A dessert a day

by Madeleine Brown

Yes, it’s true I have many opinions—particularly when it comes to food. However, in my (long) list of just how you should satisfy your hunger, dessert must be in the top three. It’s a dirty word, I know. And, why?!

As a child during the summertime, my father and I ventured out every morning to museums, parks and toy stores. Each of these outings always included something sweet—be it a cake and glass of milk from my favourite tearoom, an ice cream cone from our neighbourhood “Ice Cream Man” or a bag of chocolate buttons. My mother shared a similar philosophy about sweets. She was always happy to have my sister eat a slice of leftover ice cream cake for breakfast—breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. She similarly often bought an After Eight chocolate bar prior to picking me up from the school bus, which she’d then proceed to share with me as we walked home. As a teenager, I began to ask, “Is it okay if I have dessert?” and each and every time they replied, “Of course!”

I credit my parents’ attitude towards dessert as the reason I continue to have one everyday. It’s true. Now, I admit some days it might be as modest as some cocoa powder stirred into a mug of hot milk, but likely more often than not it’s a leftover sticky bun from work, or a handful of cookies I made earlier in the week. A day without dessert is incomplete. Fair, I feel some sense of pride when my sweet supply is low and I go without dessert for a day. But, ultimately I don’t let that happen very often.

Understandably I’m puzzled when people hesitate to order dessert at a restaurant, or a pastry to accompany their coffee. It’s not illegal. Your server won’t judge you—in fact they’ll likely enjoy the larger bill. It won’t destroy someone’s life. Even yours.

Begrudgingly I suppose I should say that I do only have one dessert a day, or maybe two if it works out that way. I don’t eat desserts exclusively. But, why do we have to turn a whole subsection of food into a taboo subject? Please, let’s not ruin dessert like we have gluten and red meat. Even if you’re only prepared to eat a piece of fruit or a single square of dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth, own it. Don’t tell me you’re trying to be “healthy” or “restrain yourself”. Sure, if you craved that fruit for your dessert that day, have it, but if you really had your eyes on the slice of pie in the fridge, go for it.  Eat it slowly, appreciating it for all its glory right down to the last crumb and then congratulate yourself for not letting possible distain from the rest of society stop you from having done so. ‘Cause honestly everyone’s fooling themselves if they think that skipping out on dessert will make up for any other downfalls in their diet.

So, please—while it’s a cliché—have your cake and eat it too. I will support your decision through every mouthful.

A dessert a day
No, not that kind of cake

My foodie journey

by Madeleine Brown

Self-proclaimed foodies are intimating. I get it.

“You don’t cook from scratch?”

“You buy your meat where? A grocery store?!”

“You’ve never heard of Julia Child, James Beard or David Chang?”

It’s partly why I hesitate to accept the title of foodie. (Although I realize I completely fit the definition.) But, let me tell you, myself, our bloggers and foodies everywhere started with zero food knowledge. We’re not quick to admit it, but it’s true.

I began my “foodie journey” as a home baker. One fall afternoon in grade seven or eight my sister snacked on a packet of oatmeal cookie mix—yes, the dry mix itself. Always one to outdo my sister (it’s a younger sibling thing) I took the mix  from her and prepared it. To my surprise my overcautious mother was too busy to hang over me as I used the oven all by myself. It was liberating—no, I wasn’t the rebellious type growing up. From there baking became my thing. For Christmas that year I received a box of baking supplies including every possible shape and form of silicon baking moulds—all of which I still use—and two Company’s Coming cookbooks. I baked over a hundred cupcakes for my grade twelve chemistry independent research project comparing a selection of flours. I made the desserts for all the social occasions my parents hosted. However, despite this obsession I refused to cook; that was and still is my father’s domain.

Then university happened.

More like I moved out of residence in third year. I certainly prepared food in residence mostly breakfasts and simple lunches as well as stove- and oven-less cooking for the odd potluck. Suddenly though in third year I had to get over my insecurities about cooking and take the leap. I cooked out of necessity: I was cheap and didn’t want to always buy meals. Then I got into meal planning and planned my meals every week, preparing them Sunday afternoon.

I started writing, reading and thus developing an opinion on food. It was the only thing I felt qualified to speak to when I started writing for my university newspaper. I went on to volunteer and intern in a variety of food-related environments.

And, now, I’m—I suppose—I’m…a…well, um…foodie. That said while I live by the philosophies that generally guide those who own that title, I don’t force them on anyone. I also still appreciate that guilty pleasures are a thing. And, that baking and cooking are scary. (Secret: I still even feel that way about them.) So, yes, I may judge you a bit for not even trying either, or indulging in hot dog stand hot dogs and sliced American cheese, but I want to draw you into my world. I know one-sided opinions and a sense of superiority are not how you gain followers. Please read, consider and eat thoughtfully. Even if all you can think is, “Wow, that’s delicious/horrible,” you’ll have pleased a small, blonde girl in Toronto.

My foodie journey
It all began with a cookie

Best enjoyed in bed

by Claire Matlock

“Netflix and chill” was around before Tinder, let me tell you. And, it was a lot cooler. It featured higher-caliber movies, time to yourself and took breakfast-in-bed to a whole new level. “Lazy snacks” are some of the best dishes out there. Everyone loves the apple pie in a glass phenomenon, so here are two related recipes: a cold and hot version. I was tempted to offer a pasta-in-bed recipe but I fear that might have been too Italian…

Best enjoyed in bed (2)
The secret ingredient for any bed-worthy snack

Apple-Pie Protein Smoothie

1 apple, peeled or unpeeled (Lazy snacks, remember?)

1 to 2 very ripe, frozen bananas

1 cup almond or cashew milk

1 cup good quality apple cider or juice

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/2 tsp each any of the following ground spices: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger, cardamom or cayenne

ice, to desired consistency

1 tbsp almond butter, optional

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Apple-Pie Steamer

3/4 cup almond or cashew milk

3/4 cup good-quality apple cider

1/2 tsp each of any of the following spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger, cardamom or cayenne

squirt of honey or maple syrup

  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan and then simmer for 15 minutes on low heat.
  2. Strain through a fine wire mesh and serve. Don’t be afraid to steep entire pieces of spices like whole cloves or knobs of fresh ginger, as you’ll strain the liquid before drinking anyways.

Food photography 101

by Leah Moldowan

Since you’re not able to smell or taste the food you see online, it’s the photos that are going to convince you an online recipe is mouth-wateringly delicious. That said getting those shots isn’t always an easy task. When I first started photographing my food as way to document my journey to healthier living, I had no clue what I was doing or that I’d eventually fall in love with food photography itself. While you don’t need to be a professional photographer, it does take some time and repetition to master. Of course a nice dSLR camera (my Canon T2i is my baby) helps, but an iPhone will do. Honestly if you have nice looking food and good natural light, you’re set.

My biggest tip would be to practice, practice, practice! A cliché, I know, but just take pictures everyday and try new angles and lighting until you find what works. Also look critically at photos of food on Instagram or Pinterest and use them as inspiration for your own shots.

My dream dinner

by Caitlin Hart

I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Actually that’s an understatement: I spend most of my time thinking about food. When you get hungry every three hours it’s hard not to. My friends and family can attest to how, shall we say, unpleasant I get when hungry. In my spare non-school-related time—I swear it does exist—I love reading recipes; the LCBO’s Food and Drink is like my bible. Taking all this into consideration, I have thought long and hard about what would encompass my dream dinner.

A step-by-step guide for your first student dinner party (Part I)

by Danielle Del Vicario

How many courses? What wine? What if someone is a vegetarian? These are questions all dinner party hosts—novices and veterans alike—ask themselves over and over. I’ve had my fair share of dinner party disasters: roasts turned into “pulled beef” when they disintegrated at carving, a blocked kitchen drain with fifteen hungry people waiting in the next room and flaming parchment paper in a crowded kitchen. You name the mistake I’ve made it. Yet somehow things always turn out. You call the burnt curry “smoked” and people think it’s something new and innovative. You stall for time while the sauce refuses to thicken by pouring more wine. You improvise on dessert bowls by getting artsy and using mugs instead.

But the key to avoiding dinner party panic? Four things: preparation, theme, menu and fluff.

Nose to tail cooking for the apprehensive student (Part II)

by David Kitai

To prove that a fifth quarter meal can match up to any choice pieces at a fraction of the cost I popped down to the butcher’s in search of that most divisive of fifth quarter pieces: liver. Spending less than $15 on meat I was able to produce a three-course meal of confit chicken liver pate, spicy Georgian-style lamb liver stew and the traditional French crispy sautéed calf’s liver.

How to make the most of when you eat out

by Toula Nikas

It was my nineteenth birthday when I had my first experience dining out as a university student. All of my friends and I were originally from out of town and didn’t think twice about the restaurant’s location in the heart of Toronto’s business district. It turned out that even the cheapest item on the menu was steep for our student wallets, and the night was dedicated to calculating what our bills would amount to rather than celebrating my ability to legally drink.

Needless to say, we could have saved a lot of trouble had we been a little more savvy.   

Having lived in Toronto for almost five years now, I am confident in my ability to choose a restaurant without having to worry about crunching numbers under the table. Here are a few tips when it comes to planning your special dining occasion:

Ask around

Ask your fellow classmates, residence dons, or TAs for suggestions. Chances are if they’re students, they will also be operating on a budget and thus suggest affordable yet tasty cuisine. To me, nothing beats word-of-mouth suggestions, especially when it comes to food. Often times, the person you ask will also recommend a particular dish they enjoyed, helping you narrow down your choice should you choose to go there.

While visiting my family in San Francisco, I asked a local where I could find delicious yet affordable Mexican cuisine. Without hesitation she said, “Go to Papalote’s and get the chips and salsa, then get the burrito. You will not be disappointed.” And I wasn’t.

Do your research

Though word-of-mouth is a great way to help guide your decision, doing a little bit of research won’t hurt either. Whenever someone suggests a place to eat, I still look it up on my phone to see what the Internet has to say.

However, it’s always important to take the opinions of online sources with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that the people who tend to write online reviews are those who were either ecstatic with or entirely underwhelmed by their experience.  It’s important to remember that experiences on both ends of the spectrum are normal at any establishment and that no restaurant is perfect.

Share with friends

One of my best friends and I love celebrating special occasions at Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington in Toronto. We like to save money (and calories!) by splitting a salad, then a pizza and having one glass of wine each. We then ask to split the check right down the middle, resulting in a very affordable night out.

Indulge your sweet tooth somewhere else

Of course, a meal isn’t complete unless you have something sweet at the end, but desserts can be pretty overpriced at restaurants. Consider venturing down the street to your local ice cream store, bringing your friends back home for coffee and cookies or, if you’re me, resort to the emergency Starburst reserve in your purse.

How to make the most of when you eat out
Do I want to see the cheque?

Why I adopted or would never adopt a gluten-free diet

by Emily Davies

Let me first get things straight, gluten is not wheat.

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and other related grains. When someone is diagnosed with celiac disease they are unable to digest the gluten protein. They do not have the enzymes to break down gluten, which can cause many uncomfortable problems along the digestive tract. If you are someone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, you should definitely avoid gluten. However, if you find that after you eat foods which contain gluten (i.e. white flour, soy sauce, grains from wheat) you feel tired, bloated or gassy, you may be intolerant to gluten. Thus, I highly recommend getting a gluten test done at your MD (medical doctor) or ND (naturopathic doctor). Furthermore, if you feel fine after eating gluten then by no means do you have to avoid it. As I mentioned earlier, gluten is a protein, which is good for us, assuming we are able to digest it.

Why I adopted or would never adopt a gluten-free diet
I see your hand in that bread basket

Now that the facts are straight, I’ll tell you about my relationship with gluten. I do not have celiac disease. I can eat soy sauce, marinades, and other products containing wheat with no problems. Although I don’t do well with overly processed foods such as cakes, cookies and white pasta. Yes, these foods do contain gluten, but the reasoning behind my upsets is the overly processed factors. Most of the time cookies, cakes and all those addicting sweets contain pretty much zero nutrients. Thus, our bodies have to work extremely hard to break them down without receiving any “natural help” from the enzymes and nutrients in those foods. To sum this up, yes I eat gluten, although 90% of the time, I only eat nutrient-dense foods (i.e. whole wheat pasta, spelt bread).

On another note, I think it’s fun to cook and bake with gluten-free alternatives because it allows me to think outside the box for example making breads out of nut flours or pancakes out of bananas, flax seeds and chickpea flour. I find there is more creativity when you adapt a partially gluten-free diet. Also, you’ll avoid that awkward moment when you bake cookies for your friends and one of them is gluten intolerant; “No cookies for you,” is a sad phrase.

I suggest that you try to connect with your body a bit more before you jump right onto the gluten-free bandwagon. Reflect upon how you feel after you eat nutrient-dense foods with gluten versus overly processed foods with gluten. It’s pretty simple, we want to feel good after we eat, not down and sluggish. So do what feels best for you.

The sweet or savoury debate

by Josh Racho

The sweet or savoury debate
Just put the chocolate down

When it comes to day-to-day eating I tend to bounce back and forth between sweet and savoury flavours in general. I find if the body is well-tuned it will tell you what it needs, or does not need.

After switching to a vegan diet around 10 months ago, it became much easier for me to recognize and treat these cravings guilt-free. When such cravings arise I adjust my meals accordingly. Days when I desire something sweet it’s usually satisfied with the addition of shredded carrots and beets in a salad. This adjustment pleases not only in taste, but also texture and appearance. On the other hand, on savoury days I find myself adding extra cinnamon to my cooking or putting nutritional yeast in a sandwich of some kind.

My tendency recently has been without a doubt towards the savoury side. The bounty of root vegetables and cold weather beg to be remedied with wonderful warmth and comforting food. I find myself caramelizing onions to put into hummus and tossing all manner of squash and okra into savoury Indian dishes.

I encourage anyone who enjoys cooking or even is just starting out to get into what is in season and let that dictate which side you take on the sweet or savoury debate. Ask me again come spring and I’ll likely tell you that all the crisp, bright fruits and vegetables are pulling me towards a clean and somewhat sweet feeling. Roll with the punches and settle into the season.