Thursday, August 22, 2013

Q+A with Chef Michael Smith

Q+A With Chef Michael Smith
June 23, 2013
Eclectic Kitchen Asks:

1- How would you describe your own creative process? 

For me, I think it's all about seeing, touching, smelling and being with my ingredients. 
In particular, it makes me feel responsible when I know the producers. 

2- When did you know you first wanted to be a chef? 

I had bought a new car in Arts school, and had to pay for it so I got a job… The easiest job to get is to work in a restaurant so I did the classic dishwashing thing. Three or four days in I realized the cooks were having way more fun than the dishwashers so I promoted myself to cook and went from there

He also added that he was 19 at the time, studying graphic design in Arts school. 

3 - What is one thing in your kitchen that you can't live without? 

My kids. I love the kids in the kitchen. And salt and pepper. 

4- What is one food trend you wish would end?


5 - If you had to eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be? (I then welcomed Canadiana Baked Lentils as a possible item for that list)

A good garden fresh salad. I love my veggies. 

6- What do you say to the kids to get them to the dinner table? 

Dinner. Sit down. 

7- What do you think is the most under appreciated and under used ingredient in Canada? 

Lentils. We grow the world's best lentils right here in Canada.

8- What should every Canadian be growing in their garden, window garden?

Something. Anything. Whatever works for you, just do it. And get your kids involved. 

9- When you aren't travelling, does your family meal plan in advance?

On the fly. I'm really no good at meal planning. When I go to the grocery store I buy everything I see. 

10- Who is your favourite super hero?

The Newteen Titans. Every comic book collector will know exactly who I'm talking about. 

11 - If you could have anyone in the world cook you dinner, who would it be? 

My grandfather. I never met him but as I get older my mom tells me more and more that I am my grandfather. 

12 - Have you always had awesome hair? :)

He chuckled and said no. 

A Day with Chef Michael Smith thanks to

OK this post is now beyond late. I am telling you that it's because I still cannot believe it happened!

On Sunday June 23, I had such an unforgettable experience, that my face hurt from smiling. As the grand prize winner of the "2013 Love Your Lentils" contest, I had the privilege of spending a 12-hour adventure with Chef Michael Smith enjoying the city of Saskatoon while taking in some lentil highlights. I was alongside a fabulous group of culinary gurus, writers and experts and friends. 

The Love Your Lentils Campaign took place throughout the month of May and aimed to educate Canadians about lentils (a bean that belongs to the pulse family - who knew right?)! It has countless health benefits, and has been coined by many, a "superfood." The contest outlined that they were looking for the best original and adapted home recipes containing lentils.

Not only do lentils help fight cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes but did YOU know that we grow the best in the world, right here in Canada. According to the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (Sask Pulse), Canada is the number one exporter of pulses to the world, and of those exports, 97% of the lentils, 83% of the chickpeas, and 72% of the peas come from Saskatchewan. (source:

I encourage you to check out Sask Pulse Growers website. You'll find it's resource rich, including health benefits, recipes, research and get excited, there's even The Canadian Lentils Mobile App.

A picture says a 1000 words, so here are some highlights from the day:

We stayed at The Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon. 
First stop: The Saskatoon Farmers' Market

We had time to browse and speak with vendors. 

We were warmly welcomed!

Tried a Cherry Rhubarb Smoothie from The Prairie Pie Company! Incredible. 

Chef Michael embracing his inner hipster. 

This family generously gave Chef Michael some fig cookies. He shared and they were de-lish. 

Learned that lentils belong to the pulse family. Alongside other beans, peas, soy & chickpeas.

Lentils are sexy, believe it.

Afternoon stop at the Lucky Bastard Distillery.
Everyone in learning mode.

Until these happened... Tried my first bacon infused caesar.
...We may have stayed for a couple.

Love the branding! I hope to see these products at the LCBO someday soon.

taste takes time. noted.

Left to right: Lucky Bastard Distillery's Saskatoon Berry Liquer,
Chai Vodka, Original Voka and Game Gin.

"The Label station is not a toy." 

Dinner at Boffins. Course three: My dish featured at dinner! They prepared Mustard Rubbed Duck Breast with Apple Raisin Compote, Cremers, Asparagus on Canadiana Baked Beans.
Chef Michael made my night/life by pointing out that he ate it all. :)

After an non-stop day, I found the right opportunity to ask Chef Michael a few questions I brainstormed with a little help from some friends. He wondered why I waited until after the distillery tour to ask...not a coincidence. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Love Your Lentils Campaign - GRAND PRIZE WINNER

Canadiana Baked Beans for the win! 
This just in: I WON THE 2013 Canadian Lentils CONTEST!!!

I undoubtedly have the best friends & family in the world. THANK YOU for voting and for putting up with "a couple" bean related messages/texts/emails. On Friday June 21st, I'll be flying to Saskatchewan to tour lentil farms, pick berries and dine with my kitchen idol, 
Chef Michael Smith. 

Someone pinch me, please. This is simply remarkable. Thank you all so much!!

Many of you have asked  - so I'm happy to share the award winning recipe.

Here's what you need:
2 cups lentils (pre-cooked measurement)
1 bayleaf
8 slices bacon (cook slightly)
2 medium onions
1 large green pepper

1 can tomato paste 
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup
2 cups of water 
1tsp Worcester sauce, maggi, 
.5 tsp cayenne pepper, dry mustard

Steps: Cover lentils with sufficient water, add bay leaf and bring to gentle boil. Once water reaches this point, reduce to simmer for 13 minutes. Drain and add a tsp of salt

In a saucepan, gently cook onions and peppers in a tsp of oil, or bacon grease as I used. 
Cook on medium for three minutes. Once soft, combine onions, peppers and lentils

In a casserole dish, add chopped, cooked bacon and layer in three parts: lentils, bacon, sauce. Do this three times adding all extra sauce to the top. 

Bake on 325 for 60 mins then remove lid for final 20 minutes. (bakes 80 mins total)
Let cool for 10 mins, enjoy! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Veggie Kabobs w EASY steps

In my best 'Mom voice', I ask: Are you getting your 8-10 servings of fruits and veggies each day? 

Well I'm certainly trying! In doing so, I try to keep grilled veggies in the fridge all summer long.
They are a delightful snack with crackers, they top your burgers or steak beautifully, and my favourite.... keep a few aside for some epic sandwich creations!

These are also a perfect option to make all the vegetarians happy at your Summer BBQ! 
(...and they taste a heck of a lot better than most 'veggie burgs')
I'm pretty sure anyone can make these (yes, even you Caro), but here are the 5 easy step to help:

1 - Soak your wooden skewers in cold water.
~20 mins

2 - Wash and cube your veggies. I used cherry tomatoes, onion, mushroom, peppers and zucchini.

3 - Add 2.5 tbp of olive oil and toss together in a bowl. Salt and Pepper as desired.

4 - Design your own skewers, (for my sister, I make some without mushrooms)

5 - Grill on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or a bit longer if you like them more caramelized.

Nothing tastes better than food less travelled so why not refer to the Foodland Ontario availability guide when deciding what to buy. Have a look for yourself and see what's coming soon to a grocery store or fresh market near you!

What vegetable combinations should I try next time? Would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'll have the Balls. (That's what she said!)

Every time I watch Eat Street, I wonder where they heck all these Food Trucks are? I would love to jump on this delicious wagon craze but don't want to drive an hour to do so.

I have recently learned that there's a pilot project going on in the Kitchener/Waterloo Region (my hood). The City of Waterloo is running a pilot food truck project until Dec. 31, 2013. Licensed food trucks can operate in areas in uptown Waterloo, as well as in other locations throughout the city. 

One of those other locations is Kitchener City Hall.  All summer long there will be food trucks parked out front on Thursdays, from 11:30 am - 2:00 pm, until August.
You can bet I'll be at all of them.

You can check out the full summer schedule here: Kitchener's Downtown Live 2013
(Thanks Hilary for sharing all the deets).

May 21st was Day One.. the rain held out so I lined up at Kitchener City Hall with my appetite.

Schmuck Truck is a Gourmet Food Truck that satisfies your cravings for something different. They prepare great local food daily. You can follow when and where they are going to be on twitter and their website. You can follow Schmuck Truck on twitter here. 

The Pulled Pork Sandwich was the first menu item to catch my eye but was disappointed to learn they had run out! (I heard it was that good, aw well next time!) It was actually a blessing because my second choice was something I normally wouldn't have ordered. And it was super-taste. 

I asked for the balls...(the Risotto Balls you nut!), and grinned from ear to ear when the woman replied with "That's what she said." I have a feeling the get that a lot. Regardless, I had to go for it anyway. 

Delicious and definitely worth trying something new! A great option for only $6.
Inside: mushroom rice, basil and goats cheese. They are a great vegetarian option and are served with fresh and zesty marinara.

NEXT FOOD TRUCK DATE: Tomorrow! Thursday May 30 2013 @ Kitchener City Hall. 

The SWAT Truck, Sandwiches With A Twist will be on site from 11:30 - 2:00 PM. 

Perhaps I'll see you there!

If you'd like to read more info on the Food Truck pilot project currently underway in the Kitchener Waterloo Region, visit 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Canadiana Baked Beans - Contest Entry Love Your Lentils Contest


"Canadiana Baked Beans" 
- My lentil recipe entry for the Love Your Lentils Blogger Contest.

"Did you know here in Canada we grow the worlds best lentils?" 

Well if Chef Michael Smith says this, then I'm a believer.

Simply put: I heart Chef Michael Smith and have set a goal to meet him someday, and ok if he's willing, have him cook me a meal too. ;) 

Every time I'm able to tune in, he teaches and inspires me to make healthy tasty food. 
I just began following his Facebook page, only to learn that there is a contest underway this month of May- with only one week remaining!! Is there time for me to enter? YES! But I'll need your help! (please and thank you!)

Catching my eye was the "The Love Your Lentils Campaign."

May is Love Your Lentils Month...who knew? (me neither, so mark it on your calendar for next year!) 

Chef Michael explains the contest here... I'm submitting an entry as a Blogger and I need your help, DAILY, from now until May 31st - KINDLY TAKE A MOMENT, VOTE & SHARE.

The TOP 10 recipes in each segment as voted by the public will be reviewed by Chef Michael and his team. I am currently in 10th place after only 24 hours - but I need your help to remain there until the contest closes May 31st!! 

My dish, "Canadiana Baked Beans" is a take on traditional Canadian Baked Beans - made with Canadian bacon, maple syrup and lentils.

Anyone who knows me would say I'm a proud Canadian et j'adore Canada.  I have aspired to create something simple, fun and delicious - with hopes of providing a realistic meal option that can make its way to dinner tables across Canada.

HERE IS THE LINK TO VOTE!  I'll publish the recipe on Eclectic Kitchen with an update after the contest closes on May 31, 2013.

Thank you in advance for your time, support and votes. 

Oh and there's a BONUS in this for you: One lucky voter will be selected to win the contest as well! 
Check out the site for full details and I wish you luck, too. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Honey Ginger & Soy Lettuce Wraps (crockpot style)

I'm sure you have been there. I invited a friend to drop by after work for a bite and hockey game... I then said to myself: awe shit, now I have to make something. I decided to "do research on pintrest".... which really meant 20 pins and 30 mins later, I remembered what I was REALLY looking for. :)

I can't seem to find the original recipe that inspired this creation, but I opted for an easy clean up version and used the ol' crockpot.

You can easily add or eliminate items from your wrap, whatever suit your taste buds. For example, I have added to mine fresh mango, pickled ginger, thin vermicelli noodles and additional Saracha (but only when I'm feeling like a baddass).

Here's what you need (basic recipe):

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
(season with black pepper and slightly brown)
1/3 cup of low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tbs rice wine vinegar
3 cloves of minced garlic (incase you haven't notice, I like garlic)
1 tbs water
1 tbs Saracha hot sauce...aka "the new ketchup"
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp sesame oil
1.5 tbs corn starch (add in final 20 mins)
1/4 cup water (to mix with cornstarch)
top with 2 tsp sesame seeds
Lettuce...I used the romaine I had on hand
(Bib lettuce is best, fyi)

Cut chicken into bite size pieces and season in black pepper

In a medium bowl combine ingredients except water, cornstarch and sesame seeds

Pour over chicken and cook on low for 4 hours

Then in a small bowl dissolve cornstarch + water and add to crockpot stirring well

Cover and cook on high for 15 mins

Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds

Serve in lettuce...apparently bib lettuce is the best to use though I had romaine in my fridge.

I appreciate your posts and comments about the blog, including the recipes you've tried. I'm having fun and can't wait to get grillin'.