Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fat Guy Chronicles #1: an Ode to the Banquet Burger

Hi all, Rich here.

Let's assume for a minute that 'Fat Guy Chronicles' is a light hearted look at typically unhealthy food.  Should you eat like this all the time?  No, but if you're looking to indulge in something delicious and high in things that should be low (fat, sodium, cholesterol, bacon, etc.), consider this a bit of a guidebook.

While driving past a favourite greasy spoon the other day - Breezy Corners - it occurred to me that there has been a cultural shift away from the 'Banquet Burger'.  What's your point, you're saying right now.

Well, it's a nostalgia factor.  I grew up in rural Ontario, and most trips to 'town' (doesn't matter which one, but let's say there were maybe 5 options depending on the scarcity and relatively value of whatever necessitated a trip to 'town') involved a stop at a restaurant with my family.  The star of the burger menu at any restaurant / diner / cafe was not a asiago-ranch-swiss burger, or a California burger, or a southwest Tex-Mex Explosion burger, it was always the Banquet Burger.  Having fact-checked this idea on the internet, it turns out it's just a burger with cheese and bacon, but it's the idea of it all, I suppose.

The basics: from bottom to top: bun / burger / cheese / bacon / ketchup / mustard / relish / onion / tomato / lettuce / mayonnaise (sometimes) / dill pickle / bun.  Nothing fancy, not too much of any one topping, just a good, solid burger featuring bacon and cheese.

Any restaurant serving an all-day breakfast and catering to hordes of schoolchildren ordering fries and only fries for lunch has to have a Banquet Burger at the top of the menu.

This lives on in greasy spoons across the country, I'm sure; but the proliferation of 'gourmet' burgers and the overall growth in fast-food markets has certainly cut into the reputation of the banquet burger.

My point - they're delicious.  I don't eat one every day, neither should you, but once in a while, a greasy spoon serving a good Banquet Burger will remind me of trips to 'town' with my family and prove once again that simple can really hit the spot.

Next time you're ordering, skip the white truffle, avocado & dry-cured pork belly burger and venture back in time to the Banquet Burger.


Places I know to have served a really, really good Banquet Burger in the past 20 years (may not be open anymore)

Tam's Diner, Pefferlaw, ON
River Valley Restaurant, Uxbridge, ON
Durham Cafe, Lindsay, ON - still open, still amazing - Durham Cafe
Woodville Sale Barn - trust me... -

There are others, but if you're from Uxbridge, and remember the River Valley, you will know what I'm talking about.  If you're not, I probably lost you about 35 words ago, making this totally self-serving and irrelevant.

Carry on with whatever it is that you do.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Everyday Granola

Hi all, Sara here, the plant based perspective of this trio. For my first post I'm going to share one of my favourite recipes that is sure to appeal to both veg and non-veg readers alike. This recipe is endlessly  adaptable based on your needs, tastes or simply what you have in the cupboard. I have found that the majority of granola in super markets and even in health food stores is overly sweetened and contains additional oils that I find unnecessary to make a delicious and healthful granola. To begin, assemble your ingredients...

As I said, this recipe is adaptable to suit your unique needs and tastes. I find that each time I make this recipe it's just a leeeetle bit different than the last time largely in part to what ingredients I have on hand. Today I used almonds and sunflower seeds as my mix-ins to the oats. Any mix of seeds and nuts will do. Pecans, walnuts, pepitas, chia, cashew and sesame have all featured in past granolas. Unsweetened coconut is also a nice addition. Make sure that you use regular oats (not the quick cook kind) in this recipe. I have also used steel cut oats in the past which resulted in a crunchier granola but has a longer cook time.

In addition to your oats and nut/seed mixture you will also need cinnamon, vanilla, peanut butter (I prefer to use all natural unsweetened chunky - either PC brand or organic from my local health food store), maple syrup, sea salt and oil. Today I experimented with coconut oil for the first time in this recipe as I've been reading more about its health benefits but really you can use whatever oil you prefer. I have used both olive oil and canola in the past and out of the three I prefer the canola. The coconut oil lends a distinct, although pleasant, flavour to the mix however seems to have a quicker cook time so if you are using coconut oil make sure you keep an eye on the oven. Additionally, coconut oil requires melting prior to mixing with the other ingredients. 

To begin, melt your coconut oil (if using) and then add in the maple syrup, peanut butter, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla. Mix until well incorporated. 

Add in your oats and nut/seed mixture and stir until mixture is well coated. 

Split the mixture evenly onto two baking sheets - lining your baking sheets with parchment paper will prevent it from sticking to the pan and is helpful with clean up too. The use of parchment paper in this recipe is nice but not a requirement by any means. 

You can either cook both pans at once - rotating halfway through or cook in two separate batches. Cook times may vary depending on your oven and oil used. Regardless, it is nice to stir once or twice during cooking as the edges tend to brown sooner. You may also drizzle with additional maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter/stickier granola. 

Once evenly browned your granola is ready to enjoy. You can either allow your granola to cool and enjoy it that way or if you are like me you'll enjoy some straight out of the pan while it's still warm. 

This granola can be enjoyed multiple ways and is a filling and energy providing treat any time of the day. I often have this as either a pre or post workout snack. Lately I've been adding raisins and eating it like a trail mix - the raisins make it taste just like an oatmeal raisin cookie. One of my favourite ways to eat this granola is to mash up a ripe banana and mix that with the granola in addition to high protein, low fat greek yogurt. Since eliminating dairy from my diet several months ago I haven't been eating as much granola and was really missing the yogurt/banana combo. Soy yogurt just doesn't measure up. I recently discovered this yogurt and it has made my life! This granola is also delicious as a breakfast cereal with fresh fruit and milk of choice. I'm telling you're going to be hooked. It also makes a nice gift...

I made these for family and coworkers as Christmas gifts and with Valentines Day coming up you might consider doing this. Ok here's the recipe - feel free to mix it up as you see really can't go wrong :)

6 cups oats - The old fashioned kind, not quick cook - can purchase gluten free oats too 
2 cups nuts/seeds - any combo will do
1/3 cup oil - again whatever floats your boat here
1/3 cup maple syrup - I would imagine that you could use any liquid sweetener here - honey, agave - I haven't experimented preferring to use local/vegan ingredients if possible
1 T cinnamon
1 (heaping) T all natural chunky peanut butter
1 T good quality vanilla
1 t sea salt

Mix all ingredients together except oats/nuts/seeds and stir until well combined. Add nut/seed/oats and stir until evenly coated. Spread evenly onto two cookie sheets and bake at 325 F for 25 minutes or so stirring once or twice until lightly browned. Enjoy!