Archive for Author Rebecca Coleman

7 Tips for Becoming a Better Food Writer

This has been a really interesting summer for me, in terms of my growth as a writer.

First off, I took Don Genova’s Food and Travel Writing class through UBC. I have been blogging for years, but I just sold my first freelance magazine article, and I wanted to do more. I took Don’s class because I wanted to learn how to pitch to traditional media, like newspapers and magazines. But I learned a lot more than that. I learned that I was stuck in a bit of a writing rut. That was a good thing, but a little hard to take, y’know?

Will Write for Food

Don uses Dianne Jacob’s Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More, as the textbook for his class. When I learned that Dianne was going to be one of the presenters at the International Food Blogger’s Conference in Seattle in September, I couldn’t buy my ticket fast enough.

I headed to Seattle last weekend with Raj (Pink Chai Style) and Emily (The Fat Pigs), and we had a blast at the conference. Dianne’s workshop on writing was the one I was most looking forward to.

Here are 7 tips for becoming a better food writer from Dianne’s talk.

Dianne Jacob

Write with all your senses, not just taste. Food is a sensual experience. Don’t just write about how it tastes. Write about how it smells, looks, feels, and sounds. Take your reader on a journey that incorporates all 5 senses.

Create context. You don’t need to just focus on the food. The environment and the history of the place in which you are eating the food can be incredibly important to your story, whether on a beach on a remote Greek Island, or in the Vodka Room at the Barefoot Bistro in Whistler.

Add memories. So much of how we remember experiences is tied up in the food we had at that time. Pull those memories into  your story, and then bring it into the present with introspection.

Use strong action words. Don’t be wimpy. Don’t say you ate the hamburger. Say you demolished it. Which one is more appealing to read and creates a more forceful image?

Trade general language for specific. Instead of saying “the person” or “he” or “she,” say “the small Asian girl with long dark hair, and even longer eyelashes.” The latter really starts to create a picture in your head, whereas the former could be anyone.

Just write, already. Sometimes we get caught up with our inner critic. We’re afraid to start, or we abandon a draft halfway through because we’re not happy with it. “Just write your shitty first draft,” Jacob says. “Editing is your friend. Go back later and make it better.”

Show, don’t tell. Don’t tell the audience. Show them.

Telling: The peach was large and juicy. 

Showing: The peach is so big, I need both hands to cup it. I run the pads of my thumbs along its fuzzy exterior, savouring its hedgehog-like skin. Burying my nose in its deep navel, I can’t help but close my eyes and be instantly transported to another place: the warm sun beats down on my skin, and I’m in the middle of a rustling green orchard, tree leaves dotted with the pale peach fruit, the air full of the drone of buzzing bees. Biting is sadomasochistic. The fuzzy skin makes my tongue curl, but it is followed by a cascade of syrupy juice and pleasantly yielding flesh. It tastes like a day in late August, carefree, summer vacation, when I was 12. 

Finally, and one of my favourite things Dianne said: “Adjectives are the crack of food writing.” So, let’s endeavour to stop using delicious.

I have a long way to go, still. I feel like I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut with my food writing, and now I’m trying to change that, experiment, try different things.

By the way, subscribe to Dianne’s fantastic blog about food writing if you want to learn more.

Win a Month’s Worth of Gnubees!

Now that the kids are finally back in school, things are starting to settle down and get into a bit more of a rhythm around our house.

We’re also on a quest to be more organized, and more healthy with our eating habits. That means we try to start our day with a mixed fruit smoothie, make sure we have a salad for either lunch or dinner, and make a fresh-pressed juice for an after-school snack. I’m trying to make sure that Michael’s lunch includes lots of fresh and healthy ingredients, including raw fruits and veggies. You can read more about my plan to get more organized and eat healthy here.

gnubees

We recently discovered a new healthy option that I have added to our healthy lunch arsenal: Gnubees. We weren’t even sure what they were, the first time we tried them. They kind of look like those packaged pouches of fruit. But they really are more like a fruit smoothie.

When it comes to my values around food, I like to look for things that are: locally-owned businesses, or food that is locally-sourced, minimally packaged, and primarily plant-based.

Gnubees are a new product line from Gnusante, a small business operating out of Burnaby. They created these nutritional beverages for kids, and it’s a new and really innovative product unlike any I’ve had before.

Gnubees:

  • Are made in small, environmentally-friendly, craft batches, right here in the GVRD.
  • Contain 15% all recommended vitamins and minerals, plus 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fibre and are low on the glycemic index.
  • Are made with backseat-friendly packaging that includes a spill-proof spout and an easy-open choke-proof cap (so you can put the top back on if the child doesn’t finish it.

They make a great snack for the kids in the backseat in between activities, or for after school on your way to soccer or ballet. They also make a great addition to your kid’s lunchbox.

Gnubees come in three different flavours, Go Bananas, Rockin Raspberry (my fave) and Orange You Glad (Michael’s fave).

gnubees

Win a Month’s Worth of Gnubees worth $95!

To enter:

1. In the comments section below, write a new comment, answering the question “What’s your favourite healthy thing to pack in your kid’s  (or your own!) lunchbox?”

2. For an additional entry, tweet the following:

I will randomly choose a winner on Wednesday, October 8.

Good luck, and happy snacking!

 

DIY Coconut Milk

A can of coconut milk is something my pantry is never without. I love that stuff. I use it a lot especially when I’m cooking vegan; it is an admirable substitute for whipping cream. I add it to pureed vegetable soups to give them that rich, creamy mouthfeel, I make ice cream, panna cotta and creme brûlée out of it. It’s also amazing in an Indian or a Thai curry.

DIY Coconut Milk

The problem with coconut milk is that the quality of the milk varies from can to can. I maybe just need to do more research, but I’ve not yet found a brand that I really have bonded with, so I usually just end up buying whatever’s on sale at the Asian Supermarket. Some are waterier, some are creamier… but it’s kind of a crapshoot. There is also some concern about BPA from tin cans.

So, for just as cheap, or maybe even cheaper, you can make your own. It’s incredibly simple–you just need two ingredients, a blender, and some cheesecloth.

DIY Coconut Milk:

Win Tickets to the Fraser Valley Food Show plus A Nature’s Path Prize Pack!

Trade shows! Who doesn’t love ‘em?

I’m always excited to attend a good trade show, especially ones that are related to food. I love to be on the cutting edge–to know what’s the latest and greatest, what’s new–so I can share it with my audience. I also like to learn new things, and I also (shockingly!) like to eat. I can happily spend a few hours on an afternoon wandering from booth to booth, stuffing my face, and chatting.

I attended The Fraser Valley Food Show last year, and I liked it for a couple of different reasons. First, it’s at the Tradex, so it’s pretty big. Second, they had a pretty comprehensive gluten-free section. You can read my post from last year (which focuses on all the gluten-free products) here. The show is back again this year, October 2-5, at the Tradex in Abbotsford.

This year, in addition to the gluten-free section, there will be an appearance by one of my favourite chefs, Ned Bell (who just got back from riding his bike across Canada), and  author, Adam Hart. There will also be wine and beer tastings, and lots of yummy nibbles.

I am giving away a $140 prize pack that includes:

20140919_135652

Four (4) tickets to the Fraser Valley Food Show

A Nature’s Path Gift Basket full of Gluten Free items including:

  • Mesa Sunrise Cereal
  • Sunrise Crunchy Cinnamon Cereal
  • Sunrise Crunchy Honey Cereal
  • Sunrise Crunchy Maple Cereal
  • Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla Cereal
  • Pure Oats Variety Pack Hot Oatmeal
  • Pure Oats Homestyle Hot Oatmeal
  • Pure Oats Dark Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
  • Pure Oats Trail Mix Granola Bars
  • Qi’a Original cereal (I had this for breakfast today!)
  • Qi’a Cranberry Vanilla cereal
  • Qi’a Apple Cinnamon cereal

To enter the contest, in the comments below, tell me what your favourite gluten-free treat is. You can earn a second entry into the contest by tweeting:

I will draw for the prize pack on September 29, and notify the winner. You can pick up your prize at the show.

Good luck!

 

Crepes with Caramelized Apples, Nutella, Granola, and Vanilla Yogurt [Gluten Free]

Any regular reader of this blog will know that brunch is my favourite meal of the week. I like to drink too much coffee (it’s the weekend!) and either go out, or whip up something that I wouldn’t have time to eat or make during the week.

You see, on the weekend, you have the luxury of time. There are no deadlines to get lunches packed and out the door. During the week, our standard breakfast, like many of you, I’m sure, is cereal, yogurt, fruit, a smoothie, bagels or homemade toaster waffles. But on the weekend, we have time to drink some coffee, chill out, and make something that demands more time and attention, and is correspondingly delicious.

Campagnolo Upstairs--Crepes

Campagnolo Upstairs–Crepes

The sprout and I recently got to check out a new brunch location in the city. Campagnolo is known for a couple of things: a fascination with everything pork, and really outstanding pizza. Among the best in the city, in fact. They opened up Campignolo Upstairs as a cocktail bar a few months back, but this past weekend, they unveiled their new brunch.

One of the things we tried inspired this dish. It was a hazelnut crepe, filled with pink lady apples, hazelnuts, and a honey chantilly. Nutella is a staple in our house, and Michael will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if possible. I also wanted to incorporate some beautiful granola that I’d gotten from Terra Breads. They have just launched a new flavour, with includes dried apricots and pistachios. Mmm… The granola adds a lovely textural element, and a nice crunch to the plate.

Thank you so much for dropping off such a tasty tart this morning, @terrabreads! Your new Apricot Pistachio Granola paired so well with my homemade Greek yogurt! #granola #yogurt #eatlocal #foodblogger #nofilter

This was one of those situations where literally every component that went into the dish was homemade. You don’t have to do that… I don’t always, it just worked out that way this time around.

Gluten Free Crepes with Caramelized Apples, Nutella, Granola, and Vanilla Yogurt

… and my version.

Gluten Free Crepes with Caramelized Apples, Nutella, Granola, and Vanilla Yogurt

Ingredients:

Method: 

  1. Prepare the crepe batter, and set it aside. Crepe batter works better when it’s sat for a while.
  2. Peel and core the apples, and slice them thinly. Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a small frying pan, and add the apples. Season with a pinch of salt. Allow the apples to saute for 3-5 minutes. They will start to get juicy and little caramelized. You don’t want to cook them down to mush, but you want them to be softened. Add the brown sugar, and stir well. The brown sugar, butter and apple juices will make a beautiful caramel-like sauce. Once the sauce has thickened, and coats the apples nicely, remove from the heat.
  3. Prepare the crepes.
  4. To assemble: place a crepe on a flat surface or a plate. Spread thinly with a schmear of Nutella, and then spoon some apples on top. Roll up the crepe like a cigar. Place on a plate, and garnish with a dollop of the vanilla greek yogurt, sprinkle around some granola, and drizzle with a little maple syrup. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

 

Edamame Hummus (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I am fortunate enough to live on Canada’s Pacific rim. Here, because of the ocean, and our proximity to China and Japan, we get to enjoy a huge variety of delicious, and often cheap, sushi. I love sushi, and I eat it at least once a week.

Edamame is another gift from Asia. This tasty young soybean bean is often served as a kind of bar snack: it’s salty and something you eat with your fingers. The vast majority (99%) of all the edamame we eat in North America comes from China. Until now.

Top right, Jacob MacKellar, "Prince Farming." Bottom right, the edamame he picked for me from his farm in Ontario. Left, the final result...

Top right, Jacob MacKellar, “Prince Farming.” Bottom right, the edamame he picked for me from his farm in Ontario. Left, the final result…

Jacob MacKellar is a 26-year-old farmer from Ontario, and he’s the first Edamame farmer in Canada. Canada’s own “Prince Farming” has committed to Edamame that is 100% Canadian grown and harvested. In addition, his Edamame are non-GMO (or genetically modified. On their website, they say, “Non-GMO indicates that we do not use genetically altered soybean seeds, nor do we modified the structure of the bean at any point in our research, development and production process.”

These tasty li’l beans are also super good for you! Like all beans, they have lots of fibre, are low in fat, and rock the protein.

Many people like to serve them just as they are–blanched in boiling water for about 5 minutes, and then sprinkled liberally with salt. You just pop them out of the shells and enjoy.

I decide to do something a little more complex with mine, and turn them into a hummus. Hummus is one of the world’s most perfect foods. It’s vegan, gluten free, and is full of protein. You can serve it as a dip, or you can put it in a sandwich or a wrap. This is my version, made with Edamame instead of chickpeas. It creates this beautiful, bright-green coloured dip that you can enjoy in so many different ways.

edamame hummus

Edamame Hummus

(adapted from Oh My Veggies)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup cooked, shelled edamame beans (I’m using MacKellar Farms’)
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced, or a whole head of garlic, roasted
  • 2 tbsps fresh herbs: cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method: 

Throw all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Let sit for an hour or so, and then serve with your favourite chips or raw vegetables.

Port Versus Fortified Wines

Once upon a time (okay, two nights ago), four brave ladies came together with a mission: we wanted to understand what the difference was between a proper Port and a Fortified Wine. We had five bottles, some amazing snacks, and we got down to it. We take our jobs very seriously.

port

First of all, what the heck even is Port? Port is a red wine, and it is usually served as a dessert wine, or aperitif. It’s sweeter than regular wine, due to the fortification process. It is fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content (thanks, Wikipedia)Its name, Port, comes from the name of the city in which it was first produced: Porto, at the mouth of the Douro River in Portugal. Similarly to Champagne, there are many kinds of fortified wines out there (and many kinds of sparkling white wines), but not all of them are Ports (or Champagne).

The result is a wine that is higher in alcohol content (usually nearly 20%) and higher in sugar content. When you swirl the glass, you’ll often find the wine has legs for days–this is an indication of the higher sugar content. There are two different kinds of ports: Tawny (a tobacco colour) and Ruby (which is the colour of red wine). They’re the same wines–Tawny is just left to age longer, resulting the paler colour.

IMG_5229

We did a side-by-side tasting with five different Ports: three fortified BC Wines, and two actual Ports from Europe. 

St. John Commandaria: this was a tawny port from Cypress, not available in Canada. Our hostess had gotten it from family who’d come back from Europe, and had been saving it for a special occasion. It was spicy on the nose, and had notes of honey and plum. It’s worthwhile noting that this particular wine has been being made for 5,000 years.

Warre’s Warrior: This was a true Ruby Port from Portugal, and is the oldest brand of port in the world. It was sophisticated, and it had a wonderful depth of flavour. I could taste cherries and warm spices, like cloves, and not too sweet.

Therapy Freudified: The first of our port-style, fortified wines from BC’s Okanagan, Therapy’s Freudified has a strong cigar/tobacco scent on the nose, and tasting notes of Cassis.

Burrowing Owl Coruja: A peppery nose, with blackberry tasting notes, this wine was the least sweet of all the ports we tasted. It was more stringent, and quite bold. It’s made from Syrah grapes, and packs an intense, rich flavour.

Kraze Legz Rogue (under the Skaha Label): This wine was the only one of the three BC port fortified wines to be a Tawny colour. It reminded us a lot of the Comandaria–just younger.

IMG_5231

So, who won? Maybe we were all just purists, but at the end of the night, when all the wines had been tasted, we unanimously voted for Warres Warrior as our favourite. I might add, it’s a smoking deal, as you can get a demi bottle of it for under $15. Of the BC Wines, our favourites were the Burrowing Owl (in the Ruby category) and the Kraze Legz (in the Tawny). We didn’t taste Langley’s Vista D’oro’s Walnut Fortified Wine at this tasting, but I want to give it a shoutout, because I’ve had it before, and loved it.

By the way, if you want to host your own Port Party, port pairs really well with strong cheeses, like Blues and Cambrizolas (we especially enjoyed that one with ours). It also does well with dark chocolate, and spicy almonds. I also made a chicken liver pate that went over quite well.

What a great way to spend an evening with friends! I highly recommend you host your own side-by-side tasting night, and let me know the results!

A big shout out to Michelle for hosting and to Francis and Peggy for helping to taste-test. 

Fall Cocktail: Bourbon Rosemary Sour

It’s September. I’ve been loving beautiful chilled white wines all summer, but when the weather starts to change in the next few weeks and get colder, I’ll switch back to big, bold reds like shirazes, malbecs or pinot noirs. I also love a warming fall cocktail. Bourbon is warming any time of the year, and I’ve chosen to pair it here with a woody, earthy, fall herb, rosemary. Rosemary is a strong herb, and it easily stands up to potatoes, roast chicken, and earthy mushrooms. It also stands up to, and pairs quite nicely with, Bourbon. Bourbon rosemary sour I have tons of Rosemary right now. It’s the end of summer, and it’s been happily sprouting all over the place. I’ll dry some for the winter, but it’s so hardy, it’ll withstand our wimpy Vancouver (read: rain) winter, no problem. So. Here you go. A simple, warming fall cocktail.

Bourbon Rosemary Sour

Bourbon rosemary sour

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz rosemary simple syrup (follows)
  • rosemary sprig for garnish
  • cocktail shaker
  • ice

Method:

For the rosemary simple syrup: take 3 sprigs of rosemary, and crush them up into the bottom of a small saucepan. Crushing the leaves helps to release the oils in the rosemary. On top of this, place 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, and allow to boil (not hard, but not simmering, either) for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and allow to sit for another 1/2 hour. Strain into a glass container. It is now ready for use.

For the cocktail: In a cocktail shaker, half-filled with ice, place the bourbon, lime, and simple syrup. Shake well for about 15-30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary.

Looking for more recipes like this? Every Friday, Lover.ly publishes cocktail how-tos! Check it out.

Back to School Healthy–Dinner

Oh, Dinner. It’s dinner that’s the most difficult.

Picture this: you pick your kid up from school, and drive him to his after-school activity. You’ve been smart enough to pack him a snack he can eat in the backseat as you drive there and talk about your day. Or maybe you have enough of a gap that you get the chance to stop at a coffee shop for a treat. He does his activity, you work on your laptop. He finishes, you drive home, and walk in the door. It’s already pushing 6 pm, and you have to make dinner, feed the kid, finish homework, get him a bath, prep for tomorrow…

It’s enough to make you want to curl up in a ball, no?

Yup.

back to school healthy

I’m a single parent, so I don’t have anyone at home starting dinner for me. I’m sure many of you, partnered or not, are in the same situation. I don’t want to fall into desperate drive-through mode, or processed freezer meals. I want fast, but I also want homemade and healthy.

Here are some tips and tricks to get you through the most dangerous meal of the day.

SavingDinner.com: this is a subscription service that makes making dinner a snap. Every week, you get a downloadable file with a full grocery list, a list of the dinners for that week, and all the recipes. It’s a great way to try new things, and all the recipes are healthy. You can choose Paleo or Vegetarian streams, as well. The thing I like best about this subscription, though, is the daily blog posts. They are really useful and informative. Check it out!

Slow Cooker: I love, love, love my slow cooker. You put the ingredients in it in the morning before you leave, and you come home to dinner. Here are some back to school, kid-friendly slow cooker recipes.

Pizza night! Like many 11-year-olds, the sprout loves pizza. We have it once a week, usually Thursdays, which are our craziest nights. I set my oven timer so that the oven is already pre-heated when we walk in the door. I either buy frozen spinach pizzas, or plain cheese, and we put our own veggies and toppings on there. You can also make your own homemade frozen pizzas.

Stir-frys: You can prep your veg on the weekend, or buy a stir-fry mix. We add in a little smoked tofu, but you could do chicken or beef. I pre-cook my grains (rice, quinoa or barley) on the weekend, and freeze them in ziplocs. All you have to do is cook up your protein and veg, add a sauce, and dinner!

Pasta: The sprout is a big fan. Pasta is fast, easy, and is one of those dishes you won’t miss the meat in (or you can add it in easily). I make my own pasta sauce in the slow cooker and freeze it, I also make trays of mac ‘n’ cheese and freeze them. Add a salad, and you’re done!

Protein + Salad: M is a big fan of the Caesar Salad. I make my own croutons, and I prep the lettuce on the weekend (store it in mason jars in the fridge–similar to salad in a jar). You can simply fry up some fish (we like salmon), chicken or a simple steak, and serve it alongside a salad, which takes moments to make.

So there you have it! Hope these tips and tricks and recipes will help you to be more organized, and more healthy for back to school. I finally have a fridge again (or I will by tomorrow), so I can go back to recipe posts next week! 

 

Back to School Healthy–Lunch

Sandwiches. By the time I’d graduated from high school, I never wanted to see one again.

We have a great hot lunch program at Michael’s school, but when he first started, he was such a picky eater, I knew there wasn’t much point signing him up, because he’d only eat half what was presented to him. Still, today, he can’t handle anything even remotely spicy, so we’ll probably continue to pack lunches for him every day.

back to school healthy

Here are some ideas for back to school lunches for both yourself and the kidlets, that go beyond boring sandwiches.

Leftovers: whatever you make for dinner the night before, make extra, and send it in for lunch the next day. I do this with pasta, or I’ll make a big soup on the weekends, and I do it with pizza night, as well.

Wraps & rolls: I’ll often take a tortilla, and spread a little mayo and mustard on. Then, I’ll lay down some sliced meat, grate some cheese, add some lettuce, olives, salt and pepper. I roll it up, and slice it in half. You may need a toothpick to hold it together… Michael also likes peanut butter and banana sushi.

Salad in a Jar: I now make these for my lunches, and Michael likes them too!

Bentos: kids like finger food. Bentos are great for that, because they keep all the foods separate. You can literally build them a four-food-group lunch with bentos, but putting something from each food group in each of the little containers. Michael likes cucumbers and ranch dressing, so bentos are also perfect for that. You could make your own version of Lunchables with crackers and cheese and a little meat and some fruit and/or veg. You may find bento boxes at your local dollar store, or check out Raspberry Kids. Check out this post for some ideas about what to pack in your bento.

bento box

Food safety: Michael has a dual-compartment lunchbox: one for cold and one for regular. I also have a wide-mouth thermos for him for hot foods. You can buy little cold packs at the dollar store to keep cold things cold, or freeze juice boxes or small bottles of water for dual purposes.

Next up: Dinner!

Previous posts: 

Back to school Organization

Back to school Breakfast 

« Older Entries