Eating in a Mosaic

Canada is a mosaic of cultures, with each person’s unique heritage standing out in the bigger picture. This eclectic mix of people and ethnicities is evident in the culinary hotspots of the country.

If you look at Toronto food blogs such as goodfoodtoronto, the amount of cuisines the city has to offer is staggering. From my own experience, some Hogtown favourites are vegan, Japanese, Korean and Italian. However, Toronto is certainly not lacking in niche cuisines: just this year, I discovered a Nicaraguan restaurant on Bloor Street. As Nicaragua is my partner’s native country, he was very excited to see his country be represented in our food scene!

What I think this diversity of cuisines shows is that every person has food which they can call home, and every one of these homes has a staple food. Every culture and household has their basics: in Japan, rice is the foundation of any meal; in Andean cultures, quinoa; in El Salvador, plantain, and so on and so forth. These staple foods come from availability, affordability and cultural significance.

These staples and their corresponding dishes are part of our internal toolkits. We all have one, filled with knowledge that help us make sense of our world. The concepts in these toolboxes are like second nature, and come to us automatically. Having some recipes in these toolkits can be extremely helpful to know.

The multi-tools of my culinary toolbox are pasta and potatoes. Growing up in an Italian household, pasta has long been something I loved and been taught to cook. Recently, I have been learning how to cook with a variety of alternative grains since my mom was diagnosed with celiac disease. Although her dietary restrictions put some restraint on my family, there is one staple we all love and enjoy: potatoes. With my story in mind, I present two staple recipes that are quick, easy and remind me of home.

frit

Potato Frittata (Photo by Alex Tepper)

Potato Frittata

2-3 Yukon Gold Potatoes, sliced

3 eggs, whisked together

1/2 medium onion (white or red, depending on your personal preference)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp Olive oil

Instructions: Peel potatoes and cut into halves, then slice the half potatoes into pieces 1/2 cm thick. In a small or medium skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat, then put potatoes in. Add 1 tbsp water and let potatoes steam. Once water evaporates, let potatoes cook until outsides are golden. Crack eggs in a bowl and mix until yolk and white are combined, then season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over potatoes, then let cook on medium heat until it becomes solidified. Using a plate, flip the frittata over and cook the other side. Once completed, plate and cut into slices.

Spelt Pasta with Quick Garlic Tomato Sauce

3/4 cup dry spelt pasta

20 Grape tomatoes, soaked in warm water

1 medium clove garlic, minced

2 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: In a medium pot, boil water and cook pasta according to instructions on box. In a food processor, blitz tomatoes, garlic and basil, then cook in a pan with olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Once pasta is cooked, drain the pasta and toss it in the skillet until fully coated with sauce. Then plate and enjoy! (Delicious with parmesan or romano cheese)

Works Referenced

McKenney, Ryan and Bryce, Benjamin. “Creating the Canadian Mosaic”. Activehistory.ca, University of Saskatchewan and Huron University College, 16 May 2016. http://activehistory.ca/2016/05/creating-the-canadian-mosaic/. Accessed 30 October 2018.

“Review” goodfoodtoronto, Squarespace 2017. https://www.goodfoodtoronto.com/good-food-toronto/?offset=1489444945620&category=Review Accessed 30 October, 2018.

Tepper, Alex. “1-Ingredient Potato Frittata,” 2017. Found, Extra Crispy, 30 October 2018. https://www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/1-ingredient-potato-frittata

*I checked OWL Purdue for these citations, I hope they are correct.

The Spoon in your Back Pocket

In the busy rush of North American life, it can be hard to take care of yourself. I know this is something I struggle with regularly. Most days, I find myself walking a very wobbly tight rope: do I spend spoons on cooking, my job or school work? Take out is often my only option on chaotic days, and I do my best to find the healthiest options.

I’m lucky to live in Toronto, a city with a thriving vegan community and diverse cuisines. Sadly, many cities are confined to chains of burgers, fries and Tex-Mex, leaving little room for wholesome foods on the go. My goal for these “recipes” is to help you make the healthiest choices possible with the options available in your neighborhood.

Self care is hard when all the odds are stacked against you, and it’s even harder when the food marketed to you is toxic. Upon a thought-provoking conversation with my boyfriend, I realized just how limiting American food culture is. At his recommendation, I looked at the McDonald’s menu variations from my country (Canada) to his (United States and Nicaragua). To my shock, there was not a wrap on the US McDonald’s menu; every salad came with bacon, cheese and deep-fried chicken, and the small fries were suspiciously missing from all marketing.

With this information in mind, I was reminded of Christine Miserandino’s mantra to always leave energy to spare: in order to survive, we must never push ourselves to extreme depletion. If you need to have a cheeseburger and fries, there is no shame in that! At the same time, I hope this list can grow and help spoonies around the world find healthy food in seemingly impossible places.

With the help of my friend Maddi from chickpeasandluv, we have curated healthy options to ensure you always have a spoon in your back pocket.

healthy food 3

Monsoon Bowl from Hopscotch (Courtesy of chickpeasandluv)

healthy food 1

Coconut Kefir Parfait from Revitasize (Courtesy of chickpeasandluv)

healthy food 2

Pokii Salad from Freshii (Courtesy of chickpeasandluv)

Corporate Chain Options

  • Chipotle – Burrito Bowl or Salad
    • Base: Brown Rice or Lettuce
    • Protein: Sofritas, Grilled Chicken or Steak
    • Toppings: Fajita Veggies, Brown or Black Beans (if you’re getting a bowl, ask for a half portion of beans), Salsa (beware of salt content though! Medium Salsa has the least amount), Corn, Tomato, Cilantro, Guacamole, Salad Dressing
  • McDonalds – Grilled Chicken Sweet Chili Signature McWrap (light mayo and sauce) and NO COMBO, Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad with no cheese (US Menu), I’m Greek-ing Out Salad with Grilled Chicken
  • Subway – 6 inch Tuna Salad on Honey Oat Bread with any veggies you’d like, 6 inch or foot-long Veggie Delite with Italian Dressing
  • Wendy’s – Southwest Chicken Salad with no/little bacon and cheese, Apple Pecan Chicken Salad with no/light blue cheese and candied pecans, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Small Chili

Cuisine Based Food Options

  • Greek Food – Chicken or Lamb Souvlaki with Seasonal Veggies and Greek Salad
  • Middle Eastern Food – Chicken Shawarma with Rice or Potatoes and Salad, Kefta with Rice or Potatoes and Salad
  • Vegetarian and Vegan Food – anything not deep-fried or high in saturated fat!

Toronto and GTA Recommendations

  • Freshii – Fiesta Salad, Metaboost Salad, Market Salad, Umamii Salad, any bowl (Mediterranean, Buddha’s Satay, Oaxaca, Teriyaki Twist, Pangoa, Bamboo), Khao San Burrito and Baja Burrito (Note: All salads can be ordered as a wrap too!)
  • Basil Box – Anything! Just make sure not to pair a rice base with both sweet potato and corn, and opt for brown rice, rice noodles or lettuce base.
  • Hopscotch – anything!
  • Revitasize – Vegan Wraps with Peanut Sauce, Lean Greens Salad, Warrior Salad, Buddha Bowl, Sweet Potato Noodles, Coconut Kefir Parfaits, any smoothies (just ask for no agave)
  • Booster Juice – Any “Hardcore” smoothies (Coco Crush, Spinach Is In It, Tropi-kale, Unbeetable, Wildberry Basil), Banango Burst High Protein Smoothie
  • Jugo Juice – Any smoothie without frozen yogurt
  • Pita Land – Chicken Shwarma, Chicken Kebab or Kefta Plate with no potatoes, half portion of rice and a loaded salad with your veggies of choice
  • Me Va Me – Grilled Chicken Kebab with Seasonal Veggies and Me Va Me Salad, Hummus (to die for!) and Chicken Shawarma with same sides
  • Nature’s Emporium – Hot Table (varies daily)
  • Aroma Espresso Bar – Aroma Power Breakfast with Multigrain Bread, Aroma Hash, Shakshuka, Organic Oatmeal, Breakfast Sandwich on Multigrain Bread, any salad except for Caesar, Sandwiches (Grilled Portabello, Avocado, Tuna, Grilled Chicken Breast, Italian Cheese, Aroma A.C.E, Smoked Salmon) on whole wheat or multigrain bread
  • Fresh Restaurants – everything!

Works Cited

Cerasuolo, Maddi (Chickpeasandluv). “Coconut yogurt…” Instagram, January 25th, 2018. Accessed October 22nd, 2018. https://www.instagram.com/p/BeZIBZLFbqM/?hl=en&taken-by=chickpeasandluv

Cerasuolo, Maddi (Chickpeasandluv). “This new @eat_hopscotch at Vaughan mills is a      blessing…” Instagram, July 31, 2018. Accessed October 22nd, 2018. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl6Oe4og290/?hl=en&taken-by=chickpeasandluv

Cerasuolo, Maddi (Chickpeasandluv). “Went to @freshii and tried out their new pokii bowls…” Instagram, July 18, 2017. Accessed October 22nd, 2018.  https://www.instagram.com/p/BWspBQ5F2fe/?hl=en&taken-by=chickpeasandluv

Toast with the Most

As a person living with a permanent disability, I’ve learned a thing or two about playing with the cards I’m dealt (or in this case: playing with the spoons I’m given). Some days, all the spoons you have leave you eating three slices of toast for dinner at 2 am.

At the time, white bread with margarine was all I had energy for, and that was fine. When it comes to mental illness, your best can vary from day to day. Some days, my best was a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar! But peak sadness to me was eating nothing but toast for dinner. Why? I was ashamed of not doing more.

What I wish I had known is that somebody understood my fatigue, my exhaustion, my sadness. I wish I had known that I was capable of something better. But now, I’m ready to challenge my notion of toast and transform it into a meal I can be proud of. As The Spoonie Foodie mentioned, your body needs nutrition in times of spoon depletion. Therefore, I dedicate this post to my sicker, teenage self. She deserves a transformation, and I’m going to start it with the perfect foundation: bread.

Almost everybody has bread in their kitchen. From pita to naan to Dempster’s white, I have yet to find a kitchen without some variety of carb-filled goodness. However, I keep sprouted and whole grain varieties on hand to keep me full and satisfied (to all my Canadian shoppers, my favourite brand is Silver Hill Bakery).

Next come the toppings. Like a painter’s canvas, the possibilities are endless with a slate as blank as bread. There are a few guidelines I would follow to elevate toast from a side for your eggs into a full-blown meal: contrasting textures (crunchy and soft, crisp and buttery), balanced macro-nutrients (sources of protein, fat, carbs and fiber) and fresh ingredients.

Toast is delicious, can adapt for any meal of the day and can be made healthy! All you need is creativity and health-conscious goals to make toast with the most.

IMG-0963 (1)

From left to right: Tuna Salad, Caprese Salad, Smashed Avocado and Egg. All photos are my own.

Based on what I had in my fridge, here are some toast recipes I made in less than 10 minutes:

Breakfast Toast with Smashed Avocados and Egg

1 slice of sprouted grain or multi-grain bread

1/2 an avocado 1 hard boiled eggs, cut in slices

6 slices of Sheppard Pepper, cut 1/4 cm thick

1 tbsp vegan mayo

1/4 tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions: Place egg in a pot with water and bring to a boil. Once cooked, remove egg and let cool, then slice. Toast bread to your liking. Spread mayo on bread. Cut avocado in half and scoop out flesh with a spoon. Smash avocado directly on toast with a fork. Wash 1 Sheppard pepper and cut as many slices as you would like. Put pepper slices and sliced egg on top of bread. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

Caprese Salad Toast

1 slice of sprouted grain or multi-grain bread

3 cherry tomatoes, sliced

3 mini bocconcini, sliced

1/4 cup baby arugula, washed and dried

Few drops of Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 2 leaves fresh basil cut in ribbons

Instructions: Toast bread to your liking. Slice bocconcini and cherry tomatoes in third. Drizzle olive oil on the bread to your liking. Place arugula on bread, then top with bocconcini and tomato slices. Drizzle balsamic vinegar on top. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with basil.

Tuna Salad Toast:

1 slice of sprouted grain or multi-grain bread

1 small can of tuna, drained

1-2 tbsp vegan mayo

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar

3 cherry tomatoes, sliced

2 baby dill pickles, sliced and/or diced

1/4 cup baby arugula, washed and dried

Instructions: Toast bread to your liking. In a bowl, mix tuna, mayo, vinegar, lemon juice until creamy. Season tuna mixture to taste. Put arugula on toast. Place pickle slices on top of arugula. Scoop tuna salad on top of pickle slices. Top with sliced tomato and garnish with diced pickles

Enjoy!

Works Cited/Referenced

Taylor, Kathryne. “Avocado Toast Recipe (Plus Tips & Variations).” Cookie and Kate, 4 Aug. 2018, cookieandkate.com/2018/avocado-toast-recipe/. Accessed Oct. 15, 2018.

The Spoonie Foodie. “My Spoonie Suppers.” The Spoonie Foodie, Blogger, 20 Mar. 2015, thespooniefoodie.blogspot.com/2015/03/my-spoonie-suppers.html. Accessed Oct 15, 2018.