Category: Columns

The Importance of Film in Creating Shared Experiences

Oscar Awards Close Up

With the 87th Academy Awards (better known as The Oscars to most folks) having just happened, it seems fitting that the chosen topic for any blog right now would be Film. Whilst The Oscars is so huge that we kinda don’t need a better reason than this to choose film as our topic this month, the motivation behind this choice goes a little deeper than “Oh hey The Oscars are happening, we should probably write about that” for the Elevenses family and warrants a little exploration. This is why I’ll be looking at film and its importance in creating valuable shared experiences as part of my Food for Thought column.

Now, my Elevenses post wouldn’t be complete without some nod to Tolkien would it? (we do call ourselves Elevenses after all). It is with this understanding that I bring you this fun fact, relevant to both The Lord of the Rings and The Oscars:

“The most successful films in Oscar history are Ben-Hur, Titanic and Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King. Each took home 11 gongs – although Return Of The King was the only one of those to take home every award for which it was nominated.” ~ Empire Magazine

With the 87th Academy Awards (better known as The Oscars to most folks) having just happened, it seems fitting that the...

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Budget: Have your pizza, and eat it too!

“‘ We want man-food for twenty-five,’ the Ents said, so you can see that somebody had counted your company carefully before you arrived.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

My favourite memory of summer was picking up a gluten free pizza (akin to what the Ents consider ‘man-food’) after finishing a show.  There was something profoundly rad knowing that in half an hour I could be at home and eating one of my favourite meals. However – It got me thinking a couple things.

 

Yes, please!

 

"' We want man-food for twenty-five,' the Ents said, so you can see that somebody had counted your company carefully bef...

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How to Work Less, Rest Better, and Let The Little Things Go

It’s been one heck of an autumn.

As the lovely matriarch of the elevenses crew touched on in our introduction to the topic of ‘Budget’, Natalie and I have made our big move over to Brighton, UK at the beginning of September. It’s been a big adjustment but I have to say that overall I’m really enjoying my time in the land of bangers and mash.

Brighton

Besides the usual budget pains that come from moving, I’ve been finding myself running into a different kind of budget constraint: energy. 

Sure, regular ole physical energy is for sure is used up more quickly over here with the realities of not having a car but still living halfway up a big hill (and up 3 flights of stairs to our flat) and needing to walk to get groceries, meet friends, and enjoy the seaside – but I found that to be a fairly straightforward thing to get used to. Where I really ran into that energy budget constraint is in the sheer amount of work-related opportunity that is making itself available to me, and the actual amount of efficient, focussed work hours I can possibly squeeze out of my head. 

Suffice it to say that they don’t exactly match up.

It’s been one heck of an autumn. As the lovely matriarch of the elevenses crew touched on in our introduction to the top...

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Budget: When Emotional Intelligence Met Financial Budget

Emotional Intelligence Featured Image

Introduction

Now, my mother will be the first to tell you that I’ve always had a hole where my ability to budget should be and as much as I could argue that the hole has been since been plugged after years away from the family home, I’m sure that my girlfriend will be the first to rat me out within seconds of me making such a wildly inaccurate claim. My opinion? My sister stole all of the sensible genes.

The meaning of budget for me has experienced huge swings and roundabouts over the years and I’m sure that as my life progresses such wild change in meaning will continue (I’m expecting budget to be a big thing as soon as motherhood hits). Where the word once meant nothing but “Why can’t I get all three £40 Playstation 2 games?!” when spending my parents money, it now means the difference between having the option of organic meat with most meals or being forced to eat rice and chicken as every meal for a month because oops: bills.

Whilst we all know of the behemoth that is the “financial budget”, its cousin “emotional budget” should never be forgotten. As a student (yes that’s right, I’m back at the ol’ education lark) and anxiety sufferer, both budget tyrants are intertwined with my days, but what was important for me was becoming aware of how they’re intertwined with each other as a first step to getting a handle on both.

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
– Nathaniel Branden

Introduction Now, my mother will be the first to tell you that I’ve always had a hole where my ability to budget should...

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Thanksgiving

One of my favourite jokes about Alberta goes something like this:  There are two seasons around here; July and Winter.  So darn true!  It seems as if the trees explode with colour and then shed their loveliness within DAYS of turning.  Born and raised in the Northeastern US, I still long for those months of slow and steady seasonal change.  Here, I feel a bit forced to inhale all of this splendour before it’s gone.  Talk about budgeting your time!   

Speaking of budgets and time, I’m also always struck at how quickly Canadian Thanksgiving creeps up in this neck of woods compared to what I was used to back in the states.  This year, Turkey Day will occur on October 13th, which is tomorrow.  For years, I’ve tried to re-create American Thanksgiving with less than stellar results.  It’s hard to celebrate a holiday like American Thanksgiving, where it seems the whole worlds stops to feast together and watch football, (I’m not a football fan, actually, but whatever, when in Rome…) when in Canadian reality it’s simply another workday. It’s left with me with no alternative; Canadian Thanksgiving has become something unto itself, and I’ve relented a bit in trying to recreate what was. And I’d love to share with you the learning that has come out of my little journey.

One of my favourite jokes about Alberta goes something like this:  There are two seasons around here; July and Wint...

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Recharging: Udi’s Gluten Free Cookie Review

Natalie Recharging

Holidays, or vacations, are perhaps the first place your mind goes to when you think of the word “recharging”. The summer months are a time that most look forward to, as we speak I know at least a dozen people that are on holiday elsewhere in Canada or beyond. Having said this, everybody has a place, ritual or activity that helps them recharge, and if your childhood was anything like mine, going abroad with your family is more akin to a 9to5 job than a relaxing getaway.

With fond memories of taking the wrong exit leaving Universal Studios and ending up on a 3 hour “scenic route” as my Dad fondly put it. Or how about that one time my cousin accidentally closed the door of our rental Pontiac Sunfire (it had a spoiler too, we were too cool) on my Dad’s thumb in Florida Mall carpark? Oh and how could I forget all those years sleeping in the same hotel room as my parents? I love them dearly but no amount of love can plug my ears enough to mute their snoring! Together they made for an interesting, almost experimental, symphony in Barbados. On a more serious note, there actually have been some astounding memories made on holiday with my family, but as my Dad always put it: “You need a holiday to get over the holiday”.

Holidays, or vacations, are perhaps the first place your mind goes to when you think of the word “recharging”. The summe...

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Cravings for Home

Happy Summer, Elevenses readers! True to form, I’m writing this post all the way from my home town here in Long Island, New York.  These past few months have brought more family-related travel my way than I could have ever anticipated.  As Elevenses was born out of the idea that a food blog could help keep a family together as they geographically scattered this way and that, I’ve chosen to share a recipe that makes me feel closer to the kids regardless of the miles that separate us.  But first, some parental reflecting….

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As I was unpacking some boxes this morning (or moving boxes from one room to another, which my mom generously considers unpacking, bless her heart, but I’m not so sure…), it struck me how, for an aging family, travel tends to occur less and less frequently with us all together. This may seem like a simple thought, but it’s affecting me in the most profound way this morning. While here, I’ve been bombarded with images of family trips; boxes upon boxes of pictures of the kids, Lewis and myself in the early days on our journeys together in Colorado, Canada, back home to NY, etc.

 

 

We were always a tight little unit, with the occasional additions of grandparents, uncles and cousins sprinkled in for good measure. Our little clan, however, was always intact. All of a sudden, even though I keep in touch with the adult kids throughout the day thanks to the magic of texting, I’m suddenly feeling as if my right arm is missing. My family has once again morphed into yet another version of itself.

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So in being “back home” (how long can I refer to this place that now looks nothing like the home I left decades ago, I’m not quite sure) and helping my parents create a new life in a downsized space, my mothering instincts have kicked into high gear. Don’t let them unpack for too many hours. Get the boxes and all signs of transition out of sight as soon as humanly possible. Keep them well nourished and hydrated, after all, culinaria is my jam… And don’t forget about their food sensitivities.

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“So, Mom, what’s the very first thing we should the bake in your new kitchen? Anything at all! I can make anything you want gluten free, just name it!”

Without hesitation, the answer came: “Banana Bread.”

Banana bread? Really? Not something more challenging or… trendy? Of course not, Mama Bear (this is my nickname, but the story of how this came about is for another post!). It took me a few minutes to understand. This request is about fulfilling a craving for something simple, familiar, and comforting. It’s what my mom made for me, many years ago and just a few miles away, when I needed to feel comfort and happiness. It’s also one of the first recipes I made with little Jacqui and Hunter; the mini project they helped me with, standing on kitchen chairs so they could reach the counter and break eggs into the cavernous glass bowl. It’s what they still request of me now when I ask what they are craving. It’s a craving for home.

I get it, Mom.  This post is for you.

The Recipe

This recipe is a loose adaptation of a simple recipe from Stephanie Jaworski’s delightful website, joyofbaking.com. I’ve turned to her site many times over the years for inspiration and have never been disappointed with her offerings.  In true Elevenses style, we’ve adapted a basic recipe by replacing wheat flour with a gluten free blend, replaced the butter with coconut oil, slightly adjusted the wet ingredients to compensate for the increased rate of liquid absorption of gf flours, and added a few goodies to pay homage to the turtle candy bar. Go hard or go home, right?  At any rate, please use the baking time as a guideline, as humidity and various home kitchen ovens can wreak havoc on prescribed cooking times.  For those of you with dairy allergies please feel free to replace the toffee and chocolate chip add-ins with those of your own choosing (enjoy life makes great dairy free options), or leave them out altogether. The bread will still be wonderful.

To ensure proper baking; use a toothpick to test for doneness (the pick should emerge from the bread clean), bread should be firm to the touch, lightly brown around the edges of the pan, and if still in doubt grab your trusty digital thermometer and temp your bread to anywhere between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. For those of you who are interested in learning more about temping your quick breads, here’s a great link to a discussion thread on that subject.  

PS- You’ll notice I have a kitchen scale in the equipment list.  Please consider using one if you don’t already, as measuring your dry ingredients by weight  instead of volume yields the most accurate results.  The hidden bonus to measuring this way is that weighing your dry ingredients is incredibly quick and easy. All you need to keep in mind is that different flours actually have different weights, so adjust your target weights accordingly. “How will I know how to do that,” you ask? Here’s a handy chart to help clear up the mystery; I use it all the time and it makes measuring a breeze.

Equipment: large loaf pan (9×5 or 8 x 4), kitchen scale, hand mixer if desired

 

 

Turtle Banana Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 15 Mins Cooking Time: 55 Mins Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (115 grams) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) gluten free all purpose flour mix (King Arthur works beautifully here)
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar or sweetener of choice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs,room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 4 ripe bananas (approximately), mashed well 
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup toffee chips 
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coarse turbinado sugar (I use Sugar in the Raw)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. 
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. (For added insurance, I place a piece of parchment in the bottom of the pan for easy unmoulding, but it’s only optional) Set aside. 
  3. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 4 to 8 minutes, until they are lightly brown and smell wonderfully toasty. Let cool and then chop coarsely.  
  4. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and nuts. Set aside. 
  5. In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted coconut oil, and vanilla with a large wire whisk or hand mixer. 
  6. Switching to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, begin combining the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients.  
  7. Once the flour is almost incorporated, add your toffee and chocolate chips. (Please don’t over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth, just give it one or two turns of your spoon after you can no longer see any ribbons of flour. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread, an absolute travesty.) 
  8. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top of the batter gently with the back of a spoon and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. And into the oven she goes!
  9. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes or until bread reads 195 to 205 on a digital read thermometer. 
  10. Unmold after ten minutes, and place on a wire rack to cool. If you can.  We always tear into it after 20 minutes or so, but perhaps you will have more reserve.  This bread can be frozen.

Happy Summer, Elevenses readers! True to form, I’m writing this post all the way from my home town here in Long Island,...

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Aspartame vs. Stevia: Is Stevia Safe?

Stevia Crops

First it was 2 litres of Coca Cola or Dr Pepper every 4 days during my school days, then, when I graduated to University it became 12 cans of diet coke every 7 days – we all have our vices. Mine, and many other people’s from what I hear, came in the form of an ice cold and beautifully bubbly substance that drew me in under the guise of “fruity beverage”. Let’s be honest, Dr Pepper doesn’t taste like any fruit I’ve ever had, how about you? Nah, didn’t think so.

Remember those stories and, with the inevitable progression of technology, videos? You know the one, where some kid puts a dull penny in a glass of Coca Cola and leaves it for a few hours. We all know what comes next, a shiny coin that makes you feel incredibly guilty about what you’ve been feeding your insides for the last quarter of your life. If the drink can strip a coin, how is your stomach fairing? *shudders*

This beverage battle is staged in such a way that you think you’ve made the healthy choice through switching from Coca Cola to Diet Coke, it did a number on me that’s for sure. Trouble is, that with this switch you go from chewing up your digestive system to chewing up your brain.

First it was 2 litres of Coca Cola or Dr Pepper every 4 days during my school days, then, when I graduated to University...

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No One is Stealing Your Bread

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Hello beautiful people – I hope all has been well! I am writing in response to the current backlash about being “gluten-free”. There are tons of articles being posted around facebook, and other social media, claiming that “gluten sensitive” people are lying to you in attempts to fit in with the “hipsters”. If you want my two cents, and I’m assuming you do since you’re reading my column – I think that is internet-fight is totally silly.

I won’t rehash everything that Jacqui went through in her column about Gluten (you can read it here www.elevenses.ca/what-is-gluten-and-why-you-should-care-about-it/), but the fact that there continues to be no conclusive evidence to support either argument about Gluten really intrigued me. Why, if this is the scientific mis-en-scene, are there so many fights breaking out about this little protein?

The Observation:

I thought about it a lot over the last month or so and eventually came to the conclusion that this is one of the times where the sad but timeless human-sensitivity-for-perceptions-of-scarcity (h.s.f.p.o.s’s as we call them) start rearing it’s ugly head – almost as if there isn’t enough “right” going around, and someone HAS to be wrong.

Let’s look at some examples where freedoms and resources are currently seen as scarce, then I’ll bring it back to eating gluten free!

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal...

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What Is Gluten & Why You Should Care About It

Fields of Wheat

It’s been a couple weeks since my last exam released me from it’s chokehold, and since then I’ve been doing a mix of panicking about what I’m going to do with my life now that I’m finished my undergrad and doing some reading that I’ve been putting off on the huge topic of gluten. It’s been a good mixture in my opinion, only made better with the company of this guy around the house:

Chase!

(By the way, if you’re not already following elevensesfood on Instagram – you’re missing out. It’s a glorious stream of delicious things we’re working on in the Elevenses test kitchen.)

Anyways, let’s get cracking on this fascinating topic!

What is Gluten?

It’s been a couple weeks since my last exam released me from it’s chokehold, and since then I’ve been doing a mix of pan...

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