Have you ever watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Takeover and wonder how some of these people ever thought it would be a good idea to open a restaurant, some More »
It was August of 2012. We had just told my mentor that we would be doing the restaurant thing with her in Millarville. It was a chance for me to get my More »
If you’re still gung-ho about getting into the restaurant business after that taste of everyday kitchen life in the last post then congratulations – You are one sick fuck with a special More »
As a chef, I am always intrigued by new cookbooks. I am a sucker for cookbooks, mostly for the inspiration they provide, but mostly for the new ideas and innovative ways they work with ingredients to create new and wonderful dishes. I have had the opportunity to read a cookbook lately by former model, Yara Shoemaker called “Health on Your Plate: Shop and Cook with Yara”.
To call Health on Your Plate a cookbook would be inaccurate, as Yara takes the reader on a health and lifestyle journey. The guide is the result of the observations and experiences she had upon her arrival in the US from her native Syria. Navigating the big box food culture of North America and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle was a challenge for her, but Yara shares with us her tips, recipes and insight into keeping it simple.
I had the pleasure of talking to Yara Shoemaker about life, eating right, and staying healthy. Here’s what she had to say:
1. What is your definition of “beautiful”?
Every person has something beautiful in them; many times it’s just a matter of
accepting your uniqueness and emphasizing it. In my opinion, becoming healthy
should be our priority before becoming “beautiful.” You’ll often see someone who
doesn’t look like the glossy magazine standard of beauty, however the person is
healthy with a happy spirit, which shines through to everyone around them. So, beauty
is a combination of looks, health and a positive attitude!
2. What is your favorite simple weekday go-to meal?
Shot Glass Salad! It’s so versatile that I can use the same formula any day of the week
to come up with a fresh, satisfying healthy meal. And if you’ve already got seasonal,
organic produce on hand, you can create a balanced meal in minutes.
3. What would be your best advice to people that don’t seem to have enough time to
cook at home?
If you know how much of an impact your food makes on your quality of life, it will
become a priority. Food is much more than pleasure – it’s our life source!
To simplify it, just shop once a week for fresh, seasonal, organic produce (from a local
Farmer’s Market, if you have the opportunity) and wash it right away to cut down on
prep time later in the week.
Realistically, you’ll still eat out sometimes and that’s okay. It’s just a matter of following
a few smart tricks when you order:
• Skip the bread and butter – save your appetite for something nutritious!
• Start with salad – a small plate of leafy greens will help you with portion control when
the entree comes.
• Get salad dressing and any sauces that come with your food on the side.
• Ask for your meal to be cooked in oil, not butter (especially for proteins).
• When the dessert menu is offered, plug your ears! At least most of the time, but go
ahead and indulge when you know you really deserve it.
• Slow down! It’s more to your advantage to be the last one chewing – it gives your
digestive system the opportunity to absorb every last nutrient and also helps you pay
attention to your body’s full feeling.
4. Do you think that North America is getting better at knowing where their food comes
Yes, it’s really encouraging to see the health trend in this country! People are taking
serious steps to improve their health, including teaching their kids healthy habits, which
is so important. The only problem is: who to listen to? There is a wealth of information
out there and it can be confusing, so people need access to the right information to
make good food choices. That’s what my book is about, getting back to basics – the
essential facts that our ancestors have known for ages: focus on fresh vegetables and
whole grains, minimize the rest and you have the easiest guidelines that anyone can
follow! I hope this trend is lasting and that everyone will be more active in pursuing a
5. What is your fondest food memory?
I spent most of my childhood summers on the sunny Mediterranean coast in my
grandmother’s village in the mountains. She was always cooking up something
delicious in her tiny kitchen, and I remember her weekly ritual of making flatbread. I
watched her knead huge balls of dough and take it to her traditional tannour oven. She
made flat rounds and stuck them to the sides of the hot stone oven, waiting until they
bubbled and browned just right to remove them. Those warm pieces of bread dipped
in dark, earthy olive oil, covered with chopped ripe tomatoes from her garden and
sprinkled with salt is a memory I can almost taste even now!
Yara Shoemaker is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary appetite for knowledge
about healthy living. She decided to dig deep into the facts of nutrition and health to
learn how every bite would affect her and her loved ones. As a result, she created an
ideal lifestyle centered on natural nourishment with real flavor, detailed in her new book,
Health On Your Plate; a complete resource for the optimal healthy lifestyle! It’s the quick
guide to everything you need to know, from the healthiest cookware and appliances, to
essential spices, produce, and ingredients every kitchen should have and how to shop
for them. This essential resource uncovers eye-opening, little-known food mysteries that
will help keep you and your family healthy and safe. And you can look forward to easy,
versatile recipes, like the unique Shot Glass Salads that help you get creative in the
kitchen to make incredibly healthy and delicious meals!
Find mouthwatering recipes, healthy advice and more at her blog: Yara’s Way!
On today’s show, I am with Chef Darren Maclean from Downtownfood as we make some delicious okara fritters on part 3 of our special on soybeans.
The first thing you’re gonna need is some okara. Okara is the leftover lees, or pulp from the soymilk making process, and if you haven’t watched our soymilk episode, you can watch it by clicking the annotation or on the link in the video description below.
We put together something simple using some minced pork and vegetables that we’ll include in today’s recipe, but you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand.
You will need:
- 7 oz. okara
- 3 oz. minced pork
- 1 teaspoon chili paste
- 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- ½ cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
- 2 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons kimchi
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup dashi
Combine the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix well to make a batter. Put in saucepan on medium high and cook slowly for about 6-8 minutes, stirring often until the mixture absorbs most of the liquid. You should have something like thick pancake batter or mashed potatoes.
Heat some oil in a pot or deep fryer to about 325F. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop the batter into the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until golden brown.
Drain well on paper towels and serve with your favourite toppings.
We used green onions, nitsume (unagi sauce), gochujang, and kewpie mayo.
The first thing I should say about these okara fritters is that they are very light and fluffy in texture. The okara absorbs flavours very well resulting in a very tasty bite.
What is your favourite deep-fried food?
Silken tofu is incredible when made fresh, and Chef Darren MacLean from Downtown Food shows us how he makes his own tofu in-house daily. This is part 2 of our 3 -part special on soybeans!
You will need:
- 3 cups fresh soymilk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons gypsum powder, available at the Asian grocery
Make a slurry by combining the gypsum powder with a teaspoon of water. Add the mixture to the soy milk and mix well to combine. Put into a ceramic vessel and set aside.
Heat up a steamer on high heat til you have a rolling boil. Lower the temperature to med – med low until you have a gentle steam. carefully place the soymilk into the steamer and cover, leaving it slightly ajar to let extra condensation escape. Steam for about 6 minutes per inch of soymilk in the container.
*The tofu is done when it looks the consistency of custard.
Serve with your favourite toppings and enjoy!
Some of my favourite toppings include green onion, ponzu, mirin and soy reduction, sansai, dashi broth…
How do you enjoy your tofu?
On today’s show, I’m with my friend, Chef Darren Maclean from Downtown Food. In this first episode of a 3 part special series, we’re cooking with soy beans!
Soy milk is amazingly simple to make and delicious. In Taiwan, it is enjoyed hot as a traditional breakfast item with freshly fried youtiao (Chinese crullers). In our special series on soybeans, we will show you how to make your own soymilk at home.
You will need:
2 cups dried soybeans, soaked in water overnight
1 litre fresh distilled water (your favourite spring water is also perfect)
Drain the soybeans and put them into a blender. Add 3 cups (750ml) of the water and blitz on high until the beans are completely blended.
Pour the mixture into a large pot and gently heat on medium high, stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches about 140F. You will see the mixture start to get frothy on the top. When it comes to tempurature, take off the heat and pour through a couple layers of cheesecloth.
Squeeze the cloth to extract the excess moisture, then open up the cheesecloth. Use the reserved cup of water (250ml) to pour over the soy pulp (okara) and give it another final squeeze.
Return the milk to the pot and give it another gentle heating to 140F. This is important as this will improve the flavour, removing the raw bean taste and breaking down the natural trypsin inhibitors thus improving the nutritional value as well.
When that’s done, strain again and put into a container. Refrigerate and enjoy!
What is your favourite soy product?
Inspired from Martin Yan’s China
This chicken recipe was inspired from a street stall in Guangzhou and is featured in Martin Yan’s book, “Martin Yan’s China”. I have never seen a marinade using fermented tofu for fried chicken. It piqued my curiosity for sure!
- 2 cubes (1 oz) red fermented tofu
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless/skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
- oil, for deep frying
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 egg
- 1 green onion, chopped
In a medium mixing bowl, mash the fermented tofu into a paste with a fork. Add the sugar, salt and white pepper and mix well. Add the chicken, cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 – 4 hours.
Heat 2 inches of oil to 350F in a wok or medium pot. Mix thecornstarch and a couple eggs in another medium bowl with a whisk. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Working in batches, deep-fry the chicken, stirring gently to prevent them from sticking together until golden brown and crisp (about 5 min). Remove and drain on paper towels.
Put into paper cones, garnish with green onion and serve.
What is your favourite stinky food?
Steamed bao are Chinese buns which are made by steaming a simple bread dough. They can be made plain or have a variety of tasty fillings like custard, meat or bean paste. In this recipe, I make the buns for my favourite Taiwanese style slider, gua bao. Enjoy!
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 tablespoons milk
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
Combine water and milk in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Slowly stir in the water mixture, and when absorbed, stir in the shortening and vinegar. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and let sit under plastic for 1 hour.
Makes 16 bao.
What is your mealtime staple where you live?
Ginataang Bilo Bilo is a type of Filipino snack or dessert made by cooking root vegetables and fruit in sweetened coconut milk with chewy balls of mochi (bilo bilo). Taro, ube, and sweet potato make up the base of this incredibly unique tropical treat with jackfruit providing that touch of tartness. Finish that off with chewy mochi and tapioca pearls and you have something truly magical. I have enjoyed this dish since I was a child and now I want to share it with you!
You will need:
- 1 cup Mochiko
- 2 cups taro, diced
- 2 cups ube, diced
- 2 cups sweet potato, diced
- 2 cups cooked tapioca (small)
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cans coconut milk + 2 cans water
- *saba (banana) or jackfruit
- *pandan leaves for aromatics
Mix the mochiko with about 11 tablespoons of water to make a dough. Once the dough is made, take a marble-sized piece and roll into a ball. Set aside.
In a large pot, add 2 cans of coconut milk and 2 cans of water. Stir in 2 cups of sugar and the pandan leaves (if you have them). Heat over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Bring to a simmer, then add 2 cups of diced taro, 2 cups of diced ube and 2 cups of sweet potato. Continue to cook, stirring frequently. Halfway through the cooking, add the bilo bilo (mochi balls), one at a time so that they don’t stick together. At this time, you can also add your saba or jackfruit.
When the bilo bilo are done, they will float to the top of the liquid. At this point, add 2 cups of cooked tapioca and continue cooking until the ube and sweet potatoes are tender.
Give a final taste and adjust the sweetness if needed. Ginataan can be served hot, or refrigerated overnight and served cold.
**this would be a great topping on shaved ice. Just sayin’.
Do you enjoy hot or cold desserts?
Pinakbet is a rustic vegetable stew that comes from the Northern Philippines. As a child, I hated it because it included so many vegetables and acquired flavours that even adults find hard to handle including bitter melon, okra and fermented shrimp paste (bagoong). Throughout my life, I have had many versions of this dish, but after a little thought and research, I think I have a version that I like. When you make this dish your own, you can adjust it to your taste.
You will need:
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 Chinese eggplant, quartered and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), cut into bite-sized pieces
- a handful of long bean, cut into 3 inch sections
- 1 bittermelon
- 2 small tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 4 teaspoons bagoong (*Filipino fermented shrimp paste)
- 1 cup water
- 6-8 oz leftover roast pork (lechon)
The first thing you need to do is prep the bittermelon and eggplant. To do that, all you need to do is cut the bittermelon in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and insides. Take a couple pinches of salt and sprinkle all over the inside of the bittermelon. Quarter and coarsely chop the eggplant and salt them as well. This will draw out excess moisture from the eggplant and the bitterness from the bittermelon, which can have a very overwhelming flavour if you don’t.
In a large pot, heat up some oil over medium heat and add 4 cloves of minced garlic. Stirfry til lightly golden, then add the eggplant and a chopped medium red onion. Continue to cook until the onion starts to turn transluscent and the eggplant begins to take on colour.
From there, add the rest of the veg in layers starting with a small kabocha, cut into bite-sized pieces, a handful of longbean cut into 3 inch pieces, the bittermelon, and a couple chopped tomatoes. Add about 4 teaspoons of the bagoong (Filipino shrimp paste) and about a cup (200ml) of water. Finally, add about 6-8 oz of leftover roast pork. Let the liquid come to a boil, cover the pot, turn the heat down to medium low and let simmer til the veg cooks down (about 10 minutes).
About halfway through cooking, give your pinakbet a good stir to combine the ingredients. Just be gentle so you don’t break up the kabocha.
Serve on top of freshly steamed rice and enjoy!
Is there a dish that you hated as a child that you enjoy as an adult?
Taiwanese Bubble Tea is a flavourful and delicious drink that’s very popular in Asia and North America. Using premium ingredients, I’m going to show you how you can make your own at home for a fraction of the price you pay at the stands. The taste difference is amazing and you’re going to slap yourself when you realize how easy this is to make. This is a great recipe from Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, aka The Boba Guys.
You will need:
• 5 cups water
• 2 tablespoons loose-leaf jasmine tea
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup cooked boba
• 4 tablespoons honey
• 1 cup half-and-half
Boil 4 cups of the water then let it sit for 1 minute (the temperature should be 170F or about 80C). Add the tea leaves and steep for 8 minutes. Strain and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining cup of water and the white and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer til the sugars are dissolved.
Steep the boba in a small bowl with ½ cup of the simple syrup and the honey. Soak at least 30 minutes. For best results, steep for at least 3 hrs.
To assemble, grab a cocktail shaker and add 4 cups of tea, 1 cup of simple syrup, the half-and-half, the honey-soaked boba, and a handful of ice cubes. Shake till mixed, and pour into a serving glass with a wide straw.
What is your favourite sweet drink?
This Thai-style salad is a lot like som tam, but uses green apples instead of green papaya. Since green papaya can be hard to find, the green apple provides a nice tart flavour and crisp texture that’s incredible in this type of salad. I hope you love it!
You will need:
- 1 Granny Smith apple, julienned
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 1 large shallot, sliced lengthwise
- 1 small handful grape tomatoes, quartered
- ¼ cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts
- the juice of ½ lime
- fish sauce, to taste
- sugar, to taste
- 2 Thai chilies, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
In a mortar and pestle, add the green beans and about 6 grape tomatoes cut in half. To that, add the shallots, chilies, a tablespoon of dried shrimp, and a clove or 2 of garlic. Pound that mixture together until the tomatoes are crushed and the green beans are bruised.
Season your mixture with about a teaspoon each of fish sauce and sugar and continue to lightly mix in the mortar and pestle until the ingredients are combined. Finally, add a ¼ cup of roasted peanuts and crush them coarsely.
If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can do all of this with a ziplock bag and a rolling pin.
Combine the contents of the mortar and pestle with the apple and carrots in a large mixing bowl. Add the shallots, toss everything together and give it a final taste. Balance out the flavours if you have to and finish by adding a handful of fresh chopped cilantro. Traditional som tam is made entirely in the mortar and pestle, but I wanted to preserve the crunchy texture and look of the apples and carrots.
This salad is great on its own, or as a side with some fish or this home-style fried chicken which I’ll show you in the next episode.
When was the last time you used a fruit as a vegetable?