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Happy Food Revolution Day! If that sounds familiar you probably are a fan of Jamie Oliver, or like the people in my life you know someone who wont shut up about him and the awesome work he does. The basic idea is to celebrate cooking and food. Good food. Cooked from scratch food and to learn how to prepare it and how it impacts your health and life. For some more information check out their website here.

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It’s hard to tell in this picture, but they have the same eyes.

How am I embracing Food Revolution Day?? Through spices of course – and by spreading the word about this really great documentary I watched last night called A Place At The Table. It’s about the massive amounts of children and families who go hungry every day in the United States. True – it doesn’t show any information on similar problems in Canada, but it is not a problem that many Canadians face every day. Just take a look at the good folks at the Parkdale Food Centre, Ottawa Food Bank, Hijinx and School Breakfast Program.

But don’t take my word that this is a compelling and tragic problem – ask Jeff Bridges!

 

 

For more information on the doc – here is their website.

Last night was the African Harvest event to celebrate 35 years of Farm Radio International. Not able to make the event but still want to try some amazing African flavours and help the cause?? Well – now it’s in two steps but still totally do able!

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African Harvest Chefs – Andrée Riffou and Jeff Crump

First – in recognition of 35 years, Farm Radio is hoping to get 35 new monthly donors. You could be one! Click here form more information.

Next the African flavours… this was a soup I made at Cardamom and Cloves last Saturday for my cooking demo – they happen every Saturday at 11am in store (440 Preston Street) and the first 4 to arrive are guaranteed a sample of the dish that is made.

This recipes uses berbere spice – a flavourful African spice mix of 13 ingredients including paprika, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and allspice to name a few.

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Carrot and Berbere Spice Soup

Ingredients
2 TBSP Olive oil or butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
2 TBSP Berber spice
2 cups veggie stock
1.5 pounds of carrots, peeled
Sea salt
Black pepper
4 dollops of sour cream
Additional Berber spice for garnish

Heat olive oil or butter in a large pot. Gently saute onions until soft – about 4 minutes. Add carrots, garlic, Bay leaf, berbere and stock. There should be enough liquid to just cover the vegetables. If not, add water. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer until carrots are very soft, about 15 minutes.

Cool slightly. Remove bay leaf. Puree with a hand blender or in batches in a regular blender. You can reheat and season to taste now – or season it, cool it and serve cold.

Serve with a spoon full of sour cream and a sprinkle of berbere spice if you like!

 

Too busy to read?? Here is a clip of me on CTV making the soup!

http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=353660&binId=1.1487308&playlistPageNum=1

 

The other day I watched a documentary called DIVE! About dumpster divers and food waste in the United States. Here is the trailer –

 

I know it happens, but I’m still shocked at the amount of food waste in our world. With so many hungry people, it just seems unthinkable that we are tossing perfectly edible food. This is a really good look at exactly what dumpster diving is all about, or the Freegan movement (Freegan – a person who rejects consumerism and seeks to help the environment by reducing waste, especially by retrieving and using discarded food and other goods.)

But I still can’t get my head around eating food that has been in a dumpster. Once it’s in there, it’s trash. I mean, you have no idea why it is in there in the first place. I’m sure you can guess – but do you know the real reason?? And who knows how long that meat has been sitting there. Guesses are great, and if you cook it to the right temperature you are most likely getting rid of MOST of the food born illness possibilities.

Every time I think about dumpster diving all I can think about is this sketch from Portlandia:

 

My solution – let’s not put it in the trash! If you have  that much food, let’s give it away. Shelters and loads of hungry people would be thrilled to get food that is a day before it’s “Best Before Date” … not inedible. Nothing wrong, just not the quality that the store is willing to sell. Honestly, I’m willing to eat any of it… until the moment it gets put in the dumpster. Then the idea of it makes my stomach cringe with worry of potential parasites.

I guess it all comes down to this scenario. You see an éclair with a bite taken out of it sitting on a piece of paper in the garbage can on top of a stack of newspapers. Do you eat it?? George C0stanza would. But I think I’ll pass.

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My personal “vegetarian challenge” is really no longer a challenge of any kind. I only eat meat 2-3 times a week and it really has just become a way of life. Because I’m drawn to veggie options, it is usually easy to eat out with friends who are vegan or 100% of the time vegetarian.

Then there is my Mom. She puts me to shame. Her and her partner eat, for the most part, a gluten free vegan diet. I know. It is a level of dedication I just can’t reach. Probably because of a love affair I have been having with cheese, bread and tuna (though not together… never let your mistresses meet!). I just can’t fully commit to a vegetarian life, never mind the rest.

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I thought this might present a problem when going to dine out with her when she was in town recently. But I shouldn’t have worried. Ottawa’s restaurant scene is so diverse, in a few moments I had a multitude of options. From Korean, to Thai, Zen Kitchen and the Manx. All could offer up great fare.

In the end we decided to check out The Green Door Restaurant (198 Main Street). I had never been, though I had been to The Table which was started by some former employees of the Green Door and has a similar idea.

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All vegetarian food, set up like a buffet. Take what you like and pay by weight. A great way to grab some take out for home, or a great meal in. They have so many options, it is really easy to over do it – so the take home containers are a great option.

I had heard some talk that it was a little expensive for what you got, and though the style of the restaurant is skewed towards comfort rather than high end – I really think the quality of the food is worth it. In the end our meals averaged out to about $15 a person.

You may find this hard to imagine… but I can be a bit picky.

I’ll let that sink in a bit.

Not in the pretentious, I only drink free range water, kind of way. But I’m still a child deep down. I don’t like raw onions. Even red ones. Yes… I know they are sweeter. Ick. I have never really liked peppers of any colour. I’ll choke it down… but you aren’t winning me over.

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Everything I tried from the veg lasagna, to the beet salad; marinated mushrooms to homemade rye bread was really tasty. There might even have been some of those sneaky onions or peppers in there… even so, I’d gladly chow down there again.

And with helpful signs on each dish letting you know what allergens are or are not in the dish, it’s a place everyone (even the picky) can enjoy.

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It has been a long time since I have been a devoted subscriber to a magazine. Sure I buy them every now and then, but to trust that each month’s articles are going to be worthwhile… not since I was 10 with my National Geographic for Kids. Which, by the way, I’m still kind of bummed that I tossed out. Especially the month about optical illusions.

But in July I picked up a copy of Food and Wine in a doctor’s office. When I found myself wondering if anyone would miss it if it fell into my bad, I decided a subscription was in order.

It was great! And it actually inspired me to make these little babies. Apparently the future of steaks, is vegetable steaks. According to chef Joshua Lawler from The Farm and Fisherman in Phili, “Steak is boring, vegetable steak isn’t”.

It had never actually entered into my head to slice a thick piece of cauliflower, marinade and grill it like a steak. Not once. But I knew after reading about it that I had to try it.

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Also, I had for some reason thought I was going to eat a head of cauliflower all by myself and was quickly reminded how much that actually is to a person on their own.

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks
Makes one steak

1/4 cup olive oil
2 TBSP red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp finely chopped capers
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1 inch slice of Cauliflower, as if you were cutting a piece of bread from a round loaf

Season the cauliflower with salt and pepper as you would a piece of meat.

Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over cauliflower steak. Allow to marinade for at least an hour.

Grill on medium heat, 5 minutes aside until desired consistency. Enjoy!

Back in the day, I used to buy grass fed beef by the 1/2 cow. One night we had a dinner party with some of the prime rib that was in the freezer. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough, so I ran over to Loblaws and got more.

The difference between the two was worlds apart! Though the two cuts were cooked together for the same amount of time, grass fed beef cooks a bit quicker and was a medium while the Loblaws variety (a grain fed beef) was rare. But the grass fed beef was light years better.

More flavour, more tender and just all around fantastic. I’m sure the Loblaws one was fine, but when you compared the two it was night and day. I was actually so embarrassed of the Loblaws meat that I tried to re-trace my steps and figure out who had eaten it so I could apologize. (Which was silly because if you didn’t have the two I’m sure you didn’t even notice the vast, vast difference.)

And of course it made a difference – how could what you eat for your entire life not make a difference?

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The finished product of my great pork experiment!

But what else effects your meat? Barbara Schaefer from Upper Canada Heritage Meat invited me to see the difference that breed can make with pork. She raises a breed of large black pig that is technically endangered. With over 300 on her farm, she is attempting to keep the breed alive through consumer demand as they run and play on her farm. Her pork is pasture raised… so they forage, roam free and more than survive, they have an actual life.

Why are they endangered? They might not grow as large, they might take longer to become full grown – all things that play into the bottom line of a factory farm. But traditional farmers know that breed variety can make all the difference in a tasty product!

In North America 1/3 of all livestock breeds are considered rare or in decline… this is up to 1/2 in Europe. Luckily each dollar you spend on groceries is a vote in how you want your food produced.

For my taste test dinner I once again tried to compare apples to apples. Frozen then thawed pork. Cooked with a mushroom white wine sauce in the same pan.

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Normal everyday chops on the left – the kind that had me thinking pork sucked. Amazing Upper Canada Heritage Meat on the right… the colour alone could win this battle of the chops.

Besides being more tender and juicer, the heritage pork had a more wonderful flavour over all. It may sound like common sense that a product raised better just tastes better… but I think you will be pleasantly surprised how MUCH of an improvement it really is.

Meat like this is why I decided to eat less meat over all so that I could have quality when I do enjoy it.

If you would like to try your own chop experiment you can find Upper Canada Heritage Meat at 3 farmers markets across the city! Fridays at Sparks Street, Saturdays at Westboro at Byron and Golden and Sundays at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market at Brewers park.

Angry Dragonz?? Is that anything like Angry Birds you might ask.

No. It’s not. What a dumb question… me.

Angry Dragonz is a food truck on Gloucester and Lyon serving up some of the best Asian fusion food in the downtown core period. Not best for a food truck. Best. Period.

My friend Shirley, who has become a fixture at this truck, took me for a visit. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but was happy to find many veggie and vegan friendly options.

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I went with a veggie, tofu pad thai, egg roll and drink. For $10 – it was a hell of a deal. Especially since I got 2 meals out of the wicked awesome thai noodle dish.

To say I was delighted, impressed and all around in love with the dish is a bit of an understatement. I dare say it is some of the best pad thai I have ever had. Including all the stuff I ate in Thailand. Was it authentic. No. It was fusion. But I think that’s why I liked it more. The tofu was so well done, crispy and flavourful, I was actually seeking it out in my dish. Never, have I ever, thought tofu was the star of anything before now.

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And don’t skip the egg roll. For an extra dollar you will be thrilled with its yumminess. Though it does have meat for all of my strict veggie friends.

This is a truck worth seeking out…. and with their brand new, and I’m sure MUCH quieter, generator – you will not regret it. And if you fall as deeply in love with them as Shirley and I have, I accept egg rolls as thank you gifts.

And just look at all the other dishes I still get to try and fall in love with… life is good.

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I feel awful. The truth is that I’ve been feeling pretty run down for the past few months. Not just run down, run over…. by a truck… a garbage truck… who after running me down dropped a leaky smelly bag on my mangled body. So yeah, it has been rough.

The one bright side is that feeling horrid, is a great excuse to spoil yourself. I’m not talking big ticket items, just those little treats that you give yourself because you deserve it! I still remember the day I decided that it was worth the splurge for really great toilet paper. It’s the little things, you know?

Like name brand juice. It just tastes different! No one makes grape juice like Welch’s. Though I’m pretty sure the word juice needs to be put in quotation marks. I’m sure it is mostly juice from fruit – but also some colour and sugar. A whole lot of sugar. Doesn’t matter – that purple stuff is awesome.

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And Pascale’s Ice Cream. Local, all natural and the most amazing ice cream ever. My latest conquest was a tub of the Beau’s Beer Milk Chocolate…. you don’t know awesome until you have had this ice cream.

So the question becomes – what should I spoil myself with today? The expensive back pain gel that doesn’t make you smell like an old lady AND works for almost 20 minutes?? Tempting. Or perhaps some really nice tea from a shop in the market. Or something decadent, that you know is horrible for you and the only reason you are eating it is because it makes you happy.

I think I will choose secret option #4 – a combination of all of the above.

What do you spoil yourself with?

 

 

 

It might be just another passing fad, but I like food trucks. I like the idea that no matter what part of the city I’m in, if there isn’t a great place to eat near by – one might be on its way to me! I also love the idea of wacky themes that might not make it as a restaurant, but totally work for a truck or stand.

Recently the city of Ottawa has approved the paper work for 18 new food trucks. From Texas Street food to Asian-fusion, the streets just got tastier.

Stone Soup

Now you can find Stone Soup Foodworks on the streets AND at the University of Ottawa

Personally, I could never run a food truck. That doesn’t stop me from having some pretty kick ass ideas for them. So please, anyone who is willing to do these idea’s justice – take them. Make my vision come to life. I only ask that you send me an email telling me where I might find this food truck, so that I can become a regular. And maybe lunch is on you. Seems pretty reasonable I think.

Idea #1 – Stuff-ins

What would make a banana muffin even better? A peanut butter centre. What about blueberry muffins filled with jam? Or a chocolate chip muffin stuffed with chocolate hazelnut spread? And I *need* a carrot muffin filled with coconut cream cheese icing.

That’s right. This whole truck would be nothing but muffins stuffed with yummy centres. And coffee and tea.

I’m picturing a black and purple S&M themed truck. Black lights, leather whips – the whole shebang. But that’s up for debate.

 

Idea #2 – Dumplings

I see this as a Japanese Anime themed truck. No idea why.But I think this needs to be linked to Sailor Moon.

The idea here is pretty self explanatory – Dumplings. Nothing but dumplings in all their various forms, from perogies to gyoza.  Basically an entire menu, desserts and all, of small packages of seasoned dough that are boiled, fried, baked or steamed filled with goodness. There is a lot of room for fun here.

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Makes me want dumplings. Can’t explain it.

Idea #3 – To Be Named

This is my least developed, and newest food truck idea. I’m afraid I don’t have a theme for the truck visually… but I’d like to see some kind of sombrero in the artwork.

This one is all about Nachos. I hate the way Ottawa does nachos. These would be layered, with cheese and ingredients on multiple levels. No more of this tasty toppings hiding 30lbs of dry corn chips.

And there would be all different kinds of Nachos. Think of it as ‘The Works’ or ‘Wild Wing’ for nachos. Just think of all the fun you could have naming these creations! One small request, if you name one after me – no onions and lots of avocado please.

 

So there you have it. 3 amazing food truck ideas that I’d like to see in our city, but am decidedly too lazy to see through to fruition. Here is hoping you are more ambitious than I am and I can have a stuffed carrot muffin, Thai golden pouches and some super nachos in the near future.

 

As a person in North America who has access to the internet, I’m sure you were aware that the Oscars were on last night. I don’t usually watch award shows, but I had actually seen a good chunk of the movies nominated last night so I thought that might make a difference in how much I enjoyed it. (As a side note, it didn’t help – still so boring).

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Seth McFarland isn’t funny unless he is R-rated.

In the hour and a half before I finally gave up and went to wander the ice cream aisle of Loblaws, I did notice that 98.7% of all advertisements were for something to make you look younger, thinner, taller, bigger, smaller, brighter and of course all around better.

A friend once told me I suffer from “women disease” – aka no matter what, I can always find something to hate about myself. We all do it – and it’s so silly. But I realized there were lots of times when I feel just the opposite. In fact, there are things I do just because I like the way it makes me look.

So as I tried to decide between Peanut Butter Chocolate and Mint Chocolate ice cream, I started thinking of all the things I do just because they make me feel pretty. Here were five.

1. I have *lots* of candles. Everyone knows a girl’s best light is candle, moon and tv/computer screen glow.

2. Lipstick – there is something so bold about dark lipstick. That’s right… I’m a real wild child. It also has the added bonus of clearly identifying my wine glass in a sea of similar glasses.

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3. Scarves are such a beautiful accent piece to any outfit AND they keep you warm. But better than that, they hide most any stain that may have found its way onto the front of your shirt while you were eating.

4. Skirts are amazing. They show off the part of my leg I like and hide the part that causes most of my pant to commit suicide at the thighs. Also, depending on the skirt you choose, it can be as comfy as wearing track pants. So handy when the dessert menu is just too tempting.

5. Bubble baths are so relaxing and luxurious. Especially when they smell like chocolate.

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What makes you feel pretty? Guys – you answer too.

 

 

I Say Random Things On Twitter…

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Awash in hickory smoke... This Kansas City BBQ blend is in this month's subscription! Can't wait to hear what you think. 
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Past Foodie Adventures…