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Happy-Gourmand

Fight those winter blues

Do you feel the winter blues setting in?

The cheeriness of the holiday season has been packed up, and the grey skies are still hanging over us. The bills from our holiday indulgence are arriving, and our enthusiasm for the gym is already waning.

Are you feeling like sitting on the couch eating potato chips might be the best remedy? Hold that thought – help is on the way.

I look for every bit of inspiration I can find in the dead of winter. I want little successes to keep my momentum, so I can last through till spring.

This week, I’m going to share some of my best ideas in hopes that they might work for you too. (And if you have any you’d like to share, please send me an email or post on my Facebook page. I’d be happy to have new ammunition against the blues.)

The first step for me is stay active.

I wasn’t great at physics in school, but I do remember: “An object in motion stays in motion.”

The cold grey dreary nature of winter makes us want to curl up on the couch. But if we remember something we enjoy doing besides this, we find a way off the couch.

I like to work out and walk the dog, but you could meet a friend and walk, run, ski, skate or snowshoe. Start small – even going around the block beats melting into the cushions.

Aim to do it a few times a week, and reward yourself with a treat like time in the hot tub if you have one or a cookie, maybe. Let’s be healthy and make them Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

The next step is eat right.

Everyone deserves a chance to wallow with a bag of potato chips or a tub of Haagen Dazs once in a while, but we can’t live there. (If you are currently munching and reading this, go back to the last paragraph and decide on your activity before proceeding.)

Eating right is easier when we are active as our metabolism makes us naturally hungry. I am a big fan of eating breakfast, and there are a multitude of ways to enjoy this meal.

If you’re the adventurous type, here is a list of creative, healthy ideas.

If you aren’t a fan of starting the day with a meal, then at least have a smoothie with some protein or nut butter in an energy bar or on toast helps fuel you for the day.

If you are concerned about your weight, a salad for dinner is a much better recipe to a healthy body than skipping breakfast.

The third step is the most important: reward yourself.

Keep track of your successes, and maintain your momentum with rewards. To avoid the temptation of impulsive, bad choices that you regret later (think too much Haagen Dazs), plan out your rewards when you decide your goals.

For example, when you complete your three walks for the dog one week, you can confirm an evening with friends or a nice soak in the tub. Enlist the help of friends and family to keep you accountable and encourage you.

The last step in the process is keep your sense of humour.

When you plan your walk on a day with a snowstorm, don’t dismay – just take it as time off for good behaviour.

You can also take credit for the extra energy you’ll spend shovelling the driveway the following day. I know as I have gotten older, I’ve had to come to terms with limitations in my workouts and having to watch my diet more.

When I get frustrated, I look for an easy win to get a boost – my favourite workout and breakfast combo or even a day off from the routine. If you need help smiling, try watching a classic comedy movie.

Twice in the past week, I have heard a quote that apparently comes from Winston Churchill. I’m thinking the universe was trying to tell me something, and I took it thinking of the cup half full…

  • “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

I looked up other things Churchill said, and this was another quote:

  • “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

So, here’s to your efforts to beat those winter blues. I’ll see you out there.





Top 10 foodie trends

Everyone is back at the office after the holiday break, and so now you need some new water cooler talk, right?

Well, how about the trends with food and cooking that are hot stuff for the New Year? I’ve scoured the many newsletters, magazines, blogs and websites that I follow, and I’ve got a list for you that will wow your friends and colleagues.

I’ve chosen five concepts that are becoming popular: these are ideas that people are excited about. My other five listings are categories or types of food that are being consumed with great enthusiasm.

The entire list is about what people have decided is important in the kitchen. Sometimes it has more to do with a philosophy than the food; I suppose we could still say it’s about the taste that the idea leaves in your mouth, isn’t it?

MOST POPULAR FOOD SUBJECTS

  • Food Activism – this is about using food to engage people. Sometimes the topic has to do with food, like getting people together for a meal of local food to support farmers or marching against Monsanto and their support of genetically modified foods. Other times it’s just about getting people around a table – a way to entice them to discuss difficult topics like improving a community. One of the top cookbooks of 2017 was Feeding the Resistance; it has recipes and encouraging words on how to take your dish to a community potluck.
  • Gluten free doesn’t mean no fun – there are a lot of people choosing to remove gluten from their diets for many reasons. This isn’t just about bread or cake, and it doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert any more. High-end pastry shops are creating decadent desserts with everything from new flours to cashews and avocado. Even those of us who do eat gluten can indulge, we might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Old dogs can show off new tricks – did you hear about the new chocolate bar Hershey created? Their Gold bar was the first addition to their line-up in 20 years, and it was a hit. What’s not to like about caramel cream with peanuts and pretzels?
  • You should order your groceries online too – Have you noticed there is another special designation for parking spots in grocery store lots? In a race to beat Amazon to the punch, almost all grocery stores are working the online angle. If you are confident they will pick the kind of produce you like, this might be a wonderful innovation for your family.
  • More gadgets are better – did you get an Instant Pot for Christmas? If not, you might need one soon. These things are like slow cookers on steroids; one of the most popular selling models on Amazon says
    “Duo Plus replaces 9 common kitchen appliances including Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Yogurt Maker, Egg Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, Warmer, Sterilizer and it makes cake too.”

Who wouldn’t want one of those?

TRENDY FOODS

  • Breakfast can be anything you want – don’t eat carbs? No problem. Oprah says pancakes are just as good without them (her banana pancakes have banana, eggs, and baking powder in them – that’s it.) Want something savoury? Poach eggs in tomato sauce for a Shakshuka. You are now officially given permission to eat whatever you want to start your day.
  • Exotic spices and flavours are good for you – if you haven’t heard of how good turmeric is for you, it’s time to get out of the cave you’ve been living in. This anti-inflammatory is the new superfood. Ginger is good for you too, aiding in digestion. So is cinnamon; just in case you thought you had to step outside your comfort zone to feel better. Check out Middle Eastern cooking or Mediterranean recipes if you want to experiment.
  • Cauliflower is the new kale, and rice… - gone are the days when we ate this veggie with cheese sauce. Now you can caramelize it by roasting it with olive oil in the oven, or use it instead of rice if you have a ricer to make it into small pieces. No carbs, fewer calories… why not try it?
  • Meat replacements are food you should feel good about – OK, this new food is a bit out there, as it is created in a lab. There are a few companies working on a food that looks and tastes like ground meat, but is made from plants. The philosophy behind it is that meat takes up more energy, land and time to be created, so this is more responsible food. Look up Impossible Burger if you want to see more on this innovation.
  • Unicorns make food magical – I wanted to end on a high note, and what’s more whimsical than a unicorn? Apparently unicorns and rainbows are deeply connected, so when you make unicorn drinks for example, like Starbucks did last year, they come out in rainbow (read neon) colours. Confetti is another variation on unicorn involvement, and has seen resurgence in cakes and cookies.

You might not agree with these trends, but at least now you will know what weird and wonderful food and drink is out there in the world.

If nothing else, your kids will think you are slightly cooler. 



Winter foodie survival tips

The thermometer is telling us we are in the dead of winter. Perhaps it was the void created after the decadence of Christmas, or maybe it was the record-breaking snowfall we got in the last week.

Any way you cut it, here in the Okanagan we are not enjoying global warming.

Where we live, Old Man Winter is not only alive and well; he is throwing a party for Jack Frost and all his other friends. They have uncovered the frigid pool (no hot tub for them!) and they are making frozen cocktails; they are settling in for a rockin’ good time.

From the news, I see that it seems to be a trend, as most of North America is caught in the grips of winter storms.

With that in mind, I decided to offer a few suggestions for a wonderful winter party. What better way to warm up a room than the company of good friends and some heartwarming food.

Martin and I decided we are going to have a cheese fondue party this weekend. We will exercise our minds and souls with riveting conversation and camaraderie. We can think about getting out next weekend to burn off the calories we will consume.

You may think this is too decadent for your tastes, or perhaps you’re not a fondue fan. Maybe you’re too embarrassed to say you have a fondue set in the garage. If any of those are true, here are some other ideas to chase Old Man Winter back.

  • Have an après-ski party (or après-toboganning) – a few appies are good, or even grilled cheese sandwiches can be fun; you can use imported cheese or bread for a more grown-up theme, or dunk them in bowls of tomato soup if you want to reminisce (that was my favourite childhood thing on a winter day)
  • Take your dog for an extra walk – many of our four-legged friends get less exercise in the winter too, so they will appreciate it and their enthusiasm may rub off. Reward yourself after with a nice cup of tea and a piece of winter dessert. 
  • Catch up with an old friend – check off a New Year’s resolution and have fun at the same time. Winter is a good time to swap stories with someone you may not see often. Cozy memories will warm you up, and you can commemorate the event with something decadent like pecan pie.

If your old friends are all a world away like mine, you can just as easily send them an e-mail and then cuddle up yourself with a piece of pie. It would be great to send them a piece of pie to enjoy too, but I don’t recommend trying to put pecan pie in an envelope.

Here is the link for my recipe. If you’re not a pie fan, you can make pecan waffles.

If all else fails, try the “if you can’t beat ‘em” philosophy… try watching a winter movie like Happy Feet to boost your spirits.

If your sense of humour is a bit warped by the cold, you can try Fargo, or if you feel overwhelmed by the bleakness of it all, well then Dr. Zhivago is the thing for you. (A cup of hot cocoa might be needed to survive all that cold, though.)

Stay warm.



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Breaking bread

I have a new project in the kitchen. I always find that winter is a good time to experiment with my cooking and expand my skills.

I am not as busy with work, and the colder days lend themselves to all kinds of food. Something soulful like stew is hard to digest in the summer heat.

The bread to go with it, or with a cheese platter and my glass of red wine, is also a more regular part of our winter diet. This winter I decided to practise my bread-making skills.   

I made a sourdough starter about a month ago, and I’ve been baking sourdough breads ever since. I used some of the last fruit harvested from our plum tree along with the original starter, and it has developed a delicious flavour profile: tangy, then sweet and just a wee bit fruity — like me.

Incorporating a living thing into my project has furthered my education as well as the flavours in my loaves. A sourdough starter has to be fed daily, and just like us, it has more active and less active days.

Getting to know my starter has been as tricky as improving my kneading skills; some days the results are rewarding and other days they are just chalked up to experience.

By this point, you probably get the impression that bread making is not an instant skill. I would have to agree that mastering the art takes time. Fear not, though, Dear Reader, you can make lovely bread without having to take a course or read a Julia Child book.

With all the leftovers from holiday meals, and the extra time we have with days off, we can all manage one loaf of bread, don’t you think?

I posted this recipe on my blog a while ago (before I got the hang of this bread thing) and it has turned out beautiful every time I’ve made it. It’s not a sourdough, so you needn’t worry about it being finicky. It has some added flavours that work well with winter meals but you can change those or omit them if you wish.

Here is the recipe below. Take an afternoon and impress your family and friends, maybe even yourself. Have fun after all the pressure of Christmas is over, and make a mess on the kitchen counter.

Feel soulful, breaking your very own homemade bread at your table. Or, if you are an armchair foodie, maybe you know someone who will invite you to share their effort after you pass along this recipe to them.

Any way you slice it, a bit of time in the kitchen is a nice way to enjoy the holiday season. Merry Christmas to you all.

ROSEMARY PECAN BREAD 

This recipe is one that comes from Mark Miller’s Indian Market Cookbook, an old favourite of mine from the ’90s. It is wonderfully fragrant and beautiful on the table. It’s delicious served with savoury items, and it makes a mean grilled cheese “envelope”.

The recipe makes two loaves, so you can freeze one or give it away.

5 cups / 1130 g unbleached flour
1 tbsp / 15 g active dry yeast 
2 tbsp / 30 g sugar
2 cups / 475 mL warm water (about 100F /38C)
1 cup / 250 g pecans, chopped
3/4 cup / 170 g whole wheat flour
2 tbsp / 30 g vegetable oil 
2 tsp / 10 g salt
2 tbsp / 30 g finely chopped fresh rosemary (don’t use dried)
2-3 tbsp / 30-45 g cornmeal, to keep the loaves from sticking while baking

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the unbleached flour, yeast, sugar and water. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and allow this fermenting “sponge” to rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size. 

Meanwhile, place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes, until browned. Turn off the oven. (You can do this in a toaster oven if you have one, to save energy.)

Stir down the sponge with a long-handled wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and add the pecans, wholewheat flour, oil, salt and rosemary, stirring until smooth. (It might be a bit tough to get all the bits incorporated; if so, just pour it all out on the counter and knead it in.)

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic (it will “bounce back” when you knead it). Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to coat thoroughly. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has doubled again. 

Punch down the dough (literally, take your fist and punch into the middle of the dough ball!) Divide it in 2 equal pieces, shaping them into round loaves by tucking under the bottom as you rotate it with your other hand. Place the loaves on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal. Allow the loaves to rise again for 1 hour, or until doubled. 

Preheat the oven to 400F/205C. Sprinkle the loaves with a little flour and slash the tops with a sharp knife or a razor blade, making cuts about 3 inches / 7.5 cm long and 1/2 inch / 1.25 cm deep. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the oven and turn out on a wire rack to cool (if you don’t remove them from the baking sheet, the bottoms will get soggy.)



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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