Cooks Corner: Oh Can-nabis!

The Canadian cannabis hype surrounding legalization is upon us. The Cannabis Act goes into effect today, October 17, 2018. What this means for Canadians of legal age (18 or 19 or older, depending on province or territory), is that should you choose to buy, possess, grow, or use cannabis, you can now do so legally within the boundaries of the law. Cannabis products, such as food and drinks, can be made at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products. Question is, what is this ever-growing fascination with cannabis? I believe this question is subject for a healthy debate. Cannabis is a matter of mature, responsible use.

Cannabis Use

Despite the stigma, modern cultures continue to cultivate and consume the cannabis plant for medicinal, ceremonial, and nutritional purposes, and as a mood-enhancing agent. Hemp, a nonpsychoactive variety of cannabis, is made from the stalk of the plant. Hemp is a renewable resource used in thousands of products. Considered the world’s oldest domesticated crop, it can be used to make textiles, rope, fabric, biofuel, beauty products, and food.

There are a number of ways to use cannabis that do not involve smoking a joint, or lighting a pipe. Delivery methods as I learned from my research into a major change to Canadian cannabis laws now in effect and what it means for Canadians, also include vaping, tinctures, suppositories, transdermal, topicals, capsules, and edibles. Vaporizing, or vaping, heat cannabis to activate the cannabinoids and produce a smokeless vapour. Cannabis topicals are infused lotions, oils, and salves that are rubbed on the skin for localized treatment and pain relief. Topicals do not enter the bloodstream. Cannabis capsules, also known as canna-capsules, are “food-grade” capsules that have been filled with concentrated cannabis oil. Capsules are said to provide similar effects as edibles, minus the added calories. On the subject of edibles, the Cannabis Act states that Canadians of legal age (18 or 19 or older, depending on province or territory), would be able legally to make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products. The Government of Canada state on their website that Cannabis edible products and concentrates will be legal for sale approximately one year after the Cannabis Act has come into force on October 17th, 2018.

Cooking with Cannabis

The edibles category includes any food or beverage that contains cannabis and is in no way limited to concepts of desserts and baked goods. A competitive cannabis cooking show called Cooking On High, first of its kind now available for streaming on Netflix, is one example showcasing the recreational use of cannabis in diverse recipes. Each episode, two chefs prepare “mouthwatering” marijuana-infused dishes for a panel of very “chill” celebrity judges. One especially eye-opening episode I watched is titled “Going Green.” In this episode, marijuana goes meatless in a vegetarian face-off, with a quinoa and black bean puree competing against a stoner soufflé. Carrot Ginger Soup, Stuffed Sweet Potato, Pan-Roasted Cauliflower, and Easy Mac and Cheese, are examples of savory recipes that can be prepared with cannabis. Edibles are beloved for their simplicity, prolonged duration, and the fact that no smoking is involved, but it is important to note some pros and cons.

The effects of ingesting cannabis have a slow onset but last longer than when cannabis is inhaled. The dose can be difficult to predict, and if you are unfamiliar with the dosing of a particular edible, it can be easy to overdo it. Edibles should always be labelled and stored away from children, youth, and pets. Use responsibly. Know the health effects to your body. Know the laws. See the Canadian Cannabis Act to keep informed.

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Recipe Alert! Spinach and Mushroom Tart

An interesting aspect of this rustic, tender-crusted tart, is the smooth tofu-spinach spread seasoned with fresh herbs and minced aromatics. This spread serves to complement the mix of portobello and cremini mushrooms sautéed with fresh garlic until their natural juices are released. The fresh fragrance of thyme is also part of the refinement that adds complexity and texture to this savoury tart.

Cooking is rewarding craft, one that anyone can learn and even succeed at from the get-go. There’s a delight in cooking: the wonder of creating, the pleasure of time spent in the honest pursuit of tradition and nourishment of our bodies and those of our family. Recipes combine a number of ingredients using a given set of techniques. The other factor is the language used in explaining the recipe’s procedure. As you gain in experience and confidence you will begin creating your own variations, making it easy to change the way you cook and eat: inspiring you to create delicious meals that will make you feel fantastic! These variations may be spicy, more elaborate, faster, or with completely different flavours but identical techniques. Also see Puff Pastry with Fennel and Greens.

Spinach and Mushroom Tart (Vegan)

  • Servings: 4- 6
  • Difficulty: easy!
  • Print

A rustic, tender-crusted, savoury tart!

Ingredients

  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced into long pieces, stems and black gills removed
  • 6 – 8 cremini mushrooms
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons, plus 1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 – 6 cups spinach, tightly packed
  • 1 cup firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon pecans, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 x 500g pack vegan puff pastry

Directions

STEP 1 Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add 1 garlic clove, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, season to taste with sea salt and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 – 20 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices and the juices evaporate. Remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle with thyme, and set aside.

STEP 2 Steam the spinach lightly, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until partially wilted. Leave to cool.

STEP 3 Place the tofu, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, 1½ teaspoons olive oil, 1 garlic clove, green onion, and pecans in a food processor, and process until fairly smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 2/3 of the steamed spinach and fold in by hand.

STEP 4 Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to a rectangle and transfer to the baking sheet. Spread the spinach-tofu mixture over leaving a 1-inch border around the edge for it to puff up during baking. Top with the sautéed mushrooms and additional spinach.

STEP 5 Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are flaky and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let set for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Tips for Serving

Cut this dish into bite-sized pieces for an appetizer to serve many, or pair it with a big salad for a light dinner.

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Cooks Corner: 5 Quick Tips to Cope with Food Cravings

craving: an intense, urgent, or strong feeling of wanting something

craven: a Jamaican patois (patwah) word that means “greedy”

foodie: “a term of endearment used to describe a “craven” person with a never-ending “craving” for food (in my opinion)

Food cravings are to be expected, but ask yourself, “am I really hungry?” A food craving is an intense, and sometimes uncontrollable desire for a specific food. Feeling stressed may also promote emotional eating and cravings for comfort foods. These types of foods are often junk, processed, and high in salt, sugar, and fat. Craving these types of foods can be a major roadblock for people trying to maintain a healthy weight or switch to a more healthful diet.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to help cope with cravings. Here are some tips:

Tip 1 Don’t wait for intense feelings of hunger before you eat. Have a regular pattern of meals and healthful snacks planned throughout the day.

Tip 2 Start new habits. Replace the activities that trigger food cravings with something else. Go for a walk, have a good stretch, or enjoy a cup of herbal tea.

Tip 3 Uncover nutrient deficiencies.  What deficiencies might cause you to crave sugar, carbs, chocolate? What deficiencies might cause you to regularly dive into those crunchy, salty snacks? Recognize what you truly need and find a healthy alternative.

Tip 4 Eat mindfully. One of the keys to better health is to enjoy eating your food slowly and in a stress-free environment.  Take the time to pay attention to each bite, noticing how your food looks, tastes and smells.

Tip 5 Discover healthier versions of the foods you crave. If you crave foods like store bought potato chips for example, why not discover a healthier version that’s homemade?

Processed foods contain many ingredients that contribute to poor health: chemicals, preservatives, unhealthy fats, excess sugars, additives, artificial food dyes, refined carbohydrates, and synthetic vitamins and minerals the body cannot process, and more. As a general rule, if there is an ingredient on a food label you can’t make at home or you won’t find in nature, the best practice is to leave the product on the shelf.

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Cooking Green Goodness: Whole Food, Plant-Based Series (part 2) ~What’s In Your Pantry?

To picture the belly of a whole food, plant-based pantry, is to imagine it filled with a variety of nutrient-rich, health-promoting plant foods: Fruits, grains, berries, leaves, roots, legumes, flowers, nuts and seeds, are examples. My question of the day for you is, what whole food ingredients are currently in your pantry (or refrigerator)? Now let’s take it a step further and ponder the answer to another question. What is one dish you can make right now using those ingredients, that’s worth embracing?

“A wholefood kitchen is a living, breathing space where we translate intent and knowledge into food that can heal, nourish and delight. But is also so much more than this.”

What’s in your pantry? With these questions in mind, let’s take a look at whole food, plant-based meal ideas for inspiration. Why not whip together a rustic tart with seasonal greens? Chill and enjoy a delicious no-bake date fruit pie topped with fresh berries, sliced mango and kiwi – the crust made with pitted dates, walnuts and spices like cinnamon and vanilla to add dimensions of flavour. It’s always nice to have healthy, tasty salad dressings on hand. You could blend together diced avocado, fresh garlic, diced onion and freshly squeezed lime juice for a smooth avocado cream dressing. Make “real food juices” by juicing, or blending a variety of fruits and vegetables into enticing combinations. Find a more healthful way to satisfy your sweet tooth without the negative effects that can result from eating processed, refined sugars and cook your own fruit butters.  Toss a handful of baby carrots, halved lengthwise with dried herbs to cook a naturally sweet, crunchy pan of vegetables. You could also cook a unique vegetable soup in your own homemade vegetable stock – blending it with ingredients like onion, garlic, and ginger, for a delicious, simple and easy low calorie source of high quality protein that contributes to good nutrition and health.

“A wholefood kitchen is a living, breathing space where we translate intent and knowledge into food that can heal, nourish and delight. But is also so much more than this. A kitchen filled with whole and natural foods is a powerful place – it is where our most fundamental needs for nourishment are met – from the food we eat to sitting around a table with our loved ones and laying down our burdens of the day.” This is an excerpt from the book Wholefood From the Ground Up by Jude Blereau. In the book, Jude Bluerau also goes on to state that “having some good foundations and some good tools will help you make good-for-you delicious meals with less stress. And, it all begins with a whole and natural foods pantry.”

Artificial or Processed Foods

While it can be a challenge to incorporate whole foods into your everyday diet and completely avoid processed foods, learning how to cut them down can be a great place to start. It’s also important to take the time you need to make the transition, sustainably, in the way that works best for you. Processed foods contain many ingredients that contribute to poor health: chemicals, preservatives, unhealthy fats, excess sugars, additives, artificial food dyes, refined carbohydrates, and synthetic vitamins and minerals the body cannot process, and more. As a general rule, if there is an ingredient on a food label you can’t make at home or you won’t find in nature, the best practice is to leave the product on the shelf.

Stayed tuned for part 3 of this series where you’ll get more recipes for understanding these important questions: What are whole foods? Why are they they worth embracing? How do I begin the transition to whole foods diet? What are the long-term health benefits of cooking with whole foods?

See Whole Food, Plant-Based Series (part 1) ~ Recipes for Fruit Butter. Discover Cooking Green Goodness. Click HERE to subscribe to EarthaCooks’ YouTube channel.