Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cooking is Just Cooking!

            If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that cooking is a chore, I would be a rich man. The act of cooking a meal is just that: “cooking a meal”. It is not negative, or even positive for that matter, it is just something we do.

            We all need food to stay alive and since our homes are all equipped with kitchens, we cook. Maybe some of us more than others but we all still cook. Some kitchens will have their owner’s unharnessed culinary passions bestowed upon them on a daily basis, while the only glory days in other kitchens may be derived from someone adding onions and garlic to a saucepan of store bought pasta sauce… but it is all still cooking.

            I hate to even imagine that there is a percentage of our population that rely on daily practices of consuming products like TV dinners, frozen pizzas, and spray can pancake batter. Yes, I did say “spray can pancake batter”! Talking with employees of a large grocery chain, they tell me that they are constantly bombarded with requests from consumers for fast already prepared meals that they just heat & serve. Is there really a growing number of people in our society that have succumbed to rely on premade meals from a package or container. Have we lost so much time in our ever-growing busy lifestyles that we cannot commit to practicing creativity in the one life-nourishing art form that our homes have always been designed around?

            Who made cooking negative anyway? We did. We did as human beings. Take for example the simple tasks of washing a vehicle, mowing the lawn, or our daily commute to work. Are these tasks of complete negativity that all of us are destined to suffer through for the rest of our lives? No, some of us thrive in these situations. What makes these tasks at hand, along with cooking, a chore then?

            One of the things that we do, that no other life form does, is analyze and label. Everything we do, other than breathe or blink, we analyze and label. We create good and bad, positive and negative with our natural human psyche without even realizing it for the most part. Cooking, again, is just cooking. If it is positive for one and also negative at the same time for another, it is because each of those individuals have made it so. It is because of their opinion or perception that makes the act of doing something a joyous occasion or a nagging daily occurrence.

            Don’t get me wrong; people are entitled to their opinions, and if there are people out there that are happy with cooking being a chore, then so be it. What I don’t want is people believing that they don’t have a choice of it being a chore. Of course you have a choice. You just need to find the way to create a positive frame of mind regarding the task at hand. So with cooking in our home, we introduce music and a favorite beverage to the environment and also use this as an enjoyable opportunity to catch up with each other and take pleasure in the family being together in one room.

            Everyone is unique however, and what seems to be a simple change of focus to creative optimistic endeavors with one person, may need to be completely different for someone else. What makes you happy? What can you bring into the kitchen environment (mentally or physically) in order to make a more optimistic approach to this life essential assignment?

            Whatever it takes for you to have a more positive approach, the truth is that you will typically save money and eat healthier overall for doing so… and hopefully enjoy yourself, your family and your kitchen more. Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On The Road with The Road Hammers

            I recently featured this interview in my newspaper food column "Chef Dez on Cooking", but in case you missed it, I decided to re-publish it in my blog.
            I love being a Chef. Food is a universal language that touches the lives of almost everyone. No matter what road of life one travels along, chances are they have an appreciation for a good meal. If you know me and my wife Katherine, you will know of our love for not only food but also for music. Recently we had the pleasure of meeting Canadian country rock group, The Road Hammers; composed of band members Jason McCoy, Clayton Bellamy, and Chris Byrne. They are currently touring to promote their latest album “The Squeeze” which was released May 12 th of this year.
            We have always been a fan of their music, so it was interesting to chat with them, not only about music, but their eating habits too. Therefore, I am happy to share parts of our conversation with you for a glimpse of what the culinary lives of these musicians are like. The first question I had for them was “What do you tend to eat while on the road touring?

            JASON: “We’re pretty good at trying to avoid junk because we’ve all toured so many years. When you’re younger you can eat anything you want. (I like) steak, potatoes, that kind of thing. For some reason a steak makes me feel good. My subconscious reminds me that I want protein… it’s also a comfort food kind of thing. Butter chicken is my other thing; awesome because it seems like the curry kind of smartens everything up in your world.”

            CLAYTON: “Indian food and sushi. (I) like to venture outside (the box).”

            CHRIS: “I think it’s interesting to find great little holes-in-the-wall kind of restaurants that are not standard box store restaurants.”

            CHEF DEZ: You’ve been on the road for a while; if someone could welcome you home with a meal, what would you choose?

            JASON: “Anything my wife makes. She’s got the gift. Her spaghetti is stellar. Her hamburgers are magic.”

            CLAYTON: “My mom’s zucchini casserole. That is the ticket. It’s carrots, zucchini, and cheese… lots of cheese. And she puts croutons in there as well.

            CHRIS: “Chic peas and Spolumbo’s sausage roasted with fresh rosemary and little baby tomatoes. Spolumbo’s is a company in Calgary. It’s a spicy Italian (sausage) like a chorizo almost.”

            CHEF DEZ: What are your favorite dishes from your childhood?

            JASON: “My mother’s salmon casserole. Rice and it’s got cheese all through the rice and a layer of salmon, and then it’s got cheese with green olive in it. Then a bit of cheese crusted on top. It’s incredible.”

            CLAYTON: “My grandmother’s perogies when I was a kid. She’s right from the old country. Something about the dough and the way it was prepared.”

            CHRIS: “Mom’s homemade bread. Growing up in Newfoundland we didn’t buy store bread. Fresh out of the oven with a little bit of jam on it.”

            CHEF DEZ: When you get a chance to cook, what is your signature dish that you like to make?

            JASON: “I’m not much of a cook. I’m more of a campfire cooker kind of guy. My kids would starve if it was up to me. My wife’s the Gretzky of cooking so it’s like how do I get in there and say oh I’ll make dinner tonight? I’m best at making chocolate milk.”

            CLAYTON: “I do have a go-to I like: this bow-tie pasta I like to make with capers, fresh basil, baby tomatoes, and mix it all up with some olive oil and sea salt. My kids love that and I’ll make a huge pot of it and it’ll last all week.”

            CHRIS: “It’s a pasta as well. It’s a couple of onions, capers, Kalamata olives, a lot of olive oil, cherry tomatoes or some sundried tomatoes if you got them kicking around.

            I hope you enjoyed this exclusive culinary peek at the lives of these talented guys. Make sure you take a listen to their latest album. We have all of their music and love it. Until next time… Happy cooking!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

This Book is for Everyone! #notacookbook

            How many of you have kitchens at home? Yes... I said kitchens. And how many of you eat food every day... perhaps even 3 to 4 times per day? This pretty much encompasses the majority of the earth's population, but the most important question is: How many of you want to create some peace in this world?
            My latest book is something different. Not a cookbook this time. This time it is a motivational book with inspirational advice, called "Parsley is World Peace in Disguise".
            Chef Michael Smith says "Chef Dez knows the way forward is through the kitchen"... and I believe this to be true, but is parsley really world peace in disguise? That is quite a statement. Not just parsley, but food in general is. Food is one denominator that not only do we all have in common, but also it effects our senses and well being on so many levels. No matter what race, religion, financial status, or level of fame anyone is, we all begin, end, and continue through our days with nourishment. It connects us all together… if we let it, and at the same time enriches our lives and existence.
            The title of this book was chosen to help reflect the amount of influence food and its preparation can have on our day to day lives... but why parsley? Parsley is one of the oldest known garnishes. On restaurant plates and in butchers' display cases; although its use may be limited nowadays, the role of the bright green sprigs is ubiquitous. The intention of garnishing a dish or a food item is to add visual appeal. With embellishment, the look of the food is enhanced and is done do to make it more attractive and more tempting. This allurement then leads to anticipation of eating, making one salivate, and the theory is that this will in turn improve the whole eating experience as we nourish our bodies... making us feel better on so many levels.
            So this is a book about garnishing? No... although garnishing is a good thing, and is mentioned and recommended, it is collection of ideas, thoughts and theories on how food and beverage can make the world a better place... both for you and everybody else. 
            This book is for the culinarily skilled, for the ones that struggle with a can opener, and everyone else in between.  It is for anyone that loves being in the kitchen and for the ones that detest it, but most importantly it is for everyone who wants to enrich their lives and relationships with an everyday means: food.
            Your life is not meant to be a white knuckled pilgrimage of chaos; it should be a representation of mastery and triumph… Life is meant to embrace others, to love one another, and at the same time to love ourselves. This book will show you the way there using your existing kitchen as the pathway, the innate need to consume nourishment as the vehicle, and food & your mind as the fuel.
            I have taught hundreds of cooking classes, hosted countless numbers of live cooking events and have spoken to thousands of people about food and cooking. The contents of this book represents the most pertinent of information from all of those performances and conversations over the last 15
years of being "Chef Dez". Yes, this month, October 2017, represents me being in business for myself now for 15 years. I have always loved to cook, but the last 15 years have been the best because I have been able to share it all with you.
            Authors, in order to make a living, rely on selling books to do so. If you choose to buy my book (my 5th publication btw), it will not only help support what I do, but also help spread the word. Let's create some peace, shall we?
            Available worldwide through Amazon, in select retail stores, and from my website at it is a perfect book for anyone. From my website it is only $15 including GST and shipping to anywhere in Canada, for signed copies. If you choose to order from my website, you DO NOT need a PayPal account; just choose to purchase with a credit card when prompted after clicking the "buy now" button. Alternatively, you can e-transfer $15 to and put your mailing address in the details of your transfer; or mail a $15 cheque or money order payable to: Chef Dez Enterprises, PO Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC, V2T 6R4.
            Thank you so much, and until next time... Happy Cooking!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Quick Peppered Cheese Bread for Thanksgiving

            Years ago I remember coming across a recipe in a newspaper that was labelled as "Peppered Cheese Bread", and I was excited to try it. However, disappointment arose quickly after tasting it... guess what? It didn't taste like pepper and it didn't taste like cheese. How in the world can one put the names of certain ingredients in the title of the recipe, and not have the recipe taste like those ingredients? This is a huge pet peeve of mine with recipe creators. After that day, I vowed to create my own recipe for "Peppered Cheese Bread" and here it is! The recipe is also featured as one of the over 150 recipes in my cookbook "The Best In Your Kitchen".
            If you are a fan of pepper and cheddar cheese, then this recipe is for you and it won't disappoint. It screams of pepper and cheese flavour, and being a 'quick bread' (not

yeast leavened) it is very easy and quick to make. As a matter of fact, it would be so easy to have the wet & dry ingredients prepped separately, and as soon as the turkey comes out to rest, you would
simply mix and bake for 30-35 minutes. By the time you are de-stuffing and carving the turkey, the bread will have already finished baking and be ready for serving.
            Make sure you use fresh cracked pepper, from your pepper mill, for the 1.5 teaspoons in the mix and for the sprinkling on top. This is not the time or place for pre-ground pepper (there are not many applications where I would recommend pre-ground pepper actually). Also, make sure you are using old cheddar for the most abundant cheese flavour. Remember, we are making Peppered Cheese Bread and we want it to be recognizable as such. An ingredient involved may require you to make a trip to your local gourmet food store, or high quality farmer's market: canned Madagascar soft green peppercorns in brine. There is only one tablespoon required, so you can eliminate it if you want, but just that small measure makes all the difference in the world on how this bread tastes, and looks... so I highly recommend trying the recipe as is.
            The dough mixture will be wet so make sure the pie plate you are using to bake the bread is
prepared properly for easy removal. A thorough coating of baking spray followed by a good dusting of flour is vital. Just remember to let cool in the pie pan for at least 10 minutes before attempting to remove it. It can then be cut into wedges (as pictured above) or traditionally into slices as you normally would with a round loaf. Because it is a quick bread, it is more cake like in texture, but screaming with savory flavours, and thus makes it a perfect accompaniment for any comfort food meal. We also love to have this on the side with bowls of hearty stew, gumbo, and soups.
            I hope you enjoy the recipe. Happy Thanksgiving! And until next time... Happy Cooking!

Peppered Cheese Bread
“A quick bread with tons of cheese and pepper flavours! For best results make sure you use old cheddar and fresh cracked black pepper.”

2 cups flour (plus more for dusting)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 (one and one half) teaspoons salt
1.5 (one and one half) teaspoons freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon soft green Madagascar peppercorns, drained
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (1.5 cups in the dough; 1/2 cup reserved)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
More pepper for sprinkling

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9-inch pie plate with baking spray and then dusting it with flour.

2.     In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Toss in the green peppercorns and 1.5 cups of the grated cheese to thoroughly coat with the flour mixture.

3.     In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, milk, and melted butter.

4.     Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Stir until just combined and spread the mixture into the prepared pie plate.

5.     Top with the remaining reserved one half cup cheddar and more freshly cracked pepper.

6.     Bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes until the bread is solid and the cheese has browned slightly on top. You can test it with a toothpick as you would with cake batters.

7.     Let cool in the pie plate for at least 10 minutes before trying to remove it, and then let cool thoroughly on a cooling rack.

Makes one 9-inch round loaf