Our Featured Food Business for the Month of April: Local, Artisan Chutney Dips

We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Berna Pais, the Founder of Chutney Mary, following our food photo shoot in March. Chutney Mary offers artisan and local savoury dips to meet your everyday needs.

Read on to find out more about this local business and what inspired them to get started!

1) What inspired you to start Chutney Mary?

“The name Chutney Mary itself conjures up images of a lady walking the streets in India. Mary is a common name. Chutney is a delicious accompaniment to any food – it adds a little spice to simple everyday food. It kicks it up a notch with its lively, interesting and smooth taste.

In south India, chutneys – orange, green and white (the colours of the flag) – are usually served with our famous dosas, which are crisp rice crepes. I always add chutney to my meals.”

 

2) Describe your unique approach to making your products (for example, the natural ingredients that you use).

“I love variety. My chutney product line incorporates a variety of colours, spice levels and uniqueness in terms of the ingredients I chose to use. For example, I am really hooked on cranberries; it is such a versatile fruit. It adds a beautiful vibrant colour to any dish, and it works especially well with Christmas and Thanksgiving meals as it adds a special spotlight to the table.”

3) What would you say is your best, or your favourite chutney product, and why? What food do you recommend pairing it with?

“The Spicy Cranberry is probably my favourite (although I love all of them!). It goes well with turkey, ham, cream cheese or brie cheese.

The Chilli Mustard chutney is another one of my favourites. It is my mother’s recipe and so it brings a lot of childhood memories for me. My mother used to make us sandwiches with this chutney.”

4) What do customers love most about your products?

“I would say customers love the distinct flavours, natural ingredients and that it’s vegan!

I use simple ingredients and have added a twist – with the colours, spice and the unique combinations. It’s great to have our chutney products around to add to breakfast, lunch or dinner, and even at snack time.”

 

For more information on Chutney Mary, or to make an order, please click here.

WHAT’S TRENDING? ‘Food waste’ on the menu

The 2016 Chef Survey, developed by Restaurants Canada, revealed Top 10 menu items to look out for in the upcoming year. The list includes many interesting and unique edibles that can enhance any culinary dish. With that being said, we want to emphasize ‘food waste’ within the top food trends to further enhance your restaurant menu. Yes, you heard us right – we encourage you to put food waste on the plate!

We chose to focus on 5 specific food trends from the list, and we’d like to share with you some key strategies for reducing and preventing food waste at the production level – that is, food prep and cooking. We will share tips for reducing food waste at the consumption and storage levels in later posts.

So, without further due, here are the top 5 trending foods and corresponding tips to maximize the use of valuable ingredients in your menu.

1. Leafy Greens

Ah, those beautiful, crisp greens. Whatever leafy green vegetables you are using at your restaurant or catering establishment – whether it is Asian spicy greens, baby romaine lettuce blend, frisée, arugula, or dandelion – you must think outside the box. All leafy greens taste absolutely fantastic when wilted using a little bit of olive oil and roasted garlic; added to a Spanish tortilla omelette; stir-fried; or incorporated into a rich pasta sauce. So, if you have any extra leafy greens, throw them into one of these dishes and make it your “daily special” to offer to customers.

With larger greens such as mature kale, or broccoli, think of creative ways to use the stems. You can steam or bake them whole, or chop them finely and use in soup or as a garnish. The bottom line is that no food should go to waste. This approach will save you money and energy in the long run. Your goal should be to maximize the use of commonly discarded vegetable ‘scraps.’

And finally, don’t forget about the forgotten greens. These include radish leaves, beet greens, and wild foraged greens such as purslane and callaloo (amaranth). All of these greens are edible and delicious when wilted. Not only will this provide an additional edge to your menu as people will be excited to try something new or not commonly used, but it will reduce unnecessary waste. How much can you save on food waste? Well, think about it this way: half of your radish bunch is made up of leaves! Poaching greens is another option and can add beautiful colour to your existing menu items. Green leafy vegetables are also full of flavour and offer a nutritional punch. Just remember to keep the temperatures low for delicate greens and stop cooking when leaves turn bright green.

2. Gluten – Free/ Food Allergy Conscious

Gluten free and other allergen-free options are popping up in many restaurant menus. This is based on a supply and demand of consumer needs and wants, and the evolution of our diets in general. Allergy-free menu dishes can allow you to be more creative in offering different taste and value to customers. Here are a few suggestions on how you can save on food waste with allergy-free, gluten-free menu alternatives:

A. Sprouts
Instead of using sprouts as garnish, use it as one of the main ingredients and incorporate it into the star dish of your menu. Use a combination of larger and smaller sprouts to fill up the plate. For example, you can use sprouted sunflowers with kale and basil micro greens for a nice salad base. Sprouts can be pricey and they do not usually have a long shelf-life; hence they spoil quickly. For this reason, you may choose to purchase a larger quantity with a plan to use it in a few different dishes.

B. Ancient Grains
Sure, you can go for the gluten-free pasta and pizza dough. But even better, you can create your main course around whole grains with a vast variety to choose from – teff, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet and wild rice varieties. Make a sweet or savory pilaf dish, or a warm root salad using whole grains. As an added bonus, you can set the price for whole grain dishes at a higher level because they are unique (not commonly used) and they are naturally gluten-free (make sure there is no cross-contamination with other gluten grains). To prevent unnecessary food waste, portion out your quantities and soak grains before cooking.

C. Spiralized Noodles
Spiralized vegetables such as yellow and green zucchini and squash (including spaghetti squash) make great gluten-free noodles that present well on a plate. Use as an appetizer or main course dish. To prevent food waste, consider getting the right equipment (i.e. Spiralizer) and invest in a commercial product. Also, skip the peeling, especially for soft skinned vegetables.

D. Mini Vegetables
Yes, smaller is better! You may pay a little extra for smaller versions of commonly used vegetables, but you also save more as it does not require peeling and chopping (which tends to produce some waste). Smaller vegetables also look really appealing on the plate, and they offer a great fresh taste in one small bite. This option may be more suitable for higher-end restaurants who put a lot of emphasis on presentation and flavour. Some excellent choices include mini beets, radishes, and carrots.

When I travelled to the Canary Islands a few years ago, I visited Tenerife where I came across a dish known as “papas arrugadas,” or wrinkly potatoes. The dish consisted of mini whole potatoes boiled in sea salt water. The dish was slightly expensive (although it sounds simple to make) since it actually costs more money to grow these small potatoes rather than the larger varieties. But it also looked much more appetizing than a similar dish made of chopped or mashed potatoes.

3. House-made Condiments/ House-made Artisan Pickles

Our favorite pickled items are dilly pickled carrots and naturally fermented turnips. We suggest skipping the peeling. Simply wash your root vegetables under cold water and scrub lightly with a paper towel to remove any dirt. By preserving the skin you are maintaining nutrients and reducing waste. The process of fermentation also tends to soften the vegetable, including the peel. If you choose to peel your vegetables or fruits for aesthetics or other reasons, have a plan B. For example, use the peels for stock, cooking liquid, or sauce. Beets and carrots can also add vibrant colour to other dishes, if desired.

4. Unusual/ Uncommon Herbs

There are many examples under this category including chervil, borage, Thai basil, lovage, lemon balm and pineapple mint. Herbs are so diverse and versatile with a distinct flavour even within the same plant family. Instead of using herbs as the garnish, why not make them the center of your dish. To reduce waste, use both stems and leaves and even flowers if there are any. Any extra parts can be dehydrated or air dried for extended shelf life and later use. Freezing is also an option. Baking or wilting can add a brighter green to your dish and a milder flavour in some cases. Any unwanted pieces, such as stems can be turned into a rich pesto or mojo sauce. Certain herbs can also be used to make homemade teas, or for infusing water and iced drinks. Again, think about maximizing the use of your products with the goal of enhancing your menu and offering something of value to your customers.

5. Alternative “Pulse” Proteins

Incorporating alternative protein sources into your menu can be a wise choice both economically and environmentally. There are many varieties of pulses currently on the market; pigeon peas, French lentils, cranberry beans, and many more. Another exciting item on the market is chickpea tofu. Yes, soy-free tofu! Pulses are very filling and can be used as a allergy-free substitute on their own or added to an existing recipe. Whatever pulses you are cooking with, create a practical plan for food waste reduction. In order to reduce and reuse food waste, you have to adapt alternative ways of thinking while also practicing new habits in the kitchen. So, for instance the liquid leftover from cooked pulses is a great base for soups and stews, and certain sauces. It can also be used as a thickening agent in other recipes. Likewise, the leftover liquid from steamed greens can be used to cook your beans and lentils. Sometimes, the key to reducing food waste means investing in the right tools such as a good knife.

Remember to use all of your key ingredients as a reference point to design your main dishes, rather than simply planning your menu without a clear plan to maximize the use of your edible products. As a rule of thumb, you should come up with 1-3 uses for each purchased ingredient (including all the stuff we call waste). This approach will help you save money in the long run, create efficiency in your business and support environmental sustainability.

We will help your business tackle food waste – guaranteed! Contact us today for a FREE initial assessment. Let’s chat: 416-997-4046.

4 Tips To Survive The Holiday Season

It’s that wonderful time of the year. Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year celebrations are right around the corner. You are probably making endless lists for gifts, guests and menu options for the upcoming weeks. Food is the centerpiece of any special occasion, and the choices you make this holiday season create an opportunity for ringing in 2017 with a healthful approach. We’ve put together a short list of suggestions to help you with that goal.

Tip #1: Have a plan

Create a plan for grocery purchases, holiday meals and re-using leftovers.

Look for recipes that have nutrition information to help you make informed decisions. Create a budget and a list of food items and ingredients that you’ll ‘need’ for making your holiday dishes. Stick to the plan to avoid buying any ‘wants.’ Use the weekend to brainstorm ideas and involve others in the process. Planning will help you eat healthier, waste less food and save money.

Tip #2: Incorporate healthier substitutions

Substitute ingredients to create healthier holiday dishes.

Choose healthier ingredients without compromising taste. There are many ways to prepare and enjoy your favorite food while limiting the addition of salt, sugar and extra fat. Try something new this holiday season. Reduce the amount of salt in your home cooked meals. Add spices or fresh herbs instead. Create your own homemade marinade or dressing using simple ingredients such as fresh orange, lime and fresh seasoning. If you’re craving something sweet, try baked fruits such as apples or pears. Baking releases natural sugars which adds more sweetness to your dishes.

Tip #3: Find a ‘cooking buddy’

Cook with others to reduce the workload.

Invite friends and family over to help you cook. Involve your kids in food preparation. Make the cooking process enjoyable and fun. Join a local community kitchen. There are many benefits to cooking with others such as sharing healthy recipes, dividing tasks in the kitchen, and providing an opportunity to socialize while eating a meal together. In addition, cooking with others supports healthier eating habits.

Tip #4: Eat more, but choose wisely

Choose a variety of vegetarian based dishes.

Add more creativity to your kitchen creations. Try poaching kale or asparagus, grilling or braising mushrooms, marinating pulses and peppers, or toasting nuts and seeds. These methods will add flavour and texture to your dishes. Choose from the following:

-Green leafy vegetables  (lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, broccoli)

-Other muti-coloured vegetables (peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, cabbage, carrots)

-Fresh leafy herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, basil)

-Mushrooms (white, brown, shiitake, oyster, enoki)

-Nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews)

-Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)

-Pulses (lentils, beans, green peas, chickpeas)

 

Interested in learning more?

Book a workshop with us in January and receive a 1-hour healthy cooking session, FREE of charge!

Call us for more details:

416-997-4046

KV’s Summer Tapas: Sweet Nectarine Bruschetta

This appetizer is a perfect finger food that will satisfy everyone’s palate at your family gathering or other social event. Savor the summer flavour with this quick and easy recipe in just a few simple steps:

Ingredient ListSweet Nectarine Bruschetta
1/2 cup Ontario cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1  Ontario white nectarine (slightly ripe; not too soft), finely chopped
Fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 multi-grain sourdough baguette, sliced
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, grated (or fetta cheese)
Whole lemon, juice squeezed
3 Tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Mix cherry tomatoes, white nectarine, basil, lemon juice and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Place baguette slices on a baking tray. Coat each slice with a little olive oil. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until crispy.
4. Cover each baguette slice with the bruschetta mix and sprinkle some cheese on top.
5. Serve immediately. Enjoy with a delicious frozen fruit daiquiri.

 

10 Recipe Ideas for Using Leftover Celery

Using leftovers is a hot topic these days for many reasons. Re-using leftovers is like recycling. We should all do it, but many of us are still learning the what’s and how’s. Learning how to use leftovers in your meals can save you money, help you eat on a budget, and prevent food waste. Instead of going out for dinner today, take a peek in your fridge and get creative with your leftover ingredients. Research shows that people who cook and eat at home more often tend to consume less calories, salt and fat. Overall, using leftovers in meals is a wise and frugal decision.

During our recent community nutrition workshop, one of the participants mentioned that they were having challenges with using celery in recipes. “I have too much celery, and I usually don’t know what to do with the leftovers,” said the participant. This blog post was inspired and prompted by this conundrum. After all, celery makes up the foundation of many popular dishes. So, without further due, here are some recipe ideas to inspire YOU to use leftover celery in your home cooking:

Celery Whole

1. Homemade Vegetable Stock

Add celery and other leftover vegetables (such as potato, carrot peels, and broccoli stalks) to a pot of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Refrigerate and use within a week, or freeze in Ziploc bags for a few months.

2. Celery Omelette Muffins

Instead of frying your eggs, turn them into muffins! Preheat the oven to 345 F. Beat the eggs. Add any leftover vegetables such as celery, mushrooms and tomatoes to the mix. Add a small amount of yogurt or milk. Pour mixture into the muffin tin and bake until the top is browned (about 25 minutes).

3. Grated Celery Slaw

Add celery to your favourite slaw. Use Napa cabbage, shredded carrots and fresh lime. Alternatively, you can make a sweet slaw with grated celery, red cabbage and raisins. Or simply add celery to any salad. Be creative!

4. Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Chop celery, zucchini, red peppers, eggplant, tomato and onion. Add a spice mix of your choice and drizzle with some olive oil. Mix everything in a baking pan. Roast in the oven for about 30-45 minutes.

5. Celery Mushroom Soup

Leftover celery is a great addition to any soup or stew, and even curry dishes. To make the celery mushroom soup, chop celery, onion and mushrooms. Mince some fresh garlic and ginger (optional). Sautée the garlic and ginger on low heat using a small amount of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, celery and onion. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add some seasoning, such as thyme, bay leaves, basil and oregano. Transfer the mixture to a large pot, and add some soup stock. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Use a hand blender to get the desired consistency. Freeze any leftover soup.

Celery Soup

6. Vegetable Pasta

Pasta dishes are usually fast and easy to make. Cook your favourite noodles, such as linguine or fusilli. Sautée some chopped celery and greens (chard, broccoli, spinach) in a saucepan. Add tomato sauce and noodles, and voila!

7. Baked Casserole

Any of the above dishes can be mixed to create a delicious baked casserole. Or you can make one from scratch using leftover vegetables such as celery, protein (meat/fish/lentils), rice or noodles, and a cooking liquid (stock/tomato sauce/milk). Mix the ingredients in a shallow glass baking dish, and bake (400 F) in the oven for about 40-50 minutes.

8. Egg Salad Sandwich

Can you imagine an egg salad without celery? Boil an egg or two. Mash with a fork. Add some mashed avocado, hummus or pesto. Add finely chopped celery, black pepper and a pinch of salt. Enjoy with a multigrain toast and lettuce.

9. Guacamole Dip

Guacamole is a delicious creamy Mexican dip used with nacho chips and as a sauce in burritos. You can also add guacamole to your sandwiches or use as a dip with baked pita crisps. Add more flavor to your guacamole with some diced celery and tomatoes. Mash the avocado; add the diced celery and tomatoes. Mix in some fresh lemon juice and jalapeño pepper (if you desire some spice), and enjoy! Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

Mirepoix

10. Mirepoix Sauce

Mirepoix (‘mi-reh-pwa’) is a delicious sauce base used to flavour soups and other dishes such as risotto. Finely chop celery, carrots, and onion. Sautée until tender. Purée or strain the mirepoix and freeze any leftovers in an ice cube tray. Transfer to a Ziploc bag. Use in pasta dishes, rice and stews.

 

Gas, Abdominal Discomfort, Bloating…Sounds familiar?

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with a client during one of my nutrition education workshops.

“Including more legumes, such as beans and lentils in your diet will ensure you are getting enough fibre every day,” I encouraged the group. At the end of the workshop, a client approached me to ask a question. “I like eating beans and chia seeds. But I seem to have trouble digesting all this stuff. I get gassy,” he said. “What can I do?” he asked.

If you can relate to this client in that you experience similar symptoms after eating beans or seeds, there are some general tips that you can follow to help alleviate tummy discomfort:

1. Try to slowly introduce legumes and seeds into your diet, increasing your intake little by little every day.

2. Stay hydrated with regular consumption of water when you eat legumes (beans, lentils, peas) and other high fibre foods (whole grains). Limit your coffee and caffeinated tea intake when eating these foods.

3. It might be helpful to soak legumes and seeds (even grains) prior to cooking or eating these foods. Beans can be soaked in water for a day or two, as long as you keep changing the water frequently (every few hours) to prevent growth of bacteria.

4. Sprouting, or buying prepared bean and lentil sprouts can further help with digestion. Seniors, pregnant women, children and those with a compromised immune system need to take extra caution when eating sprouts because of higher risk for getting potential food poisoning. Cooking the sprouts reduces the risk.

5. Digestive enzymes and probiotic supplements may help with some digestion problems. There is a lot of research showing the benefits of probiotic supplements for our gut health and even our mental well-being. Always consult a health care practitioner before taking any supplements or vitamins.

6. Adding lemon juice to your meals, or drinking warm water with added lemon juice before a meal seems to help some of our clients.

7. Cooking beans and lentils thoroughly is important. Using guidelines for cooking different varieties of legumes is a good idea.

If you continue to experience severe abdominal pain or discomfort, please see a doctor. Persisting pain or discomfort may be a sign of something serious. It is always a good idea to seek medical advice if you experience any health issues of concern to you.

Please note that the information presented on our Blog page is not meant to replace professional advice of a medical doctor. The purpose of our posts is solely to educate and inform the public about general topics related to food and nutrition. If you have individual concerns, please speak with your family doctor or health care specialist. Our blog posts should be used for educational purposes only. Do not use the information presented in our posts for self-diagnosis. Always seek medical advice if you have any concerns. 

Healthy Body Weight: The big picture

What is a ‘healthy’ body weight?

Healthy body weight is different for each individual. It varies based on age, gender, life stage, physical activity, and overall health. A few weeks ago, I came across the Oprah Show where Dr. Oz was discussing this topic in rather medical terms. My first thought was, ‘Not another dieting show!’ But I was intrigued by what Dr. Oz had to say. And so I tuned in.

Dr. Oz made reference to the term ‘omentum,’ a connective tissue that lies between our abdominal muscles and the stomach. The omentum grows in size when individuals gain weight around the waist area. For women, the waistline should not be more than 32” and for men it should not be greater than 35″ to be considered in the healthy body range. Dr. Oz further explained that waist circumference is a better indicator of obesity or being overweight when compared to BMI (Body Mass Index).

Although BMI is frequently used as a measuring tool to determine ‘healthy’ weight (by considering an individual’s height in relation to their weight), it is not always accurate. For example, individuals who are more physically active may have a higher BMI than those who are sedentary because muscle mass weighs more than fat mass. Therefore, body weight alone is not necessarily a good indicator of healthy weight, or obesity.

Will dieting help you reach a healthy weight?

Dieting is usually associated with the process of cutting down on (or eliminating) specific food groups and/or ingredients such as sugar, fat, or carbs. Dieting is a very common approach to reach a desired body weight, but there are better and more effective ways to accomplish this. Although weight loss diets have become the new trend, it rarely produces long lasting results. In other words, people who diet will most likely regain the weight they have lost. The key to success is to maintain a healthy body weight (sure, losing weight may be tough but keeping the extra pounds off is a bigger challenge!).

Reaching a healthy body weight entails eating well. Instead of cutting down on calories and fats, try to incorporate healthier options in your daily meals. Substituting your meals and snacks with nutrient dense options is a better alternative to excluding items, or limiting your options. Nutrient dense foods may be high in calories, but their nutrient profile (level and quality of nutrients) is much more superior than processed foods or low-nutrient items. The best thing to do is to include variety and moderation in your daily meals. Try new foods to ensure you are getting all the necessary nutrients. Following Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating can help you reach your healthy weight goals. Enjoy the foods you eat and be mindful at the table to avoid overeating.

blog post photo

How does healthy eating fit in with your weight loss goals?

One way to achieve weight loss is through dietary restrictions, with or without a strict exercise regimen. Weight loss is not always healthy, depending on individual circumstances. When you follow a healthy eating plan you may naturally lose excess weight to reach your optimal body weight. In general, healthy eating and healthy body weight can be accomplished through a long term commitment to an overall healthy lifestyle which includes your daily food choices. Healthy eating should be a crucial component of any nutrition goal. Being healthy takes time. Time for planning, cooking and eating. It takes dedication. As with any goal, it’s wise to start small and keep it simple. Make small changes to improve what’s on your plate. Remember, calories are not your enemy. Calories are the fuel that keeps you going throughout the day.

All foods have calories (energy). So how do you choose?

The source of calories is very important. In this case the quality is more important than the quantity. For example, a can of coke may have 140 calories but no nutritional value (no proteins, fibre or healthy fats). The result is a sugar spike and then a rapid drop in energy levels resulting in a feeling of sluggishness and tiredness. A handful of nuts, on the other hand, may have more calories, but it also contains vitamins and minerals, good fats, protein and fibre. Fibre should be your best friend when striving for a healthy weight range. Fibre helps you feel fuller longer and helps regulate your bowel movements. It also keeps your heart happy and strong.

Please note that the information presented on our Blog page is not meant to replace professional advice of a medical doctor. The purpose of our posts is solely to educate and inform the public about general topics related to food and nutrition. If you have individual concerns, please speak with your family doctor or health care specialist. Our blog posts should be used for educational purposes only. Do not use the information presented in our posts for self-diagnosis. Always seek medical advice if you have any concerns.