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Friday, 21 June 2013

Strawberry Fields

There are many occasions that call for a celebratory cocktail – anniversaries, birthdays, promotions, etc.  However, sometimes, when you are caught up in the weeds of life, you have to find reasons to celebrate – like, hey, it’s Thursday!  Let’s celebrate the upcoming weekend with a cocktail (ha-ha- yeah, “a” cocktail…).

And when you approach life with a positive mindset, the universe usually works with you.  Case in point, after deciding that Thursday evening was officially going to end with cocktails,  a farmers market miraculously (and by miraculously I mean that this event is held every Thursday) in the middle of the city… in the heart of strawberry season in Ontario.

Urban Market Versatile Cocktail Mix

1 quart of strawberries- washed and hulled
½ lemon – juiced
4 teaspoons sugar
½ cup water
Place in blender and puree until smooth.  Freeze any unused portion (as if..)

Strawberry Daiquiri
Urban Market Versatile Cocktail Mix (recipe above)
1 oz. rum

Strawberry Coconut Marguerita

Urban Market Versatile Cocktail Mix (recipe above)
1 oz. coconut infused tequila

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Signs, seared, delivered

In my previous job, I sourced industrial textiles for a local manufacturing firm.  I would order shipping container loads full of cotton duck material that would ship from a supplier in India.  The fabric would be sent across the ocean in large steel shipping containers - I won’t get into all of the logistical nightmares that these shipments would cause.  I was quite happy to never set eyes on those containers ever again once I left that company.  Little did I know that a few years later I would be rejoicing about them and that this time around they would be delivering up something delicious.
Yesterday afternoon Audrey and I went to Market 707.  Located on a block in Toronto at Dundas West at Bathurst, Market 707 is a revolution in cuisine – hip, trendy street food served by up and coming new chefs – the twist is, the food is being served out of steel shipping containers that have been retrofitted to prepare food.  Move over food trucks!  We don’t have to chase these cooks all over town.

Audrey and I had our hearts set on Mac n' Cheese, however, the owner was only four days in to his business and still working out some kinks - an impromptu meeting had set him behind in his daily food prep.   He apologized profusely and gave us both comp tickets to come back and sample his deliciousness for free next time.  Very nice, but totally unnecessary – he had us at “salt and vinegar potato chip crust”.  We will be back my friend.

Instead we settled on “Kitchen Cargo” which features gourmet meat pies and tacos.  I had the panko crusted tofu taco  that was to die for!  I can’t believe how crunchy the tofu strips were.  Audrey went for the pork belly taco and she reported that it was amazing. 

Since it was such a nice day and our work schedules keep us from going out for lunch very often, we embrace the attitude of "go big or go home", and stopped at Nom Nom Nom Crepes (OK, yes the hilarious name played a part in our decision for a lunch time dessert).  Audrey chose the S’mores crepe – the crepe was made as we watched and waited and topped with, as the name suggests, marshmallows, graham crackers and homemade chocolate sauce and then pressed into a delicious parcel.  I chose the “Heaven in Cup” – which was a layer of fresh strawberries, topped with the homemade chocolate sauce, a layer of bananas topped with homemade caramel sauce, freshly made whipped crème, homemade brownie crumbles and candied pecans.  The bigger the sundae the closer to God I say.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pump It Up

A few months back, our friends Pete & Kim invited us to their place for dinner.  We had a beautiful steak dinner that would have easily rivaled some of the best steak houses in the city.  Over dinner, I had commented on how strange it was that not only did Kim serve steak, but she was also eating it.  I have known Kim for over fifteen years and during the majority of this time she had been a vegetarian.  She told me that that during her last few years as a vegetarian she had felt run down, lethargic and was prone to being victim to every flu/cold/virus that was going around.  She made the personal decision that she needed to incorporate meat into her diet but wanted to do it in a healthy way. 
She said that she won't eat any meat that comes from a supermarket, nor will she eat it from a restaurant where they do not publish where it is sourced from.   She will only consume meat from a butcher’s shop – ideally from an organic butcher shop, but since they are so few and far between, she will buy from a regular butcher shop.  “Meat from a supermarket is not the same" she said.  "When we buy from a butcher shop, you can actually taste the product.  It’s even visually different – the steaks are not that horrible red colour and the chicken breasts are much larger”.  I was intrigued…
A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with anemia – which is a common blood disorder in which you have decreased levels of red blood cells and the normal quantity of hemoglobin (a protein that contains iron and transports oxygen to your cells and tissues).  I am now currently on iron supplements prescribed by my doctor to rectify the immediate iron deficiency problem. However, this is only a short term solution.  Not only do I have to incorporate more iron into my diet, it is evident that it needs to be the “heme” form of iron.  Heme iron is found in animal based foods and is absorbed better than the nonheme variety.  Nonheme iron is found in grains and vegetables and is the form of iron that is added to iron fortified foods.  Since my main source of dietary iron is nonheme and my body is unable to absorb a sufficient supply to keep me healthy, I need to start to chow on some cow to pump up my blood.
It’s not that I am a vegetarian – my weakness for bacon and chicken wings confirms this fact -- but I only eat meat occasionally.  I thought back to the conversation that I had with Kim.  With her in mind, I proceeded to think of how to eat more meat but in a healthy, sensible manner.  So, I trekked to “The Healthy Butcher” on Queen Street West in Toronto (   I was a little taken aback by the young, cute butcher behind the counter (in my mind I was expecting someone who looked like Sam the Butcher from the Brady Bunch with a red and white stripe-y apron) who was happy to educate me on the various lean cuts of meat (my head was exploding holding back my cheap and tawdry comments – think about it, a young cute boy and a plethora of meat jokes running through my mind!).   I happily left with a bag of barn yard animals.  Kim was right – the chicken breasts that I bought were obviously from a Jane Mansfield style bird – they were naturally enormous!

Here is the first recipes that I made from this visit.

Bison & Lamb Moroccan Meatloaf

½ pound ground bison  
½ pound ground lamb
3 slices whole wheat bread
2 eggs
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp turmeric
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup chopped mint
1 medium onion diced
4 cloves of chopped garlic
1 tsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the chopped onion and three of the four cloves of garlic (I like the different flavour of both the mellow cooked garlic and the raw).  Add the cumin, turmeric, paprika and cinnamon.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Let cool.
In a food processor finely grind the slices of bread.  Add to a bowl and combine with the remaining clove of raw garlic, mint, bison, lamb, eggs and cooled onion mixture.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Combine well.
Press into a lightly greased loaf pan and cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Cool for 10 – 15 minutes before removing from pan.

I still had A LOT of meatloaf left over, so I used the remains in a chilli recipe.

Moroccan Chilli

Bison & Lamb Moroccan Meatloaf leftovers – chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin tomato sauce
1 tin lentils (rinsed)
1 tin black beans (rinsed)