Saturday, May 19, 2012

Food Revolution Day!

Jamie Oliver has become a strong voice in the fight for real, healthy food on every table in every home and school.  He's challenged governments to rethink what they serve their kids in schools.  He's challenged people to think about what they eat in their own homes.  Today he has declared it Food Revolution Day.  Today is a day to think about what we eat, where is comes from and what food choices we are making daily.  It's time to celebrate local food.  Time to celebrate the simple act of cooking (and it can be very, very simple!).  Time to celebrate one of the single most important things we do every single day - EAT!  It's the fuel that keeps our minds and bodies going.  And if we continue to gunk up the works with crap then well..... we won't be functioning to our optimal level.  Never mind the long term implications... 

So today instead of grabbing that frozen snack or meal, or something from the fast food joint around the corner, make an omelet, toss a salad, boil a little whole wheat pasta and mix in some of your favorite in season veggies.  If it's not too late head over to your local farmers market.  I spent $21 CAN this morning at my local farmers market.  $6.25 of that went to some plants, lettuce, swiss chard and eggplant to go in my garden for veggies later on.  The remaining $14.75 was spent on some lovely leaf lettuce, spinach, eggs, turnip (which make great turnip fries on the BBQ), a garlic onion loaf that I use for croutons in salads and some whole wheat hamburger buns for our holiday Monday pork burgers.

At the very least, take a little time today and think about where your food is coming from.  Do you know?  And what about your favorite restaurant?  Do they support local farmers which is not just good for your local economy but also for the environment as the less shipping produce and food product has to travel the less fuel is used, less pollution, etc.?  Does your favorite chef use as little processed food as possible?  Is he or her making things from scratch?  Investigate a new ingredient that you haven't eaten or don't eat often and don't really know how to cook.  We are always hearing about new things that are good for us... know what quinoa is?  or how to cook it?  (hint it's easy, cheap because a little goes a long way, and super healthy!)

Most of all today celebrate good, real food.  Really want to celebrate?  Try a local beer or wine to go with it.  After all it is a holiday around these parts and the kick off of summer so - Cheers!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan on Spinach Polenta with Homemade Tomato Sauce

Once again there are no pictures as the meal was so good it was devoured before I could get any...  There are a few steps to this recipe but it's worth the effort, fancy enough for company and deadly cheap!  I've made homemade tomato sauce before, check here but I'll share what I did today.  I wanted something light.  Mostly I was trying to use up the fresh basil I bought last week before it wilted.  Geez I love fresh basil!

Eggplant Parmesan on Spinach Polenta with Homemade Tomato Sauce.
Serves 6

Tomato Sauce
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 dried red chilies, crushed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounce/ 796 ml can of diced, no salt added tomatoes (check the italian brands, they usually don't have any salt added)
  • 3 tbsp/45 ml tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml sugar
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • pinch of salt as needed
Eggplant Parmesan
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • pinch of salt if needed
Tomato Sauce
  1. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat.
  2. Saute the red chilies and onion until tender
  3. Add in the garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and red wine vinegar
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes
  5. Toss in the fresh oregano and basil.  Salt as needed
Eggplant Parmesan
  1. Slice the eggplant and sprinkle with lots of salt.  Let sit on paper towels for 20 minutes, wipe and turn.  Let sit another 20 minutes.  Pat dry.  This is an important step - do not skip it!
  2. Heat the oven to 350F and place a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray in the oven
  3. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat sprayed with cooking oil
  4. In one plate place the flour, in another plate beat the egg, in another plate toss the bread crumbs with the parmesan.  Dip each slice of eggplant in flour, then egg then bread crumbs.
  5. Brown each eggplant slice on each side in the frying pan and place in the oven on the baking sheet.
  6. Cook the eggplant for 10 minutes and then top with the mozza, bake until the mozza is melted
  1. Heat the water in a pot over high heat. 
  2. When it starts to simmer slowly add in the cornmeal while whisking quickly and continuously.
  3. Continue whisking until the polenta thickens.  About 5 minutes
  4. Whisk in the spinach and then the parmesan.  Toss in the butter and stir until blended.
  5. Taste and salt if needed.
Scoop 1/2 cup of polenta on each plate
Top with a slice or 2 of eggplant
Spoon tomato sauce on top.  Sprinkle with a little more parmesan if you wish.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Migraine, Allergies and Food Triggers

I want to talk about migraines, allergies and processed foods.  There is a connection.  Now just to be clear - not for everyone, not everyone fits into nice cookie cutter definitions when it comes to the human body.  It`s a complex entity that often defies current theories.  However there have been some triggers identified that may be the cause of migraines in some people.  Processed foods and allergies are 2 of them.  Or as my doctor pointed out... could be a combination of the two...  I like my doctor, she doesn't stick to a black and white view of modern medicine.  Yesterday I went to see her to get some meds to fight the migraines.  I haven't had a migraine in at least 6 years.  And it's so frustrating to have them come back.
I'm not just having migraines with their tell tale auras, light and sound sensitivity, I'm also having some amazing throbbing in my sinuses.  Ever feel like your eyeballs were on fire?!  Holy mackerel, it's brutal.  And then last night I had some nice hives develop on my eyelids.  Oh when it rains it pours, doesn't it?  The thing about hives around my eyes is that it takes 12-24 hours for the swelling to really go down and my eyes feel foggy until it does.  If it weren't for the fact that the dogs keep making me laugh and NJ beat Philly last night (NHL) I'd be one cranky camper.  But I digress.

So what started all this crap?  I was fine.  I fight with my allergies year round and take 2 different pills and a nasal spray daily to keep them under control.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly has heard me rant and rave more than once about eating food that has followed the shortest distance between Mother Nature's hand and your mouth.  (In other words - with as little human intervention or 'processing' as possible)  These days we're hearing more and more about the evils of processed foods.  So there can't possible be any of that evil foodstuff in my house, right?!  Hey I can get sucked in just like everyone else as I make my rounds at the grocery store - lean, low fat, low cal - sounds great!

First thing my doctor asked me when I went for my appointment was if I had identified any triggers.  She emphasized that identifying the triggers would be the most beneficial in fighting migraines but she also acknowledged that it might not be easy.  The fact I hadn't had any is so long was a pretty good indication that my triggers were something I recently bought and brought into the house.  I had already thought of this.  The only things I've had different in the house are beer (for the playoffs!) and processed meat, some turkey bacon (bacon is bad enough but what kind of processing do you think it takes to make turkey into 'bacon'?!?!) and some deli meat.  Even though the deli meat was nice and lean...  Still it's 'processed'.

I've also been wondering about the chemicals on the apples I've been enjoying lately.  Just because it's fruit doesn't mean its innocent.  Apples are one of the worse fruits for chemical pesticide residue.  Lately I've been enjoying some really nice ones from the market.  But could those chemicals be causing my migraines?  It stands to reason that they could be.  I'll eliminate them too just to be sure. 

Last night I had 2 beers and today I'm fine so I'm going to cross beer of the possible trigger list (amen!).  Tomorrow maybe I'll try an apple...  Then we'll try to turkey bacon or deli meat....  If you really like deli meat for lunches try roasting up some extra turkey breast, chicken breast, roast beef or even pork on the weekend and thinly slicing it for sandwiches during the week.  You can season it any way you can!  One of these days I'm going to get a smoker and make my own bacon and ham...  Ah a girl can dream...

ps. my blood pressure was 114/74 or to quote my doctor "perfect"!  It's worth bragging about.

UPDATE:  I've tried all the possible triggers I could think of but have yet to have another migraine.  While that is good news it is a little frustrating not to know what caused them.  I guess the doctor was correct when she suggested it could be a combination of a couple of things.  However in the future if I have another migraine I will make notes of the things I have eaten and done before hand and I will note the time of year, weather conditions, etc.  I've heard of thunderstorms and drastic weather fluctuations causing problems for some people.  Of course now that I have medication and am prepared it's unlikely I'll have another migraine.  It's just Murphy's Law!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A variation on Mu Shu Pork

I just finished a lovely meal of Mu Shu Pork.  Geez I love a little Mu Shu.  There are no pics cause it's all gone!  In this version I used portabello mushrooms instead of shitake, Tatsoi instead of chinese cabbage and tossed a bit of chopped cilantro on the mixture at the end (cause I had some fresh on hand and I luv cilantro).  I could only get portabello mushrooms at the market this week and I picked up some Tatsoi cause I was feeling frisky.  I had no idea what it'd be like but it looked like a cross between bok choy and spinach.  It's actually quite tasty, mild.  My point here is, and I do have one... you can make some adjustments to this recipe depending on what is accessible to you.  And don't forget to serve with some Hoisin sauce on the side.  I could seriously swim in that stuff.... mmmmm.

Here's my original Mu Shu recipe.  Enjoy!