I spoke to Cathy Ireland just before mother’s day and there is no doubt where her passion for food comes from. It runs in both sides of her family and she inherited the gift from her parents. She cherishes childhood memories of learning to bake with her mother and learning to cook with her father.
The Home Economist and current Manager of Kraft Kitchens, has had a rewarding career with Kraft Foods for 19 years. Her various positions within the company have come with opportunities to really hone in on her senses of food. She has been able to fine-tune her tastes in ways that not many people get the opportunity to do.
Her unique and delicious entry in the Canola Growers Cookie Contest was declared one of the runner-ups. Her Crispy Quinoa Chocolate Cookies (recipe below) are irresistible and I set to find out what inspired such a recipe.
Q. 1 What was your inspiration behind this cookie?
Chocolate chip cookies are a favourite of mine. I grew up making them with my mom. I now make them with my daughters; I have two girls, age three and five. They always bake with me like I did with my mother. Chocolate chip was a favourite of ours.
I’ve experimented with quinoa in salads and desserts but never tried it in cookie. I thought it would be a good way to add more protein and make something not traditionally thought of as healthy.
I was searching for a chocolate chip cookie recipe that was both crispy and chewy. I found one that called for both margarine and oil and thought it would be perfect to try with canola. I took it one step further and wanted to try quinoa flour as a replacement for all-purpose flour in the recipe, which would have also made it gluten-free. While the cookie tasted great warm out of the oven, it developed an aftertaste upon cooling and didn’t hold up well (staled too quickly). I added some flour back and came up with the Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookie you have today.
Q.2- When did you realize you had a passion for food?
I originally wanted to be a dietician. As I was completing my degree in university I spent my first two summers working in hospital dietetic services. I decided to switch angles my last two summers and went to work for a potato chip manufacturer instead.
I then had opportunity to work in small manufacturing plant and got to see the whole process from production to sales to marketing.
When I went to Kraft, I thought I’d be doing more editorial work, but with my background I was able to do more hands on work and got into recipe development.
As for my background in cooking, it runs in the family. I learned from both of my parents. My father was the cook at his family’s motel. My mom worked evenings and my dad taught me to cook at a young age in those evenings. My mother taught me to bake. She comes from a Mennonite family and taught me by giving me full reign in the kitchen.
Q. 3- What have been some highlights of your career?
I have had a great career at Kraft Foods. I worked in the food service department for 10 years where I did a job similar to a restaurant critic’s. I would go out to restaurants and critique their menu, suggesting new items using Kraft products.
I was also a Coffee Cupper. I learned how to brew the perfect cup of coffee and tasted coffee to learn about their tastes and aromas. I learned about coffee beans and the regions they come from.
I have also worked on the Kraft cheese business – I completed my first of three levels of cheese training with Artisan Cheese Marketing.
These opportunities have allowed me to develop my expertise as a taster and fine-tune my palette. Our tastes are like an instrument that requires fine-tuning; doing so allows us to hone in on all the different components and senses of food.
I guess you can say I am a professional taster and eater! My job at Kraft Foods has been great. I’ve travelled across Canada and have gotten some radio and other media experience.
Q. 4 -What is the one meal that always makes your family smile?
That’s a tough one because I never make the same thing twice. I’d have go with a classic like roast beef and potatoes for a Sunday dinner. It’s a comfort food that brings back memories of my childhood.
Other than that, I don’t make the same thing twice, which has been the biggest challenge with my own kids. I have trouble feeding my own, because they try something new everyday. For kids it takes them time to get used to food, you have to let them try something 12 times before they get accustomed to something.
Q. 5 – What is your advice to parents regarding their children’s eating habits?
With kids, it’s best not to stress out. Make sure you offer them a variety so they can try different things. They will always find something they like. The power is in your purchasing decisions. If you make good purchasing decisions, they will grow to make the same decisions on their own.
CRISPY QUINOA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
- 1 cup quinoa flour (250 mL)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (125 mL)
- 1 tsp salt (5 mL)
- 1 tsp baking soda (5 mL)
- 1/2 cup canola margarine (125 mL)
- 1/4 cup canola oil (60 mL)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (250 mL)
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (60 mL)
- 1 tsp vanilla (5 mL)
- 2 eggs (2 )
- 1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (375 mL)
1.Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.In a medium bowl, combine flours, salt and baking powder. Mix well.
3.In a large bowl, beat margarine, canola oil, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, on low speed, one at a time until incorporated. Stir in flour mixture until well blended. Add chocolate chips, mix well
4.Drop tablespoons of dough, 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto baking sheets.
5.Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Remove to wire racks. Cool completely.