Friday, September 3, 2010

Different Frequency

This is supposed to be the last nice, warm day for awhile now. I'm going to be quick about this and head outside soon.

This blog I write takes a lot of time as I research what I talk about and I try to do various things in the kitchen throughout the day, for myself, my wife and for O. What I'm going to do from now on is change the frequency on how much I write this daily article. Instead, I will write this when I can, maybe a couple of days in a row, maybe every other day. This way I can accomplish more during the day and add more pictures and ideas to this column. The plan is still to help people become more aware of what is out there and how accessible it can be.

The idea of talking about and getting other people to take notice of food is a very tough challenge. We all talk about it, it's part of our everyday activities, healthy or not. For me, it's a passion. If one person can say to themselves "Self, I think I'll try one of the recipes or ideas The Urban Eater talked about", then I have done what I intended this blog to do.

Last night, Mrs. Urban Eater started off the peachfest by blanching the peaches I bought at the farmers market to make them easier to skin.




Little O will love these. Fresh, organic, can't go wrong. The adults in the house will enjoy them as well. It won't be long before the go bad, so down the hatch they go! I love them as the flavor is bright, fresh and they are indeed healthy for you (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060807214327AAp1Ogv). I don't eat enough of these, so that will change as of now.

Before I was able to work on this today, I had to feed the little one. Today she gobbled back apricots yogurt, banana and rice cereal. I tried letting her eat a sliced banana on her own, but she didn't seem to interested as she wanted to squish it in her hands instead. She was actually getting mad at the banana for not presenting itself very well outside of her fist. Too funny. She eventually lost interest and out came the bowl and spoon.


This weekend, we are going to make lasagna and take it to a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. She went under the knife last week and is now recovering well at home. I find this very sad as the type of cancer she has unfortunately ruined her and her husbands future plans for many different things. Lasagna is a very small token for us to give her, but it's the thought that counts. I very much hope for her to have a full and speedy recovery.

Off to run errands now. Maybe call a friend, DC for lunch at the local Greek restaurant we have been talking about going to. Hopefully time is on my side for this as I am looking forward to trying this place. I love Greek food. Yum!

Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Thursday, September 2, 2010

And Pork For All...

Frost was in the forecast last night, but I think we are too low down here where we live. The higher elevations in the north west may have been hit with it though. The garden survives yet another day.

Little O was getting quite hungry last night when Mrs. Urban Eater arrived home from work. We decided to try feeding her pork as there was a pork chop in the freezer the day before, so we thawed it to use tonight. I seared it on both sides with some EVOO, then placed it in the oven at 350F for approximately 10-12 minutes. Pulled it out, let it cool and diced it up into little tiny pieces for my little tiny girl. Mixed in a little mashed carrots, some freshly made apple sauce along with the usual fresh pepper and a pinch of sea salt and we were off to the races.




Last night, my wife (BB) asked if we could have pasta carbonara for supper. Sure, why not? Let them eat pork! There is some pancetta in the fridge which has to be used soon, so I'm game. I'm usually careful about making this dish as it can be a little high in the bad fat area with the pancetta and all. The players are shown below. I decided to follow Lidia Bastianich's recipe for this dish as a guideline.


2 pieces pancetta, about 1/2" thick or 8 strips of bacon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
3/4 cups hot Chicken Stock or canned chicken broth, or as needed (if desired)
1/4 large yellow onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 1 cup)
1 pound linguine or spaghetti
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Coarsely ground black pepper

The Importance of Coarsely Ground Pepper: Coarsely ground black pepper is essential to this dish. If your mill doesn't grind pepper coarsely, try the following trick: Place the peppercorns on a flat surface. Holding the rim of a small, heavy saucepan or skillet with one hand, and pressing down on the center of the pan with the other, crush the peppercorns until coarsely ground.

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to the boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Remove the rind, if necessary, from the bacon or pancetta. Cut the bacon into 1/4-inch slices, then cut the slices crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. A regular frying pan will do if you don't have a heavy skillet. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring, until the bacon is lightly browned but still soft in the center, about 6 minutes. The amount of fat in the skillet will vary depending on the bacon. If there is more than 3 to 4 tablespoons of fat in the pan, pour off the excess*. If there is less than 3 to 4 tablespoons, add enough olive oil to measure that amount. Add the onions and cook until wilted but still crunchy, about 4 to 5 minutes. You can add some chicken stock, if you wish. Some people like it wet like that. I prefer to just use the pasta water which is added later. Add the stock, (if using) bring to a boil, and adjust the heat to a lively simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Meanwhile, stir the linguine into the boiling salted wafer. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 8 minutes.

Ladle off about a cup of the pasta-cooking water. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary. If necessary, add as much chicken stock or pasta-cooking water as needed to make enough sauce to coat the pasta generously. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, tossing well after each. (A salad fork and spoon work well for this.) Add the grated cheese, then the black pepper, tossing well, and serve immediately in warmed bowls.

*Note: If you want to reduce the fat content, put the bacon/pancetta on a plate covered with paper towel. This will help soak up the extra fat. If you are a believer in bacon fat, just roll with it but don't use too much as it will overpower the dish. Replace the bacon fat in the pan with EVOO if you want.

The coarsely ground black pepper is esthetically important to this dish as it simulates the coal dust or small chips which were predominant in the earlier days in the small Italian towns where this dish originated. Black pepper is good for you anyways (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=74), so eat as much as you want, unlike coal dust. Sounds like Santa was there all year round and figured they all were just bad people. :)



Well, off to feed O her breakfast which will consist of 1/2 a kiwi, some apricots, a little yogurt, some prune juice and the usual rice cereal. We are going to start letting her find her own way with food now as we will start to put he food in front of her let her try to feed herself. She has been learning with success, but she needs to start doing it full time now. Cue the cleanup afterwards.

On the foodie list of things to do, the Fairmont Banff Springs Wine and Food Festival will take place Oct. 29th to 31st. I've not been to this one yet, so if I'm in town I may hustle out to Banff to attend. I might be in San Francisco for a squash tournament as it was a good one last year, but we can talk about that another time.

Looks like it is warming up outside, so maybe a run is in order this afternoon. Doubles squash at 6 tonight, so it will be a good warm up. Better run and go change the channel on the TV now. Jerry Springer just came on. I would rather not lower my IQ at this point in my life by watching it.

Today's quote:

Don't dig your grave with your knife and fork.

 - English proverb

Until next next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom. Have Some Curry.

A little chilly out there this morning. Snow up in Lake Louise. Not too often snow comes in September for my mothers big day. 66 I think today. Don't tell her I told you that. I may be excommunicated for communicating that.

A few years ago, my mom started to forget a few things she needed to remember. Some were important things which really threw a screw into a few peoples schedules if she didn't complete a task. As my step-dad, my Uncle G and I started to take note of this, we talked a little more about it. We conversed about my grandma and her mother and how they had come down with Dementia. I know they say there is a difference between this and Alzheimer's, but to me they are the same. No good outcome and a long, sad time ahead as things slowly break down. My mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. So add another reason for me to eat healthy as I take after my mothers side of the family with quite a few traits. I hope this doesn't mean I only have a few years left before I go Ronald Reagan on everybody. Makes me kind of sad to think I may not be able to see my little girl grow up to be a mature, young lady or see her raise my grandchildren. But, that's life and I have to deal with it. No sense in worrying about a possible gun pointed directly at my face until I can actually see it

I have read a lot about how and what to do in regards to avoiding the big A over the past couple of years. One of the things I read once in a while regarding the subject is how East Indian people don't have many issues with this. One of the main ingredients in any curry, Turmeric, is an anti-inflammatory among other things. Part of it is made up from Curcumin, something which has been studied quite a bit by various institutions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curcumin). This Wiki article may be a little advanced, so this one is shorter and is put in more layman terms (http://oss.mcgill.ca/everyday/curry.pdf). Either way, I will still keep on reading everything I can to learn as much as I can over time.

We have an abundance of Indian restaurants here in town. We have been to about many of them since we have been together, about 6 years. I wasn't used to eating that way, with all those spices. I'm used to them now, but my stomach and my brain had a few conversations after visiting a couple of places, none of them good with my brain dropping a few f-bombs trying to get my stomach to fall in line. A couple of times I ended up walking as if I had a mermaid suit on in the middle of the night racing to the en suite. You get the point. I'm a trooper though. I wasn't giving up as I knew it was for the long term betterment of my health. Today, I can handle the Lamb Vindaloo and similar dishes. Serious heat man! The servers just laugh and say "Haha, we just tone it down for you white people". I'm glad they see the humour in it. That's some hot stuff which requires some getting used to. Lots of flavor though and I enjoy eating almost everything on the menu. We usually add a Mango Lassi into the mix which adds another level of flavor and some relief from the heat.

There is an East Indian spice store just up the road from our house which I frequent. Get to know the people who run the shops you go to on a regular basis. They can help you out in many different ways. These guys know everything in every bag, know exactly where each one is and what's beside it. They can offer up a few good recipes as well. I'm all over that like white on rice. It's good for them as they sell everything which is obscure to us, but normal to them. It's also good for business if they continue to do this.

Feeding O curry isn't an option at this point, but sometime down the road she will be exposed to it. I look forward to her trying it. Can't wait to see the expressions on her face. They're pretty entertaining as it is right now, but with all those different flavors, even without the heat it will be interesting for sure.

Today she was pretty tired for breakfast, but she still was able to eat apricots with kiwi, yogurt and rice cereal. It knocked her out afterwards as it was a decent sized meal. Last night for dinner, she downed 3 ice cube-sized chunks of broccoli, carrots and zucchini along with some EVOO and the regular assortment of herds and spices. I think I will start adding some cumin into the mix now as well. Start her young on the small side of the curry trail.

If you know someone with Dementia or Alzheimer's, it is at times quite frustrating and sad. I find the best way to deal with it is to have a sense of humour about the whole thing. Some people have said to me "That's kind of cold, isn't it?" My response is "If you don't know anyone with it, don't put yourself in my shoes or anyones else's who are dealing with this. If you do know someone with it, then you are only kidding yourself and only have bad times, a negative attitude and a boat load of tears to look forward to". Cherish the times you have with them now and make the most of it. You don't know how much longer you will be able to walk in the front door of their house and get a "Hello!" or a "How are you?" from them. Have a sense of humour about it. Look on the bright side. My mom meets someone new everyday, she can hide her own Easter eggs and she eats foods now which she completely swore off of earlier in life. After hating it with a passion her whole life, she now eats curry. A little late, but that's fine. It's the thought that counts and anything helps at this point.

I'll leave you today with a quote, as I will now in every blog:

"It's bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children's health than the pediatrician." Meryl Streep



Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Visit With The Farmers

The frost was ever so close last night. Temperature was down around 2C or 36F. Had to go outside at about 3 AM to drop off a bag of O's goodies in the trash can, and noticed the leaves on the zucchini plants had dew on them. We didn't even cover up our tomatoes! Tonight we will for sure. They are so close to being ready to pick, I can almost taste them.

The Mrs. came home a little late last night due to work commitments, so dinner was a little late as well. O had to be fed first. And as always, I wait for Mrs. Urban Eater to get home so she can feed her. That is their time to hang out together after a long day for both. I run around helping so they can chit chat about the day. O's dinner consisted of a cube each of broccoli, sweet potato and carrot. Additions were the usual EVOO, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, rosemary, Italian parsley and thyme. Lots of flavor and will help her little body grow and stay healthy. We had the Mario Batali dish "Escaped Clams". Tasty as usual. I failed to mention in yesterdays blog that if you choose not to have regular pasta, there are more options than this and whole wheat. You could also choose spelt, rice or corn pasta. All are good options if you can't eat or choose not to go with the others.


Last week, I went to two different Farmers Markets. The one by our house, Kingsland Farmers Market (http://www.kingslandfarmersmarket.com/) was the first one. Pretty impressive for a start-up. The vendors are all certified organic or at least pesticide free. We went to buy a flat of peaches for O to chow down, but the lady advised us to come back as they were having a special starting this Wednesday on a flat of them, 20lb's I believe, for $20. I will have to check with the wife on that as she was the deal maker there. We ended up buying a loaf of sourdough bread and some Roma tomatoes. The Roma's were a nice size, bigger than the ones we usually buy in the grocery stores. I'll give them a good home. :)


Sunday was the Calgary Farmers Market day (http://www.calgaryfarmersmarket.ca/). We were looking at getting a couple of papayas, but they didn't look so hot. Hold off on that one. But, the red onions were looking nice, so they made the grade. The apricots and red plums also were up to par, so they came home with us as well. The wife cooked them up last night and jarred them so they would be edible for little O. We save the juice the fruit is boiled in as well and use that as an ingredient for her food. The organic whole grain rice cereal soaks it all up as to make a nice gooey paste with some chunks. She rarely leaves any behind.

This week we will be busy as the summer growing season is soon coming to an end. We have to decide what comes out of the garden and into the freezer. All this is mainly for O. It will stay frozen for no more than a month as it tends to go bad after that, so I've read. Shouldn't be a problem with her. She's a good little eater and will get rid of it all. A couple of friends have mentioned this all seems like a lot of work. They weren't serious, of course. I just say it's ok as it's just something we do. Truth be told, my wife and I figured if we make the commitment to bring a life into this world, then we better make a commitment to do the right thing for that little entity, and we can start her life out properly by making the right nutritional choices right from the start. I know a lot of people just do what's easy. Boxed pasta, canned pasta, boxed or canned anything. Not under our roof. If you make it routine, then it becomes easy after a while. It's that simple. Throw in some exercise 4 or 5 days a week and taking her outside with us at least 5 or 6 days a week for a walk, all 3 of us will be better for it. I learned to cook at a high level and took a lot of time to understand food and what it can do for me, so I'm not going to stop now. O will have to learn all about food and health starting when she can talk. I never had that option, so it's the least I can do.

Support your local farmers markets. Your body will thank you for it.


For those of you in the US, the 20th annual Great Tomato Tasting is on in Pittstown, NJ (http://www.snyderfarm.rutgers.edu/html/GTT10/Event-GTT-10-contents.html). I would love to go to this one day. I could eat tomatoes everyday of my life and not get sick of them. Lycopene is extremely important and your body shouldn't go without it (http://healthfood-guide.com/tomatohealthbenefits.aspx). In Nova Scotia, the annual Wild Blueberry Harvest Festival is on all through the central valley (http://wildblueberryfest.com/). If you're in the area, go stock up on some antioxidants (http://www.blueberrycouncil.com/nutrition.php).

As this blog carries on, I will try my best to add recipes for everything I can. I am new at this and am trying to make this daily (well, we'll see about it going out everyday) more accessible to everyone. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I will do anything it takes to spread the good word on healthy eating. I started out at square one not knowing much about food or cooking. If you want to eat healthy, it doesn't have to be bland or tasteless. I learned how and so can you. I'm here to help.

Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Missing Laptop

A little nippy out there this morning. Quite a bit nicer now though. Doesn't look lik the garden veggies took one for the team yet, but I think they know their time is up soon. I believe the temperature was down around 3C, about 36F. Yikes! It's still August!

The wife called me this morning as soon as she arrived at work. She forgot her laptop here at home, so she asked I take it down to her. No problem, but I had to give O her breakfast first which consisted of mushed up bananas, figs, half of a Kiwi, a little prune juice and some rice cereal. Went down alright I guess, but she wasn't too hungry at that point. She must have ended her latest growth spurt. A couple times I thought she was going to blow up with the amount of food she was ingesting. She was almost eating more than me and didn't have a problem doing it! 

Took off for the big buildings downtown and O passed out well before the first set of lights, about 1/2 mile. Arrived at Mrs. Urban Eaters office, which incidentally was the first time I was able to see it. Nice, very nice. Corner office with a nice view of the core around her. A couple of brand new buildings across the street. I'm very happy for her and very proud of her as well. She has worked very hard for this. I brought O up with me and a few of the women in the office were all over her. "Oh my God, is she ever cute!" The kid is a rock star in Pampers.

The wife is very lucky as she is about a 3 minute walk from The River Cafe, among a few choice other things. Anyone who I have ever talked to about this place, says it is one of the best restaurants anywhere (http://www.river-cafe.com/index.php). This was the first place she ever took me to celebrate my birthday together with her. Pretty impressive as they grow a lot of their own herbs right there at the restaurant, and are as close to self-sustainable as you can get. They buy pretty much everything local.

It was a few years back, but if I remember correctly, we started with the Wild Boar Prosciutto and Arugula Flatbread with a balsamic reduction drizzled over top. Ahhh, yummy. For the life of me I can't remember what I had after that. I think she had the halibut. I may have had the Pearl Barley Risotto, but who knows. It was all fantastic, I definitely remember that for sure. We were there recently for her new companies "Yay! We are officially in business now!" function. Fresh oysters, Wild Boar Prosciutto accompanied with 5 different cheeses, Champagne, and 5 different bite-sized appys. Fantastic! And the real cool thing was, I didn't feel too full afterwards. Now that's a party and a spread I like. Great atmosphere, some extremely edible choices staring you down from their platters and you don't feel overly full when you leave.

After looking around the kitchen briefly, tonight I think I will cook Mario Batali's "Escaped Clams". Not too sure why he thinks this dish smells like seafood without the seafood, but who am I to question him? All this dish consists of is tomatoes, garlic and prosciutto over linguini. I try to eat garlic at least 4 times a week. It's very good for you. They say it puts lead in your pencil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic). Chop up the tomatoes into bite size chunks. I use Roma usually, but whatever you have on hand will be fine. Put them in a bowl and salt them to bring the juices out. Be careful not to use to much salt as the prosciutto is quite salty. Get a frying pan on the stove over medium low heat. Crush the garlic and set it aside. Cut the prosciutto into strips about 1" long and 1/2" wide or thereabouts. Again, whatever size of pieces you like will be fine. Start cooking the pasta. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons worth of EVOO in the pan. Let it heat up and put in the prosciutto. When it starts to turn translucent or a little grey, add the garlic. Stir it around so the garlic flavors the oil. When the pasta is done, move it into the frying pan along with the tomatoes. Stir to incorporate all the flavors. Put it all in a bowl, grate a little Parmesan over top and sprinkle some parsley over it all. I eat this a lot and quite enjoy it. You can add some chili's or pepperoncino if you want a little zip. A little heat is always good and healthy. The worst thing in this dish is the pasta, so feel free to use whole wheat, if you wish. Remember, if you make a mistake or add something you like to a recipe, you just made something new, that's all.

Snack time for little O. Gotta run now.

Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rainy Day, No Yard Work!

A little chilly out there today. Raining now for a couple of hours. That means no yard work today (and they all rejoice, yay.)! I had to shovel 5 cubic yards of topsoil in about 3.5 hours over 2 days, in between squash games this week. I think I would like to take a break on making our yard more presentable just for a day or so.

Last night, Mrs. Urban Eater thought we should have Lobster Risotto while her parents were still here (pic attached below). After we tried to feed Little O her supper of beets and sweet potatoes (which she didn't eat as she had no interest in food at all for some reason, too tired I guess), I started pouring and stirring, 22-24 minutes later, Shazam! I love lobster, but I can only eat so much of it as it's sooooo rich. I eased off on the butter as I always do in cases such as this. Butter in the pan to start with a little EVOO to cut down the bad fat content and add a different flavor component. It also makes sure the butter doesn't burn as it has a higher smoke point. I decided to go with an onion tonight instead of shallots. Sometimes, when we have a dinner party, I will add the shallots or onions to the broth and then strain it after boiling so there are no chunky bits to get in the way of the rice, but not tonight. Stir, add white wine, stir, add broth. Went with chicken stock tonight, homemade as usual. Threw in a few peas near the end, A little butter, Parmesan, Fleur de sel and Truffle oil to top it off and we were away to the races. It is still a little high in calories, but live a little! Cut down where you can and just know how to get the most out of things in the flavor department. Oh, and don't eat it too often. You may not be able to see your toes after a month or two of eating it every weekend.

A fellow asked me a week or two ago if I used butter or margarine when I cook, risotto or otherwise. You know how you look at people when they say something weird to you, kind of over your shoulder with one eye kind of squinted a little? I took the high road and answered " I never use margarine". Didn't get into it as some people like to use it other than butter. Personally, I go with one rule of thumb: Do you want to eat something which is engineered by humans trying to lower the fat in it, or do you want to use something Mother Nature gave us with only a little human tinkering? I have done a lot of reading on this, and this little article seems to put it into perspective(http://www.naturodoc.com/library/nutrition/margbutt.htm). As far as I know, DR. Andrew Weil is a pretty good doctor and isn't a crackpot. Now, I don't know this for sure as I have very limited experience with his preaching on heath and wellness, but he makes sense. My Step-dad is a dentist. About 15 years ago, he went on one of his educational conventions they have to do to keep their designation. He told me they did a test with butter and margarine. both were melted and put in a glass cup. The butter broke down and the milk solids floated to the top, as they always do. This is called ghee or clarified butter. This is one of the many tools East Indians use for cooking. If they use it, it must be good. The margarine on the other hand, had a bunch of "stuff" floating around in it. The instructor told them this "stuff" was the part of the margarine which didn't break down. It just kind of stayed there in suspended animation. Yuck! After that, Dr. Ed said "no more margarine in this house". I never really touched it after that as well. Never really did anyways. Some people say it is one molecule away from being plastic, but that is not yet proven.

Finally had the Eggs in Purgatory this morning. Put it off for a day, but it is always worth the wait. San Marzano Tomatoes, a little onion and garlic, a couple of herbs from the garden, but not too much as you don't want to spoil the flavor of what is argueably the worlds best tomato. I try to eat Tomatoes whenever, however and with whatever (well, almost but not quite). Very good for you and a good source of lycopene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycopene). Crack your eggs into a small bowl before you place it on top of the tomato sauce so as to not accidentally cook a spoiled egg. Gently pour the egg out on top of the sauce. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Poach to your liking over medium low to medium heat. Remember the eggs keep cooking after you remove them from the pan.

Off to the other Farmers Market now. Should be crazy as the weather is not too conducive for going on a nice walk around town.

Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark