Archive for December, 2013

2013 yielded bumper crop for Hidden Harvest and Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Community Harvest grows food for Ottawa’s needy.
Photo by Jason Gray

Fresh, nutritious food is often seen as a luxury only the rich can afford.

In 2013, two food security organizations – Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program —  turned that assumption on its head by producing, gathering and donating well over 100,000 pounds of fresh local fruit, vegetables and nuts to those in need.

Edible fruit and nut trees

Hidden Harvest was created less than two years ago to provide Ottawa residents with the knowledge, organizational support and legal means to access edible fruit and nut trees on public and private property. It connects tree owners with volunteer harvesters and with Ottawa Food Bank agencies that can make good use of the food, which includes apples, cherries, elderberries, plums, black walnuts, buttternuts and more. Community agencies, tree owners and volunteers all share in the harvest.

According to the organization’s results for 2013, volunteers harvested about 5,984 lbs of fruit and nuts from 142 trees and the food was likely shared among more than 7,000 people. Of the total harvest, more than 2,000 lbs were donated. This represents a huge increase over the 467 lbs harvested in 2012, of which 152 lbs were donated.

As Hidden Harvest co-founders Jay Garlough and Katrina Siks point out, the bounty of 2013 came from just 142 trees. As more of Ottawa’s 17,000 mapped, food-bearing trees become available for harvesting, how many more people could benefit?

Growing food for Ottawa’s hungry  

This past year, the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program grew, gleaned and gathered donations of 104,710 pounds of fresh local fruit and vegetables for those in need. This yield is an 87% increase over 2012, and well beyond the program’s original goal of $75,000 for this year, says program coordinator Jason Gray.

Community Harvest obtains food by:

  • growing its own organic crops on the Black Family Farm in Stittsville
  • gleaning unpicked produce that would be thrown away otherwise or ploughed back into the soil at the end of the season
  • gathering donations from partner farms, urban gardeners and vendors at the Ottawa Farmers Market.

If the program’s past three seasons are any indication, Jason says, the program will keep on growing. “Every year, we get more positive feedback from the Ottawa Food Bank’s member agencies, and from Community Harvest volunteers, member agencies, and farmers.”

More land, bigger yields, added volunteers

Here are more program highlights from 2013.

  • The amount of land available for Community Harvest’s growing project at Black Family Farm expanded to 4 acres from 2.5, due in part to the success of the project in 2012.
  • Total fresh produce yield rose from 56,130 lbs in 2012 to 104,710 lbs. The yield from the growing project at the Black Farm alone jumped from 15,017 lbs last year to 53,561 lbs this year.
  • The total number of crops (grown and collected) increased from 7 last year to 14 this year. In addition to staples such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, winter squash and zucchini, new crops included cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peppers, herbs, and small plantings of Brussels sprouts, celery and tomatillos.
  • The number of crop varieties also increased (e.g., 7 types of potato). These varieties reached maturity at different times, giving Ottawa Food Bank member agencies a more diverse and even supply of fruits and vegetables.
  • 4 new farms joined the list of produce donors, bringing to 18 the number of partner farms. One of these, Shouldice Berry Farm, donated 2,781 lbs of day-old strawberries.
  • 489 volunteers worked 1,544 hours, up from 285 people who worked 1,219 hours in 2012. Corporate teams and school and community groups also participated. Volunteers help with most aspects of planting and harvesting the crops at Black Family Farm,  such as preparing beds, weeding, installing row covers and netting, setting up irrigation, storing equipment, loading supplies, and washing and boxing harvested produce.

Sign up to volunteer in 2014

Interested in helping either Hidden Harvest Ottawa or Community Harvest in 2014?

For Hidden Harvest, sign up a fruit or nut tree on your property or register as a volunteer harvester.

For Community Harvest, contact Jason to add your name to the volunteer list. As soon as farm work starts in the spring, you’ll start receiving notices about upcoming opportunities.

Read more about Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Community Harvest program here, here and here.

Do we need to do more to get fresh, local produce to people in need? What approaches do you think would work best in your neighbourhood?

Seasonal Eats: Red Apron’s Holiday Breakfast Cranberry Chocolate Chip Loaf

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Red Apron makes its own mix for this holiday loaf.
Photo: Bonnie Findlley www.findleyfoto.com

Need a quick-and-easy recipe for festive snacks and breakfasts? Look no further than this yummy, no-fuss loaf from Red Apron, featuring seasonal cranberries.

To make the loaf, co-owner Jennifer Heagle says Red Apron uses organic spelt flour from CIPM farm near Madoc. “Patricia Hastings grows heirloom and organic grains that are milled locally and sold in a selection of retail stores in Ottawa including the Natural Food Pantry,” Jennifer says. “We source the dried cranberries from Upper Canada Cranberries near Osgoode and use fair trade Cocoa Camino dark chocolate chips.”

Ingredients

¾ cup organic spelt flour

1½ cups organic all purpose flour

¾ cups organic cane sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp dried orange peel or 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel

½ cup organic fair trade chocolate chips

¾ cup dried cranberries

3 eggs

1 cup canola oil or melted butter

¾ cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs well and add milk and oil or butter. In a separate bowl, combine the dried ingredients.

Stir wet and dry ingredients together until combined. Do not over-mix. Grease two loaf pans and divide batter between them.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

 

Goodbye, frozen pizza: These local businesses deliver healthy, sustainable food to your door

Friday, December 20th, 2013

 


Photo courtesy of Eating Well Ottawa

Most of us are so busy these days that shopping for and preparing healthy food often gets caught in the crunch. Big food corporations make lots of money on our appetite for convenience, catering to it with everything from frozen pizza to meal replacement shakes to soups you can sip while driving.

But food doesn’t have to be hyper-processed to be convenient. As demand ramps up for local and organic foods, Ottawa chefs and entrepreneurs are finding ways to provide the convenience people want without compromising on food quality, nutrition or environmental sustainability.

Several services in Ottawa allow you to order healthy, sustainably produced food online and have it delivered to your door. Depending on the service, you can get organic groceries, fully prepared gourmet meals, or boxes of recipes and ingredients to make chef-designed dinners.

The newest of these services is Eating Well Ottawa, an organic grocery business that started taking online orders last month.

Eating Well Ottawa

With the service, you sign up for a box of fresh, certified organic fruit and vegetables to be delivered to your home or office each week. Harvest and Office boxes are available year-round, and during the growing season there’s a Local box for customers who want produce from local and regional farms. Depending on the size and type of box selected, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $55.

The company’s emphasis on organic and local reflects its commitment to sourcing foods in an ethical, eco-friendly way, says president Brendan Gorman. “We believe in local, regional and Canada first, and we support fair trade practices and environmental responsibility.”

Another important goal is to show that eating well can be simple and affordable, Brendan adds. “Grocery stores mark up organic foods by at least 40%. We’ve chosen to cut back on the mark-up so that good, sustainable food can become a more mainstream choice.”

Come mid-January, Eating Well Ottawa plans to launch new options such as a “detox” box with juices and other products to get people healthy again after holiday excess. In addition, customers will be able to add to their regular orders with items from organic/natural food businesses in the region including Mountain Path, Signature Foods  and Natural Gourmet.

In the longer term, Brendan says he hopes to offer meat and dairy products as well.

Ottawa Organics and Bryson Farms

At least two other businesses are already on Ottawa’s organic food home delivery scene. Ottawa Organics and Natural Foods works along the same lines as Eating Well Ottawa.  Bryson Farms is a certified organic CSA near Shawville, Québec, that delivers its own fresh heirloom produce, its own line of flash-frozen vegetables and prepared foods, and organic beef.

Chefx

Chefx is a new service geared to people who enjoy cooking but don’t have the time for meal planning or grocery shopping. Sign up and receive everything you need to prepare a gourmet dinner in about 45 minutes: a chef-designed recipe, step-by-step instructions, and fresh, portioned ingredients (local and seasonal whenever possible). Prices for weekly boxes with supplies for two dinners range from $59 for two people, to $139 for six.

Featured chefs include Chris Deraiche (Wellington Gastropub), 2013 Gold Medal Plates winner Marysol Foucault (Edgar), Marc Lepine (Atelier), Patricia Larkin (Black Cat Bistro), Matthew Shepheard (Mariposa Farm), among others.

Red Apron

Heading into its eighth year in Ottawa, Red Apron prepares fresh, eco-friendly gourmet meals for pick-up or home delivery.  Menus  highlight seasonal ingredients from regional producers and dinners can be ordered by the day or the week.

For the holidays, you can pre-order a whole, herb-roasted turkey – (locally sourced, antibiotic- and hormone-free) with all the trimmings, as well as other seasonal dishes such as tourtière, or bison, sweet potato and cranberry pie.

For more info on Red Apron, read my 2012 post.

Scratch Kitchen

Scratch Kitchen cooks, freezes and delivers healthy gourmet meals. Food is prepared in small batches in a commercial, health-inspected kitchen, using locally sourced and organic ingredients when possible. All meals are low in sodium and free of additives and preservatives. Order online from menus that include vegan dishes, soups, salads, pastas, ragouts and curries.

Read about Scratch Kitchen’s 2014 menu sourcing here.

What would make it easier and faster for you to prepare healthy meals?

The gift of food: Stocking stuffers for locavores

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

(Photo: zaimoku_woodpile via Flickr
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Good food is a welcome gift, no matter what the celebration. And with the growing number of Ottawa-area food artisans, it’s getting easier to shop for the locavores on your list.

Here’s my list of ideal stocking stuffers: compact and non-perishable, with most prices ranging from $3.50 to about $20. I’ve based the list on my visit to this year’s Locavore Artisan Food Fair, a showcase of products from 20 of Ottawa’s most creative food-makers.

These artisans produce in small batches and use local ingredients when possible. Many don’t have their own retail space, so plan to contact them online, or visit them at the Ottawa Farmers’ Christmas Market or Flavours of Ottawa Holiday Food Markets. I’ve indicated where products are available at local restaurants and stores.

Artisan brownies and dulce de leche from Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina’s Box of Goodness handcrafts rich artisan brownies in flavours such as Chocolate Fudge, Dulce de Leche, Caramel Sea Salt, and Cinnamon Pecan Blondie. The treats come individually packaged or in boxes of 6 or more. There’s also a Boozy Brownies Collection featuring Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto & Ginger and Grand Marnier varieties.

Another option is Carolina’s dulce de leche, a simple mixture of milk and sugar that’s cooked until it becomes thick, creamy and full of complex flavours. It can be served with fruit, toast, pancakes and ice cream – or eaten straight from the jar.

Chocolate bars and Mayan drinking chocolate from Hummingbird Chocolate

Almonte-based Hummingbird Chocolate handcrafts dark, organic chocolate from single-origin, ethically traded Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans, using 19th century methods that bring out the beans’ unique flavours. In addition to bar chocolate, Hummingbird has come out with Mayan drinking chocolate for the holidays, essentially a cake of chocolate on a stick that you melt in heated milk for a rich, spicy drink. You can find Hummingbird products at a restaurants and food stores across Ottawa. (For more information about Hummingbird Chocolate, read my February 2013 post

Chocolate truffles from koko chocolates

koko makes gourmet chocolate truffles by hand, using premium Belgian chocolate, and all-natural, gluten-free ingredients. Choose from traditional truffle flavours or more adventurous ones like margarita and spicy Thai chili.

Fairly traded coffee from The Barking Barista

These fairly traded, Brazilian, Indonesian, Ethiopian and Colombian coffee beans are craft-roasted by an Ottawa husband and wife team. For every pound of coffee you buy, $1 goes to help dogs in need. The owners are available at barkingbarista@yahoo.com or in person at the Ottawa Canine School, and will ship to you for an added cost.

Gourmet jams from Michaelsdolce

Confectioner Michael Sunderland makes all-natural gourmet jams, using local produce when and where possible. Michaelsdolce jams include: Blueberry & Lavender, Ginger Citrus marmalade; Fig Blood Orange, Papaya & Pink Grapefruit, Plum & Star Anise, and many others. Find them at Isobel’s Cupcakes and Cookies or contact info@michaelsdolce.com for more info.

Oil and balsamic vinegar from The Unrefined Olive

The Unrefined Olive is Ottawa’s only oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar. It sells 50 fresh premium olive oils from around the world as well as balsamic vinegars and flavour-infused oils.  All balsamic vinegars come from Modena Italy, are aged for a minimum of 12 years, and are available in flavours such as fig, cranberry pear, pomegranate and dark chocolate. Flavour-fused olive oils include mushroom sage, Tuscan herb, basil, garlic, and hot chili. Drop by the tasting bar at 151 A Second Avenue in the Glebe or call 613-231-3133.

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner, The Unrefined Olive
(Photo: V. Ward)

Preserves from Top Shelf Preserves

Chef Sara Pishva makes her small batch pickles and preserves from locally sourced produce. Top Shelf wares include: spicy pickled garlic scapes, pickled turnips, red pepper jelly, molasses baked beans, brandied plums, spiced pears in syrup, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, pickled beets, and more.

Smoked seasonings from The Salty Don

The Salty Don makes its own line of natural smoked salts, as well as pepper blends, unique items such as smoked quinoa and smoked risotto, and spa products. Salt and pepper flavours include Bison Smoked, Canadian Curry, Garlic Smoked, Peppered Provence, Lemon Pepper, and Saffron Pepper Rub, to name a few. You’ll find Salty Don products at Grace in the Kitchen and other locations.

Specialty tea from Kimicha

Kimicha owner and tea sommelier Kimiko Uriu sources the best-tasting black, white, green, herbal and fruit teas from Southeast Asia; two varieties she’s chosen have won awards at the North American Tea Championships.  In addition to packages of loose tea, Kimicha sells sampler sets and tea accessories. Order online or call 613-612-5464.

Sweet treats from Pascale’s Ice Cream

Pascale’s seasonal, all-natural ice creams are renowned in Ottawa.  For the holiday season, she’s also offering less perishable treats: try her salted caramel or sour cherries in balsamic caramel, but order soon because they go fast. Get in touch at pascale@pascalesicecream.com or call 613-322-4256.

What’s the best food gift you’ve received?

 

Crowdsourcing the menu: Help Scratch Kitchen choose new dishes for 2014

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Crowdsourcing – using social media and other online services to ask the public for ideas or funding – is changing the way businesses, non-profits and individuals reach their goals. This is certainly true of food production, where crowdsourcing is being used for everything from starting farms to developing new ice cream flavours.

Ottawa’s Scratch Kitchen is putting its own stamp on the technique. To fill six spots on its 2014 winter menu, the family-owned meal -preparation-and-delivery business is asking Ottawans to contribute favourite comfort food recipes inspired by winter and cold weather. Winners will get bragging rights and a promotional code for a Scratch Kitchen order.

Of the suggestions sent in so far, Scratch Kitchen chef Sean Patrick Murphy is especially enthusiastic about a recipe for pumpkin and sweet potato soup from Andrea Woolner. Murphy adapted the recipe slightly and prepares it with vegetables from Acorn Creek Garden Farm and garlic he harvested from his own garden. “It’s not only perfect for the holiday, the soup is a perfect pick for our 2014 menu,” he says.  The recipe for it is included at the end of this post.

About Scratch Kitchen

Scratch Kitchen cooks, freezes and delivers healthy foods directly to customers. “We cook meals in small batches in a commercial, health-inspected kitchen, using locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible,” Murphy says. “We don’t put in preservatives or additives, and we go easy on the salt.”

 

Chef Sean Patrick Murphy

Chef Murphy is a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Paris Cooking School and the Culinary Institute of America, and has worked in some of Canada’s most prestigious restaurants, including Truffles, Scaramouche, and Café Henry Burger.

December 20 deadline

To have your recipe considered for Scratch Kitchen’s 2014 menu, send it to social@scratchkitchen.com. The deadline is December 20, 2013.

Andrea’s World Famous Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

Makes 2 servings

Step 1:  Make Quick Vegetable Stock

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Makes about 3–4 cups (750ml–1 litre)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium size onions

2 celery sticks with leaves, chopped

4 cups (1 litre) water

Place ingredients in a medium stock pot and bring to a simmer, partially cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, and use as needed.

Step 2:  Make Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

1.5 tsp olive oil

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 cup onion

2.5 cups vegetable stock

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 cup pumpkin (or any seasonal squash), boiled, peeled and mashed

1.5 tsp cumin

1.5 tsp white pepper

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp honey

* If you are missing any of these spices, curry can be substituted for an equally bold and unique flavour.

Sweat onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.

Add cumin, white pepper and ginger and cook lightly 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooked and peeled sweet potato and pumpkin, add vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Finish with honey and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Carefully purée the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Serve with a baguette from Art-is-In Bakery and enjoy!!

 

What’s your go-to winter comfort food recipe?