Archive | July, 2012

Alimento brings a taste of Italy to King West

30 Jul

Last week, I had an opportunity to check out the new BarMozza restaurant and market at Alimento when I was invited to their media event. As soon as I walked in I fell in love with the place as I was greeted by great smells coming from the kitchen and a beautiful setup of two long tables to seat all of the guests. The brick walls and wooden floors added warmth to the room and I instantly felt right at home in the space.

With a drink in hand, we set off on a tour of Alimento which is an Italian market, bakery and restaurant (BarMozza) all under one roof. I experienced foodie sensory overload as there was so much goodness to take in all at once. Racks and racks of Italian specialty products filled the market, including high-end pastas, gluten-free items, gorgeous fresh produce, an antipasto bar, pre-made meal area, a beautiful bakery case and the best-looking cheese counter I’ve seen since my trip to Italy last year. There were so many cheeses available (over 140 types) that my head was spinning as I wanted to try each and every one. I could easily spend hours wandering through Alimento to check out their goodies!

While on the tour, I found out that the owners of Alimento also own the six Grande Cheese locations in the GTA and it explained everything. I live near the Grande Cheese location in Richmond Hill and it’s my favourite local shop for specialty Italian products and some of the best pizza I’ve ever had.  Alimento is on another level entirely and it reminded me of some of the sophisticated gourmet food shops I had visited in Europe and the U.S. It’s a perfect fit with all of the creative agencies, clubs and restaurants that fill the King West area.

After seeing all of the fresh produce, the bakery and the great selection of cheeses I couldn’t wait to have dinner at BarMozza. We started with family-style appetizer platters filled with an assortment of cheeses, meats and bread. The fine folks at Alimento were kind enough to serve me a vegetarian-friendly plate of cheeses to start off my meal and with that, I knew that I needed to buckle my seatbelt for the long foodie ride ahead…

I started with the Verde Salad which contained green beans, garlic, tons of delicious pistachios and aged Caciocavallo cheese with a lemon vinaigrette. It was a nice, fresh and hearty salad that was a great example of how delicious vegetarian food could really be.

Next up was the Risotto Nella Ruota which contained Arborio rice, cream, Parmigiano cheese and Tartufo Nero (black truffle). We watched Chef Joe Friday prepare it in a hollowed-out Parmigiano wheel, scraping tasty bits of Parmigiano cheese into the risotto as he stirred. It was delicious but it was hands down the richest risotto I had ever tried, so I was only able to handle only a few spoons of it.

Just when I thought I had eaten enough, my main dish arrived and it was lasagna with tomato sauce, Fior di Latte, Basil Ricotta and spinach. It was so delicious that I ate the whole thing and I would have licked the last of the basil pesto off of my plate if I wasn’t in mixed company : )

We ended off with Pasticcini Misti, a mixed board of pastries to share from Alimento’s pastry team. One of my favourites was the Pine Nut Honey Tart Cake, which surprised me as I’m not usually a fan of pine nuts. The pine nuts were cooked in a honey topping, so they ended up soft and creamy, which was a great contrast to the tart crust.

A tasty dark chocolate tart with pistachios was a hit in my books as well. After visiting Italy last year, I’ve become a bit of an espresso connoisseur and I will only order it if I’m in a true Italian establishment. Alimento’s espresso definitely hit the spot and was the perfect end to a great meal!

See you soon Alimento, this vegetarian will definitely be back!

Info: 

Alimento Fine Food Emporium

522 King Street West

Toronto, Ontario

M5V 1L7

Tel: (416) 362 – 0123

Website: http://www.alimento.ca/

Facebook:  Alimento Fine Food Emporium

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/alimentofoods

Honey-Glazed Grilled Fruit + WIN a Harvest From Home basket from Metro!

16 Jul

Summer time is (finally!) here and farmers are busy harvesting their crops! If you’re looking for fresh fruits and vegetables to quench your healthy appetite, look no further, as from June through October, Metro has Ontarians covered with their annual Harvest from Home program.  During Harvest from Home, Metro purchases food from more than 100 farms across Ontario, providing its customers with a wide variety of the freshest most delicious produce.  They are proudly supporting local farmers and the economy, which is something we should all do. Local tastes better!

The lovely folks at Metro recently provided me with a great summer grilling recipe and a basket including the local ingredients from Ontario needed to make their special June/July recipe. How could I say no to a basket filled with delicious goodies?!?!

Honey-Glazed Grilled Fruit

The original recipe can be found on the Metro website here: http://www.metro.ca/recette/6239/honey-glazed-grilled-fruit.en.html. I’ve modified it slightly to suit the tastes of my family.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (125 mL) Irresistibles Orange Juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) Selection Unsalted Butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) Selection Liquid Honey

1 Selection Cinnamon Stick

1 quart fresh Ontario grown strawberries, hulled and washed

4 fresh Ontario grown pears, washed, cored and cut into large chunks

2 ripe but firm bananas, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 ripe but firm Ontario grown peaches, washed, pitted and cut into large chunks

Kabob skewers, wooden or metal

Directions:

Heat Irresistibles Orange Juice, Selection Unsalted Butter, Selection Liquid Honey and 1 Selection Cinnamon Stick in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbly and melted. Simmer for 10 minutes until slightly syrupy.

Thread fresh fruit pieces onto kabob skewers. Grill over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning often and drizzling with the orange juice mixture, until tender and browned.

My tips: Drizzle the orange juice mixture over the fruit every time you turn the skewers on the grill. You should turn them every few minutes to promote even cooking. The drizzle helps the fruit to caramelize a little and sends flames up to char the fruit, giving the kabobs a great smoky flavour. We had them at the end of a big barbecue, so I simply served the fruit kabobs on their own to keep things light. I think they would be great served alongside vanilla ice cream too…yum!

My favourite parts of the kabob were the grilled peaches and bananas and I think I might just focus on my favourite fruits next time. Overall, my family loved the kabobs and I’m happy to say that the serving plate was empty a few minutes later! I can’t wait to try the kabobs with other fruit combinations and perhaps add a little grated ginger to the sauce for an added kick next time.

CONTEST: Do you want to try this tasty recipe at home? Metro wants me to give away a Harvest From Home basket, including a Metro gift card, to one of my readers! Please note that you must be a resident of Ontario to win, given that Metro’s stores can only be found here in Ontario. If you win, Metro will deliver the basket directly to your home, so that you and your family can enjoy the Ontario grown Harvest From Home goodies immediately.

TO ENTER: 

Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me what your favourite Ontario grown fruits and/or vegetables are and what you use them for. P.S. Don’t forget to include your Twitter, Facebook or blog site address so I know how to reach you!

Again, you must be a resident of Ontario to enter!

Hurry! Contest closes on Sunday July 22 at 5 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Monday July 23. Good luck!

_________________________________________________________________________________

WINNER!!! 

Congrats to Pauline Grant (@PaulineGrantTO ) for winning the Metro gift basket! Your basket will be delivered straight to your home by the great folks at Metro : )

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YorkTest Program’s Food & DrinkScan, a Food Intolerance Test – Part 4 – My call with the Nutrition Advisor and the “No Cow Dairy” diet

13 Jul

 Note: This is Part 4 in my series of posts about YorkTest Program’s Food & DrinkScan, a Food Intolerance Test. You can find the earlier parts here:

Part 1 – http://bit.ly/M8QPne  Part 2 – http://bit.ly/L7okuY  Part 3 – http://bit.ly/N2T92g

A few days after I received my results, it was time for my first call with one of YorkTest Program’s Registered Naturopathic Doctors, Dr. Michelle O’Neill. She took me through my results chart and helped me to understand that I didn`t need to eliminate all of my main AVOID (RED) items immediately, specifically Cow Dairy, Yeast and Lentils, and advised that it would be best (and easiest) to start with the worst offender, cow dairy. Cow dairy was the top item on my AVOID (RED) list and therefore was the food that my body was fighting the hardest against. I was slightly surprised as I thought that by only including lactose-free milk, yogurt (the amount of lactose apparently reduces during the fermentation process) and hard cheeses (apparently also lower in lactose) that I had things under control. Clearly not!

Dr. O’Neill was so easy to talk to and asked what my current diet consisted of, so we could work together to pinpoint the key sources of cow dairy. From there, she walked me through potential substitutions for cow dairy and I was so happy to hear that I actually had options!

The plan – eliminate all sources of cow dairy for two full weeks and see if I felt any different. Dr. O’Neill was quick to point out that it would require a lot of willpower and planning ahead to make this work, as many of my daily food and beverage choices would be affected. She mentioned that in addition to the straight and obvious sources – milk, yogurt and cheese – I should look out for modified milk ingredients and related ones such as whey and casein when making choices.

She was quick to point out that although cow dairy was off limits, I could try goat, sheep or buffalo dairy instead. Almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk and other non-dairy sources were also easily available now at my local grocery stores. I was not only happy to hear that I had options but I was also looking forward to exploring new foods and beverages.

I decided to start Week 1 properly the following Monday, as I not only wanted time to prepare but I felt that my best chance at making this work was to start with a full week ahead of me. I sat down to make a list of all of the items I consume regularly with cow dairy in them and I realized just how big that list was. I was regularly consuming milk, plain yogurt, fruit yogurt and having cheese. Just as I started to pat myself on the back for having such a short list, I realized that many of my beloved sweet snacks, specifically chocolate, usually contained cow dairy as well….yikes! As painful as it sounded I knew I had to do this for the sake of my health. I was sick of feeling tired and having an upset stomach pretty much all the time.

I knew the only way to make this happen was to plan my own meals and cook at home as much as I could for the next two weeks, so that I could control the ingredients. I also knew that I would have to think of every food and beverage choice to make sure that I wasn`t putting cow dairy into my system. This was going to be fun and scary…

I headed to the grocery store and probably spent a good hour and half going through the aisles (this is not unusual for me, I love browsing in grocery stores), reading packages and filling my cart with the items I needed and wanted. I picked up the following alternative products to try:

I also stocked up on fruits, vegetables, tortillas and English muffins. I spent a FORTUNE on groceries that day, as alternative products are often a lot pricier, however I didn’t mind as I was excited to have an excuse to try some new products.

I spent the first week eating the following items (not all at once of course):

Breakfast Options:

  • English muffins with almond butter and/or jam
  • Breakfast wraps with egg, goat cheese or Daiya cheese and veggies
  • Oatmeal made with almond milk and fruit
  • Coffee with almond or soy milk OR a Starbucks Soy Americano Misto OR a soy latte

Lunch/Dinner Options:

  • Rice with veggies and tofu
  • Quinoa with veggies
  • Pastas with veggies and Daiya cheese
  • Wraps with egg, goat cheese and roasted veggies
  • Vegetarian maki rolls (Japanese)
  • Indian curry dishes, all made without dairy
  • Homemade soups
  • Salads
  • Noodles

Desserts/Snacks:

  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • Smoothies
  • Chocolate almond milk (heated)
  • Homemade frozen ice pops

While I enjoyed the challenge of Week 1, it was also exhausting. After eating whatever I wanted that was lacto-ovo vegetarian for so long, I had to stop and think about everything I was putting in my mouth. This sounds simple enough, but when you look forward to having a small coffee with one cream and one sugar every morning, taking it away is rough. I’ll admit, on more than one occasion, I poured cream and sugar into a cup and was just about to add coffee before I realized what I was doing and had to throw it out.

Dealing with the food situation was okay, partly because my husband was away on a business trip and I didn’t have to cook for both of us that week. I also didn’t have many social engagements to deal with, which was a blessing as I’m sure that I was getting a little testy with some people : ) Week 1 helped me to realize just how much food I used to put into my mouth without thinking about it. Being a vegetarian is pretty easy once you get used to it but taking away the dairy and eggs just made it harder. For someone who loves food, it was a great exercise in restraint for sure. I wasn’t sure if I was exhausted because of the amount of effort or from what I was eating, so I asked Dr. O’Neill for her thoughts on how I was feeling. She advised that it was common for participants of elimination diets to feel tired in the first few weeks of making changes to their diets, as the body works to adjust.

By Week 2, I definitely noticed a change in my system as I did feel less bloated and wasn’t experiencing as much discomfort in my stomach. It was quite amazing to feel these changes as I had lived with my symptoms for so long that they started to feel normal to me. My pants started to feel a bit looser and the heavy feeling that used to drag me down all the time was lifting. I wondered at first if it was psychological but my stomach symptoms had clearly subsided! It was truly surprising. Now what was I going to do?

Want to learn more about the YorkTest Program? Visit their website at http://www.yorktest.ca/ or follow them on Twitter and Facebook

Stay tuned for my next post in the series – YorkTest Program’s Food & DrinkScan, a Food Intolerance Test – Part 5 – Product Reviews and changes I’ve made

Disclosure: In exchange for writing this series of blog posts, I’ve received a free Food & DrinkScan and enrollment into the program. The opinions expressed are my own.

 

YorkTest Program’s Food & DrinkScan, a Food Intolerance Test – Part 3 – Food Intolerance and IgG Antibodies

1 Jul

Note: This is Part 3 in my series of posts about YorkTest Program’s Food & DrinkScan, a Food Intolerance Test. You can find the earlier parts here:

Part 1 – http://bit.ly/M8QPne  Part 2 – http://bit.ly/L7okuY

After receiving my results, I was excited to finally have an idea about what was causing my symptoms, but I was left with a few questions, so I turned to the good folks at YorkTest Canada for some answers…

Did the test show results only for foods/beverages that are in my system OR for all foods/beverages? Based on my results, I know that several items were actively in my system but I just wanted some clarity.

Answer from YorkTest Canada – You are correct.  In order to test for an IgG reaction, the food has to be present in your system.  IgG antibodies have a half-life of between 15-21 days so it can take up to 2 months to lower your IgG levels.  This basically means that you can show a positive well after ingestion of a problem food because IgG antibodies stick around in your system so long.  Your sample would have been tested against the entire panel, and if there was a reaction, then it shows IgG antibodies were present at an elevated rate.

What is a food intolerance? What are IgG antibodies?

Answer from YorkTest Canada – Food intolerances or food sensitivities are believed to arise when certain incompletely digested food particles enter your bloodstream and are treated as foreign substances. This results in your immune system producing tailor-made immunoglobulin G or IgG antibodies, which attack the food in question and ultimately generate an inflammatory response in various organs throughout the body. Some researchers believe this chronic low grade inflammatory response in the body to select problem foods is associated with many conditions (see list of symptoms below). These immune mediated food intolerances or food sensitivities are sometimes described in medical literature as delayed food reactions, type III hypersensitivities or non-IgE mediated food reactions.

Food intolerance is characterized as a delayed onset food reaction as symptoms can takes hours or even days to develop. While the symptoms of food intolerance may not be considered life-threatening, they negatively impact a patient’s quality of life. Due to the uniqueness of our immune systems, we have varying levels of IgG sensitivity to different foods. Therefore foods that are healthy for some can cause agonizing symptoms in others. Self identification of problem foods through a food elimination diet can be a painstaking process and is rarely successful.

There are 3 important factors that make linking problem foods with symptoms nearly impossible: It has been shown that patients typically have 6-7 food intolerances. Imagine the complexity of finding the right combination of 6-7 hidden foods among the 100s of foods that make up one’s normal diet. It takes several weeks for IgG antibodies to fully leave your bloodstream. Therefore you have to eliminate the suspect food from your diet for at least 3-4 weeks to truly know if the food you are eliminating is a problem food for you. Imagine how long it would take to cycle through all the foods in your normal diet. Food intolerances may take several hours or even days to develop. This delay may cause patients to associate symptoms with the wrong foods while others may never realize their symptoms are related to food intolerance. It is not surprising that patients prefer to take a simple blood test and minimize the guesswork associated with trial and error elimination diets. Food intolerance testing significantly speeds up the whole process of identifying and treating hidden food intolerances.

Are there any classic signs of increased antibodies?

Answer from YorkTest Canada – Symptoms: (can be any number of these typically)

  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Skin Dryness
  • Rashes
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Difficulties Breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Weight Gain

Their answers really helped me to understand what the purpose of the test was. Knowing exactly what to avoid could certainly help me to make better food/beverage choices for my health. Had I tried to conduct my own elimination diet, I know that I wouldn’t have had the willpower or motivation to remove some of my favourite foods for weeks, without having an end goal. I never would have known that I could have an intolerance to specific wine grapes like Pinot Grigio and Reisling, but now that I do I can make an effort to order a Malbec or a Pinot Noir instead and make better choices for my body.

The next step in the process was to have a call with one of YorkTest Canada’s Nutrition Advisor to setup a plan for my elimination diet! The process continues…

Want to learn more about the YorkTest Program? Visit their website at http://www.yorktest.ca/ or follow them on Twitter and Facebook

Stay tuned for my next post in the series – YorkTest FoodScan`s Food and Drink Intolerance Test – Part 4 – My call with the Nutrition Advisor and Week 1 of “No Cow Dairy”

Disclosure: In exchange for writing this series of blog posts, I’ve received a free Food & DrinkScan and enrollment into the program. The opinions expressed are my own.

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