Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Final Verdict, and What's Next!?

Well well, it's been so long I'm certain any followers I did have are no longer looking for updates! Such is the blogging life - it's essential to be on top of it all the time if you have any hope of being read.

Well, I'm now a married woman, and while it's no excuse it was indeed the wedding and related festivities that has been keeping me from posting my final verdict about the produce boxes.

So, what did I try? what did I love? and would I do it again?

I've been asked these questions dozens of times since starting this blog, and I will try my best to give you the answers you're after.

My final rating of Toronto produce boxes is as follows:

#1 The Good Food Box (Foodshare)

I just loved the Good Food Box, and now firmly believe it's the best produce box going in Toronto.
What I really appreciated were the wide variety of options. While you could splurge to get yourself a box full of organic-only produce, you didn't have to - and this is what sets the Good Food Box apart from the rest.  As I've said time and time again, I believe in supporting our local growers more than I believe in obsessing over the word 'organic'.  If it's local and organic all the better!  One thing is for sure - we're not going to be able to get our local farmers on board with growing organic food, if we don't support what they're already growing in the meantime!
Add the focus on 'local' to the fact their conventionally grown produce boxes are about half the price of any of their competitors, it seems silly to choose anyone else. On top of this, the produce quality was phenomenal (both conventionally grown and organic).
Of course, there are some drawbacks, otherwise there would be no competition right?
First, this is the only service that doesn't offer delivery to your door.  You are required to pick up your box at a location in your area (there were several to choose from within a 5 minute drive for me).
Second, you don't know what you're getting in advance.  Now this can be a good thing if you like adventure, but it can be a bad thing when you already have 10lbs of potatoes and you're schedule to get another 5lb without the option to substitute.
These 2 drawbacks may be significant enough for people looking for convenience, and or the option of doing specific meal planning for the week.

#2 Mama Earth Organics 

The next four options are all in the same league - they focus on organic produce delivery to your door.  MEO had the easiest and most convenient sign up option - it was all done online, with no need to connect with someone by phone in order to get your first delivery.  You would think this would make things more profitable for them, but they still charge a $10 sign up fee, the only company to do this.  I also received excellent customer service when there was a glitch in my delivery (which was entirely my fault).
The quality of the produce was outstanding, and I received a good variety of fruit and vegetables that were interesting - the best of all companies, GFB included.
I was emailed about what would arrive in my box 4 days in advance, and given an unlimited substitution option for $2 (a regular box is $35), which I really took advantage of.  All of the substitutions are made online with quick and easy drop down menus.

#3 Front Door Organics 

This company offered great customer service, and I received an email 3 days prior to delivery telling me what I should expect to receive, making meal planning and grocery shopping for the week easier.
The price of the 'regular box' went up by $2 while I was receiving deliveries from them, which was more than double the cost of the GFB ($37 vs. $17) for roughly the same amount of produce.  In addition, there was only an option for substitution if you purchased the 'custom fresh box' which allowed for unlimited substitutions, costing $42.  I was also not impressed with the quality or variety of fruit from FDO, and once had to ask for a replacement because of severely under ripe bananas that I thought wouldn't ever ripen (they did...**blush**), the complaint however, was handled perfectly.

#4 Green Earth Organics 

Easy breezy online sing up, and I received delivery only 2 days later.  The regular box is $37 with up to 4 substitutions included with each delivery.
The delivery itself was a disappointment.  The substitution I requested was not honoured, and two of the items in my box were literally and obviously rotting - i still can't believe someone would actually let it be delivered.  I even took a picture of one of them (bok choy) and emailed it to customer service.  I did receive a reply with an apology and offer to replace those items immediately though.  My 2nd and 3rd deliveries were better, but still underwhelming - considering I received my GEO deliveries during the peak of spring harvest (June, July) I think I expected more than root vegetables and leaf lettuce week after week.

#5 Wanigan Fruits and Vegetables 

The biggest perk with Wanigan is the option to do 2 free substitutions with each delivery. I also found they had a lot of interesting options - including a local-only box.
However, I found I didn't receive as much produce with this service, and I did not find the quality of the produce to be on par with the others.  Part of it could be that they are the only company who don't use delivery containers; they make deliveries in large plastic bags which may bang up the contents a bit - for a company who prides themselves on providing environmentally sustainable produce, wasting a big thick plastic bag with each delivery doesn't make much sense to me.
Another drawback for me was the late delivery time - I received my first delivery after 6:30pm and had already starting making something else thinking it wasn't coming.  Sign up online seemed easy, until you realize you went through the whole process and can't pay online, or start the delivery until you've spoken to someone on the phone.

Unable to judge - Plan B Organic Farms 

for more info on why I was unable to judge, check out my last post (from July).

So all in all a very worthwhile experience.  I loved starting a blog and sharing my cooking exploits with friends, family and strangers, and I loved the challenge of always have to think of something new and creative to cook up.
What I didn't love was the pressure to use ALL the produce and ensure there was no waste - life gets busy sometimes, and I hated that guilty feeling when something didn't get used before it went bad.  It didn't happen all that often, but when I choose and buy my own produce, it rarely happens.

Will I continue to get produce boxes? nah, don't think so.  I love shopping for produce. I love walking in to my local family run fruit and veggie markets and grocery store and touching, smelling and feasting my eyes on all of the produce - and then getting to decide which is the freshest and most appealing.
I would definitely recommend trying it though, especially if you have a creative side, you're interested in cooking more or making new and interesting meals.  This process has definitely made me fearless when it comes to choosing less common produce I may have never tried had it not been forced on me (think celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, fiddle heads, cabbage varieties, squash varieties).

Now that my petit projet is finished, what next? I've been asking myself this question for the last couple of months, and haven't come up with a definitive plan as of yet.  I'm still taking photos of my food, and now that fall is here my exuberance for comfort food (my favorite kind!) is back.  I'd love to share it in some way, so if anyone has an idea for me - please email me!

it's been fun - happy eating y'all!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tout Fini!

Whoopsie! I've taken an unplanned hiatus :) Summer is just nuts... throw 5 weddings including my own in to the mix, and it has become near impossible to cook wholesome food AND blog about it on a regular basis.  However, I'm not giving up entirely! I love posting, and I will do my best to post whenever possible.  I've cancelled my service with Green Earth Organics, and I have looked in to my 6th and final option... Plan B Organics.  It turns out, I'm done my produce box experiment sooner that I expected! After further research, I have discovered that Plan B isn't really a good 'trial' option.

Plan B is a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) system.  This means local households purchase subscription "shares" of the year's harvest from a local organic farm. CSA "shareholders" pay for their produce at the beginning of the growing season, providing the necessary start-up capital for farmers to purchase seeds, supplies and soil amendments, eliminating their reliance on expensive bank loans and helping to pay for the real cost of food.  When the harvest comes in, shareholders reap the benifits of their buy-in, by receiving weekly produce delivery.  Plan B sources the best certified organic produce from 12 farms in Southern Ontario for your shares each week for the 18 week harvest season.
I have heard of this concept before, but until now didn't really understand the details.  How amazing! Not only is everything organic, EVERYTHING is local! Going with this option would really have us eating seasonally. The one big difference is there is a much bigger focus on vegetables.  Since our prime growing season for fruit is rather short, there would only be fruit included when seasonally available.
As with other produce delivery services, there are share options (copied from the website):

Half Share 2010 ($22.50)

A half share is a weekly box, supplied all season, with 9-12 items of locally grown, certified organic vegetables, salad greens, and herbs. We recommend this size for a household with 2 adults. Some local fruit will be included when available.

Regular Share 2010 ($30.00)

A Regular Summer Share is a weekly box containing 11-14 items of locally grown, certified organic vegetables, salad greens, and herbs. This size is for a household with 2 adults and children. Some local fruit will be included in the share when available.

Full Share 2010 ($40.00)

A full share is a weekly box containing 14-18 items of local, locally grown, certified organic vegetables, salad greens, and herbs. We recommend this size for a household with 4 adults. Some local fruit will be included when available.

I think this is a lovely concept, but it does require quite a commitment.  I would be curious to know how many shareholders these types of CSA programs draw. I navigated through the Plan B website a little further and also found they participate in a number of farmers' markets throughout the season as well.

side note - check out my article on farmers' markets I recently wrote as part of the Ontario Home Economics Association quarterly newsletter, I've posted it in a separate post.

I will have to do a review of my many posts and write a summary of my overall experience.  I will rank each of the services I used based on a few criteria, and come up with an overall 'winner', so stay tuned - I'm not done yet!

For now, I'll update you on a few of the things Rory and I have been eating!

 Miso Lemon Glazed Trout, Sauteed New Potatoes, and Green Salad with Radishes and Lemon Vinaigrette 

The lettuce, radishes and potatoes were all GEO.  Here is the trout recipe (I subbed lemon for lime 'cause it's all I had).  The potatoes were steamed for about 8-10 minutes and then sauteed in a little butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.  The lemon vinaigrette was fresh lemon juice, EVOO, a touch of dijon mustard, and s&p.  I've made this trout recipe and have blogged about it before, deelish!

Veggie Greek Pita Pizzas

Rory put these together, onions, mushrooms, green pepper (all Ontario) on whole wheat greek pitas with lactose free partly skimmed mozerella. 400F for 12-15 minutes.  Easy, healthy, quick midday dinner!

Grilled Korean BBQ Pork Tenderloin, Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Carrots, Sauteed Kale

Yum Yum Yum!!! The pork was SO simple, a nice little Ontario pork tenderloin marinated for a couple of hours in PC Korean BBQ marinade, and grilled to perfection.
The kale (Ontario), was chopped, washed and steamed with the water that clung to it's leaves for 3-4 minutes and sauteed with EVOO and seasoned with s&p.  Kale tastes a little like broccoli and a little like cabbage, it's sweet and a touch bitter.  I LOVE it, I think it's secured its place as my favourite leafy green!
The carrots (about 5 smallish) and sweet potatoes (2 medium) were both GEO.  I chopped them into 1" rounds/pieces and steamed them along with 1 tbsp of roughly chopped ginger until soft.  Once soft, I whipped 'em up with my immersion blender, a little skim milk and non-hydrogenated margarine until smooth. Add s&p to taste.  The slightly spicy ginger flavour goes so well with these two veg, and complemented the asian flavoured pork perfectly.

Below is a nice little close-up of the perfectly grilled pork.  GO RORY! So tender and juicy and packed with flavour.

Tomato Arugula Mussels with Crusty Multigrain Baguette

I've already given my mussel secrets away in a previous post.  Mussel are just too easy! Rory followed my instructions perfectly for this batch, and they were ready when I came home starving from volleyball one night.  What a man!
Simply sautee a clove or two of garlic in some EVOO until soft.  Add a can of chopped tomatoes (we use PC no-salt-added).  Bring to a simmer.  Add the washed and de-bearded mussels, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Turn off heat, add a few handfuls of arugula or spinach, recover and let sit for 2 minutes until wilted.  Toss and eat with lots of crusty multigrain bread for sopping up the flavourful broth! 

Simple Trout, Beans n' Rice (Yellow beans that is!)

I don't have much to say about this meal, except that Rory was once again, the chef! Perfectly baked trout (400F 10 mins, seasoned with s&p and a touch of EVOO), steamed Ontario yellow beans (sweet and perfect), and basmati rice.  Simple and wonderfully satisfying.  

White Trash Bash! 

Your eyes are NOT fooling you! This meal took place at my house!!! The occasion was a bachelorette party for my BFF Rhian...with a white trash theme (food included!)
Chips, ritz crackers and cheeze whiz, tang and vodka punch (in that beautiful serving vessel I picked up at Value Village for the occasion), meatballs, pigs in a blanket, and for dessert - twinkies, hohos, and rice crispie squares.  It was a definitely a heartburn inducing good time!
I had to post this....while there is a veggie tray (i couldn't bear turning people away without something nutritious), most of the guests couldn't quite believe their vegetable-blogging friend could host such a party! 

Wow, this post was kind of all over the place! I did do it in stages :)  Up next a summary of my whole produce box experience! and then what?!?! 

Happy Eating!!!

Farmers' Markets

Thursday, July 8, 2010

sizzlin' grillin' and saladz

It. is. so. hot. UGH!

Don't get me wrong, I love me some summer.  But the humidity is killing me, I feel like an old lady out there!

What better way to act out my inner old lady than to make... potato salad! and other various items :)  But first...

This week I received my final delivery from Green Earth Organics.  Bananas, ON spinach, ON zucchini, ON leaf lettuce, ON yellow potatoes, 2 ruby red grapefruit (um, hello.... it's raspberry season!), ON red radishes (for the 2nd time - I'm radished out), ON green onions (wilted), QC Hot house tomato ( tomato I've had all year!), ON bunched carrots (for the 2nd time - still haven't touch the first batch), and 3 spartan apples (delivering apples in July is a sin).  Pretty boring eh?

On the plus side, the newsletter I received with my box this week had details about a new delivery option - a '100 km Harvest Bin'! Neato mosquito!  The bin will be 100% local all year round.  Good luck in the winter! Summer is a great time to start though, and they maintain that while winter may include less variety, customers will receive an abundance of in-season fruit when it does become available.

On to some food!  There have been sammers and salads galore on regular rotation recently.  I can't bring myself to hear the clicking of my gas stove lighting on a 30+ degree day, air conditioning or not!

Here are a couple of no recipe salads that were big hits at a party over the weekend.

Cheese Tortellini Greek (inspired) Salad

  • 1 package of fresh cheese tortellini (I really like the whole wheat herb and cheese variety, but I was making a huge batch, and it's double the price of the Ziggy's brand.).
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes - halved
  • 1 green pepper - chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, slice very thinly
  • 100-150 grams of feta cheese - crumbled
  • Optional black olives
  • 1 part red wine vinegar
  • 3 parts EVOO
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp-ish of dried herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme)
  • s&p

  1. Prepare cheese tortellini as directed (in salted water) and and rinse immediately in cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside until cool.  To stop the noodles from sticking together while cooling, toss them in a few tsp of EVOO
  2. Meanwhile chop your veg, whisk your dressing together, and combine with the noodles until coated. Keep a few Tbsp of dressing reserved to toss the noodles in just before serving.  This salad has a tendency to soak up all the dressing as it sits.
  3. Eat and enjoy! 

Creamy Feta and Dill Potato and Pea salad

How beautiful is this salad? I used red new potatoes, steamed them whole, cooled them in the fridge over night and then sliced them in half.
I'll try to remember all the details of the salad.  I LOVE dill potato salad so much, but I actually don't have a recipe for it, I wing it every time, and every time, it just works!

  • a bunch of new potatoes, steamed, cooled and sliced in half (however many you want!)
  • a cup or so of fresh shelled peas (available now in the produce aisle!) - blanched for a couple of minutes in boiling until bright green. Run them under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • 1/3 cup-ish of chopped FRESH dill
  • 1/3 red onion, sliced very finely

  • 1 part plain yogurt (1/2 cupish)
  • 1 part mayo (1/2 cup)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 50 g(ish) of feta cheese
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • s&p to taste
Tweak all of the ingredients to your taste.  Sometimes I also add sugar to the dressing, because I just feel it's missing a little somethin'.  This salad was creamy (potatoes and dressing!), and packed with fresh dill flavour. You may see a couple more versions of it posted sometime this summer.

Friday night Port Ribs and Grilled Mixed Veg

Now I would be breaking my secrecy vow if I were to tell you how these ribs were made.  A Rory special.  They were special in two ways.   First, they were perfectly cooked - tender and moist. Second -
they were scorching hot! A raging inferno in our mouths! Rory but together a no-recipe dry rub, and used cayenne pepper as though it were any ordinary spice.  He learned his lesson ;)
The veg were tossed in s&p (and could've used a couple more shakes), balsamic vinegar, and birch syrup (like maple syrup, from a birch tree - a gift from my brother and mary his gf).  We enjoyed our ribs and veg with the tortellini salad (above) and some nice cold Bud Light Limes on a beautiful Friday evening in the backyard. Heavenly.

Spinach and Toasted Almond Pesto Chicken Pasta 

This one was inspired by a beautiful bunch of ON spinach.

Pesto Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch spinach 
  • 1/3 cup of slivered almonds, toasted in a heavy bottomed frying pan until golden brown (this is a crucial step for flavour! you MUST toast the almonds)
  • 2 cloves garlic (1 would've been enough though!)
  • EVOO
  • s&p (lots of seasoning! I didn't season mine quite enough.


  1. zip all those ingredients above up in a food processor until you get a pesto like consistency (how's that for detail?!)
  2. cook your pasta as directed
  3. sautee a couple of chicken breasts, or use rotisserie chicken, or whatever!
  4. toss it all together over low heat for a minute or two, sprinkle with parmesan (or in my case, smother with parmesan!)
  5. and enjoy!

Fresh, healthy, satisfying! We had this with a simple salad (leaf lettuce, radishes, cumcumber, balsamic vinaigrette).  The pasta would be even better with a sweet component - roasted grape tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers etc. Try it! Better yet, make up your own pesto! It's so simple, and very impressive :)

Happy eating fellow foodies! Will try to post again soon! New delivery service soon...stay tuned!

Monday, June 28, 2010

summer grilling and jamming!

We now have loads of local seasonal foods upon us!
I received my second delivery from Green Earth Organics this week - the newsletter that came with my delivery tells me that my box is 72% local.  This week, I also received replacements for the poor quality bok choy and lettuce that I complained about with my last delivery. I received bananas, spinach (local), red leaf lettuce (local), red radishes (local), english cucumber, hot house tomato, carrots (local), peaches, nectarines, sweet potatoes (local), apples.

This first little number was our father's day dinner in Port Elgin.  Just on the edge of town off the highway, there's a great farm stand (which has become quite the tourist attraction unfortunately), that sells amazing quality produce and that you can see being picked just before you buy it.  In season now, are local lettuces, new potatoes, peas, scapes, strawberries, radishes.

I picked up a little bit of almost everything, and made a stop at the town grocery store to pick up some additional Ontario food items for an excellent local focused meal.

Father's Day Menu

Leaf lettuce, hot house ontario cucumber and yellow tomato salad with toasted almonds and white balsamic vinaigrette.

Sauteed potatoes, peas, scapes and shallots

Grilled filet of beef

Strawberry Angelfood shortcakes

Such a lovely meal! So so fresh, and simple. This is an ideal meal for me, and really no recipes required! 
The salad was flavourful, and the dressing tangy and sweet (1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar, 3 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1 tsp white sugar or honey, s&p to taste)

The potatoes I cleaned, sliced in half and steamed for about 7-8 minutes, then sauteed a chopped shallot and 2 chopped scapes in a Tbsp of good wholesome butter.  Finally I added a big handful (3/4 cup-ish) of freshly shelled peas and s&p to taste.
They were the highlight of the meal for me! New potatoes have the thinnest, most delicate skin that  starts to peel off while washing them.  They don't take long to cook, their texture is so creamy, and their flavour slightly sweet. They would've been delicious if I'd stopped after steaming them, with a touch of s&p.
The grilled filet of beef, was as simple as that.  I like my beef seasoned with s&p and cooked rare.  The boys were really wanting the Montreal steak spice for a little extra somethin'.  Rory, master of the grill, wowed me again with three beautifully cooked steaks - on the rare side of medium rare.
Dessert couldn't have been simpler.  As my followers already know, I'm not much of a store bought angel food cake it was! Topped with local strawberries cleaned, halved, and macerated in a Tbsp of sugar for a couple of hours (maceration is just softening the fruit in a liquid - when you add sugar, it's the fruit's own liquid), and real whipped cream.


This meal was made up on the spot, using leftover thai soup.  

Thai Chicken, Chick Pea, and Spinach Medley with greens and asian flavoured vinaigrette.

The night before, we ordered a 'dinner for two' meal at a local thai restaurant which included enough food for 2 dinners, 2 lunches, and a partial dinner the following night.  One of the leftovers was a large container of coconut chicken soup, which consisted of a chicken broth/coconut milk base infused with flavours of garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilies, and loads of chicken and sliced mushrooms.

I wanted to use some of the leafy greens from my delivery, which tend to get wilted fairly quickly if they're not used.  I cleaned and steamed a large bunch of spinach in the water that clung to its leaves after washing it.  It only needs a minute or two to wilt down.  
In the meantime, I strained the soup to remove the chicken and mushrooms, and used the broth as the cooking liquid for 1/3 part basmati rice.  
  When the rice was cooked, it was nice and saucy! I added the spinach, 1/2 can of chick peas leftover in the fridge and the chicken and mushroom from the soup, and cooked over the stove until just heated through.

I know no one can repeat this recipe, but I hope it serves as inspiration to start cooking sans recipe one in a while! Look how yummers it can turn out!

Finally, I undertook a big arse project this past week! I made 90 4oz jars of Ontario strawberry jam! 
Reason being: wedding favours! How fun are personalized wedding favours?

Ontario Strawberry Jam

Check out those beautiful berries!
Ok, so I was not about to make up a recipe for this project! Too risky!  I used the recipe in my Certo liquid pectic packages - and get this, I followed it to a T! And get this - it worked perfectly! who knew?!
Do you people KNOW how much sugar is in jam?! like, yikes.  I won't tell you, except that it's a lot! Enough for me to say that I wouldn't include this jam in any 'fruit and vegetable' category! 
Each 'batch' makes 15 - 4 oz jars, and contained 2 pints of strawberries, a huge amount a white death...i mean sugar, a little lemon juice, and some pectin (which ensures the jam will set).

Try preserving something this summer ok?!  I've got another couple of batch to makes this week to meet my wedding favour quota, and I'm hoping to branch out to peach and blueberry jams later in the season.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Man o man - ok so my promise to get my act together and plan my meals for the week has been a colossal failure! Warm whether = no routine. 
To start, my first Green Earth Organics delivery - another disappointment! As I mentioned in my last post, the sign up process was a breeze.  My delivery arrived in a nice protective tupperware box...and that's where the positive ends.
I opted to do a couple of substiutions for my delivery - I am not a picky eater, but the one food I'm really averse to is tastes like household cleaner to me - apparently this is a result of a taste gene.  It was scheduled to come with my delivery, so that was an automatic sub.  I also subbed apples, because this is the worst time of year for apples. I chose to get peaches and some Ontario bok choy.  Well, I got the cilantro anyway (along with the subs), which when I opened my box, smacked me with it's distinct gag inducing smell. Next,  I kid you not when I say the bok choy literally came rotting.  The inner leaves with brown and slimey.  This was also the case for the mixed greens.  The rest of the produce, which included: leeks, green onions, a tomato (alllmost over ripe, but we used it immediately - see guacamole below), asparagus, sweet potato, mushrooms, peaches, bananas were good quality, but for $37 a box I expect perfect quality for all the produce.
I emailed GEO about the bok choy and lettuce, and they responded within minutes apologizing and conceding they did have an issue with the spring mix.  They offered to send me replacements with my next delivery or to choose any 2 additional produce items to add to my delivery. Good customer service! 
Well, I have to say I haven't made great use of the produce.  I've had something going on every single evening since I received the box - luckily for me, Rory's been making up some nice little dinners and not letting the produce go to waste.
Rory's Crispy Baked Cod, Asparagus, Homemade Tartar, and Basmati
Rory and I are alike in that we're not recipe people.  As you all know, this occasionally results in disaster, but sometimes we hit it out of the park.  Rory made a deelish crispy coating for this fresh cod which included bread crumbs, quick oats, thinly sliced green onion, garlic and onion powder. He  popped it in the hot oven for the perfect amount of time (probably 12 mins or so), and served it with homemade tartar (miracle whip and sweet relish - ok homemade-ish).  I love cod, but I find even though it doesn't taste 'fishy' like salmon and trout can, it actually smells fishier when you cook it.  Anywho, really really good meal - the fish was so flaky and moist - servied with a side of local asparagus (steamed) and basmati rice with soy sauce.
No recipe Guacamole
I never use a recipe for guacamole, but I would say the following is about what I do when I make it.  My technique is to taste as I go, adding more salt, pepper, lime juice as I like it!
  • 2 Ripe avocados
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped finely (I like using roma or plum tomatoes) local GEO
  • 1-2 green onions chopped finely (local GEO)
  • 1 clove garlic (local Wanigan) minced
  • 1/2 jalepeno, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime give or take
  • s&p to taste
Sometimes I don't have jalepenos, so i leave em' out.  I also like to use red onions instead of green.  Sometimes I add more tomatoes, sometimes I use roasted garlic, I've also used lemon juice in a pinch....the options are really endless.  Point is - stop using a recipe for guacamole and live a little!
Black Bean and Garlic Shanghai Noodles
I actually can't believe I haven't blogged this recipe before.  This has been a pretty regular staple for us over the past few years.  It's inspired by a Lucy Waverman recipe.  This is a veggie version, but it's delicious with meat or shrimp too.

  • 1 package of your favorite fresh asian noodles - mine are these thick and satisfying udon noodles
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp (2 small/1 large clove) minced garlic
  • 2 tsp minced/ grated ginger (I freeze my ginger and use a a grater when it's frozen)
  • 1-2 Tbsp black bean and garlic sauce (bottled - available at most supermarkets)
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp of hoisin or oyster sauce (ditto)
  • 1 tsp asian chili sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • some fresh chopped or ripped basil (1/4 cup ish)
  • Veggies - I used a local hothouse red pepper, broccoli, and little shitake mushrooms


  1. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes (or as directed on package)
  2. Combine black bean sauce, water, corn starch, hoisin, chili sauce, rice vinegar in a dish and wisk together
  3. Heat a large skillet to med high, add canola oil, add garlic and ginger and stirfry for 30 seconds (careful not to burn it or it get bitter!) 
  4. Add veggies, stir fry for 1-2 minutes until they start to soften
  5. Add sauce mixture, and bring to boil, simmer for 2-3 more minutes until veggies are tender but not overcooked
  6. Add sesame oil, lime juice, and basil, and cook for 30 more seconds
  7. Dump in your cooked noodles, toss, and
  8. ENJOY!

This is the first time I've used shitake mushrooms in this dish and I will never leave them out again! They absorb so much flavour and they keep such a satisfying texture.  I realize this sounds like a lot of ingredients but the sauces will keep for a long time in your fridge, and trust me, you will be making this one regularly!  There is also a lot of leeway when it comes to this recipe - I often don't have limes or basil, or one or more of the other ingredients - you'll still have a great dish on your hands, promise!
This is a scape - it is  the stem from which the seed head of the garlic bulb is formed.  They taste like garlic without that spicy heat garlic cloves have - a milder garlic.   A local springtime treat.  I picked some of these babies up from a small produce stand down the street.  With them (I used 4 or 5), I made:
Spinach, Scape, Walnut Pesto Hummus (See my previous post on basil walnut pesto - substitute basil with baby spinach, and garlic with scapes.  I brought the hummus along with some goat cheese and whole grain crackers (Tricuits - Balsamic and Basil flavoured) for a potluck - a hit!
Ok, this is what I'll best :)  I have a new delivery coming this week - which I admit in advance will be a busy one! (it's my birthday!).
I do have grand plans to make strawberry jam in the next couple of weeks though, so stay tuned for related posts!
Enjoy this weather! Eat outside!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back to the kitchen...

Summertime cooking is tough...Rory and I get so caught up with being active, social, and just plain old hot, that cooking tends to move down the priority list a bit.  I hope that my blogging escapades keep me at it, I'm going to make an effort to be more organized!

I received my final Wanigan produce delivery last week - disappointing yet again! The bananas and the apples, for the third time all bruised! What on earth are they doing to the poor produce over there?  I suspect the produce is getting damaged during delivery.  It's the only delivery service that doesn't use a Tupperware container, they deliver everything in a large plastic bag.   I substiuted a couple of items again, this time I opted for no leaf lettuce because with the first and second delivery, it came wilted and browning and I ended up tossing it (ugh... i hate waste too).  I got some more fiddle heads, some snow peas, some leeks,spinach, a tomato, strawberries, oranges, pears, apples, and I can't remember what else, I was underwhelmed.

I haven't been making anything too spactacular, Rory bbq'd some pork chops last week (marinated in the PC Korean BBQ sauce - really not good for you but delicious and a crowd pleaser), served with steamed snow peas and fiddleheads, and rice.  Rory's really beginning to master the grill - I can't remember the last time something wasn't cooked to perfection! The chops were tender and juicy, and most importantly not overcooked!

I used my wanigan tomato, and some store bought local leaf lettuce to make a nacho dip for guess, a pot luck!  Nacho dips are always a hit, here's my recipe.

Layer 1: Combine one 500mL container of light sour cream, and one container of softened light cream cheese with a mixer until smooth.  Add 1/2 package of taco seasoning (you can also make your own, chili powder, cumin, a little salt), and 2-3 finely sliced green onions.

Layer 2: Salsa, whatever you like!

Layer 3: cheese, cheddar or something a little sharp

Layer 4: chopped lettuce

Layer 5: seeded, chopped tomatoes - roma work best

(Another layer I like to add occasionally is refried beans, which would go under the cream cheese/sour cream layer).

We did manage to put one spectacular dinner on the table last week, and it was a cardiovascular disease inducing feast:

Grilled Baretta Farms sirloin, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed cremini mushrooms with cream and balsamic vinegar, and peas.


Yes, it was as delicious as it looks! The extremely well marbled steak was brought to room temp before seasoning with s&p and grilling to rare.  I love a rare steak, the rarer the better!  Allowing the meat to come to room temp before grilling (take it out of the fridge an hour before cooking time) will allow for more even cooking.
The potatoes were yukon gold (I could not find Canadian potatoes at my Loblaws last week, so I went with US), cut in to large pieces (skin intact), and boiled along with a large clove of chopped garlic until tender (about 12-15 minutes), drained and mashed with the good stuff - butter and cream, s&p.
The mushrooms were the show stopper for me.  One 8 oz package of Ontario cremini mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in about 1 Tbsp of butter with s&p, I had to add a splash of water after 5 minutes, because they were getting a bit dry.  Once the water had evaporated and the mushrooms started browning and sticking to the pan, I deglazed with a couple tsp of balsamic vinegar and added a couple of Tbsp of cream.  I would've been happy with a bowl of those mushrooms for dinner.
Peas - I always keep Green Giant peas in the freezer.  Throw em in boiling water for a minute or two and voila.

This really had the potential to be a full on local meal, minus the pesky US potatoes - but not bad.  Baretta Farms is located just outside of King City (20 mins or so from TO), and my Loblaws carries their poduct. Yay!

So my delivery with Wanigan is (thankfully) complete!  Cancelling was easy, but on the whole I would not be able to recommend their services, they simply don't provide as much bang for your buck, and the quality of the produce was extremely disappointing.
  On to the next candidate: Green Earth Organics.  I've just completed my online sign-up.  Wow, so easy.  It looks like I'll be getting a delivery on Tuesday, 2 days notice - spectacular!  A regular box containing 11 items costs $37 (plus an initial $20 deposit for the delivery container), this is comparable to the other organic delivery services.  There are three delivery options:
$37 Regular Harvest Box, $47 Family Harvest Box, or the $60 Super Harvest Box.  You can also Create Your Own Bin, ensuring that you always get exactly what you want (The individual produce items are pricey though - $4 for an Ontario cucumber, yikes!)
 I was able to see the contents of my first delivery immediately, and make up to 4 substitutions.  Very user friendly website.  Amazing local content - 8 of the 11 items are Ontario (of course I reazlize they have an advantage in that it's now practically summer).  Very impressive start!  We'll see what the quality is like.  Organic is the focus of the service, but it appears they do their best to source local items.  They also offer the option to add other organic grocery items to your order, there's even a tab labelled '100km food' - neato!

Ok, I'm off to organize myself for the week ahead - I know what I'm going to receive with my delivery, so I'm going to come up with a reasonable meal plan, and try to stick to it!

Stay tuned and happy eating!


So Vegas was a blast - Obviously, I can't spill the beans about all the details, otherwise what would be the point? ;)  I will talk food though!  I would go back to Vegas for an eating vacation.  The restaurants! Everything is so over the top, and the service is incredible.  Now, there were a couple meals of note.  First, the 12 of us - yup, 12 girls in Vegas = serious shananigans, went to Spago, the Wolfgang Puck resto in Cesar's Palace for dinner.  Check out the current menu.
We were greeted with complimentary champagne when our table wasn't ready, followed by a round of flatbreads, one margherita one mushroom - really good, impossiby thin, full of fresh tomato flavour, a perfect start.

To start, I chose the GRILLED OCTOPUS SALAD
(White Bean Ragout, Preserved Lemon, Toasted Sourdough Bread, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Parsley).  WOW! I love seafood and have never had octopus before, but a few of ladies at the office go on about how tender and delicious it is. They aren't lying! The tentacles were grilled and sliced in rounds, they almost look like little scallops; served with bitter greens, an herby and VERY lemony vinegarette, and perfect toast.  What a beautiful start! The octopus was so tender and had such a satisfying texture, much more dense than scallops.  If you have the oppotunity, ty it!

I chose the special for my main.  Seared Duck Breast, on top of I forget exactly, but I'm almost positive it was polenta, with spring peas, morrel mushrooms, and a rhubarb sauce.  Nom nom nom! Incredible! The duck was so flavourful, it was rubbed with some sort of spice rub that I could not put my finger on, somehing like a chinese 5 spice, but not exactly.  The polenta was pillowy and rich all at once, perfectly seasoned.  What a great mix of seasonal spring flavours! (Las Vegas seasonal flavour I don't know...)

Below is a few of the photos from the other gals - clockwise startig with top left:
BLUE CHEESE CRUSTED PRIME FILET MIGNON -Potato Lyonnaise, Confit Bacon, Cipollini Onions, Spinach and Balsamic Reduction
ROASTED HALF FREE RANGE ORGANIC CHICKEN -Yukon Gold Potatoes, Goat Cheese, Wild Mushrooms and Natural Jus
VEGETARIAN ENTREE (not on the menu! and not quite sure what was in, pretty though)
GRILLED RARE YELLOWFIN TUNA - Fire Roasted Bell Peppers & Cal├žots Onions, Braised Artichokes, Fennel, Spanish Green Olive Tapenade, Piment D'Espelette and Romesco Sauce

Unfortunately, we had no time for dessert, we were on a serious party schedule - you know how it is ;)  The portions were ridiculously large - I mean, who needs a half chicken!? We were full anyway.

I don't have any more photos of the food in Vegas but some of the other highlights were:
Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls - ooey gooey white mac and cheese coated with bread crumbs and tossed in the fryer, resulting in perfect little balls of cheesy heavenly goodness.
Fried parmesan mozerella risotto sticks - see above, substitute pasta for risotto :) mmmmm.....
Lobster chowder with oyster crackers and perfect creamy coleslaw - this is the first thing I ate when we arrived.  What a welcome!
A classic Cinnabon and coffee for breakfast....whatever, Vegas is an indulgance in itself, so when in Rome!

I'm gonna post this one up, and work on a new post for non-Vegas related food talk!

Go to Vegas and Eat!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring fling

I baked this week....twice!  Unusual I know...the first episode was for a work potluck (yes, another one - two last week, and another one tomorrow!). I tried Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) Lemon Yogurt Cake. Unfortunately, I neglected to take any photos of my final product, but never you mind, I will be making this puppy again! I'm a big fan of lemon flavoured anything, and this cake was loaded with sweet  (but not too sweet) lemony goodness.  The only change I made was cutting the amount of oil to 1/4 cup (thanks for the tip Dara!). Trust me, it was SO moist. It was also a tremendous pot luck success, so much so that I've been pre-signed-up to make this cake again at the next potluck. Try it ok!?

My baking extravaganza continued with a somewhat yummy Rhubarb Walnut Loaf.
It probably won't be back for a repeat performance, but I think I made good use of my local, seasonal rhubarb from the Wanigan delivery. Rory and my dietitian coworkers gobbled it up!  I used a Canadian Living Recipe as inspiration.  Maybe I should stop using baking recipes as 'inspiration' and just flipping follow them eh?  I feel like a substitution addict when it comes to baking...but the first step is knowing I have a problem right?
The one part of the recipe I did follow was for the topping - butter, sugar, and cinammon - after spending almost an hour in the oven, it was like caramel topped rhubarb loaf.  I can see myself using this topping for many a cake in the future.

Maple Mustard Chicken, Sauteed Fiddle Heads and Quinoa

A simple healthy meal. Looks a little boring I admit...should have styled the plate a little better! The quinoa was prepared as per the package instructions (and I used my leftovers for hot ceral in the morning with milk, honey and strawberries!).  The chicken was topped with a quick little sauce, and baked at 350F for 20 minutes, brushing a couple of times while baking with extra sauce.  Fiddleheads were sauteed in butter for about 10 minutes, and sprinkled with s&p. 
Overall, an o.k. meal - the chicken was moist and flavourful., the fiddleheads were a little undercooked, and the quinoa was simple.
I LOVE fiddleheads, but the ones I got with my delivery were not very fresh.  It didn't help that I undercooked them either. If you like asparagus, you would probably like fiddleheads, and you can cook them the same way.  My preference is steaming for 7-9 minutes.

Maple Mustard Sauce
- 1.5 Tbsp of maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp lime juice (fresh lime juice is better - this was leftover from a recent margarita party :) )
- 1.5 tsp dijon mustard (any mustard will do)
- a pinch of cayenne pepper

Burger Night!

We had some PC Angus burgers left over from a bbq a few weeks back.  I don't love hamburgers all that much, in fact I prefer a hotdog to a hamburger any day, but I do occasionally have a craving.  We served ours with local Wanigan tomatoes, and a side 'salad' of blanched brocolli and asaparagus (both Wanigan), tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. 

sooo pretty.  The 'salad' was o.k.  Broccoli hangs on to a lot of water when it's blanched (boiled for 90 seconds), which diluted the flavourful vinaigrette a little.

Simple Egg Salad - using the perfect hard boiled egg.

Ok folks, here is a recipe for the perfect hard boiled egg. Follow these instructions exactly: 
- Cover your eggs in a sauce pan with cold water
- Bring water to a boil over high heat
- As soon as the water starts boiling, remove the pan from the heat, cover with a tight fitting lid, and set your timer for exactly 10 minutes
- Run cold water over the eggs for a minute to halt the cooking process
- Peel and enjoy!
- Use them for egg salad, deviled eggs (my FAVE!) or cobb salad

TIP: don't use super duper fresh eggs if you want to be able to peel them.  An egg with a little maturity under it's belt will shrink slightly in it's shell, allowing for easier peeling.

You want eggs that look like this....

For the love of god stop overcooking hardboiled eggs! Have you ever a notice a grey film that surrounds your hard boiled egg's yolk? It means you've overcooked the poor little thing!

My egg salad sandwich is simple...2 eggs, 1 stalk celery (Wanigan), 1 Tbsp Miracle Whip, a few grinds of fresh black pepper and 2 slices whole grain bread.

Here's a shot of my latest delivery.  I have to say, I have not been impressed with the quality of the produce.  Again, I received lettuce that was already browing and was completely wilted within 24 hours in the crisper.  The asparagus was dry (as in not picked recently), and many of the fiddleheads were flacid, and I had to throw some of them out.  The fruit has been consistently tasty, but for the second time, three of the bananas were so bruised I had to toss them.  Wanigan's got one more chance to make me a believer :)

This weekend, I'm headed to Vegas baby!!!!  I'm looking forward to some superb meals and will try to remember and document them!  Have a wonderful first long weekend of the 'summer'!!!!