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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why buy locally?

Buying food, goods or services produced, grown, or raised as close to your home as possible helps promote sustainability (an outcome which considers both humans and the environment at present and in years to come).
With industrialization, our food is being grown and processed in fewer locations and must travel further from producer to our homes. Of course, large agriculture corporations are reaping the economic benefits of this method of mass production. Although mass production may have some advantages – I have yet to see the so called proclamation to end world hunger being part of this industrialization process. Rather, this method of mass production is causing harm to the environment, consumers and rural communities, as well contributing to the world of convenience and gluttony.

For instance, a tremendous amount of fossil fuel is used to transport foods such long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change, acid rain, and air pollution.

Food processors also use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging to keep food fresh (or at least looking fresh) for a longer period of time. This packaging eventually becomes waste that is difficult or impossible, to reuse or recycle. In addition, the large industrial farms which produce these foods are often major sources of air and water pollution.

When it comes to health, buying food from local farms means getting food when it’s at its prime and has all its nutrients (not lost through days or weeks of travel on trucks). Food from afar tends to be genetically modified so that they appear fresher (brighter shine or color), longer shelf life, or can last in different temperatures. Many of the preservatives or the pesticides, growth hormones and chemical fertilizers large industrial farmers use to grow food and make it last longer are potentially hazardous to our health and the environment. Many cancers are being attributed to chemicals in foods which are bioaccummulating in your bodies.

Local foods from small farms usually undergo minimal processing, are produced in relatively small quantities, and are distributed in close proximity of the farm itself. Food produced on industrial farms is distributed throughout the world, creating the potential for disease-carrying food from a single factory farm to spread rapidly throughout the entire country (examples, include E-coli). From an epidemiological point of view tracking the origin of diseases can be difficult when all packaged meats are grouped together from thousands of different animals and distributed world-wide – and thus preventing or controlling disease outbreaks such as mad cow and E-coli is difficult (sorry that is the Risk Management in me).

Overall, by supporting our local farms and local stores we can help farmers keep their lands, preserve land which would ultimately be subject to urban sprawl, as well as prevent large organizations from economically pillaging small communities. Health wise these foods will be fresher, less contaminated with chemicals, contain more nutrients & vitamins needed to prevent disease and promote wellness.

We are lucky here in Ottawa, as this city offers a vast amount of areas to buy great local foods from the Byward Market, the Farmers market at Landsdown, the Parkdale Market, Westboro, Glebe as well as all the rural areas. Furthermore, there are an abundance of independent stores selling local goods and services. Whatever neighborhood you live in, rather than for the convenient one stop shopping at large corporate stores (Superstore, Walmart…), look around and see what stores offer local goods and services and help support them and keep them in business. Some complain about the prices, and yes this can be a deterrent to many, however it is about the supply and demand and unless we begin to support your local community costs will never go down and more and more independent stores will go under.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Spicy Turkey Chili

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 x red pepper, diced medium
1 x yellow pepper, diced medium
2 tsp chili powder
canned Chipotle chili to taste chopped finely approximately 2 tsps
2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp cinnamon
2 x cans, (3 cups) chopped tomatoes
2 x black beans, drained and rinsed for approximately 3 cups
1 cup canned corn drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup corn tortillas

In a large skillet set over medium high heat add the oil. Allow the oil heat for approximately 1 minute. Add the white onion, garlic and red onion, add turkey, ½ the red and yellow peppers and all of the spices. Cook until turkey is no longer pink approximately 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil. Once boil is reached, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in beans, corn and the rest of the peppers. Allow to cook for 15 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with cheese and tortillas.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This is a great fall recipe for lunch or dinner and goes great with a crusty piece of french bread. Although the word curry sounds potent those who have tried similar soups will know it is a nice blend without the pugent curry taste.

1 T reduced-fat butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 cups low sodium, reduced-fat chicken broth
1/2 cup apple juice
4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 cup peeled, chopped pears
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup low fat sour cream
fresh parsley for garnish

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add onions and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle curry powder over onions and cook 1 more minute. Add broth, apple juice, squash, and pears. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a medium-low. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender.

Transfer soup to a blender or food processor. Pulse on and off until mixture is pureed. Return to pot. Add salt.

Serve with spoonful of sour cream and parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Blueberry-Raisin Bran Muffins

I recently posted a bran muffin recipe however I had bran flakes and buttermilk to use up before its time. So I decided to try this recipe and was pleased with the flavour.

2 cups bran flakes cereal
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sultran or golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375 F and grease/spray a 12-cup muffin tin.
Mix cereal with sugar, flour, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk oil, egg and buttermilk. Add buttermilk mixture to cereal mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in blueberries and spoon into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spaghetti & Hike for a Cure

This weekend marked the 1st annual Hike for a Cure, an event created by my husband to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. At 7am in front of the Parliament myself and three others (husband, brother in law and friend) started our 100km hike through the Trans-Canada trails to Wakefield and back - over the course of 2 days. Thanks to my husband's idea and dedication in putting the event together and everyone's support (family, friends, co-workers) we reached far beyond our goal in raising money for Canadian Cancer Research, and are "a step closer in the fight against cancer."

Before we began our trek it was essential that I load up on energy, so I induluged in my mother-in-law's spaghetti sauce, served with freshly grated parmesan, warm baked whole wheat bread and a glass of wine (recommend a hearty shiraz cabernet or a merlot).

1 3/4 pounds extra lean ground beef
1 cup chopped chopped onions
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 1/2oz) can beef broth
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp salt
1 large bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh pasley
1 can or chopped fresh mushrooms

1. Cook meat, onions, celery and garlic in a large saucepan over med-high until browned. Drain mixture. Return meat to saucepan stir in tomatoes and next 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 35min. Stir in parsley cook 5 min. Dischard bay leaf.

Makes 8 (3/4 cup) servings

220 cal, 11.4g carbs, 3g fiber, 22.8g protein, 9g fat

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Goats do Roam

For the past 2 years I have been trying to keep a decent wine cellar. The past months have certainly put a dent into not only quantity but quality of my wine selection. With fall and winter coming I am anticipating many hearty dishes like soups, stews, pastas & roasts that would be complimented by the perfect pairing wine.

A new addition to the cellar is a wine I have tasted before and immediately enjoyed the both the aroma and taste.

This South African shiraz has a vibrant red brick color with plum fruit, olive, licorice, and dried herb aromas. To the palate it offers a medium to full bodied, warm and peppery taste that offers a spicy and smooth finish. It goes perfectly with light meat dishes, and my favorite - spicy foods.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blueberry Bran Muffins

The recipe is out of the Looney Spoons Crazy Plates recipe book. They make a great breakfast or afternoon snack with tea. I made a bunch of regular sized muffins, but also a bunch of mini muffins. The peaches replace nearly all the oil, the bran adds tons fiber and the blueberries offer rich antioxidants, making them a low fat and healthy snack.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 can (140z) peaches in light syrup, undrained
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup fat free egg subsitute or 2 whole eggs
3 T vegetable oil
4 cups bran flakes cereal
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh of frozen) or use cranberries.

Preheat oven at 375 C, spray muffins tins with non stick spray. In medium bowl combine flour, bakingn soda, cinnamon, salt.

Drain peaches and reserve 1/3 cup of the syrup. Pour peaches and reserved syrup into a blender and puree until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together pureed peaches, brown sugar, egg substitute and vegetable oil. Add Bran Flakes and mix well. Add flour mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix. Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20min (less if using mini muffin pans), or until toothpick comes out of center clean.

Makes 12 regular muffins.

Tips on perfect muffins:

1. When mixing muffins do not overmix, just mix until the dry ingredients are wet and mixture is combined...NOT until lump free. Overmixing causes the gluten in the flour to over develop, making muffins dry and hard.

2. You can prepare the wet and dry ingredients the night before and store in the fridge. In the morning add the mixtures together and bake for fresh muffins.

3. Do not overfill muffin tin or they will not bake evenly - I use a cookie scooper to ensure they are all even.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough & Pizza Sauce

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water
1 tsp dry active yeast
4 tsp honey
2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
add herbs if desired (oregano, basil, chili flakes)

Place the yeast and honey in a large mixing bowl and pour the heated water over the mixture, stirring until well blended. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes until foamy. Add the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour and salt and stir with a fork until a coarse dough forms

Continue to mix by hand until a dough ball forms and all the flour is well blended. Cover the bowl and place it in a sink with about 4 inches of hot water in the bottom. The heat from the warm water will help the dough rise. The dough will double in size in about 40 minutes.

Punch it a few times with your fingers and let it rise another 30 minutes. Remove from the bowl and cut the ball into four equal pieces or 2 pieces. Can refridgerate unused dough for a day or two.

Pizza Sauce

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup minced onions
1 clove garlic minced
2 cups tomatoe sauce
1 can (5oz) tomatoe paste
2 T dried oregano
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Add salt, pepper, chili flakes, italian seasoning as desired to kick it up a bit. Cook onions and garlic in saucepan for 3min until softened. Add the rest of the ingredient and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 min. Cool before using. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fair Trade Coffee

It is imperative that I start my day off with a cup of coffee and I am not alone, as over 50% of Canadians drink coffee on a daily basis whether it is at home or from a coffee shop. In fact Canadians consume more than 40 million cups of coffee a day. Coffee’s allure comes from its aromatic character, boastful flavor and offers a caffeine jolt that can shake the cobwebs out of your head.

"What is the first thing you think of when you think of coffee?"

I decided to randomly ask the first ten people I ran into today that exact question. The typical themes/answers I received were Tim Hortons, Starbucks, morning and cookie/donuts. As expected no one mentioned anything about poverty or sustainable development. What does poverty and sustainable development have to do with coffee?

Most, if not all, Canadian coffee comes from developing countries including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua … Unfortunately, large corporations like STARBUCKS © obtain coffee from these developing countries in a manner which unfairly exploits the poor people of these regions, by paying them low prices for their coffee and then selling it at a higher price. The consequences are that coffee farmers are becoming more impoverished, and losing their lands, all the while large corporation (Starbuck’s) are reaping the economic benefits.

In order to ensure the producers in the developing countries receive fair price for the goods we consume some organizations have dedicated their efforts to push for more fair trade practices. Fair trade is a social movement which promotes standards for international labor, environmentalism and social policy in areas related to production of fair trade goods. Fair trade focuses on exports from developing countries to developed countries. The intent of fair trade practices is to help the producers and workers in these developing countries to remain independent and achieve economic sustainability in the international trade market.

Under fair trade practices less money goes to the “middleman” and more goes to the coffee grower. They (coffee growers) receive about 28 cents for every dollar spent by the coffee-consuming public, compared to about 11 cents per dollar under non-fair trade practices. When the producer is paid a fair price which covers the cost of production, it also enables them to produce the beans in a socially just (reduced exploitation of cheap women and child labor) and environmentally sound manner.

However, there needs to be a demand for “fair-trade” coffee in order for countries to be granted fair trade status. Currently, Nicaragua is in what is called a “coffee crisis” because it has been deemed that there is no demand for it – however, you have corporations like Starbucks that are not buying from fair trade importers and not brewing fair trade coffee but are getting richer and richer while Nicaraguan’s are getting poorer and poorer, losing their lands and dying from starvation.

I target Starbucks because they are the largest coffee chain in the world and only a measly 0.1% to 1% of all their purchases represent Fair Trade coffee. There is a campaign to push Starbucks to brew fair trade coffee and to highlight it at least once per week as the coffee of the day. In order to help this campaign you can send a free fax from the Global Exchange website:

You can also help developing countries by buying fair trade products (look for the label) and when buying from a coffee chain ask for fair trade brew. Locally, Bridgehead & Ten thousand villages among others are supporters of Fair Trade practices.

So next time you sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee ask yourself the question:

“What does my coffee make me think of?”

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

I was looking for a casual dessert to make for the cottage, and in the 2006 summer issue of Food & Drink I came across this recipe that stated "a weekend at the cottage wouldn't be the same without a pan of brownies. These decadent treats can be served simply with a dusting of icing sugar or topped with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with berry or chocolate sauce for a more elaborate dessert. "

Well that couldn't have made my search any easier, so although I am not a brownie fan I new my guests were. However, after whipping up a batch of these I quickly changed my tune about brownies.

Homemade brownies with high quality chocolate (using chocolate with with cocoa liquor, cocoa mass or unsweetened chocolate listed first in the ingredients list makes a huge difference in taste.

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (50 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 oz (175 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1½ cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla essence
4 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) chopped toasted pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Line a 13 x 9-inch (3-L) metal baking pan with foil, allowing excess to overhang edges. Lightly grease foil.

3. Combine flour, cocoa and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Melt butter and chocolate in a deep saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until well blended. Stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula just until blended. Stir in pecans, if using. Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter into corners.

5. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a just a few moist crumbs cling to tester inserted in the centre. Do not over-bake. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Remove foil from pan and transfer to cutting board. Serve immediately or wrap completely in foil and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. (To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap, then in foil or airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months.)

Cut into squares.

Makes 16 to 24 brownies