Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy Decapitated Pumpkin Day!

I never really understood this holiday. Now that it has become such a lucrative consumer free-for-all, it's simply an candy begging campaign to occupy the store displays during that lull between Thanksgiving gluttony and X'mas excess. A heathen like me is sorry to see how this solemn day of All Hallows Eve has been turned into sugar-rush marathon dressed up in a itchy, gaudy gorilla suit.

I know haven’t been a very good blog-mistress lately. I could tell you that it’s because we’ve had guests staying with us and a never-ending parade of family and friends coming by to visit. I could tell you that I’ve had the joy of celebrating the birthdays of both my DH and grandpa within a week of each other. I could tell you that work has been turned upside down and sideways. I could tell you that my final push of food preserving has left me so busy that I’m cross-eyed.

It would be true but really, all that wouldn’t make this past week any different than any other week.

The real reason why I haven’t been posting?

I’m obsessed with my new knitting project:

I’m making a kimono sleeved shrug wrap. Yes! It’s finally sweater season! Yippee!

For knit-geeks: The background colours are, of course, Noro yarn. I’m using a Silk Garden No. 34 and a Kureyon no. 178. I’m also using Marks & Kattens Feelings yarn leftover from a wedding afghan I did for my sis-in-law and her DH. You can’t really tell from these shots but the Feeling’s yarn pattern is based on a motif from a plant pot.

It took me a few days and several cathartic frogged attempts to finally figure out the pattern. Initially I was going to use the Noro for the motif and the Feelings yarn for the background but it just didn’t look right. Then I tinkered with the motif a bit. After a week of knitting, I finally managed to finish one sleeve and I’m ready to dive into the other sleeve. As usual, I’m doing it all on circular needles and I’m trying to get away with doing as little seaming as possible.

I still haven’t designed the collar yet but I figure the sweater will tell me what sort of collar it wants when I get to that point.

However, as obsessed as I am with my new project, I haven’t been starving. Especially since I am blessed with friends and family who show up at my door with local bounty. I have a couple packages of moose steaks and sausage in the freezer thanks to DH’s family’s generosity. I can’t wait to get into those.

Last week, we had friends show up with an armful of locally picked chantrelles!

I made a chantrelle chowder. I sautéd the sliced chantrelles in a little bit of smoked bacon dripping and butter. Remove the chantrelles and brown up some chopped local veggies (potatoes, carrots, corn, celery, onion) and added a litre of homemade chicken stock. I let it simmer for a few minutes and voila, a soup fit for a queen!

My friend, Karin, and I also made a batch of gnocchi this past week. Not just any gnocchi but purple Peruvian potato gnocchi and a batch of butternut squash gnocchi. The Peruvian purple ones look like Grimace turds but would assume they taste much better than that. Grimace turds probably taste like rancid McGrease.

My Fast and Dirty gnocchi recipe is as follows:

1-2 cups mashed veggie – starchy potato like Yukon gold, russet. Don’t use waxy potatoes like red potatoes. You can also use winter squash, yams, sweet potato. To the potato dough base you can also add roasted garlic, eggplant, pesto, spices, sundried tomato, spinach, tapenade, fermented black bean, miso, chickpeas. This is one of those recipes that is ripe for experimentation.

2-3 cups flour – I used locally milled organic Red Fife wheat flour.

1 egg

pinch of salt & pepper.

Mix the mashed vegetables and egg and salt in a big bowl. Add a cup of flour and mix well. Add more flour in 1/3 cup increments, mixing until the flour is incorporated into the dough. Basically add flour and knead until the dough isn’t sticky anymore.

Pull of a ball of dough and roll that into a ¾ inch snake. Cut it into 2cm pieces. Roll each piece against the tines of a fork so they get a grooved pattern. The grooves provide a place for the sauce to hang out.

Bring a pot of salted water to a hard boil. Drop in gnocchi individually so they don’t clump up. Boil for 2-3 minutes or until they float up to the surface. Remove from water and continue until all your gnocchi are cooked. They can be popped into pan and sautéd with some butter and other tasty goodies. I opted to serve it with a sauté of local veggies and chorizo sausage from the Nanaimo Sausage House.

Uncooked gnocchi can be frozen. Simply line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lay the gnocchi in a single layer. Once hard, they can be transferred to a Ziploc. I often make 2-3 batches of gnocchi since they freeze well and only need to be boiled before eating.

A shaving of aged manchego and some good company was the seasoning this dish needed.

To finish off, here’s what I had for lunch today:

It was leftovers from yesterday’s dinner of local striped shrimp curry. The shrimps were amazing. Unlike imported prawns and shrimps, these didn’t turn rubbery and tough after the initial cooking and then a subsequent ride in the nukebox to be reheated for lunch . They were super-sweet and juicy. Hands down they were better than any frozen imported prawn or shrimp I've had before. There were a pleasant reminded that 'Oh yeah, sea bugs are supposed to be flavourful and not nuggets of sea-tinged rubbery protein.' These are from West Coast Wild Pacific Seafoods and I got my batch from Shady Mile market.

That's it. I'm hiding out in the back room and knitting for the rest of the day.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Muffin Mayhem

One of my favorite ways to welcome the day is with freshly baked goods. The only problem is that my brain usually still has morning breath and there are many neurons shooting as a in a drunken sponge. In other words, freshly baked croissants or pain au chocolate are not my usual breakfast fare, unless breakfast is at 2 in the afternoon and involves a trip to Granville Island’s La Baguette et l'Echalote or some other equally exquisite bakery.

Luckily, I like muffins and for the most part, muffins like me back. They can be made from scratch and ready to eat within 30 minutes. They’re simple enough to make that they can be prepared with your sleep-crusted eyes still half-closed. There are endless variations to them and are a great way to utilize the local fruits of the season. They can be made sweet or savory and are a great way of experiment with flavours

If you make a couple of batches, you can pop the extras into a Ziploc freezer bag and into the freezer. A quick whirl through the nukebox is all you need to reheat.

Here’s my basic Fast & Dirty muffin recipe:

Preheat over to 425F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tray.

In one bowl mix and let sit while you put together the rest of the muffin batter:

1 cup liquid – milk, buttermilk, soy milk, yogurt, juice, coffee, tea

1 egg

2 tablespoons oil or melted butter

½ cup rolled grains – oats, spelt, wheat

In a larger bowl mix together:

2 cups flour – I prefer organic red fife whole wheat, spelt, kamut

½ to ¾ cup sweetener – I use Level Ground’s organic cane sugar, maple syrup, honey –

2 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1-2 cups of muffin stuff & seasoning - I’ll come back to this later.

Dump the wet stuff into the dry stuff. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until the flour is just incorporated. Overmixing will lead to a tough muffin. That’s not the same thing is a tough cookie. (I know, I’m such a dork).

The batter will be thick. Spoon about ½ of batter into each muffin cup. There should be enough to fill up 12 muffin cups.

Stick the pan into the middle of the oven. Close the door and turn the heat down to 400F. Bake for 13-15 mins. Test with a toothpick to make sure it’s baked through. Remove from oven, place on rack to cool for a few minutes. Remove from pan and continue cooling on rack or eat.

Now onto the ‘muffin stuff’. This is where you get to experiment with flavours. Fruits and nuts are an obvious option. You can also add in grated zucchinis and carrots or pureed pumpkin, sweet potatoes, yams. Throw in some chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut, seeds for something extra. For something super-fancy, fill up the muffin tips halfway and add a teaspoon of jam or jelly or fromage frais in the middle and top it off with more muffin batter. Adjust the amount of sweetener according to the sweetness of these additions. So when you add in some really sweet like ripe bananas and chocolate chip or if you’re using a sweet juice like apple juice as your liquid, just add ½ cup of sugar. If you’re using something tart and naturally not so sweet like fresh cranberries or rhubarb, bump up the sugar to ¾ of a cup. I prefer my muffins not so sweet. If they’re not sweet enough just have them with a dollop of jam or a drizzle of honey.

Coffee and strong tea can be used as your main liquid. I would suggest that you also use a thickener like mashed bananas, pumpkin puree or applesauce along with it. Imagine chai tea applesauce muffins. Mmmmmm. Anther way to use coffee in muffins is to add a couple of tablespoons of finely ground coffee right into the batter. Espresso chocolate chip muffins will certainly get me perked up fast!

Or you can go savoury route and throw in some cheese and cooked smoked bacon or pancetta. Roasted pepper and a dollop of pesto is another savory option. I love olive, feta and sundried tomato muffins. Of course, skip the sugar and bump your salt up if needed to 1 teaspoon.

Here are my cranberry-apple-pear muffins before baking. I used milk as my main liquid and a total of 2 cups of fruit. I also added 1 ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. I also popped in a few tablespoons of flax seeds for texture

I also made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins a few days ago. For that I used milk for my liquid, 1 ½ cups of pureed pumpkins, ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips. I also added 1 ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and a few tablespoons of flax seeds.

There are countless combinations from the classics of banana walnut to funky combinations like kiwi fruit, peach and green cardamon or an earl grey tea and pear muffin or smoked salmon, capers and artichoke heart muffin. Basically think of fruit flavours that work well in a smoothie or pie. For savoury combinations, think of combinations that are good stuffed into an omelette or thrown into a pasta dish.

BTW, most of the batter combinations can be made the night before so all you have to do is scoop and bake in the morning!

Have fun!


Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Friday, October 13, 2006

Readin' and Eatin'

Thursday’s Nanaimo Bulletin had a couple of local food related articles. The first is an article by Tom Fletcher titled “Fresh food imports aren’t so healthy”. According to a report from BC’s top public health official, Dr. Perry Kendall, BC’s farms haven’t been protected enough to make them viable against the flood of imports. (well, duh.).

So what does the BC government propose as a way to strengthen small-scale local agriculture? Is it providing a work funding program to help local farmers hire workers? Is it helping the industry attract a new generation of farmers? Is it helping promote local farms as a source of year-round produce and food products to consumers, retailers and restaurants? Is it subsidizing the building of a much needed local slaughterhouse? Is it going to start an initiative to get local foods into school lunch menus?

Nope. It’s promoting farm tours.

OK. I know. One step at a time.

Well, go visit a farm. Watch where you step.

BTW, This weekend is Shady Mile’s Pumpkin Festival. While you’re in that neck of the woods on Saturday, go pop over the Gary Argyle’s farm stand at 2403 Maxey Road to grab your week’s produce and down to Westwood orchards (170 Westwood Road) to pick up some apples. Or head over to Nanoose Edibles' farm stand in Nanoose Bay to pick up some fresh from the farm organic produce. In other words, don't just look, buy and eat local!

This week, Dr. John Yim’s health column carried a very useful article on the benefits of locally grown products. First he starts off my teasing us with a list of the wonderful Thanksgiving feast his culinary diva of a wife provides. The article makes an informed argument for the benefits a local diet has for our personal health and the health of this planet. Global warming, extreme weather changes and other environmental crises can be overwhelming. Though it doesn’t seem like much, buying a locally grown apple versus one from New Zealand is a step towards the solution.

I’ll update the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge website soon to tell you all about the local farms and vendors that will still be selling their products throughout the fall and winter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thankful Tidbits

Thankful Tidibits

I hope everyone had a wonderful 100 Mile Thanksgiving. I have plenty to be thankful for. Let's start with the fact that I got to spend a wonderful evening with my DH and his family down in Victoria last night. DH was initially scheduled to work yesterday, but he got unceremoniously bumped off the schedule and so we packed ourselves into the car and headed down island and see his folks. What started as a spontaneous drive down island and to take his folks out for lunch, ended up with us joining his family for a delicious postponed Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and even a wonderful pumpkin chiffon pie. Isn't it wonderful how things just kinda fall into place?

All along the way, we saw mountains of pumpkins at all the local farm stands. They were orange beacons of autumn lighting our way down the highway.

This Thanksgiving weekend started with a trip over to Gabriola Island for their 10th Annual Thanksgiving Studio & Gallery Tour. Of course, I stopped over by the farmers market beforehand to grab some veggies and pick up my studio tour buddies who had the inside scoop on who to see. Along our tour route, we also swung by the Good Earth farm to grab some good earth food ;)

I’m amazed by the talent and range of artwork on this tiny island. There was work in every medium imaginable from metalwork to intricate woodcarvings to photography to textiles. I enjoyed chatting with the artists as much as I enjoyed seeing their work. It’s a great way to meet with the creative energy behind the art and in the most gorgeous of settings.

I got a chance to meet Sheila Norgate, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. Her installation, 'Dangerous Curves', showed in the Nanaimo Art Gallery earlier this year and was a poignant mixed-media critique of women’s bodies and etiquette. She had two series, a dog series and a bird series in acrylic showing in her studio this past weekend. Both had a clever, whimsical style to them and carried a wonderful sense of play. Another artist that stood out was Marcelle Glöck-Picot, a Mudge Island potter. Her pottery style embraces the art of wabi sabi with simple west coast touch. She even uses Mudge Island clay for some of her pieces. A 100 Mile potter!

I also managed to make my way to Indigo Moon Silks to revel in Trish Moon’s naturally hand-dyed ethically harvested raw silk and local wool yarns (I’ll write more about her in another entry soon). She is an amazing weaver and had some deliciously woven shawls and ponchos on sale. A whole day dedicated to local food and local art! I was one thankful kid!

DH and I had a mini-Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday evening. It was nice romantic dinner for two (awwwwwww…ain’t that sweet).

We had a lovely roasted free-ranged chicken from Piper's Meats. Piper’s sells local free-range, properly raised and fed critters of all sizes. A quick massage of olive oil and herbs and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper was all it needed. A properly raised chicken doesn’t need much more.

I threw it in the roasting pan with some baby potatoes, peppers, carrots and onions that I picked up at the Good Earth farm. We also had roasted garlic and pumpkin mash and, of course, gravy. For dessert we had a simple baked bosc pear crumble.

You don't need a fancy schmancy crepe pan for this. Any non-stick pan with do. I used a small non-stick saucepan and a non-stick wok. I don't use any fat in the pan. If your pan bottoms are truly non-stick you don't need any.

Heat up the pans over medium high heat. If they're cooking too fast for you to handle, then bring the heat down a notch. Once the pans are all heated up, bring over your batter, your crepe scoop ( I use a measuring scoop but a ladel or measuring cup will do), plastic turning over doohickey tool (aka spatula), and a plate with a cover to receive the cooked crepes.

I use about 1/3 cup of batter for each crepe. I hold the crepe pan slightly tilted with my left hand and with my right, ladle in the crepe batter into the pan. If you think of the handle as 6 o’clock, pour the batter onto the outer uphill edge of the pan at about 10 o’clock. The batter should start running down smoothly and as it does just slowly tilt the pan around so the batter moves to cover the largest area possible. It doesn't have to be round. Put it back onto the heat. Do not touch the crepe until it's ready to be turned!

So how do I know when it's ready?
You'll see the batter getting bubbling and cooking through and once the edges start getting the slightest bit of colour, lift up one corner of the crepe. The rest of the crepe should lift up easily with it. Flip the crepe and let the other side cook. It shouldn't take too long. If you can slide it back and forth by jiggling the pan it's pretty much ready.

The first crepe is the sacrifice crepe. Sacrifice crepes are a special crepe that is the martyr of the group and allows itself to be used to test the pan's temperature and the batter's consistency. Judging from the sacrifice crepe, adjust your heat and batter accordingly. The sacrifice crepe must be consumed by the cook while cooking the rest of the crepes. It's one of those esoteric French culinary laws. I suggest smearing some Little Qualicum's fromage frais and a drizzle of local dark fir honey onto the crepe then rolling it up for easy handling while you finish cooking up the rest. You wouldn't want to upset any of those French crepe gods, now would you?

Place the done crepes in the waiting plate and keep cover. Throw it into the oven just to keep warm and out of your way.

We had our crepes with fresh local fruits, water buffalo yoghurt from Fairburn farms and some cranberry/blueberry compote.

Crepes are one of those culinary chameleons. You can have them for every meal or as a snack. I tend to make a double or triple amount and freeze the extras. I simply stack them with parchment paper between them and toss them in the freezer. Whenever I want one, I just peel one off and toss it into the nukebox for 10-20 secs. There have been many a times I have been thankful I had a stack of crepes in my freezer.

For sweet crepes just add a spoonful of sweetener to the batter. I prefer honey but you can use sugar or maple syrup or flavoured simply syrup. You can add any ‘sweet’ spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or even a spoonful of cocoa powder for chocolate crepes. You can make them savoury by adding a few pinches of salt and some dried or fresh herbs or even curry powder. Or toss in a spoonful of tapenade or Thai green curry or pesto into the batter. Or leave them for plain-jane-easy-peasy-blank-slate-simply-deliciously naked crepes. For the flour, you can use pretty much any flour from kamut to spelt to buckwheat (which will give you a very French and wheat-free crepe).

The key is to add just a touch of seasoning to the crepe batter but to go full out for the crepe filling.

The filling possibilities are endless. Pretty much anything can be used from leftover curry to seafood salad to a simple smear of butter, sprinkle of brown sugar and squeeze of lemon. You can roll them up like burritos or stuff them to make pockets.

One of my favorite treats as a breakfast or dessert are baked fruit crepes pockets. It’s nothing harder than plopping a spoonful of leftover baked fruit into the centre of a crepe and folding the edges over to make a little fruit filled pouch. Place the pouches with the seam side down onto a baking dish and bake for 15 mins in a 325F. A sprinkle of powdered sugar is all you need to finish off this simple but elegant dish.

That's it for now. I’m hungry. Must eat.


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Attack of the Monster Mussels

It was only fitting to watch Ang Lee's "HULK" last night since we started the evening with a meal of monster sized food. It started out so innocently...

After a crazy afternoon, I decided to treat myself to a wander down to Departure Bay. I still have not quite accepted that it’s fall and went wandering about in a tank top and a knee-high cotton skirt. The sharp, autumn breeze sanded away any stress I had left from my day and left me smiling, though a bit chilly.

On my way back home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some local barlett pears and then swung by the fish store, Sea Drift at Terminal Mall to see what local seabeasts I could pick up for dinner. There I found some gorgeous Saltspring Island mussels. They also have local oysters and clams in along with local fishes like salmon and halibut. I picked up a couple pounds of mussels and headed home with my edible treasures.

The mussels were huge. I mean obscenely huge. Look, they’re as big as my palm!!!

For mussels, I like to keep it simple. So I heated up a glug of oil over med-high heat, dropped in some chopped garlic, red onion and 1 small red thai chili (you can use some sambal oelek or 1/8 tsp of dried chili flakes). Then I deglazed with a half a bottle of white wine (Cherry Point Coastal White). Once that came back up to a boil, I dropped in the cleaned mussels and covered the pot with a tight lid. A few shakes and 4-5 mins later, they were done. Along with some monster-sized peas from Dirk, a local organic farmer, and some homemade bread, we had ourselves a monstrously yummy meal.

Look at the beans. They're bigger than a chopstick!!!

Here's the final meal, all put together. The monster sized ingredients were fighting for space in my huge soup bowl. The piece of bread looks so measly but it was a fair sized chunk.

Yes it's as yummy as it looks. I saved the mussels to use as mulch and as a source of calcium for the garden.

I also made a pumpkin pie. Or ‘Bum-skin’ pie as it is known in this house. Yes, we’re one of those annoying couples that butchers and bastardizes the English language to form cutesly little inside jokes.

For less than the cost of 3 cans pumpkin puree, I picked up 4 pie pumpkins that provided me with enough pumpkin pulp to make 12 pies. The pulp is also great as the base for lovely squash soup. Make sure you use the smaller pumpkins marked ‘Pie Pumpkins’. The large jack o’lantern pumpkins have too much water in the flesh to make a good pie with. They’re ok for soups though.

I chop open the pumpkins into quarters. I save the seeds for snacking (more on that later). With a spoon, scoop out the rest of the slimy guts. Cut size down, place them onto a roasting pan with enough water to cover the bottom a half an inch or so. Pop it all into a 325F oven for 30-40 minutes or until it’s soft. Once done, toss them into a large stock pot and let them rest overnight. In this process, a lot of excess water exudes out. The next day, remove the pumpkins out of the pot and save the pumpkin water to use as a liquid for pumpkin soup. With fingers and a large soup spoon, I scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. A few whirls of a hand blender and you have a huge batch of pumpkin mush.

I dump a recipe’s worth of pumpkin puree into a Ziploc baggie and store that in the freezer. Now whenever I want to make a pumpkin pie (or cookies, or ice-cream or ravioli or soup…you get the picture), I simply have to pull a ziploc baggie of pumpkin and let it defrost. A few minutes in the nukebox will do the trick if you’re impatient. Then again, if you’re impatient, you’ve probably already picked up an factory pumpkin pie and a tub of that whipped chemical jizz.

(photo of my homemade pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust. Whipped chemical jizz-free zone.)

For spicy roasted pumpkin seeds, wash the seeds and dry them as best as you can. Toss then in bowl with a glug or two of olive oil, a healthy pinch of salt and a couple pinch of hot red pepper flakes. Mix them well and dump them in a single layer onto a baking sheet and bake at 300F for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. I eat them with the shell on and be warned, these are addictive especially fresh out of the oven. Better to make these when the DH has already gone to bed so you don’t get him hooked and have him come home one day with a dozen pumpkins just so he can get his spicy roasted pumpkin seed fix.

Have a great day!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dance of the Naked Kiwi

And you thought those Scot's going commando under those kilts was scandalous! More about the naked kiwis later. First a quick recap of another wild and brilliant weekend on my 100 Mile Diet journey.

I rambled over to Vancouver for the Madeleine Peyroux concert on Thursday. So lovely, so divine. She’s a bayou marriage between Billy Holiday and Edith Piaf.

So on Friday I…errr.

Shit! I lost another Friday. That’s the second week in a row.

LOST: Friday. Medium build, sandy brown hair with a peg leg. Please contact me. Do not approach on your own. Friday may be armed, have rabies or at least, a hangover.

Saturday was a week stuffed into a day. I woke up from one of those sleeps that felt like a 14 year coma. You know. Where you wake up and you’re not quite sure who or where you really are. Where you’re wondering if there is supposed to be another body in the bed or not. Perhaps the reason for my deep slumber is the reason I lost my Friday…

I went over to the Community Gardens/Foodshare on Pine Street for their Harvest Festival. I didn’t make it in time for the pancake breakfast but I made it time to watch a round of Chicken Bingo. For those that don’t know, Chicken Bingo is a spectator sport build around the bowel movements of a chicken. And like any spectator sport, it’s only made sporting by spectators betting on where in the bingo grid that lines the chicken pen that the chicken will take a crap. Much more humane than cockfighting. Mind you, there have been cases of overfeeding of chicken in order to ensure quick and timely expulsion of shat in some underground Chicken Bingo arenas in Texas. I was assured by one of the handlers, that the chicken was not on the Foie Gras diet.

There was also a silent auction, including a 100 Mile Diet goodie basket filled with fresh, dried and canned local foods. I put in a bid but couldn’t stick around to see if I won it. I’m waiting for my phone call.

Then I was back on the road. My goal was to end up in Cowichan Bay for the Cowichan Valley Wine & Culinary Festival Gala night to represent Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge. However. I was bent on exploiting this journey down island as much as I could.

My first detour was to Kiwi Cove Lodge . No New Zealanders hanging off the vine, just 7 different varieties of kiwi fruit. I stopped by mainly to nose around. My lovely friend, Willow, told me I had to check it out. I’m just thrilled to be able to add another fruit to my 100 Mile Diet!

Upon my impromptu and highly unannounced arrival, Peggy Kolosoff greeted me and showed me around the warm and rustic property. Along with the over 130 kiwi vines, they also have a huge food garden which they have donated to the Ladysmith as community garden space. They’ve also offered some of their fruit to the Nanaimo’s Foodshare Fruit Gleaning program. I had my first taste of what could easily be a new favorite fruit, the Arguta kiwi fruit. Imagine a kiwi fruit taste packed into a grape-size fruit and given a Brazilian. Not a single hair. It had an intense kiwi fruity taste with overtones of pineapple and with less acid and did I mention, not a single bit of fuzz. She also has the fuzzy variety that we’re all familiar with. The best thing is that she has one variety or another ready for eating from now until Easter.

Peggy sells her fruit to County Grocer in Duncan and at 49th Parallel in Ladysmith. If you’re interested in finding out more, the Kiwi Cove Lodge is holding an open house next weekend on the 8th.

Peggy gifted me with a huge basket of Arguta’s to give out at the Cowichan festival that night. Most of the fruits actually managed to make it to the festival ;)

It was the funniest thing to watch folks as I offered them this green, alien fruit. They’d scrunch up their faces in scepticism. When they asked what sort of kiwis they were, I made some lame joke about the name and promised that it wouldn’t cause convulsions. I eventually gave up offering and simply started daring folks to try it. But all that scepticism melted as the fruit bursted sunshine into their doubting mouths. It’s like watching children who have been raised on big-box strawberries and handing them a small, wild freshly picked berry.

People are funny. You offer them something real to eat, something grown on a real plant, in real earth by real people and they look at you like you're trying to poison them. But stick a bunch of chlorine onto sugar and slap on a splendid little marketing campaign and people will run over their mother to get to it. As I said, people are funny.

I spied the Footes Hazelnut farm outside of Chemainus on my way to Cowichan Bay. With the clock ticking, I drove passed. I’ll get to that hazelnut farm yet. It’s hazelnut season right about now. It would be grand to get a stash.

Onward down the highway, I popped into Quist Meat Market to grab some frozen sausages and a 6-pack of beef jerky sticks for the DH. I was tempted to pick up some frozen lamb sausage meat to make kefta but then again, if I do that then I’ll spoil DH for anyone else’s kefta after that. I certainly, would not want to bestow such a horror on the one I love the mostest. I’m such a good wife :)

I got off the highway and headed down to Cowichan Bay. I made it just in time to pop in the True Grain Bakery and Hilary’s Cheese shop to grab some goodies. With my tummy whining, I grabbed a small sandwich made with True Grain bun and Hilary’s blue cheese and a piece of apple strudel. Life is grand.

Along with my lunch, I picked up a bag of freshly milled rye flour and one of kamut flour for moi and a couple baguettes for the 100 Mile diet booth. For $2 a pop, they are definitely the cheapest and quickest trip to France. From the Hilary cheese side, I picked up a wedge of Belle Anne, a goat tomme washed in Cherry Point’s blackberry port, and a wedge of Red Dawn, a big island tomme washed in salt brine. In the self-serve cooler, I saw something that made my heart skip a beat: Water Buffalo Yoghurt.

Fairburn Farm’s have put out their first batch of yoghurt from their herd of authentic water buffalo. I had some this morning with my fruit salad, along with the few last arguta kiwis. It’s a mild and rich yoghurt. It has only a slight sour tang that is associated with cow yogurt. It’s not quite as smooth as cow yoghurt but it certainly as yummy, if not yummier. Don’t ask me how much milk fat is in it. Such things are not important here.

Finally, got to the Oceanside Grand for the Cowichan Wine and Culinary festival’s gala. Hello to everyone at the gala night! It was great chatting with you all!

The Canada Post table (they were selling a wine themed stamp set) and I were sent to the kiddies table, so to speak. We were delegated to the tables outside of the room where all the big folks were showing off their stuff. Regardless, I managed to talk to folks as they wandered out looking for the washroom or a missing date. Ok. I got a bit more attention than that. Along with the arguta kiwi fruits, I handed out samples of the cranberry preserve on baguette from True Grains. That's the key to getting folks to your table: Free stuff! Once folks got a sample in their mouth, I went on my spiel about the 100 Mile Diet and the Thanksgiving challenge. I met some lovely folks, some wonderfully lovely folks and some folks…well, some folks that probably think that Thanksgiving is but a starting bell for Christmas shopping.

I even got interviewed by Don Genova from Pacific Palate and got chatting with a lively and lovely writer from Eat magazine who doesn't look anything like Mara Jernigan from Fairburn farms but who's name I can't remember because my brain has remembered her as the woman who doens't look like Mara.

I got home after 11pm. Poor DH was limp on the sofa, dizzy from starvation. I was pretty much running on fumes myself. Luckily I had some leftover soup in the fridge. Leftover soup is such a blessing. It doesn’t give you a guilt trip if you don’t want it today. It’ll patiently wait until you don’t have time for anything else. When you need it, it’ll be there. Ready with just a quick ride on the stove or a nuke job. Leftover soup is the ultimate food martyr.

Today was spent at Pacific Gardens Co-housing’s Applefest. Hello to everyone there! So lovely to meet you all! It’s a great property with a number of heirloom apple trees and even river running through it. The day was mellow and warm, just like an autumn Sunday ought to be. I ate my fill of apple goodies and chatted about and shared spaced with those who also embrace the sunshine that falls upon them. I also met the male, white inner-child past life version of me. Kinda unnerving but delightful. (BTW, thanks for all the gorgeous veggies. They're very happily tucked into my belly now).

Note to self: Keep little black book for use in my next life.

I’m tired now. Bye.


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge.