Category Archives: Healthy Eating/Nutrition

Wolfville Farmer’s Market – One Brick at a Time

The Plans - Photo Credit, Bruce Dienes

Eighteen years have passed and it’s been a long and fruitful journey for the volunteers, directors and staff of the Wolfville Farmers Market. Starting with three vendors in a parking lot, this community hub has been transformed into a bustling intersection of business and pleasure. Live music plays prominently every Saturday morning like a piper, enticing neighbours and tourists alike to spend an hour or two taking in all of the flavours of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Well known for its sensational array of apples, berries, organic produce, and rich, red soils, the region is an integral piece of the Nova Scotia food map. It’s a true coming of age story for the little farmers market that can, and with a big fundraising campaign underway, the Wolfville Farmer’s Market is casting off its outgrown, outdoor shell and will be moving into its new home in September, 2011.

Continue reading

*This weekend* Stinking Rose Festival – Baker Settlement, Nova Scotia

While many of you will be donning French Maid, or Spider Man costumes this weekend, Camelia Frieberg will be cooking up a storm on her farm in Baker Settlement, Nova Scotia. So before you get all hopped up on refined sugar, check out a wholesome family event this Saturday down on the South Shore. 85% of what’s being served for lunch is coming from the Watershed Farm garden, accompanied by live music and workshops on different garlic varieties, medicinal uses, and gardening techniques. Despite a weekend of ghosts and goblins making their way above ground, vampires will be motoring to Cape Breton for fear of all the gorgeous garlic just outside of Bridgewater.

Please join Camelia, her family and friends for a fabulous Pollination Project special event. Details in the image below:

Early Bird Gets the Berry

Highbush Blueberries

Labour Day. What better way to celebrate being unemployed than by getting out to harvest something to put up for the winter. In Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley there’s a lot of talk of how prolific this summer has been for the crops. And despite the threat of Hurricane Earl, which thankfully did not cause the chaos anticipated, farmers are likely to be reaping the benefits. I am also reaping the benefits of their hard work and good weather at the U-Picks just outside of Wolfville. Bright and early, and within 15 minutes of my front door, I found myself at Blueberry Acres, surrounded by rows of highbush blueberries. I was the first picker there, and got myself set up with a box and a pail on a string, set out and within an hour I had harvested 17lbs of delicious, juicy, enormous berries.

Blueberry Fields Forever

Highbush blueberries grow about 5-6 feet tall. Unlike wild blueberries, there is no crouching necessary, no bending over or squatting down. This is the most civilized berry picking a girl could ask for. Just reach out in front and pick. The blue orbs are plentiful and easy to detect, yet just when you think you’ve cleaned off a bush, look down, below the branches at eye level, and you’ve found another mother-load. In amongst the serenity and meditative qualities of berry picking, are disturbing sounds, however. As a measure of pest prevention for birds mostly, gunfire shots, squawking calls of birds of prey, and a lovely sculpture of a bald eagle are ever-present in the fields.

Integrated Pest Management

I would caution anyone going there who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, if the sound of gunfire is rattling, because the recording is amplified across the property inconsistently and often, bearing no resemblance of pattern. I got used to it pretty quickly, though, but was adequately disturbed.

Along with the flavour of late summer bursting from my freezer, I am looking forward to the antioxidant powerhouses gracing smoothies and baked goods all year-long.

The lovely ladies at Blueberry Acres also informed me that there was a raspberry U-Pick just down the way. Making two lefts and a right, I came up to miles of hoop houses, or tunnels filled to the rafters with raspberries, red and gold, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries. Victor, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, was charmed by my six words of Spanish that I could string together, and told me that he supervised 72 Mexican farm labourers in the tunnels. He lives in town, but the rest of them live in trailers at the back of the property. They’re paid by the hour, but he said that many Mexican ladies go to be paid piece work a the blueberry farm and make upwards of $200.00 a day. Pretty good, but far from home. Victor only spends three out of 12 months in Mexico. Tomorrow I am going to go pick at the blueberry fields again, this time as a commercial picker and will be paid to spend a beautiful day outdoors.


This is not food.

Generally I eat unprocessed, unrefined, unpackaged, whole foods with lots of love grown right into them, see Exhibit A.

Exhibit A: My garden.

Cycling, however, has brought out a previously unknown alter-ego; one capable of enjoying the most highly processed, neon-coloured, flashily-packaged, and down-right disgusting things. I thought I should share with you some of those consumables that fall into the “fuel” category of “food”, eaten only by athletes looking for cheap thrills and a quick pick-me-up. After 20, 50, or 140 Kms, they taste spectacular! I experience surges of energy within minutes from these brightly coloured, oddly textured, and phenomenally sweet treats commonly found in convenience stores and bike shops across the land. Please folks, don’t try this at home, save it for the race, the rally, the marathon, or the long-haul. These wee snacks are danger all wrapped up in pretty little parcels… and the reason the world is coming to an end. Oh the conflict! Mmmmmaltodextrin.


One woman’s weeds, another woman’s pleasure.


Hunched over in my garden, diligently pulling out leafy things, binding things, yellowing things and unwanted life, I have spent many hours tending and weeding and will do for many more to come this season. For weeks now, the amaranth and strangling-vines have been the superstars of my humble plot. But the most prolific, is the tender, juicy, and edible of the bunch: purslane. Purslane is a delicious succulent, mildly tasting of lemon and full of Omega-3 fatty acids. I discovered purslane working on a farm in Cambridge, ON in 2006, when my coworker, Jaime, explained to me the brilliance of this yummy and totally freewheeling “weed”.  One day I thought it would be a nice touch to deliver some of it to see what the reaction would be of Chef Jonathan Gushue at Langdon Hall, and find out if it would be something he might like to use in the kitchens there. He loved it, and I allowed the unrelenting plant to grow between rows in order to keep him in constant supply. Since then, I haven’t really paid much attention to those waxy looking emerald-green leaves and robust, pink-ish stems between the cracks in the sidewalks of Toronto’s downtown, until this summer when it is basically taking over my veggie patch.

So, I have embraced the little buggers and have come up with a much more glamorous plan for them. With the adventurous spirit of my friends at Union 72 on Ossington, they have been a garnish there for several weeks now when Chef Dan DeMatteis is at the helm in the kitchen. Most Thursdays I take over a bag full of them, and hope that they will be put to use. Not exactly sure how many of them have been, or if customers are willing to eat the squiggly things on their plate, but at least all of my hard work weeding has a second life in an excellent restaurant. Needless to say I haven’t really used them for my own consumption except for a few smoothies, and a few leaves thrown on a salad, most of it just goes happily to the restaurant.

Last night, however, I was spontaneously over for dinner at my friend’s house, and as he had been away all weekend for work, had very little in his fridge save a ripe mango, a jar of roasted red peppers, and some expired condiments. I climbed up onto his garage roof, where last summer, there was an abundance of yummy greens to choose from in an elaborate container garden. Last year’s roommate had quite the green thumb. This year, my trek up the ladder was less than satisfactory, but I noticed there was quite a good amount of purslane valiantly growing where nothing else had been planted. Success! I climbed back down with no idea what I would do with it, but a grin from ear to ear.

The salad was a surprisingly delicious accompaniment to the spicy fennel and garlic sausages from Provenance Regional Cuisine which I just happened to be carrying with me on my way home from work. It is truly amazing what one can come up with challenged with little planning, few ingredients, and a sense of adventure. Eat weeds and life is more fun! Guaranteed, and free! This morning, I enthusiastically harvested all of the plants for their weekly appearance in fine dining, and then cautiously asked my neighbour if I could come over the fence to harvest some of hers. She couldn’t understand why, and was pleased to allow me to weed her garden for her. I can’t wait to try all sorts of new recipes with purslane. If you have any, please share.

Summer Fresh Purslane-Mango Salad

Serves 2

2 Cups Purslane, not packed down, well washed and roots trimmed off

1 Mango, ripe

1 Large Roasted Red Pepper (the kind you get in a jar)


2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Roasted Red Pepper Juices/brine

1/2 tsp Cumin

1/2-3/4 tsp (or to taste) Chili Powder

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the mango into cubes, break apart the purslane into small bite-sized pieces, leaves and stems included. Slice the red pepper and combine in a bowl. Whisk all dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and then toss in with salad. Enjoy!

Bicycle Allowances

As many of you know, I am training to ride from Toronto to Montreal this summer in support of the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. It is a huge amount of time, resources, energy, and dedication to getting my body ready for the week of grueling, late July exertion that I have signed up for. Call me crazy, I wouldn’t deny it.

Anyhow, one of the benefits to training has been the expenditure of calories that I have never in my life had the pleasure of having to replenish. Five and a half hours of cycling basically allows me to consume an extra 3000 calories! For a closeted compulsive eater, this is like music to one’s ears. The thought process goes something like: “Go eat chelsea buns at parties, add honey to your water just because, and when you stumble upon a new artisan bakery on Lakeshore, eat the baguette, the whole baguette.”

Another major benefit to cycling so much is that I get to explore parts of this fine megacity that I would otherwise never venture to. Yesterday I managed to combine a store visit for work with a mini-training ride. I headed west to Browns Line and Lakeshore. Usually I take the Lakeshore Promenade following the Waterfront trail in and out of sweet residential enclaves, through blossom filled parks, and in and around water treatment plants. But yesterday, I was on a mission to get to Fair Grounds cafe to drop off some samples of chocolate, sugar and other snacky things. Fair Grounds is a micro-roaster that serves up Fair Trade, organic coffee, lovely pastries, and a fair amount of other retailed items like tea and snacks. It is tucked away in an unassuming old bank building on the corner of Lakeshore and 38th or 39th (I can’t remember exactly the cross street). Jeffrey is the ever-present and friendly owner, who works like crazy to offer his customers the best available. They go to farmers markets in the west end, and certainly provide a community building space at the cafe in an otherwise desolate landscape of the low-rise retail strip that looks as if it was forgotten forty years ago.

"Spinach Bagel" from Tatsu's

So I had the pleasure of treating myself to a freshly roasted iced americano at the cafe, and on my way back towards the city, I stopped in at Tatsu’s Artisan Bakery. I wouldn’t have noticed it had I not taken the Lakeshore route, and was very pleased with what I found. What looks as if it was probably a Coffee Time or other sterile donut chain at one point in it’s occupation, has been transformed into a handcrafted baked goods hot spot, just across the street from Humber College. I tried the baguette (which from my independent scoring, would have actually won the baguette challenge as posted a few months ago, with a score of 5), a handmade, organic spelt loaf, and a “spinach bagel”, which resembled a bagel only in shape. The spinach bagel was a perfect cycling snack, flaky pastry and gooey, salty spinach mush in the middle, kind of like a traditional English sausage roll, but with spinach instead of sausage, obviously.

The other west side discovery I have made is up Brown’s Line, just north of Horner Ave. It’s called Organic Big Burger. I don’t eat beef, but if you do, the meat comes from Beretta and they pride themselves on offering clean fast food. But the piece de resistance at Organic Big Burger is MAPLETON’S SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM!!!!!!! That’s right, I said it. Family farmed, organic, LFP certified, sweet, delicious soft serve with no trace of petrochemicals, hydrogenated oils, or the crap that usually makes up a perfect twist. They offer Chocolate, vanilla or both, and it is WELL WORTH the drive, or ride, out there to experience it for yourself.

Happy riding folks! Don’t forget your helmet.

Cooking Workshops

Click on the photo to enlarge or zoom.

Chia recipe gone terribly wrong…

This weekend has been one recipe disaster after another. First my almonds decided to be jerks and be too dusty to cooperate with the almond-butter making process… Then the chia thing, my goodness. At least the weekend was saved by the fact that I actually remembered, from 8 months ago, how to make gyoza.

I have been eating far too much very good food recently, and as a result, I have packed on some extra insulation for the winter season. It would be fine if I could afford to buy a whole new accommodating wardrobe, but currently I can’t do up my pants, or sit comfortably in my jeans… Alas, I am looking to the “superfoods” I promote every day through work to supply me with the nutrients I need, without all of the calories. I focused in on chia (Salvia Hispanica L.) this weekend, trying to come up with interesting ways of incorporating this antioxidant and Omega-3 rich seed into my new streamlined diet. The mucilaginous properties of these little seeds inspired me to create some sort of dessert quenching treat, like a pudding. I thought about using chocolate as a flavour enhancer, but reconsidered since I’m trying to go easy on the calories. So, I used spiced tea to flavour my experimental Chai Chia Pudding. I also just liked the way that it sounded…

Here’s what I did, which I highly discourage you from trying at home:

1 cup water, 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened), 6 Tbsp Chia seeds (whole), 1 Tbsp brown cane sugar (could use honey or agave syrup as well), 2 Chai tea bags.

Brew the tea in the liquid until nice and flavourful. Add sugar until dissolved and chill until room temperature. Add Chia seeds. stir and chill, stirring occasionally for a few hours. Blend in a food processor until evenly mixed up, and spoon into serving dishes. Let set in fridge about 2 hours. Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top to serve.

If you really like the consistency of snot, then this recipe is for you! Chia can hold 14 times its weight in water, which turns into a jelly surrounding the seed. It is quite strange and kind of intriguing. There is a myriad of health benefits to take into consideration, but they still remain a funny texture. When I showed my friend what I was doing, he said “well what do you expect, Zara? Look what you put in it!” I laughed out loud and scraped the bowl clean to spite him. It didn’t taste bad at all, but the texture is something that may be an acquired affection.

The saving grace of the weekend was the gyoza. I picked up ground turkey from Rowe Farms, and used the veg I had in the fridge (onion, red cabbage, enoki mushrooms, spinach, sweet potato, zucchini). It took forever to get the hang of it, but they turned out pretty good looking. The real test will come tomorrow when I fry them up for the fam for my sister’s welcome home dinner!

Memories of Eigensinn - Turkey Gyoza

Benefits of the Bubbly – Locally Brewed Kombucha

Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, is touted as enlivening, refreshing, and full of health benefits. This tonic is made from simple ingredients and lovingly brewed to offer better digestion, B vitamins, and immune boosting enzymes. Zoey Shamai of The Fairy’s Tonic, graciously invited me to visit her processing facility to learn more about the mysteries of Kombucha and tell me about how her small business is taking off.

The Fairy's Tonic Kombucha

While living at an ashram in New Mexico, Zoey was introduced to the “clean energy” and feelings of vitalityoffered by the bubbly treat. Everyone was doing it, and would share the bacterial cultures with one another freely. It didn’t take her long to get the hang of it, and upon returning to Toronto, advocated and facilitated the brewing of Kombucha at Live, a raw oriented restaurant where she worked. She insisted on having it on the menu as it was such a hit in the South West. With several brands commercially available in the United States, especially in California, she had a hunch that starting a business manufacturing small batches in Toronto would be worth her while. This seed has grown into quite a viable business and Zoey has chosen to roll with it full time, giving up her position at Live and teaching yoga. Despite some challenges in distribution, The Fairy’s Tonic is quickly being picked up across the city and across the country, making it more readily accessible for the masses. I was shown a photograph of an entire fridge display at a Whole Foods in BC devoted to the multiple flavours and sizes available. It’s huge for a small operation like The Fairy’s Tonic to be listed in bigger chain stores and reinforces the demand for the products. As more and more people are becoming aware of how Kombucha aids in digestion and offers antioxidants, B vitamins and probiotics, they are seeking out the good stuff. Other commercially available Kombuchas are often pasteurized, causing the drink to lose many of its “living” qualities that make it so great. The Fairy’s Tonic prepares its products with organic green or black teas, organic evaporated cane sugar, purified water, and a culture that continues to renew itself by making babies that can be used for the next batch. It is so simple, you wonder why there isn’t a gallon jar of it brewing in every kitchen. The downside is that it has to ferment for 15-21 days, and patience is paramount. When the baby separates from the mother, that’s when you know it’s ready to enjoy.

Continue reading

Taking the Mystery Out of My Miso

Norman Ayerst, Jerry Lewycky, and Suzanne Cardinal of Tradition Miso

Miso is a fermented food made primarily out of rice or barley, soy, water, unrefined sea salt and a lot of time. Tradition Miso is an artisanal miso made with passion, love and a long history behind it. Jerry and Suzanne have traveled extensively to perfect their skills and offer their customers a truly beautiful product.  The myriad health benefits of miso include being chock-a-block full of immune supporting digestive enzymes, a good source of vegetarian B12, and whole slew of protein, minerals and vitamins.

So how is it made? I have always been curious and when the chance to visit the processing plant came my way, I pounced! First, the Argentinian rice is steamed, then a culture direct from Japan is added to the rice and mixed thoroughly. After being kept warm with steady increases in temperature, it is mixed in with the certified organic, Ontario soy beans which have been soaked and cooked (see photo), and hand harvested, sun dried sea salt from Portugal is added. From there the concoction is aged in Cyprus wood barrels from a few months, for the Mellow Miso, up to three years.

The dedication to their craft is admirable, and Jerry and Suzanne are in it for the long haul. Having recently sourced a new space, the business is transitioning into a phase of considerable growth, while mindfully avoiding mass production, they have invested in new bottling equipment, recipes using chickpeas in place of soy, and are brainstorming new ways of marketing their products to share the benefits of miso with everyone! I especially love to sip on a simple miso soup when I do a cleanse or fast if I’m craving a salty alternative to herbal teas, master cleanse lemonades, or fresh pressed juices. Some of even the most extreme raw foodists encourage eating unpasteurized miso in all sorts of different ways to take advantage of the B12, digestive enzymes, and the comfort of a warm bowl of soup.

So, love the miso you get with your sushi at the cheap and cheerful restaurants littered throughout the city, but don’t want to consume all that MSG? Pick up a bottle of the Organic Brown Rice, 3 year aged Tradition Miso at fine stores across Ontario. If you would like me to suggest retailers that are carrying it in your area, don’t hesitate to ask me.

Instant Miso Soup

1 cup boiling water (let sit for one minute to cool from boiling)

1 Tablespoon Miso (or to taste)

Garnish with chopped green onions, diced silken tofu, or cultivated enoki mushrooms to add texture.

Add hot water to miso a little at a time, stirring until smooth. Garnish. NOTE: To retain all the beneficial properties of an unpasteurized miso, try not to boil or cook at high heat.