Local Deliciousness

It’s April. I can’t believe it’s already April. I’m glad it’s April, but my goodness, how time flies.

 
I hate to disappoint or to be unable to follow through on something I’ve committed to. In joining the Canadian Food Experience Project, the task was relatively simple from the start. Every month, tackle a previously established challenge involving a food-related theme, write about it and post a recipe. With a month between challenges, such a task should be very achievable. But, as those who know me can attest to, I often take on too much, which sometimes leaves the simplest tasks to be accomplished at the very last minute. And while I’m pretty adept at multi-tasking and accomplishing said tasks at the last minute, throw a nasty virus my way, and my procrastination-based plan is thoroughly foiled.

 
This month’s challenge was to write about a local producer or grower. Again, I found myself a week before the post was due, wondering who I should write about. I immediately came up with an answer and an inspired idea. However, the local grower I wished to interview wasn’t able to honour such a short notice request to visit, and so I had left myself with nothing to write about. And, being quite ill at present, I’m sorry to say I don’t have the energy or creativity to come up with something new and do the leg work involved.

 
I thought about what could inspire me to write and also lead to a fairly low-effort recipe. I considered two of the most important things in my life: my son, and my friends. Both of those ideas also lead me to think about comfort.

 
It seems a lot of my CFEP posts have ended up being sweet, baked recipes, and this month’s is no different. I swear to my readers that I really can cook too, but I suppose in some ways I get a tad more personal enjoyment out of baking and sharing desserts or sweet treats. I’m aware that it’s a bit of a cop-out to use the same key ingredient this month as I did last month, but it fits the bill for both a seasonal, locally produced ingredient and a comfort food: maple syrup. I am also happy to share the local maple producer whose farm we have visited every year since moving to the Ottawa area, and where we have enjoyed many a pancake breakfast and walk amongst the maple trees: http://www.sandroadsugarcamp.com/

 
I have made some wonderful friends since coming to Ottawa. I don’t have a large group of friends, but I have been blessed with a few, very close and trusted friends in my life. I have always believed in quality over quantity, especially as life gets fuller and one can only share time with a finite number of people. One of the key ingredients in a strong and lasting friendship is comfort; the ability to be oneself, authentic, without judgment, and also knowing our friends are truly there for us.

 
This past Saturday, I spent the evening with a wonderful girlfriend, enjoying intimate conversation over beautiful food and wine, and all with great ease. Then, Sunday morning, I was fortunate to spend the morning with another close friend of mine, having breakfast and walking along the Rideau river, watching the spring ice flows. During our walk, I remarked to him just how nice it was to have such a comfortable friendship. Both of these friends left me with a real feeling of contentedness, and I left them with a jar full of the treat described below.

 
The recipe I am sharing this month is one that I would consider comfort food, for a few reasons. First, it is naturally sweet. Second, it is high in good fats. Third it is high in protein and fibre. Fourth, it smells wonderful when baked and fills your home with a hearty, nutty and spicy aroma. Fifth, it can be eaten plain or accompanied by a number of other comfort foods. Sixth, it can be easily shared with friends. And finally, and most importantly, it tastes delicious!

 

This month, I give you my recipe for homemade granola.

 

Notes:
• This recipe is also vegan and gluten-free.
• This recipe can be easily multiplied to make large batches which store well in air-tight containers.
• You can substitute or add other nuts, seeds and dried fruit as desired, but keep the ratio of oats to additional ingredients relatively the same.

 

Maple-Almond-Cranberry Granola

 
2 cups large-flake oats
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8th teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or avocado oil – this worked well in my latest experiment)
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

 

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
-Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
-Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
-Mix wet ingredients in small bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour into dry ingredients and mix well.
-Spread evenly onto cookie sheet.
-Bake until golden brown, approximately 35 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to prevent burning.
-Remove from oven and allow to cool and harden completely.
-Break up into desired size granola. Store in airtight containers or jars.
-Eat plain by the handful, or with milk, yogourt, ice cream, fruit compote, or any other way your creative mind desires!

granola pic

 

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The Canadian Food Experience Project is Valerie Lugonja’s call to Canadian Foodies and Bloggers alike to unite on the 7th day of each month and creatively discover and share Canada’s unique culinary voice. You can read more about this exciting project <a href=”http://www.acanadianfoodie.com/the-canadian-food-experience-project/the-candian-food-experience-project/”>here</a&gt;.

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Autumn Symphony

The end of a season is upon us,
One instinctively yoked to death and decay.
Yet, lavishness exists here;
A great symphony of loveliness and delicateness,
Perceived by the rapt observer.

Rushing autumn wind in ears,
Multiplied by the momentum of the cyclist.
Whistling softly, cooling perspiring skin.
The scent of dying chlorophyll wafts softly,
Coupled with the aromas of the harvest:
The tripartite sweetness of corn, soy and hay.

This peaceful country road
Is enfolded by furiously red, overbearing Sumacs.
Spinning wheels whir and hum,
The constant noise punctuated melodiously
By flittering leaves in the wood beyond.
A falcon perches lightly, eyeing its prey.

This symphony of scent, sight and sound,
Transforms this season of death
Into a period of glory and splendor.
A mainspring of rest and renewal,
For anyone willing to seize it.

My Canadian Food Hero

A colleague and fellow blogger inadvertently inspired me to learn about Valerie Lugonja and the Canadian Food Experience Project. I was intrigued to read about the challenge to Canadian foodies and bloggers alike, and although food is not normally a subject of my blogging, it has certainly influenced my life in many important ways. This aside, I too have taken up the challenge to write a post on the 7th day of each month, as set out by Valerie. Please visit the foregoing link to learn more about her desire to showcase the Canadian food identity through the individual experiences of any Canadian who is impassioned to share theirs.

This month’s challenge is to write about a Canadian Food Hero. I realize I am 3 days late, but since I only learned about this project on the 8th, this will have to do for this month.

There are a few people who came to mind as I contemplated who my food hero was; my mother, my grandmother, and others. Food has played a powerful role in my life, from early childhood through to now and beyond and I’ve had many memorable and sometimes intense food experiences. I love to savour food of all kinds and would suggest I’m quite adventurous as an adult. Attitudes about food were significantly shaped by my family’s European ideals in both positive and negative ways. Nonetheless, there is one person who stood out to me as a true hero, and this post is dedicated to her.

I eat mostly vegetarian, often vegan and purposefully healthily. I don’t deny myself the occasional opportunity to indulge in something meaty, rich and fatty because I still have an undeniable craving for such indulgence at times, but have also found ways to still feel I enjoy incredible taste experiences without those foods. I don’t believe in imbalance and complete denial, so moderation is key for me to maintain my wholesome habits the rest of the time. Given my love of tasty but nutritious food, I knew immediately that my food hero had to be someone who not only creates delicious and aesthetically gorgeous food, but also develops dishes that are nourishing and employ a broad range of nutritious and natural ingredients. So, with that determined, it was obvious. My local food hero is Julia Graham.

Julia is a neighbor, friend, wife and mother, teacher, community supporter, and on the list goes. She and her husband have raised two of the most charming, well-mannered and bright young ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You will often see Julia out for a run, or a ride on her baby-blue cruiser bike with her red and white polka-dotted helmet; this playfulness is indicative of her wonderful spirit, equally played out in her food. With a preference for vegetarian and vegan foods, Julia’s friends and family also know her for the ‘meatless Mondays” in her home, to which I’m sure her husband Scott has grown to love over time (right, Scott?). If you visit their home, there is almost always something new in the oven or on the stove; I’ve never tasted anything Julia prepared that didn’t taste amazing. And when we are fortunate enough to have one of her girls show up at our door with the surplus of a recent catering menu, we excitedly accept!

Julia, a trained chef, owned her own catering company for seven years before going on to become a teacher. Julia has taught culinary arts to high school students for the last eight years and is beloved by her pupils and fellow teachers. I’ve never been in her classroom, but her reputation precedes her; she imparts her passion for high quality, healthy ingredients and beautiful food on her young apprentices.

Julia continues to cater in her “spare time”, putting together creative and uniquely tailored meals for small and large groups alike. Most notably, she is a beacon in the community as she volunteers her time and expertise to cater large charitable events on a regular basis, where she invites her current and past students to join on the team. This includes an annual, very large fundraising event where she and her large, young crew create an authentic and raved-about East Indian meal for several hundred guests. Julia’s heart for local and distant causes is evident, as is her passion for local and fair trade ingredients. You might get to see Julia out on her bike, proudly wearing her Fair Trade t-shirt on Fair Trade Karma day.

Last year, the Maxville Farmer’s Market needed a new volunteer coordinator. Julia stepped up to the plate, and local residents have seen the market flourish beyond imagination. For a small town of about 800 residents, the market abounds with fresh, local and often organic and unique produce. I even learned about bag cultivating my own oyster mushrooms, something I plan to do after my vacation. In addition, you’ll find locally raised meat, locally roasted fair-trade coffee, homemade and authentic Thai food, incredible baked goods, vegan specialties, crafts and more. Much of the community turns up on Friday afternoon, and through her zeal and community contacts, Julia has single-handedly grown our market into something to be very proud of.

This past year, Julia was moved to a different local high school and it was a very emotional time for her, her family, her students and friends. After much deliberation and exploration, Julia made a very brave decision: to resign from her teaching position at the end of the academic year and pursue her long-borne dream to open her own restaurant. In October, Julia will celebrate the grand opening of her much anticipated and carefully designed establishment, the Quirky Carrot Café. The Quirky Carrot will not only be a high end café in the heart of Alexandria, Ontario, but also a cooking school and catering company. I, for one, cannot wait to regularly enjoy an undoubtedly delectable, locally sourced meal and (finally) an excellent cup of coffee in town.

Julia’s boldness, confidence, grace and inner (and outer) beauty inspire me. She has strived for and grasped her dream, and will now bless the entire community with her wisdom and mastery of healthful, beautiful and scrumptious cooking, created with the most nutritious and local ingredients available to her. I have no doubt she will bring unique and intriguing elements and recipes to us all, and will be exceptionally successful. She certainly has my support.

http://www.thequirkycarrot.ca

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