Sunday, June 6, 2010

Eating Well on Practically Nothing book now available!

I'm happy to announce that the book is finished and available. You can find it on Commercial Drive at People's Co-op Books, East End Food Co-op and from our street vendor, found often at First and Commercial. $12. Coil bound and conveniently sized to fit in your bag. Information on nutrition, sourcing cheap food, and how to make lots of quick and nutritious meals. Bonus sections on brewing beer, planting a little garden, and reflexology.

You can also get it at Spartacus Books.

The book is available online at

We are having a book launch event plus 2 band extravaganza on July 1st, at the Princeton Pub, in East Vancouver. The bands will be MillerEastman and Bukowskis'. 8 pm start. $5. cover. Books for $10.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Eating Well on Practically Nothing #2

Exclusive to
Commercial Drive - Live!

Why you shou
ld eat garlic
  • The Egyptians worshipped it
  • Garlic contains Vitamin C, B6, Selenium.
  • Garlic lowers blood pressure, protects against flu, asthma, arthritis, ulcers
  • Garlic reduces your risk of cancer.
  • It's antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory.
  • If there's a vampire invasion, it could provide some protection
  • Garlic tastes great!!!!
  • Garlic rocks!!!!
  • Garlic turns any meal into a PARTY!!!!
  • You can grow it yourself (but - you should plant it in the fall. More on that later...)
If your girlfriend or boyfriend or transgendered friend doesn't like the smell of garlic on your breath - maybe they can find somebody else - you know - someone boring. Or, you could always buy the extra strong breath mints.

HINT: To easily peel garlic, trim the flat end off, and then lay the clove on your cutting board. Place the flat of your cutting knife on the clove, and whack it with your fist. The skin will separate from the clove, and you can cut it up.

Check out these websites.

Care and Feeding of Your Cast-iron Frying Pan
I'm really glad you got the big one - you won't regret it.
Now, here's what you need to do to treat it right:
  • put it on a burner and warm it up
  • pour some olive oil into the pan, turn the burner off
  • let it sit for awhile, then make sure the oil is rubbed all over the pan
The best way to wash a cast iron frying pan is to rinse it out with hot water right after you take your food out of it. Get a bristle brush. Don't use soap. Avoid soaking your pan in water - it'll dry out, and it might rust. You want to keep it lightly oiled at all times.

Stir Fry 101
I learned about the art of stir frying from a guy named Michael, in Calgary when I was a teenager. He had a girlfriend, I had a boyfriend. He also had long dark hair to his waist, played the congas and liked to walk around wrapped up in African prints. So cool. And the thing was, Michael could COOK. He had a wok and he knew how to use it. I used to sit on a stool in the kitchen of his hippy house and watch him cut up things.

I should mention that if you want to, you can own a wok as well. I've owned several - and then gave them away because I found them too awkward to store, and not multi-purpose enough. A wok is good for stir fry. With a cast iron frying pan, you can Impress your date with a Spicy Chicken stir fry for supper, some pop corn for the show and then a Deluxe Spinach and Feta omelet for breakfast.

Tofu Stir Fry

  1. Olive oil
  2. garlic
  3. soya sauce
  4. onion
  5. tofu (preferably the firm kind. Santa Barbara market sells it fresh)
  6. Vegetables - the ones you like. Judge quantities by how many hungry people you plan to feed. Some suggestions: broccoli, celery, bok choi, carrots, peppers, snow peas, bean sprouts, canned water chestnuts
  1. Chop everything up first. Try slicing the vegetables on an angle. It looks cool, and the vegetables will absorb more of the garlic
  2. Heat your frying pan on a high heat
  3. Cover the bottom with oil
  4. Test for readiness by splashing a drop of water on the pan - if it sizzles immediately, the pan is hot enough.
  5. Add garlic & onions. Stir gently, and let them get a bit brown
  6. Add tofu & sprinkle with soya sauce
  7. Stir less now. You want to let the tofu get crispy and brown.
  8. Monitor the heat - you may want to turn It down.
  9. When the tofu Is nice and brown on all sides, start adding vegetables, one variety at a time. Start with the ones that take the longest to cook.
  10. Stir regularly, and when all the vegetables are added, put a lid on and let it steam.
  11. Don't over cook - you get more nutrition out of the vegetables, and it tastes better.
  12. Serve with rice or noodles.
There are all kinds of rice - white, brown, short grain, medium grain, long grain, basamati. Brown has more nutrition. Short grain cooks faster. Basamati costs more.

Try them all, and you'll find out what you like.

There are many ways to cook rice, but here's a method that works for me:
  1. Put rice in pot - as much as you think you need
  2. Cover with water, swish it around, then dump the water out. This washes the rice.
  3. Add clean water to the pan. Measure with your finger - the water should cover your middle knuckle.
  4. Put the pot on a burner, at high heat
  5. When the water boils, turn the heat way down and keep an eye on the pot, until there is almost no water.
  6. Turn heat off, leave pot on burner. Check again in 10 minutes. All the water should be absorbed into the rice.
PS Make the rice before you start your stir-fry.

You can buy Chinese noodles that cook up in about 3 minutes. Boil water in a pot when your stir fry is almost done, add noodles, drain & serve.

There are all kinds of sauces you can add to your stir fry for extra zest. The Apollo Poultry shop near First and Commercial has a nice selection, and they don't cost much. Soya sauce and garlic tastes pretty good too.

Super Easy Tofu Stir Fry
You can buy pre-cooked deep fried tofu at the Fujia (Clark and Venables). Ignore the instructions for frying tofu. Cook your vegetables, then add the tofu.

Happy eating!

Next edition: more than you wanted to know about buying and eating chicken.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Eating Well on Practically Nothing - #1

Exclusive to Commercial Drive – Live!

This column will be about eating fresh, eating simply, eating tasty, and eating SOON. If you are looking for recipes that require a lot of fussing and preparation, fancy tablecloths, the correct fork, expensive ingredients, 20-year-old wine, etc. - go elsewhere.

I will shamelessly promote local stores that provide great produce and good value for your money.

If in doubt, I'll consult outside experts - fellow cheapskates who live well and contribute to society through their eccentricity, cooking, and art.


The greatest influences on my style of cooking include my mother, James Barber (author of the Urban Peasant cookbooks) and a long-haired guy named Michael I knew when I was 19. My mother gets credit for teaching me you can keep your recipes in your head, and make something tasty with whatever you can find in your kitchen; James Barber for the phrase "peasant cooking" and the advice to follow your nose - (when something smells different, it's time to check the stove); Michael for introducing me to the art of the stir fry.

Hint One: If you want to eat well for cheap, live near Commercial Drive!

I've shopped for groceries all over BC, and I've gotta tell you - the freshest and cheapest produce in BC can be found on the Drive. I live part time in the Okanagan - where they GROW the stuff, by the way. Before I head out to the Interior, I regularly go shopping at Santa Barbara, and take a cooler full of vegetables back to where they came from. A bunch of fresh spinach that I can get for $.59 on Commercial Drive will cost me $1.79 in Salmon Arm. Go figure.

My Essential Ingredients

I cannot cook without:



vegetable oil (preferably extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil)

soya sauce

chili peppers

black pepper

Essential Tools

cast iron frying pan

cutting board


knife sharpener

wooden spoons

mixing bowl

various size pots

casserole dish

baking pan


Hint Two: Get the good, thick steel pots. If you're flush, buy them new, if you're not, haunt garage sales, second hand stores, or get them off your grandmother when she moves into the seniors residence. I got mine at a flea market in the West End Community Centre - a 6-piece set in an array of sizes. It cost me $ 40 (and that was the moment when I knew for sure I would never have to get married). The cheaper, thinner pots will burn your dinner the minute you turn away to put on some music or answer the phone. The good pots will be with you for a lifetime.

BTW - don't skimp on the cast iron frying pan. I advise buying a big one - unless you have no friends, of course. Teflon flakes off and ends up in your system, where it will do more damage than trans fats. Aluminum burns your dinner and has been suspected of contributing to Alzheimer's disease. You want to protect your brain at all costs. So - get the cast iron.

Okay, this is lesson one. Go shopping for equipment and I'll be back soon with some mouth watering recipes. While you're out scouring for pots, stop by the Dollar Grocer's at 6th and Commercial, and pick up some of their bulk garlic. At 33 cents per 100 grams, it's the freshest and best deal on garlic the Drive has to offer. Unless someone knows of a better place....