Archives for posts with tag: food

Over the Christmas season I went to the Grannies for Africa free trade market. It’s an adorable little market in the basement of the big blue United church on the corner of Main & Eckhardt  in Penticton.  The market was full of local and world-wide free trade products. However,  it also boasted a charm that only church basement bake sale can have. There was an abundance of homemade baked goods with all proceeds going towards the Grannies For Africa charity. While there I came across an inspiring local charity called OliveUs started by owner of Theo’s greek restaurant in Penticton, Nikos Theodosakis. What he has done is created a charity art project with local school children that raises money for different food related causes locally and across the globe. You can read more about the projects here at http://blog.oliveus.ca

Here’s an excerpt from their website to explain what their charity does and how it works:

‘The InStill life program invites students to change the world. Students look at food in their homes, community and around the planet. After looking at food still life paintings through history, students create their own with groupings inspired by their own favourite foods. The beautiful paintings are shared as gift cards and are sold throughout the community. Proceeds from these card sales are used to fund food challenges locally and to lend to individuals around the world through kiva.org, an organization which enables micro-lending. Students research family farmers and small scale food entrepreneurs in developing countries and examine their loan requests before collectively issuing repayable loans.’

This adorable video from 8 year old local participant Jakub puts things in perspective and explains how the InStill life project came to be in his classroom in Naramata and as he describes “this just wonderful day popped up” . The spent the day making soup from local veggies and then painted pictures of produce on cards that are sold with the profits going towards microloans to food producers in developing countries such as  Guatemala. Check out what Jakub has to say here:

These cards are available at Theo’s Restaurant in Penticton and 10,000 Villages. Go pick yours up today and spread a little good karma around the globe!

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I have been deciding whether or not to share this on my blog but I thought it was a fun story so here it goes… I auditioned for the Food Network Canada show Recipe to Riches! For those of you that aren’t familiar with it check out this link www.recipetoriches.ca

The show


Basically it is a television show that searches across Canada for the best recipe from a home chef. There are several different categories, including savoury snacks, condiments, entrée’s, cookies and squares etc. Each week on TV it is rounded down to the top 3 contestants from each category across Canada and they compete against each other to win in their category. The winner receives a $25,000 prize as well as their product will be sold in Superstore under the President’s Choice brand, with their story and image as the packaging. At the shows finale a the winner for each category will be put up for voting and Canada votes and decides who will be crowned the winning recipe and that will be take home another prize of $250,000!
Here’s an example of a few of last seasons winning products.

Glo with her Luscious Lemon Pudding

Jacqui

John with his Chicken Grenades appetizer

I’m a big fan of Superstore and always love trying their new products so this show caught my eye. When I saw that this season they were holding auditions in Vancouver I knew I had to try. I love food and I love cooking so I figured why not? I sent it my homemade silly audition tape……..

Totally silly, I can’t even believe I just posted that on here for people to see… haha- oh well! Anyways, I got a call from a producer who did an interview with me and said they would be in touch if I was selected to come down for the in person audition in front of the judges. I waited and waited and finally got the call! I was nervous and excited and I had so much to prepare.

I stayed up past midnight the night before the auditions preparing my food. Matt was the best kitchen assistant a girl could ask for!

Finally the finished product…

Morning came and it was audition day. I woke up early and boiled and fried the perogies to get them the perfect golden brown colour. I got myself all dolled up and Matt chauffeured me to the Regency Hyatt Hotel downtown where the auditions were being held.

Driving to the audition wondering what did I get myself into here..?!?

When we arrived at the hotel I signed in at registration and got my number.

There were a lot of people there and camera crews all around filming people’s reactions after they got a golden ticket or if they didn’t.

Filming a reaction.

Registration table, some people

We waited in a room with other contestants until our number was called. There were really helpful kitchen staff that let me practice my audition speech in front of them.

Waiting in the holding room pre-audition for a few hours gave me plenty of time to practice.

Finally after a few hours of waiting my number was called. I went with a group of other contestants into another room to plate our food. There were more chef’s to help us out in that room. I got my microphones taped onto me and filmed a pre-judging interview about my food. Once I had plated my perogies with a side of sour cream and chopped green onions and was whisked down a hallway to the judges room. I waited anxiously outside the room watching as the contestants in front of me went in for their auditions. Finally it was my turn. I entered a room where I met with a producer who told me where to stand etc, got my makeup touched up and voila… I was on! Just me with all the lights shining on me and 3 judges sitting at a table staring at me with my food. It felt like a dream but it was so fun. The judges by the way are Laura Calder,( host of French Cooking at Home), Tony Chapman (marketing guru) and Dana McCauley (food trends and innovation expert).

Here’s a photo of the judges at last year’s judging table.

It was a pretty intense experience but I am so happy that I did it. It was such a fun day and pushed me out of my comfort zone which is a good thing. I believe that we should take every opportunity that presents its self and for me this was one of them. The judges seemed to enjoy my gourmet perogies, Tony was the tough judge and asked me some questions about marketing that really put me on the spot but they were all super nice. It really was such a fun experience and I would do it again in a heart beat. I told myself that no matter if I walked out of that room with a golden ticket or not the real prize was just being there and enjoying the experience and having the guts to get infront of the judges and the camera’s and do something like this. I still feel that way. Everyone I met was so kind, all the other contestants in Vancouver and all the staff were so kind and helpful.

So now, what you are all probably wondering… did she get a golden ticket to go onto the next round…..?!?!? What do you think????????

Yes? No? Maybe so?

Well…. here’s your answer………………………………

YES, I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me with my Golden Ticket in the lobby of the hotel after my audition 🙂

I feel like singing, in the words of Grandpa & Charlie from the original Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

“I’ve got a golden ticket! I’ve got a golden ticket! I’ve got a golden twinkle in my eye!”

What that means is that I’m in the next round and I am up for consideration. Now I just wait until all the other auditions across Canada are finished and hope that they choose me as a finalist to compete in Toronto. If they do that would be amazing and if they don’t it still has been such a fun experience. The competition is across Canada so I’m certain the chances of me actually getting called to be a finalist are slim. For now I wait with this golden ticket posted to my fridge with a magnet that says ‘There are no shortcuts to any place worth going’.

I truly believe that and if you want something you have to work for it. They say that half the battle is showing up so if you have something you are a bit hesitant or shy to try I encourage you to do it because nothing new or exciting usually happens when you are inside your comfort zone. So in the famous words of Ms.Frizzle “Take chances, get messy and make mistakes!”

UPDATE:

I wasn`t selected as a top 3 finalist to compete in Toronto. However, I am really looking forward to the show coming out and seeing who made the cut and hoping to see some of the friends I made during casting compete on the show. It was a really fun experience and I may even audition again next year because….

For anyone that knows me well, they know that I miss Morocco. For anyone that doesn’t know me quite as well let me explain. I spent a year in 2007 living in Casablanca after I graduated college and did my practicum at a Chinese Medicine clinic in the city. I also was there doing a bit of modeling/movie stuff. It was an incredible experience to say the least. There’s so much I could write about my time in Morocco but today I’m going to tell you about the food.

When I first arrived in Casablanca I was honestly scared, the food scared me as strange as that may seem. After living off of pizza and Tim Horton’s during my time at college the smells and appearance of Moroccan food were so completely new to me. Shockinglydifferent. My first little while in Morocco I would only order the ‘safe’ foods that I was familiar with which was pretty much chicken and bread.  I would beg my friends to go to Pizza Hut with me (yes there is pizza hut in Morocco!). Everything was different, the ketchup tasted different, the bread was cut differently, the meat was different and often bled when it was cooked (which I later found out was due to Halal methods). I would often dine at  a french restaurant in the heart of Casablanca called Chez Paul, it boasts modern architecture and french cuisine and pastries which at the time was a lot more welcoming to me than Moroccan food.

My friend Judy & I out for lunch at Chez Paul in Casablanca

Japanese Dinner with friends at Matsuri in Casablanca, another more familiar style food.

Japanese Dinner with friends at Matsuri in Casablanca, another more familiar style food.

New friends that I had made in Casablanca would often invite me over for lunch. The food was usually Moroccan and mainly prepared by their maids, which is very common in Morocco (even I had a maid!). Slowly but surely I was exposed to more and more Moroccan cuisine and began to develop a taste and appreciation for it. All ingredients are fresh and there are no preservatives used in Moroccan dishes. Before long I was becoming more adventurous is my dining.

Fridays became my favourite day because every Friday in Morocco is couscous day! For anyone that’s not familiar with couscous, it is a dish made with seminola,  spices, meat and veggies . It is prepared on a massive dish and looks absolutely gorgeous when served. Couscous is typically only made on Fridays for lunch in Morocco and is available to anyone. Rich or poor, you can walk into any

Moroccan Couscous plate Photographer: Ingrid Pullar

Moroccan Couscous plate Photographer: Ingrid Pullar

restaurant and order couscous and dine for free.  I had some interesting experiences on couscous Fridays. A girlfriend of mine who was from Britain but had been living in Casablanca for a few years had invited me to tag along for lunch with her and her Moroccan boyfriend and his pals. We entered into a restaurant, went through a back door and headed underground. There in a dimly lit basement of a restaurant we dined on couscous and drank beer. Alcohol, especially for women is technically frowned upon and often times considered illegal to consume during Arabic holidays so I suppose that’s why had to be so sneaky about it and hang out in the restaurant secret dining room. One of my favourite time eating couscous was before I left to head back home to Canada.

My friend Mehdi had brought me to his families riad. A riad is an architecturally  beautiful place, much like a hotel except for family members only. In Morocco it is typical (not so much anymore) for a man to have more than one wife and Mehdi’s mother used to live in one of these rooms in the riad. As the riad wasn’t used anymore it sits in the middle of a medina and its barely used. Mehdi had his lovely maids prepare a massive plate of couscous for us as I admired the hand layed tiles covering every inch of the riad. It was the best couscous I have ever had.

The old and beautiful hand cut and placed tile inside the riad.

Mehdi actually served as my guide and good friend throughout my time in Morocco. He’s a talented Moroccan journalist and former editor of Maroc Soir newspaper. Lucky for me his work allowed him plenty of time to show me around the city. One of the tastiest and most unique meals I have ever had was courtesy of Mehdi.

Mehdi and I in the medina outside his families riad.

One afternoon with a group of friends Mehdi guided us into one of the cities off the beaten track street markets. There he showed us the black magic section of the market which had caged owls, rare cheetah skins and caged baby turtles. It was very shocking for me to see and I desperately wanted to let all the animals free out of their cages but I had to respect their customs and hesitantly move on. Mehdi took us to the butcher area of the market. Giant slabs of meat hanging in the open market were abound. A gigantic camel head with his neck skinned was hanging beside me and I nearly walked into it. Mehdi took us to his favourite butcher and ordered us what I believe were cuts of lamb. I thought we were just going to order it and bring it back to cook for dinner, but I was wrong. Mehdi explained that we order whatever cut of meat we want, the butcher cuts it fresh, uses his seasonings, cook it up for us there and voila. This was different, as I had never gotten meat from a butcher who cooked it for me right then and there. When the freshly cooked meat arrived I wasn’t sure what to expect as I took a bite. It was cooked to perfection. The meat was so unbelievably tasty like nothing I had ever had before, the seasonings were hands down the best mixture of spices I’ve ever had!

I wish I could duplicate this recipe myself and many other Moroccan recipes that I had while I there but alas I didn’t bring any Moroccan spices back to Canada with me.  I did however follow the recipe for a few Moroccan meals that I saw my housekeepers make which somehow turned out surprisingly good as I had never cooked Moroccan food before.

A tagine styled dish served with a fresh baguette from the boulangerie down the street.

I wish I brought this blend of spices back to Canada with me.

Mehdi wasn’t my only ‘tour guide’ to Moroccan cuisine in Casablanca though. I met my dear friend Ingrid Pullar while working at the clinic. She’s a Swedish born photographer who’s been living Morocco for the past 30 or so years. She is one of the top photographers in Morocco and her work as appeared in the New York Times, in many magazines and ads, and she’s even taken a few modeling portfolio shots of me back in the day(you can creep on her website to hunt down a few of those photos).

Ingrid and I

Ingrid & I working on a photoshoot overlooking the Casablanca rooftops.

Ingrid would often invite me to her house which has a pretty backyard patio area where we would eat the freshest and healthiest Moroccan foods while her little pet turtle would wander around the backyard.

Me having the craziest hair day ever, petting Ingrid's pet turtle that freely walks around her place.

Ingrid also is the person who introduced me to Moroccan ‘fast food’ one day after horse back riding in the hillsides of Dar Bouza we pulled over on the side of the road where a mother and son had a stand set up. They were selling fresh corn on the cob with a water bottle mixture that she would pour on top of your corn cob for toppings. Like manly Moroccan dishes, I’m not exactly sure what the spices are but it was delicious.

Ingrid getting some Moroccan fast food.

Being the super photographer that Ingrid is and me with my aspiring journalist hopes, Ingrid invited me so the first and only at the time completely organic farm in Morocco. We ventured out to the farms lands with a couple from South Africa. The farmer and his wife toured us around the farm while their little boy played in the fields. We left the farm that day with a plethora of fresh organic veggies. It was so great to see concious farming methods being practiced in a developing country.

Going on the organic farm tour

Going on the organic farm tour

The farmer's wife and I

Those people and experiences are a huge reason why I miss Morocco so much. I’ve tried to duplicate the recipes back home in Canada myself but it just doesn’t seem to go right.  I unfortunately didn’t bring any of the delicious Moroccan spices back to Canada with me for fear that the airport might give me a hard time for having a suitcase full of powdered substance flying back from an Arab country.For my birthday few years ago Matt and I went out for a taste of Moroccan food at a now closed restaurant in gastown called Le Marrakech. We dined on couscous, chicken tagine and finished of the meal off with a fresh and very sweet pot of Moroccan mint tea. I miss the unique flavours of Moroccan food and sincerely hope and pray that I can go back to Morocco again someday soon. Until then I’ll just have to hope that my Moroccan friends will send me some spices from afar.

A Moroccan man carrying shopping bags in the medina. Photo: Ingrid Pullar

At the Hassan II Mosque

A woman's hands covered in beautiful henna.

Buying olives in the medina.

Churchill Club fundraising dinner with Mehdi, Ingrid & I

My Moroccan birthday party

Mint tea in Morocco Photo: Ingrid Pullar

feeding a wild monkey at the cascades dóuzoud

A tagine dish Photo: Ingrid Pullar

A friends pool

At a friends traditional Moroccan wedding ceremony

Outside of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.

A typical looking kasbah doorway. Photo: Ingrid Pullar


Tucked away in a plaza that is a melting pot for ethnic shops is a little gem of a restaurant called Sandar’s Thai Garden in Surrey, BC. The glowing pink neon sign hanging in the window doesn’t look like much from outside but once you enter you will be taken on a delicious culinary journey. Thai food is one of my all time favourite cuisines, the combination of spicy, sweet and savoury is like no other. I’ve tried many Thai restaurants but there is something about the way they make it at Sandar’s that keep me coming back. For starters everything is house made which enhances the fresh flavours, unlike some other Thai restaurants in the lower mainland (I’m looking at you Thai Chili House). The spring rolls are fresh and their sweet chili sauce is heavens nectar. I’m not exaggerating here, it is that good! Their lunch combo can’t be beat either. Starting at 11:30 to 2:30pm for $8.99 they offer a spring roll with your choice of Thai soup or salad and any entrée, from the classic pad Thai to pad gra paow (a basil leaf dish). Sandar’s doesn’t skimp out of the lunch menu either, it comes as a full size serving, so come hungry. The curries are perfection, and their smiley shower cap wearing cook in the back makes them custom to your taste. One of the best dishes at Sandar’s Thai Garden is their yellow curry with chicken, it comes in a massive bowl with a side order of rice and is great for sharing. As is custom with Thai food, each dish is to be shared. The soups also come in large bowls and are presented in this nifty little clay pot set up with a candle underneath that keeps the soup warm for you. How cool is that?! I’ve brought a lot of out-of-town visitors to Sandar’s Thai Garden for some grub and now everyone asks next time they come, ‘Can we go to the Thai Garden again?’. The food is certain to warm you up during the cold winter months, which also is a great place to go if you feel a cold coming as the spices can clear you out. I admit that’s not the most appetizing way to describe a restaurant but a benefit none the less. So, if you are looking for an excellent meal and trying something a little ethnic Sandar’s Thai Garden will have you coming back for more. Also, if you are in the Okanagan and don’t feel like making the 4 hour drive for Thai food, there’s a great little place in Keremeos called Benja Thai Restaurant. Keremeos seems like a bit of a strange place to go for Thai but it is authentic food. It’s also a lovely little place to stop at on your drive out to the coast, if you are going that way. The food is extremely fresh and the decor is very Thai inspired with lots of neat little things to look at, including a rose petal buddha shrine inside the restaurant. Both restaurants are casual atmospheres with friendly services and budget friendly prices. You can check them both out online at
http://www.sandarsthaigarden.com
http://www.benjathairestaurant.com
Happy Eating!

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The Summerland Fall Fair is an annual tradition that has been going strong for over 100 years. This year was the 101 anniversary of the Fall Fair and I was so happy to be in town during this event. It’s a cornucopia of  Summerland harvests. There’s fruit and vegetable growing competitions, baking and jam contests, entertainment and lots of local crafts and food to check out. I’ve been going to the fair for years and have even entered a few things into the fair in years past. It’s kitschy small town charm never ceases to fill me with wonder. This year I spent the day at the Fall Fair with my father. I rode there in the side car of his motorcycle and he even paid for my admission; I felt like a kid again.

We laughed at the wall of farming riddles and I even ground up my own whole wheat flour in the Fall Fair wood shop like I used to do when I was a child.

My dad says that I barely ground up enough to make a pancake though, haha.

We admired the prettiest flowers grown in Summerland.

And checked out the beautiful bounty of Summerland farmers fruit and vegetable harvests.

There were plenty of beauty as well as some fruit and veggie oddities and funny baking competitions like this spaghetti pizza cookie.

Which I totally think should have won the competition purely for aesthetic reasons. Those are cherry meatballs!

There was a lot more to check out including a quilting competition, local food vendors and a car show on main street but since this is mainly a food blog I will keep it at that. I finished the weekend by watching my parents hockey billets play their first exhibition game with the Summerland Steam (we won!) and was on my way back to the coast with my boyfriend for a rainy work week. Until next time Summerland… now to see what culinary adventures I get into this week, planning to make some autumn soup!

I’ve been reading rave reviews on homemade kale chips on various foodie websites for quite a while. Although I’m aware of their massive nutrient benefits they didn’t have the mouth-watering appeal that a bag of ketchup chips brings to me so I put off of trying the recipe. Alas, I finally caved after finding out how simple they are to make after watching a very informative YouTube video! I could not believe how crunchy and tasty those little green leafs turned out to be.  Now, I’m a kale-chip-a-holic, they are great for healthy snacks for yourself and your family. They can be as simple as just oil and salt or you can get creative and add parmesan cheese or paprika. If it’s that chip flavour  that you’re looking for you can sprinkle on flavoured popcorn seasonings such as dill pickle or ketchup. The fun part is experimenting yourself of what toppings you like best, just make sure you keep them light. Also to be noted is that kale chips cannot be kept in Tupperware as they will get limp and soggy…I learned that the hard way. They are best to be eaten right away or stored on a pan or plate underneath a tea towel.

Here is a link to the video that I watched from “Kath Eats”

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
 Directions
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
  3. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

There’s a lot that can be said about Anthony Bourdain’s  television show ‘No Reservations’. For many it is best described as food porn. Bourdain is the epicurean king. Period. Anthony and his crew travel around the world, near and far and try the best of the best food a certain region has to offer. From Vancouver BC, Canada to Harbin China and back.  Bourdain explores each country with a jagged yet refreshing approach to not only the food but the culture as well. There’s the appetizing delights such as freshly prepared seafood on the beach in Jamaica or french almond dessert making in Provence France; all of  which are sure to make you call up your travel agent asap or at least make you drool on your couch a little bit. At times you can find him roasting  lizard in the Saudi Arabian desert or eating live octopus in the good old US of A all of which make for some queezy moments. Bourdain is a fearless foodie who also explores the places he visits showcasing some of the best places to go and things to do in each city he visits.  The show is quickly gaining a cult following and has now become interactive online where viewers can suggest places for Anthony to visit or review themselves. Bourdain has a talent for connecting with the people he encounters with his brash yet appreciative attitude  which is a unique touch to the regular ‘ cooking shows’ . Anthony Bourdain No Reservations can be seen on the Travel Channel in America or on Canada’s Discovery Channel.

Want to impress your friends at the next gathering? Try these wine friendly posh party snacks. With just a little twist on the common wine & cheese these effortless morsels will be the talk of your next fete. You can easily find most ingredients at your local grocery store or try an artisan wine & cheese shop or your local farmers market.

Ingredients:

1 Round Creamy French Brie

Spanish Fig Bread (Matiz works well)

Directions:

Cut Fig bread into small pieces (not too thick)

Place generous servings on skinned brie ontop and serve.

The sweet yet mildly crunchy fig bread paired with the creamy dairy flavour of the cheese is a epicurean delight.You could also as a pinch of brown sugar on top of the cheese for a sweeter treat! Pair with Pinot Noir such as Cedar Creek or Gray Monk or a Canadian Meritage (Bordeaux) from Township 7 or Sumac Ridge.

For an insanely easy and lighter treat try stuffed strawberries. Perfect for a summer picnic or an outdoor BBQ.

Ingredients:

1 Package of  large strawberries

1 tub of Philadelphia Strawberry cream cheese

1tbsp of sugar

Directions: To prepare the strawberries simply wash and dry , cut the tops off the strawberry, make a  criss-crossed cut at the opposite end and gently open.

In a small mixing bowl with a fork whip the strawberry cream cheese with sugar. Mix until lightly whipped.

Gently add cream cheese mixture to inside of cut strawberries useing either a spoon or a piping bag. Chill and serve! Pairs nicely with Rose` wine. Try Therapy Vineyards Pink Freud Rose or Sumac Ridge Blush.