Friday, December 6, 2013

Chefs' Wellness Series: Chef Marc-André Choquette

Marc-André Choquette is executive chef at Tableau Bar Bistro as well as the Homer Street Café and Bar. Chef MAC, as he's known, hails from Montreal and is an avid hockey player.

He shares a recipe for a dish that can only be found at Tableau and that combines abundantly healthy quinoa with fresh pan-seared trout.

Fit Foodie's Chefs' Wellness Series features top chefs from throughout B.C. discussing their take on health and healthy eating.

What do you do to stay physically healthy?
“I enjoy working out at a fitness studio three times a week under the direction of a personal trainer. During these sessions, I focus primarily on core exercises, cardio, and weight training. A huge fan of hockey, I also strap on my skates and play goalie three to four times a week, all year round. When the colder weather arrives, I try to make it up to a local mountain, Whistler, or Mt. Baker for a day of snowboarding. On the weekends, you'll find me taking long walks or hikes with my two dogs, LB, a Bernese mountain dog, and Jetta, a Great Dane. Every day, I try to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water, I do my best to limit my consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and I make every effort to get proper rest whenever I can.”

What do you do to keep healthy mentally and emotionally?
“One thing I've learned over the years is to not over-hink or get too emotional regarding challenges I face on a daily or weekly basis. Whenever I find my stress levels rising, I now stop, collect my thoughts, and then take the time to reflect and discuss with a colleague or friend -- this allows me to find a suitable solution. Another key for keeping myself healthy -- both mentally and emotionally -- is allowing myself to "disconnect" by watching movies or TV shows. I find they are good distractions for me, whether it be the suspense that keeps me glued to the screen or the humor that triggers a laugh! Exercise, too, definitely helps me disconnect and re-charge, as it engages me mentally and makes me happy. And, of course, I can't forget my two wonderful dogs. Spending time with LB and Jetta grounds me and definitely keeps my mind and emotions on the right track."

What's your greatest challenge when it comes to health and well-being?
“My biggest challenge when it comes to health and well-being is finding the proper balance between work and personal time. In today's world, we are constantly connected by personal communication devices, making it easy for us to always be "on the clock" and aware of work related issues.  Consequently, work days seem to have become longer, which means it is more of an effort to balance my health with my career. I also have to be careful that vacations and other days off aren't bumped to a later date, as it is so easy to allow work to take priority over everything else.”

Why did you choose this dish to share with readers?
"Up until four years ago, I had never worked with quinoa, but since then, it has become quite the health trend here in Vancouver. As it is such an easy grain to cook, I came up with this warm almond and quinoa salad to pair with Steelhead Trout. It has since become a favorite item on our menu at Tableau Bar Bistro, and our regular diners come back for this dish at lunch or dinner. When preparing this dish at Tableau Bar Bistro, we use three different coloured quinoa to add visual appeal; however, the usage of one colour grain will suffice, particularly if you are looking to cut down on costs. This salad can be enjoyed warm or cold, on its own, or paired with any other protein that appeals to you."

Marc-André Choquette's PAN SEARED TROUT with

Serves 4

Trout:    4 x 6 oz portion of trout from your local seafood store

Quinoa Salad:

white quinoa      125 g
red quinoa          125 g
parsley (finely chopped)      ½ bunch
green onion (minced)      4 pc
toasted almonds  25 g
currant raisins      25 g
lemon juice      25 ml
olive oil      25 ml
salt & pepper to taste


Cook the quinoa in large amount of water until tender, set aside to cool down. Mix all ingredients together and season well.

Pan sear the trout, skin side down, over medium heat. Once cooked, serve on top of three tablespoons of the quinoa salad, slightly warm.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The good kind of blues

British Columbia Blueberry Council's Blueberry Breakfast Rice Bowl
Every year, my local Whole Foods has a one-day sale on organic blueberries. I stock up, buying as many cases as I can fit in my downstairs freezer. I use them mostly to make blueberry-based smoothies year-round. (The kids are happy with a simple mix of blueberries, strawberry yogurt, and ripe banana; other times I'll add kale, pineapple, and roasted and pureed beets.)

The berries are a great source of anti-oxidants, which I'm always trying to get more of (and more into my husband, who's a two-time cancer survivor). They're also high in vitamins C, A, and E as well as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They make regular appearances around here in pancakes, muffins, and crumbles; atop French toast; and in a sauce to accompany salmon.

The British Columbia Blueberry Council has dozens of recipes on its website; here's one to kick start you into getting your blues.

Yields 3 cups
*    1 cup (240 ml) water
*    1½ cups (360 ml) milk or unsweetened almond, soy or rice milk, divided
*    1 tsp (5 ml) salt
*    1 cup (165 g) brown rice or quinoa, uncooked
*    1 tbsp (15 ml) chia seeds, whole
*    5 (10 ml) cardamom pods, whole
*    3 tbsp (45 ml) maple syrup
*    ½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon
*    1½ cups (225 g) B.C. blueberries, fresh or thawed frozen, divided
*    1 tbsp (15 ml) flax seed, ground
*    1 tbsp (15 ml) hemp hearts
*    1 tbsp (15 ml) walnuts, chopped
*    1 tbsp (15 ml) unsweetened coconut flakes
*    In a medium pot, bring water, 1 cup of the milk and salt to a boil. Add the rice, chia seeds and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, stir, then simmer, covered on a medium low heat for 40 minutes until cooked (or according to the package instructions)
*    Remove the cardamom pods.
*    Add the remaining ½ cup of milk, maple syrup, cinnamon and 1 cup of the blueberries, heat and stir until warmed.
*    Serve warm topped with the remaining blueberries, flax, hemp hearts, walnuts and coconut.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Chefs' Wellness Series: Ned Bell

Four Seasons Vancouver executive chef Ned Bell brought the farm-to-table philosophy to YEW seafood + bar. He dishes on his approach to well-being and shares one of his favourite healthy recipes, a quinoa dish that's loaded with superfoods.

Fit Foodie's Chefs' Wellness Series will feature top chefs from throughout B.C. discussing their take on health and healthy eating.

Chef Ned Bell with his son, Max.
What do you do to stay physically healthy?

I stay physically fit by running, cycling--often to and from work--and wrestling with my four-year-old boy, Max. 

What do you do to keep healthy mentally and emotionally?
I try to spend time with my family, eat right, and exercise regularly.
What's your greatest challenge when it comes to health and well-being?
I work too much, and so my family time and exercise time suffer.
Why did you choose this dish to share with readers? 
Because it's tasty, healthy, and easy.
Ned Bell's BC Blueberry & Quinoa “Salad”
"There are three types of quinoa: golden, red and black," Chef Bell explains. "They all taste the same, but mixed together they look fantastic.
"Quinoa is a perfect protein: great for breakfast (like oatmeal), in protein bars, salads, and as carbohydrate replacements for lunch and dinner."

Keep in mind, too, that blueberries are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Some evidence suggests that flaxseed can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Chia is a source of  fibre and healthy omega-3 fats. Hemp seeds are a source of protein as well.
2-3 cups cooked quinoa (red, black or golden)
¼ cup fresh BC blueberries
¼ cup dried BC blueberries
1 Tbsp chia seed
1 Tbsp flaxseed
1 Tbsp hemp seed
¼ cup each of toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds
½ cup nuts (almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts)
2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
2 Tbsp Greek yogurt (optional)

To assemble, mix all the ingredients together.
"This is a fantastic meal by itself or as a great side dish for roasted salmon, halibut, chicken, or steak," Chef Bell says.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Garlic may kill contaminants in baby formula

Foodies love garlic. Aside from being a standby in kitchens everywhere, it turns out the superfood might play another key role: making some types of infant formula safer.
According to a new study from the University of British Columbia published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, two compounds derived from garlic – diallyl sulfide and ajoene – significantly reduce the contamination risk of Cronobacter sakazakii in the production of dry infant formula powder.
The discovery could make the product safer to consume, easing the minds of new mothers who can’t or opt not to breastfeed. (I'm personally all for breasfeeding exclusively for a baby's first six months then for as long as you feel like it, but there are valid reasons women can't or choose not to.)
C. sakazakii is a foodborne pathogen that is sometimes present in dry infant formula powder and other fortified foods. Infection is rare but often fatal for infants. It can poison a baby’s bloodstream and lead to life-threatening cases of meningitis. Outbreaks of C. sakazakii have occurred around the globe.
The natural compounds could also be used to clean the pipes used in the manufacturing process of milk products as an alternative to harsh chemicals like chlorine.
Garlic has also been found to be effective in treating or preventing colds, while it may play a role in helping protect against bowel and stomach cancers.
Get pressing!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Good thing we're not ordering a plate of proper spelling

Seriously? I wasn't planning on stopping in for lunch anyway, but three spelling mistakes in 18 words is pretty sad. What's a lux sandwich anyway? ;)
Maybe you find yourself editing menus and sandwich boards all the time too. Hopefully this kitchen is better with the panini maker than its dictionary.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fine food and wine for a good cause!

There's nothing better than a night spent sipping fine wine and sampling fine food. Even better when your entry fee goes to a good cause.
The 12th annual North Shore Food and Wine Festival happens Saturday (October 19) at Park Royal North, with funds supporting the North Shore Youth Safe House.
Sixty bucks gets you the chance to taste of  134 wines from 27  wineries in B.C., California and around the world, including some of my faves, Blasted Church and Okanagan Crush Pad; food from 21 vendors (hello Mangia e Bevi, the Lobby at the Pinnacle Hotel, and Cupcakes); live jazz, Flamenco guitar, and Latin music, plus a $10 cab voucher (if you live on the North Shore).
Be a good citizen. Drink up.

Friday, October 11, 2013


MARKET by Jean-Georges' Howitzer Gun Punch
Once I was done breast-feeding my second son and was ready to get back to the bottle myself, I went straight to wine. Red, white, rose: I love the stuff.
I shied away from hard alcohol, though. Having abstained for so long, I was honestly a little worried about how my body would react to it.
Well, those days are over and I'm happily back to martinis! (Don't worry, life-insurance companies: in moderation.) I have a penchant for anything with green apple liqueur, but I'm excited to try whatever crazy creations so many Vancouver bartenders are concocting.
Oh, and did you know you can subscribe to this blog? Thanks to my friend Naz, author of Bottom of the Pot (Adventures in cooking Persian food and beyond), I've figured out how to do it. If you're interested, look to your right and sign on up.
To your health!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Creativity helps caregivers cope with cryptic world of dementia

I had the honour of interviewing Karen Tyrell, a certified dementia practitioner in the Vancouver area, for an article in the Georgia Straight. She's extremely knowledgeable but also incredibly sweet.

No one likes to think about Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, but heaven help us if we're in a position of having to care for someone who's stricken. Karen's advice is invaluable.

Read more here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Health tip: Don't ignore "thunderclap" headaches

I've been doing a little research on "reversible cerebral vasoconstrictive disorder" following a friend's health scare. One of the warning signs of this condition is recurring thunderclap headaches. I'd never even heard the term.
Here's your take-home message: If you or anyone you know ever experiences a sudden, severe headache--as in, a headache that could be described as the worst headache ever--seek immediate medical attention.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the headaches get their name from the fact that they grab your attention like a clap of thunder. The intense pain peaks within about 60 seconds then usually starts to fade after an hour but can last several days.
"Thunderclap headaches are uncommon, but they can be a warning sign of potentially life-threatening conditions — usually having to do with bleeding in and around the brain," the Mayo Clinic website states. "That's why it's so important to seek emergency medical attention if you experience a thunderclap headache."
Pass it on.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

GM Foods meet Greek tragedy in new Vancouver play

When playwright Jason Patrick Rothery set out to adapt the tragic tale of Oedipus Rex, he never imagined that his new work would turn out to mirror controversial current events. But that’s exactly what’s happening with Inside the Seed.

Produced by Upintheair Theatre, Jason Patrick Rothery's play is an adaption of the tragic tale of Oedipus Rex. It follows a scientist at a giant biotech corporation who’s developed the “perfect” seed. He claims the Golden Grain will put an end to global hunger, but it has a dark side. Just weeks before the show’s upcoming premiere in Vancouver, meanwhile, hundreds of farmers in the Philippines made headlines for trampling a test plot of a genetically engineered product known as Golden Rice.

Read more at the Georgia Straight.

More kombucha: Farmer's Apprentice nails all things foodie-Vancouver

Truly enjoyed reviewing Farmer's Apprentice for the Georgia Straight. Local food, sustainable products, inventive dishes, daily smoothies, and yes, house-made kombucha served in adorable little glass bottles. Plus a turn table and vintage records.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kombucha aids digestion. So does walnut liqueur.

The team at MARKET by Jean-Georges at the Shangri-La hotel selected the Antica Distillerai Russo Nocino Walnut Liqueur to cap off a fabulous recent media evening featuring a Harvest Tasting Menu.
The incredibly smooth spirit accompanied a delicate "French toast" spiced with rum alongside apples, raisins, and brown-butter ice cream. 
MARKET by Jean-Georges is the first restaurant in Canada for the three-star Michelin chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.The night was a chance to meet the restaurant's new chef de cuisine, Montgomery Lau, and general manager, David Auer.
Got guests coming to town or want to impress a new date? The place will knock your socks off.
Lau served up tuna tartare with bonito crispy tapioca, Dungeness black-pepper crab fritters with Asian pear and endive, pan-seared sea bream with corn chanterelles and silky carrot, and a beautiful, thick lamb chip topped with mushroom Bolognese sauce and Pecorino.
Hot tip: the resto offers a 50-minute prix-fixe power lunch, where $29 gets you your choice of two plates plus dessert. Some options: warm asparagus salad with avocado and mushroom and Hollandaise sauce, seared scallops with a carrot-raisin emulsion and caramelized cauliflower, and steelhead salmon with basil and a sweet-and-sour carrot sauce. Dessert: with four to choose from, I'd have to go with the banana-cream pie.
And I don't care how good kombucha is for you or your colon (though it's said to be very); If I were to order a digestif, it'd have be that walnut liqueur.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reunited. Bread and I.

Well, I tried the low-carb thing and the gluten-free thing. I tried it because I thought it might help me obliterate my mummy tummy, this abdominal goitre I've been carrying around for about about eight years and five months now.
It didn't work: I didn't lose any weight.
Let me stress that there are millions of people out there who need to avoid gluten for health reasons. Those with celiac disease, IBS, and other chronic conditions have found great relief by cutting out that single ingredient.
But I just thought I could jump in the band wagon and take off a few pounds. And after several months of avoiding bread, toast, bagels, croissants, and pasta, dammit, I'm having a sandwich for lunch. (I also enjoyed my garlicky lemon-basil spaghettini last night, recipe courtesy Rachel Ray, along with some tender halibut).
It's important to realize that cutting out gluten or carbs is not a sure-fire way to shed pounds, especially given how wildly popular the whole craze has become.
And even though you can buy gluten-free everything these days, some experts are calling into question the benefits of the so-called Wheat Belly diet.
Time magazine recently published a story called the "The dangers of going gluten-free", and I covered the issue in the Georgia Straight in an article called "Gluten-free movement growing amid controversy".
If you do approach the diet as a means to lose weight, be careful. Avoid overeating things like almonds and cheese. And be sure you're getting enough fibre and nutrients.
Of course, it's not a good idea to overload on the carbs, either. If you're having a sandwich, try it open-faced. If you love pasta with or for dinner, cut back the portions. Have a single piece of toast for breakfast instead of two, a half rather than a full bagel.
Everything in moderation, even moderation, right?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chick peas with fresh herbs and pecorino cheese

This is my new favourite go-to snack or light meal.
Toss in a bowl a bunch of chick peas, some olive oil, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, a ton of fresh herbs--whatever you have on hand; basil, parsley, chives, dill; anything goes--some minced garlic, and some freshly grated pecorino cheese.
You've got a quick, delicious, nutritious little dish.
I try to avoid buying canned chick peas--BPA--but have gotten into the habit of soaking then cooking big batches and freezing them in large freezer bags. That way you'll always have some on hand, which is especially fab for week-night meals. Toss some with some noodles and your favourite sauce or pan fry them with mixed peppers, onion, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinaigrette.
another salad idea: toss chick peas with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, capers, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, with a little salt and pepper to taste.
Full of goodness.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Finding ways to reduce food waste

Later today,  the U.S.-based Food Tank is livestreaming an event called Food Waste Free NYC taking place at the Big Apple's the Snapple Theater. Many of the world's leading experts will be on hand to talk about solutions that are being developed around the world to prevent food loss and waste. You can TUNE IN HERE (and join the discussion using #FoodTankNYC).

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally each year.

According to recent U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, roughly 133 billion pounds of food from stores, restaurants, and homes is wasted in the U.S. each year.

In the U.K., up to 30 percent of vegetables never leave the farm because they don’t meet the aesthetic standards of supermarkets.

In Latin America, average food waste amounts to more than 200 kilograms per person per year.

Over 60 percent of the carbon footprint of food waste can be attributed to Asia and North Africa.

Australian consumers throw away up to 20 percent of all food that they buy.

With an annual value of approximately US$4 billion, 10-20 percent of Africa's grain harvest is lost after the harvest – and that amount is enough to feed 48 million people.

Food for thought.

Work out in the morning so you can drink wine at lunch

Easier said than done, of course. Work tends to get in the way of fitness and food adventures. But as I learned yesterday a wine-y meal mid-day does not encourage high-intensity cardio later on.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hilarious article (by someone else) about shopping at Whole Foods (which I love). Namaste.

Welcome! The world needs another food blog about as much as we need to see more pork belly and bone marrow on restaurant menus.

So what makes this one different?
It's geared to those who obsess over food but who are health-conscious, too.
I really don't like the word "foodie"--it sounds so pretentious--but I most definitely qualify. I pore over menus hours before going to a new restaurant, think about what to make for dinner at breakfast, and spend whatever money I have far more enthusiastically and willingly on food than on whatever the latest fashions are.
I write restaurant reviews for Vancouver's Georgia Straight newspaper, Canada's largest independent news and entertainment weekly.
I also teach group fitness classes. It's the best hobby I've ever taken up. But I could still do more to take care of my body and my soul.
Here I'll share news and tips on all things related to food, wine, health, and fitness. Put all of those together and you've got my interpretation of "living the good life".
To your health!