Friday, May 22, 2009

Tip: Perfect can be Ugly

I know this is a strange concept...perfection as unappealing, but you know what? Sometimes it is. Maybe not perfection in and of itself, but the stress and unrealistic ambitions we often put on ourselves when trying to accomplish certain things in our life, especially when it comes to cooking.

Here's what I think: It doesn't have to be perfect. Now, I'm not talking about that careless "good enough" attitude that some people have, leaving things that should be done properly done only halfway making it really, in essence, not "good enough". The chicken does need to be cooked, and the seafood probably shouldn't be served raw, but that's not what I'm talking about here.

What I am referring to is the social stigma that seems to equate "perfect" with being "good". Like the fashion magazines that make us feel like we should look thin and have perfect hair, teeth, makeup, abs, and of course flawless complexion, cookbooks and magazines often set recipes as unattainable or impossible to execute just by how good they look. The pressures of social media and this unrealistic view that everything "has to be perfect" has seeped into just about every aspect of our lives - and cooking has become just one more thing that we need to do "perfectly" in order for it to be of any value. Somewhere the true passion for cooking and what it actually means has been lost. It's not about the perfect garnish or glaze, airbrushing or photoshop, it's about making a meal for your family and taking pride in what you serve. It's not about being perfect or flawless, or looking just like the picture, it's about fresh ingredients and about nurturing your family - mind, body, and soul. In fact, your dish may need a little more salt, a little less garlic, or a touch more sugar. Half of the cake may still be stuck to the bottom of the pan, the sauce on the pasta may be a touch too thin, or the salad wilted ever so slightly because it was tossed too soon with the dressing. It doesn't matter. Really. This is how we learn, and this is how we all become better cooks. And it's still going to taste good. Trust me.

My advice: Just cook. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be honest food. Fresh ingredients, simple cooking methods, basic food knowledge, and a whole lot of love. That's all it takes. People will never know what it was "supposed" to look like, and quite frankly they'll be so happy to be treated to a freshly cooked meal they really won't care. So don't stress over your next dinner party, backyard BBQ, or get all worried about trying out a new recipe. Just do the best you can, and if it doesn't look like the picture, so what? It's just a picture, and they too probably made a few mistakes to get there.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Entertaining Your Family: Smoothies! (Maman and Gourmand Smoothie/Shake Recipe Contest!)

So, fruit shakes are a "thing" right now. You can find them just about anywhere from a smoothie bar at a gym, to a large chain located in the local mall. They'll also blend just about anything you wish to mix with fruit and yogurt (protein powder, vitamins, grass-looking stuff - you name it). They'll also charge you. Alot.

Now these places are fantastic when you are on the go and need a snack that's not either full of sugar or deep fried. But, you can also make them yourself (and take them with you if you like when you are on the go) and it's easier than you think! We've been making fruit smoothies in our house for years, and ever since my daughter got into them when she was about a year old (she's almost two now), we've been making them several times a week at least. So, when I learned about a contest a fellow food blogger was hosting calling out for the best smoothie recipe, I figured this was perfect for me. I've gone through many "variations" of our smoothie recipe over the last few years, and I now figure I've got a pretty good one nailed (but of be the judge). Below is the recipe and my tricks for the best ever smoothie. Then, starting May 11th, be sure to vote HERE if you like it...which you fact you'll wonder how those "smoothie spots" even stay in business now that you (and I) are by far the ultimate smoothie makers!

So first off, here are the ingredients:
Pretty basic stuff, in a blender I add about a handful of ice, one banana, some juice, some frozen fruit, about a cup or so of yogurt, and some ground flax seed (shhh...don't tell anybody and they won't notice, trust me!)

But look a little closer, because the secret to the best smoothie is in this picture...I'm not sure if Oasis is purely Canadian or if it's available everywhere, but it is FANTASTIC stuff. A very dark, rich, fruit juice made from dark super fruits such as pomegranates, blueberries, and blackberries. Extremely high in antioxidants, vitamin C, and flavour, and extremely low in sugar and additives (actually there isn't any). On it's own it's not overly sweet, and taste like it's straight from the fruit itself. It's a little pricey (about $4 for this container), but totally worth it in my mind. Why? Well, because of this juice, I get all the nutrition and goodness from the dark berry fruit without all the little annoying pips! Yup, no seeds in this smoothie! To me this is huge. Smoothies of years past were chalk full of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries - super delicious and healthy no doubt, but I was picking seeds out of my teeth until least. Not to mention it's totally not cool going into a business meeting with bits of raspberry stuck in your teeth. Now we use this as our juice base along with frozen mixed fruit (usually peaches, melons, pineapple, etc...) instead of berries. The result is an amazing smoothie. Truly. Just about every fruit you can imagine (and just about every vitamin too) in a deliciously smooth and silky texture. We love it. You will too.

Here's the exact recipe:

Party Designers Super Smooth and Healthy Fruit Smoothie
1 handful ice
1 large banana
1 cup yogurt (any kind will do - we use organic vanilla quite often)
2 - 3 cups frozen mixed fruit
1 tsp ground flax seed (optional)
2 - 3 cups good quality berry juice (such as Oasis Antioxia)

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Start with about 2 cups of juice and add additional juice to desired consistency.

Makes about 5 -6 cups.

I didn't get a photo of the the finished product in the blender. These are so good that once my daughter hears that blender going, there isn't much time for foolin' around. But I did snap this...
And this... (that's a smile by the way - trust me - she drank the whole thing!). And, I also snapped broken and cracked blender:Did I fail to mention that the winner of this contest will get a new blender? Well, um, they will. This one And well, um, I need one. Bad. My daughter does too for that matter!

Win or lose of course I still think this is a great recipe that you and your family will really enjoy, so I still encourage you to make it, but I also encourage you to vote (for me) HERE!