New Year’s Detox

I LOVE the holiday season and part of the reason I love it so much is that we all have carte blanche to do a little guilt-free binging. Huge boxes of chocolates are lying around, beckoning us as we innocently walk by. Nights on the town, eating, drinking and then eating and drinking some more. And holiday feasts, with second and third helpings and lots of holiday bubbly and holiday wine.

But what happens when January rolls around and you’ve got a depleted bank account and a bulging muffin top?

It’s Detox time.

I found an ultra-healthy recipe a couple of months ago and have been saving it for the January bulges and blues. So, if you want to get back on track fast, blend this for breakfast for a couple of weeks and I guarantee you’ll have your waistline and your energized self back in no time.

2014 Power Detox Smoothie

  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 6 kale leaves
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 organic apples
  • 1 cup blackberries (or blueberries)
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • juice from 1/2 lemon

Blend. Drink. Glow.

detox

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Soup Sisters

My lovely city is in  the middle of a cold spell. So uncharacteristically cold that I feel like I’ve been magically transported from Vancouver back to my birthplace, frigid and snowy Ontario. The ground is blanketed in a layer of sparkling, diamond-like frost, it’s been endlessly sunny out, 10 degrees below zero and so dry my skin is starting to crack. Very strange for a temperate rainforest. And as the freezing cold weather continues, I’ve become extremely worried about homeless people and outdoor animals. This (global warming) weather has got to be a shock for all beings living outside in southern BC.

Last weekend I braved the cold and took my little Terrier out for a two hour walk in the sub-zero weather and when I got home, chilled to the bone, all I could think of was a hot, steamy bowl of soup from Whole Foods. Soul warming, stick to the ribs, soup. So off I went to the grocery store to get a huge bowl of chicken noodle. On the way there I noticed two homeless guys camped out on the sidewalk. One had a huge down comforter wrapped around him, and the other had….nothing. Yikes, I thought as I walked by. Are these two going to survive the cold spell. Especially the blanket-less man?

Into the store I went. I grabbed my soup and couldn’t wait to get home to chow down. As I walked back home though, I looked at the man sitting on the cold sidewalk with no blanket. I approached him and heard myself asking if he wanted some soup. It was almost like my voice had a mind of it’s own because part of me really, really wanted that soup. I walked home, soup-less and thought, well that was a microscopic drop in a gigantic bucket. I think part the reason we feel so powerless when it comes to homelessness is that it’s such a huge problem, most of us don’t feel like we can help instigate even a small change, so then just do our best to ignore it.

I checked my email later that evening and saw a reminder that I had signed up for a cooking class two months ago, that I had completely forgotten about. Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers at the Dirty Apron Cooking School, the very next night. Serendipity.

I bundled up with a toque, scarf, mitts and puffy jacket and off I went to the Dirty Apron, ready for my first cooking course ever and an introduction to the philosophy of the Soup Sisters. The organization was started by Calgary resident Sharon Hapton, three years ago. On her 50th birthday she decided that she wanted to give back to the community and cooked a huge batch of soup for a local shelter. And from that random act of kindness, the Soup Sisters were born. The Soup Sisters help feed and shelter women and children fleeing domestic violence and their counterpart, the Broth Brothers, work with youth living on the street.

My Sunday night class gathered in the large, welcoming kitchen of the cooking school, ready to cook for a cause and prepare four batches of soup. Three batches to be given to shelters and one to be eaten that evening by us, the students. All, Chef Takashi instructed, were to be made with love. He is a firm believer that one should only cook when feeling happy and positive as the chef’s emotions influence the quality of the food and, ultimately, the person who eats it. As I looked around the room at the smiling faces, I was pretty sure our soup would be infused with good intentions and lots of love too.

Creamy corn clam chowder was the soup my group was preparing and we chopped, stirred and tasted as Chef Takashi guided us along and shared his wealth of culinary wisdom with us.

At the end of class we all sat at a long communal table in a lovely dining room decorated beautifully for the holidays. The table was situated under two sparkling, vintage lead crystal chandeliers that cast a warm glow over the entire room.

Shortly after we were seated, we were given a glass of delicious local wine to sip as we chatted about the evening. Next we were presented with a fresh salad of mixed greens, dressed with a pomegranate vinaigrette and prepared by the Dirty Apron. And then we were served our very own creamy corn clam chowder. A lovely and delicious ending to the beautiful vibe of the evening.

My experience making soup with the Soup Sisters warmed my soul and gave me a goal for 2014 of getting more involved with the organization. Fundraising probably, as I found out that evening that Harper has struck again and they, like so many other charities, lost a substantial amount of government funding last year.  This is a season that is so hard for many people, especially those fleeing dangerous situations and facing the incredible challenge of rebuilding their lives, how can you not want to help?

Forget the “made in China” trinkets at the mall, this is what Christmas is all about. Thank you Soup Sisters for reminding me of that.

And now, the soup…

The Dirty Apron’s Creamy Clam & Corn Chowder

Serves Two

Ingredients:

·         4 slices double smoked bacon, cut into ½ inch slice

·         2 shallots, diced

·         ½ carrot, diced

·         2 garlic cloves, minced

·         4 unpeeled red potatoes, small chunks

·         8 oz clam nectar

·         20 fresh clams

·         4 oz white wine

·         8 oz heavy whipping cream

·         Juice of one lemon

·         1 corn on the cob, grilled

·         1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

·         1 tsp fresh chives, finely sliced

·         1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp cold water

·         Salt & pepper

In a saucepot, heat white wine over medium high heat and add clams, steaming with lid on until all clams have opened.

Then remove clams from pot and separate meat from shell.

Reserve both clam meat and juice for later use

In a separate saucepot, sauté bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp.

Transfer bacon to paper towel for later use.

Next, add shallots, carrots and garlic to the bacon fat pan and suate. Add the potatoes, clam nectar and bring to a boil.

Simmer until veggies are tender.

While the soup is simmering, grill the cob of corn and then cut kernels.

Add the cream, clam meat, lemon juice, corn thyme and bacon to saucepot.

Bring back to a boil and add corn starch, stirring until desired consistency is reached.

Season to taste and garnish with the sliced chives.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

The other night I watched the movie Fried Green Tomatoes for the umpteenth time. I’m a little obsessed with this film and have watched it so many times that I have all of the dramatic scenes completely memorized.

On the off chance you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend you watch it as soon as you possibly can. Set in the south, the story moves back and forth in time with an eclectic and uber-talented cast of characters. It will mesmerize you, make you laugh, break your heart, inspire you and have you feeling like you are sitting in an Alabama parlour, listening to a tale spun by a true, eccentric, Southern raconteur. It also contains what may possibly be my favourite scene in cinematic history.

The Scene

[Evelyn is cut off in a parking lot]

Evelyn Couch: Hey! I was waiting for that spot!

Girl #1: Face it, lady, we’re younger and faster!

[Evelyn rear-ends the other car six times]

Girl #1: What are you *@# doing?

Girl #2: Are you *@# crazy?

Evelyn Couch: Face it, girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.

Watch video clip here.

And, speaking of green tomatoes, many, many of these are hanging heavily from my vines. They look plump, juicy, delicious and not even close to turning red. Since it’s nearing the end of September and I’m getting just a tad impatient waiting for them to ripen, I scoured the internet for fried green tomato recipes and I think I found the ultimate one.

So, in honour of one of my all time favourite movies, with the all time best movie scene, Kathy Bates dealing gracefully with losing her parking spot, I proudly present:

Towanda’s Fried Green Tomatoes

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3-4 green tomatoes sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • Olive oil for frying

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup
  • Pinch of cayenne, or more to taste

Cut tomatoes into thin slices, cover with flour, cornmeal, buttermilk mixture, place in hot oil and fry for 2 – 3 minutes.

While savouring the rich, delicious flavours of the fried tomatoes, close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself in the land of southern accents, porch swings, hot, balmy nights, sweet, homemade lemonade and… Towanda.

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