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Monday, March 19, 2018

What I Learned At The Food And Drink Summit

In December I attended the Conference Board of Canada’s Food and Drink summit in Calgary Alberta.  The conference Board of Canada is an evidence-based, independent source of advanced food and beverage performance monitoring and reporting.  “It aims to raise awareness of the nature and importance of the food and beverage sectors in Canada’s economy and society.”

Over two days I listened to many interesting talks from a variety of professionals on topics ranging from beef, consumers’ purchasing power, importing and exporting food, food safety, food policy and even craft beer.  

Here are six interesting facts to share with you from the conference

1.  The consumer is shaking up the food chain.  They are developing a distrust of the food system. Trust is composed of three components:  competency, transparency and commitment.  

To gain their trust the consumer is demanding to know how and where their food is grown and produced. They want to know if the food they’re eating is nutritious and that the farming practices are right for both the animals and the employees. 

2.  Consumers buy products based on emotions and not on science.  They purchase food that aligns with who they are. They are moving away from dieting and want real food.  This means natural and clean food.  They are eating more protein. 

3.  In Canada, 25% of all food that’s eaten is made outside of the home.  This is expected to grow to 30% in 2018.  In the United States, 50% of all food eaten is made outside of the home.

4.  When buying food, consumers base their priorities on the following in order:  quality, safety, nutritional value, price, environmental impact, locally produced, fair trade, free range, and lastly, organic.   

5.  In Canada, we have an oversupply of food. We have enough available food for everyone to consume 3,400 food calories a day. It’s recommended that women consume roughly 2,000 calories and men 2,600 calories. 

6.  It’s estimated that 55% of Canadians can’t read food labels because the math is confusing.  The food labels are in the process of being changed in both Canada and the USA.

Power of the consumer

I came away from the conference with confidence in the power of the consumer, that’s us!  What we buy at the grocery store does make a difference. If we stop buying ultra processed foods with suspect ingredients, it will affect the company’s bottom line and get their attention.  It sends a strong message to the food manufacturers that we do care about what’s in our food, and we want safe, nutritious food that is of course, tasty.  This is definitely something to chew on when you next go to the grocery store.   

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Matrimonial Bars

a yummy date bar that is super easy to make

Serves 10

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup melted butter

Date filling:  
3 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a bowl, combine rolled oats, flour, soda, 1 cup brown sugar, salt and butter.  Press half this crumb mixture into a greased 8-inch (2L) square baking dish.  

Date filling:  In a small saucepan over low heat, cook dates, sugar and water until thickened and smooth, about 10 minutes.  Add lemon juice, walnuts  and mix well.  Spread over crumb layer. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over filling and bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.  

Matrimonial Bar Recipe
Matrimonial Bars

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Let's Talk About Dates...the small, brown, oval-shaped dates that grow on palm trees

With Valentine’s Day nicely tucked away for another year I thought it would be a good time to talk about dates.  No, not the date who showered you with good food, chocolates and red wine on February 14th, but the small, brown, oval-shaped dates that grow on palm trees.

It was during the Christmas season.  Tired and hungry, I managed to drag myself into the local grocery store to buy MORE groceries to cook MORE meals for the family.  I walked into the produce department and spotted a big box of dates at a ridiculously low price.  Instantly, I was flooded with a past memory of a date I’d eaten…it was moist, slightly chewy but smooth and full of succulent sugar. It tasted better than candy and gave me a jolt of energy.

Now, I don’t often buy dates for snacks, but I do enjoy eating them. So, on impulse, I snatched up the container without checking the best before date or the quality and threw it into my cart. I'd hoped to rejuvenate my energy and sate my hunger enough to give me strength to cook for yet another day.  

Instead, I ended up with an abundance (it was a two pound box!) of past-their-prime, shrivelled and dried-out dates. Note to self, don’t buy a two pound box of Medjool dates on impulse, look at products before you buy them, and be leery of food that is priced super low.
Date facts

Dates are the fruit of a desert palm that originated over 5,000 years ago in Middle Eastern and African oases.  There are many different varieties that differ in size, shape, color, flavour and ripening schedule.  When purchasing dates to eat look for ones that are moist, squishy, slightly chewy, and have that smooth texture that keeps you coming back for more. When you bite into a luscious date you’re hit with an immediate energy rush because one dried date is 60-80% sugar… no wonder I wanted them! It’s a lot of sugar (but natural sugar) and is consequently packed with calories:  4 dates weigh 100 grams and have 280 calories. Eek!

I actually didn’t know this until I read the label on the box (a good reason to read your food labels).  Not only did I find out they were filled with sugar, I also learned to refrigerate dates for freshness and to rinse them before using.  Who knew?

So, what did I do with that two pound box of dried-out dates?  I wasn’t going to eat them like candy, so I started throwing dates into everything…my fruit smoothies in place of honey, in porridge, and salads. I even made a few matrimonial bars (see recipe), which brings me back to another fond memory of dates from another decade, but I won’t get into that now.
What I learned

Of course, there’s always something good that comes out of a bad food purchase right? I’m now really aware that dates are full of sugar and calories. I also know how to store the dried fruit and I’ve discovered many different ways to use them. From now on, I will carefully inspect the food I buy and I’m also suspicious of super low sales. Finally, never shop when you’re tired and hungry to avoid buying food on impulse.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Crusty Pepper Salmon

Adding fish and seafood into your meal plans can add excitement into your daily cooking routine. Here’s a simple crusty pepper salmon recipe the whole family will enjoy.

Crusty pepper salmon recipe

Crusty Pepper Salmon

Serve with brown rice and stir-fry veggies

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds salmon
1/2 cup bread crumbs (made with white or brown bread)
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 425° F.  In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, black pepper, paprika, salt and parsley.

Lay fish on top of a roasting pan.  Spread mayonnaise evenly on top.  Coat with breadcrumb mixture, lightly pressing breadcrumbs into mayonnaise.  Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes depending on thickness.  Remove when fish flakes. Serve.

Do you need help with menu planning? Creating weekly menu plans will reduce the stress of daily cooking.  We offer programs to teach you how....check out our online courses at courses.cookingreboot.com

Thursday, February 15, 2018

10 Healthy Eating Hacks To Keep You On Track

How are your healthy eating New Year’s resolutions going? Kudos to you if you’re still on track…here are 10 healthy eating hacks to keep you going.

1.  Portion out your potato chips into a small bowl before you start eating them and then hide the rest of the bag!

2.  Look for baking recipes that require less than 1 cup of butter.

3.  Spread jam, peanut butter or nut butter on your morning toast and skip the butter. Yep, you can do it.

4.  Try a good quality olive oil on your baked potatoes instead of butter and sour cream.  You’ll be surprised how good it tastes.

5.  Grab an apple instead of a cookie.  

6.  Eat less red meat and more veggies.  You won’t miss it…honest.

7.  Prepare vegetarian meals and get cozy with spices.

8.  Cook your own food….start by menu planning.

9.  When ordering soup or pasta, skip over any dishes that have the word ‘cream’ in them.

10.  Use lite coconut milk.  Just a 1/2 cup of regular coconut milk equals 90% of your daily fat consumption based on a 2000 calorie diet.  

Person Walking With Basket Of Fresh Food
Healthy Eating Tips to Keep You Going!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Are You Being Tricked Into Eating Sugar?

I love to carbo load.  I love to eat sugar and bread.  It’s not that I eat spoonfuls of the white granular stuff or loaves of artisan bread. But, I do like muffins, toast and sandwiches packed with carbohydrates. I developed my love affair over 20 years ago when I was told to give up fat to reduce my cholesterol.  Being a good patient, I started eating vegetarian meals, little  or no meat, low fat foods,  low fat dairy, and no butter….yes, you can bake without butter.  But I was hungry all the time and had low energy.  To combat my lethargy I started chowing down on bread and low fat products to keep up my stamina.

Fat Fills You Up

You see, fat fills you up and helps sustain your energy.  If you don’t eat fat you must get your energy from somewhere else, which for me, was ‘low fat’ processed foods.  These are filled with sugar and salt, ingredients often used to replace the fat in ‘fat-free’.  

I was told not to eat any fat, but no one told me not to eat carbohydrates.

What the sugar industry knew

The sugar industry apparently knew this.  The New York Times reported in September 2016  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html  that researchers were paid by the sugar industry and published a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease.  The review downplayed sugar and emphasized fat as being a large contributor to heart disease. This research guided dietary recommendations for over five decades. 

However, it’s now known that consuming too much sugar does cause obesity and weight gain which leads to heart disease and other chronic illnesses.  

Natural Sugar vs Added Sugars

Sugar is naturally found in food such as milk and fruit.  If you eat these you can’t avoid the sugar but at least you’re getting vitamins and minerals because it’s real food.  It’s also added into foods such as pop, fruit juice, sports drink, energy drinks, cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy etc.  These are referred to as added sugars and because there’s no nutrition they’re often called  ‘empty calories.’   

Choose the good stuff 

When you love the sweet stuff (like I do), it’s so easy to choose and eat it rather then the good stuff such as fruits and vegetables. It would be much better to eat one apple instead of a muffin, or a handful of nuts instead of three cookies because the fibre in the apple and nuts fills you up and satiates you longer.  I know, it’s hard to do…. but it is doable. 

I now eat fat. I have more energy and in fact, I’m healthier. I eat meat, not too much, just enough. And I enjoy eating foods with  ‘good fat’ such as nuts, olives, or avocados and the occasional baked goods made with butter and I avoid all ‘low fat’ processed foods.  I also cook more at home because I have control of what’s in my food and what I eat.

Learn to read food labels

I read all my food labels.  I suggest this to everyone because you’d be surprised where sugar is hiding.  For instance, this raspberry flavoured yogurt we buy all time is lower in fat (1.4% M.F.) but has 23 grams of sugar per serving size (3/4 cup)!  That’s almost 6 teaspoons of sugar.  It’s a lot of sugar to eat at once.  However, the plain yogurt (1.7% M.F.) has 10 grams of sugar, which is 2.5 teaspoons, and it’s all natural sugar.  I’m better off buying the plain yogurt and throwing in a cup of real raspberries. This option is filled with vitamins, minerals and fibre and has only 5.4 grams of natural sugar, which is just over 1 teaspoon. 

Sugar content in Yogurt

Bottom line

As mentioned at the beginning, if you eat too much sugar (natural or added) you’re liable to gain weight, which can lead to negative consequences later in life.  So, my suggestion is to eat real food and enjoy the natural sugar but limit the ‘added’ sugar in pop, fruit juices, and processed goodies.  Read your food labels so you don’t get tricked into buying food that’s not as healthy as it looks. Eat a well balanced diet and drink lots of water.  It’s doable and tasty and more importantly, you will not be hungry.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kale, Squash and Bean Soup

Kale, Squash, and Bean Soup
Kale, Squash and Bean Soup

Looking for a comforting soup to prepare that is colourful and full of veggies?  Here is an easy one to try.

Kale, Squash and Bean Soup

A tasty colourful soup recipe filled with loads of great veggies
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 stick celery, tops removed
2 medium carrots, cut into medium sized dice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2inch cubes
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
1 28 fl oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped kale, stems removed
1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed

In a large soup pan heat oil over medium high heat.  Add onions and saute for 7 minutes until soft.  Add carrots, celery, garlic, squash, cayenne, thyme, tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add kale and chickpeas and cook until squash and carrots are cooked about 10 more minutes.  Discard bay leaves and serve.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Avocado Food Facts

Avocado half

Avocado Food Fact

Here are some fun food facts about the avocado you may never have known:

  • The avocado is a fruit that's full of fat.
  • 1 cup pureed avocado is 384 calories, most of it is from fat.
  • Two of the more common types of avocados are the black hass and the thin-skinned green fuerte.
  • When ripe, an avocado should be firm but yield to a soft touch.
  • Store an avocado at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate for 2-3 days.
  • An avocado will oxidize and turn black when cut. To avoid this, sprinkle lime or lemon juice over avocado slices.

Avocado's are the main ingredient in guacamole, check out our recipe here.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

How Do Cranberries Grow?

Picture of fresh ruby red cranberries
Scarlet colour cranberries have a tangy flavour

How Do Cranberries Grow?

The scarlet colour of cranberries and their tangy flavour add a colourful lustre to winter recipes.  Cranberries grow on vines in marshes or bogs.  In spring they bloom with pink flowers, in summer the flowers give way to green buds which become ripe cranberries in September.  Most cranberries are harvested by flooding fields.  "Egg beater" type machines loosen the berries from the vines, which float to the top, they are then skimmed off the top.  

Cranberries will last for 2 weeks in the refrigerator and are easy to freeze.

Looking for recipes for fresh or frozen cranberries?  Try these two easy recipes:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Fried Rice With Tofu

Fried Rice With Tofu
Fried Rice with Tofu, easy and fast!

Fast & Simple Fried Rice With Tofu 

A fast and simple weeknight dinner that everyone will love.
Serves 4

1 tablespoon canola oil plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, separated
3 eggs beaten
3 green onions thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 carrots finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, diced small
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced small
½ cup frozen peas
1 package firm tofu, cut into small cubes (or cooked chicken)
4 cups cooked white rice
½ cup soy sauce

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a wok over medium-high heat.  Add eggs and scramble until cooked, but not too dry.  Remove eggs and clean out pan.  Heat 1tablespoon oil in the wok over high heat.  Add onions and sauté with garlic, ginger, carrots, celery jalapeno pepper and red bell pepper.  Sauté until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.  Add peas and tofu and sauté another 3 minutes.  Add rice, soy sauce and eggs.  Mix until combined and rice is hot.