Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 58: I Am in Deep Smit

OK, so Jeff eats a whole jar of preserves while I'm on vacation and frequently cheats on the 100 Mile Challenge when I'm not looking (I honestly had no idea a bag of Fuzzy Peaches ended up with our groceries until he ripped into them on the way home), but when it really counts, this man pulls through.

I had big plans for last night's dinner, with several pots on the stove and dough proofing in the oven, when I got pulled away on an emergency. I asked Jeff to finish what I started, but with putting Honey Bear to bed and cleaning up, I wasn't confident it'd be finished or delicious.

I came home 3 hours later and was greeted with these beautiful words:

"The pizza's warming up right now, I've made a salad with a mustard cider vinaigrette. I thought you'd like some chicken on the pizza, so I roasted a chicken breast. I took pictures before and after cooking the pizza, I put Honey Bear to sleep, cleaned up and have wine chilling in the fridge".

Now that is why I married him. Almost 8 years later and he still impresses me. Swoon...

So without further delay, here's the super amazing pizza Jeff made for me:

Loaded with caramelized onions, mushrooms, roast chicken breast, a garlic white sauce, our own fresh basil, some fresh goat cheese and a grating of mozzarella. 

I am in deep smit.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 57: Big Plans Ahead

Thinking about reruns and the possibility of eating the same things over again has given me the kick in the butt to be more creative with our remaining days. Normally, I'm not this creative with meal planning and that's one of the perks of this challenge in the winter: I have more free time.

So, here are some ideas for future meals. Feel free to chime in and offer some suggestions on meals or ideas I'm forgetting about:
  • Pizza with white sauce (my tomato supply is alarmingly low and I have enough for one more meal and I'm saving it for a special occasion)
  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Coq Au Vin
  • Something fun for St. Patricks Day - Irish Soda Bread and a Beef Stew (which is where my last tomatoes are going, I'm assuming)
  • Bubble 'N Squeak
  • I'm terrified and excited to try making perogies from scratch, but I'll try it
  • Pumpkin Pie sweetened with maple syrup - maybe after our yearly visit to the sugar shack in March
  • Pumpkin Gnocchi with brown butter and sage
Anything I'm missing? Here's what I have ample supplies to: whole wheat flour, oatmeal, carrots, onions, garlic, turnips, parsnips, frozen blueberries, apples, butter, milk, cream, yogurt,  honey, maple syrup, herbs, spices, fresh basil, cilantro, sour cream, cheddar, feta, fresh goat cheese and Neufchatel. So my foodie buddies, what would you make with this?

So while I dream up new and wonderful local delights, here's a peek at what I had for breakfast:

Whole Wheat Crepes with Country Cheese Filling

My thanks to buddy Alyson at Dates and Quinces for inspiring me to make crepes. I've never actually made them, or eaten them, so forgive my interpretation of how to wrap or serve crepes. I filled them with the pressed cottage cheese (country cheese) I brought from Ontario, which was lovely. A mild, creamy cheese flavour with the maple syrup was great. I made one with Raspberry Lemon jam and cheese, which was OK, but not the best choice in a crepe. I had a Plum Port jam tucked aside for this purpose, but I came home from vacation with the jar emptied and Jeff shame faced. That's the down side of having only one of every kind of jam in my pantry!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 55: Reruns

Basil Pesto with Roast Chicken Breast
Going 55 days and not repeating one main course isn't too shabby! Of course, pancakes, quick loaves, waffles, oatmeal and all manners of soups and stews continue to play a prominent role in our breakfasts and lunches, dinner is a special time to be creative. I wish I could call tonight's meal original and it almost is, except pesto and pasta has made a return to our dinner table. I needed something quick and easy and this fit the bill, as Jeff still had homemade pasta in the freezer and the pesto needs eating up. This was also the first time we've eaten roast chicken on the Challenge and to be honest, the first time we've purchased free-range, organic chicken.


We were missing out! It was moist, tender and so flavourful. I can't imagine going back to that dried out chicken stuff again. As as added bonus, the price was reasonable: $5.85 for a large chicken breast that Jeff and I split. We roasted it with a bit of salt, pepper and basil and left it simple, as the pesto had ample flavour. I shredded a bit of aged white cheddar on top and while I missed the Parmesan, the key flavours were present and it did the trick.

Cider Glazed and Caramelized Onion Salad
We paired the pasta with a Cider Glazed Caramelized Onion Salad and although presentation wise, it can look a bit like worms on your salad, it's delicious! I normally roast thinly sliced red onions in balsamic vinegar, but I improvised by caramelizing cooking onions on the stove and finishing it with a splash of apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper and honey. Here's the recipe:

2 cooking onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp honey
2 tsp apple cider vinegar


1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp grainy mustard (I used my own Wine and Sage Mustard)
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper
2.5-3 tbsp canola oil (to taste, I like it on the vinegar side, so I kept it around 2 tbsp)

1. Very slowly cook onions in a frying pan on low heat with oil until brown and caramelized, about 25 minutes. When finished cooking, stir in honey, vinegar and spices, stir and remove from heat until ready to serve.

2. Mix vinegar, mustard, honey and seasonings and stir until salt is dissolved. Add oil in slowly and continue whisking until combined. Add to greens and top with caramelized onions. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 54: 100 Mile Locavores In the Paper

My thanks to Victoria Handysides for her article on us in Here Magazine. Our hope is that more people see how eating locally can be a viable option for living sustainably here in New Brunswick.

There was one point taken out of context that I wanted to clear up: Our food budget. The article doesn't mention our budget includes three people, not two. Our budget also contains household, personal care items and cat food; basically everything that can be purchased at the grocery store. The actual total for our food budget is significantly less than quoted and we've still managed to live quite well and with great variety of food over the past 54 days. It is possible to eat locally and on a budget!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 52: Cue Star Trek Theme Song

That's Right: GREENS!
Do you ever wish a blog post could have a theme song? Mine would be Star Trek: TNG, only Picard would say something like "To boldly go where no locavore has gone before". That's right, that's lettuce on my plate, in fact, enough lettuce to call it a salad.

Now of course, lots of locavores grow their own greens throughout the winter, but I'm just so excited to have something crispy and soft on the teeth I need to gloat a little.

I roasted the beets skin-on with some canola oil, salt and pepper and peeled them once cooled. The greens are dressed with an apple cider vinegar and mustard vinaigrette, paired with sliced Golden Delicious apple. The pork tenderloin had a apple cider and herb reduction "mop" and the mashed potatoes are garlicky and perfect. 

The salad was easily the star of the show. We started our seeds on January 2nd, so it's been a long wait for enough greens to make a salad. Totally worth the wait.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 51 - Urban Homesteading Blog Day

Sugar Pumpkin
Backyard Gardens

Over at Dog Island Farm a blog that helps people learn about urban homesteading, the four authors are encouraging bloggers to talk about urban homesteading and what it means to them.

Urban homesteading is a way to live sustainably and ranges from keeping chickens, bees, gardening (rooftop, patio, backyard gardens), preserving your homegrown food, composting and more. Jeff and I were completely unfamiliar with urban homesteading, except for growing basil on the window ledge of our 31st floor Toronto apartment.

South Facing Garden for Tomatoes and Peppers
When we moved to New Brunswick, we moved to a subdivision with very generous lots - almost 1/3 an acre. Faced with such a spacious backyard, we couldn't help but put in our first garden the first summer we arrived and we haven't looked back. Using various areas of the back yard, such as the side of the shed and containers on the back patio, we grow all sorts of fruits and vegetables. We try and companion plant as much as possible and follow a no-dig method of gardening to avoid weeds and pests. Still, if we're not amending our red clay, acidic soil, we're fighting daily to keep the slugs at bay. 

What we don't eat gets frozen or pressure canned for the winter, which has really come in handy during the 100 Mile Challenge. This year, we're moving away from vegetables and more towards fruit, since our CSA and farmer's markets provide us with lovely vegetables, but we lacked fruit. This year, we're putting in elderberries, black and red currants, haskap bushes, raspberries and blackberries. 

Grapes, Beans and Chives
Aside from having fresh vegetables any time you want, gardening and preserving our food has helped us have a whole new relationship with food. Growing our vegetables from seed well before the last frost, tenderly caring for them and ensuring they'll survive outdoors, watering, fertilizing, wedding, sowing, eating or preserving and then composting is a fascinating way to see the entire life process from start to finish and has given us a new found respect for our food and the effort it takes to get it on our plates.

One day, we hope to keep chickens and continue in the family tradition of keeping bees and making honey. In the meantime, we focus on growing our vegetables and fruit and continue to work with local farmers to supply our meat, dairy and grains.

Shed Garden with Grapes, Stawberries and Cukes
Honey Bear will be 2 this summer and it's exciting to think of her involvement in the gardens. At best, we hope will foster that respect and appreciation for the food that nourishes her. At worst, she plays in the dirt and has a great time!

Herb Garden by the Front Door

Container Gardening

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 50 - Our Potential as Lifelong Locavores

During my travels with Honey Bear, it was tremendous to see the amount of support and awareness my friends and family have about local eating. Many of them proudly served me their local food and apologized for not having more. Most of them expressed their awareness in reading labels, asking questions about food origin and seeking out local farmer's markets to purchase ready made food like sausages and cheese and the satisfaction in supporting local farmers and producers.

It also lead to some deep and important conversations about the sustainability of eating locally and the consequences of reducing our choices to a smattering of locally grown and produced items. For many of my friends and family, the issue of reducing their environmental impact and supporting their local economy were the main reasons to buy and eat local, with which I strongly agree. However, I also believe that following this local movement too closely may result in cultural isolation and runs the risk of xenophobia.

Most notably was the case in the recently expanded Hamilton Farmer's Market and the vendors that were pushed out of the new expansion. Macleans magazine article "Thinking Local, Acting Loco" brought up the dark side of the locavore movement, that of pushing out retailers who sell food with imported ingredients, like pita bread or exotic fruit. In an effort to maintain a locavore "purity", long-time selling and popular vendors were no longer welcome or part of Farmer's Market.

I may be naive and a Pollyanna, but I firmly attest to learning more about cultures through their food. My ability to travel abroad is limited, but through food, music and arts, I get a peek at a culture vastly different from my own. Exotic flavours, textures, spices and ingredients push me out of my food rut and help me appreciate that we live in a world that is full of such great variety and vibrancy. A simple ingredient like a spicy Madras curry powder or the heady aroma of freshly grated nutmeg is enough to transport me to a place of wonder, well beyond the routines and predictability of my own life and I can't imagine living without them. To sum up, here's what I've realized: eating and buying local is totally the way to go, but for us, it's not the only way. Imported foods and exotic ingredients are a wonderful treat, especially when it's fairly traded, organic and ethical, so everyone wins with our purchase. It's taken us 50 days and one Ethno-Graze later to realize how vital imported food is in our lives and the role it will play once we're finished the challenge.

Cheers to the next 50 days!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 47 - Catching Up

Toronto: Home of Some Seriously Tasty Food

Honey Bear and I are safe and sound after a fantastic 8 day getaway to Ontario to visit with friends and family who haven't seen Honey Bear in almost a year. It was also a break from the 100 Mile Challenge, which was both welcome and feared as it feels like I'm starting all over today and catch myself searching through drawers and pantries for sneaky, hidden, non-local food but not finding any. Amazing how easily I backslide!

Still, being on reprieve from the challenge allowed me to partake in one of my favourite activities: Ethno-Grazing. This was my Dad's idea when I was younger - we'd travel to Toronto and gorge ourselves on all manners of ethnic food and what we couldn't eat, we'd take home with us to enjoy throughout the week. It's a passion of mine as I love food and love the exotic flavours and spices that can easily be used to dress up your own hum-drum meals.

Ethno-Grazing and being mindful of the challenge was an interesting experience and brought some new epiphanies about the role of imported food in my life and my ability to make a local diet sustainable for myself and my family. More on this to come, but first, my eating tour of Toronto!

Our first stop was Ethiopian House on Irwin, in the Yonge and Wellesley area. It's a cozy restaurant where the aromas of frankincense and roasting coffee add warmth and invite you to savour your meal and linger a little longer as you catch up with old friends and that's precisely what I did.

Nectar of the Gods

Our Delicious Vege-Beef Combo on Injera

Teff Flour Injera - the Perfect Picker-Upper

Coffee Ceremony

Perfect Coffee with Clove and Cinnamon Overtones

Lindsay and Alyson 

As mentioned, my good friend Alyson from Dates and Quinces has a fabulous review of our experience at the restaurant with some beautiful photography.

From there, we headed to Bloor at the Ukrainian and Polish section of town, where we enjoyed some smoked sausage, halupki (cabbage rolls), pierogi, pastries, poppy seed rolls, marzipan figurines and more. This was my absolute favourite:

Sweet Lemon Country Cheese Pastry
Country cheese or pressed cottage cheese is a mild, crumbly cheese that I remember fondly from living in Ukraine for 6 months. I can't find it around here, so I was excited to bring some home from an Ontario dairy. It's used in both sweet and savoury ways and a pastry is one of my favourite ways to enjoy the cheese.

After loading up, we headed to Spadina for my absolute favourite part of Ethno-Grazing - Vietnamese and Chinese. By some act of divine interference, we managed to find the elusive dumpling restaurant that Andrea Turnbull of Putting Up with the Turnbulls recommended. We were attempting to find a parking spot when suddenly a spot opened up, right in from of the Dumpling House on Spadina. Andrea's particular suggestion was Pork and Fennel dumplings and she wasn't wrong. Fresh dill, tender pork the gentle flavour of fennel, it was beyond delicious. I couldn't stop there and had to go with the Shrimp and Pork and Shrimp and Vegetable fried dumplings and you can't go wrong. Seriously, the most delicious dumplings I've ever had and I'm glad I didn't wait until we got home to sample the goodness.

Dumplings Made to Order
Couldn't Resist a Taste

The other exciting find was my beloved pork buns. What's not to love about these? The sweet dough, the bbq'd pork and sliced onions, the portability of a

Pork buns, custard buns, sweet cakes and more. Love this shop! Next stop was a meat shop and the purchase of roasted and barbecued pork (with that little dish of hoisin sauce, what's not to love?!). Finally, a stop at a little restaurant with some delicious spare ribs and shrimp fried rice, the way fried rice is supposed to be with chunks of vegetables and light on the soy sauce. When all was said and done, we managed to come home with scads of food that looked a little like this:

Dumplings, Sausages, Cabbage Rolls, Buns, Tea and More
Sausage, Pork, Rice Wraps, Sweets, Cookies and Pastries

All of this made the best leftovers and we didn't need to cook for days. In all of our grazing, I did manage to come home with some exciting local items:

Niagara Wine, Cheese, Vinegar, Beans

There you have it, the evidence of Entho-Graze 2011. I highly recommend taking a tour of Toronto's finest eateries and exploring new ethnic delights. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Musings From Away

Greetings from Ontario!

I'm anxious to update about all the fun we're having and the great food we're consuming, but rural dial-up will thwart me everytime, so it'll have to wait until Friday when I return. I'm thankful I've missed yet more snow as I enjoy balmy Ontario weather and watch their snow melt. I come home tomorrow armed with smoked Polish sausage (perhaps not local, but I promised a food souvenir), bottles of Ontario wine, some pressed cottage cheese from an Ontario dairy and a collection of dried beans from Rowe Farms in Guelph, ON.

In the meantime, check out my friend Alyson's super-awesome-drool-worthy website Dates and Quinces for a sneak peek of the first stop in our Toronto food tour.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A 100 Mile Challenge Reprieve

Snow Maze and Honey Bear 

This is a crazy amount of snow and I'm totally ready for a break. While I wish I was heading somewhere sunny and warm, I'll happily take the warmth of family. Honey Bear and I are off for a visit to Ontario for 8 days and is it wrong that I'm thrilled about breaking the 100 Mile Challenge? As my father calls it, I'll be savouring the Million Mile Diet. While enjoying family time, we also have an exciting day of grazing planned.

My Dad and I will be partaking in a full day in Toronto doing what we do best: Ethno-Grazing. We visit several restaurants and take-out joints and eat little bits of everything and bring home huge amounts of food to enjoy over the next several days. Here's what I have in mind: Ethopian, Ukrainian, Polish, Chinese, Vietnamese and more. I even plan to bring home some Niagara wine and some sausages from the St. Lawrence Market for Jeff to enjoy upon our return.

Before I jet off, I made use of the handy crock pot and made a sirloin tip roast in a marinara sauce with onions, turnip, potatoes, smashed garlic, mushrooms and carrots. There's something comforting in crock pot meal, although be warned: there is such a thing as too much crock pot! Tender meat is great, but when you could gum your food, it's time to put down the crock pot and return to your oven roasting ways!

Pot Roast and Veggies

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 35 - Rising Cost of Food

Around here, there is a lot of grumbling about the sudden increase in food costs expected this summer. Perhaps we're talking about it more because so much of our food is imported. It's surprising how little is actually produced in New Brunswick, as most of the grains and corn grown is for cattle. While I haven't paid much attention since inflation is bound to happen. Besides, whenever food has dropped in price on a continuous basis, I'm always suspicious. For instance, pineapples were a rare treat when I was younger because they were too expensive. Now, you can purchase a whole pineapple for as little as a couple dollars. Utilizing immoral labour practices, shoddy farming technique and poor soil treatment means we can pump pineapples out cheaper. For an interesting article on this, go here. Ditto major staples like sugar, coffee and cocoa. I respect paying a fair price on an item if that means the farmer, producers, grocers and I all win.

Still, I understand the pinch of needing to buy groceries on a very limited income, especially buying wholesome and nutritious food. While it may be a little hippy, I still maintain that one of the ways to avoid all this is to eat locally, eat smaller amounts and try to grow your own food. It's simple, affordable and well within our reach.

With that in mind, check out my lettuces and herbs:

Ready to Eat

Lettuce in Waiting


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 32 - The Voice of Experience

We have a LOT of snow!
When your snow banks are over your head, where do you chuck the snow? Seriously! This is nuts. I keep waiting for a national headline to declare that this winter has been the snowiest on record, but I've yet to see it. I'm pretty sure I'm just a big whiner and hate shovelling by hand (have I mentioned we're still the only ones on our block that still manually shovel?)

So, when we're not shovelling, we're in the kitchen making up feasts because after 32 days, we've quickly realized if there's nothing ready for supper, it's too easy to default to Honey Bear's meals. I will admit that last night, I was so tired from preparing a lovely protein and vegetable rich meal for Honey Bear that we happily gobbled up some marinated and sauteed tofu, a quinoa pilaf and buttered peas. We didn't intend to, but it was storming and the lamb chops weren't defrosted and you know how it goes.

So tonight we made up for it! Here was our three course dinner:

Curried Parsnip Apple Soup

Curried Parsnip Apple Soup

6 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove of garlic (or 2 if you're using imported stuff)
1 Golden Delicious apple, skin on, cored and chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp canola oil
5 cups vegetable stock
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4-1/2 tsp Madras curry spice, toasted

1. Combine vegetables with oil, salt and pepper and thyme. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
2. Combine roasted vegetables with broth and simmer until softened. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Puree in small batches and return to pot, seasoning with toasted curry powder and nutmeg. Season further if desired.

Lamb Chops, Roasted Potatoes, Sauteed Red Cabbage
Our lamb chops were seasoned and pan seared with a dollop of Apple Raisin Date Chutney, some roasted potatoes and some bacon and apple sauteed red cabbage. So tasty.

Chestnut and Apple Bread Pudding with Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce
Dessert was delicious and actually very quick to make, especially since I had about 1/4 cup of Honey Caramel Sauce leftover from last week's cake.

For the full bread pudding recipe, please visit my other blog: uncanny -- thinking outside the jar.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dark Days #8: Hey Wood-Chuck-Chuckers!

It's Groundhog Day! Shubenacadie Sam, Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willy have unanimously agreed it will be an early Spring. That's fantastic, especially since most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes are bracing for yet another big storm, an early Spring sounds pretty great right now.

While more stormy weather is a drag, on the bright side, it won't be long before maple syrup season is upon us. In celebration of the Dark Days challenge and the darker days of winter and in anticipation of the sweeter days to come, I present you with Pumpkin Belgian Waffles with warmed Blueberry Maple Syrup:

A Dark Days Treat for the Senses

Pumpkin Belgian Waffles with Warmed Blueberry Maple Syrup

2 eggs
2 cups whole "white" flour or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cups milk
2 tbsp pumpkin butter (or apple sauce or jam)
4 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup wild blueberries
2 tbsp maple syrup

1. Heat waffle iron. Whip eggs by hand or in stand mixer until fluffy. 
2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Pour 2/3 cup in the middle of your waffle maker and cook about 3-4 minutes. 
3. While waffles are cooking, in a small saucepan, combine blueberries and syrup and over medium heat, stir together and cook until sauce has thickened. Serve over waffles.


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