Tag Archives: health

How I Learned to Love the Garden

27 Aug

I have always appreciated food though, admittedly, I have learned to appreciate it on new levels in the last ten years. I’ve certainly always enjoyed eating and reaping the rewards of others’ hard work; now, I understand just how much work goes into getting that food to my hungry mouth.  It’s not like I wasn’t exposed to food production as a child: my dad maintained a wonderful garden in our backyard that had carrots, beets, tomatoes, peas, beans, chives, rhubarb, cucumber and whatever else he felt like planting (like the year he tried corn. I kept hoping for ghost baseball players to appear. Sadly, neither the corn nor the ghosts deigned to show). We also had cherry, pear and apricot trees along with a raspberry bush and grapevines. Homegrown fruits and veggies we did not lack. We also had a walnut tree but in the 20+ years we lived in our house, no one ate a single, solitary walnut. We’d find them on the ground with six tiny, squirrel bites taken out of them. Tree rats are the worst. What I lacked was the interest in cultivating them. My parents would send me into the yard to pick whatever was ripe at the time and I’d inevitably come back with about 50% of what needed to be picked. What can I say? I was more interested in something SUPER IMPORTANT like whether or not Zack and Kelly‘s eternal love would be torn asunder by the evil Jeff.

Fast forward to 2007. I am now living in an apartment with J and ruing the lack of outdoor space to grow my own food. We would buy basil plants that would, inevitably, wither and die in record time. We did see some success planting mint in my dad’s garden. So much success, in fact, that the mint spread over the next few months and by the following summer, was rather intrusively making its way into the rest of the garden. That was bolstering, though. “I can actually grow things,” I remarked as my dad looked on, happy I’d taken an interest in gardening but dismayed by the herb that was now embedded in the chives and beans and peas and…

Jump to 2012. J and I are house hunting. We come across a house with a slightly wild but charming front yard and an absolutely lovely backyard with lush, red cherry tomatoes. “This has potential,” I think to myself excitedly. The sight of those gorgeous tomatoes has stirred something inside me and I can imagine spending quiet afternoons planting and weeding and watering and enjoying the fruits of my labour. The day we took possession of the house, I went straight to the yard and plucked one of the tomatoes from the vine and popped it in my mouth. “That’s it. I’m growing everything I can back here.”

Next spring, my dad arrived at the house with tomato seed packets and a container with soil pods to get them started. I took a surprising amount of delight planting the little seeds and watching them grow into full blown…seedlings. My dad planted them in one of the gardens and I tended to those things like I tended to foodNURDling. By August we had fresh, plump cherry, Early Girl and beefsteak tomatoes.

Wee tomatoes.

Wee tomatoes.

 

Emboldened by my success, I started to hatch plans for summer 2014. I planted beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, green, red and jalapeno peppers, basil, lemon thyme, rosemary and mint. When each ripened, I happily picked ALL of the fruits and vegetables and gave each to the foodNURDling. As he happily gobbled down cucumber and tomato slices, I called my mom:

“Mom! A thing I grew is eating a thing I grew!” I almost wanted to cry.

It was A Moment for me. Growing food for me and my family. This is how I learned to love my garden.

Homemade Granola

2 Jul

File this under “why didn’t I do it sooner?” I’ve had it in my head that I’d like to make my own granola for ages but somehow never got around to it. Finally, timing and motivation collided and in less than an hour with almost zero effort on my part I had aromatic, crunchy, salty, rich, sweet, filling, semi-healthy granola! (Yes, it’s high in fat but they are beneficial fats and if you’re in need of a snack, this stuff is better for you than junk food.)

There is no right or wrong way to make granola as it’s pretty much the most adaptable recipe of which you could conceive. There are some basic ratios but your ingredients can change with every tasty batch. If you want large clusters, don’t stir the granola while it bakes; for small pieces that work well as a topping for yogurt, give the whole batch a good stir every 15 minutes. Or, do what I did and stir half to get the best of both worlds. If you intend to add dried fruit – and I recommend you do – make sure you stir it in at the end when the granola has cooled. Otherwise, the baking process will dry them out further and you’ll get a pretty unpleasant texture. Same goes for chocolate chips: add ’em in at the end or you’ll get melted chocolate.

Makes…a lot, which is good because it won’t stick around long.

granola

Ingredients

3 c old fashioned oats (not the quick-cooking kind)
1 1/2 c chopped nuts (a mix of walnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.)
1 1/2 c coconut shavings or flakes
1/2 c maple syrup
1/4 c coconut or olive oil
1/4 c sesame seeds
1/4 c sunflower seeds
1/4 c flax seed
2 tb brown sugar
1 1/2 ts salt
1/2 ts cinnamon
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 c dried fruit (cherries, raisins, cranberries, bananas, apricots, blueberries, mango, pineapple, etc.)
1 handful chocolate chips, optional but delicious

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 300F.  Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Stir together everything except the dried fruit and chocolate chips until thoroughly combined.
3. Spread the whole thing out on the baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes for small pieces; don’t stir at all for large clusters; or stir some for a mix of both.
4. Allow to cool and then add dried fruit and chocolate.
5. Store in an airtight container and it’ll last for a solid two weeks if you don’t eat it all before then.

Heart-Healthy Condiments BBQ & Giveaway!

20 Jun

I had the chance to spend a sunny afternoon on a downtown rooftop with some fellow foodies trying out David Marcus’ line of heart-healthy, low sodium, preservative-free rubs and sauces. (Check out his site!) Our host had an array of products perfect for BBQ season, from spicy marinades to savoury rubs.  David created his product line as a result of two health emergencies: both his father and father-in-law required heart surgery within months of each other. Consequently, heart health became an important consideration in David’s life and he began to experiment in the kitchen. What he came up with was a healthy alternative to often salt-heavy sauces and rubs. And, for a couple of lucky readers, I have two giveaway packages of three products and BBQ utensils! Read on, mes amis…

sauces

Our first dish of the day was guacamole using the spicy rub, proving that David’s line doesn’t have to be utilized only on meat. The guacamole had a nice little kick to it!

guac
Next up: prosciutto-wrapped asparagus using the special steak rub, kind of reminiscent of Montreal steak seasoning. It has a nice, lemony hit and paired well with the earthy asparagus and  salty prosciutto.

The asparagus before it hit the grill, covered in steak rub.

The asparagus before it hit the grill, covered in steak rub.

Along the vegetarian line, David has created a Caesar salad dressing that is gluten- and dairy-free (no anchovies, no eggs, no milk). He also has an anchovy-free version for those looking for a vegan option. It does have lots of garlic, though, and features his own brand of first-pressed extra virgin olive oil (also available for sale).

caesar
Then it was all-meat-all-the-time…time. We were treated to French-cut lamb chops with David’s steak rub; baby back ribs with the steak rub and Fierce Marinade; New York steak with steak rub; chicken breast with the herbacious chicken rub; and spicy peri-peri-marinated shrimp. I really enjoyed the heat of the peri-peri sauce and thought the steak rub complimented the lamb and steak beautifully.

lamb bbq

Lamb chop!

steak bbq

New York steak

 David is definitely on to something with these healthier products. Most of us are looking to incorporate healthier food where we can and this could be a great way to cut back on some salt in your diet. You can find David’s Condiments at Longo’s, Pusateri’s, Sanagan’s, McEwan’s and other fabulous food establishments!

Here’s how you can enter to win 1 of 2 sets of David’s products and accompanying BBQ utensils:
1. Follow me on Twitter at @foodNURD. RT this post with the following message, “I want to win a #davidscondimentsbbq prize pack!”
OR
2. Share this post on Facebook, tagging “@foodNURD”, and write “I want to win a David’s Condiment prize pack!”

giveaway

Winners will be chosen at random on Wednesday, June 26th!

He’s baaaaaaaaaack…

21 Oct

The Mexican food chain, Chipotle, is trying to set itself apart – and contribute to awareness of an important issue – by offering one of their most popular options, the burrito, at a significantly reduced price. The catch? You’ve got to come in on Hallowe’en dressed as, “a horrifying processed food product.” Check out their site: http://www.chipotle.com/en-US/fan-antics/boorito/boorito.aspx

Apparently they do this sort of promotion every year, but in the past they’ve asked people to come dressed as their *favourite* item on the menu. What brought this change about? This year they are working with Jamie Oliver and his “Food Revolution” program to promote healthier eating in North America. I have heard good things about the Chipotle franchise though I’ve never actually tried it. I’ve surfed through their website and it certainly appears that they are committed to providing food – not food-like products that only bear a passing resemblance to the animal from which it came.

It seems as though Oliver has found a way around looking sanctimonious in the eyes of Americans: all it took was a funny costume! If only he’d thought of that on his last adventure through the States which rattled a LOT of cages, especially in the blogosphere.  Teaming up with a popular fast food place that uses…y’know…actual food? Good plan. Exposing people’s food ignorance on national television? Not so much. I still stand by my belief that Oliver has excellent intentions, fame-whoring aside. He is using his celebrity to bring attention to the fact that the generation behind us is maddeningly – and frighteningly – unhealthy. He’s trying to help solve this problem and, evidently, has no qualms about looking like a doofus in the process. I like the “whatever works” attitude he’s adopted and this costume plan is similar to his demonstration for children in England, where he presented and blended up the ingredients of a chicken nugget. It was re-volt-ing. Nothing like a little dose of reality that even children can understand.

What do you think, readers? Do you think Oliver should hop back across the pond and keep to himself? Does teaming up with a fast food franchise decrease his credibility or is it a good idea to get the public’s attention?

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