Sunday, February 22, 2009

an excellent article not written by me

I have crappy Vista on my computer, which means IE regularly malfunctions (note to self: get around to installing Firefox). I find that it's more likely to run properly if another Microsoft program launches it, so I've been randomly selecting links that come up on my Windows Live thing that launches when Instant Messenger starts up. Today there was one that read "How safe is microwave popcorn?" This intrigued me. My initial response would be "It's practically toxic waste, don't eat it." Imagine my surprise when I read the article and it actually agreed with me! And totally scooped my microwave popcorn methodology, too. Yay MSN.

Now I'm going to go read about the 7 hottest Oscar night dresses EVAH because that's what I was going to click on before I saw the popcorn link, and I'm curious.

Friday, February 20, 2009

a little sign of spring

The Red Barn Market on West Saanich had local lettuce, spinach and mizuna today, all fresh and lovely. Hothouse-grown, of course, but still nice to see (and eat!) In a few more weeks, Sun Wing will open and we can have tomatoes again. Drool. And Dave found a wee cache of forgotten hidden carrots this morning, so I am munching on sweet delicious carrotty goodness now. Mmmm.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Your Guide To Local Shopping

As per request, here's a rundown of what I buy where.

Vegetables & Eggs

Madrona Farm - Blenkinsop Road, 1/2 km past Galey heading north, on the east side of the road. They just had kale, parsnips, leeks and garlic this week but you know, you can do a lot with those. Come March there will be more leafy stuff. Open Wed-Sat at 11, don't be late.

Dan's Country Farm Market - Oldfield Rd, just before Oldfield Orchard going north. By some miracle, they still have local carrots, cabbage, leeks, beets, turnips, brussel sprouts, and celeriac. They also carry local potatoes, onions, garlic, squashes, apples, kiwis, eggs, chicken (sometimes, but not til May now - it's fantastic and well worth getting) and frozen chicken sausage (which I don't like, but whatever) and honey (Babe's). They have some frozen soft fruits (raspberries at the moment) and fresh apple juice. Not everything is local, but the local stuff is labeled. Also, delicious baked yummies, which are not local, but are tasty. Prices are so good, you'll wonder why you ever bought produce at Thrifty's. Open Wed-Sun regular hours. In summer they have loads and loads of everything including fruit.

Red Damsel Farm - West Saanich Rd, just before The Red Barn. It's on the left, there's a sign. At the moment they just have eggs, but they're really good, even if they are $5/doz (that's still cheaper than comparable eggs in grocery stores.) Open Fri-Sat at the moment. In summer and fall they have produce, which is varied and good.

Food Roots Pocket Markets - see website for locations and times (note: there is one at the new Fol Epi/Caffe Fantastico location at Dockside Green that is not listed on Saturday mornings.) They have local collards, kale, chard, beets, turnips, apples & pears, eggs, plus other goodies. Not everything is local, but the people running them are pretty knowledgeable about where everything comes from so you just have to ask. It's a great concept and it's nice to support this organization.


Red Barn at Mattick's Farm - local beef, lamb, pork (Hertel's, so not completely organic and dubious ethically, but not going to kill you AND they do roasts with the rind on), chicken, duck. Also non-local bison and elk. The sausages are good. Check the freezer before you look at the fresh stuff, there are often very good deals in there. The butcher will be able to tell you what's pastured and what's not. Sometimes they switch to Alberta beef so you have to keep your eyes open, but it seems in the winter they use Quist Farms beef.

Choux Choux Charcuterie - local pork products, including bacon and ham (check the labels to see what's made in-store). They use Sloping Hill pork which is not only local, but ethically, healthily raised and good for you. They have rabbits (frozen) from Saanich but all their duck is Fraser Valley farmed. You can get lard as well, and sometimes eggs, which are good but overpriced. If you're feeling rich you can order grass-fed beef and venison through them too.

Pepper's Market - Cadboro Bay Village. They carry Cowichan Bay Farms chicken, Farmhouse Chicken (which is processed in the same facility, but is factory-farmed if that bothers you), and Sloping Hill Pork (check labels, it isn't always Sloping Hill.)

Market On Yates - best selection of local cheeses, plus the really good Jerseyland Farms unhomogenized yogurt, which is not quite local but makes up for it by being really delicious.

Ambrosio Markets - Cadboro Bay, Oak Bay, Cook St. Village, James Bay. Local produce when they can get it, they try their best. Come March there will be local hothouse tomatoes & cukes, loads of local stuff, especially soft fruits, in the summer. Decent prices but not as cheap as buying from the farms.


Plenty Epicurean Pantry - Fort St between Vancouver & Cook. They carry some of the TrueGrain stuff from Cowichan Bay. Apparently you can also buy direct from TrueGrain.

Other stuff: I buy Island Farms or Avalon Organic butter from Thrifty's, plus Island Farms homogenized milk for Stirling's tea and coffee cream for me. I also sometimes buy cheese there for convenience, they have some of the Natural Pastures cheeses and we really like those.

Last year we went halfsies with a friend on some pork and a side of beef. It's almost gone, so I'll need to look for something along those lines again when it's available. I will keep the blog posted. I liked the pork we got but the beef wasn't great, it was from an animal that was too young and hadn't been aged enough and didn't have much flavour - also I think it had been frozen too slowly because it seemed to lose an inordinate amount of juice when thawed. But, it's edible, and cheap, and conveniently located in the freezer.

good vegetables, bad vegetables

I found a bag of brussel sprouts (local, purchased from Dan's Country Farm Market several weeks ago) in the bottom of my fridge and decided to cook them up tonight. I wasn't expecting much from them because, well, they'd been in there for a while and Dan's has stopped selling them on the stalk, probably because the stalks didn't fare too well in the snow and they look a bit grotty now. Also, I think my fridge is a bit cold and some of them were actually sort of frozen. I was expecting something akin to the brussel sprouts I cooked at Christmas, kind of bitter and nasty. Thus, it was a very pleasant surprise when they turned out beautifully, sweet and tender and mild.

I don't know what has to be done to brussel sprouts in order to get them to taste as bad as the ones in grocery stores. I mean, what more abuse could you put brussel sprouts through than plucking them from their stalk, sticking them in a plastic bag, putting them in a cooler unit in a store for a few days, then dragging them home and sticking them in a too-cold fridge for at least two weeks before finally cooking them? Or is it just that brussel sprouts grown here just taste better than the ones grown in the Fraser Valley? Hard to say, but I'm sticking with Saanich brussel sprouts from now on.

And yes, this will absolutely be the last post about brussel sprouts. For this year.

Friday, February 06, 2009

just in case you hadn't heard

If its negative effect on your insulin pathways, support for unsustainable agriculture and just plain non-foodness weren't enough to keep you away from high-fructose corn syrup, here's another reason:

MAY CONTAIN MERCURY. It seems the chance is about 50-50, which is not good odds for something like this.

Just don't eat it, k? It's bad all over. Also, it never, ever shows up in Canada labeled as high-fructose corn syrup. Instead, they call it glucose-fructose. Check your shelves, and ditch the stuff with glucose-fructose in it. Mercury isn't one of those things you want to mess with. Your brain and nervous system will thank you.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

when life hands you toranges...

... you make torangeade, then you make tarts. Because you need something to entertain the child for half an hour until bedtime.

Toranges are apparently exclusive to Thrifty Foods and not produced anywhere in the world other than the Buck citrus orchards. There is a good reason for this: they taste like crap. Like lemons, only without the refreshing zing - just kind of bitter and sour. Also, they cost about 5 times more than lemons.

I am thinking they were a mistake. I should have been more suspicious when the cashier told me that the produce guys wouldn't give samples to them when they asked. My bet is that they are a failed experiment from Buck that Thrifty's is obligated to sell because they're contractually bound to buy their entire crop. Which, generally is a concept I approve of, so I don't think I will actually be complaining to Thrifty's.

Anyway, I bought one because it looked like a pomelo and I like those, and I haven't seen any this year. Won't be doing that again. I was still making faces several minutes after taking a bite.

I ended up juicing it, and I dissolved some honey, diluted it, and mixed the diluted honey-water with the torange juice to make torangeade. It's ok. I can drink it. I also used 5 or 6 tablespoons in tart filling - the tarts I usually make with apple cider vinegar. I cut the sugar a bit and used more vinegar substitute, and they turned out pretty well. Here's an approximation of the recipe:

24 small tart shells

3 eggs
6 tbsp torange juice
1 cup sugar
splash vanilla

Beat eggs lightly, add sugar, torange juice & vanilla. Whisk just to combine, put in tart shells, bake at 375F until brown on tops.