Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy 100 Mile New Year

Hope you all are recovering from the big feast. We certainly ate our fill.
I brought over a cranberry-apple-walnut-hazelnut cake made with island grown fruit, nuts, eggs, milk, butter and flour.

Unlike all the nightmares X'mas family dinners that I hear about, these family feasts are wonderfully soap opera-free. Pretty freaky, eh?

If your still looking for some local bubbly to start off the new year, my in-laws started off their X'mas feast with a bottle of Zanatta's Brut which was quite lovely and festive and all locally grown!
DH's idea of sweeping me off my feet.

So to everybody, have a great new year's. Be careful and party safe. I wish you all a new year filled joy and look forward to sharing my next year of great adventure, great food and great love with you all!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Slow cooker medicine

I've piled up all my vacation time to the end of the year. Daydreams of wonderful winter climbing adventures dancing through my head as I worked, counting down the days until my winter vacation came closer and closer. I poured over climbing guide books and fell asleep with the "Freedom of the Hills".
On the first day of vacation, last Monday, I got sick. Stupid, snot-filled head, coughing up a lung and spleen, achy-breaky, why does the universe hate me sort of sick. Bleh!!
After a hazy week of coughing and body aches, I'm coughing up the last of the residual lung sludge and my wonderful dear husband is now nursing the beginning the of the same stupid cold! ACK!!!!!!!
Hopefully he'll race through this cold faster than I did. He's a veteran of colds and is very experienced in having them. I, on the other hand, am one of those freaks that rarely ever gets sick. In fact, I spent the first two days of my cold in shock, wondering, where the heck did all this mucus come from and why, oh why, is it being stockpiled in my head?

And to add insult to injury, I didn't feel like eating all week! Double ACK!!!! Everything tasted like gamy cardboard and so I've been living off of toast and mandarin oranges.

This morning, I finally felt the beginning twinges of an appetite start to regain strength in me. I made chicken soup. Actually chicken and garlic slow cooker soup. I consider it part aromatherapy, part mother medicine.
Of course, I used local chicken and veggies. In the crock pot went a pair of skinless chicken breasts from the Shady Mile Farm Mart, a couple of Saanich onions, a couple of carrots from Gary Argyle's farm, and from my garden a whole head of garlic and 2 fistfuls of parsley, and a bit of diluted chicken stock. Here's how it's looking so far...

Don't bother peeling the garlic, keep it in the skin. You can remove the papery skin though. The garlic stew and braises into a lovely, sweet aromatic soft pate of heaven that can be squished onto bread when it's done.

Hope you all are doing well as we slip and slide into that holiday season. Remember to get your local turkeys from Shady Mile farm mart and Piper's Meats. For all those that are opening their homes for holiday parties, consider asking your guests to bring non-perishable foods for the Food Bank or gently used outer clothing, socks and toques for the shelters instead of a hostess gift. Or for $60 you can sponsor a local family to receive a monthly Good Food Box of fresh veggies and fruit for 6 months. For more information, contact Crystal Petersen at Nanaimo Foodshare at 250-753-9393.

Take care, be careful , don't drink and drive and watch out for elves!

Happy Holidays!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

100 Mile Diet in the news

I'm in Victoria with DH for the weekend. It's 8am and snowing so I cuddled up with a cup of coffee and the Times Colonist which is carrying a front page story plus a whole section on the 100 Mile Diet!!! Get this, I'm mentioned as a source of info for the diet!

I learned that B.C. Hothouse veggies are grown in Mexico in the winter!?! YIKES! Again, a reminder that beyond the 'Product of Canada' label is often imported food. You don't need to eat cucumbers 365 days in the year. There's sprouts, there's kale, there's locally grown salad greens, there's jerusalem artichokes and more winter squashes than you can shake a stick at.

Many of the articles look at the challenges that local farmers and 100MD followers face. Though I really am thrilled that the paper is looking at the merits of a 100 mile diet at this time of the year, there's an underlying sense of pessimism. The headline "The Island Diet" is followed with "Buying only locally grown food sounds like a good idea, but it's hard than it looks." Yes, I concur that farmers and 100 MD followers face challenges in this present food system and that there isn't enough food production to feed the island. I don't think that any of the local food advocates expect everybody to switch over to eating only locally grown foods overnight. I certainly don't. It's not reasonable to expect the average person to eat only locally grown foods. But just because you can't do everything, don't do nothing. Do something.

I've always advocated a gradual move to a more locally based diet. Start with the obvious and easiest local food choices. Right now, there's still lots of local kale, chard, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, various winter squash, onions, apples, cranberries for fresh produce. There's local dairy, meat and eggs, as well. Buy what you can locally. Continue to look for more local options. When you know better, do better

Ask your grocer for local options. Do the same at the restaurants. This is an important step. They might not have local option today but if enough people voice themselves, maybe they'll have it next time. Part of being on the 100 MD is being plugged into your food culture and being pro-active. It requires you to take some time, energy and thought into doing your part to help facilitate a sustainable local agriculture that supports both the consumer and the producer. Food is a long-term issue, we have to stop treating it as a short-term option.

Have your orange and eat it too! The 100MD for me isn't about zealously excluding everything that isn't locally grown from my plate. There are many products that can't be locally grown at the moment. Choose options that are going to provide benefits and a livelihood for a farmer elsewhere. Choose direct fair trade for coffee, sugar and chocolate. Perhaps reconsider how much of these items you really need on a regular basis. Some things I buy them as treats and not as a regular part of my core diet. I buy one box of mandarin oranges as part of my holiday treat. I relish the bright, citrus punch of aroma as I peel the thin skin away. I take my time enjoying each sweet and juicy section with a big grin and I let the good memories of the holiday seasons past fill my mind.

This leads me to talking about pleasure. I can talk until the 100 mile diet cows come home about why we should be supporting a local diet. In the end, it's really all about pleasure of good real food and the sastisfaction of having an authentic and deep relationship with the food that I put into my body. Take pleasure in a freshly picked local apple and let it's juices run down your chin!

Thank you the Times Colonist for your look at the Island Diet. I hope this discussion will evolve beyond the debate of whether or not we can do the 100 mile diet here on Vancouver Island and start providing information and meaningful dialogue about a deep-rooted local food system.

For more on 100 Mile Diet strategies, check out my blog entry on "Making 100 Mile Diet Work for You"
Also please check out the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge website for more info on where you can get your locally grown food.

Oh yeah, remember to reserve your locally grown turkey for Christmas. Piper's Meats in Nanaimo is taking orders. Here in Victoria is the Village Butcher who brings in a wide selection of locally raised critters. Beyond turkey, there's also other local critters and local produce and drink for your 100 mile diet holiday feast.


Monday, December 03, 2007

One last pot of soup

James Barber passed away quietly last week in his home in the Cowichan Valley. He left a pot of soup simmering on the stove. I wonder what sort of soup...

Good night James. Thanks for all the years of keeping it real in the kitchen for all these years.

So it did this all weekend:

Snow! Snow! Snow!!!!! Supposedly that's what it looked like across the whole country. Now it's raining and apparently, it's never going to stop raining.

Ironically all the snow prevent DH and I from getting up to the mountains for a much needed snow play. Oh well, instead we stayed in and drank lots of mulled Merridale cider and hot buttered rum.

For dinner, I cracked open a spaghetti squash from my garden.

It's amazing how much more colour and flavor my garden grown squash had over those pale yellow spaghetti squashes. The flesh was a deep saffron yellow. I toss it with some pesto made with my own basil and garlic and island grown hazelnuts and cheese. Along side the squash, I also roasted up a pan of local sausages to see us through the weekend.
With it I served a homemade plum-rhubarb chutney.

For Sunday's dinner, I took some of leftover sausages, some local turnip, carrot, mushrooms and green cabbage and made a Fast & Dirty soup. I think James would have approved.
You'd think with a weekend at home that I would be whipping up a storm in the kitchen. Normally I would. But instead I spent the time working on some charity knitting. Here's one of the EZ inspired baby jacket that I'm donating as shown by my wonderful DH. It's not quite his size :P
Have a great week!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

100 Mile Peasant Food

It's finally getting to be snuggly comfort food season! Last night we had homemade perogies and borscht made with island grown ingredients. Pretty much everything except for the flour in the perogy wrapper came from a local farm or my own garden.

The perogies are a great way to use local potatoes. I prefer to use the starchy potatoes like russets for perogies. I also used local cheeses, local smoked bacon and parsley from my garden in the perogies. I made a huge batch of perogies a few weeks ago and threw them into the freezer. So much yummier and better for you than factory made perogies.

Here's Kevin enjoying his platter of perogies. I know, he's in the living room but the dining room is way too cold and drafty to enjoy these comforting morsels.
The borscht was made with local onions, beets and cabbage from local farms, locally smoked pork ribs and hot peppers from my garden. It pretty much follows my Fast & Dirty Borscht Recipe.
Have a great week!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Product of Canada not so Canadian

Harry Burton from Apple Luscious Organic Orchard on Saltspring Island sent me a link to this news story from CBC Marketplace about how goods labeled "Product of Canada" are often filled with ingredients from China, or New Zealand or Mexico.
This is upsetting for those wanting to buy Canadian in an effort to support the domestic economy, limit the carbon footprint of our consumer habits and/or because they are wary of the quality of goods from places like China. In case, you've been living under a rock, China has skyrocketed to the top of the recall heap for health hazards concerning food and toy products.
The "Product of Canada" label legally means that 51% of the production costs were spent in Canada. Production of what it doesn't specify. In fact, if the 51% of the production costs were spent on the packaging, running the factory, wages, transportation, 100% of the contents could still legally come from imported foods from who knows where and they can still label it as "Product of Canada".
BTW, what the heck is butteroil-sugar blend??? Whatever it is, it's probably in your 'Product of Canada' corporate ice cream. And yeah, it's not actually made in Canada. Neither is most of the rest of the ingredients of your 'Product of Canada' ice cream. Nor is that "Wild Pacific Salmon" in your frozen fish dinner. In fact, as long as the final step of processing is done on Canadian soil, fish products can be labeled as "Product of Canada". Which means they can simply throw on a sauce onto your frozen fish in a Canadian factory and call it a "Product of Canada"A scary situation considering that many fish in Asia (the main fish source) are on high alert for diseases, contamination and other health concerns.
Just another indication that Canadian Food Inspection Agency isn't making health, food security and the public good a priority. It is the CFIA who designates these labels and decides the regulations behind them. Maybe instead of bending over and taking it from corporations, they ought to actually try protecting the Canadian public, health and enviroment.

Check out the video of this episode of CBC Marketplace. Definite food for thought.
The article also provides some tips of what to look for in labels that will trigger red flags that the the actual food contents are from abroad.

Buy real food from local farmers. Chances are that's the only way nowadays you can actually get Canadian food.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

30 Mile Bread!!!!!

I got this fabulous piece of grainy news today in my e-mail from Jonathan at True Grain Bakery:

In celebration of last weeks amazing 'Bread & Wheat' festival in Victoria, we baked our first batches of bread from the Red Fife wheat test plot that Tom Henry grew at Lamb's Leap Farm in Metchosin this past summer (exactly 52 km from Cowichan Bay), to great success.

For as long as the limited harvest lasts, we will be baking a batch of '30 Mile' 100% Whole Wheat Bread on Fridays and have it available Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings - $5 for a 720g loaf. (You might want to call ahead to reserve your loaf 746-7664). Please spread the word to other folks interested in local food production, and lets keep this exciting initiative growing!


True Grain is in Cowichan Bay Village and you can't miss it. Just let your carb-hungry belly lead you there. I sent an email to Jonathan about purchasing any of the locally grown flour from him. I'll relay the answer to you all.
Thank you T
om Henry for taking a chance and planting a test plot. Let's hope that this is a sign of yummy and local things to come.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Waste A Pumpkin Day!

I love the Halloween for the dressing up and make believe and the all around ghoulishness of it all. However, I hate the fact that folks are buying food for decoration and are only going to add to the landfill tomorrow. The cool pumpkin carving exhibit that came to town last week aside, most jack o' lanterns are a waste of a perfectly good vegetable. So at least, compost your decapitated pumpkin head when you're done.

Call me a Hallowe'em Scrooge but I'd rather that those pumpkins be grown and bought as pie pumpkins or stew pumpkins or casserole pumpkins or ice cream pumpkins (yes, there is such a thing.)
I'm not the only one. Iowa believes that pumpkins that are going to be used as decoration and not as food ought to taxed as such.

Am I the only noticing that Halloween has gotten bit huge with the affluenza bug?
I mean, it's one thing to string up some fake cobweb, paper skeletons and hang a few ghostly bedsheets from the tree. They're now selling robotic zombies, inflatable pumpkins the size of a Goodyear blimp and full-on coffins for the front yard. If you want to go all out, there are ways to green up your Halloween.

You wanna hear something really scary? There's a recall for fake teeth.
Of course, they wait until Hallowe'en to put out the recall for these lead laced teeth that have been sold all year long. Three guesses where these fake Hallowe'en teeth were made.

You wanna see something cool and scary, check out the Meatrix.
It's an awesome bit of animation about corporate factory meat farms.

Happy Hallow's Eve Everyone.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Farmers Showcase a Success!

The Farmers Showcase last Saturday has officially been declared an all out, no holds barred success! I was there with my 100 Mile Diet song 'n dance and by the end I was close to voiceless and my feet were giddy with joy and elation!

Hello to everyone that I met and chatted with!

Not even the rain could keep the hoards away as you can tell from these photos. The pics are courtesy of Dirk from Compassion Farms, who also happens to be one of the co-ringleaders of this awesome event. I wasn't able to get away from my table until the last hour or so of the event to take photos.

The public was hungry for local food and information about local food sources. Unlike previous fall events where I would get people telling me that they "can't do a 100 mile diet during the fall and winter because there's nothing to eat here," which is so completely defeated and passive. Instead, folks were asking, 'So where can I get my produce this fall and winter to continue my 100 mile diet." A totally awesome active and constructive approach. Yippee!!

I ran out of information, local food maps and other literature within a few hours and believe me, I was stocked up to the eyeballs. I kept hearing people tell me that they were so happy to have a farmer's market and several asked if this event was going to happen again next week. Unfortunately, no but that just might change in the near future.
To give you an idea how successful it was, Arata, the rock star baker from Flour, Water & Salt sold all 150 loaves of bread in a little over 20 minutes! He wasn't the only one that sold out. Many vendors sold out and more products brought in, only to sell out again! A casual survey showed that most vendors did 3 to 10 times more business that day than at any other farmer's market. A huge sign that Nanaimo needs a REAL farmer's market for the locals.

There's a buzz that a regular weekly farmer's market will be happening next spring. Until then, check out the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge website for where you can find locally grown produces and go support local agriculture!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nanaimo Farmers Showcase

Just a reminder that Saturday is the 2007 Farmers Showcase in Nanaimo. It's being held at the Co-op parking lot at 2517 Bowen Road from 10am to 4pm. This is the mother of all farmer's markets. There will be over 40 local food vendors, music and face painting for the kids. Come meet the hardworking folks who grow your food.

As a prelude to tomorrow's event, Foodlink Nanaimo is hosting a 'Supporting Local Agriculture' Networking Forum for those concerned and interested in local food issues. It's at the Christ Community Church at 2221 Bowen Road. The event starts at 6:30pm. This is a free event.

I look forward to seeing you all at both events!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vampire proof your garden

Elizabeth sent in this comment/question on my BBQ Green Tomato Chutney entry :
Hey, neighbor- Just found you looking for green tomato chutney (I can't face that old file folder of paper recipes!)- yours sounds great. I have a question, though- I have a mess (a gallon?) of small green tomatoes, from bigger-than-cherry-but-not-quite-plum-tomatoes. Can you give me an approximate weight/volume of tomatoes in the recipe? I'm not all about measurements but I'm having a hard time visualizing full-size tomatoes out of this pile I have. Thanks, from Seattle.
My recipe called for 3-4 medium sized tomatoes and that is about 1 1/2 lbs or 750grams. Chutney is one of those of things that are evolved as it's made. You toss the ingredients in and then take a little taste. Toss in a bit more of this, a touch more of that until it suits your palate. I do make big batches of chutney for canning but I often will make small batches for just one or two meals. It makes for a fresher and brighter tasting chutney.

If you still have green tomatoes leftover, you can ripen them indoors. I've just brought all of my tomato plants into my dining room to let them ripen. You can simply take vines/branches and hang them for vine ripened tomatoes . Or you can take the tomato off the vine and put them in a cardboard box in a single layer and cover them with some newspaper and let them ripen somewhere cool.

I hope that helps!

I hope everyone is enjoying a yummy 100 mile diet fall season. I've been delighting in this season's buffet. We've been swooning a sea of fall and winter delights!
For garlic lovers, it's garlic planting season again. I've planted garlic in a wide range of soil conditions and they don't seem to need much work after the initial planting making them a great garden item for beginner green thumbs. It will keep vampires out of your garden though it won't do anything to keep them from showing up at your front door and begging for junk food at the end of this month.
If some gaunt, serpent tongued Qing dynasty official comes hopping down them street, hold your breath, it's a Jiang Shi. Blame it on the monobrowed taoist priest and his bumbling assistants for this ghoulish happening. Fortunately, if you just block the threshold of your doorway, the undead qi sucking beggar can't get inside your house. This is why doorways in traditional chinese houses have ankle busting 6 inch high thresholds.

Anyways, here's a great tutorial for garlic planting from Boundary Garlic Farm.
I got my garlic from Ken at Gabriola Gourmet Garlic Farm at a local farmer's market. If you haven't had a chance to get your garlic yet or are looking for more locally grown goodies, you're in luck!
The 2007 Farmer's Showcase is this coming Saturday (Oct. 20) from 10am to 4pm at the Mid-Island Co-Op on Bowen Road. There will be a wide range of farm products and vendors. I'll also be manning a table and doing my 100 mile diet song n' dance. Foodlink Nanaimo is also hosting a networking forum “Supporting Local Agriculture” on Friday, October 19th at 6:30 pm at Christ Community Church. For those in the Mid-Island region interested in finding ways to support and sustain a viable local agriculture, this is the place to be!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Countdown to 100 Mile Thanksgiving

This week, BC Almanac on CBC radio is doing a series on the food we eat. If you've missed them, they're archived on the website.

It's the yummy light at the end of this soggy grey week: Thanksgiving!
For those are still looking for a locally raised turkey, Piper's Meats and the Shady Mile Farm Mart are still taking orders for island grown turkeys. If turkeys aren't your thing, Piper's also has local lamb, rabbit, chicken and beef, as well as turkey roasts.

For your veggies and side dishes, head down to the Nanaimo Farmer's Market on Friday. There'll be everything from fresh cranberries to local winter squash.

For more 100 Mile Thanksgiving idea, check out the 100 Mile Diet Nanaimo site and the 100 Mile Diet.

I'm going to be heading over to Gabriola Island with friends for the Thanksgiving Weekend Studio and Gallery tour.
I had a great time on it last year and it's delightful way to celebrate the creative bounty of our community.

It's been a busy week with Harvest Moon festival, Thanksgiving and other harvest events. Here's some highlights:
Last Friday I went to the Cowichan Valley Culinary and Wine festival on behalf of 100 Mile Diet. I set up my usual local produce laden table and information to share with folks.
Here's a photo of everyone setting up before the big night. I didn't have a chance to talk any more photos after this because once they opened up the doors to the public it was non-stop shmoozing for this puppy.
I talked to folks for 5 hours straight! In order to lure folks over, I handed out samples of organic baguette from Flour, Water & Salt smeared with fresh cheese from Hilary's Cheese and my own plum jalapeno jam made with Cherry Point Coastal White Wine.

I also handed our samples of currant tomatoes from my garden.
These were a huge hit! I had chefs and farmers interested in them and I managed to plant the seeds for a local currant tomato crop for next year.

The evening was fabulous and I got to meet many of the local chefs and producers. I am thrilled to report that several restaurants and inns in the region are now on making island grown foods priority on their shopping list. This establishments include Jasmine's, Quamichan Inn, Merridale Cidery, The Secret Garden B&B, Beaver House Fudge, and of course, my favorite, The Equinox Cafe & Cafe.
It was wonderful to meet with so many chefs and restauranteurs who were excited about local foods. Let's hope that enthusiasm finds it's way up the highway and inspires more of Nanaimo's chefs who are up to the challenge of celebrating local foods and reconnecting with their ingredients and the farmers that grow them. When I say 'local', I mean island grown, not mainland hothouse factory farmed grown.

Saturday I wandered down to the Community Garden's Harvest festival.

There they had apple tastings, freshly squeezed apple juice for sale and locally grown yummies for sale. At the tasting table, I found these luscious lovelies:

Aren't those gorgeous?

My weekend ended with lunch at 100 mile diet-friendly Mermaid's Mug with my lovely in-laws who were passing through town on their way to the west cost. No only get to enjoy a hot bowl of delicious, hearty 100 mile chili but Michelle, mistress of Mermaid's Mug, unleashed her inner torch singer and serenaded us. BTW, Mermaid's Mug has restarted their Sunday Night movies (7-9pm). Grab your honey for a secret movie date. The popcorn is free!


Thanks to Nanaimo New Bulletin for the front page story on the new meat rules. Though I wish more media attention was paid to it earlier, I'm glad at least the public is being made aware of the absurd and unnecessary meat regulation changes that came in place on Sept. 30. Sept.30 is also the last day of the 2 week Eat BC campaign. Though the Eat BC campaign is a great idea (though a bit short), I have some reservations about it especially after a look at their sponsors. Do you really think Sysco really wants to support local farmers???

Most meat farmers are struggling as it is and though the Liberal government has promised to help , no farmer I've heard from has received any financial support to help them deal with the required upgrades.

I must stress this, no meat or poultry raised on the island has been in question for health problems. No case of mad cow or avian flu has been found here. The size of the island farms do no make them vulnerable to these issues. It is the overcrowded corporate farms that have conditions that make them susceptible to these diseases.

Ironically this comes at the same time as another corporate farm meat recall in the US. This single recall has affected 21.7 million pounds of beef so far. 21.7 million freaking pounds of beef, which is second largest recall of beef. Wasn't Bush tooting his bull horn that his administration has eliminated E. coli O157:H7 from the meat industry? Our neighbouring consumers to the south have even a harder time figuring out if their corporate beef has gone bad because stores gas the beef with carbon monoxide to keep it from turning grey.

That said, I heard from a little birdie that the BC government is willing to give the farmers 6 months to bring their farms up to code. Maybe by then they'll come to their senses. A girl can dream can't she??

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Apples, apples, more apples and beets

If you haven't already reserved your local turkey for Thanksgiving, there's still time. Shady Mile, Piper's Meats and various poultry vendors at farmer's markets are still taking orders. A local bird and fixings is the only way to celebrate a holiday that commemorates the local bounty.
(Local apple and peach crisp)
I was blessed with an generous invitation to join some friends for a weekend excursion to Saltspring Island. With a string of farms to visit and sunshine to soak in, it was a much needed break from this roller coaster schedule.

We visited a number of sheep farms to buy up raw fleece and rovings for our 100 mile fibre projects. I managed to talk them into visiting Apple Luscious Organic farm who are the the hosts of the tastings next week for the Apple Fest.

Harry and Deb were gracious guides and showed us around their orchards and rose gardens with much passion and knowledge. They will be hosting tasting of hundred of apples on their farm on Sept. 30. There's also a number of other events and farms that are participating in their glorious celebration of my favorite fruit!
Here's some photos of our orchard tour.

Harry & Deb of Apple Luscious Organic Farm.

One for the road.

It was so amazing to see such an incredible variety of apples. They're still adding more varieties to their orchard. Apples for baking, apples for eating out of hand, apples for jelly, apples for sauce, there were apples for any and every thinkable use.

I've been eating apples non-stop since getting home Sunday. Along with the apple & peach crisp I made above with apples from the Apple Luscious farm and peaches from the farmer's market, I'm also dehydrating a batch for trail mix.
For breakfast, I had a simple but sublime meal of apples, cantaloupe and Moonstruck's ash ripened camembert. The cantaloupe and cheese were bought the Saltspring Farmer's market.

This is the only cantaloupe I bought all year and man, it's worth the wait. Perfectly ripe and juicy. The flavour was so much more intense than I'm used to and has a great bouquet of fruity, floral yumminess.

Since I had the oven on for the apple crisp, I also threw in a bunch of beets in a pan to roast. Simply wash the beets, cut them into halves or quarters if they're bigger than golf balls. Pop them into pan and cover with some foil. Let them roast at 350F until they're fork tender.

As you can see, I had red and golden beets. Look like jewels ;)

With my roasted beets, I made a borscht with red cabbage and red onions that I bought at the Nanaimo Farmer's Market.
Here's my Fast & Dirty Borscht recipe that I posted last year.

I'm going to eat apples all day and listen to my newly downloaded Ani Difranco album. I've been waiting since 2006 for iTunes to get it since I've made a deal with myself that I would not buy any new CD's due to the amount of material, packaging and transportation that is involved the that. It doesn't make any sense since there're options like iTunes where I can get the same music without all the plastic, wrappings and fuel consumption.
So my $$ iTunes habit is helping save the environment ;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

100 Mile Diet Table for One

(my Roma tomatoes)
DH has been away working as a kayak jedi on the west coast for the last few weeks. I've been dining solo and relishing the local bounty that marks this glorious season.

Cooking has been kept fast & dirty. Partly because it's just me eating but mostly because I wanted to spend any spare moment I could squeeze out of my schedule to finish my Fire and Ice sweater!
For more photos and knitting jabbering about the final chapter of Fire & Ice , check out my knitting blog.

Back to our normal programming...
Here's a sampling of what I've been enjoying in my feast for one.
It's prime tomato picking time. I've got all my tomato plants squatting in my dining room and makeshift solarium. They're all warm and cozy and ripening up nicely.
My currant tomatoes came up as sweet as candy this year. Great for snacking and salads.

All my tomatoes were either from locally raised seeds or seedlings. Most are heirloom varieties. They're all so flavorful and juicy. It's been so much fun discovering all the nuances in flavor and texture of them.

Open-faced tomato and cheese sandwich made with local organic olive bread from Slow Rise Bakery in Island, local cheese and, of course, my tomatoes.

A few minutes under the broiler and it was comfort food heaven!

Bowl of summer. What I happened to have on hand.

With the summer's bounty and a can of organic black beans, a glass of Cherry Point Coastal white wine and a herbs from the my garden I made a summer veggie chowder

For lunch: Some local organic greens from my produce box, a gorgeously ripe barlett pear, local beet, Hilary's Belle Anne cheese, smoked proscuitto from Nanoose Sausage House.

A little of slicing and dicing and we have a Vancouver Island Chef's Salad. I also added some leftover roasted turkey breast, locally raised, of course. For a dressing, I made a blueberry basil dressing (recipe below)

Last, but not least, dessert. Here's a nectarine and homemade berry jam oat bar.

I popped over the Gabriola Island's farmer's market with my little green cart. It's a good thing I brought the cart because I picked up 10lbs of apples from Berry Point orchard vendor. Good thing I had my green cart. It would have been murder on my back to carry all that home. Berry Point grows a crazy awesome assortment of apples. They're the only ones that I know of that carry both of my favorite baking apples, Belle de Boskoop and Bramely Seedlings. Berry Point apples can sometimes be found at QF stores for a limited time. Their Paula Reds are one of my favorite sweet apples.
With my apple bounty I made a simple, rustic crisp. They're fairly tart but also have quite of bit natural sweetness. For a huge crisp, I only added a couple spoonfuls of honey to heighten the sweetness.

Fast & Dirty Blueberry Basil Dressing
1 part homemade local blueberry (or mixed berry) jam
1 part pesto (I used my own local homemade)
1 part basalmic or red wine vinegar
2 parts EVOO

Mix ingredients well. I just throw everything in a jar, close the lid tightly and shake vigorously.

BTW, Yellow Point Cranberries is having their Happy Turkey Night tonight. They are offering a sampling of unique cranberry dishes and the money is going to raise money for Ladysmith Secondary School. Give them a call to reserve your ticket.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making 100 Mile diet work for you

The week began with another round of food recalls, feature the ever-popular corporate lettuce. There's been a recall of Dole's bagged lettuce salad because of fears of E. coli contamination. You can tell me that you pick up corporate bagged salads at the grocery store because they are more convenient than going to the farmer's market for mixed greens. I don't know, I find bloody diarrhea pretty inconvenient.

There has been a recall of Flying Swallow brand Tender Bamboo Shoots because they contain sulphites which have not listed on the ingredients. This is a serious concern for those that have allergies to sulphites. Quite frankly, I hate canned bamboo shoots. I don't know why anyone would want waterlogged wood chips in their stir fry. Throw in some fresh julienned local turnips, parsnips, fennel or sunchokes if you want something crunchy and sweet.

Last week, a Crave reader posted this comment:
" I have been reading your blog for awhile now and I love it. I am also interested in a 100 mile diet, but one thing does bother me. I am curious about your thoughts on this. From reading your posts it sounds as though you do a lot of driving here, there and everywhere to obtain local food. If everyone who currently shops at a large grocery store were to suddenly start driving all over would that not sort of defeat the purpose of a 100 mile diet? Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have access to locally grown food in a central location?"

olleen, thanks for posting some food for thought. I appreciate that you're concerned with the impact of your consumer habits. I've pondered your comment through the weekend and here's some of my ramblings.
Well, first off, let's take your concern about the amount driving involved with a 100 mile diet for us here and put it on another angle. What would happen if everyone else in the world started shopping at big box stores that brought produce from all over the globe? What would happen if the rest of the planet started consuming our SUV diet?
The reality is that our SUV diet (whatever you want, whenever you want it for as cheap as you can possibly get it) and global corporate food system is not the norm for the rest of the world's population. Most of the world is still eating pretty local. Unfortunately, that is changing. There are pressures to impose global markets onto countries that want to protect their own agricultural industries. Some countries are even forced to take on a flood of cheap American produce under trade deals and as a condition of so-called debt initiatives, despite the fact that these countries are capable of growing these produce themselves. North American diet and the obese bag of health problems that comes with it is being transported all over the world.
There are now a number of recent studies looking at the impact of the SUV diet. Many of the hidden costs of an SUV diet are finally coming to light. There was a recent study done by the Texas Department of Transportation that looked at the impact of transporting goods. One of their findings was that "each heavy goods vehicle (like an 18 wheeler) causes the same amount of wear and tear on roads as 9,600 cars."
Guess who's paying for all that road work.

The 100 mile diet is more than just eating foods that are grown around you. It's about a shift in food culture and mindset. It's about being more mindful and aware of the food that we eat, where it comes from, who grew it, how it was grown and how it gets here. It's about being reconnected with food and appreciating the work and energy that it takes to get it to our plates. It's about not only change in eating but consumer habits. I agree with your concerns. A 100 mile diet that is carried out with SUV diet thinking is going to leave a significant footprint (but still I think smaller than a globally sourced SUV diet.)

Yes, at first glance, it looks like I'm driving from Duncan to Campbell River in order to stock my kitchen. The reality is that my food shopping habits are quite different now that I'm on the 100 mile diet. Here's some things I do to make 100 mile diet shopping work for me and keep my driving to a minimum:

1- Subscribe to a CSA produce box program - Throughout the summer, I pick up my organic produce box from Nanoose Edibles at the Nanaimo Sausage House (3081 Ross Road). While I'm there, I usually pick up my local eggs and cheese. The Nanaimo Sausage House also has a huge basket of Nanoose Edibles produce to sell for those that weren't able to sign up for the program. The produce arrives on Wednesday.
The box is usually all the veggies we need for the week. I will pick up a few odds and ends at the farmer's market if needed.

2- Buy in bulk from local farms - I buy much in bulk, from my berries to meat. In the beginning of the season, I went off a few times to get large batches of strawberries and blueberries from farms in the south end of Nanaimo. I didn't make special trips to just go out for berries. I was either at that end of town anyways or made an afternoon or morning of it with trips also to other farms, the farmer's market and Hazelwood herb farms to pick up other items. Often, I kidnapped a couple of friends to come out with me so they could also get their berry stash. All I needed were a couple of trips and now my freezer is filled with strawberries and blueberries and my pantry is full of wonderful low-sugar fruit jam to last me all until next berry season.
My meats are from a variety of local sources and often bought in bulk for the freezer. I only have one small 5 cubic foot freezer but there's a high rotation of meats in and out throughout the year. Right now, I'm finishing off the last of my beef and pork that I bought up last spring and am waiting for a shipment of local lamb and bison Most of my meat is bought straight from the farmer. It's more affordable to buy in bulk and directly from the farmer. I also bought a couple of whole halibuts and had them cut up into steaks and shoved those into the freezer too.
There are some that are going to balk at the idea of frozen meats. If they're packed properly and in a good freezer they're fine. I find frozen properly raised local meat far superior to fresh factory farmed meat and they also offer cuts and parts that I can't get from the grocery store.
Piper's Meats sells a selection of fresh local meats from beef to rabbits. Farmer's markets are another great source for local meats and eggs and often those farmers are more than happy work out a large order with you

3- Consolidate your food trips - As mentioned above, plan to pick up stuff from a bunch of different farms in an area or swing by when you happen to be in the neighbourhood. For example, if you happen to be in the north end of town, instead of turning to the big box store for produce, turn the other way up Aulds Road and swing by Compassion Farms on Fernmar Road and fill your trunk with greens and winter squashes.
Say you're over at Westwood Lake or Mt. Benson for bike ride or trail run, head down to Westwood Orchard for some great local apples. If it happens to be a Saturday, head down to Gary Argyle's farm at
2403 Maxey Road off of E.Wellington Road. Head back into the city via E. Wellington and instead of going to the big-box store for your meats, swoop over to Piper's Meats on Bowen Road for some local flesh. Maybe just swing by the Shady Mile Farm Mart to pick up some local meats and produce.

4- Form a buying club - This is an extension of the buy in bulk idea. Team up with a couple of friends and buy up a lamb, side of beef, half a pig or shipment of island bison straight from the farmer. Buying local meat in this manner is more affordable and provides you with a freezer filled with a variety of meats. Often the farmers are more than happy to rendevous with you as they make other deliveries to get your order to you. At most it's one trip to the farm and then you and your friends have your flesh for the season, if not the year.
The buying club can evolve into the hub of your food community. I've talked to some who say that's it's like having a team of personal shoppers out there for you. Individual members can pick up enough for everyone else in the club in their trips out the farm. They trade information and recipes, get together for canning sessions, have potlucks and weekly cooking sessions, create a support group and resource bank for each other.

5- Carpool - Shove everyone into the car on Sunday morning and head over to the Cedar Farmer's Market. Offer friends and co-workers who don't have cars a ride. They'll really appreciate it!

6- Don't drive - Walk, bike or roller blade to the Nanaimo Farmer's Market on Friday. I have a green folding cart that I bring with me that saves my back from further damage. This past weekend, I walked down to the ferry to go to Gabriola Island for their farmer's market and fall fair. The market is about a 10 minute walk from the terminal and there were plenty of local farmers selling their produce. It's a great alternative to those who can't make it to the Friday market at Nanaimo's downtown.

7- Grow your own food. Right now it's the beginning of winter veggie garden. We're in the perfect climate for it and there's no bugs or weeds to deal with. My winter veggie garden keeps me pretty happy with beets, winter greens (kale, gai lan, bok choy, spinach, brussel sprouts) and lettuce. I'm also planning to plant another round of garlic. All the seeds and seedlings are from local growers so it's really a 100 mile garden!

There's a listing of local farmers, food vendors, farm markets and farmer's markets on the 100 Mile Diet Nanaimo site.

It comes down to you tinkering and evolving your 100 mile diet consumer habits so it works for you and and the environment. Some things may work better for you than others. Hopefully these ideas will provide a starting point for folks are unsure about how to move towards a more local food-based diet.

Colleen, to answer your final question, there is a farmer's showcase on October 20th. This event is bringing together 50 vendors (almost all of them farmers and food producers) from this area to showcase and sell their local food delights to folks like you. I will also be there on my soapbox ranting and raving to anyone who wants to listen. Hopefully, this won't be a one time event but a catalyst for more local foods venues.

I think as consumers, we just have to get enough of us buying local foods and to pressure our grocery stores to start bringing in more real local (meaning , island grown for us) products. If they don't, we need to stand by our guns and put our money where our mouth is. We need to push grocery stores, restaurants institutions and government towards domestic fair trade with our farmers.

I actually don't want local foods in only one centralized location. I want island grown foods everywhere! I want to see it on all the grocery stores. I want to see more farmer's markets. I would love to see a Nanaimo farmer's market that serves the locals and local farmer's needs, not just for the cruise ship tourists. I want to see island grown foods on restaurant menus and highlighted proudly as such. I want to see island grown foods in our school systems, in hospitals and made available to lower income people. I want to see a thriving local agriculture and food community that is being encouraged and supported by the people in a sincere and mindful manner.

I also want my own herd of alpacas but that's another story...

Have a great week and happy eating!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Weekend feasting calendar

It's that time again! Vancouver Island's Feast of Fields !
Duncan's Keating Farm is hosting this year's local food extravaganza with 80 restaurants, microbreweries, wineries, cheesemakers and other producers showing off why Vancouver Island is the best place to eat.

Here are a couple other dates to put on your bounty feasting calendar:
Sept 19th is Happy Turkey Day at Yellow Point Cranberries. The event runs from 6pm to 8pm and for $10 you can sample an array of cranberry delights. Give them a call at 250-245-5283 to reserve your ticket.

Today, Nanaimo's Farmer Market is running from 10am to 2pm again down beside the Bastion in downtown Nanaimo.

Can't make it to the market on Friday? On Saturday, why not hop onto the ferry to Gabriola Island farmer's market? No need to bring the car, the market is just a convenient 5 minute walk up the hill from the ferry terminal. The market runs 10 to noon. The ferry leaves five minutes before the hour.

Gary Argyle's farm is also open for farm gate sales on Saturday morning and afternoon. He's at 2403 Maxey Road off of E.Wellington Road.

On Sunday, the Cedar Farmer's Market is running from 10am to 2pm at the Old Crow and Gate Pub in Cedar. Pile a bunch of 100 miler friends into a car and head down there for one of the best little farmer's markets around!

While your in the south end of town, Dudink's Gardens is still offering a range of veggies and fruit from their farm. They're located at 2219 Gomerich Rd and are opened throughout the week.

There's an overwhelming variety of produce available at these farmer's markets. Everything from salad greens to winter squash to local fruit, cheeses and meats.

Have a great weekend!


100 Mile Diet Nanaimo

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

High centered on hump day

For the last couple of weeks, I've been riding on a non-stop wave of summer's bounty and local food events. Now I'm perched on Wednesday, with a dayplanner spilling over with events, appointments and meetings, and I've barely had time to digest last week. There's still a huge load of canning to do and I'm contemplating a Mid-Autumn moon festival 100 mile feast. But all I want to do is sit on my porch and eat my tomatoes. I'm high centered on hump day!

Here are some highlights from this last week:

Last Thursday, I spoke at Duncan's Chamber of Commerce 100 Mile Diet Breakfast, hosted by the Equinox Cafe. Sean and Jessica at the Equinox Cafe have been local farm supporters from the very beginning. Their menu boasts produce, meats, cheeses, wine and other goodies from Cowichan Valley farms. I can't remember much of my talk. It was far too early and the coffee didn't kick in until I got home. I do remember that there was very good local bacon to be had ;)
That night, I had some friends over for dinner. I made a cioppino with local halibut, tomatoes from my garden and veggies from the produce box, and a glassful of Cherry Point's Coastal White. Cioppino is a traditional fish stew. I'll let the Italians, Portuguese and San Fransiscoans fight over who's tradition it is. Fishermen made this stew as their daily meal with their daily catch. It's recipe is written by whatever you happen to have on hand. It's about as easy-peasy as you can get. Saute a bunch of veggies in olive oil, dump in chopped tomatoes, chunks of fish or shellfish, wine/stock/broth, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle a bunch of herbs from the garden and you've got yourself a meal!
I've had to move my dining room table into the already cramped kitchen. My friends are too polite to say anything about the new eating arrangement.

I've had to relocate the dining table because my dining room area has been turned into a tomato refugee camp.

Friday. Well, something happened on Friday but I can't remember what.

Saturday was filled to the rim. My friend Dave and I headed over to the Errington Farmer's Market to pick up some fleece from a local sheep farmer, Elaine at Weaver's Rose Cottage.

All the fleece, roving and yarns at her stall were all from her own sheep. I picked up a few pounds of washed Romney wool at $8 a pound. What a deal! She also runs natural dyeing workshops. Elaine can be reached at (250) 248-1270 or just pop by the Errington's farmer's market. She's at stall 10.

The market is fabulous. Just what a farmer's market ought to be, a market that serves the community, not a tourist trap filled with trinket stalls . It's tucked in the local park and had wooden covered stalls and it a real friendly vibe. Part social hub, part local market, part community stage, it was a great place to spend a Saturday morning. There was a range of local produce from plums, to melons, greens and squashes. There was local seafood vendor and prepared foods and a few arts and craft stalls but the focus definitely was on local produce.

Afterwards, we headed over to Coombs market in search of more veggies and fruit for canning. They have island produce sold in cases. I also found one of my favorite foods, chantrelles. At $9/lb, I managed to find some wiggle room in my food budget to get a small bagful.
The less you do to chantrelles, the better. They have a mild, woodsy-nutty flavour that begs nothing but a saute in butter.

Here's one of my favorite things to do with these forest treasure: chantrelle and scrambled egg. Saute a bunch of chopped chantrelles in a couple plugs of butter for a few minutes. Add beaten eggs and scramble them up over medium heat. I like them soft and just a breath shy of runny. I topped the mushrooms and eggs with a few thin slices of Hilary's Belle Anne cheese. Steamed green beans rounded off the dish. So simple. So good. For heavens sake, don't skimp on the butter. If you're going to use factory farmed eggs you might as well throw the chantrelles into the trash. Better yet, pass 'em over to me, you obviously don't deserve chantrelles ;P

Saturday afternoon was spent navigating the pockmarked asphalt serpentine otherwise known as the Pacific Rim Highway as I ran off to the west coast to spend some time with DH, who has returned to his job as kayak jedi for the waning days of the season. Beachcombing black bears, burping sea lions, jumping salmon and hubcap sized sea stars made cameo appearances on our romantic-comedy-action adventure weekend.

On Tuesday, I returned to my 100 Mile Diet soapbox with an appearance on CHLY's Changes program. I ranted too much, forgot to mention a bunch of stuff that I had wanted to mention but otherwise, I think I did alright.

The folks at Changes had put a challenge out to all the restaurants to take on the 100 Mile Diet. Victoria boasts a growing list of restaurants that focus on local foods and Cowichan Valley has a 3 or 4 restaurants of the same goal, with one on a 20 mile diet (Yippee!). The last time I walked into one of the Nanaimo's finer restaurant's that boast they are making a local food a priority, I found out that their lamb was coming from Australia :(

Well, I'm proud to say that one Nanaimo establishment has stepped up to the 100 Mile Diet challenge and boy, they're doing it in style!
The Mermaid's Mug on Wesley Street has taken on the challenge. I popped over there yesterday to see how they were doing. They're bringing in local fruits and veggies from just down the road. They're using island meats and cheese. Their coffee is from a local roaster and is direct fair trade (of course). Michelle, the owner, has already squirrelled away a ton of local fruit for smoothies and is looking to can tomatoes to see them through the winter. There's also talk of building her own vegetable garden in the yard behind the restaurant. Music to my ears.

Finally, somebody who isn't just paying lip service! I'm just thrilled that I can finally go out to eat in Nanaimo and still be able to stay on my 100 mile diet.