FIRESIDE with Chef at Heart
I had the pleasure of attending a meeting for a local women's business group last night here in Barrie. All of the women are business owners who were only too eager to share their business tips, their stories, and their experiences with each other. I am a firm believer that women can learn from each other and it was great to see the women last night, who come from different walks of life, with different interests, and from different countries even, come together to network, encourage and support each other. It was a very informative and entertaining evening.
Cheers to all the women I met last night. I look forward to future meetings and to meeting more Roaring Women. It was a pleasure to be part of the group and to be able to bring treats for everyone.
Here is the recipe for the raspberry bars I brought to the meeting. I'm glad everyone enjoyed them and I hope you will make them at home for others to enjoy.
RASPBERRY COCONUT BARS
makes 18 bars
for the bars:
1 cup (superfine) granulated sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
2 cups all-purpose flour
200g butter, melted (or 7/8 cup)
1 cup raspberry jam
for the topping:
3 cups shredded coconut
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the sugar, coconut, flour, and butter in a medium sized bowl and mix until combined.
Press the mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
Once cooled, spread the jam over the base.
Make the topping:
In a bowl, mix the coconut and egg whites until combined.
Spread over the jam and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the coconut is golden brown.
Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars and serving.
*adapted from original recipe by Donna Hay Magazine
Tonight's dinner was a fabulous dish of curried vegetables and chickpeas on cauliflower rice. There are so many ways to enjoy cauliflower and cauliflower rice is one of them.
To make your own cauliflower rice:
Roughly chop 1/2 head of cauliflower and place in food processor. Pulse until it resembles a rice consistency. In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat and cook rice for 5 minutes or until it reaches desired consistency.
Serve it in place of rice in just about any recipe. It's an easy and tasty way to work more vegetables into your diet!
Today’s post is not about food. It’s
not a recipe. It’s not information on the latest diet trend. It is an effort to
spread awareness about a local park that is slated to close later this year. As
a chef and mother, I believe in enjoying food, eating healthy, and staying
active. This park has allowed countless families, groups and individuals to
enjoy picnics in the park, family reunions around the BBQ, and of course helped
them all to stay active.
I am very fortunate to have a family
that not only eats healthy, but that also loves to stay active. This morning after
a hearty breakfast, we strapped our skis to the roof of our car and headed out
for some cross-country skiing. In past seasons we have skied at a local,
privately owned outdoor club where our children have taken lessons. This year
however, the kids opted out of skiing lessons and wanted to spend more time on
the trails as a family so we decided to try some new trails. Happily, this has
brought us to Springwater Provincial Park, north of Barrie, Ontario.
We live in Barrie so had of course
heard that the Ministry of Natural Resources will change the parks status from
operational to non-operational as of March 31, 2013 in the name of cutbacks. If
this happens, it will be a terrible loss. The park is not only full of
beautiful trails for walking, skiing, and snow-shoeing, but it is also home to
a number of animals including wolves, bears, owls, swans and more that, for
various reasons, cannot be released back into the wild. The park is also home
to a historical monument. Countless families have spent time at the park over
the years, celebrating reunions, birthdays, lazy summer days, and chilly winter
outings. It would be a shame to see the animals and all facilities removed, and
the park abandoned.
On our visit today we were greeted by
the Friends of Springwater Provincial Park, a volunteer group working to keep
the park functional through increased revenue, attendance, and public
awareness. We were only too happy to take home a couple signs to put on our property
to help raise awareness, and promised to spread the word and of course
volunteer in any way to help keep the park open. We are not the only ones
hoping to preserve the beauty and experience of the park but the more people
working to keep the park alive, the better.
As a chef, I whole-heartedly believe in supporting
local businesses. When you shop locally you make an investment in your
community and meet business owners who are passionate about their products and
services. These ‘one-of-a-kind’ businesses are an integral part of what makes our
communities a great place to live and shop.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to take my family
to a locally owned farm where they were celebrating the grand opening of their new
farm store. Dingo Farms is a family farm
located close to the Holland Marsh in Bradford, Ontario that specializes in naturally
raised, organic grown and slow grown livestock.
Visiting the farm today was a real pleasure. In true
country living fashion, we were first met by two farm dogs that waited eagerly
for us to park the car and climb out before they ran over to say hello. Inside
the store, friends and family were just as welcoming and ready to treat their guests
to a wide assortment of goods: various cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, gift
baskets, platters of delicious samples, and more. Outside, guests were welcome
to explore the farm and visit while the smell of barbecued goodness filled the
By the time our shopping was done and it was time to
leave, my children were in love with the farm and made me promise to take them
back soon. It is a promise I fully intend to keep and we look forward to many
more trips to the farm.
For more on Dingo Farms, visit www.dingofarms.com.
Onion rings used to be one of my favourite fast food items to grab back before I was diagnosed with food allergies. Mmm, those little golden rings dipped in ketchup - yum! Ok, maybe not so little if I stopped at a certain fast food chain famous for their root beer (they were my favourite). Sadly however, one order of rings can come in at one-third of our daily calories (or more) and way more fat than we should be eating in one sitting. Alternative? Make them at home, of course.
Here's a basic recipe that will allow you to make your own crunchy, golden rings right at home. Feel free to play with the seasonings and spice it up. Why not try paprika, onion powder, garlic powder or any of your favourites. Make the recipe your own!
BAKED ONION RINGS
Vegetable oil spray
4 cups Panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 cup buttermilk (try almond or soy milk for a dairy free option)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1-2 Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick rings
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine Panko crumbs and cayenne and set aside.
In a second bowl, combine buttermilk plus 2 tbsp of the flour, salt and pepper.
In a third bowl, add the remaining flour.
Separate onion slices into individual rings. One at a time, dip rings into the flour mixture, then the buttermilk mixture, and finally the crumbs. Place rings on baking sheet.
Coat the rings with vegetable oil spray and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes.
This week, after noticing a lot of
talk on social media about the lure of so-called healthy options now being
offered by fast food chains, I have been inspired to add a new category to the
Fireside blog: Fast Food Makeover.
All of us indulge in trips to a
fast food restaurant every now and then but sadly, it seems these trips are
becoming more and more frequent. Fast food chains offer quick and inexpensive
meal options that can be incredibly attractive when you’re hungry and in a
hurry or have a carload of cranky children, but with a little help and a little
planning ahead, you can avoid making a bad choice in any situation.
In this section of Fireside, I will talk
about the better food choices to make off of your favourite fast food menu, and
post recipes for making healthier versions of your favourites at home. So stay
tuned, and stay informed so you can eat smart, eat healthy, and eat well anytime.
Most of us can figure out how to replace milk with non-dairy options like soy or rice milk, but could you make non-dairy substitutions for other dairy products if your diet suddenly demanded it? Could you make substitutions in a recipe that called for buttermilk, cheese, condensed milk or powdered milk?
Thankfully, there are alternatives if you know what they are and where to find them. Here are a few dairy substitutes you can use:
Non-dairy milk powders such as soy milk powder, coconut milk powder, rice milk powder, and cashew powder.
Add 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of non-dairy milk and let stand for 5 minutes before using.
This will depend on the cooking method you are using, but generally these substitutes will work: Cooking oil such as olive or canola, dairy-free margarine, coconut oil, applesauce, and other fruit purees.
Cream of coconut (not the same as coconut cream), or there are many recipes online to make your own condensed milk using a non-dairy milk substitute and sugar.
If you're new to a dairy free diet, don't give up! Once you learn the substitutions to make, it will get easier.
Whether you're new to a dairy free diet or not, visit Go Dairy Free online at www.godairyfree.org for more information and tips on a dairy free lifestyle, as well as other diet information such as gluten and dairy free.
CHICKPEA SALAD (for sandwiches)
This filling is a great alternative to chicken or egg salad sandwiches. Make it your own and add any of your favourites in place of (or in addition to) the celery. I like diced red peppers in mine. Then spread it on your favourite bread, wrap or pita, and enjoy!
1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise (or Vegenaise)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free
by Amy Green
Very recently, a new branch of our local library opened at the end of our street. Everything inside is shiny and new and that includes the books in their incredible cookbook section.
After thumbing through many crisp, clean and colourful cookbooks, I found Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green. Being allergic to not only wheat but also corn, I found many of the recipes would work for my diet or had ingredients that I could easily substitute so I checked it out and took it home.
This book is great. I have already made a few of the recipes and have so many others earmarked to try, that I now have this book on my 'must buy' list. The book contains '180 easy and delicious recipes that can be made in 20 minutes or less'.
Over budget. By a longshot! Too many household items on the list this week.
Over budget, once again. I did manage to save $7 by using competitor’s flyers but it was our household and personal expenses that ran the total up again this week. My first stop came to a total of $145.34 and the second stop, $50.06. Total $195.40. Over budget by $18.40
End of Challenge Summary:
I have to say I enjoyed the challenge but I remain sceptical that a family of four can eat healthy on a weekly grocery budget of just $125 when this budget includes personal items. If personal and household items such as laundry detergent and toilet paper were not included in the grocery budget, I would have come under my budget each week.
In the end, I can understand the point the ‘budget lady’ is trying to make. We all have to face reality at some point and either you can afford to impulse shop, or you cannot. You must also look at what you need, versus what you want. As she puts it “basic sustenance is a need. Lobster, shrimp, and filet mignon are want’s.”* I guess if lobster, shrimp, and filet mignon (or organic milk in my case) are needs by your book, then you need to make cuts in other areas of your budget or bring in more money to boost your grocery budget.
Of course, for me, there is a challenge in finding my organic milk and all my ‘wanted’ grocery items for the best price possible while remaining within my budget and without having to make cuts in other areas. Now that my challenge is over, I may not limit myself strictly to $200/week, but I will still use the tips below and avoid overspending on grocery items I don’t need and try to make the most of the budget I do have.
Here are a few simple tips to help everyone maintain a grocery budget.
1. Plan ahead
Take the extra time to create a menu plan for each week and write a grocery list based on that plan. Go through your pantry and cupboards and cross off the items on your grocery list that you already have and don’t need to purchase. The first menu plan will be the hardest but once you have done a few, it will become easier and take less time.
2. Shop with a list
Always go shopping with a grocery list and more importantly, stick to that list. Resist impulse shopping.
3. Use competitor grocery store flyers for sale prices if you can
Consider shopping at a store that will allow you to get the sale price from competitor’s weekly flyers when you purchase the same item in your home store. While the savings made from using competitor flyers each week of the challenge were not great, they do add up over time.
4. Buy your meat in bulk
Purchasing our household meat in bulk on a monthly basis at the wholesale store was something I practiced even before this challenge. Not only has it helped us save money, but it also makes menu planning easier. I know what meat I have in the fridge or freezer and can plan meals easily around these options with the odd addition to our diet here and there.
* If you want to find out more about creating a budget, check out Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s website at www.gailvazoxlade.com
or take a look at her book, Debt-Free Forever.