Catelli Gluten-Free Pasta Contest!

Catelli Gluten Free Macaroni

I recently had the pleasure of attending the launch of Catelli’s new gluten-free macaroni at George Brown College. Hosted by the very charming Chef John Higgins, the school’s esteemed director, judge on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada and former chef for the Queen Mother – the event was a friendly gathering of food bloggers in one of the George Brown test kitchens. Setup like a Tepenyaki table (only with some seriously heavy duty appliances and much more space in which to manoever), the chef and his staff worked their magic in a beautiful kitchen surrounded on three sides by bar height counters topped with lovely place settings, and of course delicious gluten-free tastings.

While most higher quality gluten-free pastas can generally fool most people (the first time my dad had brown rice pasta, his skepticism quickly turned into delightful surprise!), it does take close monitoring and some specific steps. If overcooked, even just for a couple minutes, or not rinsed, it can easily turn into a mushy and starchy mess.

Now I’ve put Catelli to the test before (yes, it was a “test,” and not a mistake because I started watching TV and forgot it was on the stove…). I left the pasta in a pot of hot water significantly longer than it should have been. To my surprise, this stuff held up really, really well. It was still very palatable, and still held good structure without sticking together and surprisingly, did not require a cold water bath. Catelli is the only pasta that I have tried thus far that has been able to withstand this torture test!

The pasta likely gets this unique quality from its blend of four grains – white rice, brown rice, corn and quinoa. Produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility, Catelli’s pasta line (including spaghetti, penne, and my favourite, fusilli) has earned the Canadian Celiac Association’s Gluten-Free Certification – so we can all enjoy without worry!

While I was at George Brown, Chef Higgins shared some great pasta cooking tips which I’ll be sharing in tomorrow’s post. I love the tips on finishing your pasta in sauce, and when you should and should NOT put oil in your water (check back for more!)

To celebrate the launch of this product, I’m also happy to announce that I’m hosting a contest for a 1 Year Supply of Catelli Gluten-Free Macaroni! That’s 60 boxes with an approximate retail value of $170! The contest closes at 11:50pm EST, Friday June 27, 2014 and is open to Canadian residents (except for residents of Quebec) who have reached the age of majority.

You can submit three (3) entries for your chance to WIN! You must use the Rafflecopter form below to register your entries!

1) Post a comment on this blog by clicking here.

2) Like my facebook page

3) Tweet “@victorayeh Enter for a chance to WIN 1-year supply of #CatelliGlutenFree pasta!”

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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5 Ways to Send a Message to the Dairy Industry: A response to brutal animal abuse at a Dairyland Farm

If you’ve been following the news, you may have heard of a recent video released by non-profit group, Mercy for Animals Canada which shows eight employees brutally and viciously beating cows with rakes, chains, canes and booted feet. It is a very hard video to watch, but one that must absolutely be seen.

The immediate corporate response and ensuing consumer backlash has been somewhat disappointing. A CTV interview of farm owner, Jeff Kooyman, in my personal opinion, was insincere to say the least. I’m no psychologist or facial expression expert, but to me he appeared non-chalante and unsympathetic – his demeanor was not consistent with his very quotable words.

Consumers have responded by wanting to ban all Dairyland and Saputo products, which if actually carried through, would indeed send a clear message to the Chilliwack farm – but unfortunately has the side effect of creaming the entire industry along with innocent farmers. That’s because most large scale dairy processors buy milk that is essentially a giant amalgamation of milk from various farms that has been inspected and pooled together. Thus, punishing the Dairyland brand also punishes other farmers who are selling into this same pool.

Unfortunately, the only way we as consumers can truly be heard and drive action will by default hurt other farms undeservedly, but hopefully temporarily. This doesn’t change the fact that something must be done to demand greater accountability and transparency of the dairy industry.

According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, “Canada has no regulations stipulating how animals should be treated on farms other than federal and provincial animal cruelty laws, and these are only used to prosecute livestock producers in cases of rare and egregious abuse, such as when animals are neglected to the point of starvation.”

The federal government is currently funding the development of a new Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals. The problem is that the only way such standards can actually make any meaningful difference would be for them to be passed into law and incorporated into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. We have a long ways to go to improving the lives of the animals that sustain us –and time is only passing us by.

Not every farmer abuses their animals, but until the industry embraces greater transparency and accountability, it is up to you and I to act. How can you help? Take some time TODAY to take action. You don’t have to do everything I’ve listed below, but if everyone does SOMETHING, we can together champion this much needed change.

1.       The only voice louder than regulation and even moral obligation – is the voice of your wallet.

Dairyland is owned and operated by Saputo which is one of the largest global producers of dairy products (perhaps contributing to the fact that this abuse was happening unnoticed and unreported). Their brands are listed below, and available in this handy printable wallet reference card.

2.       Ask your grocer to demand for change too.

Retailers can exert enormous pressure on their vendors, and vendors take these concerns very seriously. Remember how quickly the industry responded to consumers’ alarm at BPA in plastic drinking bottles? Before this concern became mainstream, I had to order stainless steel bottles from Vancouver. Now, safe alternatives are everywhere. Let’s get retailers on our side to demand for accountability and transparent reporting from dairy processors and producers.

3.       Exercise your democratic rights.

I’ve sat in a few community and legislative meetings, and whenever it’s stated that “the public” supports or opposes an action, politicians will inevitably reference how many constituents contacted them to express their opinion either way. These numbers are always startlingly low – often with only a handful of letters or contacts being referenced. In the bureaucracy that is our government, politicians, ministry offices and boards respond to direct inquiries, but may not (or may not choose to) be aware of issues that are not brought to their immediate attention. Write or call your provincial MLA or MP. Ask them what they are doing to respond to this incident and what they are doing to prevent it from happening again.

4.       Support your local small farmers. They’re worth it.

The farming industry has transformed drastically, with fewer small farms able (or willing) to stay in business, and more and more concentrated farm animal operations taking over the race to rock bottom prices. Yes, we all love cheap milk and cheese – but cheap always costs someone. In this case cheap comes at the price of animal welfare.

Small farmers who are transparent with their customers, who take pride in their operations and who practice ethical farming deserve your support. Personally, I buy game meat from John and Judy at Second Wind Elk who have a stall at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Farmer’s Market. Farmer’s markets are everywhere – find one near you and get to know who is raising the animals you are choosing to eat.

5.       Embrace milk alternatives.

There are a few simple facts that simply can’t be ignored when it comes to Canada’s virtually insatiable thirst for dairy. Milk is designed to feed and nourish a baby through infancy. Humans are the only species on this planet that continue to drink milk into adulthood, and are the only species to drink the milk of another animal. And to further illustrate our distorted perceptions of milk – most people would react in disgust if asked to drink a healthy woman’s breast milk yet have no qualms about downing a tall glass of cow milk from an animal that spends its days in a dark and dank barn hooked up to machinery that can cause mastitis.

In recent years, a number of milk alternatives have entered the mass market. While each product has its own pros and cons, variety and a general approach of consuming less can only help. Some alternatives include soy milk, nut milks (almond, hemp, cashew etc), rice milk, and of course, our beautifully clean Canadian fresh water. Worried about calcium? Remember – we have all evolved to thrive in adulthood without milk. Some healthy sources of calcium include dark leafy greens such as seaweed (with a 100g serving providing 17% DV), collards, (21% DV), kale (21% DV) and broccoli (12% DV).

Conclusion

The best disinfectant is sunshine, and that holds ever so true with morality. Let’s shine brightly on this industry and transform it into one that is governed by humanity and morality.

 

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Recipe Thursday: Flaky Gluten-Free Apple Pie

gluten-free apple pie

In celebration of May Celiac Awareness Month, I was invited today on Rogers daytime Toronto to share my latest receipe – a deliciously juicy and flaky gluten-free apple pie! I have experimented for years with pie crusts, and after finding and modifying a recipe from a 1960’s Good Housekeeping cookbook, I finally struck gold!

The key to this flaky crust is in the first step, which is whipping butter with boiling water (yes – hot, boiling water). Unlike most wheat crusts which require a cold handling process throughout, this recipe calls for you to emulsify the butter with hot water, which essentially makes it into the consistency of thick whipped cream. Since oil and water do not actually mix, this process whips air into the butter, which is the secret behind making a tender and flaky crust.

The pie I made in the picture above has a lattice crust, but I actually found that it is much juicier and tastier when made as a solid, un-punctured top (and bonus, it’s a heck of a lot easier to make too). This is also a great recipe to make if you need to use up over ripe pears and apples. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Crust:

3/4 cups butter, slightly softened and cut into small cubes (you can leave it out at room temperature for 3-4 hours)
1/4 cut boiling water
1-1/2 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cups tapioca starch
1 tsp sea salt

Filling:

4 – 5 apples
2 pears (the more ripe, the better)
2 tbsp water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut or date sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp lemon zest (optional)

You will also need a 9″ greased pie plate and 2 long segments of wax paper (slightly over twice the diametre of your pie plate)

Instructions:

1. In a large mixing boil, combine butter and boiling water. Whip with an electric hand blender, gradually increasing speed as the two begin to combine. (Warning: this can be very messy. Softer butter will splash less, but wear an apron). Continue until butter takes on the consistency of thick whipped cream and hold peaks.

2. Sift in brown rice flour, tapioca starch and sea salt.

3. Use a spatula in a quick and round motion, scraping the edges of the bowl to fold ingredients together. Be patient – the ingredients should come together and form a slightly moist dough that can hold together but is not overly sticky.

Avoid squashing the ingredients – preserving the air you whipped into the butter will make the crust more tender and flaky. Humidity and temperature can affect the consistency of your dough – if it appears too dry, add 1 tsp of water at a time. If too wet, add 1 tsp of brown rice flour at a time until desired consistency is achieved.

4. With lightly floured hands, gather dough into two equal balls. Place one ball onto the far side of wax paper, flatten slightly to 1″ thickness, taking care to mend feathering edges. Fold the wax paper in half to sandwich dough. Repeat with second dough ball and refrigerate. You may also want to refrigerate your rolling pin. (Cooler dough is less sticky and easier to handle.)

5. While dough is cooling, peel, core and dice apples and pears. Fruit should be cut into relatively similar chunks, 1/2″ to 1″ as desired.

6. Toss fruit with remaining ingredients. Preheat oven to 425F.

7. Remove dough ball from fridge and gently roll out, rotating frequently to achieve a round shape. Continue until dough is large enough to cover your pie plate. Gently peel off top layer of wax paper, flip, and repeat with second side of wax paper to release. Lift dough with wax paper and quickly (and carefully) flip onto pie plate. Gently ease dough into edges of pie plate, trim excess edges and patch any holes.

8. Pour apple mixture into crust. Roll out second ball of dough, repeating step 7 above. Turn over top of apples and pinch edges together with bottom crust. (Do not puncture the top crust).

9. Bake in oven at 425F for 40 to 50 minutes until crust begins to brown. Allow pie to rest 10-20 minutes. Cut, serve and enjoy!

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