What I’m eating

I really need to take my camera out of the cupboard… Having an Iphone has made me lazy about my food photography. Apologies for the following lackluster pictures. I thought I’d post a few pictures of meals I’ve made recently. Nothing too complicated, nothing heavy-it is the summer after all-and mostly locally sourced ingredients.

I’m becoming less moderate about my eating choices. I can’t continue learning about the food industry without make personal changes to what and how I feed myself. I’ll be elaborating on some of these thoughts over the coming weeks and months: suffice to say, it ain’t pretty. Environmental degradation, animal abuse, increased risks of viruses and diseases, waste, corruption, profit over human rights; the list goes on and on.

I’m taking a serious step in reducing my meat intake(including fish). I plan on only buying from sources I know provide acceptable living standards for their animals, and I will do my best to only frequent restaurants that do the same, unfortunately, there aren’t many. I will occasionally make exceptions, but my hope is that within a few months I won’t have to do that anymore. We’ll see how it goes. To a certain extent, to anyone who knows me, I’m reverting to my vegetarianism. Oh boy… I guess I’ll be cooking more than I already do. Hosting parties will have to be more frequent as well.

I bought porc and beef sausages from Valens farms, a cooperative of smaller farms that is doing its best to provide Quebecers with healthier and ethically superior food options. There were 3 small sausages, but that was enough to last me for 3 meals. One advice I always give to people who are considering cutting down on their meat intake is to prepare dishes where less is needed.

Here are a few things you can easily make at home:

1. A peach, arugula and goat cheese salad. We’re getting Ontario peaches in Québec at the moment and they’re wonderful. Mixing them with peppery arugula, adding a few crunchy and spicy slices of radish, and a tart goat cheese and you’ve got something that’s absolutely delicious. There are some toasted almonds in there too, for extra protein, and the full bodied nutty flavor it adds.

peaches, arugula, goat cheese, radishes

2. I bought these corn tortillas at the supermarket last week. They come in packs of about 30 and I’ve had to eat at bunch of different kinds of tortillas recently. The corn that they’re made of is also problematic, as it’s most likely a GMO crop… I’d rather avoid supporting the companies that produce such products, but I succumbed to my desire for something I hadn’t eaten in a long time. Anyways, these tortillas were filled with brown rice mixed with fresh organic corn I bought from a small farm just outside of Montreal, black beans, the above mentioned sausages, tomatoes and some coriander. The spicy paste I made with dried chipotle peppers I had that I soaked in rhum, and blended with tomatoes, roasted garlic, coriander and cumin seeds and some other things that escape me now. Tasty.

tortillas with spicy paste, and a filling of sausages, corn, black beans, tomatoes and coriander

3. This is a salad I was very pleased with. Simple but the ingredients worked very well together and its acidity provided the refreshing quality I was looking for after a sweltering day biking around town. I sliced apples, let them soak in a bit of lemon juice, added redcurrants, olive oil sauteed pieces of bread, sauteed slices of the sausages, sliced Parmesan and mixed all of it with an arugula and endive lettuce blend I prepared. The dressing was a mix of lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, grain mustard, and sunflower oil.

I was quite pleased with this one: arugula, endive, redcurrants, apples, homemade breadcrumbs, Parmesan and sauteed sausages

4. I wish I had had more Feta for the following dish. It was a quick take on a greek salad: dried oregano, tomatoes, olive oil sauteed bread, red onion slices, kalamata olives, capers and the last remaining feta.

Wish I had had more Feta… pretty good anyways
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Popped Amaranth

Here’s a quick one.

Popped amaranth. I’ve been asked about it by one of my friends.

Amaranth is what is sometimes referred to as a ‘pseudograin’. I think that this means that it is actually a seed with similar characteristics to that of a grain. Quinoa is also a pseudograin for example.

Amaranth does not contain gluten and is easily cooked in a variety of ways. You can cook it like rice with about a 3 to 1 water ratio. You can add it to baked products for additional nutrients. The seeds are tiny and will add a pleasant texture as well. You can sprout them. You can pop them like popcorn, and I believe you can add them to your cereal in the morning.

It’s a very nutritious ingredient, with high levels of important amino acids, “fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and especially manganese.”-(wikipedia.)

When I write of popped amaranth, I’m essentially referring to the process of popping the ‘pseudograin’ like I would corn. I heat one of my frying pans(not iron, something without too much of a sticky surface) to a very hot temperature, prepare a bowl, and get my splatter mesh shield.( Essentially a mesh plate that I put over my frying pan when there is a lot of splattering oil, or in this care “mini-popcorn”.)

I take a spoonful of the amaranth, throw it in the pan, immediately cover it with my mesh and watch with childish delight as the tiny little seeds pop and try to escape the pan. When most of the seeds have been popped, which shouldn’t take more than a few seconds if the pan is hot enough, I take the plan and throw the popped seeds into my bowl, thereby avoiding the burning of it’s newly revealed flesh. When I’ve popped enough, i use it for my recipes and/or keep it refrigerated for future use.(I heard that it’s important to keep refrigerated because of the oil it produces.)

The reason I pop it is to use as a binding ingredient in dishes, snacks that are moist and need a bit of texture. The energy bars I make, for example, which have both fresh pear and gummy dried dates in them, benefit greatly from the popped seeds.

I find the amaranth in most grocery food stores now. It isn’t very expensive and is easy to use and store.

amaranthus

This is picture I found on this wonderful blog post about farming amaranth written by Gary Rondeau. Well worth reading:
http://squashpractice.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/the-grand-amaranth-experiment/

Wild Rose Detox

It’s a grey and SNOWY! (wow,that’s surprising, I just looked out the window) March day in Montreal and I’ve just had a healthy lunch consisting of potato and leek soup accompanied by a smoked salmon salad with green beans, a hard boiled egg, some mixed greens and shallots.

I’m currently doing a food detox. It’s a commercial version called Wild Rose. This is the 3rd time that I’ve done it and I’ll most likely continue doing it every few months in order to stay healthy and recalibrate my eating habits. Wild Rose is a detox program where you take certain herbal pills that activate organ functions, herbal laxatives with the goal of cleaning your digestive system, and where you are restricted in what you are allowed to eat. Google it if you are interest.(I don’t want to promote any specific product so I’ll avoid putting in a direct link. Suffice to say, in today’s mediated society, accessibility to information is not a problem for most in the 1st world.)

There are a great many alternatives, some harsher than others, some harder, some easier. There are many where there is no need to buy anything, or to take any supplements. Most are simple readjustments in your eating patterns.

I first heard of food detoxes some years ago, while taking a cooking class. Someone in the class was doing the infamous lemon juice, cayenne, water and maple syrup detox. The idea is that you mix these 4 ingredients and only drink this for 3 to 7 days. You get your energy from the sugar and your laxative is the lemon and cayenne. He explained it to me in simple terms. Your body is like a car engine, it’s important that you take good care of it and one of the ways of doing this is to clean your energy generating mechanism.

Essentially the goal of most detoxes is to clean out your system, re-energize your organs by helping them clean out your body’s accumulated toxins, and to improve your digestive and energy generating efficiency.

There have been debates over how successful these detoxes are at accomplishing these tasks. It seems rational to me to say that the effect is different with each detox. However whether they work at really cleaning out your system or not, in my experience they are useful exercises that are very helpful.

Under my limited understanding of neurological activity, the brain is predisposed to reward behavior that it gets used to. Addiction is a perfect example of this. When one becomes addicted to something, the brain rewards the user with chemicals such as endorphins that make him feel good, essentially these chemicals are drugs. Habit usually reinforces this process. Food is no exception, and the brain is particularly sensitive to sweet things and salty things. The more one consumes the more he needs to trigger the brain’s release of its “feel-good” chemicals. And so, as one goes through their day-to-day routine, especially in today’s hyperactive society where time is of the essence, they tend to consume foods that aren’t so good for you. Fried foods, almost all processed foods, energy bars and so on. Having one bowl of ice cream a week becomes having one every night. And your body rewards you for this. This is where food detoxes are perhaps most important in my mind.

Under the detox I use, for 12 days I can’t eat flour of any kind, no fermented products, no sugar, no meat other than occasional chicken, no lactose, and I need to reduce my sodium(salt) intake. It’s a moderate detox, rather simple to follow, most foods are allowed and available at grocery stores and I don’t need to make many sacrifices. What happens is that I break my addiction cycle and break my habits with foods that are unhealthy. When the detox ends, I usually have a very easy time keeping the good habits I’ve developed during the diet. Over time of course, as you start reinserting the bad foods into your diet you gain those habits again, which is the reason I do the diet every 6 months. In the end I feel great, more energetic and I’ve also developed new recipes out of necessity during the detox.

It’s something I would recommend to everyone, with or without a specific program.

What’s most important to cut down on during a detox are the following: foods rich in saturated fats, sugar, lactose, fermented foods and yeast, as well as all flours.

*this does not mean that healthy foods or vitamins and minerals can’t be found among the mentioned food groups, simply that in general these are the most harmful.

When doing a detox, or changing your dietary patterns, always remember that what you’re taking out of your diet might be your only source of an important vitamin or mineral. If you cut out lactose, make sure to find an alternative source for calcium for example. There are many.

Try it out. I’d go with a moderate one. I actually think that they’re more effective in that they last longer and are thus more likely to help you break your bad patterns and of course they are more accessible.

You’ll feel better.

QUINOA

wild growing quinoa 

Quinoa is a cereal from South America which should be added to most diets. A staple food of Incans, today it is mostly cultivated in the alpine regions of the Andes. It is smaller than rice and round in shape. There are a few colors available which are a bit different in taste. The taste ranges from a slightly bitter flavor to a sweeter nuttier flavor. The most common and usually on the sweeter side of taste, is white quinoa.

uncooked quinoaWhat makes Quinoa a great ingredient is that it offers a full protein; it contains all 8 essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). It doesn’t contain gluten and is a good source of thiamine, folic acid and vitamin C.

It’s quick and easy to prepare and works in a number of various ways. You can eat it warm or cold, in salads or as cereal. It can be used in savory dishes or sweet ones. It’s a neutral flavor that can be mixed in with a number of other tastes that also provides an interesting flavor base to work with.

Recipes will be posted soon.