Have you ever missed something, but not noticed that you missed it until you had it back? Well, so it was for me with the Foodie Penpal program. Those of you who have been around for awhile will know exactly what that is, for you fabulous newcomers scroll down further for all the details. After a lengthy hiatus from the program I decided it was time. This month I got to exchange food packages with Kim from Toronto. As always, I had a great time prepping a package for her, but the coming home in the middle of a week filled with exams and papers to find a parcel waiting was amazing.
When I get home from school I need to eat something. It’s been a few hours since lunch and I’m hungry. But deciding what to eat is the challenge. Too much and I will still be full come dinner hour, too little and I’ll still be hungry wondering why I even bothered. My snack choices usually include something like hummus and cut vegetables, maybe a couple dolmathes and some almonds, or sometimes just a hardboiled egg. But, I can’t lie, what I really want is crackers and cheese. I’m not saying I have it, but that’s what I am usually craving.
Potlucks. Do you love them or hate them? My feelings are mixed. In some ways they make things easier – you don’t have to cook as much, there is less clean up and there are more options for picky eaters. But, it is also possible to end up with a table full of desserts or five macaroni salads. So what’s a girl to do? How do you decide what to bring?
It began as a tiny seed, and grew surrounded by friends.
Lately is seems as if every time I write a blog post it is a change of season. The last time I wrote it had just changed from summer to fall . Suddenly fall is here and it is Thanksgiving. But what a fall it has been. I have had some great adventures the last few weeks. I started school, I’ve winterized the garden and I went to the Yukon for my sisters birthday where my sister and Mom took me on my first helicopter ride! Needless to say with all this activity this poor little blog has been sadly neglected. But, with a long weekend upon me and only one exam looming I decided that needed to change.
It seems impossible to me that Labour day is here and yet another summer has come and gone. But, rather than cry into my fall clothes I thought I would take a moment to look back at a few of my summer highlights and the things I learned the last couple of months.
… that I really love pesto made from radish tops and I still really don’t like parsnips.
…that while watching a baby coyote sleep under the hedge is adorable it probably isn’t desireable (and freaks the cats out).
… that the Yukon is amazing. Getting to explore it with my sister is twice as amazing.
… that taking an outdoor cooking class from Michele Genest, writer of The Boreal Gourmet, beside a northern BC lake, while at a music festival with said sister is pretty much my idea of heaven.
… that mint and spring pea rissotto made by my husband is divine.
… that a greenhouse makes an amazing bar for summer parties (but if that’s the case we may need a bigger greenhouse…).
… that it is actually possible to eat your fill of fresh figs.
… that I will miss the community, friendship and food created this summer in the Community Kitchen.
… that when making pierogi, even when using the identical batch of dough and filling, once cooked you can always tell which ones the Ukrainian Grandma made.
Most importantly I (re)learned that summer is far too short but when there is food, friends and family involved life is grand. What did you learn this summer?
Eating local. What does that mean? The 100 mile diet, only food from your own garden, city, province or country? To everyone it means a different thing. And if you ask me (I know you didn’t) I would say it doesn’t matter. My personal belief is that if you have even bothered to think the phrase you are probably doing more for the planet, your environment and your health than a lot of people.
Now most of you know I can get a bit on my high horse about avoiding prepackaged food and chemicals. But trust me, even I fall of the wagon sometimes (no comments from the peanut gallery please). So when I saw an email from Growing Chefs BC talking about a fundraising drive called the Growing Chefs Eat Local Challenge I thought, perfect. What a great way to remind myself and (hopefully) inspire others to “eat local”.
For those of you who don’t know Growing Chefs, it is a wonderful organization that goes into classrooms and teaches them about urban food gardening. This past spring I was lucky enough to get to volunteer in one of their grade three/four growing classrooms. Kids learned how to grow peas, lettuces, radishes and beans. They got to learn about composting, knife skills and recipe reading. Throughout the program we had snacks and meals we made from the food we had grown.
Now I have a garden and live in Vancouver so it is pretty easy for me to eat locally. My downfalls are things like lemons, salt, pepper, olive oil, fancy vinegars, cheese and booze. So for one week I am committing to eating local. For me this means I will be eating food produced locally, sustainably and ethically. Fruits, vegetables, fish and meat will all come from my garden and various local BC producers. I do have two confessions … first that on day one of the challenge I’m at a wedding, I can’t predict that meal and number two, I will be using salt, olive oil, vinegar, lemons and drinking coffee. They aren’t local. I know… but a girl has to have her vices.
I admit I had a bit of a question of conscience, wondering if it was weird to have my first blog post in ages a request for support and donations. But, after a bit of conversation with others I realized no. Eating healthy food close to the source and teaching young people about growing and eating real food is important to me. I’m making the assumption that if you read my blog it is probably important to you too. If you would like to make a small donation you can go here. If you can’t spare a penny or two I totally understand (especially if it’s because you spent them at your local farmers market!), but even $5 helps. Donation or not, I challenge you to see if for a week you and your families can be inspired to eat, if not totally local, a little closer to the source.
Those of you who have been around for awhile may remember the Foodie Penpal program. Basically, it’s like the pen pal thing you did when you were a kid. But for adults. Who like food. As adults it seems that it is far too infrequently we do something just because. No reason other than because it is fun and we want to. Well, the Foodie Penpal program is one of those things for me. Fun. Just because. Continue reading
Two years ago I started this blog. I wasn’t totally sure why, I just knew it seemed like the right thing to do. Life was changing and that called for a new adventure. Ah, be careful what you wish for…. In two years life has changed a lot. I stopped personal training and left a job I had been doing for several years, I began volunteering with three different food based community organizations, I started tap classes (after almost 25 years!), and I got a greenhouse. Friends have gone to school, changed jobs, had children be born and move out (not the same child), divorces have happened and weddings are planned, I’ve made new friends and rediscovered old ones. And, I acknowledged that a lot of what has worked for me health and fitness wise for the past 40ish(cough) years really doesn’t work for me anymore. And while yes, this is a random selection of happenings, it highlights that life keeps moving on and I’m testing the waters.
In thanks to all of you who have been part of my journey I’m giving away some presents. Three lucky people will get a mostlynoodles gift pack containing some homemade goodies! Here’s how to get in on the celebration:
- Comment below telling me your favourite post or recipe in the last two years;
- If you’re on Facebook or twitter send me some love (I want to double my followers this year!);
- Don’t be related to me or live somewhere other than Canada (you actually have to do one of the first two to qualify… this is just a random rule).
Then on July 1st (I figured I’d choose another holiday to celebrate) I’ll put the name of everyone who qualified in a mixing bowl and have a draw. (Yes, I get that this might not play according to official lottery rules, but heck, how many lotteries give away jam and pickles?)
So please, let me know what you liked, what you didn’t like and what you want to see more of as the next year unfolds. I am honoured and humbled that you have joined me on this journey so far. You have all made the two’s not that terrible after all.
UPDATE: Thanks so much to all of you beautiful and generous people who commented (not many), tweeted (lots) and posted (tons!) on Facebook about my blog. Sadly, at least as far as the giveaway was concerned, most of you weren’t Canadian (I find that odd). But, in a highly unofficial and random draw names have been chosen and winners will be contacted soon. Here’s to another year filled with food, friends and family.
There are certain things that go with holidays. Sunburns, gin and tonics, tired feet, sand in your shorts, and tacky souvenirs. It’s true. Admit it. Hidden around most of our homes we can probably find little mementoes that meant something then, but now are just dust collectors. Chackas as my Jewish friends would say. And because holidays bring out the best in most of us we don’t just bring stuff back for ourselves. Oh no. We bring them back for others too. Everything from t-shirts, to snow globes, to shot glasses (Hi Sis!). Now if the souvenir merchandise of a place reveals a bit about who a culture is, heaven help us all. However, thankfully, the food of a culture often is more revealing and says much, much more.
Probably my favourite part of travel is discovering what the locals eat. Trying new fruits and vegetables and overeating delicious things I can’t get at home. So it makes me happy that lately I’ve been noticing that I, and others, have been bringing back food stuffs from holidays as souvenirs and gifts. Pasta from Italy, olive oils from Israel, vanilla from Mexico, and spices from all over. Especially spices.
I tend to use a lot of spices. They are an integral part of my kitchen. Aside from bumping up the taste of food without the addition of fats and sugars many have highly beneficial health properties. And, while I haven’t figured out how to grow my own vanilla or cinnamon you often don’t even need to go to the store to get them. Herbs are easy to grow and you don’t need much room to do it.
So I decided, for fun and because I’m a bit of a geek, to keep a list of what spices I used over a two week period. I realized that, not including condiments, vinegars and oils, my spice usage seemed to have three levels. Daily, weekly and occasionally.
My tier one spices are the spices that I use on almost a daily basis. Garlic (mostly fresh but sometimes dried) with pretty much every meal but breakfast; freshly ground black pepper on everything; sea salt, sparingly but when needed to enhance taste; chili flakes (and powder) on everything including even eggs for breakfast; and cinnamon daily in my coffee.
Tier two spices usually make an appearance at least once a week. Fresh rosemary; basil; curry powder; ginger (mostly fresh); oregano; dried mustard for salad dressings; fresh sage; and cumin.
Tier three spices don’t get loved often, but when they do they add amazing flavour to meals. I would include spices such as chinese 5 spice powder, thyme, cilantro, lovage, nutmeg, parsley, paprika, summer savoury, star anise, and cardamom on this list.
The trick with spices is knowing when to keep it simple and when to tart it up a bit. Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and get a more complex flavour. For those moments, here are a couple of my most used, make ahead, spice mixes.
A versatile mix. It can be used on fajita’s, devilled eggs, as part of a salad dressing, or as a marinade for chicken or fish.
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cane sugar (regular would work too)
Middle Eastern Spice Mix
Try this on a sweet potato, with grilled vegetables, mixed into yogurt for a cooling balance to a spicy main course, or as the base for a meat marinade.
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp black pepper
3/4 Tbsp ground coriander
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cardamon (optional)
Note: if you don’t have ground spices , just toss them into a coffee grinder and blend them together.
Next up I’m going to track my condiment, vinegars, oils, and other kitchen essentials. What are yours?