Thursday, May 10, 2012

Slow Food in Huron: 10 Ways to Support Local Eating

Eating locally means that you support something called a 'food-shed'. A food shed defines an area that is able to provide food for a community or city. The term was first used in the early 20th century to describe the global flow of food, but recently the term foodshed is used to discuss local food systems and efforts to create more sustainable ways of producing and consuming food. 

In Huron and Perth Counties we are blessed with an abundant and widespread food-shed.  The Huron -Perth Farm to Table Campaign provides a detailed outline and map of our food-shed. 

Despite how easy it is to eat locally in our area, I feel most folks need a gentle reminder on how to make this possible.  Most of us still zip around the grocery store buying strawberries in December and garlic from China.  It is sad for me that bananas, oranges, and coconut milk do not grow locally here, or in North America for that matter. Aside from the occasional exotic treat or imported staples, my family aims to eat seasonally and locally as much as possible.  This means stone-fruit and berries in the summer, apples and pears in autumn.  For winter, more of the same, but some has been preserved from the summer harvest.  

I eat organic – so why is local so important?

Produce from your local grocery store travels on average 1500 miles from where it grew to where it will be eaten* – that’s half -way across Canada.  By the time it's on your plate, the nutrient profile of produce (even organic) has greatly declined, and even more importantly, its journey has depleted precious fossil fuels in transport – all so Canadians can have mealy strawberries in January.  
Local food, on the other hand, is more nutrient-dense and wastes far less non-renewable natural resources. Beyond the nutritional and environmental impact of your food traveling a vast geographical distance, honoring your foodshed helps to cultivate respect for the land where you live, the plants and animals that thrive there, and the livelihood and culture indigenous to the community. Disciplining ourselves to source food locally engenders a sense of stewardship for the land where we live rather than the flippant attitudes bred by an overabundance of cheap and nutrient-deficient food grown elsewhere.
More and more, organic is becoming a label that creates excessive costs for small farmers and a disguise for some large producers to feign good intentions.  Don't get me wrong, organic food is usually superior, but the popularity of organics has watered-down quality.  Large corporations are now growing foods 'organically' on factory farms, with no concern for the sustainability of their endeavors.  These are not quality foods.  Quality food can only be raised within the dynamics of a sustainable farm that balances the eco-system of the soil, plants and animals ensuring healthy and nutritious foods for generations to come.  

Where are the boundaries of my foodshed?

There is no exact measurement to define a foodshed – some say it’s a 150 mile radius, others say it’s an easy day's drive from home.  Personally, I think the exact radius of your foodshed is less important than an earnest intention to eat as locally as possible.
For my part, I buy pasture-raised beef, chicken, pork, eggs and lamb from farmers based about  30-80 km from my home (Organic Oasis and Meeting Place Organic Farm).  We have raised vegetable gardens in our back yard, and will buy other produce, butter, maple syrup and honey between the farmers market and a friendly Amish farm store from May to October.   This summer we will be getting our own laying hens and will be starting a winter garden to have greens, kale, swiss chard, spinach, collards most of the winter.  I make a strong effort to purchase fish that is wild caught in Canada.  And during fishing season, Bayfield is a short drive to find local fresh water fish.
I will say that some foods are worth importing for their superior quality – we buy Real Salt from Idado, ghee from New Jersey, and coffee beans grown from far away lands – but I do so consciously, not with abandon.  While many may argue that I dip way outside of my food-shed, overall I feel we don’t recklessly eat food flown and trucked in from around the world (though there’s certainly room for improvement.)
Now I know you may be grumbling about the feasibility of eating mostly local foods year-round because it is no longer a 'one-stop shop', you don't have time, and it will be more expensive.  I disagree.  When I factor in the the cost of gas to drive to Amulree, Lucknow and Dungannon my grocery bill is still less then one stop at Zehrs or Food Basics.  And because we live in a harsher climate I think we have an even greater responsibility to respect our local food-shed as devoutly as possible. Yes, it will take more creative thinking and more work, but root cellars are due for a revival, and in the meantime, deep freezers and dehydrators are a wonder of modern technology.  
10 Ways to Support Your Local Foodshed

1. Find out what grows locally, seasonally AND sustainably in your area. This may seem simple, but this is where you need to look the farmer in the eye and ASK.  When I moved back to this area and jumped into the real food movement I was amazed by some of the produce that grows in our region - figs, artichokes, and garlic - shocking I know, since you only ever see the version from China and Italy.  On the flip side, just because something is local does not give it full license to be awesome.  There are stands at our local farmers' market that get plenty of produce from the Toronto Food Terminal.  Local berries sprayed with pesticides are out too.   Check out Real Food Resources on my blog for an extensive list of farm stores, CSAs in Huron-Perth and Bruce Counties.

2. Go to the farmer's markets as often as possible. We have markets from Stratford to Dungannon to Blyth. Sometimes on different days of the week.  

3. Grow your own. Don't have room? No problem. Use a fence for vertical gardening for beans and peas, containers and window boxes for everything else.  Convert your lawn. Find or start a community garden in your neighbourhood.  Feeling inspired? Raise a couple of chickens or goats where by-laws allow.  

4. Get a farm box. CSA (community-supported agriculture) and other programs like the Huron Good Food Box help bring the fruits and veggies of your foodshed and convenience together for the mutual benefits of the farmers and consumers.

5. Visit local farms and get to know your farmers.  Seeing where and how your food is grown and raised will forever change the way you feel about what you eat.  Conversely, if you haven’t seen important documentaries such as Food Inc. and Fresh, you will be both horrified by how the the food for the masses is produced and grateful that you eat from your food-shed.  

6. Buy seasonal produce in bulk when it is abundant, then preserve by canning/fermenting, freezing, and drying for the winter. This is especially important for Canadians where our climate makes year-round local produce more difficult. Every August I will put in an order for organic plums and peaches from Organic Oasis. We enjoy them fresh for a few days and then freeze the rest to enjoy stewed plums and peach smoothies in the winter.  My parents' apple orchard has quite possibly reached organic status (they don't tend to the trees at all anymore) and there were a few apples there last year, and Meeting Place Organic Farms had a few bushels and apple butter for us.  

7. Eliminate non-essential items grown out of your food shed. I don’t know about you, but I NEED my imported organic dark chocolate, and coconut milk.  But I can happily drink organic Ontario wine rather than Chilean or Spanish vino.  Point is, be picky about what you will import.

8. Aim to reduce non-foodshed item to 10% or less of your consumption. While this may seem extreme, so is the state of our planet’s health.  For everyone I can think of that eats local neighborhood eggs, there are 3 more people eating at McDonald's and buying groceries at Wal-Mart.  We’ve got to strike a balance.

9. Find businesses (restaurants, cafes, markets) that support local food, and frequent them.  Voting with your dollar goes a long way to encourage businesses to support the local foodshed economy.  Again, in Huron County this is easy to do.  Thyme on 21, The Benmiller Inn, J's Bistro, Bayfield's Little Inn, and The Black Dog Pub offer up local, and seasonal food. 

10. Speak up. This all may seem like common sense to you. But just flip through your Facebook news feed or a stroll through a conventional supermarket, and you will be reminded that not everyone sees things from the eyes of a locavore.  Host dinners, and tell your guests about the local farms that grew their food.  Take your friends on a farmer’s market outing or on a trip to meet your pastured hens. Spread the word and support your food-shed.  One day, it may be the only food you’ve got.

Some sites that can help you find your foodshed resources:

So, I’m curious…
How wide is your foodshed? 
How much of your food do you get locally? 
For what items do you make an exception? 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Real Food Recipe: Homemade Soaked Granola

Why go to all the trouble of making soaked granola?  So that your body can benefit from the broken down phytic acid found in all grains.  In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon explains that whole grains that are not soaked, sprouted or fermented are full of phytic acid, which impairs mineral absorption which is not good for building strong teeth and bones.  In addition, boxed cereals are made with extruded grains.  

Dry breakfast cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. Cereal makers first create a slurry of the grains and then put them in a machine called an extruder. The grains are forced out of a little hole at high temperature and pressure. Depending on the shape of the hole, the grains are made into little o’s, flakes, animal shapes, or shreds (as in Shredded Wheat or Triscuits), or they are puffed (as in puffed rice). A blade slices off each little flake or shape, which is then carried past a nozzle and sprayed with a coating of oil and sugar to seal off the cereal from the ravages of milk and to give it crunch. *

I don't think that sounds very good or healthful, do you?  But the appealing thing about a cold breakfast cereal is that it is fast and convenient.  Grabbing a bowl of cereal just takes a few seconds.  Cereal is also a convenient and portable snack for toddlers and kids.  

We don't buy boxed cereals at all.  I used to make un-soaked granola, but when I become aware of the ill effect of phytic acid, especially when my family history has a long line of weak bones, I stopped making granola altogether.  We now eat eggs, sourdough toast with apple butter or raw honey, yogurt, kefir, vegetables, fruit, smoothies, raw nuts and seeds for breakfast.  I will also make a baked, soaked oatmeal courtesy of Nourished Kitchen to keep in the freezer for variety.  

I have been searching for a good recipe to make a soaked granola.  Then this recipe dropped into my lap.  It is from my favourite magazine Pathways (which by the way, anyone that strives for a holistic lifestyle would love).  I have modified this recipe a wee bit based on my own experience in the kitchen, but it turned out delicious.  This homemade granola is so nutritious and full of healthy fats.  Baking this recipe low and slow keeps it nutrient dense.  You could also use a dehydrator if you are so lucky to have one instead of baking this in the oven.  

Homemade Wholesome Granola
8 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup kefir
Water (add enough water to cover the oats so they are moist)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp sea salt
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1 cup dried fruit,  chopped (I like apricots and raisins)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped
1 cup nuts (optional; chopped almonds are really nice)

Step 1:  Combine oats with kefir and water in a very large bowl.  Add the water last, because you may not need much.  Mix well.  Cover with a cloth and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
Step 2:  After the day of soaking, preheat the oven to 200F.  Drain the soaked oats. Combine the honey, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, coconut oil, butter and vanilla.  Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring until everything is melted.  
Step 3:  Remove from heat.  Combine the honey and oat mixtures.  Mix well.
Step 4:  Spread the mixture over parchment paper on cookie sheets.
Step 5:  Bake for 4 hours, until the granola is crunchy.  It may seem slightly soft, but it will crisp up as it cools.  Turn the oven off and let it cool in the oven.  (Do not turn the oven higher than 200F.  You will burn your granola.)  Cook it low and slow.
Step 6:  Mix in the dry ingredients.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Keeping it on the counter for a few days  in cooler weather is fine, but if too warm, your granola may go moldy.  

Serve as a breakfast cereal with whole, organic milk (preferably raw).  I also like it with fresh fruit and yogurt.  

*Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Pathways To Family Wellness Issue 33

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Real food recipe: Cauliflower, Leek and Celery root Soup

I love soup!  I try to make one pot of soup per week for lunches or a light dinner, and the less chopping and ingredients the better (although I do like 'fancier' ones too).  This recipe is the quickest and simplest soup EVER!  My mom started making this recipe based on Rose Reisman's recipe.  3 main ingredients:  leeks, cauliflower and celery root (celeriac).

1 cauliflower, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
2 leeks (white parts only), thinly sliced
1 celery root (a scary looking vegetable, but adds wonderful flavour to vegetable dishes.  You will find it with other root vegetables like beets in the produce aisle), peeled and chopped
2 tbsp butter, preferably organic and grass-fed*
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 cups + water or vegetable broth

In a large pot, melt butter until it froths.  Add the leeks and saute until soft and fragrant.
Add the cauliflower and celery root.  Saute for 10-15 minutes until soft.
Add 1 cup of broth or water and continue cooking the vegetables.
Once the vegetables are soft and fall apart, using a hand immersion blender, puree the vegetables until smooth.  Add water or broth as needed to thin to a desired consistency and thickness.
Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to your liking.
Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serve with vegetable crudite, thin slices of grass fed and naturally smoked summer sausage (where to buy summer sausage), sourdough bread (where to buy true sourdough bread), and/or a green salad.

*Dairy-free?  Substitute coconut oil instead of butter

Monday, April 23, 2012

Real Food Recipe: Thai Mango Salad

A couple of weeks ago I fell in love (again) with mangos and Thai cooking.  It was lunch time and the fridge was pretty bare.  I had a chinese cabbage (aka Napa cabbage), a mango, left over chicken and some herbs.  My dear friend Joyce W. popped into my head and the delicious rice wraps she made with mango, chicken and cilantro.  This recipe was born from a fond memory.  This salad is light, filling and refreshing.  You can easily make this a main dish by adding chicken, shrimp or beef.  

Thai Mango Salad:
1/2 Napa cabbage, shredded
1 mango, peeled and cut julienne
2 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 cucumbers, peeled if desired, and cut into matchsticks
1/4 -1/2 cup snow peas, finely sliced if desired
2 scallions, minced
handful of cilantro, washed, stemmed and finely chopped
handful of mint, washed and finely chopped
handful of basil, washed and finely chopped
grilled chicken, shrimp or beef (optional)
1/4 cup cashews or almonds, finely chopped (optional)

juice of 2 limes (depends on the size of your salad)
1 tsp lime zest
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and put through a garlic press
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Prepare the vegetables and herbs and place in a large bowl.  
Place all the dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid.  
Give the dressing a vigorous shake and toss with the salad ingredients.  

Variation:  You could easily serve this with the meat option on the side as a chicken or beef satay skewer.  So yummy!! 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A sweet boy's birthday

Today is my son's 3rd birthday. An Easter baby. Every day I am thankful and grateful that Archer is a part of this world. Today we will be have the Lobb gang for an early dinner. 20 people in our 1200 square foot home - oh my!

I am excited about the birthday menu. My virtual friend Jenny at Nourished Kitchen gave me a few ideas as well.

  • Grilled chicken breasts and pastured sausage
  • Mexican quinoa salad
  • Greens with kefir herb dressing 
  • sauerkraut
  • Veggies with hummus, guacamole and yogurt cheese herb dip
  • Devilled eggs using homemade lacto fermented mayonnaise
The birthday cake is of course our tried and true go to recipe for birthdays - Coconut Flour Cake with homemade coconut ice cream. This was actually my 'birthing cake' recipe. When I was in early labour I made this cake ;) It was fun and memorable to actually have a birthday cake the next day (actually 2 days later). We shared it with our midwife and grandparents.

This is always a day for me to reflect as well. I remember every detail of those 22 hours of labour and I wouldn't change a thing.

"We are humbled by the awesome power of this moment.  From our lives we have brought forth life.  Through our love we have fashioned a child of love.  May our child be a blessing to all he meets.  And may he count us among his blessings as well. "   Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro

Happy Birthday Archer!!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

7 Steps to Healing with Food

70% of health problems can be cleared up with nutrition and lifestyle choices.  When the body is properly supported, the vitality can once again regulate the self healing ability of the body and the body will return to a state of health on its own.  You are what you eat and do.  Plain and simple.  

So these steps will give you enough of an idea of how to evolve to a state of wellness by changing the way you eat.  No supplements needed, just a good old dose of common sense:  If you don't know what it is, don't eat it.  

Step 1: Eat Real Food (Local, Seasonal and Organic)
Eat real food in its unprocessed state.  Real food is meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, butter and non processed dairy, ocean fish, nuts and seeds and some whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, teff, brown rice, wild rice, spelt, rye and steel cut oats.  Our bodies are not designed to eat 'gogurts', canola oil, margarine, Bear Paws, gold fish crackers, Baby Mum Mums or textured vegetable protein.  If it didn't walk on land, swim in the ocean, grow in the ground or on a tree, or fly in the air it isn't food.  If you live in Huron-Perth County you are in luck!  We are blessed with a plethora of local resources for real food.  For an extensive list and shopping guide look under the Real Food Resources tab. 

Step 2:  Reduce Glycemic Index
The increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes and obesity is connected to our intake of processed vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates.  Refine carbohydrates have a high glycemic index.  The glycemic index of a food refers to the rate at which a food turns to sugar when it is eaten.  Refining and processing a food gives it a higher glycemic index.  
These foods are high glycemic index:  Corn, wheat/flour, whole grain processed foods (bread, granola bars), refined grain products like ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, sugar of all kinds even natural sweetners like honey and maple syrup, fruit and fruit juices.  A note on fruit:  most fruit have a high/moderately high glycemic index, so don't overdo it on fruit, vegetables are most important. Blueberries and other berries have the lowest glycemic index.

Low glycemic foods:  all vegetables except potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, beets, legumes, grains in their whole kernel state, the best being quinoa, oat groats, buckwheat, steel cut oats and pot barley.

To keep your blood sugar stable be sure to include the following in each meal:  High water content vegetables (greens, cucumber, celery, cabbage etc), healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, nuts and seeds and avocado and healthy protein like eggs, fish, meat or legumes.

Step 3:  Prepare the Feast
Make food preparation a priority.  I would consider it one of the most important tasks in your household.  Yes it takes time.  A lot of time actually.  If health is a priority for you and your family, someone in the household will have to take the time to prepare wholesome real food.  To be healthy, we cannot rely on ready-to-eat food.  We must prepare food for ourselves and our families.

Step 4:  Drink Pure Water
The only beverage we need is water.  For variety include herbal tea, green tea, or a twist with lemon or lime.  Avoid juice.  Consider the Santevia system, or a reverse osmosis unit to filter your water.  See related articles: Why you should worry about your drinking water

Step 5:  Include raw foods in your diet
There are nutrients and enzymes in raw foods essential for good health.  Cooking destroys these nutrients or makes less absorbed by the body.  If you cannot tolerate raw vegetables lightly steaming them if also an option.  Grains and legumes should not be eaten raw.  

Step 6:  Soak grains before use
This could be a post all on its own, and I will be doing that eventually.  The short answer is that grains contain phytic acids.  Phytic acid blocks proper digestion of grain and inhibits absorption of minerals.  Soaking the grains in water for a few hours before cooking breaks down phytic acid.  Sprouting grains and traditional sourdough also breaks down phytic acids.  Don't worry if this confuses you - I will be posting more on this topic.  

Step 7:  Avoid Processed Foods, Vegetable Oils, GMOs 
Any food that has been altered from its original state or had chemicals added to it is a processed food.  Regardless of label claims, processed foods are not healthy.  Avoid ready to eat and pre packaged foods, foods with additives and preservatives, food colouring, aspartame and nutrasweet.  A good rule of thumb:  If you read a label and don't know what an ingredient is, you should not be eating it.  
Vegetable oils include canola oil, margarine, soybean and shortening.  These oils are heat damaged and too high in omega 6 fats.  Use extra virgin olive oil, organic butter, and extra virgin coconut oil.  
Genetically modified foods (GMOs) have been allowed into our food system without passing safety studies.  Research does show negative effects of GM foods on human health.  This is another topic all on its own but for more information check out: and download the lecture "Don't Put That in Your Mouth".  The most common GM foods are corn, soy, canola and cottonseed.

Start slowly choosing one thing to focus on and make it a new habit.  Then move on to the next.  Soon these steps will become a way of life.  

Dr. Kate

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bieler's Broth for 'Spring Cleaning'

As the days become warmer and brighter, nature rouses from her winter slumber and looks ahead to the new growth of spring.  It is a common practice in many parts of the world to undergo a 'cleanse' at the change of season - Spring and Fall.  Springtime is associated with the element Wood.  In traditional Chinese medicine, the Wood element represents the liver and the gall bladder.  The liver especially being the major filter of everything in your body.  Treat your body like you do your house: dust, open the windows to air things out, and purge clutter.
Here are some suggestions for living in harmony with the spring season and re-connect with Nature.
  • Begin your day early, with a brisk walk. 
  • Feel the sunshine on your face, watch buds rush into leaf, often doubling their size in a day. Look for birds' nests - you'll find them everywhere.  Make a garden. Eat greens.
  • Begin new things - at home, in your work, and in yourself. In this season when nature reinvents itself, we too can see people and situations with new eyes. Take time to create the next path in life and take fresh hope.  Make things, do things. Begin!
  • Consider how you wish to prepare your summer harvest.  Spring does not last forever.  Use its bountiful energy wisely, so that the crops you sow - in yourself, in your work, and in your life - are those you wish to harvest.  The energy of spring brings vision.

Perhaps you are someone that looks forward to a spring cleanse where you can modify your nutrition to rejuvenate and detoxify your mind and body with lots of rest, meditation, and simple food.  In an ideal world, everyone would simply eat a well balanced, nutrient-dense, seasonal diet and avoid junky, over-processed foods.  In reality, however, this doesn’t always happen, and occasionally it’s nice to give the digestive system a mini-vacation.

Bieler’s Broth is a great recipe to try when your looking to lighten up, and spring time is an ideal season for doing so after a winter of hearty stews, and breads.  Taken from Nourishing Traditions, this recipe was originally create by Dr. Henry Bieler, MD, “for fasting, for energy, and for overall health.”

The combination of veggies in Bieler’s Broth is thought to be ideal for restoring acid-alkaline imbalance as well as sodium-potassium balance to the body.  Perfect for recovery from stress and adrenal fatigue or a weekend of over-indulgence, this soup is also recommended for individuals with back and ligament problems.  Try eating it for breakfast (or before breakfast) for a cleansing start to the day.

Bieler Broth
Makes 2 quarts

4 medium squash (zucchini, yellow or summer) washed, ends removed and sliced
1 pound string beans, ends removed
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 bunches parsley, stems removed
fresh herbs (thyme or tarragon) tied together with a string
1 quart filtered water
whey, optional *

Place water, vegetables and herbs in a pot.  
Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes.  
Remove herbs.  
Vegetables may be eaten whole with cooking water, or blended into a thick soup with an immersion blender.  
One tablespoon of whey may be added to each cup of soup.

*Whey is prepared by straining yogurt through cheesecloth.  The liquid that drains from the yogurt is whey.  

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Real Food Weekly Recipe: Vanilla Pudding

I altered a chocolate pudding recipe from Nourish MD to make a vanilla version.  Your taste buds will dance when you try this little number.  This has become a favourite, go-to dessert and snack in our house.  There are never leftovers. Forget the fake boxed puddings, this is the real deal, folks.


1⁄4 cup maple syrup 

2 tablespoons arrowroot 
1⁄4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt 
2 cups whole organic milk
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, diced 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 


In a medium saucepan (heavy bottom) over medium heat combine syrup, arrowroot, salt, and milk.

Cook stirring constantly with a whisk until mixture thickens. DO NOT BOIL! The foam on the top will disappear as mixture becomes thick.  (**this step took a couple of failures to get it right.  I have my burner at medium temperature - you have the get the milk hot and 'simmery' without going to a full boil to allow the mixture to thicken properly)

Remove from heat and whisk a small amount of heated milk into the egg yolks. Then add egg yolks to the pan and simmer 2 more minutes or until thick; stirring with a wire whisk constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into individual ramekins or dessert nappies and refrigerate.


• Sprinkle with toasted nuts • Makes a great filling for cakes. • Try freezing in Popsicle molds to make summer treat