Chicken Souvlaki

Welcome to flavour town folks. This simple dish relies entirely on the flavour profile of each ingredient and they do the work for you. The tzatziki recipe to accompany the chicken is found here, and the roasted tomatoes recipe is found here. I totally recommend these accompaniments to make this dish complete.

I don’t have much of an opening monologue for this dish, because honestly it speaks for itself.

Happy Eating

souvlakiServes 2

Ingredients

2 chicken breast, cut into 2 inch cubes

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

Half of 1 lemon, juiced

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbsp oregano

1 tsp of salt and pepper

2 whole wheat naan bread

Tzatziki sauce

Roasted tomatoes

In a large freezer bag, add all ingredients. Seal the bag and gently massage the bag to mix everything together. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour (the longer the better).

While it’s marinating line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 400F/200C.

Spread chicken out evenly on baking sheet and bake in oven for 12 minutes. (Chicken Tip: for juicy always perfect chicken, think high heat, less time).

While chicken is baking, heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat and heat naan bread until golden brown and pliable.

Place heated naan on a plate. Smear with homemade tzatziki (click here for recipe). Top with chicken, roasted tomatoes (recipe here), and a hefty handful of greens (here I use pea tendrils).

 

Roasted Tomatoes

I am going to assume you’ve all seen the latest season 3 of Chef’s Table before I introduce this recipe (If you haven’t, you know what you have to do). Chef Ivan Orkin, a Long Island native mastered the art of Ramen and even surpassed many ramen chefs in Japan. Not only were his broths legendary, and his homemade noodles unique, but the real secret weapon that surprised even the greatest of ramen critics was the addition of roasted tomatoes (pretty controversial since the Japanese ramen game is super traditional and not prone to change). Roasted tomatoes naturally carry that umami flavour that chefs are all searching for (it’s that fifth sense that typically come from meats and carries such an intense depth of flavour). Enough nerding out. Ever since I saw that ep., I thought: what other dishes can I easily add roasted tomatoes to umamify (I know that’s not a word, but it should be) it . I figured you can practically incorporate roasted tomatoes anywhere – from salads to sammys to charcuterie boards – roasted tomatoes do not discriminate.

To make this all a reality, all you need is one hour and a few pantry ingredients.

Happy Roasting.

tomatoesMakes 2 cups

Ingredients

3 field house tomatoes, washed, quartered

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Pepper

Preheat oven to 300F/150C.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients. Spread out tomatoes evenly on a pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake in the oven until tomatoes are browned, and skin looks crispy. Approximately 1 hour.

I Put Tzatziki on Everything

If I asked you what were some of Ancient Greece’s most notable discoveries/inventions, you’ll most likely say: the birthplace of democracy, the notable philosophers, or the creation of the olympics… the list goes on. If you asked me… a food obsessed nerd, my quick response would likely be the creation of the classic Greek sauce: tzatziki. I realize how crazy that sounds, but seriously back then I’m sure foods like tzatziki, pita and olives fuelled these philosophers and inventors to become the best they can be… so why not champion one of the foods that triggered these great discoveries. I realize that’s a stretch, but an “A” for effort?! Enough of that, you need to make this sauce. It’s the most versatile of dips because the flavours are subtle and can be easily incorporated into anything you’re making. Tzatziki works great as a dip for veggies and meat, as a sammy spread or as a salad dressing.

Here’s my Canadian take on the Greek classic:

TzatzikiMakes 1 cup

Ingredients

1 lebanese cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated

1 tsp salt

1 cup of 2% plain yoghurt

Cracked black pepper

Olive oil

In a medium sized bowl, add grated cucumber and salt. Let sit for 20 minutes to allow the salt to remove some moisture. After 20 minutes drain excess water pulled from the cucumbers. Add yoghurt and finish with black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Keep refrigerated.

Shakshukalicious

I apologize for the title but I can’t contain my excitement. I think we tend to complicate brunch and honestly we don’t need to. Most of my classics are simple, start with easy ingredients, and end with happy satisfied bellies. This recipe is very much mom-inspired (thanks Mom). Shakshuka really TLC creeped on the food scene and now it’s on the menu at all my fav brunch spots. But trust me, making homemade shakshuka is not only easy on the wallet but a guaranteed repeater. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to prepare.

Okay, that’s enough of a preamble. Here’s my take on the classic shakshuka:

shakshuka

Serves 2

1 large fieldhouse tomato (juiciest one you can find), cut in half, grated

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small white onion

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup water

Salt and pepper

4 eggs

Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant and softened. Add grated tomato juice, tomato paste and water. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper and bring to boil. Next, lower heat and slowly simmer for 20-25 minutes. Once sauce has slightly thickened, crack eggs into sauce and cover for another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve with any type of protein (lamb sausage is my jam) and crusty French bread for proper dipping equipment.

Thanks for reading FoodVice. If you’ve got a secret weapon at making shakshuka and want to share it with the internet world, please comment below.

Steak & Black Bean Salad

If you’re looking for something light yet also super duper satisfying you should meet this salad. I’ve designed a salad that is easy, flavourful and leaving you feel satisfied without the regret.

The secret? Season your meat 24 hours in advance. Stay with me. It will take you two minutes to do and you’ll be glad you did. Sticking to this trick will ensure your meat is flavour packed and you won’t look back.

No complicated salad dressings here because your perfectly seasoned meat will be the star of the show. I’m trying to save you as much time as possible.

Next time you bring home steak, put it on a salad and you’ll be glad you did.

Without further ado, here is my recipe:

steak salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 pound of your fav steak (flank works great)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

2-3 cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ can of black beans, rinsed

Huge handfuls of your fav lettuce (romaine, spinach, watercress)

1 avocado, pitted, halved and sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

Salt and pepper your steak. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours.

24 hours later:

Take steak out of the fridge and allow it to sit at room temp 1 hour before cooking.

Heat saucepan with olive oil and cook onions and mushrooms on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat cast iron skillet with vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Pat steak dry with a paper towel to make sure your meat browns (thanks Julia Child). Once skillet is hot, add steak and cook UNDISTURBED (don’t touch it… trust me) for 4 minutes on each side (for medium rare). Once nicely brown on each side place steak on cutting board, cover with tin foil, and let sit for 5-10 minutes to keep juices intact.

While steak is resting, plate your lettuce, black beans, caramelized onions and mushrooms, avocado slices.

Drizzle with olive oil, juice of lemon and season with salt and pepper.

 

Creamy Chicken & Spinach Gnocchi

If you’ve never had gnocchi, here’s a great place to start. This recipe is simple, quick and a solid repeater. Got someone to impress? Make this little bad boy and you’re set. Gnocchi is typically found in the pasta aisle at your local grocery store and I highly recommend buying them fresh which can be easily refrigerated after opening.

Gnocchi is technically not a pasta because its made with potato and flour, however it typically falls under the pasta category. I like to call these beautiful beings little pillows of heaven, and if you’ve tried it before, you’ll know what I mean.

I use spinach in this recipe because spinach goes well with dairy and the spice from the nutmeg, but you can also use rapini, Swiss chard or even kale. You can use either milk or half and half cream for this recipe – I justify the use of half and half because its technically only half cream and the use of the greens makes up for it. Remember this is a rich dish and  should be saved for that special evening. So treat yourself.

Try it tonight!

Gnocchi

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tbsp of olive oil

2 chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 cups gnocchi

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium pink onion

2-3 cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly

½ cup 2% milk or half and half cream (treat yo self)

½ tsp nutmeg, grated or ground

2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped

In a frying pan, heat olive oil at medium high heat and sear chicken until golden brown and no longer pink. Put chicken aside.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat water on high and add gnocchi to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Just to be sure gnocchi is cooked, gnocchi should be floating atop the water. Drain and put gnocchi aside.

Using the same frying pan to cook the chicken, heat garlic and onions on medium heat for two minutes. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 2 minutes. Once softened, add milk or cream and let it come to a boil and then simmer on medium-low heat. Add nutmeg and spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Once spinach is cooked down, turn off heat and add gnocchi and chicken. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve right away.

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And…here’s another shot, just incase you missed the other ones.

Leave a comment below if you love gnocchi as much as I do and your fav way to prepare it.

Happy Eats! Thanks for reading FoodVice.

 

How to Live Like a Centenarian

Have you ever wondered if you’ll live to 100? Perhaps you’ve thought about what it would take? What’s the secret? Well, Dan Buettner did and made it his life’s mission to find out the secret to longevity. Leading a pack of researchers from National Geographic, Buettner discovered five places in the word where the highest number of centenarians lived. He coined these places “Blue Zones”. In this post, I’ll share with you the characteristics that make for the healthiest places, but also whether these places are still blue, and whether we can incorporate these same characteristics in an increasing globalizing world.

Introducing, the 5 Blue Zones:

1.    Loma Linda, CA, US

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About 100 km east of Los Angeles there exists a small community made up of mostly Seventh-day Adventists. Their diet is mostly plant-based, and they practice the Sabbath on Saturday where they spend time with family and friends, and refrain from using technology.

2.    Nicoya, Costa Rica

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Costa Rica benefits from a high life expectancy (2012: 79.7 years). Yet in the region of Nicoya, locals have a significant lower death rate compared to the rest of the country. Typically education levels and/or access to healthcare are determinants of health.  However, in Nicoya centenarians on average have lower levels of education than the rest of the country, and have equal access to healthcare. Their typical diet consists of traditional foods loaded with fibre like rice and beans. There is, though, one characteristic unique to  Nicoyans –Plan de Vida, which translates to “reason to live”. Residents here have a positive outlook on life and typically wake up with purpose and partake in an active lifestyle.

3.    Sardinia, Italy

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A typical Sardinian walks five miles a day atop a mountainous region. Their diet consists of whole grains, beans, homegrown vegetables and fruits with a limited intake of animal protein (Sundays or on special occasions). Italians love their wine, and that is no different in Sardinia, where they consume it, although, in moderation.

4.    Ikaria, Greece

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Rates of cancer among locals from the small island of Ikaria are 20% less than in North America. Also they have half the rate of heart disease compared to North America. Their diet is largely a Mediterranean one. Evidence has been able to draw the link that eating a Mediterranean diet may reduce our risk for certain chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Check it out here, here and here. Evidence is still evolving in this area, but a Mediterranean diet is intuitively beneficial since it encourages a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish and lean sources of protein. Sardinians also enjoy a daily mid-afternoon break (whether it be a nap or a cup of tea) to de-stress.

5.    Okinawa, Japan

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The island of Okinawa carries historical significance since it was the site of the last and most decisive battle of WWII between the Japanese and Americans (for those not so historically inclined, this was referenced in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge”). If you are a woman in Okinawa you are 2-3 time more likely to live to 100 compared to all of Japan, Europe and North America. Side note, Okinawa is one of two areas with the highest number of female business leaders in Japan. Not only are female Okinawans living the longest, they’re also killing it in business. An Okinawan’s lifestyle is guided by the old Confucian mantra known as: “Hara Hachi Bu” which means: “eat until you are 80% full”. The theory behind this is that it allows your body time to digest in order to listen to internal hunger and fullness cues.

Globalization Meets Blue Zones

So what happens when globalization reaches these regions and threatens the way of life? Since Buettner’s Blue Zone study, fast food restaurants have popped up in the above five places, and although these changes may not have influenced the elderly population, they have already had an impact on the younger population. The city of Loma Linda attempted to ban drive thru fast food restaurants, but that was squashed and since then a variety of fast food chains have populated the “pure” community. In 2016, Nicoya introduced its first chain of  KFC.

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Centenarians from Okinawa may not have been influenced by American society during WWII, but the growing fast food presence in Okinawa today is having a significant impact on the youth. The traditional Okinawa diet is fading and being replaced with Big Macs and Coke Zero resulting in a  rise in cholesterol and heart disease among the population. Japan has seen a three-fold increase in BMI from 1962 to 2002.

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In Canada, a number of organizations are trying to direct policy and form advocacy groups to establish healthier food environments.  That being said, what lessons can we, as individuals, take from the Blue Zones study.

1.    Find Ways to De-Stress

Residents from the Blue Zones all had one thing in common: less stress. It sounds easy, but in a Western society so governed by technology, short lunch breaks and long working hours, finding time to de-stress is challenging.  However making it a priority can have a significant impact on your health. Whether it’s 15 minutes of meditation, art therapy, taking a walk or picking up a book, these actions can – at least temporarily – help to de-clutter our mind.

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2.    Get Enough Zzs

This may seem like a no-brainer but getting enough sleep can do wonders for our health. In the Blue Zones, residents enjoy regular naps and typically get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep.

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3.    Get Moving

We may not all be lucky enough to live near mountains or along the coast or have to walk many miles to get to the nearest market/town square, but there are tricks to get moving throughout the day. Try getting off the bus a few stops earlier, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or using half of your lunch break to get some fresh air.

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4.    Support

Okinawans call it: Moais –these are groups of five friends that are committed to each for life. At age 5, Okinawan children are placed into these groups and meet up most days for sake and gossip. This dependency on one another and constant emotional and at times financial support has a tremendous impact on their health. Surround yourself with loved ones, join a community group or give your family members a call once in a while.

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5.    Hara Hachi Bu

Eat until you are 80% full. It takes us 20 or so minutes for our stomach to empty, so take that time to listen to your body and recognize its fullness cues.

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6.    Eat a Balanced Diet

Diet plays a considerable role in our health and can have significant long term impacts. Fuel your body with whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish and lean sources of protein.  Your 100-year-old self will thank you.

At the end of the day, remember that making it to 100 is influenced by a number of factors, including genetics, food environment, and even luck. What is important is to keep our health intact as we age.  Even though the Blue Zone regions may no longer be as relevant, with globalization now reaching even these isolated islands and communities, the data from these regions can still be used today to enrich our lives, and maybe even help us to reach 100. Here’s hoping.

Thanks for reading FoodVice.