Friday, February 25, 2011

Sexy Sailors! ok...its really about parsnips...

Its it sad that I couldn't come up with a delicious sounding post title....I know everyone turns their nose up at parsnips!  I used to be one of you!!!  Several years ago I read an article in Canadian Gardening magazine that stated if you left your parsnips in the ground until a few frosts had hit them...they turned into a COMPLETELY different vegetable...

Thats where they had me....I HAD to find out how different they were...and it was such a dramatic flavour...I became a born-again parsnip lover. 

This year we staggered our crop of parsnips and it allowed me more time for peeling and chopping these massive roots vegetables.  After I peel and chop...they get placed in freezer bags (not heaping full, just half full then pressed flat).  I ended up with 4 large freezer bags of them...and I ate plenty while we were digging them up!  They are great prepared like a roasted potato, or added to mashed potato (which I use on top of sheppard's pie)...that is until I saw this month's recipe in my Foodland Ontario 2011 recipe calendar.


I HAD to try it....I like each of the individual ingredients enough to want to make it.

Straight out of the calendar
  I was hoping you could read the recipe in the above picture...but basically its 4 cups parsnips, peeled and chopped, 4 cups veg or chicken broth, 1 onion, 1 tsp of butter, 2 apples, peeled and chopped...125g of brie and salt and pepper to taste.  Melt butter and fry onion until just cooked, add parsnips, apples and broth, simmer until soft.  Use blender or handblender to smooth.  Cube the brie and add while warm. 

my version

I will DEFINITELY make this again!  A few alterations though...I would use 3-4 apples...instead of just two.  I would also use the whole 200g wheel of brie.  I love brie.

This soup was wonderfully hearty and tasty.  Technically all I had to buy was the we buy broth in bulk, had parsnips and apples in the freezer, and saved a dozen onions from the garden in a slightly make shift root cellar...which is working out so far...but its more accidental than planned out.

I encourage you to try this soup may just bring you back over to the parsnip side!!!

Tis the seedy season!

Its such an exciting can officially start counting DOWN to gardening season!  Yay!

Its also that time of year that gardening type shows are starting up.  Its a great time to get excited about the next growing season.  A time to learn some tips and tricks before you get to put them into action.  I am going to try going to a seedy saturday in my area...and see what it's all about...the Kingston one takes place on March 12 at the Central Library.

I first heard about Seedy Saturdays from my good friend Doug Kennedy of Green Side Up Environmental Services.  He operates out of Omemee and participates in an insane amount of public speaking events until spring arrives...then you'll always find him out on the road or working the land. 

I asked Doug some questions about these types of events and here's what Doug had to say!

What are seedy saturdays (sundays) all about?

Doug - These events are all about the promotion of seed trade/purchase in preparation of a new growing season as well as promotoing associated horticultural and gardening businesses, events and organizations.

What will you be speaking about at these types of events?

Doug - Topics I present at these events and others like it include native plants and gardening, soil and its importance, and other ecological or horticultural topics.

What are you bringing to the event?
Doug - During the different events I attend I usually bring my promotional material, and a some native plants (trees, shrubs, perennials) to sell or trade.

What would I (or anyone else...novice or expert) get out of an event like seedy saturday? Doug - It's one stop shop for acquiring your seed for the next growing season, whether its organic or hierloom. Also, there are organizations who attend some events and promote the programs which could include grant and volunteer opportunities. I always meet great people, expand my network and learn something at every event.

Why am i thinking about gardening at this time of year?

Doug - We are experiencing some warm spells, the spring is around the corner, days are longer. Spring is in the air and not to mention cabin fever.

What special qualifications do you have for being at these events?

Doug - None. All you need is something to promote, trade, sell, educate and talk about that is related to seeds or gardening.

What is your business Green Side Up Environmental Services all about?

Doug - We have a native plant nursery and provide a design/build landscape construction service including garden, tree, and stone work.

Do you specialize in any particular service(s)?

Doug - We specialize in natural approaches and ecological restoration as well as run a native plant nursery selling tree, shrubs, and perennials.

Any closing thoughts you have on seeds or these types of events?

Doug - Don't miss out on these events, they are a fundemental component of personal motivation and a foundation building block of the horticultural and gardening community.

Thanks Doug!  I hope everyone can get to a local Seedy event.  I included the link to the Seedy you can search by town name and find one...but hurry...most of them take place in late February or early March.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You're the apple of my eye....and heart too!

Oatmeal is one of those comfort foods.  It reminds me of my Grandma Bell, who always seemed to have a pot cooking on the stove every morning I ever stayed at her cottage.  I remember its texture and the smell of it.  The instant I start to smell my own stove-cooked oatmeal, I am transported back in time.

Lately I've been hearing a lot about oatmeal, but these days its in relation to soluble fibres.  I try to always make the quick oats as opposed to instant, mainly for tradition's sake...but also because I can control the salt and sugar content. 

I also love coming up with new variations so that the kids will eat it all up.  Noah is a fan, but Owen is still getting used to the texture. 

The label on Quaker Oats says oatmeal is a soluble oat fibre which contributes to healthy cholesterol levels.  This is one reasonably priced food to have in your pantry.  One bag, in our house, seems to last for a long time.  All I know is its great on these cold, damp mornings before you start your day.

I included my recent favorite variation.  Enjoy!

I make the oatmeal as per the directions, but just before its completely cooked...I add in some 1% milk.

During the cooking process I pull out a bag of peeled and sliced apples.  We picked these apples from Owen's nana's few apple trees.  Normally we would have gone out apple picking in the fall with the family.  The beauty of freezing apples in this format is that you can pull them out of the freezer at almost anytime for nearly instant apple crsip or pie....or in this pie oatmeal!  I add a dash of nutmeg, and a tsp of cinnamon...or if I have it, I'll add Victorian Epicure's Apple Pie Spice.  Its a gloriously fragrant mix of spices...NO SUGARS!   The final touch is the 1 tsp of vanilla.  If you want to know more about the healthy benefits of the spices I mentioned above, be sure to check out my post on carrot cake.

Of course you can add brown sugar if you decide, but I prefer to limit the amount of extra sugars we take in.  The kids get enough of it in treats.  I love to show the kids that things can taste great without the need for sugar....the look on Noah's face was priceless when I told him breakfast tastes great and it actually healthy!  (Does.....not....compute.....)

So dig into some old fashioned can make it ahead and reheat as necessary.  Your heart will thank you!   Perhaps your family will too...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Farmer's Market

This is the beginning of a series of posts...they will last all year...popping up along the way...
It was the first Saturday back at the Farmer's Market here in Verona since before the holidays.  Owen and I went to see which vendors had come out to share the inside space of the Lions Hall.  In the summer time, the farmer's market is outside and housed in outer buildings.  This is an enduring part of country living and I'm glad to share this with my kids. 

Owen checks out the home made bling

preserves of every kind
  The feeling of the farmer's market changes with the seasons.  Right now, in the winter months, the market has a feeling of old times.  Of perserves and baked goods.  Dried herbs and spices.  In the spring, I'll buy some of our garden seedlings there.  Summertime means we'll get some locally prepared entrees, some odd vegetables we aren't already growing, as well as gift cards with beautiful local photography.  In the fall its a great place to get fresh apples by the bushel and pumpkins...I'll never forget the first time Noah and Ches saw a white pumpkin or a pumpkin that took up the back of a pick up truck...only at the farmer's market. 

spices and rubs

locally grown garlic the size of my fist and kettle cooked popcorn

The variety of crafters seems richer in the colder weather...quilts and tapestries.  Various handmade items for sale, but each one is one of a kind....and every week it changes...

handbags aplenty

the vendor we get our tourtiere from, but the kids only know it as the one with the peanut butter balls
 Everyone has their own experiences with a farmer's market, and it really does depend on your population.  At the Verona Farmer's Market, you have a lady selling spanakopitas, one who makes and sells goat cheese (that melts in your mouth).  A family who sells meats for your freezer who's kids are often helping behind the table. 

You get to meet who is growing your food, not just knowing where in the province or country it came from.  I remember when Noah had a tiny crush on one of the beef farmer's daughters...thinking this is going to make one helluva country song! 

The kids will grow up with their own memories of these Saturdays "spent shopping" at the market.  The best times we had were just being there....not even shopping...because there always seems to be something different each week.  Something to learn...something to see....something to we always appreciate when vendors offer the free samples....and almost always they win me over and I end up buying.

But its shopping I can feel good about....I'm helping support my local economy....I'm buying food with a very small carbon footprint...I get to meet the people who are growing or raising my food.....I can teach my kids about where their food comes from....and I mostly I get to eat really great stuff!

And the winners are....

Its my readers lucky day! I just happen to have TWO copies of this fantastic gardening book...
So Jenn and Teresa are both winners!!!

Please send me your email we can exchange mailing info.

Thanks again for participating in this contest and my blog!

Friday, February 4, 2011

LOCAL BIZ SPOTLIGHT: Something Cool Frozen Foods

When I started this blog, I had intended to spotlight some folks in my community that operated small businesses.  Specifically, I wanted to talk to others in the neighbourhood who valued the environment as well as eating healthy.  So, for my first installment on local businesses...I proudly present Beth Freeland, owner/operator of Something Cool Frozen Foods.

You may be asking, what???  I thought this was a gardening blog?!   And you would be right!  But another aspect of this blog is the discussion about what we eat, why and how.  If you extend that discussion, you also talk about where your foods come from...if you can't or aren't gardening. 

Something Cool Frozen Foods and Beth Freeland
So on with the interview!

What does Something Cool do/offer?

Beth:  Freezing foods was the original method for food storage.  There are no preservatives and its environmentally friendly, with little to no packaging.  The food is frozen fresh, which preserves the nutritional value.  We offer our customers year-round access to fruits and vegetables, natural and organic foods, prepared meals, fish and seafood, as well as ready to bake items.

How does Something Cool contribute to less packaging?

We buy in bulk and repackage in plastic bags.  Our products are sold and bagged in paper bags or boxes, all of which are recyclable!  Even our store itself only produces a small kitchen garbage bag each week!

What local suppliers does Something Cool use?

Rita's Natural and Organic (Picton), Ledbetters Meat Products (Orillia), Salmon River Smokehouse (Tamworth), Margo's Pies (Elgin), Paulina's Curry Mix (Kingston), Sue's Gluten Free (Kingston), Guthries Farms (Harrowsmith), and coming soon Ella's Exclusives (Harrowsmith). 

Are there any qualifications you would like your suppliers to have to be stocked in your store?

Yes!  I try to carry high-end products where possible.  If I stock chicken fingers, I chose the brand that is actually all white meat with the least amount of breading.  Also, oven cooking rather than deep frying.  I have my customer's health in mind when I chose these items.  We also cater to those customers with special dietary considerations such as gluten sensitivities, diabetes and vegetarians. 

How do you help contribute to your customer's overall health?

I like to talk with my customers, and find out what their dietary needs are.  When you get to know your customers, you can easily make suggestions that suit their needs. 

What is it like to operate a food store in a rural area?

My grandfather operated a general store in Bellrock, and some of my earliest (and happiest) memories are from being in and around that store.  I love the social aspect of running a store and knowing your customers.  I love making suggestions for meal parings. 

What so you feel you offer your customers that beats the competition?

Personal service!  We really do have great customer service here.  We offer such convenience, as you can phone or email your orders in and they'll be ready for pick up!

What are your thoughts on the 100 miles challenge?

I meet that with the majority of my suppliers.  I do deal with Sysco for some items and you can't always control where Sysco buys its products.

What is the best value item in your store and why?

Its got to be the 4k case of boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  Its a very lean protien and can be prepared in a variety of different ways.  Also, our natural, often gluten free and organic soups!  $5.99 for a litre!!!

Visit Beth's store in Sydenham (until Feb 16th then relocating to Harrowsmith on Feb 19th) or online at the following link:

I'm grateful that Beth Freeland took the time to talk with me about her business.  She's a brand new grandmother and also moving her store in the next two weeks to Harrowsmith!  Busy gal!!!  Thanks again Beth and good luck in the new location!  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When everyone is sick....

a yummy home made smoothie pop!
 For the last few weeks, we've all had some form of sickness...and my two boys were eating popsicle after popsicle after popsicle...I swear I thought I heard my 3 yr old say BRAIN FREEZE for the first time...

After several trips to the grocery store...I decided to put my popsicle making form to good use!  We got a smoothy maker given to us for a wedding present...and its definitely one of those things I couldn't do without.  I make morning smoothies and the recipe for the dandy pop above is a variation on what I make most mornings.

If you ever needed a reason to pick your own fruits and freeze them....THIS IS IT!!!  I couldn't possibly afford to make these if each bag of one kind of fruit is over $5.00 each.  Not only that, but I am convinced that my pops are way better for I know exactly what goes into it!

Now this recipe won't have any amounts on it....because my smoothie maker already has idiot-proof measurements on the side.  The beauty of making your own pops is that you can tailor it to whatever flavours you love!  Plus you can also try new combos that you'll never find in the stores.

I'll run down what I generally put into pop:

Juice of one fresh orange (or grapefruit....I'm discovering how lovely they are in a smoothie)
non-fat yoghurt
1% milk
fresh banana (not frozen)
frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries) - i like frozen, but fresh is ok too in a pop
macca protein powder

(in my morning smoothies I add flax seeds as well)

I guess I add the macca powder because as a parent I find that when my children are sick, my biggest concern is that they are getting enough of everything to help them get better faster.  I hate it when a sick child loses their appetite.  It makes my stomach churn with anxiety.  So if I can help their wee throats and stomachs feel better, while also ensuring they are getting some nutrients...I can rest a little easier.  I can see by the big smoothie grins I get from the boys, that I'll be making these well after the summer heat hits us again....

ENJOY!  This recipe is for the sick and well alike!  Don't wait for an illness to hit you to give yourself an excuse to try these darlings out.      

ALSO SHOWN:  an abstract painting I did in 2002