Warm Your Winter with McEwan’s SOUP-er Soups

When the days shorten, and the temperature drops, I find myself reaching for dishes that warm my body and soul.  And while health food is likely not the first thing to come to mind when your thinking comfort classics, I think it can definitely apply with soup.  McEwan’s comforting refrigerated soups are hearty, made from scratch and surprisingly good for you.

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Many of their options are packed with antioxidant rich vegetables, high fibre whole grains and low-fat proteins like beans, and are guaranteed to be stick-to-your-ribs good.

When I asked Mark where the inspiration for the soup line came from, he told me simply, “I have always loved a good soup. They remind me of my childhood and are comforting on the coldest day. We have had great success with the different varieties of soups at the restaurants, so it seemed like a great idea to round out our offer of prepared foods with simple soup recipes. Do to the wide range and tastes of our clientele, we have kept them very simple so that once brought home, more ingredients or seasonings can be added to them to create a new household favourite.” This way, you get that “home-made” feeling while the chefs at McEwan have done the difficult “home-made” work for you!

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Each morning, they round up about 16 L of fresh McEwan’s produce from the store, simmer them with the flavour base and their house-made stock, and then finish it off with delicious fresh herbs, cream, natural sweeteners or white truffles.  It takes as many as four different taste testers to make sure the seasoning is right, a job I doubt they’ve ever had a hard time filling! Finally, the soup is gently pasteurized to help you savour it even longer at home despite how quickly it usually disappears in mine.

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With such care and attention given to the cooking process in each of McEwan’s soups, it’s so great to know that there’s something for every preference and dietary restriction. The McEwan Group’s Executive chef, Andrew Ellerby told me that at any time, they will stock approximately 8-10 rotating soups with a few staples like their Chicken Noodle and Cream of Mushroom Truffle.

This means there are plenty of options for customers seeking out gluten free, lactose free, vegetarian or vegan options.  And regardless of what flavour you choose, because they’re all preservative and additive free with no artificial flavours, Chef Ellerby says you can rest assured, “you can pronounce every ingredient going in.”

Minestrone

Minestrone

McEwan’s soups are also great for those hoping not to head into the holidays looking like a stuffed turkey. Research suggests that when you start a meal with a broth based soup, like McEwan’s Red Beet, Minestrone, or Chicken Noodle, you actually end up eating fewer calories overall as the excess water content tricks your stomach into feeling full!  So before heading off to a food-and-wine filled party this holiday season, try having a bowl of McEwan’s soup before you go, and you may be better equipped to resist that second slice of pie!

Chicken Noodle

Chicken Noodle

They are available year round in the refrigerator with seasonal specials like Butternut Squash, Veggie Chili, and Clam Chowder. So next time you’re looking to warm up on one of our balmy autumn nights- tuck into a bowl, fill up without filling out!

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Butternut Squash

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

[Photo credit: Jeffrey Chan]

McEwan’s Curry Bar Spices Up Family Dinner

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Don’t we all love to fantasize about having a rich aromatic sauce simmering on a stovetop for hours, and having 5 different dishes on the go when the kids come home from school.  Let’s be honest her, folks. After the 12 hour work days, the kids’ soccer practice, your mandatory spin class, and the mountains of inevitable laundry, the thought of busting out a single pan is often enough to throw a grown adult into a stress-induced fit. Thankfully, you don’t have to quit your day job to deliver deep flavours and good nutrition to your family’s plates. Just pop your head into McEwan’s Shops at Don Mills, breath in the exotic curry aromas, and a great family dinner is just a quick trip through the checkout.

Chef Shen Ousmand and his staff preparing the Curry Bar items.

As Toronto Star restaurant critic Amy Pataki pointed out, grocery stores have come a long way in offering ready-made meals on site.  And while McEwan’s store touts an impressive line up of restaurant-quality hot items to be enjoyed in store, on the go, or at home around the dining room table, nothing is more satisfying than getting to decide exactly what you want and how much you want by dishing it up yourself.  Unlike typical self-serve salad or yogurt bars, however, McEwan’s Curry Bar is a heck of a lot exciting, enticing and seductive.

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Choose from popular items like Butter Chicken, Lamb Saag, Biryani Fried Rice and Executive Chef Shen Ousmand’s favourite, McEwan’s Own Beef Curry.  All of recipes for the curry bar have been inspired by the food Shen’s mother used to cook back home in Srilanka, but have been adapted using classic French technique and North American friendly levels of heat. And if you’re still apprehensive about diving into the world of Indian curry, McEwan’s by-weight pricing means you can sample without committing to an entire meal.

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These Indian delicacies are not only a huge culinary upgrade from your family’s pizza, paninis or pastas staples, but offer incredible unique health benefits from anti-inflammatory to antioxidant, to anti-bacterial properties as well!  Shen even told me that growing up, his mother used to wash chicken with curry spices like turmeric for this exact reason!

So next time you’re rushing home in a dinner panic, add a little spice to your family’s pale, boring and bland meal routine.  Let McEwan do the slow-cooked hard work, pick out your family’s faves, and reap the nutritious and delicious benefits of a slow cooked Indian meal.

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DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN

 

McEwan’s Microgreens Have Big Flavour

It was a long time coming, but finally, Spring is here. It’s in our wardrobes (yep, it’s time for that pedicure), our work schedules (extra long patio lunch hour anyone?), and of course, it’s in our lunch bags. Spring to me embodies freshness. It means I get to take a long-awaited hiatus from hearty casseroles and stews, and shift over to healthy light fare! Which is particularly important with bikini season on the way!

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Well, this month, I wanted to help you get excited about your Spring lunches, and maybe stir up a little lunch-room jealousy while you’re at it. So I made a B-line to McEwan’s exceptional selection of fresh artisanal microgreens for inspiration.  And if the word “microgreens” automatically makes you think of a science experiment, than my Microgreen tutorial is for you!

Sprouts vs. Microgreens

It’s a common misconception that sprouts are the same thing as microgreens- but when you consider how they’re cultivated, you can easily spot the differences. Sprouts are simply germinated seeds that are produced entirely in a contained water environment with low light conditions. There isn’t actually any soil, planting, or sunlight involved. Unfortunately, the dark moist environments are a potential breeding ground for bacterial, which is why Health Canada suggests that people with compromised immune systems (i.e. children, elderly, pregnant women) avoid eating sprouts to be safe.

In contrast, microgreen seeds are planted in soil in an environment with ample light, low humidity and good air circulation. After about 7-14 days, the sprouts are harvested with a sharp knife, and the residual roots and soil are composted for another planting. These growing conditions are far less conducive to bacterial growth.

Microgreens Nutrition

Microgreens are a guilt-free snack that are virtually free of fat and cholesterol, are low in carbohydrates and sodium, contain only 8-38 calories per cup and depending on the variety, are packed with Vitamin’s A, C, E, and K. What’s even more exciting is that early research is suggesting that microgreens can have up to 40 times the nutrients of their mature “big vegetable” counterparts.  It just goes to show that even the littlest, cutest foods can be nutritional powerhouses!

How to Eat Microgreens

Like all vegetables, the flavours of microgreens can range from sweet to peppery to nutty to herbaceous, depending on the variety. And not only do they add distinctive pleasant flavour, but they also lend a satisfying light crunch.  You can add microgreens to merely any salad, soup, sandwich, pita or wrap.

Check out Executive Chef Andrew Ellerby’s Roasted Garlic Steak Salad recipe.

So there you have it- some delicious and nutritious uses for microgreens that will help you power through to lunch hour in anticipation of what’s waiting in the fridge.  I think these dainty greens are a great way to transition out of your comfort-food winter routine, and into something fresh, healthy and light. And considering that McEwan’s incredible selection of Canadian microgreens are available all year round, you might never want to transition back!

For more healthy eating tips and recipes, check out my website www.abbeyskitchen.com,  follow me on twitter @AbbeysKitchen, and visit the McEwan blog regularly to catch my next post!

DELICIOUSLY YOURS,

ABBEY SHARP, RD

OWNER, ABBEY’S KITCHEN