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Sacrilege in the Time of Corona

No-matzo matzo ball soup

It’s been a scary, introspective, frustrating and quiet month. It’s the first time that I haven’t enjoyed shopping for groceries, and cooking seems to have taken on a vital new importance that has more to do with sustenance than pleasure. How long can someone go without fresh fruit before they get scurvy? (The answer is somewhere between 1-4 months, depending on how severe the lack of vitamin C actually is, fyi).

But last week took on a new challenge. Passover celebrates the Biblical story of the Exodus, or the freeing of Hebrew slaves from Egypt. It is the time that the whole family congregates over the most delicious, traditional, comforting foods. This year we still congregated – albeit via videochat – but the foods were lost in the shuffle. I’m usually in charge of desserts. I LOVE to bake. And let’s face it, my favorite food group is carbohydrate. But baking and not sharing holds little appeal. So because I don’t have the task of cooking for a family, and because grocery shopping is a minefield, I decided to choose just one traditional dish. And so I made my first matzo ball soup. I wrote lists of ingredients, gloved up, and headed to the grocery, only to discover that the one thing I needed the most was not to be had this year. There was no matzo, matzo meal, nor matzo ball soup mix available. So what do you do in these times? You sub what you can, where you can. And so my matzo ball soup became cracker ball soup. I know that the entire concept is sacrilegious. Matzo represents the unleavened bread the Jews ate while fleeing Egypt and is paramount to the holiday. So how do you observe tradition and faith without the one thing that symbolizes just that? You hold it’s meaning close, and you create new tradition as it evolves with time and circumstance. What does it mean? To me, Passover is about renewal, clearing and light. It represents a moving forward from egoism to the love of others. And this year, more than any other, we have the time to reflect as individuals on how we really are all one. So in that spirit, and to share tradition, I’m sharing my recipe for Matzo Ball Soup – made without matzo, but with crackers instead. And as a bonus, I’m sharing a fantastic quarantine brunch idea to use up the leftovers.

Matzo Ball Soup – make the broth one day before making the matzo balls and serving

Broth – makes 10 cups

  • 2 chickens (5 lbs each)
  • 1 leek, cut in 4
  • 1 onion, not peeled, quartered
  • 2 carrot, each cut in 4
  • 1 celery, cut in 4
  • 1 garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
  • salt, pepper
  • 10 cups water (or 5 cups water, 5 cups chicken stock)

Preheat oven to 375. Place chickens in roasting pan and add vegetables to pan around and in the chickens. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 90 minutes uncovered. Remove chickens from roasting pan. Remove the meat of 1 chicken and set aside to use for chicken salad sandwiches (or like me – chicken pot pie!). In a large stockpot, add the bones of that chicken, and the other chicken with the meat intact, quartered. Add all of the roasted vegetables from the roasting pan. You can pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a small bowl and refrigerate so that the fat separates out (it’s DELICIOUS and traditional to use chicken fat for the matzo balls). Add water or water/stock to stockpot and cover. Simmer at least 1 hour, but up to 2 hours to deepen the flavor of the stock. Strain broth into a bowl. Throw out the vegetables and chicken bones, and remove the meat from the second chicken to set aside in the fridge for the finished soup. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. You can refrigerate the broth overnight. The next day you’ll want to skim the fat from the top of the fat, and add that to the fat that you reserved from the roasting pan. Now…matzo balls!

No-matzo matzo balls – makes 16 (adapted from bon appetit’s Best Matzo Balls recipe)

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chicken fat (reserved from making the broth) or vegetable oil, or a mixture to equal 1/2 cup, melted and cooled
  • 6 Tbsp chicken broth (from the batch you made yesterday) or water
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1.5 cups finely ground water crackers (I used these and ground the package in the food processor)
  • 3 Tbsp salt for cooking water

Whisk eggs well until there are no streaks. Add fat, broth, dill, and pepper and whisk to combine. Add ground crackers and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours.

Bring a stockpot of water to a simmer (about 3 quarts). Add salt. Roll the cracker mixture into 2 Tbsp balls and lower them gently into the water. Cover the pot and allow to quick simmer about 45 minutes. You can check at that point to see if when you cut a ball in half it’s uniformly white and fluffy, or still dense and hard (in which case you’ll have to simmer another 5-10 minutes). When ready, remove balls to a plate with a slotted spoon. These can be refrigerated until ready to consume.

Serving the soup

For each bowl, you’ll want to serve a few ladles of hot broth, about 2 matzo balls, some pieces of chicken, and I like to have some boiled carrot pieces to add as well. Garnish with extra chopped dill.

And because I promised a bonus brunch recipe – since 16 matzo balls is A LOT during a quarantine, when you’re probably not serving the same size family as usual…

Fried Matzo Balls with Eggs and Tomatoes – per person

Fried matzo ball brunch
  • 2 matzo balls
  • 1 tsp avocado oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • handful cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • Salt, pepper

Thickly slice 2 cold matzo balls (each will give about 4 slices). Set aside. Over medium heat, warm a non-stick frying pan with oil. Add sliced matzo balls and fry until golden, turning once to crisp both sides. Set aside on a plate. In the same pan, fry 2 eggs (I cover the frypan to cook the whites but still allow the yellows to stay runny). Add to the serving plate with the matzo balls. Halve the tomatoes and add to pan, cut side down. Cover and fry until just golden, about 2 minutes. Uncover and season with salt and pepper. Stir tomatoes to heat through. Add tomatoes to plate and garnish with fresh dill before serving.

Happy holidays, happy spring, love and light!

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Presence

We are less affected by outside forces the more we practice, the more we are rooted in ourselves. And that presence is who we really are. As you practice, you become more present and less in thoughts.

-Krishna Das

I am a healthcare worker. My work involves educating patients on enteral feeding. When they can’t eat enough – or at all – by mouth, one alternate route is that they are fed directly into their guts. So that’s where I come in. I visit patients, mainly in hospitals, to give them the education they need to be able to go home. I always saw it as a bit of a gift – my visit gives them the “get out of hospital” free card. And in these crazy days more than ever people are wanting to be at home. They’re in a hospital bed – sometimes for months – watching the world from a television and a window and hearing about the pandemic, risks to health, importance of staying home, and feeling even more at risk and powerless.

Yesterday I drove hours, deep into the country, to visit a young girl with a feeding tube in place. She had been hospitalised for months and was happily and patiently waiting to go home. The weather wasn’t good. It was pouring rain and between the rain and the spray from the trucks, visibility was low. And then in the mountains the fog hit. I could see a little more than a car’s length in front of me. But slowly, and steadily, I made it to the hospital. I did the teaching and packed up to leave.

The gown, gloves and mask came off. I pressed the elevator buttons with my elbow and I paid my parking at the machine, trying to be careful about what I was touching, if I had used enough hand sanitizer and gotten it into all of the crevices of my nailbed. I got into the car, and sanitized my hands again. And then I started the long drive back to the city. But the drive back felt different. There were few cars on the road, and the fog was even thicker than before. There was an eerie silence. But the air smelled like pine and spring. And as I drove down the winding mountain roads, I thought about how I could only see what was right in front of me, but nothing in front of that – or in back. And I started to relax and enjoy it all.

We’re all living in uncertainty and fear on some level. It’s easy to give into it now more than ever – you can’t turn around without taking it in in some way. You can turn off the radio, the TV, social media and take a walk. But the streets are empty and the stores are closed. People are walking around with masks and gloves, and it’s hard to not think of “what if.” But the truth is that it doesn’t help anything to feed into the panic. All we know for sure is that we’re living in a moment – a new situation – we don’t know what is in front of us, but we know that if we’re ok now. We have food, shelter, water. We have connection, albeit virtually, and that’s a new normal for a lot of us as well.

As a yoga teacher I see my community posting all kinds of online classes, thoughts, meditations, reflections. I’ve been silent because there’s already so much out there, do you really need more? But as a dietitian, and a health and wellness provider, and as I get ready to go back into the hospitals on a Saturday morning – so that I don’t leave patients in the hospital for longer than they need to be – I wanted to share what I am getting from them, what is helping me, and what I can put out at this time.

Stay present, stay focused. Don’t look to far ahead. Enjoy the scenery – the fact that the sun rises every morning is certainly a sign that we are moving forward. Do what you can do to stay safe, but don’t let the thoughts derail your personal safety and security. Find what calms you and practice that. And when you don’t feel calm, practice that again. Keep coming back to it, whether it’s yoga, meditation, working out, walking, cooking, or booking facetime with friends. And ultimately the practice will become your peace – and your peace of mind.

xx Andrea

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recipe

Birthday

Birthdays used to be a big deal. Now they’re markers of time. I used to dread the idea of getting older. But when my mother was in her last phase of illness she told me to think positively about it – there’s only one alternative. I’m lucky – in many ways – but in particular, I share my birthday with International Women’s Day. I get to celebrate something bigger than myself – and that focus on a day of celebrating the empowerment of women everywhere makes the birthday so much happier to me.

I come from a family of strong women. One grandmother survived the holocaust with a very young family, walking kilometers a day to get them milk and bartering what little she had for food to get them through. Once in Montreal she fought to ensure that they all thrived. My mother fought cancer for 15 years, through more surgeries and treatments than most people would be willing to tolerate.

I have an aunt who always was, and will be my second mother. A sister who supports all of our crazy, and two young nieces (and the best nephew EVER) I want to grow up to be the best, happiest humans.

To celebrate my day, to welcome in the next 365, to set the tone for the year and to put that in motion, I spent the day with these women. My littlest niece declared no boys allowed, but then made a few exceptions (because certain boys don’t count). We danced, chatted, shared and laughed. A lot. And we decorated. And colored. And made a huge mess. Because a birthday should be a celebration and a welcoming in of another year of fun and blessings for all.

The recipe for the cookies is my personal favorite – no fail, can be frozen until needed, and comes together in 5 minutes. I added a cup of colored sprinkles to the dough. Happy celebrating!

Adapted ever so slightly from NYT Cooking (Susan Spungen’s Basic Sugar Cookies):

  • 2 1/2 cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sprinkles – optional

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add 1/2 flour, mix to incorporate then add baking powder, salt and remaining flour and mix until well combined. Add sprinkles and mix just to combine.

Scrape dough out of mixer and pat into flattened disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or freeze until needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 2 large sheets parchment paper. Flour 1 sheet lightly then place unwrapped dough on flour. Sprinkle top of dough with light dusting of flour and cover with second sheet of parchment. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes, rerolling dough on floured surface as needed. Freeze cutout shapes until needed (if not using right away) or about 10 minutes to prevent spreading. Transfer cookies to parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake 12-14 minutes until just colored at edges. I like 12 minutes – the cookies don’t appear done but will firm as they cool.

We spent the day decorating with edible markers, colored sugar, candy-coated chocolate pieces, licorice and colored dragees. All stuck on with a royal icing glue. My favorite go-to royal icing is from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you use meringue powder, there’s no need to worry about raw egg whites with young children.

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Pumpkin Kale Pasta

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Vegetarian & vegan optional – easily adapted for GF and FODMAP diets

Creamy, comforting, healthy (!!!!) and ready in 15 minutes

Ingredients:

Ingredients:
-125 g Ground chicken, turkey, pork or soy protein
-1 tsp Chopped garlic
-1 tsp Red chili flake
-1 tsp Oregano
-8 oz Dry pasta (penne or rigatoni work well)
-1 cup Chopped kale (or more to taste)
-1 cup Canned pumpkin or mashed butternut squash
-1 cup Chicken or vegetable broth
-2 Tbsp Grated parmesan or nutritional yeast (optional)
-Cracked black pepper

Directions:
-In a large skillet, cook ground meat or soy substitute over medium heat, adding oil if necessary (pork is high fat and needs no oil), until cooked through but not browned. Add garlic, chili flakes and oregano and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add kale and cook until just wilted. Turn down heat to low and add pumpkin and broth. Stir to combine.
-While the meat is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions to al dente. Drain, keeping aside 1 cup cooking water.
-Add cooked pasta to pumpkin mixture and cook several minutes to heat through and thicken. Add pasta cooking water as needed to bring sauce to desirable consistency.
-Add parmesan or nutritional yeast and cracked black pepper
before serving. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

ENJOY! Recipe is printable below!

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Music

A Yoga Playlist to Start the Weekend

It’s the weekend – we’re at the tail end of the longest/shortest month of the year – but still a time to hang out, cook, flow to the beat. Here’s a playlist to help you do just that….

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Event

Barcelona Adventure #1

“Travel is about immersing yourself in local culture. And there’s no better way to do that than through food! Food brings people together, no matter where you’re from or what language you speak.” Devour Barcelona

The 2020 Barcelona food and yoga adventure is winding up, and what better way to introduce this very specially curated event, than to delve a little deeper into some of the planned (and included!) activities.

Signing up for a week of group activity isn’t always easy, especially when you’re there alone, uncomfortable, maybe a little shy. You don’t know the other group members, you’re in a brand new city, and perhaps haven’t travelled in a while.

To introduce you to the group and to Barcelona – it’s history, food and culture, the first planned activity is a tapas dinner tour! Guided by a city native, the tour will take us to various tapas bars through the Gothic quarter. You will learn about the foods that have shaped the history of Barcelona’s modern traditions and learn about classic dishes that have existed in these bars for decades.

This is combined with a guided walking tour through the old city. Learning about pieces of history that may otherwise pass you by, and developing an understanding of this very special city that traces it’s origins back more than 2000 years.

The tour will be guided by Devour Barcelona, one of the predominant food tour companies in Spain. Why this company in particular? Because they embody the same spirit as I do, and their intention is parallel to mine. From their “about” page: We crave food and travel experiences with a true sense of place. We fear a world where you can’t tell the difference between Paris and Barcelona. Our hearts jump at the adventure of a tapas crawl in historic Madrid, and at our first taste of a Parisian baguette. These are the moments we feel truly connected to the soul of a destination, and not a watered down version of  it.

The intent of this entire week of food and yoga adventure is that through experience you come to look at the world a little differently. Sharing, learning, living and letting go will allow you to fully reconnect with yourself and the world around you.

To learn more about this event, contact me at wellnessmtl@gmail.com or visit the website for details and pricing.

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Shiitake Noodle Soup

Vegan, FODMAP & GF optional

It’s mid-week and I’m slightly overwhelmed. Work is busy, life is busy, and it’s COLD & snowy outside. It’s a soup week, with no time (or honestly much motivation) to shop, chop, simmer and stew. My kitchen tools are simple – a pot, cutting board and a chef’s knife. What can I whip up to satisfy the need for comfort, warmth, nutrition and big flavor? This shiitake noodle soup fits that bill – it comes together in 15 minutes but satisfies the soul as if it’s been simmering all day. For 2 servings (can easily be doubled):

For 2 servings (can easily be doubled):

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 Tbsp avocado or other neutral oil
  • 1/2 cup thickly sliced shiitake (or other mushroom. Would work well with oyster, enoke or button)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce (I’m allergic, so coconut sauce is my go-to sub!)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I suppose the traditional ingredient would be rice vinegar, but why not add some added health benefit)
  • 2 oz quick-cook noodles (long-life, ramen or rice noodle would all work well)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach or bok choy
  • 2/3 cup protein, sliced (shrimp, tofu or chicken would all work! If the protein is raw, add it with the mushrooms at the beginning of the recipe, otherwise add it with the greens at the end)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (optional)

In a large saucepan over medium-low, heat avocado oil. Add garlic, ginger, mushrooms and carrots (and protein if raw) and cook, stirring until softened. Add broth, soy, vinegar and heat to simmer. Add noodles and cook, covered, 3-4 minutes until softened. Add greens (and if using cooked protein, add here) and sesame oil and cover pan to heat protein and wilt greens.

Serve hot. And enjoy!

*There is no WRONG way to make this. To make it FODMAP friendly, use garlic-infused oil instead of garlic, or just eliminate it completely. Use oyster mushrooms instead of shiitake. For a GF version, use gluten-free soy and rice noodles.

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Follow Your Heart

When I was in university and studying Italian, one of the books we were to read was “Va Dove Ti Porta Il Cuore.” It is a beautiful story of a grandmother’s life, written as a letter to her granddaughter living far away. It is a look back at opportunities taken and lost, and choices made at important crossroads. It made a lasting impression, and perhaps even influenced my completely terrified decision to move to Italy after graduation.

I don’t know if those forks in the road of life are always clear. But I have lived enough years, and survived enough choice, to know that the most important choices are those that you make with your heart. It will (barring overtly risky or ridiculous behaviours) always lead you in a direction that will satisfy your soul.

This heart-led practice led me to cooking school, to study nutrition, and has led me away from dietitian work in hospital to focus on helping individuals ready and wanting to make change. It has led me to teach yoga to help others in their own practice. And now it’s led me to the next adventure.

For a while I’ve been wanting to put together an adventure to a different part of the world that I can offer to others. Primaily a food adventure – an exposure to all that that place has to offer – but also a yoga retreat – to bring a group of people together from other sides of the world in a common experience.

So today I can announce that this is becoming reality. I travelled to Barcelona last year to curate the best of it’s various offerings – local and sustainable restaurants, food culture including tapas and vermouth, markets, wineries and hotels. And I’ve worked hard to put these together into something wonderfully digestible (excuse the bad pun). There are adventures, there are days for touring and/or rest, and there is a great hotel in (what I consider to be) the best part of town with daily yoga on the rooftop (and a plunge pool on that rooftop in case that sounds good).

I look forward to sharing this experience – I hope this will be the start of many more. Sharing this, providing this, having people experience this is where my heart is genuinely happy.

For details: www.wellnessmtl.com/events/

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Intention

So many changes in the last decade…births, deaths, a new career, a new outlook. Going forward into a new year, not to mention a new decade, resolutions are made and quickly broken. But I’ve learned, and relearned, that it’s not about resolutions but has everything to do with intention.

What’s the difference? A resolution (at least in my line of work) is often to lose 10 pounds, exercise 5 times a week, pack a healthy lunch for work (and eat it). A resolution is black and white, right or wrong, stuck to or fallen from. A resolution is a big ask because there’s no in-between. And when you slip – and we all do – you start judging yourself. You start listening to that negative voice that tells you that you couldn’t do it anyways, that you’re not disciplined enough, just not enough.

An intention is so much happier at it’s base. Intentions are about feeling joy, expressing gratitude, finding peace. Touchy-feely-yoga stuff. But actually intentions are just resolutions packaged up with much happier wrapping paper. A resolution to lose 10 pounds or to exercise more often is really an intention to live a more healthy life. Packing a lunch for the office? Actually an intention to be more mindful, about what I put into my body and how I spend my money.

A shift to intention will always move you forward because it lies in the grey between the black and white. If you keep your intention clear and present, then your choices will most often reflect that. And when they don’t, you reset that intention, knowing that you’re still walking through the grey haze. And with practice, and patience, you end up living your intention without it even announcing itself.

At the beginning of most yoga classes I teach, I ask the students to set an intention – to create a sankalpa or to bring their own sankalpa to mind. A sankalpa is a heartfelt desire – and if we focus our minds, yogic tradition teaches that we already have within us what we need to fullfill that. The yoga practice teaches us to focus our minds on that, and if we fall out, we come back to the practice and remind ourselves again.

As we move forward into this year, keep in mind your intention. Know that the path towards it will not be linear, and chances are it won’t always be pretty. But in every new day, come back to your intention, come back to whatever your practice looks like, and move through the fog by following your own light.

Be kind to yourself, direct your energy to what brings you closer to your sankalpa, and have a happy year – and a happy decade ahead on your path.

xx A

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Hello world, welcome!

The food body may seem like an odd name for a blog. I’ve been wanting to write for a while – to put out the really interesting information I come across about nutrition and wellness, along with delicious recipes and useful advice to nourish both the mind and the body. There’s so much misinformation out there that I really just wanted a forum to set the record straight. I was in yoga class the other day when the teacher spoke about the month’s focus: the Annamaya Kosha, the Food Body, and I thought: that’s it! The root where food, nutrition, mind and spirit all intersect.

The mind, body and spirit are interconnected and interrelated. What affects one affects the other. When one part of our being is unhealthy, the other parts naturally follow as a consequence. The Annamaya Kosha is the first, physical layer of the body. Nourishing this layer is paramount since what we do to it will naturally affect the deeper layers, down to the body’s core. In particular, what and how we feed our body will affect how we feel about ourselves, the stories we will tell ourselves (our psychological mindset), and how we continue to treat ourselves day after day.

I hope that this blog provides some tools to nourish all of your layers. I look forward to sharing with you.