someone you like. (If you use peanut butter, be sure to ask about nut allergies first.)

If you like your marshmallow inside something else, here’s a recipe that includes the other seasonal sweet – chocolate.

Chocolate-Marshmallow Brownies

  • 3/4 cup Callebaut chocolate
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 full orange, grated on a “microplane” (fine grater)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups small Callebaut chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips)
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Heat chocolate and butter in a pan slowly while stirring, until melted.
Stir in sugar until melted and well blended.
Cool the mixture 10-15 minutes.

Add eggs, orange zest and vanilla and stir until blended.
Add flour, salt, and mix again.
Add chocolate chunks and marshmallows, and pour into your pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until brownies spring back when touched in the centre of the pan.
Let cool on a wire rack.
Cut and serve at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar if you want to dress them up.

Happy April Fool's Day.

 And if you’re saving yourself, Happy Easter!



More Happy Gourmand articles

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin 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."

 

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 does not warrant the contents.

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