Blog / Recipes

What are pink strawberries?

A cluster of pink strawberries with an overlay of Sue's headshot and the words "What are pink strawberries?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you seen these little pink strawberries at Costco or your local grocery store?

They look like underripe strawberries, but they’re not. These little gems are actually pineberries – which is a fusion of the words “pineapple” and “strawberry” although there isn’t any pineapple in them. In fact, the pineberry belongs to the strawberry family and is a cross between the strawberries native to North America (Fragaria virginiana) and strawberries native to Chile (Fragaria chiloensis). Inside, the flesh is white. You may also see these cute little berries called pineberry strawberries or hula pineberries.

What do pineberries taste like?

Pineberries have a softer and creamier texture than a red strawberry. There are subtle aromas and flavours of pineapple (thus the name pineberry), pear and apricot.

What about nutrition?

Both pineberries and strawberries contain vitamin C, folate, fibre and potassium. Strawberries will have higher levels of “anthocyanins” – which are the healthy plant compounds that give strawberries their beautiful red colour. Since they’re more rare than red strawberries, pineberries tend to be more expensive.

How to eat pineberries?

Ripe pineberries will have a blush pink colour and bright red seeds. Eat pineberries the same way you would strawberries! Add them to your yogurt bowl, toss into a salad or add a handful to a snack board.

Will you try them? Have you tried them? Tell me what you think in the comments!

 

My interview with Chef Bruno Feldeisen – Pastry Chef & Judge on Great Canadian Baking Show

Chef Bruno standing at a bookstore and holding his cookbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What an honour and joy to interview Chef Bruno Feldeisen!

You may know him as a celebrated pastry chef and judge on CBC’s Great Canadian Baking Show!

In my one-on-one interview with Chef Bruno, we talk about his cookbook Baking with Bruno, his baking career, his journey with anxiety and what’s next.

A few memorable quotes from the Chef:

  • “The idea of the my cookbook is to create memories in the kitchen, spend time together and have a good time…it’s not about the end product, it’s about the process!”
  • “The kitchen is the heartbeat of my house.”
  • Advice for bakers: “It’s all about trial and error!”

Click on the image below to watch or check out the interview on my YouTube channel! Enjoy this special conversation!

Chef Bruno is standing on set at the Great Canadian Baking Show

 

Chocolate Raspberry Mug Cake

 

2 large mugs filled with chocolate cake. One mug reads "Mr. Right"; the other mug reads "Mrs. Always Right."

Chocolate Raspberry Mug Cake

This mug cake is absolutely delicious and takes only 90 seconds to cook in the microwave!
Course Dessert

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup all purpose-flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, melt butter in the microwave (about 30 seconds). Stir in canola oil and milk.
  • Whisk the butter mixture into the dry ingredients.
  • Fold in white chocolate chips, then the raspberries.
  • Spoon the batter into 2 large microwave-safe mugs (as shown in the photo) or 4 small microwave-safe mugs. Fill the mugs to about 3/4 full.
  • Microwave on high power for about 90 seconds (add another 20-30 seconds if using large mugs). Do not over cook. Let cool for a few minutes and dust with icing sugar. Enjoy. (Cake will settle slightly after it has cooled.)
    Makes 2 very large servings, or 4 small servings.
    Recipe source: Baking with Bruno, by Bruno Feldeisen.
Keyword chocolate, chocolate mug cake, mug cake, raspberry, Valentine's Day

Food & Nutrition Trends for 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food prices, sustainability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be the key influences on our eating habits and practices this year. Here’s our roundup of the top 10 food and nutrition trends to watch in 2022.

1. Pantry to Plate

Who can forget the sourdough baking craze in 2020? The cooking and baking skills we built at the beginning of the pandemic will stick with us. With food prices expected to rise 5 to 7% this year, an average family of four can expect to pay an extra $966 in groceries this year according to the annual Canada’s Food Price Report. Consumers will be looking for creative ways to use up those ingredients at the back of the pantry and fridge. What’s more, this trend will help to tackle food waste in our kitchens.

2. Streamlined Menus

Look for smaller menus as restaurant operators are adapting with potential supply chain snags. They’ll be innovating with local ingredients already on hand and opting for simple prix fixe menus rather than bringing in new SKUs. Food and Wine magazine reports that with rising food prices, chefs will be taking creative approaches to minimize waste and streamlining their menus to effectively manage their costs.

3. Plant based – The Next Generation

While sales of plant-based burgers appear to be declining, food giants such as Unilever are still committed to offering plant-based options to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain. In fact, the company is calling for public health strategies that facilitate the transition to a balanced diet with more diverse nutrient-dense plant foods through consumer education, food fortification and possibly supplementation. Insights from the 2022 Trend Report by Nourish suggests that there are gaps in plant-based categories like snacks, desserts and bakery. Keep your eyes out for novel plant-based ingredients and offerings.

4. Bye Bye Plastics

­Not only are sustainability and climate concerns driving our food choices, but they’re also inspiring positive changes in the use of plastics. Just last month, Walmart Canada officially announced the elimination of single use plastic bags from in-store shopping as well as online grocery pickup and delivery orders from each of their 400 stores across the country. This would amount to eliminating almost 750 million plastic bags each year. Biodegradable, compostable cucumber wraps are already on the market, and we can expect to see more innovations from grocers and food manufacturers.

5. Packaging

With a move towards take-out and meal delivery, chefs surveyed in the “What’s Hot 2022 Culinary Forecast” by the National Restaurant Association have actually ranked packaging four times in their top 10 trends for 2022:

  • Trend #1 – Packaging that is sustainable / reusable / recyclable
  • Trend #2 – Packaging that travels intact to maintain food quality
  • Trend #3 -Packaging that retains temperature
  • Trend #9 – Packaging that is tamper proof for food security

6. Immunity Support

As the pandemic continues, immunity remains top of mind. Findings from the 10th annual “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey commissioned by Today’s Dietitian and Pollock Communications predicts that immunity support will remain a key purchase driver for 2022. Instead of “boosting” the immune system, consumers will realize that daily nutrition is important to keep the immune system strong and functioning well. Key supports for the immune system include protein, probiotics, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, C and D. Other purchase drivers identified from the dietitian survey are: affordable and value-based items, as well as food and beverages which offer comfort and emotional well-being.

7. Digital Do’s and Don’ts

Digital ordering capabilities, QR menus and touchless payment options will continue to become mainstream in restaurants and food service. In the survey of almost 1,200 dietitians, 90% of them cited online food shopping as the biggest trend from the pandemic that they believe will continue. This will compel marketers to reimagine ways to reach consumers on virtual shopping platforms, such as online promotions, digital coupons and immersive virtual branding experiences. On the other hand, the digital world is fuelling false nutrition news and dietitians say that social media is the top source of nutrition misinformation, with friends / family coming in second, and celebrities a close third.

8. Fuel for Remote Working & Learning

Working remotely from home, hybrid work models and even online schooling mean that more breakfasts and lunches will be made and enjoyed at home. Nestle USA predicts that consumers will be on the lookout for more at-home breakfast and lunch options such as heat-and-eat meals. According to top chefs, breakfast trends will include non-traditional proteins such as chorizo or vegan bacon, plant-based breakfast sandwiches and egg-base breakfast bowls. For lunch, trends point to globally inspired salads and grain-based bowls.

9. Non-alcoholic Beverages

Research from Whole Foods and The Hartman Group are noticing a growing community of “sober curious” millennials and Gen Z-ers. During pandemic lockdowns and restrictions on indoor gatherings, consumers are taking a more mindful approach to enjoying alcohol and embracing a world of “dry-solation”. Enter beverages without the buzz such as dealcoholized wines, low-alcohol beers, mocktails, and drinks with functional ingredients and adaptogens to enhance mood and relaxation.

10. Top 5 Regional Cuisines

Chefs surveyed by The National Restaurant Association and the American Culinary Federation predict that these top 5 regions and cuisines will influence the menus of 2022:

  1. Southeast Asian – Vietnamese, Singaporean, Philippine
  2. South American – Argentinian, Brazilian, Chilean
  3. Caribbean – Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican
  4. North African – Moroccan, Algerian, Libyan
  5. Western African – Nigerian, Ghanan, Western Saharan

 

Which of these trends are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments!

 

Basil Pesto Torte

 

A beautiful plate of Basil Pesto Torte topped with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes.

Basil Pesto Torte

A festive showstopper appetizer for your next party! This delicious recipe is from the cookbook Culinary Herbs: Grow, Preserve, Cook! - written by my colleague Yvonne Tremblay and published by Whitecap 2021.
5 from 1 vote
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves (or 1/2 cup curly parsley) (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Torte

  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces chèvre (goat cheese) softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup Basil Pesto (see instructions below)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup diced, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (drain and blot on paper towel)
  • basil sprig for garnish

Instructions
 

Basil Pesto

  • In a food processor, combine basil, parsley (if using), garlic and pine nuts; pulse until finely minced.
  • Add cheese and process to blend.
  • Using the feed tube, slowly drizzle in oil, processing to a moist paste.
  • Remove to a small air tight container. (Optional: Cover surface with a thin film of oil to prevent browning.) Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Torte

  • In a clean food processor or medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, chèvre and butter until well blended.
  • In a 7-inch springform pan, begin with a layer of half the cheese mixture (just over 1 1/4 cups). Refrigerate for about 20 minutes to firm it up. Spread with pesto. Add dollops of remaining cheese. Carefully spread to cover pesto but not disturb it. Cover and refrigerate to firm it up.
  • Arrange pine nuts on top in a spoked wheel pattern; fill in between spokes with sun-dried tomatoes. Garnish centre with fresh basil sprig. Remove sides of pan and serve with assorted crackers. (Allow to warm at room temperature a bit before serving so that it's spreadable.)
Keyword appetizer recipe, basil, basil pesto torte, pesto

Banana Berry Smoothie

 

A cup of smoothie decorated with a slice of strawberry, banana and blue straw

Banana Berry Smoothie

PREbiotics in bananas work with PRObiotics in yogurt to make this a power smoothie! Use a slightly green banana instead of a ripe / frozen one for more prebiotics.
Course Breakfast, Drinks
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 1 banana (slightly green), sliced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (or plain yogurt)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen sliced strawberries

Instructions
 

  • Mix all ingredients in a blender. Enjoy!

Notes

A cup of smoothie decorated with a slice of strawberry, banana and blue straw
Keyword banana berry smoothie, bananas, green bananas, prebiotics, probiotics, smoothie

After school snack ideas!

Looking for some snacks to feed the hungry kids?

Pair PROTEIN with PRODUCE for a healthy and nutritious snack! Protein gives us sustained energy and helps us feel full. Produce (fruits and veggies) provide essential nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and fibre. And let’s face it, most kids (and adults) just aren’t getting enough fruits, vegetables or fibre.

Watch my TV interview here.

Sue in her kitchen talking to TV host

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are my 4 go-to after school snacks that combine protein and produce.

Cheese biscuits with fresh fruit

Make a big batch of these garlicky Cheese Biscuits and pop them in the freezer. They take less than 25 minutes to make. Grab one whenever you need a snack and pair with fresh fruit.

2 cheese biscuits with apple slices and grapes on a blue cloth napkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energy balls

These no-bake snacks taste like a treat! Packed with protein from peanut butter, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, these little gems are made with oats, cocoa, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  Find the recipe here.

Energy balls on a small pink dish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Wrap

Open faced tortilla with Tzatziki sauce, diced chicken, lettuce, carrots and cucumbers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start with a tortilla. Make a slit about halfway up the tortilla to create 4 quadrants or sections. Fill the first section with Tzatziki sauce (or hummus or mashed avocado); the second section with your choice of protein; and the last two sections with produce. Fold each section onto itself to make a triangular shaped wrap. Enjoy as is or grill it on a sandwich press.

Tortilla wrap filled with veggies; first quarter section of the wrap is folded up.

 

 

 

 

Tortilla wrap showing cucumbers

Tortilla wrap folded into a triangle

 

 

 

Naan Pizza

I used to make pizza on bagels but didn’t like how the cheese would ooze out of the hole.  Naan fits perfectly in the toaster oven. Kids can make their own pizza and customize with protein (cheese, chicken, ham, etc,) and their favourite produce toppings (red peppers, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, olives, tomatoes, pineapple).

Pizza made on naan and sliced into sections on a white plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find your Healthy with Traditional Cuisines – Week 1

A variety of colourful ethnic meals beautifully arranged on a plate

**To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we have a 5-week series of guest posts written by Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate and a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto.**

It’s March and we are celebrating Nutrition Month! Every year dietitians, dietetic interns, and nutrition students across Canada celebrate Nutrition month to raise awareness about nutrition and the positive impact it has on our health and wellbeing.

This year Nutrition Month centres on the idea that healthy eating looks different for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and your healthy eating will look different from someone else’s healthy eating based on culture, food traditions, personal circumstances, and nutritional needs.

To honour Nutrition Month, I have teamed up with Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Graduate Students from diverse cultural backgrounds to put together a Nutrition Month 2021 blog series! Each week for the month of March, different dietitians and dietetic students will share their food traditions, cultural recipes, and the importance of culture in healthy eating.

Without further ado, let’s get started with Nutrition Month 2021 series – Week 1.

Cultural foods should be a part of your healthy meals

Canada is a country that prides itself on multiculturalism. Yet, the mainstream diet trends tend to ‘steal’ cultural foods’ thunder. With the recent craze around healthy eating, many of you may be are bombarded with the latest trendy diets that do not adequately incorporate your cultural foods. With everyone else embarking on the next food trend, you may feel that you are doing something wrong by not jumping on board. You begin to question the health benefits of your traditional foods.

I introduce my colleagues Novella Lui, Robena Amalraj and Aja Gyimah who will share their insights on making cultural foods a part of your healthy eating.

 

headshot of dietitian Novella Lui

Novella Lui, RD

www.novellard.com  Instagram @livetonourishrd

  1. What’s your cultural background?

I am a Chinese Canadian, born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions? 

Food plays a vital role in Chinese culture, where food is always a part of celebrations. Many of the traditional foods served during celebrations bear symbolic meanings, from togetherness to fortune and luck. For instance:

  • In Lunar New Year, we eat the ‘year cake,’ a glutinous rice cake that symbolizes rising prosperity, which has the same homophonic sound as ‘yearly increase.’
  • During Dragonboat Festival, we eat glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves as they depict the commemoration of Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese poet.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

I have a long list of favourite foods, but if I had to choose, my favourite is har gow, a steamed shrimp dumpling wrapped in a thin and translucent starch dough. My first memories of eating out as a child with my family were enjoying a dim sum lunch, and har gow was always one of the dishes shared among us. These shrimp dumplings always remind me of my fonds times with my cousins and relatives. You can find a har gow recipe here.

Har Gow (Chinese steamed shrimp dumplings)

Har Gow (Chinese steamed shrimp dumplings)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

All foods, including those from your own culture, fit into a healthy meal pattern. Including and embracing foods from your own culture connects you to your roots and cultural identity. At the same time, learn about other cultures by trying their foods, as food is a portal that connects and nurtures our relationships with other people.

 

Headshot of Robena Amalraj

Robena Amalraj, Dietetic Graduate Student

www.nourishwithrobena.com

Instagram @nourishwithrobena

1. What is your cultural background?

My cultural background is Indian. Specifically, I am from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions? 

India is affectionately called the Land of Spices, and food undoubtedly plays a significant role in its culture. Every region of India has distinct and unique customs but eating with hands is a common practice; it is thought that this not only makes the food taste better, but also feeds the mind and the spirit.

Rice is of particular importance in India and is viewed as the ultimate sustenance; it is often the first solid food that a baby eats and is also eaten by older adults who have trouble eating other foods. In many parts of India, rice is used as an offering during religious rituals and is a symbol of prosperity and well-being.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

My favourite South Indian food is dosa, which is a thin savoury crepe made from a fermented batter of lentils and rice. It is typically served with sambar (a lentil and vegetable stew) and chutney. My mom made it all the time when I was growing up; not only is it delicious, but it is a comforting and warm reminder of home and family. You can find a recipe here.

A plate of South India dosa with sambeer and chutney

South India Dosa served with sambar and chutney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month? 

In the health and wellness space, there is often a narrow perception of healthy food. There is a misconception that cultural foods that do not fit into this mainstream image are automatically “unhealthy”. However, healthy eating does not look the same for everyone. Culture and tradition are integral components of food and overall wellness, and you do not need to forgo your culture to be healthy!

 

headshot of Aja GyimahAja Gyimah, MHSc., RD

www.compete-nutrition.ca  Instagram @compete.nutrition

1. What’s your cultural background? 

I’m biracial: Jewish-Canadian and Ghanaian

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions? 

In the Jewish culture, food is a large part of how we observe our holidays. For example, Friday nights are reserved for a family dinner because it kicks off the Sabbath or the day of rest. Also, depending on the holiday you’re required to eat specific foods, like during Passover we have a ceremonial dinner where each food item is symbolic.

In Ghanaian culture, food is tied to many celebrations, get-togethers or even just attending church on Sundays. Within my family, it used to be such a treat because my dad would spend the entire day making light soup. Since COVID, we have been ordering from local Ghanaian restaurants to support them during this time. Now, jollof rice is a staple in our house!

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

Fried plantain is a world-wide favourite, it’s a staple in almost every African, Black and Caribbean cuisine. I usually slice the plantain, rinse it in saltwater and then fry it until it’s brown and delicious! Find a recipe for fried plantain here. On the Jewish side, I’m a huge fan of Challah which is the only type of bread I grew up with. Challah is also the best bread to use for French toast!

fried plantains

Fried plantains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

All foods fit within a healthy diet and that includes our cultural/traditional foods. You’re not required to throw away the foods you’ve grown up with to follow a healthy diet. There’s plenty of room for fried plantain – haha!

 

Bottom Line

There is no single way to eat right and sacrificing your cultural foods is not necessary for achieving good health! No matter what your cultural foods or traditions are, they can be a part of your healthy eating regime. So, ditch the diet trends and incorporate your cultural foods to find your healthy.

Come back next week to learn more about traditional cuisines and healthy eating in our Nutrition Month 2021 blog series.

 Let’s Talk 

What is your favourite cultural recipe? Let me know in the comments. Click here to learn more about the Nutrition Month 2021 campaign.

I thank Novella, Robena, and Aja for their time and contribution to this post.

headshot of Deepanshi SalwanWritten by: Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate – Deepanshi is a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her nutrition philosophy embraces moderation without deprivation. She believes that healthy eating does not have to be complicated and hopes to inspire her audience to live more happy and healthy lives! You can find her on Instagram @deeconstructing_nutrition.

 

Chicken & Vegetable Empanadas

Triangular shaped empanadas stacked on a white plate with a garnish of green parsley on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Canadian Agriculture Day!

Thank you to the Canadian farmers who produce safe, nutritious and quality food for us!

To celebrate, I baked these Chicken & Vegetable Empanadas – made with delicious Canadian ingredients like chicken, cheese, mushrooms, eggs, corn, butter and canola oil. The phyllo pastry gives them a light and flaky crust. Enjoy!

Chicken and Vegetable Empanadas

Ingredients

2 T canola oil

1 onion chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 boneless chicken breast, diced into ¼” pieces

1 cup corn, fresh or frozen

1 cup finely diced mushrooms

2 T lime juice

1 – 1½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

pinch salt

pinch pepper

1½ cups shredded cheese (e.g. Old Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a mix of your favourite cheese)

1 egg, lightly beaten

8 large sheets of phyllo pastry, defrosted and sliced into thirds lengthwise

½ cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook the onions until soft and slightly brown (a few minutes). Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add diced chicken and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add corn, mushrooms and lime juice. Cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Mix and sprinkle in cumin, coriander, salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from stove and allow to cool.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  7. Lay out the phyllo pastry sheets and cover with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
  8. Once the chicken mixture has cooled, mix in the cheese and egg.
  9. Take one phyllo sheet at a time and brush with melted butter.
  10. Place 1 T of the chicken filling in the bottom left corner of the phyllo sheet.
  11. Make a triangle by folding up the bottom right edge of the phyllo sheet. Continue folding this way all the way along the phyllo pastry. Don’t worry if the pastry tears, just keep rolling.
  12. Brush the top of the triangle shaped empanada with a bit more butter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the chicken filling.
  13. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the empanadas are a lovely golden brown colour.

Makes about 24 appetizer sized empanadas

 

9 Traditional Treats to Enjoy During the Lunar New Year 

Tray of Togetherness - a red tin filled with symbolic sweets to celebrate the Lunar New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chinese Tray of Togetherness – a round tin box with dried fruits, roasted watermelon seeds and other treats for the Lunar New Year celebration. 

The Spring Festival, also known as the Lunar New Year, is the most celebrated holiday in Chinese communities worldwide. This year, the first day of the two-week celebration falls on February 12. Many activities are part of the celebration, such as putting up decorations, having a reunion dinner with family, and giving “lucky money” red envelopes.

Aside from these primary activities, assembling the Tray of Togetherness is also an important ritual. The Tray of Togetherness is a red or a black box comprised of six or eight compartments.

Traditionally, sweets are part of the box to bless one to have a sweet life. Like many celebratory foods eaten during this time, each food included in the box bears a homophonic pun with a specific good omen.

The box is presented to guests when they visit the host’s home as a way for the host to pass on luck and blessings. While the pandemic prohibits people from visiting one another, the box is still put together because it also implies luck and fortune will come to the home the year ahead.

 

What’s inside the Tray of Togetherness

To assemble the box, families generally choose treats related to fortune, family ties and health. Some examples are:

Red watermelon seeds – Red symbolizes happiness, and the word ‘seed’ in Chinese stands for fertility.

Red melon seeds

 

 

 

 

Dried candied lotus seed – Also related to fertility, the white lotus seeds carry an additional symbolic meaning: to have many descendants.

Dried candied lotus seeds

 

 

 

 

 

Dried candied coconut – Come in the forms of strips and chunks; these imply togetherness, where a family of generations are bonded together.

Dried candied coconut

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dried candied lotus root – The homonym for lotus root is abundance year after year.

Dried candied lotus root

 

 

 

 

Dried candied winter melon – The dried candied winter melon pieces are rectangular strips as if they represent an individual from head to toe. They are a symbol of good growth for children and good health for all.

Dried candied winter melon

 

 

 

 

Dried kumquats – In Chinese, the word kumquat is translated as “gold orange,” which symbolizes luck and wealth.

Dried kumquats

 

 

 

 

 

Other Lunar New Year Foods 

Along with the sweets eaten in the Tray of Togetherness, other traditional snacks are part of the celebration, including:

Year Cake (Nian Gao or Chinese Glutinous Rice Cake) – The year cake implies prosperity year after year. It can be enjoyed as a sweet or a savoury item, as a New Year dish, or as an all-year-round food, depending on regional culture.

Nian Gao or Chinese glutinous rice cake

 

In Cantonese cuisine, the year cake is enjoyed explicitly during the New Year. Comprised of glutinous rice flour and brown sugar, the year cake is sliced into pieces before serving. Generally, the slices are steamed or pan-fried.

For the pan-fried method, specifically, the year cake slices are dipped into an egg wash before cooking for a crispy exterior and a chewy interior.

Crispy triangles – Like the year cake, crispy triangles can be savoury or sweet, depending on the fillings typically used in the regional culture. From the umami-flavoured filling with Chinese sausages, pork and shitake mushrooms to the sweetness offered by the peanut, sesame and sugar filling, these fillings are wrapped inside a glutinous rice dough before they are deep-fried in a wok.

Crispy Triangle pastries

 

The crispy triangles resemble the gold-coloured, boat-shaped ingots, a currency used in ancient China. Eating these symbolizes wealth will come generously to one.

 

Sesame doughnuts – Finally, sesame doughnuts, also known as “laughing dates,” are deep-fried, wheat flour-based crunchy balls. When one takes a bite, the balls look like a laughing mouth, depicting bringing happiness and laughter to the family.

Sesame doughnut pastries

 

 

 

 

Wishing you and your families a happy and prosperous New Year!

headshot of dietitian Novella LuiGuest blog written by Novella Lui, RD, MHSc – Novella is a registered dietitian and a nutrition communications strategist who is passionate about creating engaging content for a wide array of audiences.  You can find her at www.novellard.com or on Instagram @LiveToNourishRD.

 

Image sources: Adobe Stock, 699pic.com, gotrip.hk, pixtastock.com

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