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Happy-Gourmand

Let them eat cake

On Jan. 20, my stepdaughter is getting married in Whistler. Since her dad is a chef, he is providing the cake for the occasion.

I think most girls look forward to that special father-daughter moment of walking down the aisle, but how many get to say Papa made dessert?

Weddings are full of tradition, and they usually involve much pomp and ceremony. Nowadays, with media such as Pinterest and YouTube, it's easy to see the myriad of options available for every part of the special day.

This can be a slippery slope; it's easy to want more than you can afford and there's only so much time to make do-it-yourself knick-knacks.

Hosting a large party is always a big undertaking, and making all the pieces happen adds up in time and money. However, there is certainly a bit of magic involved as well and that part can’t be found online.

It comes from personal memories and relationships and it's generally uncontrollable — it just happens, like snowflakes or rainbows.

Families have had cake as part of a wedding reception since Roman times. It is not as common now for cake crumbs to be sprinkled over the couple’s head for good luck, but cakes do still symbolize good fortune. The stacked tiers with extravagant icing and decoration are a centrepiece in the room.

Did you know the custom of the bride and groom cutting the cake comes from simple origins? The bride originally would pass out all the pieces on her own, but as the celebrations got bigger and bolder, her groom was required to help her cut through a bigger cake and deliver more pieces.

I know my stepdaughter will be keen to cut into her cake. She has always loved her father’s desserts. I remember a Happy Face cake for one birthday (I think she was six), but her tastes didn't take long to get more refined.

Chocolate mousse cake became the preferred choice, and, of course, the decorations were worthy of a chef — no simple spread icing for this princess. Sugar art was more her style.

We all deserve to be a princess for a day, with all the trimmings. Chloae wants to have a winter wedding with snowflakes and icicles, and this cake will look like an ice castle.

Each of the four spectacular layers has a different flavour, so she will be hard pressed to choose which one to taste (but that’s where having a partner comes in handy).

My husband loves his daughter more than anything. Some of our friends asked if he was going to cater the wedding, but he was much happier to have the job of walking his girl down the aisle.

He will give a wonderful toast to the couple, but his special tribute will be shown in the cake, and I know that his daughter will hold that image, and taste, in her heart.

But the real magic will come when we all share in the moment by having our own piece of cake. The famous quote, “Let them eat cake,” was said to be uttered by a French queen to the peasants during a time of famine.

This weekend we will turn that sentiment on its head when each of us will be a part of wishing the couple a life together that is worthy of much celebrating — and cake. 



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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.



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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