Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Too Easy Tuna Cakes...

My family loves all kinds of seafood cakes. While crab (our favourite kind of cakes) is not readily on hand to make, tuna cakes are, with canned tuna always in our pantry. They also make an awesome portable lunch to pack and an after school snack for little ones. These patties can easily be made with just drained can tuna, mayonnaise and breadcrumbs... I like to see what I have on my counter and in the fridge to give it texture and to jazz them up. Potato and carrot shreds do just that giving them a nice character and added nutrients. It's a great recipe to have your children help in the kitchen and an easy way to #eatmorefish.

Too Easy Tuna Cakes
Makes 10 to 12 cakes

2 cans of tuna, drained (I use flaked tuna)
1 medium potato, grated (squeeze well to remove moisture)
1 medium carrot, grated
2 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 egg
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
oil for pan-frying
lemon or lime wedges and mayonnaise for serving

Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and incorporate to mix well. If mixture seems too moist, add a Tbsp. of breadcrumbs at a time and mix well. Let firm in the fridge for about 1/2 to one hour. Form mixture into patties.

I use disposable gloves to make it less messy. 

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a pan over medium-high heat and pan-fry tuna cakes until golden brown on one side; then flip with a spatula to cook on the other side.

Meaty, delicious and too easy-to-do....Serve with lemon or lime wedges. We like Japanese kewpie mayo for dipping. Vegetable crudites are perfect accompaniments!

Try also my Mini Crab Cakes as a tasty gourmet appetizer for a party!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Day of Sensory at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre...

Innovate For Impact by enriching people’s lives through science and discovery in horticulture is what goes on at Vineland Research & Innovation Centre in Vineland Station en route to fruitful Niagara from Toronto. As an independent non-for-profit research organization set up in 2007, their focus was on creating impact for the Canadian horticulture sector to bring us fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants to the local market as well as to the global marketplace. This means acres in the field, shelf space in the stores, and economic and environmental gains for farms, greenhouses, exports, new businesses and jobs. Today Vineland prides itself in rebuilding the centre into a thriving hub of horticulture research furnished with the latest scientific equipment, a full-to-capacity greenhouse and a highly-skilled research team. They work with the right commercial partnerships to deliver on the concepts, and consumer insights has everything to do with the execution. 

As they approach their tenth anniversary, they invited members of Food Bloggers of Canada with an exclusive inside-the-science look into the importance of conducting sensory evaluation with consumers and how this plays a crucial role in bringing the right products to market. We engaged in three mini workshops and had a lovely catered-in lunch with the centre's produced harvest. Flashback, sensory exercises I am very familiar with conducted back in my days as a product developer for a food manufacturer and then as a culinary expert in a Corporate test kitchen collaborating with brands to test products for market. This was going to be a fun day with other bloggers!

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

What is consumer insights? This is what drives consumer behaviour-- their attitudes and influences to what they buy and consume. Here, consumer intelligence is put to work for horticulture research. This can be applied to opening new markets, bringing growth of plant varieties to Ontario and Canada, breeding varieties for Canadian production to global markets, and enhancing quality and production of say greenhouse tomatoes and breeding non-edible products such as the Canadian hardy rose.

Inside Vineland's greenhouse grounds.

Me with @nomadicnutritionist

A bounty of tomatoes thrive in the controlled greenhouse. 

In partnership with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), Vineland manages Canada's only national rose breeding program focused on cold hardy, low maintenance roses that are strongly aligned with consumer preferences. Extensive consumer research and branding concepts generate renewed interest in landscape roses with new and younger Canadians. The first rose for release from the program in 2017 is the Canadian Shield, part of Vineland's 49th Parallel Collection.

Can you guess what attribute of a rose is the No. 1 driver of consumer preference?

In person, fragrance is of utmost importance, on-line or catalogue, it is colour!

As part of the insight to consumer-driven horticulture strategies, we looked at two rose plants for a test exercise. One of the consumer surveys was a like and dislike check-list for the features of the plant. These include attributes we don't normally think about such as its density, height, flower coverage and thorn length. The other was mini profiling of the plants by standing back and assessing the plants as they compare to one another with a low to high scale on things like flower size and petal curling. These kinds of collected consumer data help determine desirable features of a rose that can lead to new breeding, thus reinvigorate the rose market landscape in North America.

The food technician preparing food products for our next hands-on sensory workshop.

A preference taste was done on apples. The sample cups were coded and we tasted in the order that was received with a sip of water and a bite of cracker in between to cleanse the palate. We indicated our preference and select the reasons for our choice. Our evaluations were collected and the results show that preference was given to the apple that was sweeter with a crisper texture. This was the Smitten apple. It is the first variety scouted by Vineland that's ready for commercialization in Canada.

The next evaluation was on baked sweet potato. This was done on a rating scale with two types of sweet potatoes. In general, uniform bright orange sweet potatoes are golden for consumers and looks matter most. This has been tested with taste panelists as fries, baked and pureed over the course of two years. 

In the controlled sensory lab as our final workshop, sterile, plain and odour-free is the optimum environment for unbiased taste testing without influence from other factors. Each survey is set up on a computer in individual panelled booths/cabins with regulated lighting above. Behind the roll-up panel door, taste samples were provided when ready to be tested.

This was a reference picture of apples, glasses of cider and samples of baked potatoes shown in controlled lighting. The lighting unit enables a uniform and glare-free lighting of the workplace. We tasted two samples of apples and two samples of ciders.

To cap off an interactive morning, we had food catered in from Zoomacaters using harvest-- eggplant, sweet potato and apple produced at the centre's grounds.

Oven-roasted chicken with soy ginger eggplant and mushrooms over sweet potato puree. I especially enjoyed the baked lightly seasoned crisp potato skin used as a lovely textural garnish.

Harvest apple shortbread crumble with maple cream.

The real measure of success, has certainly been seeing the fruits of Vineland's labour in orchards, fields, greenhouses and of course in supermarkets. There is so much more including winter-hardy Cold Snap pears, Pixie grapes, okra, peaches and nectarines. I look forward to scouting out and savouring our local Ontario-grown creations knowing that our collective consumer voices propelled these kinds of innovative harvests, and that they are accessible to us all. 

If interested in more, stay up-to-date on Vineland's research programs by joining their mailing list.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bob Marley-- A Tribute to Freedom...

I was going to the next best thing to legendary Bob Marley's home-converted-museum on 56 Hope Road in Jamaica- a replica of his home as a Caribbean-style restaurant just outside Orlando's Universal Studios park in Universal CityWalk: Bob Marley-- A Tribute To Freedom. The establishment worked closely with Bob's wife Rita to create a wonderful dining experience with island favourite eats and drinks in an open-air veranda and courtyard with the restaurant filled with photos, video clips and artefacts from Marley's storied career. On most nights, there is a lively band performing reggae music on the courtyard stage. Just this May, I shared canvas art of Bob painted by my friend @alvincustomportrait on Bob's 36th anniversary death in my post Commemoration of Bob Marley-- A Legend and A Revolutionary, and I had mentioned that my heart was jet set for Jamaica. I dreamed of visiting his home on Hope Road first and foremost, but realistically I knew it was not going to happen for a while. When I discovered that on our annual November family trip to Orlando we were heading to Universal Studios and Bob's restaurant was just a walk away my heart leaped in delight... I was going to the next best thing to his actual home, and we're eating in it too (SCREAM!!!)... 

Sharing with you a gallery of his photos and art throughout the restaurant and my favourites of his famous quotes of wisdom to live by. Yes, there's dibs on the food, but of course :D...

"I wish things would change without hurt. I wish righteousness would reign forever. 
Let righteousness cover the earth like the water cover the sea."- Bob Marley

“Live for yourself and you will live in vain; Live for others, and you will live again.” 
– Bob Marley

“The winds that sometimes take something we love, are the same that bring us something we learn to love.” 
– Bob Marley

“Beginnings are usually scary, and endings are usually sad, but its everything in between that makes it all worth living.” – Bob Marley

“The day you stop racing, is the day you win the race.” – Bob Marley

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet” – Bob Marley

Alvin Custom Portrait

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, 
but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively” – Bob Marley

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” – Bob Marley

“None but ourselves can free our mind”-- Redemption Song


Enjoying some cool island refreshers!

 Wings, crispy and spiced just right! Love the big yucca/cassava fries (hidden behind the celery)!

A tour of island flavours featuring veggie & beef patties, jerk wings and yucca fries.

Deliciously char-grilled meats but our fave hands-down were the simply glazed sweet plantains. 

Front: Reggae Jamaican Jerk Chicken- half chicken char-grilled, rice and peas,
sweet plantains and Manchester Beef Kabobs- tender beef medallions, peppers,
onions, cherry tomatoes, red bliss mashed potatoes, sliced zucchinis.

Extra side of sweet plantains and a beef patty served with tasty sauces.
Homemade beef patties are not that hard to do, try my recipe.

“love the life you live. live the life you love.” – Bob Marley

Bob Marley’s brilliantly wise lyrics and words continue to enlighten people everywhere around the world. Joy and pain, the sunshine and the rain... we can't have one without the other and it's okay to let in sorrow and discomfort. Let it come in and let it go out. Then it's up to us to use our own power to light up our lives again and by doing so we become a light to others. Uplift. Inspire. Empower. Everything is going to be Aite! Thank you Bob... May you forever rest in peace! 💞

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Food Revolution Toronto November Contest-- Vegetarian Comfort Food!

Resharing from Food Revolution Toronto:

Happy November! This month's #CookwithFoodREVTO challenge is vegetarian comfort food favourites! We'll be sharing recipe ideas all month here so follow along for some seasonal inspiration!

This month, share a photo of your vegetarian comfort food dish with our team on social media and you will be eligible to win a Jamie Oliver cookbook courtesy of HarperCollins Canada
To get you started, how about Jamie's lovely looking Baked Squash“Based on a beloved old recipe of mine, this method really takes advantage of stuffing and slow-roasting the sweet, versatile squash. You get wonderful flavours exchanging in the centre, great textures, and the slices look amazing. ”- Jamie

Photo Credit: Strongertogether.coop

How to Enter:

Snap a photo of your veggie comfort food dish and tell us a little bit about it!

You MUST use the hashtag #CookwithFoodRevTO AND tag us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. That's it! Then you'll be entered to win a cookbook!

Eligibility and Contest Rules:

– Contest begins on November 1st 2017 at 6am EST on and closes November 30th 2017 at 6pm EST.
– Prize consists of one (1) Jamie Oliver cookbook.
– Open to readers of the age of majority with a Canadian mailing address.
– No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
– Winner will be chosen randomly (using random.org) from all qualified entries on November 30th 2017 after 6pm EST.
– Winner will be notified December 1st 2017 and will have 48 hours to respond to the message.
– Winner will be required to answer a skill testing question.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween With Grilled Yakitori Chicken Hearts...

HAPPY HALLOWEEN with springy spongy ever-so-tasty impaled chicken hearts on a stick-- yakitori-style!! Nothing to fear, contrary to what people may imagine, fresh chicken hearts are not gritty, rubbery or slimy or have a strong livery, offal taste. When quickly grilled on high heat, they become tender morsels with a hint of red meat taste and a soft springy texture like flash-fried fresh squid. Chicken hearts, are rich in essential B vitamins (including B12, riboflavin and folic acid) and minerals (including zinc, selenium, iron and potassium). Nutritious and Delicious, what's not to 💗?

Sharing an oldie but a goodie!... 

Grilled Yakitori Chicken Hearts

Friday, October 27, 2017

Battered Fried King Mushroom Bites...

Mushrooms! Not your everyday button white shrooms, but the King! What’s best is that they stay fresh and firm in the refrigerator longer compared to other mushrooms. Growing up, my mother would cook them sliced in vegetable stir-fries, and their hearty yield often reminded me of meat-- a great meatless option with wonderful health benefits. On many occasions when shopping in Asian supermarkets, ladies are cooking up thin slices in a small skillet, with a little salt and pepper on both sides and served to customers hot on a toothpick. Yum, stir-fried and pan-fried were my go-to ways, until the eureka moment for deep-fried came while dining out with my pal. We ordered banh cuon, a rice roll dish at a vegan Vietnamese restaurant, and a few battered fried kings served as its garnish. The tiny morsels were divine and I knew that replicating these in abundance home-style is a must. 

I was also craving KFC, not Colonel Sanders but Korean fried chicken, and the place I wanted to order from tops theirs with a mound of shredded green onions. How about sliced green onions on top of crispy mushrooms for the extra crunch and colour-- Yes!! So simple to make and addictive to eat, kids will love this as did mine! I had BFM and KFC that night and my family polished both off with equal intensity :D.

Battered Fried King Mushroom Bites

4-5 king oyster mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
canola or vegetable oil for deep frying
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/4 tsp. salt
a few dash of white pepper
1 egg
1 tsp. water
1 tsp. soy sauce
a few drops of toasted sesame oil
red pepper powder/flakes (optional)

Dipping Sauce:
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
a few drops of toasted sesame oil
Sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds

Cook's Note: The best way to clean the mushrooms is to trim off only the very end of the stem and give them a light brushing to remove any dirt.

Cut the mushrooms down its length and slice into batons.

Make the dipping sauce by combining the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Set out two bowls. One for the batter mix and the other for the egg wash. Mix flours, salt and pepper in one. In the other, mix egg, water, soy sauce, sesame oil and red pepper if using.

Korean red pepper powder can be found in most Asian Supermarkets.

Working in batches, evenly coat the mushroom pieces in egg wash, then in the batter mixture, shaking off excess flour. I do the egg wash with one hand and the flour in the other to keep it less messy. You can also use a slotted ladle or spoon. Place the battered mushrooms onto a plate.

Heat up a skillet/wok with oil on medium-high. Oil is ready for frying when a skewer or chopstick is inserted and tiny bubbles shoot up its side. In batches, cook the mushrooms until golden and crispy. Remove with slotted ladle onto a paper-towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Place onto serving platter, top with onions and alongside dipping sauce.


La, La....

Sprinkle with red pepper for some heat if you wish.

Making it a full-on Korean meal affair with kimchi and white radish pickles.

OMG Deep-fried goodness! King mushrooms or chicken-- why choose when you can have both!

NOM NOM!! 식욕을 돋구다