How do you get your ‘happy’ on? For me it is quite simple, sharing a meal with my family. My Dad was born in Shanghai so Northern Chinese food is what our family gravitates towards, much to the chagrin of my husband and my sister-in-law (not Kale) who are not used to the carb heavy foods that are characteristic of that part of China. The first time my husband joined us for Shanghai food, he joked that it would take him a week to digest all the noodles and breads that made up most of the meal.
What can I say, I love carbs, and so do my family. One of the dishes that we always order, and is snapped up as soon as it arrives at the table, is the beef roll. Even my husband and sister-in-law love it too, which says a lot about how good it is! It is a fairly basic dish, but it is the flatbread that makes it great and holds it together, literally.
My teen idol wore shorts and a headband. No, it was not Richard Simmons but a blond Swedish god. A tennis god, Bjorn Borg. Everything about him appealed to my shy, self-conscious teenage self; his lean physique, his flowing blond locks, those piercing blue eyes, his deadly two-handed backhand and his graceful moves on the court. Because of him I took up tennis and found I was pretty good at it, not like soccer (I hate running, especially into people) or volleyball (not good for pianists as I once sprained a finger when the ball hit my hand at a bad angle and I couldn’t play piano for two weeks).
I probably had my first taste of Mexican food when I was a child and our family took a road trip to Mexico. Although we were barely past the Mexican border on that visit, it was still exotic. It was like going back in time to a land out of the dark ages, or so it seemed to me as a 9 year old. Dirt roads were the norm, mangy dogs roaming around aimlessly rooting for food. Old, rusty cars were sprinkled about like confetti. My Dad revelled in it! He tends to gravitate towards places that are more gritty and edgy. We must have stopped for lunch, although I have no recollection of what we would have eaten but it was probably some sort of taco. Any memory of what we ate was overshadowed by the colourful landscape and locals that we saw.
Tofu is the Meryl Streep of the food world. I love Meryl Streep so this is not an insult at all. Meryl’s brilliance is her ability to lose herself in any role. I remember watching her as Julia Child in the movie Julie & Julia and there were moments when my mind would shift back and forth – “It’s Meryl on the screen as Julia Child, no it’s really Julia Child, no it’s Meryl…” Tofu is just like Meryl in the way it can completely take on the flavours that are added to it. I have grilled tofu and served it with a satay sauce, put it in a broccoli cheese dip, added it to lasagna, and all to great success.
What is your earliest breakfast memory? Mine goes back to my childhood in Hong Kong when I stayed for the weekend at my grandmother’s home and shared her breakfast. She was born in Japan, hence, she served me pickled daikon, soft-boiled egg, toast, fruit and then a cup of tea with a generous amount of condensed milk. I always looked forward to those weekends. That hot cup of, beyond sweet, creamy flavourful tea still fortifies my soul when I think of it. And I still use her technique to make the perfect soft-boiled egg. I suppose I looked forward to those weekends because it was just the two of us. She really made me feel special.
Confess it, don’t you love getting free samples? Well, I most certainly do, especially when they are the latest and greatest in the health food industry. Last weekend, the Canadian Health Food Association Trade Show took place in Vancouver. I sampled all sorts of delights from chaga mushroom tea, brown rice kale chips to a salted caramel, cashew milk frozen dessert. Besides trying great food, there were talks given by doctors and health experts.
One of the speakers was Kathy Smart who is a registered nutritionist, holistic chef, named Canada’s health activist, and she was even a guest on Dr. Oz. Kathy had clients who wanted to slim down, so she tested a theory on them which she claims worked time and time again. Her theory is that a plant-based protein works better for apple-shaped women and meat based protein is best for pear-shaped women. Whether you’re wanting to trim down or not, here is a tip about how much protein to eat. Take your weight in pounds and divide it in half, then this is the number in grams that you should be eating a day. So let’s say you weigh 140 lbs., then you should be eating 70 grams of protein per day.
Kathy Smart also talked about her list of top healthy foods. Can you guess which vegetable she thinks should be crowned vegetable of 2015? BEETS! This superfood is a powerhouse of nutrients with some not readily found in other vegetables/fruits. As an example, beets have a high concentration of betalains (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying). They also contain vitamin C, magnesium, iron, folate, manganese, nitrate and potassium. This purple vegetable offers a huge range health benefits including: warding off cancer, supporting the digestive tract, boosting the immune system and energy, lowering blood pressure, helping arthritic pain, preventing cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia. In China when women are menstruating they eat a lot of beets to replenish their iron levels. Don’t throw out the beet greens (tops of the beets), as they have a good dose of lutein, an antioxidant that supports eye health. I cook them like I would spinach or swiss chard. So, if you didn’t believe in the benefits of beets before, then it’s time to embrace and feel the beet!
I once knew a couple who were very much in love. They dated for 5 years and didn’t have much money, so he proposed to her with a 1-carrot diamond ring! No, that is not a typo, he found the biggest carrot and carved it into a ring. To her, that ring was more meaningful than a real diamond ring and she proudly wore it until it wasn’t fresh anymore. As demonstrated, you can do more with carrots than just eat them.
My idea of an extreme mash up would be, Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey) at the dining table suspiciously eyeing a Vietnamese Sandwich on a plate before her, in her peevish upper-crust British accent, “You can’t be serious! Am I expected to pick this up with my HANDS, like a scullery maid, picking up a scrub brush?”
Thank goodness I am not a member of aristocracy because I have no prejudices against eating food with my hands. Sandwiches are not something I eat a lot of, perhaps because of the bad press they have gotten ie, Wheat Belly, Hi Carbs, Gluten. But there are times when nothing satisfies like a sandwich, especially when it is a Vietnamese sandwich called the Banh Mi.
Gung Hei Fat Choy! I love Chinese New Year! Lots of eating with family, friends, lucky money, special treats, and new clothes (on the first day of the New Year you should wear new clothes to give yourself a fresh start). But I also love that Chinese New Year for me is where I get to have a “do over”. If there were any resolutions made on Jan 1 that haven’t started, then I can try again. And, to all of you who also had good intentions to ie. give up sugar, start a new workout, read more, floss every day, and/or eat more superfoods, well, don’t be discouraged as you can try again in the Lunar New Year….even if you aren’t Chinese!
My Chinese New Year recipe is quite unconventional, in that the ingredients aren’t your standard New Year’s fare. Because, frankly, most of the “special” dishes eaten at this time are not delicious to my North American palate, such as dried oysters, black moss (looks like a clump of black hair), jai (vegetarian gluten dish). Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it? But I hope this Gung Hei Fat Prawns does! And, it’s loaded with superfoods.
One of Kale’s favourite foodie activities in Vancouver is hanging out in Gastown for a progressive dinner with friends. They hop from restaurant to restaurant for different courses throughout the evening. It can be called a dine-around or dinner crawl, depending on their mood; but the places are spontaneously selected and no two evenings are the same. That’s the fun part! For those of you less familiar with Vancouver, Gastown is a stylish, historic neighbourhood in the city centre and considered a hub for unique dining. Since most of Kale’s gastronomic experience of Gastown is nocturnally-driven, she thought a progressive lunch would be a good Kake2Kale challenge. And, to up the ante, Kale wanted to find comfort dishes, with superfoods, that can be eaten in a bowl. At first, I was skeptical and thought we could only eat pasta and soup. But Kale convinced me to be open and surprised by what we might find. I’m glad she did, and without any plans, here is how we grazed our way through Gastown on a rainy January afternoon!
The Truffled Cauliflower Gratin with 4 cheeses on the menu of the Flying Pig restaurant peeked our interest. Kale and I knew we HAD to have it. As we were giving our order, the server suggested we order the brussel sprouts as well. They were served in boats, which was bowl-like enough for us. Wow, the brussel sprouts were outstanding. They were roasted with capers, which brought a brightness to the earthy flavor of the sprouts. The cauliflower, however, was a little underwhelming as they were under cooked. Please bear in mind I am not a restaurant reviewer, but I do know what I like. The cheeses were yummy though – white cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan. Cauliflower and brussel sprouts are both cruciferous vegetables which have indole-3-carbinol and promotes a healthy balance of good estrogen. They also have anti-tumour properties and are high in fibre. So we were off to a good start!
For a romantic meal where you feel like you’ve been whisked away to an intimate, pretty, little jewel (pun intended) of a restaurant in France, Jules Bistro is the place for you. More importantly, the food is delicious as well! We ordered a bowl of mussels with a leek cream sauce, which turned out to be light and flavourful. The sauce was sooo delicious, and I couldn’t stop dipping chunks of baguette into it. We went in search of our next course after being fortified with protein, Omega 3’s as well as minerals – like calcium, zinc and iron – from the mussels. Continue reading