Half Your Plate

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It might seem as though I’ve got a shortcut when it comes to healthy eating – living with a vegan should make that simple, right? Well, there’s a growing selection of vegan (and gluten-free!) processed, snack, and prepared foods, folks. Just because a meal is meatless doesn’t make it balanced and omnivores like me have to think about more than eating fewer animal products.

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Now, we do try to keep balance in mind across our meals, but it can take a little planning and some inspiration. Initiatives like Half Your Plate can help in both departments. Their site has guidelines, advice, and recipes to motivate you to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

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I became aware of their campaign when they partnered with Food Bloggers of Canada for a blogger contest on Instagram, inspiring me to share some of my less-than-perfectly-lit meals. (Sorry, Instagram.)

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For me, it served as a reminder that a wide range of meals qualify as Half Your Plate meals, which makes healthy eating feel a lot more attainable. It’s variety and moderation that count – a kale-stuffed ricotta tart tonight; a vegan Ribollita last week; an almost entirely locally-sourced chicken dinner the week before. Fill in the gaps with salads, smoothies, and roasted veg from whatever is at its peak at the fresh markets – maybe you don’t have to worry about that frozen vegan (and gluten-free!) pizza you had for movie night on the weekend.

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I’d like to hear how you fill half your plate: Do you steam big bunches of spinach and throw them in a stirfry? Are green smoothies your thing? Do you, like me, secretly feel that jam-filled sandwich cookies should count?

French Food Revolution Friday with Dorie 2015

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This week, the French Fridays with Dorie crew is participating in Food Revolution Day, led by Mardi of eat. live. travel. write.

Our assignment this time around is to share something we’ve learned from Dorie Greenspan during our more than four years working through Around My French Table. It’s a theme nicely in keeping with Food Revolution Day’s emphasis on food education.

As Mardi explained:

Friday May 15th 2015 is the fourth annual Food Revolution Day – a day of global action created by Jamie Oliver and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation to engage and inspire people of all ages to learn about food and how to cook it.

This year, Food Revolution Day is a global campaign to put compulsory food education back on the school curriculum. Jamie passionately believes that by educating children about food and cooking in a fun and engaging way, we can equip them with the basic skills they need to lead healthier, happier lives, for themselves and their future families. Dorie agrees – last year when I was chatting with her about food education, she said: “I would love to see a generation that can cook and wants to cook for themselves and others. The world would be a better place.”

It’s difficult to choose a recipe or technique that stands out from our experiences over the course of the group, only because we’ve learned so much.

We’ve tackled elegant French desserts that turned out to be easy, thanks to Dorie’s talent for instructions: Floating Islands.

We’ve learned that all you need for complex flavours and a hearty meal are a sturdy pot and a plump chicken: Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux.

We’ve used the simplest methods to create satisfying suppers: Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote.

We’ve got foolproof doughs almost by heart, allowing us to elevate everything from breakfast to cocktail fare: Gerard’s Mustard Tart.

We’ve overcome our skepticism of unfamiliar flavour combinations and found new favourites: Orange & Olive Salad.

We’ve filled our pantries with many more spices, herbs, condiments, and other ingredients than we’d imagined possible: Chopped Liver with quatre épices.

But most of all, we’ve expanded our cooking and eating horizons, as though we were a class of students led by Dorie’s steady hand. Many of our participants were already confident in the kitchen, while others were gaining confidence as we progressed, but there has always been something to learn from Dorie and from each other.

This is at the heart of healthy, happy eating – exploring new techniques and flavours, while building a foundation of everyday skills that can be applied to whatever you might find in the pantry or the markets. We’ve eaten richly and well along the way, but also with the kind of variety and substance that healthy bodies require.

The dish I’ve made this week is emblematic of a lot of what’s been wonderful about working through Around My French Table. It’s a classic French dish; full of nutritious ingredients; as elegant as you’d like it to be; and easily made affordable or luxe, as required. Dorie’s instructions ensure you’ll make the most of the ingredients and it’s another of the book’s many reminders that even the simplest of meals can be full of flavour.

Salade Niçoise

Nicoise Salad

The beauty of a composed salad is that you can alter it to suit all diners’ needs. In this case, I made a plateful with tuna, egg, and anchovies for me, then left them off for Kevin. There are many lessons in this recipe for young cooks, too. Hard-boiling eggs, blanching green beans, making vinagrette – but especially taking a look at what you’ve got in the refrigerator and pantry, then making a satisfying meal from it.

This revolution must certainly start there.

You can find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s thoughts on Food Revolution Day and all we’ve learned from Dorie, here: Food Revolution Day. And you can find the rest of the Doristas’ posts on Salade Niçoise, here.

(French) Food Revolution Day 2014 – Part 1

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Last year, the Doristas participated in Food Revolution Day for the first time. As you may remember, I got my partner to cook and write about a French Fridays recipe. This year’s theme was getting kids excited about food, so we were tasked with choosing one or more recipes from Around My French Table that we thought kids should know how to make. It was a tough task.

I finally decided that a healthy salad was my first choice. Making Wheat Berry and Tuna Salad would involve some ingredients that are familiar to a lot of kids, while introducing some that were likely to be new to them. It’s also one that gives kids some practice with knife skills. And it’s a recipe that’s not too hard, even for a beginning cook.

My second choice was Salted Butter Break-Ups. These cookies have been a hit with everyone I’ve made them for, young or old. Not only is this giant break-apart cookie fun to make, it also introduces many baking fundamentals and is a good first step for a young baker to move on to other doughs like pâte brisée.

The young cook I’ll be working with is my downstairs neighbour, but we can’t get together until the end of this weekend. So, there will be a Part 2 to this Food Revolution Day post, once we’ve made the dishes.

In the meantime, find out what the rest of the French Fridays crew chose to cook with kids: (French) Food Revolution Day 2014.

There is also a wealth of posts across the internet today, celebrating cooking with kids and healthy food. Here are some of the channels where you can find these stories:

Food Revolution Day: http://www.foodrevolutionday.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/foodrevolutioncommunity
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/foodrev (#FRD2014)
Google+: http://www.google.com/+foodrevolutioncommunity
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/foodrevolution
Instagram: @foodrev (#FRD2014)

Much thanks to Mardi Michels for organizing this for us again this year!

FFWD – Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic en Papillote

En Papillote

We’re having a lot of conversations in our house, lately, about what constitutes healthy eating. Kevin is convinced that going vegan is his path, but there has been considerable backsliding. My position is that moderation, in moderation, is the ticket to a well-rounded diet.

This week’s French Fridays recipe is vegan, but it’s also a side dish. I could have continued down that road, but instead, I served it with one of our favourites from Around My French Table, Roasted Salmon and Lentils. All in all, it was a very healthy meal. Low-fat, high fibre, and probably many other buzzwords besides. What stood out for me was the flavour. Like the salmon, these vegetables are simply seasoned, but surprisingly flavourful. The title gives you the recipe, but it’s the subtle addition of fresh mint and orange zest that really brings this dish together. It’s also a versatile dish, which worked as well with the French flavours of the salmon and lentils as it would with Asian cuisine.

For now, we’ve agreed that increasing the number of meatless meals over time is probably Kevin’s path to success, but tomorrow will definitely be a meatless day. We went out for fish and chips with my parents yesterday and had fish again today. Whatever we end up having tomorrow, there’s still lots of bok choy and snap peas in the refrigerator, so there will be more en papillote cooking involved.

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You can find many other blogged descriptions of this FFWD recipe here: Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps, and Garlic en Papillote