Archive for June, 2013

Seasonal Eats: Seed to Sausage wrap from LUNCH

Friday, June 21st, 2013

 

LUNCH’s wrap showcases carmelized onion and pepper sausage from regional producer Seed to Sausage.
Photo courtesy of Seed to Sausage

With the launch of its food truck at Slater and Lyon, LUNCH has been in the media over the past few months, with coverage in the Ottawa Citizen and blogs such as foodiePrints. But LUNCH is no newbie to Ottawa’s food scene. The first of its sandwich shops opened on Bank Street five years ago, and since then it has expanded to include locations on Metcalfe and Sparks, and a kitchen on Lebreton. A fourth location is slated to open at Promenade du Portage this summer.

“We do everything from scratch daily in our centralized kitchen, and my chef, Martin Prud’homme, and I collaborate on all the food creative,” says LUNCH owner Tim Van Dyke. “We use local when and where we can. Bread is delivered fresh every morning from Le Moulin de Provence. I always say we build the best product we can afford to market. With our daily corporate catering clients we’re currently feeding over a thousand people a day.”

One of the standbys on the LUNCH menu is its Seed to Sausage wrap, featuring handcrafted carmelized onion and pepper sausage from regional producer Seed to Sausage. In summer, the wrap also highlights fresh herbs from the Ottawa Farmers Market and local, seasonal vegetables supplied by Gaetan Cyr et Fils.

Here’s a step-by-step recipe for the wraps.

Ingredients

Yield: 6 wraps 

  • 1 pack (3) of Seed to Sausage caramelized onion and pepper sausages
  • 6 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 Spanish onion
  • 3 red peppers or small jar of roasted red peppers
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika or regular paprika
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 10-inch whole wheat or flour tortillas
  • LUNCH tomato relish (ingredients listed below)

 Method

Step 1: LUNCH tomato relish

  • 100 oz of canned tomatoes drained
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • 8 oz red wine vinegar
  • 8 oz red onion
  • 2 oz garlic
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 tbsp celery salt
  • 3 1/3 oz pureed chipotle peppers

Combine all ingredients and let simmer until tomatoes are soft. Purée in a food processor or with a hand mixer.

Step 2: Sausage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the unwrapped sausages on a baking pan in the oven for about 10 minutes. Finish cooking on the grill. Set aside.

Step 3: Roasted pepper mix

Roast the red peppers on the grill until blackened on all sides. Place the peppers in a bowl tightly sealed with plastic film and set aside for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, mince the garlic cloves and slice the onion in long strips. Remove the portobello mushroom stems and slice in long strips. Peel the skin off the peppers, remove the stem and insides, and cut in long strips.

Add the olive oil to a hot sauté pan and start cooking your mushrooms. Once they begin to brown, add garlic, peppers, onions, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the ingredients are soft. Set aside and let the juices drain.

Step 4: Wraps

Place 6 wraps on a flat surface so they don’t touch each other. Cut the sausages in thin slices. Divide the sausage into 6 equal portions and place each in the middle of a wrap. Do the same with the roasted pepper mix. Add relish to taste. Fold both sides of each wrap towards the inside and roll like a burrito. Place the wraps on a baking tray with the fold on the bottom and bake until tortillas are crispy.

What’s your favourite wrap or sandwich recipe?

Farming meets social media: How one local farmer crowdfunded her first season

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Rebecca Bloomfield of Almonte turned to crowdfunding to get her vegetable farm, Bloomfield Farm, up and running.
Photo: Craig Cardiff, courtesy of Bloomfield Field

 

Starting a farm not only takes work, it takes money. Exactly how much money depends on how big the farm will be, and what and how much food it will produce, among other considerations. When you factor in the cost of land, irrigation, tools, infrastructure such as barns and hoophouses, as well as any help you hire, you’re looking at a major financial commitment.

Even a small vegetable farm can cost $30,000 or more to start from scratch, says Almonte farmer Rebecca Bloomfield, who launched Bloomfield Farm, a quarter-acre organic vegetable farm, this spring. While she didn’t have to worry about buying land or a hoophouse (she was offered both by a local couple who grow their own food and believe in local, sustainable farming), she still needed money for tools, plants, seeds, and the promotional costs of selling her produce at the Almonte Farmers Market.

Trouble is, bank loan and government grant programs are usually more receptive to bigger farms. “I couldn’t find financial help for a small-scale farm like mine,” explains Bloomfield, a U.S. native who moved to Ontario a year ago. “Besides, many grant programs have long timelines for approval. I wanted to start in March and build on my experiences managing an organic farm training program and teaching farming to middle school students.”

Crowdfunding with Indiegogo

That’s when she turned to crowdfunding, an Internet-based strategy for raising small amounts of money from many people. Although she didn’t consider herself an expert in social media, Bloomfield recognized its power and felt she could harness it to her strong network of friends and family with connections to farming. “I thought if I could create a really interesting campaign, there was a good chance it would grow exponentially.”

To achieve her goal of $25,000, Bloomfield put together a five-minute video called “How to Start a Farm in 5 Minutes” and launched it on Indiegogo, a top crowdfunding platform. She kept her campaign interactive with thank-you notes to her supporters, regular updates on Facebook and her website, and offers of secret gifts for different funding levels.

The campaign took off, gaining enough traction to be featured in USA Today and the Ottawa Citizen, and bringing Bloomfield nearly $14,000. While the total fell short of her goal, it was more than enough to pay for a deer fence, as well as various tools, seeds and the services of an apprentice.

Would she do it again? Yes, but not for a while and only for a special project. “I want to create a viable, self-sustaining farm first. I might consider crowdfunding later, for a project like building an educational space to teach about food and farming.” In the shorter term, her plans to make the farm financially viable include starting a small CSA.

Crowdfunding tips for new farmers

For Bloomfield, crowdfunding was a positive experience she’d recommend to other farmers.  Here are her tips for running an effective campaign.

  1. Do plenty of research. What do your really want from your farm? From your crowdfunding campaign?
  2. Develop a good business plan. Hammer out all the details: What will you grow? Where will you sell it? What’s your income likely to be, factoring in things like crop losses, hiring help, and paying yourself a salary? Make sure whatever you’re embarking on is something you can live with over the long term.

The knowledge and commitment you’ll gain from research and planning will come across to people and make your campaign more meaningful.

  1. Create an engaging, personal campaign.  To attract people who aren’t connected to farming, develop something they can relate to and feel excited about. Bloomfield says her video worked because it gave people a stronger sense of the project and the person behind it than text and photos would have done. Many of her donors had no connection to farming but responded to her passion for the farm. “They supported it because they could see it was important to me,” she notes. “They felt confident their money would be put to good use.”

Do you think crowdfunding is a good way for small-scale farmers to self-finance? What other options should be available?

Affordable, healthy food at Ottawa’s Good Food Markets

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Photo: Ottawa Good Food Markets/Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centre’s Anti-Poverty Project.

Guest post by Denise Deby. Denise blogs at Green Living Ottawa and writes on social and environmental issues (http://denisedeby.com. Her articles have appeared in publications such as Alternatives Journal (A\J), This Magazine, Ottawa Citizen and rabble.ca

 

If you enjoy shopping at local food markets but don’t have one near you, or if cost is an issue, you might want to check out the Ottawa Good Food Markets.

The Good Food Markets are bringing healthy food to several Ottawa neighbourhoods this summer, offering fresh produce and staples in locations that don’t have farmers’ markets or food stores nearby. What’s more, the markets sell food at wholesale prices to keep it affordable.

Who’s behind the Good Food Markets?

Several organizations in Ottawa have come together to form the Poverty and Hunger Working Group. Coordinated by the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa, their aim is to improve food security – that is, to help ensure that people in Ottawa have access to healthy, affordable food.

Kaitrin Doll, the Coalition’s anti-poverty community engagement worker, says the Good Food Markets are a tangible way to do this. ‘‘We wanted to focus on implementable projects that will make a difference for our community,” she explains.

Partners include the Ottawa Good Food Box, the Social Planning Council of Ottawa, Just Food, the City of Ottawa’s Community and Social Services Department, Ottawa Public Health, community health and resource centres and others.

What’s available at the Good Food Markets?

The markets offer fruits and vegetables, grains such as rice or couscous, legumes, dried fruit and nuts. A local community health, resource centre or group organizes each market, and decides what to stock based on community interest. While the aim is to provide as much locally grown food as possible, keeping prices down and providing imported favourites are also priorities.

The Ottawa Good Food Box orders the produce from food wholesalers and local farmers who provide items for its Good Food Box program (a non-profit initiative that brings people together to buy fresh produce at wholesale prices). The Social Planning Council of Ottawa, which runs a community food pantry, sources dried goods.

The Good Food Markets are also a hub for music, entertainment and kids’ activities, and Ottawa Public Health community food advisors are on hand to provide food samples and recipes. Doll says that the markets aim to promote community engagement as well as healthy eating, and so far, it’s working. In a survey of 220 market-goers last year, most said they were very satisfied and wanted to see it more often, with many noting its nutritional and community benefits.

When and where are the markets?

Offered as a pilot project in four sites last year, the Good Food Markets are expanding to six locations in 2013:

  • Strathcona Heights: 731A Chapel St. at Wiggins Private (Sandy Hill Community Health Centre) June 22, July 20, August 31
  • Michele Heights: 2955 Michele Dr. off Carling Avenue (Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre), June 30
  • Rochester Heights 299 Rochester St. near Somerset West (Somerset West Community Health Centre) June 15 at Laroche Park in Mechanicsville; June 20 and July 20 in Rochester Heights
  • Centretown: Bronson and Laurier (Nanny Goat Hill Community Garden) July 13, August 10, September 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Overbrook: east of Vanier Parkway (Rideau Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre) June 15, July 6, August 24, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Parkwood Hills: 76 Inverness Ave. near Meadowlands (Nepean, Rideau and Osgoode Community Resource Centre and South Nepean Community Health Centre) June 22, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

See the Good Food Markets Facebook page for updates.

Who are the Good Food Markets for?

Everyone is welcome, to drop by, shop or volunteer. “We’re open to ideas and collaborations,” adds Doll.

Will you be checking out the Ottawa Good Food Markets?

The Food Read Round-up: Opposition mounting to GMOs and pesticides

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Rallies against Monsanto and GMOs took place in Canada and more than 50 other countries on May 25, 2013.
Photo: Alexis Baden-Mayer, Flickr

The Food Read Round-up curates media stories about food and farming in Ottawa, across Canada, and around the world.

The genetically modified chickens are coming home to roost. Opposition to foods that contain genes from different species (known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs*) and to the agro-chemical companies that make them seems to be building. Resistance reached new heights over the past few weeks with worldwide public protests and anti-GMO actions from international governments.

At the same time, more evidence has emerged linking the use of pesticides with the decline of honeybees and other food crop pollinators. Scientists, beekeepers and environmentalists are calling for restrictions on these substances and some government bodies have already responded.

The bottom line: awareness is growing that the food system is too important to entrust to agro-chemical corporations and their wares.

Monsanto takes heat from international governments and the public.  It’s been an eventful few weeks for Monsanto.  In the face of staunch opposition from most European countries, the multinational maker of GM seed and the herbicide Roundup has decided to walk away from its drive to expand GM crops in those markets. This means no more lobbying efforts or attempts to seek approvals for new plants. Instead, Monsanto says, it will focus on the handful of European markets where there is broader public acceptance of GM technology, such as Spain, Portugal and Ukraine.

In addition, as the European Union (EU) and the U.S. prepare for trade talks, it’s predicted that Europe could force GM crops off the table entirely – bad news not only for Monsanto, but for agro-chemical competitors like DuPont and Syngenta. European farmers, environmentalists and consumers worry that if trade restrictions are loosened, GM seeds and U.S.-grown GM crops would flood farmlands and grocery stores, jeopardizing human health and natural ecosystems.

But it’s not just Europeans who are turning their backs on GM food products. On May 31, Japan and South Korea suspended imports of some U.S. wheat after a rogue GM strain was found on an Oregon farm.

And while GM corn, soybeans and other crops dominate in North America, pressure for change has been building here, too. On May 25, rallies against Monsanto and its products were held across Canada and the U.S., as well as in 50 other countries. This past week, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law requiring GM foods be labeled. Although there’s a major catch – the requirement won’t take effect until at least four other states pass similar legislation – Connecticut lawmakers are hoping that the precedent they’ve set will persuade others to get on board.

Fourth insecticide added to list of risks to honeybees. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has added fipronil to its list of high-risk insect nerve agents, or neonicotinoids, believed to have contributed to the worldwide drop in populations of honeybees and other insects. Together, these insects pollinate three-quarters of the world’s food crops. In its assessment of fipronil, the EFSA noted that drifting pesticide dust has been found to pose a “high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize.”  A product of German chemical manufacturer BASF, fipronil is used on more than 100 crops in 70 countries.

The EFSA move came on the heels of an April 29 ban by the European Commission on three other neonicotinoids.

In North America, there are similar concerns about pesticides and pollinators.  Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has linked the pesticides with mass bee deaths during last year’s spring corn planting in Ontario and Québec; beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups have begun calling for restrictions on neonicotinoid use. In the U.S., the American Bird Conservancy wants a ban on the pesticides as seed treatments because of the potential to harm to birds and other wildlife. In March 2013, a group of beekeepers, conservationists, and supporters of sustainable farming sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing registration of neonicotinoids without sufficient study.

*Genetic modification is defined by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) as the alteration of “plants or animals at the molecular level by inserting genes or DNA segments from other organisms. Unlike conventional breeding and hybridization, the process of genetic engineering enables the direct transfer of genes between different species…that would not breed in nature.” 

What food stories have you been reading?