Saturday, July 25, 2009

Introducing Babies to Foods: Our Approach

Healthy, happy, well-fed babiesAs a food lover and a new parent, introducing foods and cooking for my kids has been the focus of my attention over the last few years especially in a world of ADD, diabetes and obesity. I cannot begin to say I am expert, having only raised my oldest to 3 and my youngest is not eating real meals yet, but I think we are doing pretty good. As this always seems to be struggle with parents trying to get their children to eat well I thought would share our experiences. The 3 year old is very active and has only had a few colds, never been to a doctor for illness and never needed any pharmas. He didn't have his first cold until he was over one and half and that was only after we starting giving him grains. My youngest has not had a cold yet and he turns 1 in August. So as parents we are quite proud of our track record.

Without getting too deep here are the principles of what we have tried to do....
1. Introduced food after 6 months (exclusively nursed up to that point)
2. Started with fruits, including bananas, prunes and blueberries intially (except for strawberries, kiwis and citrus which we wait until 2 yrs to introduce)
3. Tried intoducing egg yolks, but neither child was a big fan
4. Gradually continued to introduced more fruits and some vegetables like squash, avocado and green beans
5. Started chicken after the first year
6. We started introducing small portions of grains at about one and half, but I would probably wait until two for the second child as it is very hard for a young digestive track to deal with grains. Delaying the introduction of grains is very, very, very challenging though, especially because my wife and I are addicted to chocolate chip cookies and love nothing better than bread and butter.
7. Introduced unfiltered juice after one year, but water it down (half & half).
8. Start introducing red meat and other meats after two years
9. Would love to avoid any processed sugar altogether, but reality is we started giving little bits of dessert around one and half (goes with the grains)
10. Dairy is only consumed as a treat, with the exception of cheese (mostly from raw milk), I should caveat for all those dairy lovers out there that both my children still nurse.
11. We have tried to consistently use as much organic and natural foods as possible. The hardest challenge with this is eating out as few restaurants offer organic.

Now that my little guy is almost three years old, he not only eats most things that his mom and dad do and has been incredibly healthy, but he also seems to have a great palette. He'll often turn down treats for some fresh cherries or turn down juice for a glass of water.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

No Garlic and Onions :(

Onions and Garlic have pretty much become staples in most foodies diets and the start to any good protein, but, as I have mentioned in a couple videos, I cant use them!!!! My wife is nursing and my children (both) do not sleep well and are very grumpy when ever I cook with onions and garlic. As sleep is a must for babies and parents, this has meant that they have been eliminated from the diet.

The hardest part is that I cant make caeser salads, but we are surviving. I would actually say that this has made me a better cook because you cant just rely on onions and garlic to flavour your meals. From a health perspective, I actually read once that pilots in the 50s were not allowed to eat garlic and onions 72 hours before any flight, as they are a brain toxin and reduce reaction times by a factor of 2-3.

Okay all this aside, they are a lot of people who cannot handle onions and garlic, but they can add a lot of flavour to a dish. Hence, being a little addicted to their flavours I immediately jumped on an idea I saw watching Heston Blumenthal's "In Search of Perfection". He was making a risotto but did not want onions and garlic to affect the consistency of the risotto, hence he cooked the onions and garlic in butter on low heat in a very small saucepan for awhile. I forget how long, but I do it for about 45 minutes. Once done, I strain the butter through a sieve and add it the dish I am cooking.

The kids seem to have no problem with this method and the taste is great, not to mention adding a couple tablespoons of butter at the end of dish never hurt!

Recipes without Garlic or Onion:
Baked Chicken Wings
BBQ Turkey Thighs and Salad with Blueberry Reduction
Breaded Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mushrooms, Bacon & Gouda Cheese
Turkey & Chicken Burgers
Balsamic Dijon Salmon
Chicken, Mushroom & Bacon Pizza
Chicken & Turkey Tacos in Ezekiel Wraps
Baby Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Mozzarella & Crisps
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recipe: Chicken, Mushroom, Bacon Pizza from Scratch

Chicken Mushroom and Bacon Pizza from Scratch

The Dough:
¾ cup of warm water
1 package active yeast
1 tsp honey
2 ½ cups of spelt flour
1 tsp seat salt
1 Tbsp Butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small chicken breasts cubed (1/2 inch)
1 tsp seat salt
1 tsp fresh group pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
5 medium diced tomatoes
½ cup freshly chopped parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp seat salt
1 tsp fresh pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano (fresh if you got it)
10 small button and/or crimini mushrooms sliced
1 tbsp butter
Dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
6 pieces of bacon
14 ounces of grated mozzarella

Dough: Combine yeast, honey and ¼ of water. In a food processor with dough hook combine flour, remaining water, olive oil and salt. While processing, add the yeast mixture and wait until the dough forms a ball. Add more water or flour if necessary. Remove from food processor and knead for 2-3 minutes until dough is very smooth. Place in a bowl with damp cloth over top and let rest for 2 hours. Remove from bowl and fold edges under themselves. Place back in bowl let rise for another hour. Remove from Bowl and rollout to the size and thickness you want.

Sauce: Over high heat, add olive oil, tomatoes, salt, pepper, parsley and oregano. Cook for about 10-15 minutes to intensify the flavours and remove some moisture.
Chicken: Preheat pan over high heat and add olive oil. Add chicken and sear all sides, by stirring frequently. Add salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Do not overcook as the chicken will be cooked in the oven on the pizza again.

Mushrooms: Add butter, salt, pepper and mushrooms to a small pan and cook over high heat until liquid has been reduced.
Bacon: Heat oven to 400F and place bacon on cookie sheet in oven. It should only take about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon. Remove and place in paper towels to remove excess fat.

Chicken, Mushroom, Bacon Pizza from scratchThe Pizza: Preheat oven to 500F and place pizza stone / clay stone in oven. Place rolled out crust on a pizza peel with bread crumbs or cornmeal on peel to ensure it slides off when transferring to oven (I use a large cutting instead of pizza peel). Place sauce, cheese and toppings on pizza and slide off pizza peel onto pizza stone in oven. Cook for about 8-10 minutes. Remove and Enjoy!
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Recipe: Crusted Halibut and Basmati Rice

Recipe:Crusted Halibut and Basmati Rice
Halibut: 1 lb of fresh Halibut fillet
1 Tsp Sea Salt
½ Tsp Pepper
1 Tsp Paprika
Pinch Cayenne
1 Tbsp Flour
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Cup Basmati Rice
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Tsp salt
2 Tbsp Butter

Halibut: Preheat the oven to 400F. Dry off the top of the halibut with a paper towel (I like to wash my fish in cold water as well before using). Evenly spread the Salt, Pepper, Paprika and Cayenne on the halibut. Then spread the flour over top so that the fish has enough flour on it so that is dry to the touch. Heat an pan, which can be transferred to the oven, to medium-high on a large burner. Melt the butter once the pan is up to heat. Note, if the butter immediately browns, you pan is too hot. Place the Halibut in the pan and let it sear for about 1-2 minutes. If it does not sizzle when you put it in the pan, the pan is not hot enough. Flip the fish and place in oven for 10 minutes of less, depending on thickness of the fish. Halibut can dry out quite quickly so do over cook.
Crusted Halibut with Basmati RiceRice: Heat a saucepan on high heat and add butter. Once butter is melted, add rice and stir to coat the rice with butter. Cook on high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chicken stock and rice and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low or med-low for about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not overcook or the rice will stick to the bottom. Remove from heat and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.
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St. Jacob's Market Day Lunch

St Jacobs Market lunchIt's been a tradition in my family to make a fresh market lunch after our weekly trip to St. Jacob's Market to pick up our groceries. Our favourite lunch is bagel sandwiches using organic bagels, roast chicken, turkey summer sausage, tomatoes and lettuce. St. Jacob's is great for getting local and organic food especially in the summer time. They even have a small petting barn where the kids get to feed the animals. Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chicken and Turkey Tacos in Ezekiel Wraps

Toppings: (adjust portions to your taste)
10 cremini mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
pinch of salt and pepper
Diced tomato
Lettuce (I use romaine hearts for the crunch)
Sour cream
Shredded mozzarella

The Recipe: Chicken and Turkey Tacos on Ezekiel Wraps

1 1/2 pds of dark ground chicken
1 1/2 pds of dark ground turkey
you can substitute beef if desired
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne
3 tbsp Oil (I prefer coconut oil)
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Your choice of shells

Heat a large pan or skillet to medium-high heat and add all the spices and oil, stir consistently for about 30 seconds to a minute, ensuring the spices do not burn. Add the meat and salt and raise heat to high, continue stirring to sear all the meat. After the majority of meat is seared, about 3-4 minutes, add the worcestershire sauce and continue stirring frequently. After all the meat is browned, add in the corn starch and stir. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Slice the mushrooms and cook in pan on high heat with butter, salt and pepper until all liquid is reduced. stirring frequently.

Fill shells with meat, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese. Fold shells closed (if using soft shells). Place on a cookie sheet and put in oven for about 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and add greens and sour cream. Enjoy!
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Monday, July 20, 2009

6 Cool Celebrity Chefs & Why

Heston Blumenthal. His ridiculous desire for the perfection of recipes is inspiring. Without going to extremes, you can gain some great cooking tips.

Bobby Flay. When I first started watching him, he seemed to come off arrogant however I quickly realized his arrogance was actually a passion for his food.

Jamie Oliver. A progressive chef who I admire for his pursuit of organics as well as his desire to continually learn and to educate people on the importance of food and health.

Mario Batali. He has simplicity and focus on quality ingredients.

Alton Brown. He's kind of like Heston Blumenthal without the Michelin stars. A quirky little man but his pursuit of perfection is admirable.

Ina Garten. Last but not least, Ina's unyielding use of butter alone is commendable.
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The Recipe: Ryan's Creamy Strawberry Daiquiris

1 cup Frozen Strawberries
1 cup Fresh Strawberries
1/2 cup Vanilla Ice Cream
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
5 ounces Baileys Irish Cream

Mix the above ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

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Campfire Cooking: The making of a Foil Bag

A foil bag is an essential means of cooking over an open campfire, but it can also be used on the BBQ or in the oven. A foil bag is created to seal all the flavour of the meal in. The concept is to make the bag air tight so that the juices and steam to do not escape, hence the result is a very moist and flavourful dish, by cooking the food in the juices of the meal and not just hot air!

To make the foil bag, assess how large the item is that will be going inside, then take a piece of tin foil that has approximately 2 inches on each side that is not covered by food. The tin foil piece should be approximately four times the length of the food plus 8 inches (this is for the folding). Take the tin foil and fold it in half and then fold in half again. The food will be place at the folded end of the bag in the middle of the edges. This should allow for two inches on the sides and top of the bag to be folded over. To fold, take each corner and fold toward the center of the tin foil rectangle that has been created, this will be about 2 inches in each side of the corner, hence the corner will be almost 3 inches closer to the center. Once the corners are folded, then fold each open side towards the middle three times, taking approximately ½ inch each time. Be careful not to puncture the bag as this defeats the airtight sealed you have created. When placing the bag in the oven it is often easiest to put in on a cookie sheet for easier manipulation.

Campfire Related Posts:
- Campfire Cooking: Building the Perfect Fire
- Balsamic Dijon Salmon
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Camping Season: The Perfect Fire for Cooking

campfire Coming up on the biggest camping weekend of the year (in Canada anyways), I thought it would be a great time to talk about campfire cooking. Not just campsite cooking with your coleman grill or camper but actually cooking over an open fire.

It can be a little daunting just thinking about it and takes more time than firing up the hibachi, but the result is usually amazing. Whether it is the environment and fresh air or the satisfaction of creating your own heat source, it is a rewarding experience.

I have cooked everything from salmon, steak to sweet potatoes and each have their own techniques but the greatest key to success is the fire. Getting the best fire is all about even heat and not a lot of flames. Below is a step by step guide to getting the best camp fire for cooking:

1. Plan ahead so that the fire is ready when you want to use it, I would start the fire 30 to 45 minutes before you want to actually put the food on.

2. Make sure you have enough wood and it is nice and dry. The more wet the wood, the longer the fire will take to get up to heat and the more smoke the fire will produce which is not great when you are leaning over trying to cook on it. If your wood is really wet, give yourself some more time but you can also leave the wood close to fire (perhaps the evening before) as the heat from the fire will help to dry it out. Careful not too close!

3. Always make sure you have something to start the fire. I prefer newspaper (about three sections). You can also use dry grass and leaves if in a bind, but you will need a lot more than you think.

4. The fire pit is also key. You will want the fire blocked from the wind so that your flame stays consistent. Using rocks or a metal enclosure works great.

5. Have lots of kindling ready in all different sizes. This means that you should always bring an axe or hatchet so that you can get the pieces you need. I find that even when I purchase a bag of kindling I still like to split the pieces smaller.

6. I prefer a tepee technique to start the fire as it lets lots of air in the fire and makes it easy to add wood. Start with your newspaper in the middle and stack the smallest kindling around the paper, leaving about a 2 inch gap at the bottoms of the tepee. Add some larger pieces on top of the smaller ones but only a couple to start.

7. Light the fire at the bottom of the newspaper pile in about three places to ensure at least one of them gets a nice flame. As the fire grows and you know your flame is coming off of the wood and not the newspaper, add bigger pieces of kindling. This probably should take a couple minutes. Once you have a nice big flame coming out of the centre of the tepee it is time to add some of your large pieces of wood.

8. Add more wood as needed and let the tepee-style fire go for about 20-30 minutes. I like to make sure I add lots of wood during this time and get some of the pieces completely burnt to coals. This is the key for cooking as the coals act just like charcoal on a fire (without the petrochemicals).

9. You are almost ready to cook on the fire, but the last thing you need to do is knock your fire over! You don’t want that big flame any more as it will cause chaos when you put your grill over the fire. Take the big pieces in the fire and turn them over so that burnt side is up. If the fire is hot enough the coals should be glowing red and white and the heat should be easily felt.

10. Put your grill over the fire and get cooking. I like the grill to be about a foot over the bottom of the pit to leave enough room for the wood.

The best part is you can get a head start on the s’mores for dessert!

Campfire Related Posts:
- Campfire Cooking: The Making of A Foil Bag
- Balsamic Dijon Salmon
Click Here to Read More..