4/12/2016

Cravings: Mushrooms

There are two foods that I will probably never get sick of - potatoes and mushrooms. I absolutely love mushrooms. The only kind I don't like are called straw mushrooms. To me, they are gross, and for much of my childhood, I saw a Chinese dish full of them when we went for dinners with family friends...but back to why I love mushrooms!

Things I learned today about mushrooms:
- Mushrooms are freaking awesome, but I knew that already.
- Mushrooms don't have any chlorophyll like their many veggie cousins, so they don't need sunlight to grow! What beasts!
- Check out this amazing list of facts about mushrooms, and/or learn how to grow your own mushroom farm!
- Superior Mushrooms in Ardrossan is Alberta's oldest mushroom farm. I should visit them one day...

I stayed at home today for a mental health day off from work, and decided to lay on the comfort with a wonderfully, decadent, mushroom-y lunch. 

Jumbo white mushrooms from Superstore. Toaster oven for scale.
Serve with your choice of starch and green to keep it vegetarian, or throw in some protein to unleash your omnivorous side! I opted for a mashed potato and some green salad drizzled with Garlic EVOO and Cask 18 balsamic from Oliv Tasting Room.
Stuffed Mushrooms
**Makes 2 servings**
6 large white or cremini mushrooms
4 cloves of garlic
5 Tbsp Mushroom Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from Oliv Tasting Room)
4 wedges of The Laughing Cow Garlic & Herb
A toaster oven

1. Line your toaster oven tray with parchment paper.
2. Carefully remove the stems from the mushrooms so that the caps stay in tact. 
3. Brush about 2 Tbsp mushroom oil all over the mushroom caps, and place them upside down on the tray.
4. Set the temperature to 350 F and bake the mushroom caps for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, finely chop the mushroom stems and garlic. 
6. Add 2 Tbsp mushroom oil to a pan over medium heat, and lightly fry the mushrooms and garlic. 
7. In a small bowl, add the cheese wedges, and pour the hot topping over them. Mix until evenly combined.
8. Evenly distribute the filling between the mushroom caps. Drizzle with the remaining Tbsp of mushroom oil, and put them back into the toaster oven. 
9. Change the setting back to toast/450 F and bake for 5 minutes until slightly browned on the tops.
10. Remove from the toaster oven and enjoy. 

Super quick and easy, not to mention tasty! Great for appies, party food, and well, I guess lunch.

-M

P.S. I can assure you that I am not being paid to promote Oliv Tasting Room products. I am just obsessed with them.

4/10/2016

Cravings: Tagliatelle

I managed to get my hands on some delicious, fresh pasta from the Italian Centre, which comes in 3 bundles. There's also a note on the back that says that the pasta is "to be consumed after cooking within 3 days of opening the package". Challenge accepted.

Things I learned this week about fresh pasta:
- Even though some dried pasta is pretty good (I like Barilla, and some other Italian brands I've found at Winners and HomeSense), fresh pasta is wayyy better taste-wise and texturally.
- There are multiple theories about how pasta came to be.
- A non-profit association called the International Pasta Organisation was formed to "increase pasta consumption and awareness"!
- There are so many kinds of pasta out there, that aren't the standard types you find in North American restaurants. While I will still admittedly gravitate towards spaceship and dinosaur shaped pasta at times just because, I'm excited to try some different ones - notably orecchiette and campanelle! Perhaps, I'll even try making my own... Need some inspiration? Check out this video featuring Gennaro Contaldo! I'm obsessed with his video on making Gnocchi Al Forno. I have got to try it one day...

And without further ado, I present to you - Tagliatelle, 3 ways!

1. Keeping it classy
Tagliatelle Bolognese. Food for thought: Tagliatelle actually holds the sauce on it better than spaghetti, because spaghetti is round, while tagliatelle is flatter. 
Tagliatelle Bolognese
**Makes 2-3 servings**
1/2 lb lean ground beef 
1 tsp Red Alder Smoked Sea Salt (from Silk Road Spice Merchant)
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 medium onion
1/2 can of diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp of Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from Oliv Tasting Room)
A pinch of dried or fresh chopped parsley 
1-2 tsp flakes or grated parmesan cheese
1 bundle of freshly cooked tagliatelle (from Italian Centre Shop)

1. In a bowl, mix smoked salt and black pepper evenly into the ground beef.
2. Add 2 Tbsp of the olive oil into a saucepan over medium heat. 
3. Finely chop the onion and garlic and cook in the pan until translucent and fragrant.
4. Crumble pieces of the ground beef mixture into the pan and cook until no longer pink.
5. Add the tomatoes and water, and stir until combined. 
6. Simmer over low-medium heat for about 45 minutes until the sauce is no longer liquidy.
7. Turn off the heat, and drizzle 1 Tbsp of garlic olive oil over the sauce, and stir it in. 
8. Serve over freshly cooked pasta. Garnish with some chopped parsley and/or parmesan cheese. Buon appetito!

2. Tossing things up
Tagliatelle Aglio e Olio con Gamberetto (i.e. Garlic and oil tagliatelle with shrimp). A simple tossed pasta, but hella delicious.
Tagliatelle Aglio e Olio con Gamberetto
**Makes 2 servings**
1/8 cup unsalted butter
3 Tbsp Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from Oliv Tasting Room)
1/2 cup frozen baby shrimp
3 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp parmesan cheese flakes
A pinch of chili pepper flakes
A pinch of dried or fresh chopped parsley
1 bundle of freshly cooked tagliatelle (from Italian Centre Shop)

1. Melt butter in a saucepan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-low heat.
2. Add in baby shrimp and toss and stir until cooked through. Meanwhile, slice the garlic.
3. Add in garlic and parmesan and stir until garlic is fragrant.
4. Season with black pepper and chili pepper flakes to your liking.
5. Add 2 servings of freshly cooked pasta into pan, drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil until just combined.
6. Serve and garnish with chopped parsley, and more black pepper, chili flakes, and parmesan to your liking. Buon appetito!

3. Diverging from the norm
Tagliatelle Crack Slurp. Italian by sight, Chinese by taste. A somewhat trippy dining experience, but pretty damn tasty.
Tagliatelle Crack Slurp (Adapted from Lady and Pups)
**Makes 2 servings**
2 chicken thigh skins
1/3 cup + 1/8 cup Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from Oliv Tasting Room)
1/6 lb of lean ground beef
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp + 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 green onion
1 bundle of freshly cooked tagliatelle (from Italian Centre Shop)
2 Tbsp gochujang
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp white granulated sugar

1. Toss the tagliatelle with 1/8 cup olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking, and set aside.
2. Roll the chicken skins into two logs and freeze for at least a couple of hours.
3. In the meantime, prepare 2 soup bowls with seasoning sauce. Combine 1 Tbsp gochujang, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 Tbsp dark soy sauce, 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 tsp white granulated sugar in each bowl, and set aside.
4. Thinly slice garlic and set aside. Chop green onion, and set aside.
5. Remove the chicken skin logs from the freezer, and slice into tiny spirals.
6. In a pan over medium-low heat, add the chicken skins. Occasionally stir the chicken skins so that they don't stick together. Once brown and crispy, remove with a mesh strainer ladle, and set aside. Season right away with salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper.
7. Add the garlic olive oil to the pan with the chicken fat oil.
8. Over medium-low heat, add the garlic. Stir the garlic constantly until browned and crispy, and remove with a mesh strainer ladle, and set aside.
9. Add 2 Tbsp of the chicken fat garlic oil into each of the bowls with your seasoning sauce.
10. With the leftover oil, crumble and cook the beef until no longer pink. Season with 1 tsp white pepper.
11. Add half of the ground beef into each of the bowls, and stir until it is coated evenly with the seasoning sauce. (I used the oil from after cooking the beef to also fry up some Shanghai bok choy too!)
12. Add a serving of tagliatelle noodles into each of the bowls and toss until combined.
13. Top each bowl with fried chicken skin, fried garlic, and chopped green onion, and devour. chī chī chī!

I'm not sure which was my favourite tagliatelle meal, but I know that I enjoyed each one very much! Have you had any recent adventures with tagliatelle or another kind of noodle? Let me know!

-M

2/24/2016

Love for the Locals: Wheat Garden Noodle & Dumpling Bazaar

Normally, my Muslim friends aren't able to enjoy non-vegetarian dishes in Chinese restaurants because the meat is not Halal. When talking about food, Halal refers to meat that is hand-slaughtered (as opposed to being by stun gun and butchered by machine), and a diet free of pork and alcohol. (For more information about Halal, you can visit Canadian Halal Foods.)

That aspect of the Edmonton food scene changed very recently with the opening of Wheat Garden Noodle & Dumpling Bazaar (10703-103 Street, Edmonton, AB) just last month. Wheat Garden is a quaint little restaurant in the heart of Chinatown that serves traditional northern Chinese noodle, rice, and cold dishes, and all of their food is certified Halal!

Wheat Garden Noodle & Dumpling Bazaar is situated where the Old Szechuan Restaurant used to be.
Shortly after hearing about its existence, my friend, Wajeeha of W.S. Photography jumped at the chance and planned a lunch. She, along with other Muslim Edmontonians, usually doesn't get to eat meat-based dishes in Chinese restaurants, because they aren't prepared with the appropriate Islamic dietary restrictions in mind, so she typically replicates them as best as she can in her own kitchen. However, she made a good point - that she doesn't have a frame of reference to compare her dishes to. I was curious to see how it compared to other Chinese noodle and dumpling shops I had been to, and I hadn't eaten northern Chinese food in quite a while, so I was eager to join in on the adventure. We had to wait until the weekend when all of us were available at the same time, but it was well worth the wait (even though it ended up just being 3 of us). Wajeeha brought her camera too! All of the photographs from inside the restaurant were taken by her!

The interior of Wheat Garden looks similar to your typical Chinese neighbourhood restaurant, but with more natural light coming in from the windows. It wasn't too busy near the end of the lunch hour, so Wajeeha was able to snap a few shots of the empty eatery without getting strange looks from other dining customers.
The furnishing is quite simple with a few shelves from IKEA and a couple of TV screens to play Asian dramas and music videos on. Each table has WiFi access information for their customers to use! 
While we waited for another friend to join us, Wajeeha and I ordered the Dumplings All-in-One ($13.99) plate, which is essentially a combination plate of the various homemade dumplings they offer. Fillings included beef, lamb, shrimp, and chicken mixed with carrot, cabbage, or parsley! All winners. It was the first time I ever had lamb in a dumpling, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless!
The dumplings paired very well with the Chinese black vinegar... Mmm... (Also modeled in some of these photos is my souvenir from my visit to Boston last summer.)
I opted for the classic Beef Soup Noodle ($11.99). The broth was a very classic Chinese beef broth with thin slices of beef, daikon radish, chopped leek and parsley, with a little dab of their house-made chili oil.
The noodles were most definitely house-made. They had the perfect texture...so smooth, and delicious. There are actually 4 types of noodles that you can select from on the menu, varying in thickness and width, but I'm betting they are equally as mouthwatering.
Both Wajeeha and Samaiya opted for the Soup Noodle with sliced beef in hot and sour soup. With a trade for a spoonful of my broth, I got to try the hot and sour soup as well. It was delicious too, with a peppery kick at the end.
The verdict? I am definitely coming back. Not only can I dine on authentic northern Chinese noodles and dumplings for a reasonable price, but I can bring all my Muslim friends with me! I can't wait to try the other menu items, and for their business to pick up!

This lunch really got me thinking though. We chatted about the other Chinese eateries in Edmonton that are Halal friendly, and how they're usually some sort of fusion cuisine, rather than pure and authentic Chinese food - apparently we have a Chinese-Caribbean restaurant in town?? There are also quite a few places that claim to offer Chinese or Pakistani foods aren't necessarily authentic, and it's a bit cringe-worthy to know that some people think that eating rice with soy sauce is an thing that we do. Did you know that a real Kashmiri Chai is supposed to be light pink in colour? My mind is blown! I'm not naming names, because regardless, that stuff is still delicious.

But here's to you, YEG! Where should I go for some authentic South Asian food? Bengali, Bhutanese, Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan...I want to know it all!

-M

P.S. A big shout out to Wajeeha for the awesome photos! Please check out her website, Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter!

Wheat Garden Noodle & Dumpling Bazaar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2/08/2016

B-b-b-baking: Year of the Monkey

Good evening...

This was a super last minute post, but the baking was a very spur of the moment thing.

Over the weekend, I was humming and hawing over what I should bake to celebrate Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, I'm also at the shorter end of the stick budget-wise at the moment, so I had to think frugally. It turned out that I had all the ingredients I needed to make pineapple tarts except pineapple, so that's what I went with.

What I learned tonight about Chinese New Year and pineapple tarts:
- Pineapple tarts are actually more Singaporean or Malaysian, but are generally eaten for Chinese New Year.
- Pineapple tarts can be made open-faced or enclosed in a rectangular shaped cookie. A couple of years ago, I made the closed kind, but failed to document it. They turned out quite well, but I don't remember how I made them or which blog(s) I was reading at the time...
- Chinese New Year celebrations last for about 2 weeks (15 days). Forget one night of fireworks, and bring out the food and dancing lions!

I sort of followed a recipe for the pastry dough, but made a thumbprint cookie instead, because I didn't have the fancy cookie cutter/stamp that's generally used for these. I opted out of chilling the dough after forming it. I also opted out of caramelizing the pineapple to the point where it is pliable. (I was tired, but wanted to consume the end product.)

Impromptu thumbprints, after the eggwash.

Overfilled with pineapple and ready for the oven!
I got too excited that they were done, and got halfway through one. Sorry.
Pineapple "Tarts" (Adapted from ZaTaYaYummy)
*Makes 20 thumbprint cookies*
Pastry dough:
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup tapioca starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp water (optional - I did this because the air is drier here)

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water

Pineapple filling:
1-14 oz. can pineapple chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet.
2. Drain the can of pineapple chunks, and pulse in blender (or Magic Bullet!) a few times.
3. Empty pineapple into a saucepan with sugar, and stir over medium heat until a good amount of moisture has evaporated. Set aside.
4. In a medium-sized bowl, combine shortening, all purpose flour, icing sugar, tapioca starch, and salt. Stir in egg and egg yolk.
5. Knead just enough to bring the dough together. If the dough is too crumbly, add water a little bit at a time.
6. Form into 20 teaspoon-sized balls, and press down gently in the center of each with your thumb. Fill each thumbprint with pineapple (I used a teaspoon to do this).
7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
8. Allow to cool before enjoying, because they will be hot and fragile. You have been warned.

Happy Year of the Monkey!

-M

12/24/2015

Cravings: Advent Calendars

Until I knew about the existence of the tea advent calendar created by one of my favourite local tea vendors, The Tea Girl, I had never felt so excited about the holiday season. I absolutely love my tea, and any excuse to try a different kind of tea for 24 consecutive days is a good one. A few days before December started, I tweeted about how excited I was.

Minutes later, while scrolling my feed, another tweet caught my eye. Dinner with Julie had come up with the ingenious idea of turning a couple of recycled wine boxes into a "reverse advent calendar". Truly inspired, I created one of my own, only, it wasn't made from recycled wine boxes, because I didn't have any. However, I did have some boxes from my recent move that were still lingering in my apartment, so I dolled one up in Christmas box attire.

Please enjoy this combination post featuring my 2 advent calendars for this holiday season. I assure you that while it is a bit lengthy, it is a worthwhile read.

Things I learned this month about advent calendars, tea, and food banks:
- Advent calendars can actually start anywhere from November 27th to December 3rd, but I like starting clean at the first day of December.
- Advent calendars used to be marking days off with chalk or lighting candles, but more commonly reveal 24 chocolates. (via Mental Floss)
- Tea doesn't always have leaves. Sometimes, it's just pieces of dried fruit, which I am not the hugest fan of. But regardless, I still love tea.
- Tea can keep you up all night, especially black tea, especially if you drink it in the evening.
- Powdered infant formula is most often a most needed item for food banks, and it's freaking expensive. Even the "cheap" ones are expensive!
- Many users of food banks are families, hence the strong need for kid- and infant-related items.
- Summer is always a time of low donations for food banks. Unfortunately, it's mostly when people get into their "holiday spirit" campaigns, that the food banks receive large amount of generosity. While it's great that there's a time every year, when this generosity happens, people use food banks year-round, and it becomes quite difficult during the summer, when there's still a need, but not a complementing supply.

The Tea Girl Advent Calendar
The Tea Girl (12411 Stony Plain Road) is this lovely little shop just off the corner of 124 Street and Stony Plain Road. (By the way, they have dairy-free mac 'n' cheese!) It has a very homey feel, alike the wide selection of teas offered. You also get to choose your own cup and saucer to drink from! As soon as I saw the advent calendar on Twitter, I knew I had to get one, so on impulse, I dashed down right after work and committed myself to 24 days of mystery tea. The process was a lot harder than I thought though. The adrenaline seemed to keep pumping for the first 14 days, but then I started to slip because life happens, and sometimes you don't get home until it's way past tea time and you have work the next day. However, I managed to catch up by Day 23, and was ready for the final cup on Day 24!
  1. Market Spice - Warm and cozy in the stomach, which is wonderful for complimenting a long hard day of work. Cinnamon is the strong player, something that I don't have a problem with at all. Leaves a slight sweet note on your tongue after each sip.
  2. Walnut Truffle - An enveloping sweet, creamy aroma with a lighter, more subtle taste.
  3. Dreamy Time - Had this one before the advent calendar happened, and still love it. One of my favourites, and a pleasant surprise. Very soothing and refreshing mix of lavender, peppermint, and chamomile. I tend not to enjoy those 3 things separately when it comes to tea, but all together? Magic.
  4. Champagne Raspberry - Smelled and tasted like raspberry candy. Was not my sort of jam, but I can see why some people would enjoy it.
  5. Keemun Mao Feng - A smooth Chinese black tea with some fruity notes. I hoped that I drank it early enough to still be able to sleep at a decent hour, but I was so wrong. Would drink again, but maybe not the best evening tea.
  6. Gingerbread Spice - A warm, sweet scent and taste, but it doesn't taste like gingerbread. It tasted a lot like chicory and sugar. Still undecided.
  7. Crantastic 4 - Probably my favourite tea that was new to me, but could be slight bias due to the awesomeness of the name. It was well-balanced between being fruity, light, and a little bit sweet. Also one of my favourite colours. A++
  8. Himalayan Chai - Chai and ginger. No way to lose. So good.
  9. Frozen Summit - A smooth, delicious oolong. Can't go wrong.
  10. "I can't believe it's not #YEGnog!" - I don't think it really tasted like eggnog, but I haven't actually had eggnog in a while, so maybe it does? It did taste like Christmas, if Christmas came in a tea form. Super cozy, and very December.
  11. Tropical Temple - Basically smelled and tasted like paradise in a cup. Very floral and fruity, which very much contrasted with the weather that day.
  12. Cream Earl Grey - Like a London Fog that doesn't even need milk, which is great for me, because my dairy intake has to be restricted a bit. So vanilla-y.
  13. Bombay Cider - Drank this when I had a cold, and it was magically delicious. Ginger and earthy, throat tingly goodness.
  14. Caramel Cup - Tasted like subtle caramel in a cup, which was not a bad thing, but the tiny bits of rooibos were not wanting to stay even in my fine mesh strainer.
  15. Queen's Blend - Lavender, rose, and vanilla. Yes. 
  16. Supreme Sencha - Rich, earthy green tea. Love.
  17. Mint Medley - Refreshing, as mint tends to be. It would be interesting to make cookies or chocolates with a reduced syrup made with this tea. Or if it was chilled and some fresh fruits were added. Something to consider for the summer, which is oh so far away.
  18. Nutcracker Oolong - Not the oolong I'm used to, but ooo...not bad!
  19. Kyoto Cherry Rose - I have to say this was pretty accurately named. It tastes like the beautiful marriage of green tea, cherries, and rose buds. This was a winner.
  20. Organic Vanilla Bourbon - I was kind of hoping it'd be like the bottle of bourbon vanilla that P got me a while back. The smell is very reminiscent of its vanilla-ness. However, I was slightly disappointed that the vanilla was so subtle, even after being steeped for a while.
  21. Casablanca - A whole lot of dried fruit. A bit too light for my taste, and not my sort of taste. May be better over ice?
  22. Kashmir Chai - Smells like a spice market, which I love. Tastes like a spice market, which I love. If a few other things were added, it could possibly resemble Remedy Cafe's Kashmiri Chai's cousin or something?
  23. Raspberry Passion - Subtler than it looks, and smells like a lot of dried fruit. I understand that some like that, but I am not a fan.
  24. After Seven - Chocolatey minty goodness first thing in the morning. What better way to start the holidays?
When all the fun began...
Best thing about having enough tea in each sample tin for 2 cups, is now I can have them all over again! Also, this box came with a 10% off coupon at The Tea Girl!
I was so happy to try out The Tea Girl's tea advent calendar! It was a great way to sample a whole bunch of teas from the shop, while also keeping myself hydrated pretty regularly. But next year, I really want to find an advent calendar with food items, but not of the chocolate variety. If anyone knows where I can get one of that type, let me know! :)


Reverse advent calendar for the Edmonton Food Bank
Rather than just throwing 24 cans of beans into my food bank reverse advent calendar, I wanted to use the opportunity to raise awareness of the diverse most needed items at food banks. Here are 24 solid options for donating to the food bank compiled from various "most needed items" lists (Edmonton Food Bank, Food Banks Canada, Airdrie Food Bank, Okotoks Food Bank AssociationCBC Calgary):
  1. Granola Bars - A great source of fibre and protein, easy to carry, and stay good for a long time. Ideal for parents to send as snacks with their kids for school. This box was on sale for only $1.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  2. Canned Fish - A good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Last a long time when sealed, and ready to eat on the go. This particular can was only $1.00 at Dollarama.
  3. Dry Pasta - A good source of fibre. Keeps for an incredibly long time and is relatively easy and quick to cook. This package was $1.25 at Dollarama.
  4. Canned Beans - A good source of fibre, protein, calcium, and iron, and last longer for storage and in the stomach. Aim for the ones with less salt. This can was $0.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart. 
  5. Oatmeal - Quick cooking oats are a great source of fibre and are easy and fast to prepare. This package was $2 at Dollarama.
  6. Juice Boxes - A good source of vitamin C and easy to carry and pack, especially for kids going to school. Opt for ones of the 100% juice variety. This pack was $4 at Safeway.
  7. Fruit Cups - A good source of vitamin C and ideal for kids to bring to school for snacks. This pack was $2.50 at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  8. Power Infant Formula - Essential for mothers, but quite expensive. This was my most expensive item at $22.
  9. Canned Vegetables - Good sources of fibre and vitamins, but be wary of sodium content. Most canned vegetables have been processed and are ready to use. This can was $1.50 at Superstore.
  10. Peanut Butter - A good, filling alternative to meat, and is a high demand for many food banks. This jar was only $2 at Dollarama.
  11. Soup - A good source of nourishment, warmth, and hydration all in one. This can has a tab for easier opening, which is also something to look for when picking canned goods. Remember to check sodium levels. This can was $2 at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  12. Baby Food - An important way for babies to get their nutrients, but can be financially difficult for mothers. While this jar was just under $1 at Safeway, those jars can add up very quickly.
  13. Vegetable Oil - Both olive oil and safflower oil are most needed items for food preparation, and are sources of healthy fats. This bottle was on sale for $5.50 at Superstore. 
  14. Popcorn - A filling, healthier alternative snack food that is high in fibre, and one handful of popping corn goes a lot way because it expands when cooked. This bag was $3.50 at Superstore. 
  15. Powdered Milk - An important source of calcium, especially because fresh dairy products will turn bad quite quickly. This bag makes 5L of skim milk, and was $7 at Superstore.
  16. Pasta Sauce - If you're donating dry pasta, you may as well donate pasta sauce along with it. The sauce will offer more flavour to the pasta, but also additional nutritional elements including vitamin C and fibre, especially tomato-based sauces. This jar was on sale for $1.50 at Superstore. 
  17. Brown Rice - Uncooked rice can last years. It also offers a great amount of fibre, iron, and keeps you full for longer. Note that regular brown or multigrain rice takes about the same amount of time to cook as the Uncle Ben's brown or multigrain rice, so you're better off buying non-instant rice if you can. This bag was on sale for $5. 
  18. Canned Fruit - A non-perisable alternative to fresh fruit, while still offering a source of fibre and Vitamin C. Try to look for those with less sugar, which means stepping away from the maraschino cherries might be a good plan. This can was $1.50 at Dollarama.
  19. Macaroni and Cheese Dinners - A classic food bank donation item, which is relatively inexpensive and is easy to make. While it was a bit cheaper, the No Name brand boxes had more sodium than KD. This box was $1.50 at Superstore.
  20. Canned Stew - A solid, ready-to-eat meal that lasts a long time if sealed, but often comes with loads of sodium. I opted for Campbell's Chunky To-Go Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, which had 27% of your daily value of sodium, compared to the ones with beef, which were closer to 35-37%. This can was on sale for under $2 at Superstore.
  21. Cereal - A potentially great source of fibre, if not half consisting of marshmallows and sugar. Make sure you check for lower sugar and higher fibre content. This box was just under $4 at Superstore. 
  22. Trail Mix/Unsalted Nuts - A reliable source of energy for hikers, campers, and bikers, and many homeless and lower income individuals are all of the above. Choose trail mix that has no added salt or candy pieces. Keep in mind again that lower income usually means much less access to regular dental care. This package was $2 at Dollarama.
  23. Canned Meat - A long-lasting, ready-to-eat meal that is high in protein, but often also higher in salt. I opted for low-sodium turkey, seeing as many of us will be dining on turkey during teh holidays. This can was on sale for just under $2 at Superstore.
  24. Monetary Donation - Monetary donations, big or small, are always accepted by the food bank. It allows the organization to purchase supplies and items on their own, according to what they know they need.

I had a lot of fun decorating each item with some sort of gift wrapping supply. I am a hoarder of stationery and gift wrappery.
I actually took everything out just to repack it, to try and fit it into the box, but decided to also take a picture of all 24 items too.
The finished product. It kind of closes...sort of?
Food bank tetris in a Banker's Box!
Partly because I need to be budget-conscious but also to show how easy it is to make a donation to the food bank, I opted for items that were on sale, and hopefully $5 or under. There were a couple of exceptions - the big one being the infant formula. I picked the no name brand one, and it was still $22, which was ridiculous. I really learned a lot from this little project, and I hope you did too!

Please remember that even though the holidays may be over at the end of the month, but the need for donations at food banks never ends. Unfortunately, hunger and homelessness are ongoing issues that some suffer from on a regular basis. Please consider donating to your local food bank during the "off-season" too.

Happy Holidays!

-M