Category Archives: Product Reviews

It’s tea time for the Cowichan Valley

Read my article on Teafarm for Good Food Revolution!

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Finally Cocoa Camino Offers Baking Bars!

We can now breath a sigh of relief knowing that the chocolate used in our baking projects is easy on the conscience. Getting far too excited about this development, I went a bit overboard on a cake that I was asked to make for dinner at a friend’s house.

Whipped Chocolate Icing with Bittersweet Chocolate

Cocoa Camino has recently launched their Cuisine Camino line that includes three Baking Bars, Cocoa Powder, Turbinado and Brown Cane Sugars, and Semi- and Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. Perfect for the baker looking for a really high quality chocolate that’s also soy lecithin and GMO-free, organic, and fair trade certified. Look for it in your local stores, and if they haven’t picked it up yet, ask the grocery manager to start carrying it.

Using the mid-week marmalade from last week as glue to hold the simple chocolate cake together, I got to share it with friends. Dinner was a low-key version of the epic, rotating Sunday Night Dinners where we got to really enjoy one another’s company and the food. Alex made baked sweet potatoes and a black bean chili to slather on top, with sour cream, cheddar cheese, salsa and other garnishes to customize. Fennel cucumber salad too, and the ever-present platter of crudite necessary for any event that Alex and I are a part of.

Chocolate Marmalade Cake

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.

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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.

Muffin-Scones

So, what do you do when your muffins don’t really turn out like muffins? Call them muffin-scones, and pretend nothing is wrong with them whilst wrapping them prettily in wax paper for friends for their morning snack!

This recipe is moist and full of beta-carotene and EFAs, and with a bit of intuitive baking (yes there is such a thing), you’ll do fine! After all, nobody has any expectations for a muffin-scone anyway, and they’re delicious!

Sweet Potato, Date, Hemp, Almond Muffin-Scones

(Makes about 20-24)

Alex and the Muffin-Scones

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sweet potato flour (Weninger’s Beta-Pro)

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon (I think nutmeg and ginger would be good in here as well, but might taste a bit Xmas)

1/2 cup sugar (as unrefined as you desire, could use a less)

8 tbsp oil (canola probably best)

1 egg

1/2 cup almond milk (recipe below)

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup steamed and diced sweet potato

3/4 cup dates, chopped and no pits!

1/4 cup hemp seeds (Ruth’s Soft Hemp is best on the market, Canadian and Organic!)

1 cup almond pulp (what’s left over after you’ve made almond milk, recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sweet potato flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together oil and sugar, beat in the egg, almond milk and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together without over mixing. Fold in almond pulp, dates, sweet potato, and hemp seeds. Get creative with nuts, seeds, dried fruits, the world’s your oyster (although, I wouldn’t recommend oysters)! Spoon into greased muffin tins, or shape into scones on a cookie sheet if dry enough. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating them once along the way.

Almond Milk and Pulp

Almond Milk & Pulp

1 1/2 cup almonds, preferably unpasteurized, organic, raw varieties (ask questions, hard to find!)

2 1/2 cups purified water

Blend in a blender on high speed until really smooth. Place several layers of cheesecloth in a sieve over a tall bowl and pour mixture over. After most of the liquid has passed through, collect the pulp in the cheesecloth and give it a really good squeeze, twisting the cheesecloth at the top to extract every last drop. Sweet sweet milk, and oh so fine pulp, useful for so many things! You can add a couple of dates to the mix too before blending if you’d like it a bit sweeter, or vanilla if you’re into that kind of thing.

May 3, 2009 – Slow Food Niagara Tour

This little piggy didn't make it.

This little piggy didn't make it.

A group of Slow Food Canada convivia leaders, a couple of paying foodies, and I got on a yellow school bus outside of George Brown College…
We first visited Henry of Pelham, greeted at the vineyard with bubbly, a toast, a marvelous lunch including several prosciuttos; crostini topped with smoked trout, salsify, and creme fraiche (I think); smoked white fish; Laily and Henry of Pelham wines; salad grown by Vivek; and beautiful breads filled with seeds and nuts. On our brief walking tour to the weather station, we sipped ice wine and learned about integrated pest management, Sustainable Winemakers Ontario, and the history of Henry of Pelham estates.

Next stop was the Upper Canada Cheese Co. where we sampled a soft cheese and an oka-like harder cheese, grape juices, and red pepper jelly. We all left with a lovely gift bag and got to look through the new “Niagara Cooks” cookbook written by Lynn Ogryzlo.

Back on the bus and over to Rosewood Estates, where we heard from Karen Levine (sp?) about bees, pollination, and the production and a bit of the history of mead. We also had the pleasure of hearing from Debbie Hipple, a local Niagara soft fruit grower. She explained to us some of the challenges her family faces in our current food system, as well as her dependence on the bees to pollinate her livelihood. After sampling the 2006 Mon Cherie sour cherry mead, the 2007 Mead Royale, and the oh so sweet 2006 Grand Reserve Ambrosia wine mead, the group barely wanted to leave, and leisurely made it’s way to the bus.

A long drive, and several detours later, the big yellow school bus drove up to the Ancaster Old Mill. To greet us there were two 6 week old Tamworth Piglets scrapping in a big open cage in the driveway. I couldn’t help but pick one up and have a little snuggle before walking up the grand stone staircase by the waterfall to sip on yet another glass of wine and watch the two perfectly trussed Tamworth pigs roasting over applewood smoke on a spit.

Jeff Crump welcomed us and shared amusing anecdotes of his experience of Slow Food events and his journey of learning how to appreciate small quantities of the highest quality food. Mara introduced us to the Tamworth pig farmers’ father who told us the story of how they started raising the Tamworth breed, but, unfortunately, his son had chores to finish at the farm and couldn’t be there to tell us himself. Mara made the argument that in order to save the rare breeds of all animals, especially pigs, the most effective strategy is to eat them, to create demand, and to enjoy!

Then Carlo Petrini gave us a speech about the importance of the Ark of Taste and how we all need to support our farmers and continue to appreciate these breeds and maintain biodiversity. Short and sweet, then we dug in family style!

We started with a creamy, white onion soup with (Ark of Taste) red fife tortelloni, stinging nettles and morels. The diners around my table all agreed that we had to heed the advice of Chef Crump and refrain from wanting mass quantities, second and thirds of this fine soup, and to appreciate it’s complexities, ingredients, and essence. “Do it yourself” butter brioche bruschetta with ricotta, wild ramps, maitake mushrooms, and baby arugula generated much conversation about styles of serving food and the flavours in all of the components of the dish on a deeper level. La piece de la resistance, the moment we had all been waiting for, the TAMWORTH PIGS! Applewood spit roasted with green garlic gravy, jerusalem artichoke puree with crispy apples and onions, and topped off with the season’s first asparagus with marjoram from Simcoe. The velvety smoothness of the puree, bright spring green of the asparagus and puddles of gravy swimming around my plate, made this almost vegetarian eat pork for the first time in 18 years. The roast pig was tender, juicy, full of flavour, and practically perfect. I couldn’t keep in my excitement and took our server’s arm as he lead me in to the spotlessly clean kitchen to say my thanks to the chefs. They were all pretty proud of themselves for inspiring a veggie conversion. The bar is pretty high, though, it may be another 18 years before I do it again.

It didn’t end there, the beauty of the food kept shining on! Apple rhubarb strudel with cider caramel, topped off with soft serve processed Triple Maple Crunch ice cream. I’m not sure how to put that one into words.

Hugs and kisses exchanged with the chefs. Chris MacDonald an old family friend, Jonathan Gushue with whom I used to walk in rows of salsify on the farm in Blair, and Sinclair Philip making eyes at me across the table. A perfectly lovely day. What a pleasure to be transported into a different universe of food. One which appreciates the beauty and magnificence of eating, acknowledges the politics, works towards systemic change, but doesn’t lose sight of the magic that food can conjure between people and build a community.

We took our Apple Cider Muffins wrapped in gold with us on the bus again and continued our conversations on life, love, loss, and gastronomy all the way to Hogtown.