Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Found Burger Love

Yes, it's that time of year again, it's PEI Burger Love for the entire month of April. As if Islanders didn't already have enough reasons to celebrate the start of spring, we can now enjoy the sunshine, longer days and lack of snow while chowing down on monstrous burger creations from 31 restaurants across PEI.  Is it just me, or is 31 a little bit excessive? That's more burgers than there are days in the month! And yet, as I write this, I am certain that I have seen evidence on the Burger Love Facebook page that at least one crazy person (a guy, of course) has completed the burger marathon. 

I'm not going to lie, I was beyond excited about the debut of this year's burgers on April 2nd.  I even tried out for the role of Burger Blogger, which, sadly, I did not get! In retrospect, it was probably a good thing I didn't get chosen, as I'm not sure I could have written love letters (as per the blogger assignment) for most of the burgers I have tried thusfar. For those that are curious, here's a quick roundup of the Burger Love burgers I have tried:

Pilot House (Soul Mates) - In a word: meh.  I might have been slightly more enamoured with this burger if the gouda cheese stuffed into the burger hadn't burnt my tongue. Kind of hard to taste the burger once the taste buds have been singed, but I honestly don't think there were many flavours to be enjoyed anyways.

Daniel B. Brennan Brickhouse (Wall Street Heat) - Spicy and pretty damn good. This is my favorite of the Burger Love burgers I've tried so far. Again, however, my meal was almost ruined before it even began when I bit into the burger topper into my mouth. It was a piece of 'Fire and Ice' dipped in batter.  Ummm, yeah, so I think the name for this sausage comes from the fact that it lights your moth on fire and you have to fill your mouth with ice cubes afterwards. Luckily, I had only taken a small bite of the topper, so was able to salvage my tastebuds and thoroughly enjoyed the flavours of the burger itself.

Crosskeys (Senator Donair) - This is probably one of the most disappointing burgers I've ever eaten in my life...including fast food burgers.  The biggest problem with this burger was the patties themselves - they were extremely compressed, had a rubber texture, were dried out and had no taste. I only ate about a quarter of my burger.

Big Orange Lunchbox (The Ric Flair Donair) - A pretty decent effort by the BOLB. With 13 oz of meat in total, it was a bit over the top (I shared mine with someone else), but the tastes really mingled well together and the bun stayed together (woot!).  The only thing I found weird was that the donair meat was shaped into a patty, instead of shaved as one might expect.

Redwater Rustic Grille (The Butcher's Block) - This*could* have been 'The ONE' if only it had actually arrived at the table hot. Unfortunately, our table of 5 received five cold burgers. Four of us were so ravenously hungry that we just chowed the burgers down instead of sending them back to the kitchen. I enjoyed the chips on the burger and the braised rib meat stuffed into the middle. The flavours of the sauce were also really complementary. As noted above, however, the temperature of the burger made it a non-contender.

So that's been my official Burger Love experience so far. I've got three more dates lined up - The Lucy Maud Dining Room, Mavor's and The Olde Dublin Pub, but the truth is that yesterday I found myself not just one burger love, but two burgers loves. Neither of these true loves were part of the Burger Love campaign, which just goes to show that sometimes you've gotta search far and wide for a keeper.

And how did I come to find my True Love, or should I say Two Loves?

Well, it all started with a lunch date yesterday that was supposed to take place at Mavor's, but ended up being at the Young Folk & Kettle Black, a relatively new cafe on Water St (sidenote to my lunch partner - I checked and it seems that YF has only been in business since early 2012, as I suspected!).  It had been awhile since I'd been there, and there'd been some big changes. Most notably, Chef Robert Pendergast is now in the house!  Chef Pendergast was one of the wonderful chefs that contributed to the success (and deliciousness) of An Island MEAL by offering up his artisan bread for guests to enjoy. It looks like he's got a boulangerie set up at Young Folk, as well as a grill. 

Hamburger was on the menu, with a choice of Cheddar Onion or Jalapeno. To be honest, I wasn't that impressed. My lunch partner had insisted this burger was better than any Burger Love one, but how could that be, since it was basically just a cheese burger? My skepticism was short-lived.  The burger, served with a knife stabbed through the centre, was, quite simply, amazing. The burger itself was a magnificent hunk of juicy Island beef, filled with a flavour all on its own.  It was topped with cheddar and onion, along with a delectable homemade  ketchup that had a little zing to it, and mayo.  To top it off, the burger was encased in the most delicious burger bun ever - clearly an in-house Pendergast creation. I'd not normally rave about a bun, but this one deserves mention for its flavour, denseness and holdability.  This burger is goes above and beyond any expectations I might have had.  And it was $10 to boot (with a  lovely side that I can't quite describe).

My next burger love came only a few hours later. I know, crazy eh?  How could my stomach even manage another burger in the same day? I swear my digestive system's close to martyr status after a month of Burger Love and a dose of norovirus.  But back to my second burger love. As it happened, I'd decided that Wednesday would be 'try a new recipe' night and had my heart set on trying out a quinoa burger recipe. WTF is a quinoa burger you say? Well, it's a burger made with quinoa (basically a protein-rich seed that resembles rice when cooked), along with grated carrot, zuchini, mushrooms, garlic, eggs, cornstarch and cayenne pepper.   Anyways,  I was pretty excited about making the burgers, as I had received the nod of approval from Mr. Wonderful - he was willing to give them a try - a miracle in and of itself!

The burgers were super easy to make and I served them with sweet potato fries (baked, not fried, of course) and a simple green salad.  Charles topped his burger with mayo, and I topped mine with tahini sauce and a slice of tomato.  I was a little later sitting down to eat my meal, and was startled when I looked over at Charles' plate and it was completely clean. Holy shit, not only did he try the quinoa burger, he ate it all.  When I asked him if he liked it, he responded 'I liked it all!' Woot!!  I bit into my own quinoa creation and was delighted with the array of tastes and textures it provided. I'm not going to pretend it's anything like a beef burger, because it's not. That being said, not every burger need be beefy to be tasty.  I'm stoked to have added another delicious, healthy burger recipe to my dinner rotation. It's always a win, when I can stuff a serving or two of veggies into the main part of the meal! And, yeah, the leftover burgers held up well and served as lunch for both myself and Charles (solid evidence he actually did like them!).

For those of you that want to go beyond the beef burger, here's the quinoa burger recipe I used (I used two eggs, as I found just one was not enough to keep the mixture together). 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Practical Guide for Families that Want to Eat Good Food

A disclaimer: I am not a parent and my experience around children is quite limited. I therefore apologize if this work-in-progress guide does not reflect all of the realities that face today's parents, as they seek to feed their families good food, whilst staying solvent and sane.  That being said,  I want to help parents and caretakers in any way I can!  I truly believe what today's children (and tomorrow's) eat will determine, to a large extent, whether our species has the capacity to flourish in the future. I know that sounds kind of dramatic, but realizing that the vast majority of chronic diseases are directly related to our dietary choices, and recognizing the importance of nutrition to early childhood development (of both the body and the brain), has convinced me that each of us, regardless of our non-parent or parent status, need to find a way to bring real food back onto the plates of children (and adults too!)!

A second disclaimer: I am currently a student of holistic nutrition. I am sharing my knowledge and experience, some of which comes from my personal life/studies and some from the program I am enrolled in.  I encourage you to consult a qualified professional for any specific advice.

A Short Introduction

I am at that age where many of my friends are having babies or at least contemplating doing so. I also happen to be Auntie to a 3.5 year-old and a 1 year-old.  The 'aha' inspiration for writing this guide came from a high-school friend who updated her Facebook status with a note that she is trying to figure out what to feed her young (and adorable) twin girls. Having recently watched Food Inc. and Vegecated, this new mom began researching the world of food and came to the conclusion that she doesn't want to feed her children processed food and that there are going to be some changes in the kitchen!  But where to begin?!

It's not as easy as just saying 'OK, that's it, I'm done shopping at the Superstore. From now on we're only getting food at the Farmer's Market. And I'm going to plant a huge garden this spring, and make all the baby food from scratch, and we're never eating out at a restaurant again, and we're going to have to find a daycare where the food fits our criteria, and we're never letting our kids go to a birthday party because there's sure to be candy and if they ever taste candy, they'll never want to eat another green bean.'

Nope, it ain't easy eating green.  But it's not really all that hard either (and it's actually quite delicious)!  It's just the transition that is a bit scary  - that point where you know enough that you can't go back to the processed food-like products you used to eat, but you're not sure how you're going to manage introducing good food into your home. 

I can't say I can totally relate to plight of parents that are at this point, since I'm not a parent. On the other hand, I have been making these changes as a single (and then not-so-single) woman over the past three years or so. And over the past year and half, I've been devouring nutrition books in my quest to complete my degree in Natural Nutrition and become a registered holistic nutritionist.  I yearn to help people who are unsure of where to start on the journey to nutrition or how to continue when faced with challenges.

This blog post (and many more that follow), will serve as excerpts that, when compiled together, make 'A Practical Guide for Families that Want to Eat Good Food.'   My intent with this guide is to provide parents and caretakers with some guidance in their efforts to feed themselves and their children better.  I get the impression from watching and speaking with my sister that being a parent leaves precious little time to do so much as have a shower, let along spends hours upon hours researching the ins and outs of providing your family with good food.  I want to make it easier for parents, grandparents, and other caretakers to make the transition!

I would appreciate any feedback you might have regarding the contents - What am I missing?, What have I got wrong?  What have I got right?  What other questions are you looking for the answers to?

Without Further Adieu, here we go!
This Is A Journey,  Enjoy It

Before we begin, I want you to take a breath, relax and get comfortable with the idea that real change takes time to happen. All change is really a journey and, as such, you shouldn't expect to go from 'here' (the world of processed, unhealthy food) to 'there' (the world of good, nutritious food), overnight.

Just like a good meal takes time to prepare and cook, so too does shifting from one way of eating to another. 

There are going to be challenges along the way, no doubt. Times when Kraft Dinner wins the day or the Big M appears like a beacon in the dark night.  But there will also be triumphs. Like when you three-year old spots you picking up carrots from the local market and starts singing 'I love carrots, I love carrots!' or you find a bargain on duck eggs, pick up half a dozen even though you've never eaten them before, and proceed to discover duck eggs are the most delicious thing you've ever eaten (including chocolate).

So savour every part of the journey and, if you can,  try to bring some friends and family on board.

Many Quick Ways To Get Your Family Eating Good Food (and avoiding the bad stuff!)

Use the following list as your 'crib notes' and follow the hyperlinks (coming soon!) for further elaboration on each of these suggestions.

1. Locate Your Nearest Farmer's Market, Farm Stand or CSA Farmer (and stop there before going to the grocery store)

2. Use that Crockpot You Stored Away in the Basement

3. Invest in a Food Processor 

4. Buy Foods When They Are In-Season Where You Live

5. Don't Buy 'Foods' With More Than Five Ingredients

6. Plan, Plan, Plan (Your Food Budget and Weekly Menu)

7. Make Good Food Fun for Everyone!

8. Find Like-Minded People, Share and Learn From Each Other

9. Encourage Your Friends and Family to Get on the Good Food Bandwagon

10. Avoid the Biggest 'Bad' Guys in Food Town - GMOS, Hydgrogenated Fats, Sugars, and Food Additives/Colourings

End of Excerpt 1