Guest Blogger: Erin Bury
FINDING BALANCE IN A PROCESSED WORLD
I’ve always had an obsession with food. And, admittedly, not the healthiest food in the world. On trips to my dad’s house as a kid I would eat Sugar Crisp cereal, Pogo Sticks and pizza pockets – every kid’s dream. In high school my regular cafeteria lunch was poutine, and trips to McDonald’s after school were frequent. I was blessed with a fast metabolism, so for a long time it seemed like I could eat as many Big Macs as I wanted and still stay slim. Then I hit university. The all-you-can-eat cafeteria and post-bar French fries really did a number on me, and I was shocked to learn after first semester that I had gained the Freshman 15. It took me another semester to lose it, and quickly made me realize that putting numerous cookies through the bread toaster and washing it down with chocolate milk didn’t qualify as a healthy breakfast.
I blame a lot of my affinity for junk food on my parents, who have fast metabolisms to this day. I wasn’t raised on salads and vegetables, and when I did eat vegetables they were usually from a can. My mom worked a lot and my stepdad had a propensity towards steak and potatoes, and of course Pizza Friday.
So when I moved to Toronto after school I was determined to break the cycle and start living a healthier lifestyle. I think a lot of that has to do with cooking at home, something I didn’t have a lot of experience with (unless Chunky Soup counts as a home-cooked meal). My New Year’s resolution in 2010 was to make one new recipe per week, an effort to kick-start my life as a good (and relatively healthy) cook. Rachael Ray was my new best friend, and my cupboards were littered with recipes torn out of Chatelaine. I even bought a Weight Watchers cookbook (now if only I knew what the points meant). I’ve cooked classics like shepherd’s pie, turkey burgers, meatloaf, and chicken parmigiana; potato leek and carrot soups; banana bread (with a healthy flaxseed twist) and pecan supreme cookies (for those nights when I just don’t care); chilis and stews for cold winter nights; and even the odd salad – the toasted goat cheese and walnut is my favourite, with homemade dressing of course. I’ve learned how to chop, dice, broil and poach; but more importantly I’ve learned the importance of eating hearty, healthy food made from fresh ingredients.
I still have a reputation for being the girl with the big appetite and fast metabolism, which suits me just fine. And I still break down whenever I’m near a Wendy’s or a Timbit. But though I occasionally pack away poutine with the best of them, I also hit the gym to make sure I don’t repeat my university mistakes. And now I’m the girl with the appetite and a mean cooking streak, who can actually cook instead of just popping in frozen meals. Hopefully when I have kids (some far-off day in the distant future) they enjoy the meals I’ll keep learning to make on a weekly basis – but trust me, I’m keeping Pizza Friday. That’s a tradition that’s just too good to give up.
Recipe (from the March 2011 issue of Chatelaine magazine)
CHOCOLATE WALNUT BANANA BREAD
3 large, very ripe bananas
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
2 tbsp ground flax seeds (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil or spray a 9×5-in. loaf pan. Mash bananas in a medium bowl or large measuring cup. They should measure about 1½ cups. Stir both flours with ground flax seeds, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter with sugar in a large bowl until combined, then beat in eggs, rum and vanilla. Stir in bananas. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture just until combined. Do not over mix. Gently fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Smooth top.
Bake in centre of oven until a cake tester or skewer inserted into centre of loaf comes out clean, 50-65 minutes. Cover loosely with foil for the last 15 min if top browns too quickly. Remove pan to a rack to cool for 10 min. Run a knife around inside of pan to loosen loaf. Carefully turn out loaf, then turn top-side up on a rack. Bread will keep well at room temperature up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 months.