Swipe left

In essence, smart tech enables us to swipe left on life.

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to Toronto with a close friend and fellow blogger, Helena (who happens to be coming over for dinner tonight to save me from drowning in the beautiful abundance from Henceforth Farm). And as the stifling Torontonian traffic on the  401 ground the wheels of Eggplant (this is the name of my car) to a halt, our conversation picked up – as if to compensate for the loss of stimulus on the road.

I forget who asked the question, as apart from our taste in books, our minds seem to be the other’s mirror image. But the question I do remember.

We tugged at the issue from different angles and distracted ourselves from the drag of traffic with sufficient success. Yet even as I eventually pulled away from the congested stretch behind me at 160 km/h, I couldn’t shake the topic from my head.

When you become a parent, at what age will you give your child a smartphone?

This is more than the (perhaps simpler) question of “Is Technology Good or Bad”, so we’ll start there. As long as you’re not some hypocritical hipster, or paranoid conspiracy theorist, I think we can agree that in general, the gains from technology far outweigh the faults. Or if you’re more moderate, at least you might agree that living sans tech would make one’s life unnecessarily tedious. (Try to plan high school reunion without a phone or computer.)

So technology has been good, in general, to humans. But how does it effect children specifically? Adam Alter‘s Irresistible was rather helpful.

To set the tone, might I cite Steve, as in the Steve Jobs who masterminded the i-suite.

They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” He was referring to the iPad. And at the time of the interview, neither did is children use the iPhone.

This is more significant than the opinion of one person, albeit a very brilliant one. The i-suite did not happen by coincidence – they were designed, re-designed, engineered, re-engineered, tested, and re-tested until they found the best design in terms of user experience (whoa, buzzword!). All of this was hinged on Jobs’ exuberant obsession with detail and perfection. Jobs knew his products better than anyone – they were his brainchildren, so much so that his resignation on August 24, 2011 then death on October 5, 2011 both resulted in a significant drop in Apple’s share price. (I’m sure Steve was rolling in his grave when Apple launched those wireless buds.)

So what does that mean? It means Jobs knew exactly how an iPad or an iPhone effects the brain, because he was the architect behind every detail of the product – the fit of every curve, the placement of every icon, the smoothness of each swipe of the screen, which ultimately defines effects it has on the user.

And if he’s not giving it to his kid, something’s up.

But then you might say that since technology is so integrated into the daily functions of today’s society, by withholding smartphones from kids, you’re setting them up for isolation, irrelevance, and ultimately failure.

This is a valid concern, and it was certainly the hardest to wrap my mind around. I don’t want to raise a sociopath. I want my kids to be connected to others, to have meaningful relationships. I want them to know what’s happening in the world, to be aware of the times. I want them to have the relevant skills, so that they can be a contributing member of society.

But what do those things really mean? To me, being connected means cultivating meaningful relationships. Knowing what’s happening in the world means having a good set of values and thus being able to formulate a sensible opinion on what they read about. And having the relevant skills means giving them a resilient and curious mind so that they will be never stop learning.

No, a smartphone does not do that for a child.

A smartphone is a super computer that fits in the palm your hand, which makes it a super calculator on three shots of espresso, a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and God knows how many doses of steroids. And as  any math teacher knows, a student should not use a calculator until they know how to do the arithmetic by hand. And financial math textbooks will teach (with proofs!) you the formulas before showing you the instructions for using the presets into your financial calculator.

Similarly, smart technology is designed to make your life easy, to satisfy your wants in as little time as possible, and to reduce the frustration in your life. Google calendar remembers all your appointments for you, sometimes automatically. Wondering where to go for brunch? The most-reviewed restaurant will pop up at the top of your Yelp search. If you want to break up with your boyfriend, you don’t even need to set a time to meet up, just tag him in a meme.

In essence, smart tech enables us to swipe left on life, on the gritty and sticky bits.

It might be hella useful if you already know how to do life and be a functional, likable person. But it’s destructive for kids who have yet to acquire those critical life habits and skills, (which are naturally extremely difficult to learn given life’s unpredictability and our emotional weakness) because it provides a pseudo way out.

I don’t know about the 10% of parents who think it’s a good idea to give their kids smartphones before the age of 5, but I intend to raise a human being who will look me in the eye when I speak with them, who will know the peace of watching a late summer sunset, and will be compassionate enough to cry when a friend cries and laugh when a friend laughs, instead of responding with a pathetic “lol”.

Count it all joy, my brothers,

when you meet trials

of various kinds, for you know

that the testing of your faith produces

steadfastness.

And let steadfastness have its full effect,

that you may be

perfect and complete,

lacking in nothing.

James 1: 3-4

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
Radish and Butter Toasts with Caviar

With only 5 ingredients, there’s really nowhere to hide. Use a good bread  – if you’re in the GTA, Blackbird Baking Co. is a no-brainer, otherwise look for a well-hydrated, naturally leavened sourdough. Use good radishes – seek them out at your local farmer’s market. Use good butter – unsalted, preferably grass-fed. Use good salt – I used black salt, because with the pink of the radishes it just looks that much better. Use good extra virgin – go for something creamy and sweet like Colavita, I wouldn’t do a spicy one, just because the radishes have some kick already. And caviar, which is optional, but really rounds out the toast. I used truffled kelp caviar, which is completely vegan and actually tastes really good.

Radish an Butter Toasts with Caviar

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 tbsp softened butter
  • finely ground black salt
  • 2-3 radishes (french breakfast, cherry bomb, small turnips also work)
  • 1 tsp caviar
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Butter your toasts right to the edge. Sprinkle lightly but evenly with salt.
  2. Slice the radishes thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Arrange the slices onto the buttered toasts.
  3. Dot the caviar randomly in small clusters on top of the radishes.
  4. Finish with olive oil.
  5. Serve immediately.

That’s raddish

In light of some confusion over my previous post, which began with a fictional short story based on the ongoing childhood of yours truly, I’d just like to make one comment: I am not thirty-two years old. Actually, I have over a decade more to go before I become that.

So, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s spring into today’s topic.

As some of you may be aware of, I am currently working at Sun Life Financial – a numeric wonderland where, besides numbers, three things are particularly bountiful:

  1. Actuaries
  2. Treats

and

3. Acronyms

An overwhelming majority of which contain any number of three letters: C, S, and A.

Naturally when I mentioned to my colleagues that I own a CSA share, they were all ears – albeit for the wrong reasons. Why? Because the CSA I was talking about had nothing to do with FSA’s and CPA’s, nor does the word ‘share’ bear any connection to Warren Buffet nor to Apple.

No, a CSA is none of the  above. It is Community Supported Agriculture. And within my young and tender portfolio of investments, certainly one that sits closest near the upper-right corner of my happiness curves. It has given me a higher level of satisfaction even before I received a first dividend than what my mutual fund has given me as it sits and grows at cactus pace somewhere in a digital vault I can’t physically touch.

But really, what is a CSA and WIIFY (what’s in it for you)?

If you’re a green advocate, you’re probably thinking along the lines of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and supporting sustainable micro-farming. If you’re a radical economist, you’re jumping straight into the well-being of the local economy and the vital role of home-grown businesses. You’re right.

But if you’re here, I suspect you’re probably more concerned about the pleasure of taste above all else, so here goes – a list of 9 reasons why I think CSAs are the way to go if you’re a foodist – not foodie, a term I rather loathe, because it emphasizes the carnal love and gluttonous pleasure that food excites, but not the VANS BEECH (values, artistry, nutrition, science, beauty, ethics, economics, culture, and history) behind every ingredient, every finished plate.

So here, a list (because I know you love lists) of why you should commit yourself to a carefully chosen CSA, curated from a foodist’s POV:

  1. The food is produced by someone whose set of values around food aligns with yours. This is first for a reason, and you will see it recur many times in the list because your values determine your methods. So think of what motivates the board of a corporate farm – profit, efficiency, shareholders, control, quantity. Then consider what motivates an organic micro-farmer – passion, sustainability, the team and family, learning, and quality. How do these factors impact the food you put on your table?
  2. The food is produced by hand and treated with artistryLet me just emphasize, everything is definitely not art. Art is not created on a whim, without thought, and without skill. Art is the finished work of one who has experimented with and employed all of the mediums and tools available at his hands to arrive at a product to which he is proud to attach his own name, and of which the perceived value varies from beholder to beholder.
  3. The food contains a higher density of nutritionFreshness, harvest time, transportation, selection, and cultivation methods all influence the nutrient content of produce, and the age old saying “what you reap is what you sow” stands because vitamins and minerals literally cannot be born out of thin air. More importantly, nutrition = flavour. If you don’t believe me, take two apples – one peeled, one unpeeled. The peeled apple will taste like pure sugar, while the whole apple will taste…like an apple. This is because the nutrients in an apple are concentrated in the layer in and just beneath the skin (the same is true of pears, stone fruits, and root most vegetables).
  4. The science stacks up. But also to experiment and explore new ingredients and methods of cooking!
  5. The produce drips of breathtaking beauty. From bluestone to freckled eggs, ombré peony pink radishes, delicately feathered tarragon, and jade-veined kale. To convince you, I’ll be posting photos of each week’s bounty.
  6. The crops and animals are produced ethicallyThey have to be – how else will are they supposed to open members to their farm where everything’s in plain sight?
  7. The economics on a household scale and community level both add up. Inflation is real, and in case you haven’t noticed, food is one area that brings up the average (most governments shoot for a steady 2% per annum). Buying a CSA share is equivalent to hedging against an inevitable price increase, and trust me, you’ll get more than you pay for even without inflation. You also help the farmer get a strong start to their season by pre-paying as most of their expenses are front-loaded.
  8. The culture and integrity of authentic food is preserved. When you commit to a CSA share, you become part of the community and its culture lives in you, which means that it will continue to exist – just like how a language ‘lives’ as long as there exists a person who can speak it.
  9.  Its history is clean. Ever heard of an organic micro-farm issuing a recall? Didn’t think so.

Now I bet you’re dying to get yourself a slice of this CSA pie, too bad you missed the subscription date because the season’s already started, but do some research for the 2017 season by comparing:

  • farming methodology
  • share prices
  • share sizes
  • crop lists, and
  • proximity

of several farms near you, and choose the one that speaks to you most!

IMG_6976 edit
Spring Radishes with Potted Miso Honey Butter and Bonito

I know that was a lot to chew on, so here’s a super simple five-ingredient recipe for you to balance things out. The radishes were from the first week of my CSA subscription. While supermarket radishes are watery with a hint of piquancy at best, these little bombs pack a solid kick of heat. The sweetness of the honey, coolness of the butter, and umami of the texturized miso are a perfect foil. Plus, it only takes 5 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep.

Spring Radishes with Potted Miso Honey Butter and Bonito – serves 2

  • 3 tbsp good quality butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp red miso
  • 1 tsp honey
  • bonito flakes, to garnish (optional)
  • 1 bunch small organic radishes, greens trimmed (keep them for the next recipe!) and washed
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the nutter, miso, and honey until lump-free. Spoon the mixture into a small shallow ramekin.
  2. Microwave until the mixture has melted, about 15 seconds.
  3. Chill until set and sprinkle with bonito.
  4. Serve with radishes.
IMG_6979 edit
Miso Broth with Lovage, Tofu, and Radish Greens

Turns out carrot…er radish tops aren’t just for pesto. Tear a handful into boiling miso broth with some lovage leaves and you’ve got silky drapes of vibrant greenery floating through the rising clouds of miso and mingling with the playfully bobbing blocks of tofu. If you’ve got the water boiling, this also takes 5 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep. Farm-fresh dinner in a total of under 10 minutes? How convenient.

Miso Broth with Lovage, Tofu, and Radish Greens – serves 2

  • 3 c water
  • 1/4 c red miso paste
  • 160 g medium or firm tofu (not silken, because you want the texture and nuttiness of the tofu to hold up against the fragrant greens), cubed
  • 1 stem lovage, leaves picked and stem thinly sliced into rings
  • radish greens, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  1. In a small pot, bring the water to a rolling boil and whisk in the miso until dissolved.
  2. Add the tofu and bring it back up to the boil.
  3. Toss in the lovage and radish greens, remove from the heat and stir until deep green.
  4. Ladle into two bowls and serve immediately!

Let me know in the comments below: What are your favourite ways to use radishes from root to leaf?

A Bit of Spring Cleaning

Get ready! Because you’re about to be hit by a blizzard , no it’s not winter anymore, I mean, explosion of recipes, all of which are vegan, super vibrant, fresh, and absolutely delicious! For those of you who are staying in touch via instagram (it’s on the right-hand-side, just click and follow to stay up-to-plate with everything I’m whipping up), you’ve probably been wondering why I haven’t put up the recipes to those pictures and I apologize!! Sorry, I truly am because sometimes I click on something that looks totally yum hoping to find its recipe but then it just turns out to be foodporn, and that makes me really disappointed.

I get that. So here’s a treat: a collage of recipes to kickstart spring!

Here I wanted to feature some of those under-acknowledged ingredients such as beet greens, parsley stems, green peas, and grainy mustard. Beet greens and parsley stems tend to just get trimmed off and thrown into the garbage which I find to be such a waste. Beet greens are actually loaded with all the great nutrients its roots has, but with more fibre and less sugar while parsley stems have even more flavour than the leaves, not to mention the nice texture it gives to the green falafel mash (recipe below!). Green peas and grainy mustard, on the other hand are like ugly christmas sweaters – you have them lying around not because they’re a kitchen staple, but because there was this one day when some magazine or trend convinced you to buy a bag/jar of the stuff (like how your friends convinced you of the sweater at Value Village). Then ever since that day it’s just been a shameful lump stuck in your pantry or fridge door.

It’s okay, it’s all good, literally. And I encourage you to really take this as a new starting point, see what poor miserable thing is your fridge or pantry that you’ve been wanting to get rid of, and cook dat thang!

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled,

and those who humble themselves

will be exalted.

Luke 14:11

Collage

Rice with Beet Greens (Top Left):

1 tbsp avocado oil

1 medium brown onion, finely diced

1 bunch beet greens, stem portion diced, leaf portion shredded

2 cups cold, cooked red and brown basmati or jasmine rice

sea salt

white pepper

pinch of cinnamon

To make the rice with beet greens, heat the oil on medium in a skillet or wok. Add the onions and let it sweat until translucent and fragrant. Turn up the heat to high and add the chopped beet greens, continue stirring until tender, then add the rice and season well to taste. Stir until the liquid is fully absorbed and mixture is heated through.

Serve immediately, with an earthy wild mushroom or nutty pureed squash soup.

 

Garlic Coconut Butter Grilled Naan

with Green Falafel Mash, Parsley Mango Slaw, and Sriracha Aioli (Top Right):

for the garlic coconut butter grilled naan:

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp coconut oil

4 pieces whole wheat naan bread

To make the coconut butter, put combine garlic and coconut oil in a small bowl and microwave for 30-45 seconds until fragrant. Brush the mixture onto one side of the naan and put that side down on a hot grill pan (it’s still pretty cold where I am, but if it’s summer wherever you are and you have the luxury of using a grill, by all means fire it up!). Lift up a corner to see if it’s nicely charred, once it is, brush the oil on the upper side and flip it over to get it grill-marked.

for the green falafel mash:

2 cups flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (throw the stems in there!)

1 can (540 ml) chickpeas, drained

1 generous tbsp madras curry powder

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt, to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a coarse puree forms. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with some more EVOO and set aside.

for the parsley mango slaw:

1 large mango, ripe but firm, thinly sliced

1 cup finely shredded flat leaf parsley

Stir together the mango and parsley in a bowl and set aside.

for the sriracha aioli:

2 heaping tbsp good quality mayonnaise, feel free to use your favourite vegan mayo or cashew cream!

1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce (don’t tone it down, go beyond if it’s your thing!)

1 tbsp lime juice

In a small bowl stir together the mayo, sriracha, and lime juice, adding a bit more sriracha or lime juice to get a nice drizzling consistency. To assemble, spread the falafel mash onto the grilled naan, top with the mango slaw, and drizzle with the sriracha aioli.

Serve immediately with a minty cooler : blend together frozen yellow watermelon cubes + fresh mint + lime + coconut water!

 

Roasted Aloo Gobi (Bottom Right):

1 head cauliflower separated into bite-sized florets

1 large baking potato, diced into 1-inch pieces, boiled for 12 minutes

8 cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 cup shelled green peas, frozen is fine

3 tbsp madras curry powder

2 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp melted coconut oil

sea salt, to taste

2 tbsp honey or agave

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine all ingredients besides the honey and place into two large baking trays. Bake for 1 hr, stirring every 10~15 minutes. Drizzle with honey and bake for another 10~15 minutes until vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve with coconut steamed basmati rice or garlic coconut butter grilled naan (above).

 

Lemon Butter Bean Tartines  with Spring Sugar Peas, Butter Lettuce, and Radishes (Bottom Left):

for the Lemon Butter Beans:

1 can (540 ml) white or butter beans, rinsed and drained

1 heaping tbsp grainy mustard

zest and juice of 1 small lemon

2 tsp honey or agave

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth, you might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Set aside.

for the tartine assemby:

few slices toasted baguette or spelt or dark rye bread, really anything goes

1 head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves washed and patted dry

1 cup shelled sweet peas, frozen ones are fine, just let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4~5 radishes, thinly sliced

Spread a bit of the bean puree onto the toasted bread, then put the lettuce on (that way the lettuce will actually stay on the tartine). Fill the lettuce with more of the puree and garnish with the peas, scallions, and radish rounds.

Serve  with a strawberry almond milkshake: blend together frozen strawberries + almond milk + agave + vanilla extract

Happy spring cleaning your body, mind, and pantry!

 

Petits Pois

Petits pois, petits pois,

que vous êtes ronds!

que  vous êtes verts!

Deux pour toi – le reste pour moi,

mais tout mon monde

j’te le donne ma chère.

Thanks for your love, mum and dad!

IMG_8248

Ingredients for the soba with avocado pesto:

8 oz. buckwheat soba noodles

1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, torn

1 ripe avocado, chopped

1 garlic clove

1/2 lemon, zest and juice

1 tsp agave nectar

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

pinch of sea salt

140 g frozen green peas, thawed, or fresh if available

4 red radishes, very thinly sliced

In a pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Salt the water generously, then add the buckwheat noodles to cook, for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse throughly under ice-cold water.

Meanwhile, put the parsley, avocado, garlic, lemon, and agave in a food processor and pulse to form a rough paste – you may need to scrape the sides of the bowl from time to time. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil, until it reaches the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Season modestly with salt.

In a large bowl, toss together the cold buckwheat noodles with the pesto, so the noodles are evenly coated, adding a little bit of water to thin down the sauce, if need be.

Garnish with the peas and radish slices.

Serve it cold, as an ode to the lovely spring weather,

Enjoy!