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Food Matters

Hello friends!! Hope everyone had a great start to the week! Mine has been pretty darn good. A full day of great training clients, then seeing one of my favourite chefs/authors in person!!

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Mark Bittman, first and foremost, is the author of several of my favourite Runner’s World columns. He’s also the man behind The Minimalist. Always my favourite food column in the New York Times.

Ohyeah, and he’s got a bunch of those things… books?? :P

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Tonight, he spoke mostly about the content in his Food Matters book to promote the new Food Matters Cookbook. It’s all about eating consciously. I’m actually more familiar with How To Cook Everything, which is one of his awesomely simple and easy to follow cookbooks.

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I went in armed with not only my camera and foodie excitement, but also my trusty notebook. I’m an old journalist after all, I can’t help but take notes! Here are some of my favourite points from the Q&A:

  • Americans spend only 7% of their income on food. A very low percentage representing how many are living off cheap processed food.
  • “Pay the farmer, not the hospital.”
  • Ideally, our diets would consist of 90% plants with 10% coming from everything else (meat, processed food, and “junk”). An alarming number of people take in the reverse percentages. Bittman says we don’t have to be perfect – we just need to “seesaw” to get those numbers closer together. i.e. More plants, less of everything else.
  • Bittman thinks veganism is the highest form of conscious eating, but admitted  he personally will never get there. Instead he does a vegan diet until 6pm every day, then might have animal products with dinner. He said it doesn’t matter if you are a vegan, so long as you take steps in that direction.
  • Drew several comparisons between cigarettes and processed foods. Mentioned that only a few people quit smoking when the surgeon general’s warning against it came out in 1964. It took mass coercion and enforcement to see a big change in the number of people smoking. He used this to demonstrate that warning about the health risks of processed foods may not be enough. Also pointed out that much like cigarettes are linked to cancer, some foods are linked to diabetes.
  • “Cooking is not a spectator sport.” Bittman is not a huge fan of the Food Network, saying, “People are too busy watching other people cook on television.” Touché.

Overall it was a fun Q&A! I raised my hand to ask him about how running changed his perception of food, but my hand was never picked. I will say he’s exactly how I pictured him. Brutally honest, funny, self-deprecating and personable all in one.

 

Now how about I start showing you some food!

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I’ve had a few stellar food combinations recently. Beginning with this bowl of spicy oats.

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1/2 cup rolled oats cooked with water, a pinch of salt, bacon, and a scoop of cream cheese. Topped with two soft-fried eggs and Frank’s hot sauce.

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The cream cheese made the oats just that – creamy and cheesy! Runny yolks on hot oats is something you must try if you’re in to that sort of thing. It’s dreamy!

I’ve also been mixing cream cheese into salsa.

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Makes it something a little reminiscent of that neon-orange Tostitos con queso dip and awesome with carrots!

I paired this combo with a ham + swiss sandwich. Except I added a little kick with fresh herbs.

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In this case, a oregano under the melted cheese. I remember Leah posting about keeping fresh herbs on hand so I’ve been giving it a go. Wow! They make everything taste a million times better!

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Just like that, with a little cream cheese and oregano, my dinner turned from blah to extraordinary :)

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Dessert lately hasn’t been too classy.

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Some days I crave the fancy dark 80-whatever chocolate. Other days I just want some old-school Jersey Milk.

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Hits the spot. Reminds me of childhood when I only ate milk chocolate.

 

Another childhood favourite is sloppy joes paired with corn. I don’t know why my mother always made this particular combo, but now every time I eat sloppy joes, corn needs to be had. I polished off the lentil-based Snobby Joes the way they were meant to be eaten… on a bun. 

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Much better warm on a bun as opposed to cold on a pita like I’d been eating it.

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With the corn and green beans! Perfection.

There happens to be a fruit and vegetable stand a block away from the running store I work at. Their baskets are brimming with local Ontario apples and I can’t help but snatch some up every time I pass!

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Including this GINORMOUS honeycrisp. I put it in front of this crappy DVD for size comparison, but I realize you’re not getting the width of it here, which was very respectable indeed.

I ate it all.

Last, but not least, I’ve been snacking on Scottish treats!

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And by “snack” I mean I came home tonight and completely demolished the rest of the traditional Scottish oatcakes. Left side topped with PB + fluff, right side with almond butter + chocolate chips. Too bad I don’t have any jam in the house – it would be perfect! Guess I’ll just have to make more ;)

 

**If you’ve got a few seconds**
 pleasepleaseplease click here to vote for my Taste of Scotland post for the Project Food Blog contest!

And thank you if you already have! I just worked out a really fun concept for the third dinner party challenge and I really want to share it!

 

Question of the Day: What famous chef would you like to meet? Obviously my pick here is Alton Brown. I <3 that man!

Project Food Blog Round 2: Finding My Roots – A Taste of Scotland

I suppose you could say I am a true Canadian through and through. My ancestry is a bit of a mixed bag. My last name German, my grandmothers are French and British. I hear there is a Norwegian in there, and according to family gossip, the possibility of an affair with an aboriginal.

However, there is one background that I familiarize myself with more than any other – Scottish.

My now deceased Papa was 100% Scottish despite his upbringing in Montreal. He was fluent in French until the day he died. But get enough rye in him and he could eerily mimic the Scottish tongue spoken by his own father.

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My Papa carried his Scottish traditions into his own family. I’ll never forget when my mother explained to me as a child that instead of French toast on Sundays, she ate blood pudding. I was horrified.

Of course, some of my mother’s traditions have trickled down into our family. Holiday meals are always paired with party crackers and paper crowns. We all drink Earl Grey and my mother insists we watch the Queen’s Message every Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, not one goes by without a mincemeat pie. My sisters and I even did highland dancing as children, complete with kilts, vests, and leather shoes.

I mean, just look at us. Our frizzy hair and pale complexions just scream “Scottish.”

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When reading over the criteria for the second challenge of Project Food Blog I knew it was time to channel that inner Scot of mine. I can whip up a Lebanese meal no prob, but the food of “my people” has never quite tickled my culinary fancy.

Challenge Prompt: Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with… Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal…

Of course, what are Scots known for best? Haggis! I’ve never tried haggis before and was only further intrigued when my mother told me of my great-great-Nana Susan MacLeod (who I am named after) making haggis on the Isle of Skye.

Creates a lovely scene, no?

I thought so until I actually looked up the ingredients to haggis:

1 sheep’s lung (illegal in the U.S.; may be omitted if not available)

1 sheep’s stomach

1 sheep heart

1 sheep liver

1/2 lb fresh suet (kidney leaf fat is preferred)

I tried in vain to find a “healthier” version. I found a few using turkey hearts and necks. An off-base vegan version using lentils. But the more I looked the more grossed out I got by the whole thing. I mean, Scottish cooking isn’t necessarily known for being healthy or delicious. But I was convinced that I could make something without grossing myself, and my readers, out!

I skimmed through traditional Scottish recipes, determined to find something better than haggis, but could still challenge my vegetarian roots. I am still something of a “newbie” to all this meat-y cooking after all.

I ended up finding not one, but two dishes that got me licking my lips and excited to get in the kitchen!

First up: Scotch Eggs.

Boiled eggs wrapped in sausage. Protein + fat doesn’t get much better than this my friends.

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Both of these recipes come from the same website, featuring dozens of traditional Scottish recipes. The way they were made hundreds of years ago. The recipe for scotch eggs can be found here.

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I began by boiling five eggs, peeling, and dusting them in flour.

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The flour is so the sausage sticks. I learned this immediately because I almost accidentally skipped this step!

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I cheated a little bit on the sausage. You see, I live close to an amazing local butcher that carries a wide variety of organic sausage meats. In the name of finding a healthy balance,  I asked for a pound of chicken sausage meat that he ground up for me on the spot.

The recipe calls for light seasoning, but the sausage meat was already seasoned. So I just started wrappin’!

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Once wrapped, it’s time to bread them to hold them together. Just dip in an egg wash and coat in breadcrumbs.

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My breadcrumbs were bought at a supermarket. Something I guess my great-great-Nana didn’t have.

Scotch eggs are typically deep-fried but that did not sound appealing to me. Instead, I just poured a whack of canola oil in a pan and turned them a few times.

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They still got sufficiently greasy and crispy.

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I patted them dry upon removal from the pan.

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Then… the moment of truth. Time to slice one of these babies open!

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A perfectly boiled egg wrapped in perfectly cooked and seasoned sausage. A Scottish culinary success!!

But wait. There is something Scots love even more than ground animal parts.

Oatmeal.

And what better way to make that than in a…

Traditional Scottish Oatcake.

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This recipe can be found here and also goes by the name “bannocks.” I was drawn to the small ingredient list and simple method of preparation, however I learned there are several methods of making a “traditional oatcake.”

I started with some rolled oats, a pinch of salt and two pinches of baking soda. Yes, “pinch” is the proper measurement here.

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The recipe calls for bacon fat, however I don’t casually keep that stuff on hand. Instead I subbed in 2 tsp melted butter. Mixed with several tablespoons of boiling water to get a sticky mix. Rolled into more dry oats and divided into four sections.

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I picture Susan MacLeod making these in a cast-iron skillet over a hot wood stove.

I have a non-stick pan on an electric oven.

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Cooked until just browned. These were incredibly easy to make.

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Suddenly, I’m left with the perfect Sunday Scottish breakfast.

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Sure, it’s no blood pudding or haggis. That may be something best left to the experts in the Isle of Skye. Now if only I could count all those rye + waters as “finding my roots” as well.

** Voting for this challenge opens Monday, September 27. You’ll be able to vote for this post by clicking here and don’t forget to check out the other entries here!**

New ‘Do + New-To-Me Recipes

Peek-a-boo!

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I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!! Mine has been pretty low-key. Exactly what I needed after a couple hectic weeks.

Instead of hitting the streets of Toronto Friday night, I opted to lay in bed and read in my flannels. I’m currently hooked on this:

Between reading blogs and fitness/nutrition literature, I’ve reintroduced myself to adult fiction (there were a few years of only young adult fiction :P ). I’ve gone through about six books since June. At this rate, I’ll blow through The Lovely Bones in just a couple more days. Highly recommended!

The plan was to go for a run as soon as I woke up Saturday morning. But my body did that “awww hell nah” thing. So I opted to wake up slowly with a big ole’ bowl of oats.

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Mmmm… It’s not often I have hot oatmeal anymore!

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Topped with Lori’s pear cranberry jam + peanut butter. I let it digest for a couple hours and then hit the road running. I still wasn’t feeling very motivated, but seeing as I was out of coffee, I told myself I could stop for some on my way home.

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Having a Starbucks at the end of my running route could be dangerous! I’m trying to get into the habit of running on the weekends. Saturday I covered 4.5 miles in 45 minutes (I’m a solid 10-min pacer no matter what) along the lakefront trail. Unfortunately I was troubled with all kinds of pains. Knee pain during the run, hip pain lasting all day after the run. I need new running shoes!!! But I’m holding out until I get my new employee discount at the running store ;)

I came home and put a bag of frozen corn on my hip, then incorporated it into lunch.

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Corn & Cheddar Omelette. Mixed up a couple whole eggs with egg whites, milk and corn kernels. Then added old cheddar and Frank’s hot sauce for the filling. Awesome combo!

Saturday’s main event was a brand new haircut!!

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I feel so narcissistic for posting this :P I’d been tweeting about it though so I wanted to show the results! Nothing major in terms of length or style. But my last haircut cost me $12 and was so bad I didn’t like wearing my hair down. This new one was done by a legit big-city stylist thanks to my big sis <3 He kept calling my bangs a “fringe” and even showed me how to style it wavy without blow-drying. Most hairdressers insist I wear it straight!

On the way home I passed this scene:

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I try to act all blasé about seeing TV and movie sets in Toronto. I mean, I probably come across one once every few weeks now. But the curious person in me absolutely loves it. It looked like they were filming a winter scene. Some dude was shovelling snow on the street and all extras were in winter coats. Of course, the Toronto International Film Festival has also been going on!

Seeing as Sunday promised to be a busy day, I opted to do my weekly food preparations Saturday night. First up: Janetha’s Spinach Turkey Muffins.

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  • 20 oz lean ground turkey breast
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 package knorr vegetable soup mix
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • cumin, thyme, salt & pepper to taste (eyeballed it all)

Mix it all up and scoop into a muffin pan. I used a pound of turkey and adjusted the measurements a little. Also, I omitted the flax and added a pinch of dried garlic flakes.

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Baked at 350F for 45 minutes. They came out perfectly!

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Not pictured is all the ketchup that accompanied these babies. Ketchup is a must. 

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The veggie soup mix really gave these meat muffins a little extra sumthin’. Thanks for the awesome recipe JG!

Next up is Irish Brown Soda Bread. I found this recipe through Madeline who loves quick breads as much as I do ;)
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From My Recipes

Yield: 1 loaf (about 1 3/4 lb.)

Ingredients

  • 1  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 2  tablespoons  sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  cold butter or margarine
  • 2  cups  whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4  cup  regular or quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 1/2  cups  plain nonfat yogurt
  • Milk

Preparation

1. In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in whole-wheat flour and oats.

2. Add yogurt; stir gently. If mixture is too dry to hold together, stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, just until dough holds together; it should not be sticky.

3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 5 times to make a ball. Set on a lightly greased baking sheet. Pat into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on top of loaf.

4. Bake in a 375° oven until well browned, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cool.

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As far as I can tell, the only difference between brown soda bread and the regular variety is that it’s partially whole wheat with a little sugar and oatmeal added.

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Uh-mazing. Because it’s a soda bread, it has a taste reminiscent of biscuits or scones. The crusty exterior is the best part though. Ohmy.

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I had a piece immediately out of the oven slathered in butter. It’s the one rule to making your own bread at home.

I was stoked to have more of the bread for breakfast this morning. But I couldn’t decide what to top my toast with…

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On one side of the ring we have more of Lori’s cranberry pear jam.

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On the other side was butter + vegemite.

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The bread was even more amazing toasted because it’s so crumbly. Both toppings were winners!

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Of course, what’s a Sunday morning without a little bacon and eggs ;)

From breakfast I went on to a free Vinyasa Yoga class at Lululemon which was amazing per usual. Then it was off to my first shift at my new job! I’m still personal training full-time, but now I’m working in a specialty running store 2-3 shifts a week as well. A little extra money, a way to meet people, and something to keep me out of trouble. I already learned so much about running gaits and how running shoes are constructed. Expect a post on it once I finish my training!

And with that, I am off to prepare my meals for my 15 hour work day tomorrow. Yes. You read that right. I’m looney tunes.

 

!!Don’t forget Project Food Blog voting opens on Monday! Click here if you would like to vote for me. You can check out my contestant profile here. Or read my first challenge entry: Ready, Set, Blog! I’ll be annoying you about this daily – thank you for any and all support!

 

Question of the Day: What’s your favourite thing to eat on toast? Mine is soft poached eggs. Although I supposed it’s something I dip my toast into ;)

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