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.