Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cinnamon Apple Salad

Easy and good.- maybe two of the best words ever for busy cooks. This is a great little recipe for a simple, crispy salad that highlights autumn’s goodness. Kids love it love it with a peanut butter sandwich, but try it in a pita with a few spinach leaves.

This can be an elegant accompaniment or a great lunchbox treat. What more could you ask for?

Frozen apple juice concentrate provides sweetness and apple tang and does not thin the dressing too much as apple juice would. Transfer the remaining concentrate to a freezer container and save it for your next batch. The mayonnaise adds a great tang, and you can use low-fat if you prefer.

2 tbsps frozen apple juice concentrate, slightly thawed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 green apple
1 red apple
1 cup red or purple grapes
1/2 cup walnut pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, apple juice concentrate and cinnamon together.

Cut the apples in half, remove the core and chop into small pieces. As you cut the apples, drop them into the bowl with the dressing and stir to coat and prevent browning. Cut the grapes in half and add to the bowl, stirring to coat. Add the walnuts and stir to coat and combine.

The salad will keep covered in the fridge for 3 days.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Families at Quest

Quest offers unique bonuses for families: bulk packaged items provide multiple servings, and prepared meals are great for lunches and snacks to go.

Recently I have moved from renting a room to sharing space with my sister and her kids. I'm not just shopping for one person but looking for things to contribute to family needs. I will be able to take advantage of the larger items that Quest sells. Two gallons of canned fruit will be burned through in a few days with teenagers and their friends around. Some of the pre-made meals can contribute to lunches and quick meals for my sister who is also a part time student.

One teen in the house loves to cook. I'm hoping I will be able to expand his cooking repertoire and skills by showing him how to use resources like Quest. I'm also glad to have the kids see the impact volunteering makes on the individual and the community.
Written by Starla, a Quest volunteer and client

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tasty Chicken Hotpot

Chicken thighs are a good, cost-effective cut of meat and won’t overcook in this delicious preparation - Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
8 chicken thighs
2 onions, sliced into thick slices
5 carrots, cut into rough chunks
3 celery sticks, cut into rough slices
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2½ cups chicken stock
2 tsps mustard
1 tsp dried oregano, or 2 tbsps fresh – if you have it
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a large, high-sided pot until it's really hot. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. There should be enough oil and fat left in the pan, but if not just add another little drop.

Add the onions and sauté until soft. Add the carrots and celery and cook for three to four minutes, stirring every now and then.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and stir adding the mustard and oregano. Add in the browned chicken and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and place the lid on and simmer gently for 45-55 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve in deep bowls with some thick, crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Spread/Dip

1 3/4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (or yams)
8 oz. eggplant (any variety)
1 red bell pepper
2 medium tomatoes
4 green onions
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
10 large fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Toasted baguette slices or crackers

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut red-skinned sweet potatoes (or yams), eggplants, tomatoes, and red bell pepper into 1-inch chunks. Cut green onions into 3-inch lengths. Place all of the vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet and toss with olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast the vegetables until soft, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Place the roasted vegetables, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, and fresh mint leaves in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the spread to a serving dish and serve at room temperature with toasted baguette slices or crackers.

Makes about 3 cups.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Bread

Sweet, fresh, spiced bread perfect for breakfast, or tea, or even dessert.

10 ozs stemmed and sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup plus 3 tbsps granulated sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla extract

Slice the strawberries and place in a bowl. Sprinkle over the 3 tbsps of sugar and toss to thoroughly coat the berries. Leave to macerate for a couple of hours, until there is plenty of juice at the bottom of the bowl. Drain the berries, reserving the juice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 3-inch loaf pan.

Mix the flour, remaining 1-cup sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla and mix until just combined. Fold in the drained strawberry slices, distributing evenly. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove the loaf from the oven and poke holes all over the top with a skewer or thin knife. Drizzle about ¼ cup of reserved strawberry juice over the top of the bread, allowing it to soak in. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a thin knife and leave to cool in the pan.

Makes 1 loaf

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Hive of Activity

Usually my time at Quest is calm and uneventful, which is how I like it. Friday was not a typical day at Quest.

There were about 30 extra bodies all doing different things.

We often have corporate volunteers in the office, just not so many at one time. Friday was "Impact Day" for Deloitte; every desk and phone in the building was manned. Some volunteers were working upstairs in the office preparing postage for the upcoming newsletter.

This task is usually done by regular volunteers over a period of a few weeks. I am certain that I wont miss doing it this time. Thousands of envelopes need to be labeled, return addressed,stamped and stuffed for with the most current newsletter.

Downstairs a crew of volunteers were culling pallets of raspberries for all the stores to sell. I sat with them for a period of time chatting while they carefully examined basket upon basket of fruit for spoilage.
They asked me questions about how Quest works and who comes in to shop. I did my best to answer questions about where the food comes from and how we distribute it.

I also saw the corporate volunteers working hard to get the shelves stocked and some also breaking down large packaged items for individual sale. I would like to thank all of the people who came in to volunteer for us, I realize how much of a departure it is from their normal lives of accounting and business management.

Also today we had a film crew in working on a promotional video for Quest. I have had the opportunity to be filmed three times now on behalf of Quest. I never would have thought about doing interviews for televising before I became involved with Quest. The film crew and I did an interview in the shipping dock stacked amongst the boxes of beets and shortbread cookies heading out to our other stores.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak about having Quest as a resource. I honestly do not know how I would feed myself without this organization. I know that I am not alone. I see hundreds of people each week doing the same thing I am, just trying to survive. In fact about one in the afternoon a group of 20 new clients came in to check us out and get their Quest Cards.

That is just one part of what Quest offers. The best and biggest parts are the skills that I am learning here, I am able to attain knowledge that I would not usually have access to.I am honing my skills in order to return to the workforce while being in a supportive and positive environment. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Thanks Quest :)

Written by Starla

Quest Volunteer Spotlight - Steven

In 1994, Steven arrived in BC. His cross country journey started in Sarnia, Ontario, a thriving community of 150 thousand. He came to BC to work in the Cruise Ship industry, but when it came time to set sail he had already committed to work in the city. With a career in food services, some of his past positions include International Trainer for The Rainforest Café and line cook for The Keg, as well as five star resorts in Jasper and Banff.

When asked about the differences between home and the Lower Mainland, Steven said that he had never seen street life like we have here. Working downtown has been “a really big eye opener.” He describes some of the hardest and grittiest parts of what the Downtown East Side has to offer.

As a Cordon Blue School graduate and a Red Seal Chef, Steven has attained one of the highest honors achievable in the cooking industry. Why does he choose to volunteer at Quest? Steven has osteoporosis in his back and cannot put in the physically intense 12 hour shifts that are required as a Chef. Steven heard about Quest via word of mouth.

Steven inquired about a volunteer position, started volunteering right away, and has been a solid member of this organization for over a year. Steven likes to help out people who are in most need. “Everyone thinks that people in the DTES are ungrateful, but they’re not.”

At the Hastings location he has taken on a leadership role, organizing and directing other volunteers. He volunteers his time five days a week. Steven’s past career has helped with Quest’s efforts to rescue food. “As a chef, nothing gets thrown away in my kitchen. It’s all useable.” His focus is on using what is on hand. If a fresh item is getting past its prime, there are ways to use it still. “People can make so much from so little.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Berry Banana Smoothie

Have you ever wondered what you can use our flaxseed oil for?

2 cups of yogurt
1 ripe banana
2 cups of berries (strawberries & raspberries)
½ cup crushed ice
2-3 tbsps honey 1 tbsp. Flaxseed oil*

Add ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. You may prefer to freeze your berries, which tends to give a thicker result to the smoothie and add a little orange juice, if you like.

The flaxseed oil is optional but it’s a great way to add some healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids to your morning. Don’t worry when you read the word “fatty" - omega-3’s increase your body’s metabolic rate, actually helping to burn excess fats in your body! Flaxseed oil also lowers LDL (the bad) cholesterol, boosts your immune system, helps your G-I tract, and gives you better skin. The list goes on and on. Don’t cook with flax oil exposing it heat results in the loss of many of its properties, but take advantage of using it in smoothies, in salad dressings, or straight up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Be a Movie Star, Show Your Support for Quest!

On Friday, September 24, Quest will be hosting Leslie Dancey and team from Heartsong Media. We will be filming a promotional video for Quest, sharing stories and capturing moments with the people who make our operations such a success.

We invite you to come join us. If you have something to share with the cameras, or simply want to be in the background, please contact Kyle at 604-602-0186 ext 109.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Microgreens are easy to grow at home

Got a green thumb and looking for cheap salad greens over the winter? Check out this article by Randy Shore (aka The Green Man)

At the end of the summer growing season, I am usually left with a lot of seeds that just don't grow that well in the fall. Or things that I'm just not very good at growing, such as broccoli raab and pac choi.

So what I did was mix a pinch of seeds from half a dozen seed packets and sprinkle them over a large planter pot full of potting soil.

Read more at:

Thanksgiving: Rustic Bread Stuffing with Bell Pepper and Herbs

A very flexible recipe to which you may add your own ideas – a little chopped apple, mushrooms, some nuts, variety of herbs and maybe use ½ bread / ½ cornbread. This stuffing may be baked separately or stuffed into the cavity of a turkey or chicken; or even both.

1 (1-lb) loaf crusty country-style bread
olive oil
4 tsps chopped fresh thyme and/or sage
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 tbsps butter/olive oil combination
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 3/4 cups broth, heated

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut bread (or just tear with your hands) into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups loosely packed). Place cubes in large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return cubes to same large bowl.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes; add parsley.

DO AHEAD: Bread cubes and vegetable mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store separately. Store bread at room temperature. Chill vegetable mixture.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Stir vegetable mixture into bread cubes. Gradually add hot broth, tossing to coat evenly. Season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to prepared dish. Cover dish with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake stuffing until heated through, about 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is brown, about 25 minutes longer, and serve.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Best Way to Keep Cut Avocado Fresh

The Omega-3 fatty acids found in avocados are sensitive to light, air and heat and easily oxidize when exposed to them, causing them to brown and break down. This is why an avocado is often green underneath the pit but brown on the exposed surfaces surrounding it - the surface underneath the pit is protected from light and air.

Place the avocado in a clean sour cream or similarly sized opaque container with a piece of cut up onion. Cover with lid and refrigerate. A cut avocado will stay fresh for several days this way. I don't know for sure why this is, but I suspect that it has to do with the sulfuric acids that the onion releases. This is the same sulfur that makes you cry when you chop onions, but it is also used as a preservative. The onion smell/taste doesn't seem to transfer to the avocado, as far as I can tell.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Vegetable Stock ~ Easy, Quick and Flavourful

Vegetable stock is one of those ingredients that is easy to buy off the shelf yet so much more delicious – and economical – when cooked from scratch. And you don't have to purchase pounds of fresh veggies to make it.

Using vegetable peelings, stalks, and leaves can be a great way to save money and avoid wasting food. Here are some tips for saving vegetable scraps, which can be used in the basic D.I.Y. Vegetable Stock recipe, below.

• Vegetables to use: Onions, carrots, and celery are the key ingredients in vegetable stock, but many other vegetables can add depth and flavor. Wash and save roots, stalks, leaves, ends, and peelings from vegetables such as leeks, scallions, garlic, fennel, chard, lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, green beans, squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, and asparagus. Herbs like parsley, thyme, oregano and cilantro are also good additions.

• Vegetables to avoid: Scraps from the following vegetables have flavours that can be too overpowering: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes. Beets and onion skins should also be avoided, unless you don't mind your stock turning red or brown.

• Spoiled vegetables: Although stock is a great way to use veggies that are wilted or slightly past their prime, be sure not to use produce that is rotten or moldy.

• Storing scraps: You will want to collect about 4 cups of vegetables to make 2 quarts of stock. Save scraps throughout the week, wash and chop them into similar sizes, and keep them in an airtight bag or container in the refrigerator. If you are collecting scraps for longer than a week, store in the freezer

D.I.Y. Vegetable Stock - makes 2 quarts

Always include the aromatics: onions, celery and carrots. Chop everything into no more than 1” pieces to help extract the most flavor from the vegetables. This is different from meat stocks where the vegetables are left in large chunks because they are going to be simmered for much longer. Don't use too much water - 2 parts water to 1-part vegetables is a good ratio.

About 4 cups chopped vegetables - a mix of onions, celery, and carrots
2 large tomatoes, chopped (optional)
1 cup mushrooms, chopped (optional)
2 quarts water

Simmer uncovered for about an hour. Any more than an hour and the flavor will begin to deteriorate. Strain out the vegetables using a fine mesh strainer and press to squeeze out all the broth. Let cool then pour into bags or containers and freeze or refrigerate. If refrigerated use within a few days.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Cookbook Giveaway!

Please give a special thanks to Chris from Food Elf for donating a prize on the Quest Food Exchange Blog:

Easy, home-style recipes from chef Gordon Ramsay, star of the hit Fox reality show, "Hell's Kitchen."

International superstar chef Gordon Ramsay scored a huge hit this past summer with his Fox-TV reality show, "Hell's Kitchen," which showcased both his formidable cooking skills and his infamous temper. Now this three-star Michelin chef is showing a different side in Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, his first cookbook geared specifically to the needs of the home cook, with simple, accessible recipes that take very little time to make.

This gorgeous-looking book is packed with 200 color photographs and makes a great gift for cooks of all levels and of course fans of the TV show. A free bonus DVD is included with the book, featuring exclusive footage of Gordon cooking recipes from the book in his own home kitchen.

Just leave a comment on this post mentioning your favourite food to cook or recipe title, with your email address, and you’ll be entered into the draw.

Deadline: Tuesday, September 21at noon – Winner will be announced on Wednesday, September 22 on the Quest Blog.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Proper meat portions healthy for life and wallet

Let’s be honest. Meat is expensive.

At Quest’ not-for-profit grocery stores, our groceries are typically 50 to 70 percent lower then a conventional grocery store. Despite these reductions in prices, meat prices still remain relatively high when we eat the portion sizes that we are conditioned to believe we need.

But, there is hope!!! When we look further into the average amount of protein a person should consume in one day, we see that if we eat adequate proportions, one pound can go a lot further then we think. The Canada Food Guide states that on average, a young adult male should consume two servings of meat per day. An example of one of these servings could be:
-2 eggs
-2 tablespoons of peanut butter
-2.5 ounces of meat (which visually equates to just under a deck of playing cards)
-3/4 cup of cooked beans

Unfortunately, the typical Western proportion size we see presented through culture, the media, or society in general, has skewed our understanding of what a healthy helping is. We tend to think that the main ingredient and focus of the plate should be a large piece of meat, like a T bone steak or a large chicken breast.

While meat can be extremely good for our health because of its high levels of protein, vitamins and other nutrients, overconsumption can lead to certain health complications due to the levels of saturated fats and cholesterol often found in meats. To reduce the chance for these health issues while also making the right amount of protein more attainable, the focus of the plate should change from a large piece of meat to something that has lower levels of fat (while remaining high in other nutrients and vitamins).

A re-education in meal planning can help save you wallet and your waistline. Maintaining a diet based on the Canada Food Guide requires more effort placed on fruits & veggies and grains, to ensure one is full, and has had the proper intake of recommended nutrients.

For example, at Quest, a 500 gram jar of peanut butter can be found for one dollar. With loaves of bread at $0.50, one can ensure a serving of meat/meat alternatives for only pennies. If sticking to the recommended 2.5 ounces of meat, at Quest a single serving of fish will only cost $0.50.

This being said, let’s learn to place more focus on the rest of the meal we once considered after-thoughts or side dishes. Every week, Quest receives an amazing array of baked products from Cobbs Bread. We have an ever changing supply of fresh fruits and vegetables from local suppliers. And now with the help of an amazing volunteer, Quest’s blog will feature recipes using ingredients from our stores.

Knowing adequate portion sizes will not only benefit your health, but your pockets as well. Cheers!

Written by Hannah, a Quest Volunteer

Shopping List at Quest Food Exchange - Using only $13

For every four hour shift that a Quest volunteer works, we receive a thirteen dollar food voucher which can be redeemed in the Quest store the day of our shift. Quest prices are generally 50 to 70 percent lower then your average grocery store. This means that while thirteen dollars may not go far in a typical grocery store, it can go a long way at Quest!

One volunteer shift is very helpful for Quest as a not for profit organization, as well as for volunteers and their families.

Here are a couple of examples, one vegetarian and one meat oriented, of some of the kinds of food you can pick up with one food voucher.

Vegetable chicken breast= .60
Baked teriyaki tofu (2 packs)= 2.00
1 pack baby romaine salad box (142 grams)= .75
2 lb peppers= .60
1 lb broccoli= .60
2 lb onions= .60
1 lb apples= .30
1 cantaloupe= .50
Sweet potato soup (1 liter)= 1.50
1 bag of buns (cheese, white, or whole what)= .80
1 liter organic milk= 1.00
Sugar free chocolate bar (40 grams)= .50
Black soy sauce= 1.00
1 bag tortilla chips (198 grams)= .75

Total cost = 12.90

1 lb chicken breast (bone in)= 3.29 OR 1 lb salmon= 3.25
2 lb zucchini= .60
3 lb potatos= .60
1 pack baby romaine salad box (142 grams)= .75
2 lb onions= .60
1 lb apples= .30
Chicken breading= 1.00
One loaf bread (white or whole wheat)= .80
1 liter milk= 1.00
2 liters flavoured sparkling water= .50
Chocolate bars= 2 for 1.00
Rice (roughly 1 lb)= 1.50
Peanut butter (500 grams)= 1.00

Total cost = 12.94

Written by Hannah, a Quest Volunteer

British Columbia: 'The province that doesn't look after its kids'

Contrary to British Columbia’s glossy marketing campaign, the province isn’t the best place on earth, at least if you happen to be a poor child. In fact, for seven years running, B.C. has had the highest child-poverty rate in Canada.

The National Council of Welfare, an advisory body to the federal government, says that during the boom years from the mid-1990s to 2007, child poverty rates in B.C. diverged from those of other provinces.

“In 1999, as the national poverty rate fell, the rate in British Columbia jumped up to 16.4 per cent, making it the highest in Canada for the first time, [and] it remains the highest in the country despite strong economic and employment growth in the province,” the council said.

Read more at:

Zucchini Carrot Nut Muffins

Choose whichever dried fruit and nuts you prefer – very convenient to pop one in a lunch bag and for after-school snacks.

1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T canola oil
big pinch of kosher salt
1 lg. egg
1 c. zucchini, grated
1 c. carrots, grated
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. pecans, chopped
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 F and lightly spray a standard 6-cup muffin pan, or use containers that will hold about 1/3 c. of batter each.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, oil, salt, and egg. Add the zucchini, carrot, cranberries, and pecans and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and fold them into the wet mixture, working the batter only just until all ingredients are moistened. Avoid over-mixing.

Divide the batter evenly into the cups and bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center is removed clean, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to sit in the cups about 5 minutes before turning out on a baking rack to cool completely.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parsnip Pancakes

You won’t believe how tasty these are – prepare for a stampeed; no need to mention the word parsnip until they’re all gone. Add some chili flakes and or garlic if you’d like a variation.

(makes about 6)
1/2 lb (1 large or two med. small) parsnips, shredded
2 scallions, cut to 2-inch pieces and julienned lengthwise
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black or white pepper, or to taste
2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
optional dipping sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Beat the egg in a medium-large bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients except for the oil and the dipping sauce.

Heat a tbsp of oil on a skillet over a medium flame until hot.

Using your hands, form the parsnip mixture into roughly 3-inch patties at a time, and place gently onto the pan, keeping each pancake an inch or so apart (you will probably need to work in batches). Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side before flipping; flip, and cook another 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned on both sides. Remove from heat and serve with the optional dipping sauce immediately.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Metro Vancouver mulls plan to boost local food production

As farmers' markets across the lower mainland grow in popularity thanks to trends like the 100 Mile Diet, Metro Vancouver is considering stepping in to ramp up local food production.

For the first time, the board is considering a plan for the region's food production and has published a draft Regional Food Systems Strategy. In it, staff propose purchasing agricultural land for a trust, which could then be rented out to new farmers who can't afford to buy their own plots.

Read more at:

Zucchini-Chocolate Loaf Using Ingredients from Quest Food Exchange

Yellow summer squash recently in stock at the Quest Stores is great in this recipe, together with chocolate chips also found at the store.

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup zucchini grated
1/4 cup cocoa powder
handful chocolate chips semisweet
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar – use whatever sugar you have
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt or sour cream
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder

Mix the wet ingredients together and sift the dry ones in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture in three parts to the dry and fold until just combined. Pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack to room temperature before slicing.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Accessibility for Everyone in the Kitchen

I have recently started to become more aware of issues around accessibility thanks to some wonderfully outspoken activist friends, and from my own personal experience in navigating the world with a disability.

Growing up, my understanding of the concept was that accessibility was about wheelchairs and scooters, or helping people with other mobility issues can come and go in public or private spaces.

Accessibility the idea that everyone deserves equal access to activities, services, tools, organizations, social opportunities and facilities and so on.

It’s not just about getting in and out of stores and restaurants but about going to the bathroom and washing your hands; using transportation; acquiring food, shelter, and healthcare; it’s about getting a job (and keeping it) and an education. It’s about so many little details that go unnoticed by most of us because we don’t understand that how things might not work for others as well as they work for us.

Another example of accessibility issues I found relates to online recipes. This had not occurred to me; I had not considered that some people are denied the chance to cook (or learn to cook) using a recipe or find cooking difficult because of how the recipe is presented. I have, until now, taken for granted that because I can follow a recipe that others don’t have difficulties.

I have found a couple online sources for recipes which include information that makes cooking a more accessible activity for some.

Sue’s blog helps blind people navigate cooking, using audio recipes and including tips specifically for the visually impaired (

I found another with gluten free recipes and recipes for diabetics ( There is also information about nutritional value.

One important note is that both these websites provide buttons to increase and decrease text size and the option to print recipes.

Further reading on the issue of accessibility

Types of disabilities:

This is a great guide to planning inclusive meetings:

and a checklist for event planning that can assist in making people feel welcome:

Simple Summer Harvest Soup

Not sure what to do with all the red bell peppers in Quest's stores? Check out this delicious soup to warm you on a fall day.

2 -3 tbsps olive oil or oil of your choice
2 large onions (about 1lb), chopped
3 or 4 sweet red peppers, bell or other shaped (about 1lb), chopped
3 or 4 Yellow summer squash, (about 1lb), cut into quartered slices
6 cups (48 ounces) chicken or vegetable stock
Optional garnishes: Chopped fresh chives, sour cream, chopped ripe tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the chopped onions, peppers, and squash. Let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure the vegetables don’t scorch.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer with the lid cracked, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Using a blender or stick blender carefully puree the soup to desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot or cold, garnished if desired.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Images from Quest: Parsnips

Until the potato arrived from the New World, its place in dishes was occupied by the parsnip and other root vegetables such as the turnip.

Onion Panade … Savoury Onion Bread Pudding

It’s one of those things that’s equally good hot from the oven, cooled to room temperature, or even reheated the next day. You won’t have any problems getting rid of any leftovers.

This is a brilliant way to use up stale bread, but fresh can be used as well. if you have a it’s a hearty-style bread - even sourdough – it will be even better. This makes a wonderful vegetarian main course with a green salad on the side. But it would also be a terrific accompaniment or side dish to any main course. Serves 4

4 large onions (approx 1kg / 2lb)

olive oil
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked
, or dried if you have it
1/2 medium loaf of bread - a little stale is great (approx 1/2lb), torn in to chunks

(5oz) cheese, grated or crumbled
 (Cheddar is good)
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (stock cube is fine)

Preheat oven to (400F). Cut onion in half lengthwise. Peel, then slice into half moons about 5mm (1/4in) thick.

Heat 4 – 5 tbsps olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook onion stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown. No need to caramelize. Stir in the thyme.

In a medium heatproof dish layer about a third of the onions. Sprinkle over some of the bread and cheese. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. You want to be able to see a little of each on the top.

Bring stock to a simmer. Pour over the onion dish. Season. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy and the bread has absorbed the stock.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reading food labels better for weight loss than exercise, report says

People who add reading nutritional information on food labels to their exercise program are more successful at losing weight than those who just exercise, according to a recently published study.

Even reading "nutrition facts" labels on packaged foods without exercising resulted in more weight loss than exercising without reading labels, wrote Washington State University researcher Bishida Mandal in the Fall 2010 edition of the Journal of Consumer Affairs. The data were drawn between 2002 and 2006 from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which has been studying a group of 12,686 men and women in the United States since 1979

Read more at:

Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasting the tomatoes adds an intense, smokey flavour to this classic soup dish. If you have lots of tomatoes double/triple the batch – roasted tomatoes freeze beautifully.

10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise 

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled 

4 tbsp olive oil 

1 tsp salt 

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 

1 medium onion, chopped 

1/2 tsp fresh or dried oregano 

1 tbsp honey

3 tbsp unsalted butter 

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth 

1/2-cup cream 
or milk, or to taste

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.

Arrange tomatoes with cut sides up in single layer in a large shallow baking dish. Add garlic. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool for 1 hour. Once cool, peel skin off garlic.

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onion, oregano and honey and cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until onion has softened.

Add tomatoes, garlic and stock to onion mixture and simmer, covered for 20-25 minutes. Purée soup in batches in a food processor, then force through a sieve into cleaned saucepan – alternatively, mash with a potato masher. Discard solids. Stir in cream or milk. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for another 2 minutes.

Serving ideas: Sprinkle with a little grated cheese, if you have it and garnish with any herbs you like.

Cut some bread into cubes and toss with a little oil & garlic if you have some, put on a baking sheet or skillet and toast them in the oven while you’re roasting the tomatoes – but keep an eye on them. Scatter some on your soup at serving time.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

End Of Summer Bruschetta

There isn’t a better way to use summertime tomatoes than in platter of crispy, drippy Italian bruschetta.

1 baguette
(or your favourite style of bread)
Olive oil (to drizzle on bread)

1 clove garlic

4-5 large ripe tomatoes

Handful fresh basil leaves
, if you have them
Coarse salt

Black pepper

Pinch of sugar

3 tbsp olive oil

Slice the baguette into individual crostini sizes. Drizzle both sides of each slice with a healthy dose of olive oil, and then put them on a preheated medium-hot barbecue until they’re good and crunchy.
When they’re hot off the grill, rub one side of each toasted round with the fat clove of garlic. Set aside.

Core the tomatoes then coarsely chop them.

Slice basil leaves into strips.

Put tomatoes and basil in a bowl and mash up the mixture along with some coarse salt, black pepper, a pinch of sugar and a tsp of herbs de Provence (if you’ve got some on hand).

Drain off some of the liquid and then add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and give it another stir. Taste for seasoning. Spoon onto the platter of prepared crostini and pour some of the juice over top so that the bread soaks it up and softens up.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Simple Peanut Satay Sauce

This is a perfect sauce for everything from vegetables to pork, chicken or beef.

1 (10 oz) can coconut milk *see note
1/2-cup crunchy peanut butter (smooth is fine)
1/2 small onion, grated
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsps brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes – to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter, onion, soy sauce, brown sugar, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and keep warm.

*When Quest doesn't have any, Coconut milk may be purchased very inexpensively at most Asian grocery stores.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Socks in Stock - Quest also has many household items

Sometimes we are blessed to find a bit of warmth in this rainy wet city.

I have to admit that things I need for myself are low on the list of priorities when bills and food take so much of the monthly budget. Last fall when Quest a shipment of socks, I spent ten dollars and got enough socks for three weeks. While doing my shopping recently, I noticed we had more socks in the store again. This is just one example of some of the non food items that Quest offers

I cannot stress the importance of these items at Quest. These are the kind of things that the food bank doesn't have access to, in fact it seems that no other place is able to assist with such things.

I see small kitchen appliances, vacuums, brooms, mops, cleaning supplies, some clothing and various other sundries that are essential to day to day living. Also, a few things that are not so necessary but make life fun: toys, colouring, craft and party supplies.

The hard reality is that if something breaks down or gives out it must be replaced, sometimes that means taking money from the food budget to do so. I would rather skip a few meals than loose the lights or be late on the rent.

I have a great love of cooking and own a fantastic gas stove to cook with, circa 1940. I have been able to replace most of my pots and pans at Quest. I have been able to take up some creative crafty hobbies again. I don't have to be anxious about where the money is coming from since the prices of the house wares at Quest are also priced to be within my budget.

Written by Starla, a Quest Volunteer and Client

From The Straight - "Urban foraging..."

Calling all food distributors, wholesalers, stores, restaurants, farmers, etc: food is going to waste, and there are many hungry people in Vancouver.

As reported in the Straight (, there is more than enough food going to waste for freegans to have a healthy meal. According to the article (and by our own reseach), "a great quantity of food routinely gets thrown out at all stages in the food system in our society: by producers, retailers, and consumers."

While grocery shoppers demand (and rightfully so for the money they are spending) food that is at the premium of freshness and quality, anything else is often disposed of as it is passed over in store. This food, if not donated winds up in the dumpster even though it likely posesses nutritional value that many low-income families require.

The Straight acknowledges that "organizations like Quest Food Exchange and the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project exist to distribute and divert food headed to the landfill," though "some still gets sent to the Dumpster."

We at Quest appreciate all the support from our partnered food vendors in making sure excess food doesn't go to waste. We do know though that there is a lot more work to do.

We welcome calls from all vendors in the region. Quest owns and operates a feet of vehicles. We do our own pickups so that you don't have to pay for disposal. Quest has frigerated and freezer space, so we can also pick up fresh produce. Not to mention, we also provide tax-deductible receipts for the value of your donated goods.

Our Marketing Coordinator, Pardeep, is waiting for your call. 604-602-0186.

Apples - In Our Stores

From the Quest Flickr Account -

At least 55 million tonnes of apples were grown worldwide in 2005, with a value of about $10 billion. China produced about 35% of this total.

BuenoStyle - A Shout-out for Canning Peaches

It just came to my attention that BuenoStyle has listed us on their blog. After taking a little stroll through their posts, I came across a little ditty on food preservation.

Often Quest will have a surplus of some random fruit and vegetable. People will say to us, "What do I do with all these nectarines?"

Can them. Check out the amazing job done in this post, canning anything from tomatoes to peaches.

Great job over there, think of all the food you have saved from winding up in the bin!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quest in BC Hydro's "Green Your Business" Section

Found on the website of BC Hydro:

Businesses generate a significant amount of organic food waste also known as food discards. Major generators of discarded food are restaurants, supermarkets, produce stands, school cafeterias, hospitals, hotels, employee lunch rooms and community events... reduce the amount of waste your business sends to the landfill, minimize the impact that your business makes on the environment and potentially cut costs by reducing the volume or frequency of trash collection.

For the last 20 years Quest has continued to rescue non-marketable food (overstock, mislabeled, misshapen) that would otherwise wound up in the landfill. There is plenty of healthy and nutritious food that becomes classified as "waste" long before it actually expired as part of regular business operations.

Thank you BC Hyrdo for recognizing us on your website as an alternative in food management (

From the Desk of Draya – A Quest Client and Volunteer

When it comes to attention and focus, my brain is a funny machine. I find it very hard to sit down and focus on one task or one thought at a time. I’m distracted by all the interesting (and they all grab my interest briefly) little details of life. And, big pictures have many, many little details.

If I don’t like something, or if it’s associated with a negative thought/experience/emotion, then I (usually) have a harder time focusing on it. On the other hand, if I am interested, Ii can get obsessive. I research it. I look for it in the world. I might try to create it.

I read a lot about gardening. I have been particularly focused on the concept of a living, vertical wall that would potentially produce food. It has been my intention to blog about that specific detail. I went to the library yesterday, wanting to see what they had about vertical gardening. There wasn’t anything like what I’d seen online, so I focused on some of the related details and brought some home.

When I go to the library, I have trouble not bringing books home. There’s something about having a book to hold in your hand and touch as you read that I really love and appreciate. You can’t get that interfacing with computers. Maybe it’s because computers and the internet have overwhelmingly immense amounts of detail to get lost in. I find if I only see one detail at a time I forget about the rest, or I get anxious that I won’t be able to “consume” all that information. It’s similar to the anxiety I feel in bookstores. I know I will never be able to read everything I would ever want to.

So I brought home some books about community gardening, taking over the front lawn to grow food, hip houseplants, urban gardening, eating what you grow, and one about anxiety. I thought about the many community gardens I see around town and all the vacant and ugly fenced lots. I thought about a garden I used to walk past all the time where the guy has used every part of his front and back yard to grow food. He has kiwi trellises that were loaded with what had to be a couple hundred kiwis, there is an apple tree, a pear tree, greens, and beans. He even has chickens. I thought about going guerrilla gardening with a local group. I thought about recycling grocery bags, drink bottles, egg cartons into planters...

So what is the bigger picture here? So many people on our planet and in our city are going hungry. They are disconnected from nature and agriculture. Yet, there are solutions. This doesn’t have to be “just the way things are.” They can become something different if we each make a choice, many choices daily.

Today I will go out and get a plant and maybe some dirt to plant some seeds I have hanging around waiting for a yard and garden.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How to be a successful snacker

Snacking is a crucial part to any diet – it can help you stay lean and conquer even the worst of cravings. But mastering the mini meal takes more than just throwing a banana into your bag and calling it good. Learn how to get through the afternoon both satisfied and junk-food free:

Read more at:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pork Ribs Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a starter – I would double this recipe, if I were you! These ribs have a lovely sweet/salty taste – you could add dried or fresh chilies if you wanted a little zing.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup fish sauce* see note
1/3 cup sliced onions
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 slab pork ribs (1.75 to 2 lbs)

Heat oven 300F. Spread the sugar in the bottom of a wide heavy-based skillet. Pour over 1/4 cup of the water and the lemon juice. Let it sit for a minute. Then heat over medium heat until the sugar begins to liquefy. Reduce the heat the medium low and let the caramel boil until it turns red.

Remove it from the heat and slowly pour 1/4 cup water and the fish sauce into the caramel (this will spatter!). Return to the heat and stir. Let boil for a few minutes, until the sauce is smooth and a bit thick. Add the onions and pepper and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Separate the pork ribs into individual riblets by cutting down between the bones and place in roasting pan or large skillet. Add the caramel sauce, stir to coat, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and place in the oven if you’ve doubled the recipe, the cooking time could be 2-2½ hours. The oven should be low enough so they’re just simmering gently; not boiling like mad. Otherwise they’ll be as tough as superballs. And no one likes tough ribs.

The ribs are done when they have become tender enough to pull easily away from the bone and are a deep mahogany colour. At this point, you can serve them or store them. If you want to store them, let them cool and then store in the fridge for 1 to 3 days. They’re better for resting and you can easily remove the layer of fat when the ribs are chilled. Reheat gently and serve with a mountain of napkins!

*If you don’t have fish sauce try 50/50 soy sauce & vinegar

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad

Prepared using fresh ingredients available at Quest Food Exchange

1 lb carrots, scrubbed or peeled and cut into two-inch segments
3 tbsps olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp ground cumin - optional
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 an avocado, pitted and sliced (or more if you prefer)
Juice of half a lemon

Roast the carrots: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrot chunks in a medium bowl with two tbsps of the olive oil, cumin and as generous of a helping of salt and pepper as you like. Spread them on a roasting sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender and browned. Of course, roasting time will vary depending on the thickness of your carrots.

Finish the salad: Once the carrots are roasted, arrange them on a serving platter with slices of avocado on top. Drizzle the salad with the last tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice and extra salt and pepper, if it needs it.

Eat immediately.

Created for Quest by Chris at:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food Found at Quest Food Exchange: Salmon / Trout

Fish is a great source of protein and Omega 3’s.

Omega 3’s can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce high blood pressure, and prevent blood clots. Omega 3 fats also help reduce inflammation in our bodies which is the root of many health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer.

Salmon provides an excellent source of Vitamin D. Salmon is a good source of magnesium and phosphorous. Magnesium aids in the absorption of calcium and helps maintain a healthy heart. Phosphorous aids in the formation of bones and teeth.

Trout is an excellent source of Niacin and Vitamin B12. Niacin is needed for healthy skin, a healthy stomach and intestinal tract, and helps with caring for the nervous system.

Vitamin B12, along with other B vitamins, is important for maintaining a healthy nervous system and DNA production.

Fish is a very healthy food that can be prepared in many ways. Eating fish 2 – 3 times per week is very good for us. Salmon and Trout are similar in taste and similar in nutrition.

Serving Suggestions:

Remember to rinse fish before cooking and to watch for small bones.
• You can simply bake the fish with lemon juice and a bit of pepper. Bake at 350 degrees until the fish is flakey. Fish does not take too long to cook so check it frequently; depending on size, it could be done within 10 minutes.
• Using a square of tinfoil, place a piece of fish in the center. Add pepper to taste, and your favorite vegetables such as peppers, green beans, asparagus, and onion. Fold the tinfoil allowing some air space but no open ends. Cook until the fish is flakey and the veggies are tender.
• Put a bit of honey, lemon juice, soya sauce together and toss fish pieces to cover. Bake until flakey. While the fish is baking, chop mango and a ½ of cucumber, finely chop 1 tsp of onion (red), add a bit of lemon juice and honey. Toss the ingredients and serve over the baked fish.

Cold left-over fish can be served on a salad, or add a bit of plain yogurt and mix to make a sandwich spread.

Corinne Stockford, RHN
Realife Nutrition

Muslims hand out food in Downtown Eastside

Muslims from around Metro Vancouver will be gathering at the Carnegie Centre Tuesday afternoon to provide food for residents of the Downtown Eastside.

The fourth annual Ramadan Spirit Feed the Homeless Drive aims to provide 2,000 meals at the corner of Main and Hastings. It’s being organized by Al-Jamia Vancouver, the first mosque in Western Canada, in association with the Pakistan-Canada Association.

Read more at: