you say (heirloom) tomato

What to do with a bag of overripe heirloom tomatoes that you bought on sale at the farm market?

A member of the nightshade family, tomatoes are native to South America and at some point were thought to be poisonous. Others adored tomatoes: the French called them pommes d’amour (love apples) and claimed that they had aphrodisiac powers. Either way, it took until the 1900s for this fruit to gain popularity in North America. While technically a fruit, in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court classified the tomato as a vegetable for trade purposes, based on a popular definition that it’s not served as dessert, but rather with dinner.

Because tomatoes are very perishable, they’re often picked green and ripened later with ethylene gas or in a warming room. These will rarely have the same aroma and taste as vine-ripened or heirloom tomatoes. In addition to the balance of sugars and acids in the tomato, the flavor also depends on subtle fragrant compounds, called volatile compounds. These compounds float to our nostrils when the tomato has been bitten or sliced and contribute to flavor. It’s speculated by scientists that geranial (one of the volatile compounds in tomatoes) improves the overall flavor of a tomato by enhancing its innate sweetness. Compared to heirlooms, standard tomatoes have less geranial. Modern supermarket tomato plants are generally bred for high yield, which means that the tomatoes will be less sweet since the more fruit a plant produces, the less sugar it can invest in each tomato.

Upon bringing these misshapen beauties home, I realized that the only way to salvage them would be to drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle generously with basil and fresh cracked pepper and roast at 425 until the skins look crispy. I didn’t, however plan for the excessive amount of liquid that the heirlooms would produce. Not wanting to waste this precious juice, I scooped most of it out and used it instead of water to make the quinoa. Kids approved highly of my invention.

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roasted carrots and cylindra beets

IMG_1951Not sure what possessed me to venture outside today. Roads covered with snow. Cars either gridlocked or sliding all over the place. I guess visiting my dear friend and her new baby boy is a reason good enough.

I love how a big snowfall brings out a person’s inner self. You have the grumblers and the shovelers. The latter of which I had the pleasure of meeting a few hours ago when he shovelled my minivan out of the snow (the second time I got stuck).

Thank you to the man with the long hair and striped hat! My panic was greatly lessened thanks to your benevolent willingness to help a complete stranger.

Something about the snow makes me want to eat roasted veggies. I know- you were expecting me to say soup. That too. But roasted root vegetables are hearty and hearty foods tend to give warmth akin to a bowl of soup, in my opinion. Either way, here it is: a recipe for roasted cylindra beets and carrots. The dark purple beets contrasts beautifully with the glowing orange of carrots. You can use regular beets in lieu of cylindra, obviously.

7 cylindra beets, ends cut off, peeled

3 carrots, ends cut off, peeled

olive oil

1/8 teaspoon cumin

fresh cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 425

Half the beets lengthwise and cut carrots into 3, then half lengthwise if they’re thin (you want thick pieces of carrots)

Toss everything together in a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on how soft you like them veggies. I like mine roasted almost to the point of shriveled, so I actually bake for 45 minutes)

Variations on this dish can be played ad infinitum. You can add rosemary, parsley or dill, or other vegetables entirely.

What are your favorite hearty, winter meals?

potato rant

Whoever invented the deep-fried potato surely didn’t realize the sin he was committing. Granted that once in a while deep-fried potatoes, beautifully brown and crisp and cooked in fine oil or fat, can be a compliment to a good chicken or a grilled pig’s foot, or a fine steak. But the notion that these bits of potato- when limp, greasy, without flavor or texture and barely warm- should be served with every dish in the world is odious beyond belief…Then to crown all other horrors, people drench them with cold catchup and eat them! I have watched these same people consume nothing but a double order of French fries (and where that name came from, I don’t know) for lunch, along with bread and, of course, catchup.

Quoted from Delights & Prejudices by James Beard

James can be pretty opinionated. But when it comes to potatoes, I couldn’t agree more. Well. Except for the pig’s foot. The humble tuber can be a heavenly side-dish when roasted with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Or baked with a light sprinkling of cheese and dill. But how did fries become it’s own food group? And more importantly, how the heck did it end up on the kid’s menu?

14 ways to get moving this winter

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When was the last time you saw glorious rays of sun? While I find fall and winter to be an opportune time to teach my kids about the color grey, I also remind myself that little minds don’t yet see grey (or even, gasp, rainy!) skies as a reason to hibernate.

You don’t need a ginormous backyard with extravagant toys. An old bucket, measuring cups, sticks, mud, rocks and leaves are the perfect tools to appeal to your child’s natural desire to make a mess, explore and invent.

Here are some tips to help your adventurer reach the recommended 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per day:

  • Visit a playground or park right before or after school and stay for 20-30 minutes. Otherwise it’s “I don’t have time” or “it’s not convenient”. Kids who play outdoors after school get an average of 2000 more steps (aka walking an extra 2km per day), than kids who don’t.
  • Ever heard of a coat? Bundle up and go outside together! Do what you’d do if it was spring, just dress for the weather.
  • Play games like tag, hide and seek, freeze tag, “what time is it Mr. Wolf”, soccer etc. These games get everyone running around and before you realize it, you’re exercising together. As opposed to sipping your tall vanilla latte on a bench while Max climbs a tree. Hey at least it’s non-fat.
  • Frequent a park with an obstacle course and do it 3 times together. It’s highly amusing to watch a preschooler attempt chin-ups.
  • Puddle hopping! There are no shortage of these where I come from.
  • Get to school any other way aside from driving.
  • Sign your child up for indoor sports like martial arts or swimming if you have rainophobia.
  • Visit your therapist about said rainophobia.
  • Walk/run for a cause. Research upcoming walks or runs in your community that raise money for non-profit organizations and join in.
  • Go to the beach and chase the waves (wear rubber boots of course).
  • Get a jump rope and time your child how long he or she can jump. Compare each week to see how they have improved. The foundation of bone mass is laid down during childhood and early adolescence, and when kids do high impact activities (like jumping) their bones get stronger. Osteoporosis prevention anyone?
  • Less than 10% of kids meet Canadian physical activity guidelines. Less than 10%?? How atrocious. What’s the family doing after work/school? Make a plan. Get the family involved. Stick with it.
  • Get kids to rake leaves, shovel snow or carry groceries. This is possible. I’ve got my 2-year-old schlepping bags for me all the time.
  • Some indoor “rainy day acitivities” get the blood pumping (hide and seek, jumping on the couch, indoor sports, treasure hunts) but most are sedentary. By all means paint, bake and read, just balance it with energetic movement.

Any other ideas? What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

wholesome snacking

nuts 2Snacking is necessary if your kids do any kind of activity at all. Activity can be defined as jumping on your new Simmons Beautyrest mattress. Or using the “toy” hammer to bang holes in the wall.

Kids need to eat to get more energy for more banging and jumping.

The question is: what to eat?

I’m lobbying for snack-time to be renamed “Opportunity for healthy sustenance time”, but to avoid wordiness, let’s call it what it is.

A few reminders:

Choose from at least 2 food groups and make different combinations.

Avoid snacks that you’ve seen advertised on TV. Packaged snack food may be high in popularity, but it’s frequently low in nutrition.

Keep snacks on the small-ish side and not less than 1 or 1.5 hours before a meal. If it’s 50 minutes before dinner, then the tiny tummies need to wait. This is highly individualized, so use your parent-sense.

It doesn’t hurt to cut snacks into cool shapes, like toast or tofu into stars.

Protein:

Cottage cheese

Plain Greek yogurt

Plain regular yogurt

Cheese- ricotta, mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, goat, feta, etc

Dry soy beans

Nuts- walnut, almond, brazil, cashew, hazelnut, unsalted pistachio, pecan

note- I keep my nuts in the fridge to preserve freshness

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Tofu

1 egg (poached, boiled, scrambled)

Can I cut in for a moment? Are you reading this shaking your head at me, no way my kids will eat feta cheese? But try it. And then try it again. Be gently persistent, but keep your equilibrium (aka remain cool). The same goes for anything else on this list that you find outrageous. I know how you feel. To date, only my youngest eats Swiss cheese; for the other two it’s on the reject list, but I continue to reintroduce it periodically. Not to mention, I’ve been pursuing the art of avocado-feeding for my 1-year-old for six months, and only today (yippee!) did she not whip the precious green cubes across the room. She ate them instead.

Veggies:

Mini tomatoes

Broccoli and cauliflower trees

Mushrooms

Sticks of: carrots, celery, zucchini, jicama, bell peppers, green beans, cucumber

Fruits:

The usual suspects

Pomegranate

Grapefruit

Kiwi

Longan and Lychee

Berries

Melon (try something new, like Hami melon)

Persimmon

Sliced avocado

Papaya

Figs

Carbohydrate:

Ryvita crackers or low sodium whole grain crackers

Plain popcorn

Whole grain toast, pita or bagel

Dips (for crackers, whole wheat pita, veggie sticks, fruit):

Peanut, almond, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed butters

Bean dip

Chummus

Yogurt dip (plain yogurt, dill, lemon juice, garlic powder)

Ideas:

Whole grain toast topped with nut butter, thinly sliced apple

Smoothie with yogurt, splash of flax oil, spinach, cup of berries and a banana

Mini cucumbers scooped out, filled with yogurt dip

Small salad with nuts/beans and a vinaigrette dressing

Veggie sticks with yogurt dip

Whole grain bagel topped with mashed avocado, thinly sliced pear

Homemade whole grain muffins

Yogurt (plain!) & fruit popsicles

Cubed tofu with peanut dip (peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil)

Any other combination from the lists above

end of the season

Country Farm

Where can you find local cabbage bigger than your head? Or local German nugget potatoes? And oyster, cremini, chanterelle, button and portobello mushrooms, varieties of local squashes, greens aplenty, Japanese eggplant, snow-white turnips, golden beets, local leeks? Richmond Country Farms is the place to be. My kids behave like angels because I remind them that after we shop we can visit the chickens, geese, goats, lambs and horses. Prices are reasonable and it’s local-produce-galore in this farm market, just off Steveston Highway in Richmond B.C. I’ve also never gotten in trouble for letting my 2-year-old wander around with his own shopping basket, filling it with an assortment of fruits and veggies that I do not intend to buy (the contents of this basket relies heavily on which items are at eye level with someone 2 feet tall). My one qualm is that I’d love to see more organic options, although they do have a little organic section tucked away on the side. The farm is open until December 23rd. Then they close for the season and re-open in the Spring.

Looking for meal ideas? Visiting without a shopping list will provide ample inspiration.