All posts by Linh

Easy Lemon Dill Salmon and the Truth about Fats

Dill and lemon salmon

Verdict: I love how simple, healthy and delicious this dish is. Salmon infused with lemon, complementary dill and a light crust of garlic. Can’t wait to make it again!

Quick Intro to Fats

Most fats are delicious and not all of them are bad! To begin our Beach Body Gourmet series, here’s a quick intro on the three main types of fat and a recipe that falls in the “good fat” group.

Types of Fat

(1) Saturated Fats – found in all animal foods and some vegetable oils such as coconut and palm oil.

Important note: eat less saturated fat (no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake).

Disclaimer: Saturated fat may not always be harmful.

Personally, I pick natural saturated fat over its hydrogenated version any day. For example, I’ll enjoy butter in small amounts but never margarine because it falls under the second fat category.

(2) Trans Fat aka Hydrogenated Fat – formed when vegetable oils are processed into margarine or shortening and found in high quantities in most processed foods.

Important note: eat fewer processed foods and restaurant meals.

(3) Polyunsaturated Fats aka Omega-6s and omega-3s
a) Omega-6s – found in all vegetable oils like soybean, sunflower, corn and sesame.

Important note: easy to overwhelm body with omega-6 because of the vegetable oil used in processed and fast foods.

b) Omega-3s – found in cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel and plant foods such as soybeans, flax seeds and nuts.

IMG_9480Heart healthy salmon with dill and lemon plus a surprise garlic crust.

Important note: omega-3s have been known to lower risk of heart disease but many do not eat enough.

Reference: Leslie Beck’s 10 Steps to Healthy Eating: Boost Energy, Manage Weight, Prevent Disease With the Right Foods

Here’s a recipe to help you get your omega-3s!

IMG_9471The recipe uses generous amounts of dill, garlic and lemon.

IMG_9495And creates a nutritional powerhouse meal with salmon, quinoa and salad.

Continue reading Easy Lemon Dill Salmon and the Truth about Fats

Intro to the Beach Body Gourmet

Varadero, Cuba beachMy sister and I in Varadero, Cuba

The Beach Body Gourmet was inspired by my first all-inclusive beach vacation. In May, I met up with my sister in Varadero, Cuba  and have a small confession about the pre-trip jitters. I’m embarrassed to admit this because my frame is boyish and my lifestyle is healthy; there are few reasons to fret over weight. At first, I couldn’t stop imagining the beautiful beaches but it wasn’t long before the body insecurities started kicking in and the beach body anxiety overtook the excitement of the trip.

To pull myself out of the temporary lapse in self-esteem and judgement, I started exercising more regularly, dedicating at least 3 to 4 days to exercise instead of the 1 – 2 days. I also started making lighter meals leading up to the trip. I went to Cuba with a lean body and a bit of a swagger, feeling strong and healthy.

Varadero beach hutHello from the pristine beaches of Cuba!

However, I learned that body shape has little effect on a vacation, it is the sensory memories that shape your trip – the sounds of the lapping ocean and the rustle of palm trees, the warmth of the sun on your back, the taste of minty mojitos on your lips. Outside your hotel room was sun-drenched beaches, crystal clear waters and silky sand; the day trip to Havana was vibrant and bustling; and the jeep excursion, with its off roading, snorkeling, and natural deep water cave, was an exciting day of many new experiences. I can’t wait to go back!

Driving in Havana, CubaBeep beep! Havana, Cuba cruising.

One downside of Cuba resort living was the constant buffets and lack of fresh veggies. I was booked for eight days, and by the fourth, I was already craving lighter meals and fresh salads. Upon my return to Calgary, I dove into the light recipe trove again. As a result, I created Beach Body Gourmet,  a collection of healthy and easy recipes.

Before I publish the series, I wanted to share some personal insight on the topic of healthy eating and some tips on how you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight. They won’t defend you from all bouts of body insecurity but they will help you achieve a healthier lifestyle, which in turn, will help those bouts pass quickly. These are the 5 key healthy eating principles that I live by.

5 Principles of Healthier Eating

1) My #1 tip: know your food groups and your portions.

As an average adult, you need about 6 – 8 servings of grain products a day. Did you know that ½ cup of cooked pasta, about the size of half your fist, is 1 serving of grains? The amount of pasta served at your favourite restaurant averages at about 6 servings, almost your full daily grains intake!

Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, but did you know that they play a crucial role in portion control? If you aim to have veggies take up half the plate at lunch and dinner, that means you have less room for the more decadent but unhealthy items.

Canada’s Food Guide

Canada's Food Guide table

Check out Canada Food Guide – What is a portion?

Continue reading Intro to the Beach Body Gourmet

Easy Beef Korma

Fork tender beef korma

Verdict: this is the easiest and most approachable curry recipe. The ingredients are readily available, the steps are easy to follow and the curry produces the most tender beef.

This recipe comes from friend’s mom, Mary, mother of four and exceptional cook. Since she lives in England, I’ve yet to meet her in person but over the last two years,  I’ve got gotten to know her through emails and by cooking her wonderful family recipes.

korma ingredients The humble beginnings of the rich and delicious curry.

I always assumed that korma was dull and served as a mild introduction to Indian cuisine. Whenever I went for Indian food in a large group, the unadventurous diners always chose the korma. This perspective shifted when my friend prepared her mom’s recipe: I was surprised about how much flavour and spice was packed this dish.

Classically, a korma is defined as a dish where meat or vegetables are braised with water, stock, and yoghurt or cream. The korma style is similar to all other braising techniques in that the meat is first seared using a high heat and then subjected to long, slow cooking using moist heat and a minimum of added liquid.

onion plus ginger garlic chili paste Garlic-ginger-chili fried with large chunks of onion.

If you’ve never made at curry at home before, this is the recipe for you. The end product is a creamy curry with very tender beef. The cheap cut of stewing beef is unidentifiable because it’s replaced with beef that falls apart with a fork.

To increase the healthiness of the meal, I added peas to the leftovers which were packed for lunch the next day. It was delicious but I kind of prefer the rich, thick curry with chunks of beef and a stray piece of coriander over the healthy peas.

Searing beef in korma Stewing beef browned in all the spices.

As a general rule, curries taste better the next day so you have a week’s worth of leftovers! This curry also freezes beautifully. The beef is coated in the rich yogurt and tends to resist freezer burn. I store the leftovers in glass mason jars, making sure there’s at least two fingers width of space at the top of the jar to leave room for expansion during the freezing process. Once defrosted and heated up, no one can detect that it’s been in the freezer for months.

Adding cilantro into korma Adding the coriander leaves at the very end.

I can’t imagine a better low maintenance meal. You’re only in front of the stove for 30 minutes yet create enough food to feed a hungry crowd or several frozen meals that save you from cooking on the weeknight or weekends.

You can find coriander powder in your spice aisle but try the international aisle as well; the spices come in packages ten times the size but at the same price. This is true if you shop at Superstore, where I get most of my Indian spices.

Easy Beef korma Super easy beef korma.

Continue reading Easy Beef Korma

Spicy Sausage and Leek Pasta

IMG_8493

Verdict: an incredible, low maintenance pasta sauce with vibrant tomatoes, spicy Italian sausage, infused with fennel. One of my favourite recipes of all time.

In the late 90s, the first Western dish to appear on our immigrant table was spaghetti with meat sauce, about ten years after moving to Canada. My mom was the talented cook in the family with a flair for noodle dishes. She made Vietnamese beef noodle soup with the most flavourful and fragrant broth, twenty variations of vermicelli dishes, and the most incredible and awe-inspiring wonton noodle soup. To everyone’s surprise and delight, it was my dad who introduced pasta into our household. His recipe was simple: oil, onions, garlic, ground beef and canned tomato sauce; we kids could never get enough.

IMG_8477Leeks, garlic and carrots cooked in olive oil.

Since then, I’ve learned different recipes and techniques to create a great tomato sauce. First, it was the addition of sugar to decrease the acidity of the tomatoes. Years later, I ditched the canned tomato sauce and started using whole canned tomatoes. Through the internet, I read whispers of another secret ingredient: grated carrots for Mario Batali’s classic tomato sauce. His recipe was great! The grated carrots replaced the need for sugar and yielded an interesting addition to my pasta sauce repertoire.

IMG_3209Italian sausage infused with fennel and chilies.

Around the time I discovered the Batali recipe, I came across Jaime Oliver’s Bloke Pasta,  which uses chilis and fennel seeds to spice up a lemony sausage pasta dish. I decided to combine the two recipes and haven’t looked back. For a simple, delicious, and unique pasta dish, the recipe presented here is perfection. It is the recipe I will use to introduce pasta to my future children.

IMG_3210

There are so many reasons why I keep going back to this wonderful sauce: it is so fresh, hearty and spicy, with the unique combination of tomatoes, sausage, and fennel. This sauce is great on pasta (linguine and rotini are my favourite) or try it over rice for a lighter, gluten free alternative, perfect for summertime dinners.

IMG_8491

 

Continue reading Spicy Sausage and Leek Pasta

How to Cut Leeks

IMG_9961

Leeks, which are part of the same family as onions and garlic, have a mild onion like taste with a subtle sweetness. The edible portions of the leek are the white base and the light green parts, with the dark green parts of the leaves are more suitable for flavouring broths. Since leeks tend to be more expensive than onions, I save them for two special recipes: sausage leek pasta and miso-bacon-potato-leek soup.

The first time I cooked leeks, I had no idea how to prepare them.  I’ve written out the instructions to save you time. Enjoy!

1. To begin, peel off 1 – 2 of the outer leaves, like you would a green onion. Then, chop off the green leaves.

2. Keeping the top root intact, cut the white part of the leek in half lengthwise and half again, dividing it into 4 sections.
How to cut leeks - section into fours

3. Submerge the leeks in a bowl of cold water and shake them around to get rid of any dirt. Wash and dry.

4. Slice the leek in half lengthwise and into two pieces.
How to cut leeks - cut into two pieces

5. Lay onto cutting board and start chopping towards the root.
How to cut leeks - start chopping

Leeks are a great replacement for onions when you want less bite and a more mild and slightly sweet onion flavour. Try them in your salads, soups or favourite pasta recipe.