Category Archives: humour

Random Thoughts, and Trends

I was scanning the news this morning and thinking foodie thoughts in a rather stream-of-consciousness fashion. Nothing seemed to stick, it was all random. My brain went with that theme and suddenly I was humming the Arlo Guthrie tune about a pickle…

 

That was my inspiration today. My commentary on some of the new cooking and eating trends is entirely random, and without any expertise other than my own tastebuds. It’s fun to be adventurous and think outside the box, but when I threw so many random trends together it made me wonder if we aren’t trying too hard to be unusual. But then, comfort food and retro recipes are other popular trends. Anything is possible.

  1. Brinner – when you miss breakfast, you can have it for dinner! Some of this trend is centered around the concept of putting a poached egg on top of a dish, but there’s something to be said for making more meals acceptable for all those wonderful Sunday brunch dishes 🙂
  2. Gyros – it’s cooler when your wrap has an ethnic name, isn’t it? The Greek flatbread with flavourful fillings is the new wrapped sandwich craze. Portable food is always cool in today’s world. If only there was an app that would allow telepathic texting while you eat…
  3. Donuts – what else can you put in them? It’s frankly scary the range of fillings available in fried pastry, and then consider the variations of stuffed food similar to a donut – like kolaches (great with plum jam but now possible with candied jalapenos and smoked beef, just because).
  4. “I dare you” food – ever tried beef tongue? How about fresh grated horseradish? Foraged greens? Moss? It’s all out there for the adventurous. Chefs love shock value too sometimes.
  5. New twists on beverages – craft beer pubs are passé; look for beer bars with odd themes (think different glassware or decor and innovative beer styles). Wine is okay, but mead is more fun. And cocktails can come with any kind of garnish now, even scented feathers!
  6. Salt cod – no really, you have to try it! Andrew Knowlton, the editor of Bon Appetit magazine, said it looks like “a last-resort snack for those beyond the wall in Game of Thrones”, but treated properly it is delectable.
  7. Nitro coffee – because life just keeps getting more Fast & Furious. Seriously, why have just caffeine when you can have it injected with nitrogen and served from a tap? It has a creamy texture not unlike a pint of Guinness. Or you can just have cold brewed coffee, the minimalist version.
  8. restaurant names like never before – in an effort to be new and inventive, owners are picking terms like “luncheonette” and “provisions” to sound unique. Couple this with some wacky ingredient or animal name (think anise hyssop or blue oyster) and you’re all set. Only trouble is everyone else is using the same kind of formula – go figure. It sounds like the new Facebook quiz – “What would your name be if you were a restaurant?”
  9. Lithuanian and South African cuisine – it sounds like someone spun a globe and said “quick, what countries have we not featured on menus recently?” But there are some interesting foods to try – a Lithuanian stuffed potato dumpling called a cepelinai sounds delicious, and I love bobotie, a sort of South African shepherd’s pie.
  10. Pickles – you thought I was going to leave you hanging, didn’t you? Don’t you agree, what with kimchi everywhere now and pickled mushrooms as garnish and pickled fruit on cheese boards… the recession wasn’t that bad we need to preserve everything! I love a crunchy dill pickle like the next person, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

How trendy are you? Does any of this stuff even pique your interest, or are you more of a Meatless Monday, Tuna Casserole Tuesday kind of person? Does your family enjoy trying new things? I’d love to hear your comments.

What is so mesmerizing about melting cheese?

Have you ever noticed how your Facebook friends keep posting recipes on their news feed, all of them containing cheese? There is always a slow-motion video with a forkful of food and a string of melting cheese or an oozing blob of cheese onto a plate…

I love cheese but those videos are truly over the top. I feel like the next thing on my feed will be a promotion on defibrillators.

Comfort food often involves rich ingredients, and it never seems to be served in small portions. Is that a first world necessity – do we need to show that we can afford to have more on the plate than is advisable, much less required? Where did the idea “more is better” come from?

Okay, bear with me: I looked it up and “more is better” relates to economic theory and indifference curves.  I won’t bore you with the details or the math but suffice it to say that when thinking of things you prefer, your first reaction is usually that more of that preferred thing is better. (I know, the only part that stuck in your head is the idea that somehow economics relates to melting cheese. You’re thinking, “why didn’t my first year Economics prof say THAT?!”)

The problem is, once you reflect on this principle you also realize that at a certain point you are working harder to get something that is giving you less at the end of the day. That’s called “diminishing returns”. With melted cheese, diminishing returns occur when your waistline grows faster than your ability to appreciate a new recipe. (If you want to know the best cheese to use for melting, this link is a quick study. )

The simple truth is, not many people get excited about salad videos. I have worked with kids on the topic of “edible education” and the best competing concept I can offer is to eat a rainbow.   It’s fun to make skewers of fruit or veggies in all colours, and talk about all the different nutrients and tastes they offer. But the kids only really go crazy for cookies or ice cream. (Cheese becomes a fixation when you’re older, apparently.)

I’m not espousing a dairy-free diet. I for one am not giving up cheese anytime soon. I do hope that we can all live healthy enough lives to enjoy more cheese over time. Mostly, I just wanted to share a few random thoughts. Does anyone else wonder about this stuff?

Maybe we should just work to make food more artful. Can you imagine mid-week dinners looking like this?

 

 

 

Sticky candy, melting chocolate or popcorn kernels in your teeth?

I love going to the movies. There is something about sitting in the dark with strangers all being immersed in the same experience. The big screen and surround sound are fun, but they are just part of the ambience. The last part is crucial – movie snacks.

For me, popcorn at a movie is a required component. My hubbie is more of a chocolate and licorice kind of guy, munching only the occasional handful of popcorn. Despite our disparity on choice of snack, we have managed to attend movies happily together on enough Tuesdays to fill a large bucket.

Regardless of the snack you choose, its enjoyment can provide the final step in immersing oneself in the movie. Munching M & M’s or gnawing on a bite of licorice can help manage the stress of a horror movie monster’s massacre; nibbling popcorn can aid in maintaining one’s heartbeat at a reasonable level during fast-paced action scenes. The smell of the treats, the movie soundtrack music that leads us in, the darkness that envelops us and the smoke and mirrors of a story on the screen all blend together to take you away from the regular world.

There are consequences to every action. Just like a good movie will also make you think, the snacks leave a lasting impression as well. Tonight on the way home from the theatre it occurred to me – I was busy fussing with popcorn kernels in my teeth and my hubbie was sucking on bits of licorice stuck in his teeth. (He had already licked his fingers of the melting chocolate as we walked to the car.) Was this a marketing ploy, I wondered? Perhaps the movie production companies are in cahoots with Nestlé or Cadbury’s to ensure we are sucked into a lasting experience. Does the popcorn machine company Cretors & Co. put something in with the kernels? After all they have had five generations of their family sustaining movie goers all over North America. (You can read my article on the history of popcorn if you’re keen to know more on this story.)

I suppose I’m just getting sentimental as I age. Much about movies and the movie-going experience has changed in my lifetime. “Extreme” theatres and reclining seats, movies about video game characters – all things that didn’t exist twenty years ago when hubbie and I started our movie date night.

Part of me likes that the popcorn kernels still stick in my teeth the same way they always have. I smile when I hear the outrageously loud sound of my hubbie opening his bag of licorice. Some things don’t need to change.

 

Top 10 Tips for Staying Fit and Healthy

I want to preface this list by saying that I am NOT an expert in fitness or healthy living. I am not a trainer, and not even very coordinated when it comes to organized workouts. (I was the one in the back of the aerobics class who was always up when everyone else was down.) I tell you this because I want you to know that ANYONE CAN DO THIS. It is worth the effort, and you will feel better.

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me in Oct 2013 before I started Insanity

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me in January 2016 after finishing Les Mills Combat

The biggest step is in choosing to make a change. Yesterday I shared my good fortune and cause for inspiration in my column, Good Genes, Vanity and the occasional Cream Puff. A girlfriend of mine was much more elegant when she said,

‘Take care of your body. It’s where you live.’

Any way you put it, the secret is to just get up and get going. Maybe you don’t “work out” like I do, but get interested in something and move! Use your muscles, use your mind, and most importantly, use your heart. Be inspired, and share your passion. Compliments and encouragement I have had from others has been my biggest motivation. My husband has been my rock, and he spurs me on. Your comment might be what inspires another person.

You do need to be accountable to yourself. Finaccountability-quote-wowd a reason to want to keep going, not an excuse to stop.

 

 

If you do choose some kind of physical exercise as a part of your life, here is what has helped me:

  1. Start small – set yourself up for success. Don’t begin with something like “Insanity” unless you’re already in good shape. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with anyone else in class. This is about the long haul – if you kill yourself now, you’ll never get to see the results.
  2. Find a workout you enjoy, even when it’s tough. If you go to a class and you don’t like how the instructor talks, pick a different class. Not everyone likes to be barked at, but some find it motivating to do boot camp. Find your groove.
  3. Include energy snacks like smoothies around workout time. Women especially can be bad for having enough fuel in their bodies. Let me tell you from experience, you don’t help your diet or your fitness by working out on empty. Get used to having some kind of snack half an hour before your workout, and something afterwards too. You will perform better and improve faster. These are smart calories.
  4. It’s okay to look silly. Especially when you first start, you have to learn the routine. Remember, the instructor you see at the gym or on the DVD has been doing this for a while. You will look better soon. funny-fitness-picture-nailed-it
  5. Use a mirror to help get the moves right. (go back to tip #1 if this stresses you out). Listen to what the instructor says and think about which muscles are working, how they say you should feel (e.g. abs tight, triceps pushing, etc.) You will see your improvements as you get better.
  6. Don’t be afraid to take a break – just don’t give up. The instructors might not be drinking water or stopping, but they do this for a living. When they tell you to drink, do so. If you feel like you need to catch your breath or relax your muscles, that’s okay. Take a short break and then get back in there!
  7. Find someone to encourage you during your workout. Maybe this is a buddy who is with you, or it might be a virtual helper. I have my hubbie who sometimes is there working out and cheering me on when I get tired. I also have a picture of my daworkout-encouragement-minionsd on the wall; he was my first coach, and seeing his face when I feel “blah” always helps me. I know music or motivational talks help others. Find your shot of adrenaline and keep it handy.
  8. You will feel sore, even 2 days after a workout – it means your muscles are getting stronger. (see #10 below for help, and #6. ) The first time I did the “Insanity” program with Shaun T, it took me 90 days and not 60 – and the first 2 weeks I had to pull myself up the stairs using the railing. But I made it. That was 3 years ago.
  9. Eat and drink properly. Drinking at least 2 litres of water is one of the best healthy habits you can have. Eating as much natural food as you can is another. Eat to enjoy the food, to fuel your soul. It will thank you. (remember, this includes the occasional cream puff!)
  10. Vary your workout, and take days off. You might really like a certain DVD or class at the gym, but your muscles need to be confused to really improve. Changing exercises helps you work all the muscles and not just certain ones. (I have 20 different workouts I rotate through.) life-is-like-riding-a-bike-einstein Days off also help your muscles recover enough so you can push harder without injury.  *This is where you might want a trainer to help you out, especially if you work out on your own.

I hope this helps. I’d love to hear your comments, whether you are new to this or you have secrets you want to share. For me being healthy is just as much about being in shape as it is eating good food. I want to live long enough to enjoy all those meals on my bucket list. I want to share those memories with loved ones. I want to pass along my passion to young people so they can live happy and healthy lives.

The last part of this puzzle is our body image. Especially for women, this is an ongoing battle that continues to frustrate many. I can’t say that I love where our society is at in representing the female form; I thought we would be better about appreciating individuals by now. It seems to me if we can be happy and healthy in our own skin, then that shape is our ideal form. We are not all meant to be “skinny bitches”, if you’ll pardon the term.

 

I’d like to close on positive thoughts:  Get some exercise to feel good. Eat good food. Love yourself. Share all those good things with others. It’s what I call the good life. We all deserve it.

me and my hubbie on holiday in Jamaica, January 2015

 

Good Genes, Vanity and the occasional Cream Puff

People often ask me how I do it – here I am chatting about eating all this good food and I’m married to a French chef who cooks cream sauces and chocolate cakes, and yet I look slender and fit. I decided it was high time I let everyone in on my secret.

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The title says it all, but I will explain in more detail.

I am blessed with good genes: I’m 6 feet tall and I have a slender build, coming from both my mom’s Celtic side and my dad’s Scandinavian side. Thankfully, good health has also been a state I have enjoyed so far in life (almost any time I’ve spent in hospital has been to visit someone else). I don’t have any food allergies, and I have lived a largely middle class life.

I was brought up in an environment that encouraged me to be confident, to know that I was special and beautiful and capable – even in my teenage years when I didn’t feel those things were possible (just like most people, especially girls). As a result, I feel pretty good about my body and I like it when I am feeling fit and healthy, and attractive. A healthy dose of vanity is a great motivator against the feelings of wanting to be a couch potato during a Canadian winter or after having been dumped by a boyfriend or on a day when one just feels “blah”.

(This is where you’re going to either chuckle or snigger in disgust…) The occasional cream puff, or scoop of double chocolate Haagen-Daaz, or extra handful of popcorn or Cheezies is not only a reasonable guilt-free indulgence in my book, it’s essential to the balance in one’s life. I am of the opinion that diets do no good at all when undertaken as a sole method of weight loss or fitness improvement. If you want to lose weight, start first by looking at your portion sizes. Exercise and diet need to go hand in hand if you expect to achieve a lifestyle change; crash dieting, like cramming for an exam, very rarely helps you achieve success.

Now that I have given you some background, I will offer my two cents on how I have managed to keep up with a fitness regime in my 50’s.

First, deal with your background:

  1. if you didn’t get lucky with good genes, give yourself a break – don’t expect to look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, and don’t feel bad about it. We aren’t all supposed to look like one vision of “beautiful”.
    • SIDE NOTE: if you are supporting someone who is on this journey, remember that compliments have huge impact. Remind them what they are doing is worth it, tell them they are looking good.
  2. if you aren’t feeling up to be vain, try faking it at first. No really, just trust in yourself and think of your goal (looking and feeling attractive and strong). Consider a bit of vanity as a reward for your work so far – you might not have that six-pack yet, but you will!
  3. if you’re afraid to break a diet or indulge, find a happy medium. Maybe food isn’t where you indulge, but rather a bit of shopping – new make-up? a night at the movies? a good book? You need to feel that there is a balance between the work you’re doing to improve yourself and the rewards of doing that work.
    • SIDE NOTE: cue the support network again! Friends and relatives, you are the cheerleaders that help us keep up the good work. It’s easy to make a resolution and get through that first few sessions at the gym or running or whatever. We need your help to keep going for the long term.

Next, set yourself up for success. You need to find something that will work for you, and you need to remember we are all human – there are times when this will be tough. The secret is this:

Find a reason that makes your self-improvement a priority for the long term in your life – why would you keep doing this, what would make you feel like doing this on a bad day?

Sometimes the reason is dramatic – people can start a fitness regime because they know someone who suffered from not being fit. (It’s like not smoking because you know someone who died of lung cancer.) Other times it is more simple – people can just decide that their own sense of wellness is a top priority. (I think this is easier to justify the older we get.) Basically you need to want to be healthy MORE than wanting to go overboard on any unhealthy habits.

I will leave you with all those thoughts for tonight, and I’ll post my Top Ten Tips for Staying Fit & Healthy tomorrow. Even if you don’t jump on the bandwagon for this kind of lifestyle, perhaps this one idea will inspire you…

Insert a bit of good health each day with seven options (try each one at least once a week):

  1. Make salad for dinner, with whatever vegetables and/or fruit you want but only one kind of protein as an ingredient.
  2. Walk the dog or the kids for 30 minutes. (If you don’t have a dog or kids and can’t borrow any, put your earbuds in and play 30 minutes of music while you walk.)
  3. Eat breakfast sitting down – a meal consisting of a glass of water and a glass of juice or coffee or tea, some protein (peanut butter or yogurt or cheese or eggs or quinoa porridge are all good), and some fibre (from fruits or whole grains).
  4. Drink 6 -8 glasses of water (8 ounces or 250 mL each). Don’t count any other kind of liquid in this total.
  5. Eat fruit or veggies with every meal you have.
  6. Spend 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening doing some light stretches and deep breathing (e.g. roll your head down towards your toes and hang there for a few breaths, stretch side to side, etc.)
  7. Give yourself a break – have an ice cream, or take a day off your workout regime… it’s okay to just enjoy the day and the company.

 

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