Archive for the ‘Foodies Unite’ Category

Time to start anew

Ok, so after starting a new job, falling in love with my Blackberry only to have two break in the first year, I have upgraded to an IPhone 4 and, yes I am in love.

So the question remains, can I blog more frequently now that I have this amazing tool?

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Saturday Morning

This morning, after rising early enough to make a healthy breakfast for my boyfriend before he jetted off to work, I sat down with my coffee and built my shopping list and clipped coupons. In my world clipping coupons really means planning far enough ahead I can use sites such as Websaver.ca, Gocoupons.ca and Save.ca to pre order my coupons before I go grocery shopping. While Save.ca is usually good about sending out coupons the next business day, they often don’t arrive for 2-4 days, the other sites are recent discoveries, and I have high hopes for how fast these with come.

I’m also trying to plan far enough ahead so that I can participate in what I hope will be a helpful event for both my girl friend and I. With my oven on the fritz, I’ve been limited in what I prepare for dinner each night, not to mention unable to bake our goodies; while my friends specialized diet, requires time and planning she doesn’t necessarily have the energy for each day. So, when I suggested we get together for a day of precooking and stocking up, it was a chance for us to motivate each other and hang out together.

I’m a big fan of this, especially for people who find meal planning and cooking intimidating or time consuming. Grab some friends and have some fun. You are able to keep each other motivated and prevent a lot of midweek stress. For those on specialty diets due to health or diet constraints, cooking your own frozen dinners will help you to keep on track without getting discouraged by the time your meals take.

Hopefully we’ll have some pictures up of our cook out later this week.

The beauty of No-Recipe Recipies

Nothing is more chaotic than real life, take mine for instance. Starting a small business is crazy, so much of your time is eaten up by one aspect of the business or another; while I’m not complaining (having work is better than no work), I’ve had to rework my life once more.

The key for me is flexibility, yes some days I want to get creative and build beautiful, tasty meals from one of my cook books, however the reality is that sometimes I don’t have the time to think that far ahead. In times such as this, I fall back on the no-recipe recipies, to make fast, affordable meals that don’t stress me out.

Last night while battling the computer gods, I decided on grilled chicken ceasar sandwiches. By grilling the SuperStore no-name Chicken breasts on my new grill, and adding cesar dressing, parmesan and grilled onions with a side of asparagus cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan, I was able to eat a tasty, some what healthy meal in under 30 minutes.

If anything, not having a recipe inspires me to be creative. So the next time you’re strapped for time and don’t know what to cook, open up your pantry and experiment with what you have inside. It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or time consuming, you just have to use your imagination.

Cooking with the Master

Christmas has always given me some of my most memorable moments; the coming together of family and friends can have that affect.  This year I was able to see so much family, although with two large families to see, I never manage to see everyone I would like on Christmas.  I was also the happy recipient of some pretty nifty Christmas gifts and some amazing cooking insight.

My boyfriend’s family lives in Oliver, a small town in the Rocky Mountains that is home to some of BC’s best wine. We aren’t able to make the five and a half hour drive as often as we would like, but we make a point of going up for Christmas to watch the young kids open their gifts.  I enjoy my time with them.  I spent a large part of my youth as an only child and Christmas with them is very different from what I remember from my childhood.  Everyone in my boyfriend’s family is charismatic, vibrant and ready to laugh. They clearly enjoy spending time together, making it hard not to enjoy time with them.

With eight children and spouses, friends and other relatives to serve, ‘a small meal’ is not in the vocabulary of The Cooking Master (my boyfriend’s mom).   From shopping to breakfast, I’m blown away by how much goes into feeding such large groups of people.  Her level of organization, her eye for how much is needed and the quality of her food, is enviable. This is clearly evident by how many people will rave to you about one of her many popular dishes.

Being able to cook with someone who loves to feed her family is one of my favourite past times.  I like to follow behind a good cook and while watching what they are doing, clean up and prep for them.  You can learn so much just by watching and listening.  Often times they are more than willing to share with you all that they know.

The Cooking Master is no different.   I came home with tips and tricks galore.  She is the second person I have seen whose recipe book is actually an index card box.  This really sparked my interest and I liked how easy it was.  There was less risk of me wrecking the book if I spilled something and it was easier to manage an index card than an entire book.  I think this might be on my list of things to do next week.

The morning I offered to make french toast for breakfast, The Cooking Master chuckled as I pulled out a frying pan. “You’ll be at it forever if you use that,” she told me and directed me towards her counter top grill.  I quickly realized that when cooking for thirteen people, you go through about a loaf and a half of bread.  I was very grateful for the grill.

When Christmas morning arrived and I opened my very own counter top grill, my imagination took off.  When we got home, I whipped out this bad boy and reveled in how easy it was to cook breakfast.  Not having to squeeze bacon, eggs and hash-browns into my medium and large frying pans was heaven and my boyfriend laughed at my oooh’s and ahhh’s.  When I pulled it out for dinner, we were treated to a delightfully grilled salmon seasoned with McCormick Garlic and Herb Seasoning Mix, accompanied by scalloped potatoes and seasoned California vegetables.  For me, not having to wait an hour and a half or cook with any butter or oil, made this a highly desirable cooking utensil.  Cooking with my new grill gave us fantastic salmon in under fifteen minutes; turkey bacon was even faster.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received a silicone pig puppet/potholder and a fresh herb grinder, “for those who shouldn’t use knives”,  my friend said.  I think these gadgets are going to make cooking a lot more fun over the next few months.

Cooking for one, opportunity in disguise

I’m sitting here, after nearly a month of house sitting, trying to rediscover my love of cooking. I find that cooking for one is discouraging to say the least, as I’m sure many single people will agree. This had me thinking of my earlier years, and a single mother I knew at the time.

Back in the day I was working my butt off, with little to show for it. As far as I’m concerned you can only live on Mr. Noodles for so long. At the time I lived in a cul du sac along with a friend of mine and her three young boys. She had a beautiful garden, full of fresh herbs and vegetables, I was envious, to this day I want to recreate her garden. I loved being in her small kitchen, with herbs hanging from the ceiling to dry and the smell of sage radiating through out.

One night, we were both struggling to come up with something for dinner, and I brought up the idea of a communal meal. She provided the vegetables and I would provide the meat. THat night we feasted on a simple roast, stir fry vegetables and some lovely rice.

We have become such an antisocial society, or perhaps that’s just my perception. I would love to find two or three families that I could share meals with. The thought of having company while cooking, or sharing the clean up duties, is refreshing compared to my normal routine. For single parent’s I can only imagine how hard it must be, which was why it was so refreshing to help out when I could.

If you are a family of one, or a single mother/father, why not team up with one or two others in your building or on your block and host communal meals? Share, not only the cost of dinner, but also the preparation, clean up and left overs. I heard this week that the average Canadian waste’s $500 worth of food in a year. Lets see if we can’t bring that number down a bit.

Defining a foodie

The meeting room is bare, minimalistic, with a horseshoe of chairs centered before a long wooden table. The walls bear remnants of past events, and the large windows are covered with outdated curtains. The sun is setting, casting shadows in the dimly lit room.

The people in the room seem friendly, but they are all somber, quiet and everyone seems to keep to themselves. There are people from all walks of life here, tall, chubby, short or thin. There is a woman dressed in a beautiful suit I probably couldn’t afford, and a guy who looks like he picked up the first thing he saw on his floor and put it on. I see a man in his work overalls and a young mom nursing her daughter.

The chairman of our meeting calls us to order and asks who would like to go first. That feeling of nervousness flutters inside my stomach as I raise my hand, I would prefer to get it over with. With a gentle smile he motions for me to stand up.

The room turns to look at me. Blue, brown, green and grey, all the eyes in the room seem to burn their way through me. Slowly I stand and quietly clear my throat, with shaking hands I bear my soul.

“Hi, my name is Karen,” I stumble on the words, and a smile from the mother holding her baby urges me on, “And I am a foodie.”

A foodie, by my definition, is a lover of food. Someone who fully enjoys the act of eating. I don’t mean someone who loves to shove food in their mouth. I’m talking about the woman who will spend 20 minutes savouring each bite of her slice of cheese cake. The man who will turn to his wife and ask, “Babe, is that Cilantro I taste in your chili?”. The college student who bypasses the Kraft dinner aisle to pick up some Asiago cheese and olive oil instead.

Foodies will choose a full-bodied tasty dinner over fast food any day, these are the people you want to go to dinner with. The down side of being a foodie is that it can be expensive. We all love to eat, and we all love to eat good food, that can be very hard to do on a budget.

My solution, learn to cook! It doesn’t need to be time-consuming all the time, it shouldn’t be that hard, and with the right tools, you will be working your way into the foodie hall of fame.

I’ve fallen in love with the Better Homes and Gardens’ Budget Meal$: Save big $$$ with smart ways to shop and efficient ways to cook.

This book has everything, from how to stock your pantry, to how and when to shop for veggies and meats. This really is a must have for any cost conscious foodie, or if you’re my sister…cheap foodies.

I don’t mind being called cheap, life is so expensive these days, I’m a fan of pinching pennies wherever I can. Good food should not involve breaking the bank. A beautiful meal should not need designer cook ware, name brand everything and the newest and greatest gadget.

If I could, I would grow my own vegetables, I’d have chickens and ducks (the ducks because I find the quacks soothing), bake all of my own breads and actually make pasta. However, reality dictates that I pull my head out of the clouds and get a real job.

So it was back to the drawing board. Now I have a coupon book, a comparison shopping book, I keep my receipts and I plan my meals. Why? Because it was easy to be overwhelmed after working all day, and the days that I was prepared, and the days I planned ahead, were so much less stressful than the days I was running around demanding that someone else picked what we would have for dinner that night.

I love the idea of meal plans, they reduce your time in the kitchen, your stress and they make shopping for groceries less guess-work, and more efficient. I’ve been applying for the meal plans that I have come across online, and I’ve found that they are either directed towards Americans, so deals and other things don’t apply to Miss Canada here, or they have some crazy recipes that I couldn’t convince my boyfriend to eat. I’m sorry to say that Tofu Currie wouldn’t fly in my house.

That’s why I love this book, there are quite a few recipes that take me out of my comfort zone, but they are all real meals, full of colour (which is really important to me), full of flavor and they are realistic and relevant to my life.

They give you 50 no recipe recipes for things like No-fuss salads, Easy sides, Simple sandwiches, Fix-Quick Main dishes and deserts, for those days where you need to find a creative way to express yourself.

I love that people experiment with food, almost as much as I like to experiment myself, but I think that for everyday life you should be able to find 20-30 recipes that you fall in love with. Those become the basis of your personal cook book, and then you add a little “flava-flave” to spice up everyday life.

I picked up Budget Meal$ on sale at the Real Canadian Superstore, however you can find it here from any where from $6.39-$18.97, which is better than the listed price of $23.95.

I look forward to sharing my successes and my epic failures as I work my way through this great little book. Come back tomorrow for when I attack my pantry with a vengeance.