Thursday 14 August 2014

Healthy Eats, Caribana, Cheat Meals & MasterChef Canada

Hi everyone! 

I know there hasn't been much of anything on the blog for about three weeks now. There has been so much going on lately. Some of it good and some of it not so good. I have a lot to go over so I'm going to try to keep this brief. I will begin to share some more recipes and techniques soon though (already have a couple of great ones in mind). So let's catch up a bit in the meantime.

When I left off I mentioned that I was preparing to play Mas at Caribana this summer. Mas is a festive Caribbean themed parade that happens every summer here in Toronto. I had so much fun! I'm planning on participating again next year. I was invited by two of my fellow MasterChef Canada season one Top 50 contestants, Narida & Marida. Always great to see them. In fact, Cheri, one of the make up artists from the show was with us too. We had a great time, got some colour in the sun and made some great memories. We met Machel Montano who is one of the biggest names in Soca right now. Soca (soul-calypso) is the national music of Trinidad & Tobago. We also met the infamous (or famous, depending how you see it) Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, which was good for a laugh. Here is a little collage of the day's events and our costumes:

Since I was shirtless I was putting in some extra effort into my fitness (or trying to anyway). I was doing a lot of cardio, pushups, crunches, bicycle kicks and weight lifting. For the last two weeks leading up to Caribana I had a very strict diet. Just about every day I was eating plain yogurt with granola and fresh blueberries for breakfast, quinoa with beans and veggies for lunch, steamed fish and vegetables for dinner and if I ever needed a snack I'd either have a spoonful of almond butter, veggies with hummus or a glass of water and hydrated chia seeds. I'm not kidding, it was serious. lol! Luckily for me I love all kinds of food (healthy or not) so I actually found all of that quite delicious. If you scroll down to my last couple of posts you will see some of the steamed fish and quinoa salad dishes I was eating. Here is another shot of one of my dinners with a fillet of salmon, broccolini, red onion, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper and Thai basil:

You better believe that the day directly following Caribana I had an epic cheat meal planned for myself. I think it's what kept me going those two weeks. I didn't make all of it, but it was so good. I had mac and cheese, fried chicken, biscuits n gravy and greens. I tried to find collards but settled on chard instead. The fried chicken and the biscuits I got from a Louisiana take out place on my street. I made the mac and cheese, greens and gravy for the biscuits. I added bacon, onion, peppers and habanero to my mac and cheese. I have a recipe for a similar version right here on the blog. The chard I steamed after sautéeing some red onion, scallion, garlic and habanero. The gravy for the biscuits isn't very traditional. If you want to be real Southern about biscuit gravy you would make a roux with flour and hog fat before whisking in milk to create a béchamel. Seasonings and sometimes crumbled sausage meat is added. I used butter instead of pork fat and didn't add any meat to it. I did add some fresh ground nutmeg, onion powder, ground habanero, salt and pepper though. It was very nice. Nothing like a good soul food injection once in a while. 

Now for a bit of bad news. First, let's take a moment to acknowledge that bad and unfortunate news makes up who we are and develops our character. Without the bad there is no good. So it's best to be humble and when life throws us curve balls. Gratitude comes from that which makes us learn. 

My herb garden and scotch bonnet plant took a tragic turn for the worse. My Genovese basil, opal basil and Thai basil are pretty much all toast at this point. They've just been flowering like crazy and if they get successful enough at it their life cycles end. Even more tragically, either a raccoon or strong gust of wind managed to knock my scotch bonnet pot off the ledge of my rooftop patio. It came crashing down into the back lot of the butcher shop downstairs and next door from my apartment. The pot itself was nearly destroyed and all but one of my peppers were knocked off (and they hadn't even ripened yet). I was hoping to use them to make homemade hot sauce but looks like that won't be happening anymore. Well, the hot sauce will definitely happen but I just won't get to use my own that I grew myself (foodies will understand). 

Also, I had mentioned that I was intending to audition for season 2 of MasterChef Canada. Although my audition in season one never got any airtime, I was one yes short of making it past the first round. Michael Bonacini, a judge on the show, told me to keep cooking and come back next year. Well, my casting audition was about a month ago. I got to see some familiar faces from the crew which was a total pleasure. I was actually one of five original contestants from season one who auditioned again (the other four were Billiejo Picco, Jason Mayo, Sparkle Davis and Mylene Facchini). I received confirmation last Friday that I was not selected and therefore will not be appearing on the show. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, but life goes on. I wish the best and congratulations to the top 50 who have made it to the second season. They should be announced sometime after filming is completed. I wonder if any people I met in casting have made it. I guess we'll see!

Speaking of casting, I might as well share my last MasterChef Canada dish. I served a piece of smoked ham which I rubbed in ground, toasted fennel and seared it off in some boar fat and plated it with grilled pineapple, cassava purée, tamarind chutney and micro red cabbage. It was an exotic, elevated play on ham and pineapple. 

My dish was good enough to take me through to the next round of consideration. I got to do another on camera interview (which is a good sign). I thought my interview went well. Afterward I took a psychiatric evaluation test (which sounds serious but in reality is just a bunch of multiple choice questions). Then that was it. Very similar to last year. My audition went very well. There's nothing that I regret or feel that I could have done better. This is just how the pieces fell, so to speak.

I would be a robot if I said that I wasn't disappointed. I was really counting on winning the competition, not to mention capitalize on my exposure on the show. It hurts because I was so close, but what can I do? I have decided that my MasterChef Canada journey has finally come to an end. I'm not going to audition for any future seasons. I've had my run at it and now it's time to focus on the next chapter of my foodie venture. Besides, MasterChef is a competition strictly for unprofessional home cooks and I want to start taking some cooking classes. I haven't been to school in years so that will be quite an adjustment to make. Right now my main focus is finding a new job and then I will start looking into opportunities for evening classes while I work full-time. I will certainly let you know how all of that works out. 

Well, we're finally all caught up now, aren't we? Phew! That's a relief. Stay tuned because the blog is going to be back in action again. I do have a lot "on my plate" at the moment but new and exciting material is in store. So please don't give up hope yet! Or ever for that matter. I really love putting this blog together. Thanks to all of you for making it worth while.

Until next time. 


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