Monday, September 24, 2012

Behind the scenes at Terra Breads

On Friday, I was lucky enough to be invited on a tour of Terra Breads bakery, led by Mary MacKay, Head Baker and Co-Owner of Terra Breads. To learn more about Mary and the passion she brings to baking, check out this video of her speaking at Food Talks

For those of you who don't live in Vancouver, Terra Breads is an artisan bakery that has grown to provide breads for many of our favourite local stores, in addition to their own bakeries and cafes. What is exciting about Terra is that, in this world where labels like 'artisan' and 'gourmet' and 'chef-inspired' are slapped on industrial slop daily, Terra Breads are still created using human hands. 

The food geek in me has a current fascination: living things and their role in creating the food we eat. Specifically, fermentation. I am not the only one...there is kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut on store shelves as far as the eye can see. So I was really excited when Mary started talking about the "mother": the sour culture that they have been using since the day Terra Breads was started. I even got to taste it. It is amazing how flour and water mingle with the resident yeasts and bacteria in the environment all around us take over and turn that mixture into something that will become an amazingly chewy, complex, flavourful loaf of bread. Mary noted that they only ferment at their main bakery because otherwise, the resident critters in each location would lend a totally different flavour to the breads. The Terra Breads flavour lives in East Van! 

We started our tour with this "mother" and followed it all the way through the ovens where the breads are baked directly on the stone. The bakery relies on some mechanization but mostly, human hands create the goodies you see on the shelves from good quality ingredients such as organic flour and freshly toasted nuts and seeds.

Bread is not a food I tend to eat a great deal of; however, if I am going to eat it...I am going to eat good bread. So when I given some bread to take home, it was time for an old-fashioned bread and cheese fest. In the best possible expression of that amazing duo.

Not-your-average Grilled Cheese

To perfectly recreate this sandwich, you need to use the right ingredients so I am going to tell you exactly what I used. Wonder bread and Kraft singles this ain't, folks!

2 slices of Terra Breads Fig and Anise Loaf (mine was a mini loaf!)
A few generous slices of organic, raw milk aged cheddar (I used L'Ancetre)
A slice or two of crisp, local apple
Organic butter for spreading (L'Ancetre again!)

Spread the outside of the sandwich slices with room-temperature butter and then layer the ingredients inside. Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high and place the sandwich in. Lower the heat to medium. When browned on one side, flip and cook the other side for about 2-3 minutes. Enjoy. 

PS... Terra Breads didn't know I was a blogger, I was invited as an educational opportunity because I work for Choices Markets. So this blog post was totally unsolicited and my own idea.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Take the October #Unprocessed Pledge!

It's hard to believe but October is just around the corner and I don't know about you but I feel ready for a challenge! For the fourth year, Andrew from Eating Rules is hosting his October Unprocessed challenge and this is the year that I will be taking the plunge. 

I eat a pretty unprocessed diet as it is; however, as with the 100 mile diet challenge I took last can be pretty surprising when I have to scrutinize each choice. I am sticking with Andrew's kitchen rule: if I could make it myself, I can eat it. So "no" to soy sauce and yes to a bit of good chocolate. Hmm...seems like a challenge with plenty of delicious benefits!

Pledge now to take the challenge with me and stay tuned both here on EDBH and at The Fresh Sheet for plenty of inspiration on getting unprocessed!

Friday, September 14, 2012

A little healthy indulgence

Sometimes, a girl just needs a little chocolate. 

My sweet tooth doesn't actually kick in that often. I am more often found indulging in a piece of cheese with some salted rice crackers instead of digging into a candy jar. However, sometimes in the middle of the afternoon or perhaps, after dinner, I just want "something". I created this ultra-simple raw chocolate recipe so I could have something delicious that I could really feel good about eating. A treat that didn't require a trip to the store; just a few minutes and a few ingredients that I usually have on hand.

Raw Superfood Crunch Chocolate

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (I like Organic Lives because they are a local company!)
1/2 cup raw cacao powder (I used Navitas Naturals)
2 tbsp of Nature's Path Cranberry Vanilla Qia (or use your favourite superfood - chia, hemp,      dried berries etc)
1-2 tbsp maple syrup to taste (okay...not for the raw food purist!)

cacao powder  plus 1/4 tsp cinnamon for dusting

Place raw cacao, Qia and maple syrup in a medium bowl. Gently warm coconut oil in a saucepan until just liquid and stir into cacao mixture until well blended. Place bowl in the fridge until firm enough to form chocolates, about 15-30 minutes. 

Use a cold spoon to scoop out a bit of chocolate and drop onto a chilled plate or quickly roll into a little ball. Work quickly or the heat of your hands will melt the chocolate again! In a separate bowl, mix cinnamon with a bit more cacao powder. Roll chocolates in cacao to dust. Refrigerate chocolates in an airtight container and keep on hand for healthy chocolate cravings! 

PS...I am a spokesperson for the new Qia cereal from Nature's Path. I always said that if I am connected to a product I will maintain transparent communications - no sneaky marketing here! I think it is a truly amazing product...unprocessed, healthy and delicious. I will never share any product with you that I don't eat myself and feel good about recommending. So I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why I still think organic matters...

Last week, I was featured on the Global BC News Hour about the recent Stanford University review of the health benefits of organically grown food.

The original study, which has been all over the media since it was published, can be found here. I felt compelled to write further about this as I feel that the mainstream media has really leveraged this study to tell the public that organics don't really matter and that they don't live up to the hype. And I strongly disagree. 

So do a lot of other voices that I respect. Here is Marion Nestle's take. And Grist, the fantastic eco-minded news site, compiled a host of other opinions on the topic.

If you take the time to look at what the researchers found, it is that the research on organics is kind of all over the place. There aren't enough studies in any one line of questioning to prove overwhelmingly whether organic foods are safer or healthier in terms of clinical outcomes. But who would waste time and valuable research dollars measuring whether or not organic foods have more protein or phosphorus? Researchers who have no understanding of why organics are important.

Studies within the review demonstrate that organics deliver on what is probably the most critical promise: reducing your exposure to potentially toxic pesticide residues. One study in children was perhaps the most compelling: upon removal of conventionally-grown food in the diet, pesticide residues in the urine dropped.

Organic foods have never promised to deliver more vitamin C or calcium; reducing the notion of health to the ingestion of nutrients is nutritionism at its worst. In fact, if just a bit of calcium or iron or vitamin D were all we needed to be healthy, all of those over-processed, fortified foods we eat would be saving our lives. They aren't. 

Choosing organic foods is better for the farmers who grow them and the soils that foods are grown in. Choosing organics allows you to control the amount of pesticides and genetically engineered foods you are exposed to in your food supply. Organic regulations also stipulate that certain ingredients, such as artificial food dyes, and practices such as "preventative" antibiotics may not be used. 

As as our research grows more sophisticated, we may find that organic foods do offer more traditional health benefits as well. In fact, a team of researchers in Spain have been working with tomatoes and find that organic tomatoes have more anti-oxidant polyphenols than conventionally grown tomatoes. Given the amount of attention we pay to the role of anti-oxidants in the diet, this is exciting news to me. 

At the end of the day, I choose organic foods because I believe they are a better choice for my community, the environment and my family's health. Organic foods are not yet economically feasible for all; however, for those of us who can afford to divert a little more money away from goods we don't need into better quality food, I believe that they are a critical investment in a healthier future. 

What are your thoughts on organic food?