Trip to NYC to visit the Natural Gourmet Institute

Posted May 18th, 2011 in Cooking classes, Fish, Meatless, Recipes by Rebecca Lane

My garden after the rain

Tomorrow morning I’m off to New York City to take some classes at the Natural Gourmet Institute. I’m going with Sherri Doak and Pina Constantinos from Nature’s Emporium and we look forward to learning how to make some delicious food as well as visit some of the places we’ve been reading about. Saturday night we’ll be eating at the raw food restaurant Pure Food and Wine. I promise to post lots of details and will take some photographs too (but for now, here’s a photo of my post rain flower-filled garden).

We were disappointed to find out that tomorrow night’s class has been cancelled due to lack of enrollment. Too bad – NYC is missing out on some serious information about Spices, the key to a delicious meal in my opinion. Hopefully we will be able to attend the Seitan class instead but there is a waiting list. Failing that, I’m certain that we’ll find something to see and eat in New York! Who knows, we might even be able to do some shopping too!

Last night we went out for supper to celebrate my daughter’s passing her driving test. She wanted to celebrate – I needed a drink!! There are some delicious vegetarian options available at restaurants now – even the Roadhouse style restaurant. I found a tasty whole wheat pasta dish with spinach, roasted red peppers and tomatoes – Tuscan Linguini I think it was called. But there were also plenty of salad options too.

Supper tonight will be left-over Asian Coleslaw (recipe yesterday) with a Rice Bowl from Refresh cookbook. Here’s the recipe for Dragon Rice Bowl (it calles for Tofu, I’ll be using shrimp instead).

1 large zucchini, sliced diagonally
3 tomatoes, sliced thickly
12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 cups cooked brown basmati rice (per package directions – use a little vegetable stock to replace some water for more flavour)
1 batch Tamari gravy (follows)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (I prefer parsley)
1 bunch green onions, chopped (chives from the garden will replace)
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Grill the zucchini, tomatoes and shrimp in the oven (or on the BBQ) at medium to high heat, until lightly browned.

Put 1.5 cups brown basmati rice in each bowl. Pour 1/4 of the Tamari Gravy on top of the rice.

Divide the grilled veggies and shrimp into 4 and put on top or beside the rice. Garnish with cilantro (parsley), green onions (chives) and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Tamari Gravy (from Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp spelt flour (or rice flour if going gluten-free)
2 cups water
3 Tbsp tamari

Gently heat butter and oil over medium heat. Slowly stir in flour until a smooth paste is formed. Cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.

Still stirring, add water little by little, to form a smooth thick sauce – I use a whisk to help with this stage.

Add tamari, still stirring constantly. You may need to add a little more water to achieve desired thickness. But this usually takes a few minutes (1-2 minutes depending on the flour used) after the gravy has come to a boil for the flour to thicken to the desired consistency.


Day 27 – The Joy of Vegetables Part 2

Posted April 28th, 2011 in Fish, Grains, Recipes, Salads by Rebecca Lane

I’m not hearing any buses yet, so I’m going to keep on writing!

Lately, Sherri and I have been working away at creating delicious Gluten-Free baked goods recipes (crackers, muffins, cookies, cakes, buns, breads) for our teaching kitchen and I realized this morning that this is a problem. These baked goods are for ‘occasional’ meals only. As a society we have relied heavily on them as the backbone and focus of our meals and snacks – to the detriment of our health. Instead of looking at ways of making gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free baked goods, let’s concentrate on foods that are really going to heal and nourish our bodies.

Turn the page to VEGETABLES!

We can make a healthy choice to focus instead on finding delicious ways to fill at least half of every plate we eat with vegetables. This is the foundation. There are endless combinations and permutations we can combine to make delicious smoothies, spreads (for cucumbers, celery, slices of raw turnip, sweet potatoes, celery root), salads, stir fry’s or roasted vegetables. And when we add fruit to the mix, the sky’s the limit!

My favourite guide is George Mateljan’s book (and website) The World’s Healthiest Foods. The world’s most nutrient-dense foods do not lie in the animal protein list – but fall instead in the Vegetables list! Surprised? Topping the list – spinach, swiss chard, crimini mushrooms and asparagus. Of a three column list, two of the columns include vegetables, fruit, beans and legumes, herbs and spices and nuts and seeds. Grains are near the bottom with dairy and eggs and poultry and lean meats. Fish and shellfish lie between the two groups.

So, for the next week, I’m going to change my focus and start learning about the wonderful tastes and vitality of healthy, nutrient-rich vegetables. In the morning, I enjoy whole grain granola (and I’ll give you the recipe in case you would like to try it) with home-made kefir topped with fresh fruit. I’m trying to get the kids to have a smoothie to take with them to school for breakfast, but am still perfecting that option. For lunch, I usually have a salad with the leftovers from dinner before, or in the winter a salad with some soup. But I’m going to experiment more with combining beans and vegetables probably with some grains like quinoa and buckwheat. As for dinner, vegetables steamed, stir-fried, roasted and drizzled with a little olive oil or flax oil and seasoned with herbs, along with some lean meat or fish seasoned with fresh herbs. If I need a sweet later on, I’ll have some fresh fruit with a little more granola or sprinkled with flax seeds.

I’ll be honest, usually about 9:30 we have a “cup of tea” as a family which usually includes a cookie. Maybe this is the ‘occasion’. How many cookies or baked goods per week is the “right” amount? From my years of yo-yo dieting and bulimia, the one thing that I do KNOW is that once I put restrictions on the food that I am allowed to eat, I crave that restricted food. So I cannot answer that question. I think that the answer is different for each of us. But I do think – and will research this over the coming weeks – that if I fill my body with healthy, nutritious vegetables and fruits, I may not want a cookie or sweet at night.

I’ll be fully nourished.

Interesting thought!

Sautéed Asparagus

1 lb of asparagus, bottom twiggy section snapped off and the rest cut into 2 inch sections
3 Tbsp of vegetable broth

Heat the broth in a skillet over medium heat. Once it starts to steam, add the asparagus. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the Dressing for the buckwheat below.

Pan-Fried Perch

1 lb of fresh perch
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat the broth and olive oil under medium heat, add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the perch skin side down and cover. Fry for 3 – 5 minutes until the meat looks white and flakey. Remove from heat and serve.

Buckwheat Salad with Chick Peas, Cucumber, Tomatoes and Fresh Parsley

1 cup buckwheat (I used Kasha or toasted buckwheat)
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt

½ can chick peas, drained and rinsed
½ English cucumber, small cubes
½ red onion, halved and thinly sliced
handful small grape tomatoes, halved
handful chopped fresh parsley

Dressing (make up and save as an easy salad dressing)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of lemon
4 cloves garlic
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook the buckwheat – put first three ingredients together in pot and cover. Bring to a boil for a minute, then turn down to low and simmer for 10 – 12 minutes. Buckwheat is fully cooked when it is dry and fluffy. Do not stir the buckwheat while it is cooking.

Press garlic and let sit for 5 minutes (allows the health-promoting nutrient allicin to form). Whisk together with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Toss the buckwheat with the vegetables and chopped parsley and dress to taste. Serve on a bed of lettuce or spinach.

I’m going to add a photograph once I’ve got it all put together. New experience!

Day 26 – Virtual cooking

Posted April 27th, 2011 in Fish, Recipes, Salads by Rebecca Lane

Poached Salmon with Dill

There’s nothing better than a good talk with good friends. It never fails to amaze me how we can not talk for ages, then one day we get together and the conversation flows like wine (btw – wine helps that conversation flow!). Tonight, I was enjoying a beautiful evening out on the back porch nursing a nice cold Tankhouse Ale and thinking about what I would make for dinner. I decided to call my wonderful girlfriend Sandee who lives far, far away in Burlington. I would have preferred to be sharing the beer with her in her backyard, walking through her garden saying “oh, look how that’s growing” etc. – but a telephone conversation was what we had – so we enjoyed it.

By the end, we were both talking about dinner and she told me what she made last night. Since it sounded too amazing for words, I’m sharing it with you tonight and we’re adding some poached salmon just to make it more delicious!

Greek Salad with Feta Cheese, Kalamata Olives and Dill

2 Tbsp fresh dill (if you aren’t a huge dill fan, you may want to use 1 Tbsp), minced
1/2 of an English Cucumber, cubed
2 large Ontario vine-ripened tomatoes, cubed
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup mixed greens
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 cup feta cheese, cubed
1 small sweet Vidalia onion
Freshly ground black pepper

Dressing: 1 to 1 mixture of apple cider vinegar and olive oil (1/2 cup each)

Mix everything together and cover with 1/2 of dressing and let sit so that the olives and feta can absorb in the flavour.

Poached Salmon with Dill and Tzitziki Sauce

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Put one large salmon fillet (or you can do two depending on how many people you are serving) on a piece of tin foil large enough to fold into a packet around it. Pour about 1 Tbsp of olive oil on top, squirt the juice of 1/2 lemon, add a couple of slices of the sweet onions and sprinkle with fresh dill. Close up the packet and place in the oven on a baking sheet. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes depending on thickness of fillet.

To serve, put the Greek Salad on half of the plate, then place the fillet on the other half with a dollop of tzitziki sauce on the top. I didn’t make the sauce, I picked up a container of Liberte brand. But the next time I make this, I’m going to the Danforth ahead of time!

Day 2 – What’s for Dinner?

Posted March 31st, 2011 in Fish, Recipes by Rebecca Lane

Isn’t it interesting how when you start out on a journey, there are many hands to guide you along the way? Yesterday, my son and I purchased Blackberry Torches. Yes, I now have a Blackberry – and those lost moments sitting at a hockey rink wishing there was something to do are now gone forever! Anyway, I digress. I found an incredible app for the Blackberry (and various other SmartPhones) called Food Network Canada.

It’s absolutely terrific. There are many recipes available there for you to try and videos to help you along the way. There are so many tools to support us on our quest for good food.

If that wasn’t enough, I read a blog post this morning (and yes, on my Blackberry) from Sandi Krakowski about What the Secret Millionaire Should Have Bought at the Grocery Store. What Sandi was pointing out was that if people feel that they cannot afford food, they have a tendency to not eat it. Instead they eat packaged junk food – that’s an impoverished mind set for not only are you feeding your body garbage, but you’re telling your body that it is a garbage can worthy only of receiving garbage.

Instead, she offers a very inexpensive weekly ‘diet’ for one person that includes no junk food. She recognizes that when your eat food in order to nourish your body, all aspects of your life are nourished and prosper.

OK – so now what’s cooking for dinner?

Food Network made a shrimp noodle bowl (see picture above) for dinner today, but we can’t eat shrimp here because Mark is allergic to shellfish. But I was planning on making a fish noodle bowl anyway, and I’ll switch a white fish for the shrimp. Here’s the recipe from Food Network with a few of my tweaks.

1 package flat rice noodles
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fish sauce
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/3 cup vegetable stock
2 to 4 teaspoons Asian chili sauce
(I usually add some chili peppers too for a little bite)
1 pound white fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium bunch bok choy, sliced
1 large red pepper, cubed
5 ounces mushrooms, chopped (what ever kind you have available)
1 medium carrot, shredded – or you can use the peeler to cut into long thin strips
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs; drain and rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, maple syrup, garlic, chili sauce and 1/3 cup vegetable stock in a medium bowl. Transfer 1/4 cup of the marinade to another bowl and toss with the fish. Toss another 1/4 cup marinade with the vegetables. Let the fish and vegetables marinate 10 minutes at room temperature.

Heat a heavy saucepan (this is when I pull out my Le Creuset pot – I love this pot) to medium-high. Grill the fish, peppers and mushrooms until the fish is just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring to boil. Once it comes to a boil, add the bok chok – turn off the heat and cover.

Divide the noodles among bowls and top with the fish soup. Delicious!

Notes from yesterday’s dinner (the Thai Basil Turkey dish):

It was really delicious and everyone ate it, even my teenage son ate the broccoli. Who knew that was possible?

But I forgot to add the bean sprouts, so there wasn’t tons to go around – which is why they’re going in the noodle bowl tonight.