chefs in the food lab – photo credit – Karen Anderson
With the downturn in Alberta’s energy dominated economy, it is estimated that 100,000 jobs were lost this province in 2015. Local news agencies have tracked the lay offs. It’s been devastating to watch. Job losses come with people attached. If not personally affected, everyone in the province knows family and friends who have been.
Fortunately, Albertans have true grit and with every flattened tire in the cycle of oil’s economy, the creativity of Albertans help diversify our economy away from that old cycle of booms and busts. We are a province of entrepreneurs and food entrepreneurs can get a boost for their ideas from a facility called the Alberta Food Processing Development Centre.
This post is about a day I recently spent at that centre and the positive potential that the centre has for impacting our economy. Continue reading
Despite being punched down by the “wheat belly” gluten-free movement, bread is once again on the rise. Why is bread making a comeback? Maybe it’s because gluten (the protein found in wheat responsible for giving bread it’s elasticity) wasn’t the evil culprit some claimed it to be. With the exception of people who have Celiac Disease or actual allergies to wheat, gluten hasn’t shown harmful effects on humans in any solid research trials.
Bread has been “the staff of life” for thousands of years and wheat is the most commonly eaten substance in the world. Wheat varietals have evolved with plant breeding and natural selection. They’ve been tolerated well.
Michael Pollan, in his book Cooked – A Natural History of Transformation (Penguin, 2013) delves deeply into the bread box to conclude that perhaps it’s not the wheat that’s the problem; perhaps it is all the additives in commercially prepared bread combined with a lack of time spent making that same bread.
Time is important in bread making. Time allows the yeasts and bacteria in our environment to do their thing which turns out to be really important for the health of humans. What do they do? They combine with bread’s flour and water and if given the time, they will “eat” the sugars in the flour, produce the gas that causes dough to rise and most importantly for people that find wheat hard to digest; they partially digest the proteins (like gluten) in flour for us.
I hope you’ll watch the 2015 CBC Fifth Estate video above that probed into the “war on wheat” and that you’ll tune into my CBC Alberta at Noon show tomorrow, Friday, May 27 between noon and 1230 p.m. on 99.1 FM when I’ll talk more about how to get rolling in the dough – with sourdough and a few easier bread recipes.
Some of my favourite cooking utensils – photo credit – Geoff Lilge
Entrepreneurs invent business opportunities to meet societal needs. Few parents have the time or skill to teach their children to cook. Few schools include cooking in their curriculums and yet, thanks to the work of food educators like Jamie Oliver we know we need to reconnect children to food literacy and cooking skills. Enter the entrepreneur.
Need creates opportunity and here’s the response – this post contains a list of very entrepreneurial summer cooking camps for kids around Alberta this summer. Continue reading
Polenta Lasagna – photo credit – Karen Anderson
This month on CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon I’ll be talking about the importance of cooking skills for children. I believe cooking is a basic life skill that determines how healthy an individual and in turn a family will be.
A lack of ability to cook from scratch leads to a life dependent on processed foods. Processed foods are more likely to contain excess salt, sugar and food additives and a diet filled with processed foods is more likely to cause obesity.
Harvard University says the health consequences of obesity include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, asthma, some cancers, susceptibility to depression due to discrimination and the emotional impact of that. Thirty per cent of youth are now obese.
We are three generations since the norm was a stay at home homemaker and cook for each family. Many parents (let alone their children) lack cooking skills beyond reheating, microwaving and combining packaged foods. Women in the 1960s were told cooking was a chore and they needed to be emancipated from the kitchen. Women did go out to work but instead of “freedom” they now work outside the home and still do the majority of household work as well. Equal partnerships are slow to evolve. Reframing cooking as a family activity and a creative way to nurture, care and ensure health for ourselves and our children could go a long way to correcting our society’s obesity epidemic.
I developed the Polenta lasagna recipe in this post to act as a cooking skills bridge from reliance on highly processed packaged food to cooking with healthier choices. The result is a fun assembly of quality ingredients with delicious results. Older children can make it on their own. Parents and younger children can make this together. Continue reading
The most humble of kitchens in China will have a work – photo credit – Karen Anderson
Buy this book, it’s an absolute gem
Wok and roll – woks in a restaurant in Lijiang, China – photo credit – Karen Anderson
You can find my CBC Radio One Alberta at Noon February food column podcast on Chinese New Year’s celebrations in Alberta here. This post will share three of my favourite Chinese recipes and a primer on how to cook with my favourite kitchen tool – my wok. Continue reading
I had the good fortune to travel throughout China in 2007 and enjoy authentic Hot Pot in Lijiang in Hunan Province. There are a couple of fun places I like to go for Chinese Hot Pot in Calgary’s Chinatown listed here. To be honest, though, my favourite way to enjoy the Hot Pot dining experience is at home with friends. This post will give you tips and recipes so you can do the same. Continue reading