Archive for January, 2014

Seasonal Eats: Rutabaga and beer soup from Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe, Stone Soup Foodworks

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe’s comforting soup features rutabaga, other seasonal vegetables and dark winter beer.
Photo: Farmanac (via Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0 License, Attribution, Non-Commercial

Frigid, freezing, biting, bitter, numbing, teethchattering cold – all describe the last six or so weeks in Ottawa.  The days may be getting longer, but we’re still in hibernation mode and craving comfort food.

This stick-to-the-ribs soup from Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe is just the ticket. The robust flavour of root vegetables combined with dark, winter beer really hits the spot when temperatures plunge, Jolliffe says.

“This soup takes advantage of the fact that root vegetables like rutabaga, carrots and potatoes keep into the winter months,” she notes. “It’s thick and hearty and has a hint of deep bittersweet in it that’s really comforting. Top it with homemade croutons, some nice old cheddar and Italian parsley. Bacon is also pretty great on this one!”

About Jacqueline Jolliffe

Jolliffe is passionate about teaching the lost skills of chopping, cooking and preserving what she describes as “real food grown in real soil by real people.” An avid cook and environmentalist, she owns Stone Soup Foodworks, a food truck that specializes in fresh, healthy lunches and sustainable catering. (Check out her recipe for potato and leek soup here.)

Come May or June, she’ll open a café as part of The West End Well, a new social enterprise co-operative that will include a small organic grocery store, and space for activities such as community cooking classes and workshops on sustainable living.

Rutabaga and beer soup

Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for prep and cooking

Serves 6-8 as a hearty lunch

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

2 onions, sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

2 ribs celery, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 head roast garlic

2 pounds rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tsp dried winter savoury

2 bottles dark winter beer

2 litres vegetable stock


Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place rutabaga, ¼ tsp salt and the beer in a deep roasting pan or 8.5” X11” pan. Dot with 1 tbsp butter and roast 45 minutes in the oven, covering with foil for 35 minutes, then removing the foil for 15-20 minutes to begin a caramelizing process. The rutabaga should be soft.

Roast the garlic at the same time. Cut off the top of the garlic head, drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap in foil and put in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, begin caramelizing onions with remaining salt in a large pot. When onions begin to soften, add carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to brown.  Add minced garlic and cider vinegar. Cook for one minute. Add potatoes and vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Once the potatoes are soft, add the rutabaga and liquid to the soup.  Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth. You may need to add more stock or water to adjust the thickness, depending on the size of the vegetables.

Adjust seasoning, serve and garnish.

What winter dish helps you keep off the chill?

The Food Read Round-up: How does Canada’s food system measure up? Plus, what’s next with GM terminator seeds and why we should celebrate the International Year of Family Farming

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Canada’s food system came in 25th in a global ranking.
Photo: Torsten Reimer (Flickr)
Creative Commons 2.0 Attibution, Non-commercial


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

Canada ties for 25th place in world food system ranking

As residents of a safe, prosperous country like Canada, we may assume that we have a top-ranking food system.

In fact, a new report from Oxfam shows Canada’s food system lagging behind that of the UK (13th) and the US (21st), and tying for 25th place along with Brazil, Estonia, Slovakia and Hungary. The rankings were based on four measures: having enough to eat; food quality; affordability; and unhealthy eating. While Canada scored quite well on measures of food quality and affordability, we took a hit in the “unhealthy eating” category, based on high rates of diabetes and obesity.

Netherlands made the number one spot in Oxfam’s ranking, followed by France and Switzerland. Mexico tied for 44th place and China for 57th.

The goal of the report was look at global food conditions and obstacles to eating more healthfully. Despite ample food supplies, more than 840 million people go hungry every day, 2 billion suffer from nutrient deficiencies, and another 1.5 billion are overweight or obese, says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food safety system just squeaks through USDA audit

There was more negative press for the Canadian food system this month with the news that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) got the lowest passing grade in a 2012 safety audit by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Problem areas included oversight practices at meat facilities, sanitation and humane handling of animals.

Conducted on the heels of the massive 2012 XL Foods recall, the audit’s goal was to assess whether the CFIA could provide levels of food safety for red meat, poultry and egg products equivalent to US products.  Canada’s borderline grade means that future food exports to the US will face sharper scrutiny than products from countries with “average” or “well-performing” ratings.

The CFIA claims it has since fixed all the problems and introduced a plan to “develop and implement a sustainable internal inspection oversight role that allows for continuous system improvement ” (whatever that means).

Brazilian vote could threaten global ban on GM terminator seeds

Pressured by big corporate landowners and agribusinesses, Brazil’s congress will hold a vote in February on whether to allow biotech companies to sell genetically modified terminator, or “suicide”, seeds to farmers. The seeds are engineered to kill the crops after one harvest, forcing farmers to buy new seeds for each planting, threatening the livelihoods of millions of small farmers and making them dependent on giant seed and chemical companies such as Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta.

Right now, use of terminator seeds is banned under a UN treaty signed by more than 193 countries, including Brazil, which is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers. If Brazil overturns its ban, there are fears that other countries will follow suit, resulting in global adoption of terminator technology.

If you’d like to make your voice heard, there’s a SumOfUs petition you can sign.

It’s the International Year of Family Farming

The United Nations has designated 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. Its goal is to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming, highlighting their roles in providing sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty, improving food security and nutrition, and protecting the environment.  The initiative is supported by the World Rural Forum with support from more than 360 farmers’ and civil society organizations.

There are more than 500 million family farms worldwide. In developing countries especially, they represent 80% of all farm holdings and feed billions of people. Research suggests that by putting local knowledge and sustainable farming methods to work, family farming has the potential to boost yields and create millions of jobs.

Over the next 12 months, you can expect to see media coverage of reports, conferences and other activities focused on the obstacles and opportunities of small- and medium-size farming. For more information on the initiative and its upcoming events, visit sites such as the FAO, the International Year of Family Farming Campaign, the World Rural Forum, Food Tank, Via Campesina and Food First.

What have you been reading about the food system recently?

8 reasons to cook at home in 2014

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Cooking at home makes it easier to eat healthier and more sustainably, save money, help your kids with kitchen literacy, and promote change in the food system.
Photo: LABabble via Flickr,

Despite the proliferation of online recipe sites and our fascination with TV shows like Top Chef, Chopped and Cake Boss, many of us are spending less time than ever in the kitchen. Whether it’s because we lack time, confidence or culinary skills, we wind up relying on convenience foods and restaurants instead of planning, preparing and cooking meals at home.

It’s a real loss. Cooking for ourselves not only allows us to eat healthier and save money, it gives us an opportunity to eat more sustainably, choosing foods that are local, seasonal, organic and fairly traded.

In fact, brushing up your cooking skills and preparing more meals from scratch could be the most important changes you make in 2014. Here are some of the benefits.

  1. Save money. Compare the cost of a takeout lunch with packing your own (60% of Canadians eat lunch out at least once a week). Figure out what you’d pay for a restaurant dinner versus   home-cooking a batch of chili or roasting a chicken that would give you several meals. Home cooking wins hands down. What’s more, planning meals each week makes it easier to stay on budget because you’ll be more likely to buy only what you’ll need to make them.
  2. Control what you eat. Whether you’re heating a frozen pizza or dining at the newest bistro, you’re consuming food that’s been defined by someone else. When you cook for yourself, you pick the recipe, ingredients and cooking method according to your taste preferences, health needs and food values.
  3. Eat healthier. Cooking at home allows you to select the cooking method that best preserves the health value of the food.  For example, roasted vegetables retain more of nutrients than boiled, while grilling chicken is a lower-fat technique than frying. In addition, by cooking with fresh, whole foods you avoid the salt, sugar and fat levels of industrial food as well as the pesticides and other chemicals used in producing them. Finally, you control portion size, which helps with weight management and reduces food waste.
  4. Throw away less food. No more supersize takeout fare: cook only what you know you’ll eat. And, equipped with some basic cooking skills, you’ll be motivated to cook with leftovers instead of tossing them out.  About  $27 billion worth of food is wasted every year in Canada, more than half of it in our homes.
  5. Reduce meat consumption. Industrial meat production consumes a disproportionate amount of natural resources and contaminates soil, air and water. If you want to eat less meat for environmental, health or other reasons, it’s easier if you cook for yourself. Restaurant, fast-food and ready-to-eat meals tend to centre on meat and poultry.
  6. Give the gift of food literacy to future generations. Find ways to let your kids participate in cooking. Even something as simple as washing vegetables or making cookies will build their sense of competence in the kitchen. Just as important, take them to a farmers’ market or a local farm so they can connect food with the people and natural resources that produce it rather than with supermarkets and burger chains.
  7. Discover a rewarding way to spend time. Providing nourishment is an essential survival skill and a meaningful activity that’s embedded in human culture. It becomes even more meaningful when you share the food you’ve cooked with loved ones, writes Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything The Basics.  After a hectic day, cooking can be relaxing and comforting, helping to bring families together around the dinner table. It also stimulates creativity: improvise on a favourite recipe, invent a new dish, or even discover a new approach you can apply in another area of your life.
  8. Vote for change in the food system.  Whether you’re concerned about health and nutrition, environmental stewardship, food security or humane treatment of animals, cooking good, clean food for yourself and your loved ones is a powerful way to promote the changes you value. It’s been said that eating is a political act: vote with your plate.

Do you cook for yourself? How has it helped you?