Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Paleo Diet: “More what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules”

Was Capt. Barbossa on the Paleo Diet?

Was Capt. Barbossa on the Paleo Diet?

This week I’m deviating from my gluten free theme and focusing on the Paleo Diet.

I work for one of the largest Canadian news organizations, and last week I penned a health article on the controversy surrounding the diet.

I really didn’t know much about it. While I had come across many a Paleo recipe in my never-ending online hunt for meal ideas, I didn’t really know what it was. I just knew that when I found a Paleo recipe, it was gluten free, too.

In my research, I stumbled upon numerous articles that either supported or criticized the lifestyle. After many hours of reading (it was hard to pull myself away from the debate, actually), all I had in my mind was a scene from the first Pirates of the Caribbean, where Captain Barbossa is giving Elizabeth Swann a good verbal smack-down of what the Pirate’s Code is all about.

“The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules,” he spits out with a smirk.

It’s a classic scene, and I tried oh-so hard to find a way to incorporate it into my article. I didn’t actually do it. Alas, there was no smooth way to pull it off. But I did allude to it. For those who read the article below, you’ll see how I wove it in.

Anyway, this scene was ringing in my mind when reading about the Paleo Diet because when it comes down to it, to eat like a caveman does not mean to eat exactly what he ate. Those who embody the lifestyle model their nutrition plan on our ancestors using the food available to them now.

There’s more I could say about the Paleo Diet, but why not let the article do the talking from here?

And for those who are now compelled to catch that Pirates of the Caribbean scene, here it is, in all its (blurry) glory.

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Making Macarons, part two: The ‘hey-I-think-I’ve-got-the-hand-of-this’ edition

The perfect French macaron, made by yours truly.

The perfect French macaron, made by yours truly.

See that macaron pictured in the photo right above this line? I did that.

Well, to be perfectly honest, my mom and I did that.

The second time I made macaron shells proved far more successful than the first, and I’m chalking this up to two reasons:

  • I made them with someone who made them before. Granted, my mom had only made them once, but once just so happened to be enough.
  • We had all the right tools. A food processor, a fine-holed strainer – you name it, it was there. And it made all the difference.

We followed this Martha Stewart recipe and combined it with tips my mom had transcribed from a ‘how-to’ baking session on the French treat. While both my mom and I embarked on this challenge together, there were many a few times when I took a step back and just watched. This isn’t a cake or batch of cookies. I consider macarons ‘advanced baking,’ and as such, sometimes the best way to learn is by shadowing someone who knows what they are doing.

Must-have tips when making macarons

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Making Macarons, part one: The ‘these-would-get-me-slapped-by-any-self-respecting-Parisian’ edition

French macarons, attempt #1

French macarons, attempt #1

Ok. Remember when I said I vowed I would one day become a French Macaron Connoisseur? In November I took some birthday money and bought myself this book. Upon flipping through ‘Les Petits Macarons’ in the store, I knew this purchase would be one of the better ‘fun’ buys I’ve made in a while. It seemed there were endless fillings, both of the sweet and savory variety, just waiting to be sandwiched between those delicate, colourful, little shells.

One chilly day leading up to Christmas, my cousin came over to help me make macarons for the first time. These were to be my contribution to a family Christmas get-together.  We’re Italian, so I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing macarons on the dessert table. Cannoli and biscotti would be plentiful, but a French sweet? Unlikely. My platter will impress all, I thought, confidently.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t exactly plan well. And there’s no excuses, really. I had the book at my fingertips for at least a week leading up to the big baking day. But like a four-year-old with a picture book, I was too busy marveling at the photos. I was immediately caught off guard. I had four methods to choose from for the shells alone. Would I make them French-style? Swiss? Italian? All these looked pretty advanced to me. Something akin to sweet relief is what I felt when I saw my fourth option, the ‘easiest French macaron method.’ Done.

When my cousin and I got to work, I realized I didn’t have a couple must-have kitchen items. I was missing a food processor and a fine-holed strainer. All I had was a pasta strainer, and this wouldn’t work well when sifting the almond flour and icing sugar. We whisked these ingredients together along with cocoa (because we were making chocolate shells), until they looked well-mixed. And they did, but it wasn’t a fine mixture like it was supposed to be. We continued on preparing this so-called ‘easiest’ shell concoction for far longer than I’m sure it was supposed to take. But hey, we had questions.

Did we already add the sugar? No.

Confectioners sugar. Is that the coarse kind? No.

Why don’t they just say icing sugar? I’m still wondering, actually.

What on earth is a ‘soft peak’? Nota bene: When egg whites are beaten till peaks form.

We finally finished the shells and popped them in the oven. What came in the middle was next. In the spirit of Christmas, I had selected a candy cane filling. It was basically a vanilla filling featured in my book, only I had replaced the vanilla extract with peppermint and added crushed candy canes. Sounds good, right? Wrong.

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Chunky black bean soup: How I broke in my brand new Christmas gift

Chunky black bean soup by LSCicchirillo

This Christmas I got a bit of a laugh when I opened a gift given to me by my husband.

‘You broke a cardinal rule,’ I teased as I held my brand new, just-unwrapped, still-in-the-box KitchenAid food processor.

‘What?’ Jon answered, truly confused.

You see, I had pretty much grown up knowing in my soul it wasn’t right for a husband to give a wife a kitchen appliance (or anything, really, that was solely practical) for her *insert birthday, anniversary, holiday present, etc. My dad had once given my mom a pancake griddle for Christmas, and it didn’t become a funny story till a few years later. In the 1991 version of ‘Father of the Bride,’ the young couple almost doesn’t make it to the altar when the bride-to-be is given a blender by her fiancé. Just recently, one of my friends was livid after receiving a GPS system from her fiancé for Christmas.

And now it was my turn.

Only I wasn’t upset. I felt I was supposed to feel irked over this broken Golden Rule of Marriage, but I only laughed.

For our honeymoon, we went to Paris and Rome. In Paris I fell in love with macarons so much that I had vowed I would one day become a French Macaron Connoisseur. I had recently bought a book on how to make the delicate, little treat, and my first attempt was a hilarious failure (more to come on that in an upcoming post!). I had blamed my failed attempt on not having a food processor (not me, of course!), which the recipe had called for, and this is what Jon had remembered.

And, I suppose I should mention to his credit, my main Christmas present were two tickets to the pre-Broadway show of ‘Aladdin,’ which was scheduled a few weeks prior to Dec. 25! It was a fantastic surprise.

But back to the food processor. And my chunky black bean soup. I must admit, the soup looks like a bowl of mud. But oh wow does it taste delicious! And we Canadians have been getting a wicked walloping from winter this season, so muddy appearance aside, I have been looking forward to my hot, comforting bowl of chunky black bean soup.

What you need

  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ large red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp. minced garlic
  • Five 15-ounce cans of black beans
  • 1 ½ cups of chicken broth (or more if you want to thin out your soup)
  • 3 – 4 tbsp chili pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Dash of red pepper flakes

What you have to do

  • Begin cooking the onion and garlic in the olive oil in your slow cooker (you can also pre-cook it on your stove-top if you don’t mind the extra pan)
  • Wash and drain the black beans, and run about ¾ of them in your (fancy! new!) food processor
  • Add the black beans, chicken broth, and everything else to your slow cooker and leave for about 3 – 4 hours on low.
It may not look like much, it is one of the better tasting soups I've had all season.

It may not look like much, but it is one of the better tasting soups I’ve had all season.

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