Food Love Language to Keep Centered with Karen Cliche

Canadian actress Karen Cliche shares her thoughts on how cooking keeps her centered during these difficult times, plus some great tips and a delicious recipe!

 

Most of us have been self isolating for a month now. So much has changed so quickly that we may find ourselves scared, anxious, or with much needed extra time to pause and reflect. Some of us are using this time to try new things in the kitchen, like baking bread or making handmade pasta. It's as if we are drawn to comfort foods and getting back to basics during uncertain times.

Cooking is how I stay centered. It also happens to be my love language.

When I was growing up, my mom made beautiful meals every night. She filled our lunch boxes with something different every day, and baked cookies when we got home from school. My childhood was tumultuous at times but the care and love she put into food was such a comfort for me. Cooking was her love language too.

I try to share that feeling with my family and friends every day, via my kitchen, or instagram posts. It wasn't always this way though. I worked at McDonalds as a teenager and ate there almost every day. In my early 20's my fridge was often empty so I would order my breakfast from a restaurant and have it delivered. It was only when I settled down later in life that I was inspired to explore those childhood feelings of love and comfort through cooking. My obsession has only grown since then!

Prior to this pandemic I would grocery shop every couple of days, deciding what I wanted to make based on a craving or a new cookbook recipe. Now, as my trips to the store are reduced to every two weeks, and the shelves are a little more bare, I find myself more mindful of what I purchase and have embraced a "no food left behind" motto. I use every single ingredient - stem, peel, herb as if it were my last. I was always grateful for fresh produce and farmers, but now my appreciation for mother nature has grown immensely.

To make things a little more fun, I try to find inventive ways to reduce waste. I use orange and lemon peels to infuse my homemade vinegar cleaner. I also dried some leftover fresh dill in the oven to make dill for my spice rack. Peel and cut up your broccoli stems and use them in stir frys or soups!

No. Food. Left. Behind.

After baking cinnamon rolls, a banana coconut cake, vegan rolos, and eating tons of Easter chocolate - all in the same week, I was definitely in need of something healthy and savoury. I found a box of white miso in my fridge, and created a delicious, colourful recipe full of veggies with umami flavours to help me out of my sugar coma. Inspired by Endless Kitchen's miso buttered mushrooms, I thought combining maple roasted sweet potatoes, those addictive mushrooms, steamed greens and soba noodle nests would make the perfect well balanced meal...with a high cuteness factor! The nests were inspired by spring and all the birds working so hard, using every little bit of nature - like we do now with ingredients.

My hope is that this challenging time helps us feel more connected to the planet and those we share it with. As we wait this out, why not have some fun in the kitchen, invite your kids to help, play some music, sing, film a mock episode of "Nailed It", have a glass of wine as you cook, try something new! Most of all, enjoy the present moment. One yummy bite at a time, we will get through this.

Some tips on stretching out your food dollars:

1) Buy a concentrated vegetable base ( I like Better Than Bouillon Organic base). This is more cost efficient than buying boxes of broth, not to mention less packaging waste. Making your own broth too is great. Store in your freezer in (4 cup) containers.

2) Use the stems of broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, etc. Don't throw them away!

3) Freeze your fresh herbs when you have too many and won't use in time. Store in a ziplock or air tight container. ( I always have thyme and rosemary in my freezer). You can dry your fresh herbs in the oven on low temp, crumble once dried and store in your cupboard. Come summer, plant herbs in your garden or pots. This will save you so much money and waste, as we often never use the whole amount of store bought package.

4) I love making big batches of stews, soups and chili. You can put so many vegetables in them and they freeze perfectly. It's so great to have stuff in the freezer to pull out when you are too busy or lazy to cook!

5) Make your own household cleaners with vinegar and citrus peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tee tree oil, etc.

 

"UMAMI BOMB BOWL"

( Miso Buttered Mushrooms, Caramelized Sweet Potatoes with Soba Noodle Nests )

INGREDIENTS:

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

  • 2-3 medium organic sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • pinch of sea salt

  • 2-3 tbsp real maple syrup

    Miso Butter Mushrooms:

  • 1 1/2 lbs cremini or button mushrooms

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 tbsp softened salted butter ( can sub vegan butter)

  • 2 tbsp white miso paste

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh finely minced garlic

  • 1 tsp sesame oil

  • pinch red pepper flakes

    Greens:

  • Small bunch organic kale (ribs removed), spinach or broccoli - any variety of greens!

  • 1 cup frozen organic edamame (if in shells, just pop them out once cooked) Soba Noodles:

  • 2 - 3 bundles soba noodles or gluten free noodles of your choice

  • 1 tsp sesame oil

  • 1 tsp tamari (or to taste)

  • sesame seeds (optional)

    DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  • Peel and cube sweet potatoes ( between 1/2 inch and 1 inch is the perfect size for caramelizing nicely). Toss with olive oil and a little salt on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread them out so that they aren't too crowded, otherwise they won't crisp up as well. If you have too many on your baking sheet, remove some and save for another recipe.

  • Roast for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, toss with the maple syrup and continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes. You want them to turn dark golden brown on some edges, but not burnt. Remove from oven. They will caramelize as they rest.

  • When the potatoes are in the oven, start making your mushrooms. If using little button mushrooms you can leave them whole, if cremini, cut them in quarters or slices. Heat olive oil in a large pan (I like cast iron for this) over med-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes until they are browned and a little crispy, stirring every few minutes.

  • During this time, make the miso butter. Mix the softened butter with the miso paste and garlic powder or minced garlic.

  • When the mushrooms are done, add in the miso butter and cook for a few minutes more so they are nicely coated. Drizzle in a tsp of sesame oil and stir.

  • Take the pan off the heat, set aside.

  • As your mushrooms are cooking, boil some water for your soba noodles. Add noodles and cook as directed. ( *see next step to start steaming your greens now). Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Drizzle a small amount of sesame oil and tamari on the noodles and lightly toss them to keep them from sticking.

  • Steam your greens for a few minutes. Once your greens are cooked, squeeze out any excess water. You can microwave, steam or boil your frozen edamame.

    TIME TO ASSEMBLE!

  • In a wide bowl or plate, make 2 little nests by taking a small handful of noodles and making a shallow hole in each. Place 8-10 edamames into each nest. Then add some mushrooms, sweet potatoes and greens all around them, like a big happy yummy family!

  • Repeat for the other bowls.

  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with sriracha on the side if you like.

 

 
Karen is a Canadian actress of 25 years on camera and lends her voice to both radio and television commercials. She is passionate about all things cooking, eco friendly skin care, animal welfare and women’s rights. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and 10 year old daughter.
Instagram: @karencliche

 

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