Here in southern Ontario, we've had a few days that felt definitely spring-like, with some above-freezing temperatures, and sightings of sugar shacks in operation, boiling down the yummy maple syrup we Canadians are well-known for.
My seed order from William Dam Seeds came in this week, and I can hardly wait to start my leeks, onions and stevia this week, as well as some organic heirloom tomato varieties in a few weeks. Also there are some hybrid carrots (Purple Haze and Rainbow colours), 3 different varieties of Swiss chard, 3 varieties of beets, including some funky striped ones and beautiful golden ones, and two packages of open-pollinated sweet corn. Ralph and I already discussed strategies for keeping the raccoons away as the corn matures ;) First-time crops for me will be Yellow Doll watermelon (very short season), some ground cherries, cilantro, pak choy, kale and brussel sprouts...can hardly wait!
Having all these nutritious and fresh vegetables growing at home will allow us to put my recent purchase of an Omega 330 Vert Juicer to work. Although it is so satisfying to crunch on a freshly-pulled carrot, or nibble on some fresh spinach and beet tops right in the garden, juicing is an efficient (and still yummy) way of ensuring we all get adequate servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. Besides, it's fun to make up new drinks. Today, I combined carrot, apple, pear and kiwi for a tasty, refreshing pick-me-up. I would love to get some recipes from anyone who has their own favourite combinations, please share here :D
Another very thoughtful gift from my younger brother for my 50th birthday (!) this month was a Vogel seed sprouter. In a few days, we will be enjoying our first crop of alfalfa sprouts, and shortly afterwards, a healthy blend for use in salads. I've even started some of our own wheat in it. The theory is that the sprouts contain valuable enzymes, proteins, mineral substances, trace minerals and natural vitamins, as well as excellent fibre to aid in digestions. Frankly, I just love the taste of them, whether tossed into a salad, stuffed into a salad, or just nibbled on when I need a quick snack! (Sorry if this post is starting to sound like an infomercial, but I am just so excited about all these new products!)
We will be having a pot luck dinner and meeting to prepare for our Inglewood Farmers' Market this Tuesday. It will be a homecoming, of sorts, as most of us vendors only meet at the market in the summer/fall. We'll all tell of our winter, the chores we still haven't finished, and the plans we have for the upcoming season. It's still a long way off until our first market day in June, but we will all have lots to do between now and then to get ready.
Over this past winter, our family has spent more time talking about food than I ever imagined possible. As I said in conversation last week, "If I'm not cooking good food, or shopping for or growing good food, then I'm talking about good food!" The signs are evident everywhere, whether you Facebook, or watch cooking shows or just read the paper - today's consumers are on the lookout for fresh, local, organic (or at least sustainably-grown) food. It has been many, many decades since the average North American cared enough about what they were eating to spend a significant part of their time and energy on their food. The health statistics show the staggering results - obesity and malnutrition (how can they both be on the rise???), diabetes, and increased cancer rates, just to name a few. How can something as important as the fuel we feed our bodies to nurture us take a back seat to the never-ending extra-curricular activities we use as excuses for not having the time to eat well. A bit of self-education and carving out an extra 20 minutes a day to plan and shop wisely is probably the best investment many people can make.
I challenge each of you to think about what you are eating. Read the labels - are there more chemical names than things you recognize in the ingredients? What is the country of origin? Pledge with your family to try to eat locally more often this year. There are more and more farmers' markets popping up in every municipality - find out where the ones nearest to you are. Talk to the people who grow your food. Learn how to preserve it, either through freezing, canning, preserves or dehydrating, so that by the time winter arrives again, you will have enough local food put way until it is available again the following year.
We are still enjoying canned Niagara peaches and pears, tomato salsa from our garden, and green beans that were picked on a hot August afternoon...I sigh with contentment each time I go into our fruit cellar for a jar of this or that. This year, I plan on keeping an inventory of how much I put down, so that I can keep better track of what we use. I'm down to my last 3 jars of soup base (tomatoes, carrots, leeks, swiss chard, and garlic), so I've already made a mental note to make more this year.
This post turned out alot longer than I thought it would! Thanks for sticking with me! Now, here's that recipe I promised...it was modified (of course ;) from a recipe in The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook, by Mireille Guiliano. I added spinach and mushrooms to the original recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara.
12 ounces spaghetti (I used Soba Kamut and Buckwheat Pasta)
2 medium eggs, beaten
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 pound bacon, cut in 1/2" pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 big handfuls of organic spinach, chopped if large leaves
1/4 to 1/2 pound shiitakes, sliced
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
Cook pasta til al dente in large pot of salted water. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with parmesan, season and set aside. Lightly brown the bacon in olive oil in a large pan. When half way done, add the shiitakes and garlic, then when almost done, add spinach leaves. Drain pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of cooking water. Slowly whisk in half of the reserved water to warm egg and cheese mixture. Add bacon/mushroom/spinach mix to pasta, stir well, then add egg mixture and toss quickly, until pasta is evenly coated and sauce has thickened, about 1 minute. If you like, you can add up to 1/2 cup cream to make it extra rich! Garnish with parsley. Bon appetit!