Coulda been the 6-pack,coulda been the Russians

(The obscure reference from the title ties to the Irish Rovers – if you don’t know it, or would like a reminder – click here).

We have more readers from the US than from Canada and I thought this may be an interesting piece of perspective on our nation and the city in which I live.  I should explain that we live on one of the busier streets in the city on the edge of a very social strip of town.  A 3 minute walk would bring you past 8-12 restaurants and bars as well as a concert venue.

I have managed to find myself on the streets of Toronto around 7PM for the last 2 evenings.  There has been an unusual amount of people walking, by themselves, with cases of beer.  It’s usually a 6 or a 12-pack but they are out there and they are generally walking hurried through the cold winter night.

I have also noticed that by 8PM they are not around.

Last night I counted 10 people walking on the streets as described above between 6.30-7.15.  I sat at a College Street bar for a few hours after this and while I wasn’t facing the street, frequent glances outside revealed no additional beer.

Perhaps I’m hallucinating but I draw an easy conclusion – Olympic Hockey drives behaviours across our city (and I suspect, our Country).  The television support my claim – 20 million Canadians (2 out of 3) watched at least part of the game on Tuesday night.  I suspect last night’s game (vs the Russians) was even higher.

I walked across College and noticed the crowds in many bars who were huddled around televisions.  The bars were diverse – typical pubs, restaurants, watering holes and holes in the wall contained their tribes – all part of a bigger tribe of the Canadian Cult.  It seems that hockey – and beer – are a right of passage for many Canadians these days.

A mention of beer may seem to be a very loose tie to a food post – if you could see the frequency that this pattern occurs it would be instantly clear why it’s not a loose tie at all.  I’d love to know the statistics on beer sales in Canada this week.

Making yogurt in the dehydrator – the night time stood still

It was supposed to be a quick, easy learning experience.  Heat milk, cool it down, stir in live yogurt and put in dehydrator.  Wait 4-8 hours.

Instead, I appeared to walk in quicksand.  The faster I moved, the slower things got done.  I actually laughed at my futility last evening and how much trouble I had bringing milk to an almost boil and then cooling it precisely.  It was a great night – just not the one I had planned.

Making yogurt in the dehydrator   the night time stood still Preserving Recipes Milk February [Read more...]

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – Curry Carrot Soup

As we mentioned last week, we have altered the rules and are allowing the use of preserves – to show that a little extra effort yields an amazing product with less cost.

This week we used our homemade turkey stock made at Christmas.  We preserved it by pressure canning (you cannot use a hot water bath for any meat related products) and followed the wisdom of the National Centre for Home Food Preservation on how to handle.  We made 4.5 liters with leftover carcass and a few veggies.  Total cost per liter was around $0.75.

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet   Curry Carrot Soup February Curry Cooking Recipes Carrot [Read more...]

Vintage Food Packaging Archive

It’s Monday – time to get the brain warmed up and charged for the week ahead.  Click here to do just that.

The link above ties to an online archive of one mans (Dan Godsell) collection of food packaging from the 1950s-1970s.  It’s a little click-heavy but the treasures you will find are well worth it.

It’s fascinating to examine the packaging in the context of what is happening in food today.  What role did early packaging play in changing our relationship to food?  Do you notice that there are no health claims?  After clicking 30 or 40 images I also didn’t find any claims of “easy” or “fast” though there were several options for “free toy inside.”

Happy Monday!

Tzatziki, thickening yogurt and other favourites…

I remember our family going through a tzatziki phase – thickened yogurt that you added raw garlic, a squeeze of lemon, a little olive oil and grated cucumber to.  Sometimes we’d go crazy and add a bit of salt or fresh dill.  We ate it with everything – chicken, grilled veggies, baked potatoes.

Tzatziki, thickening yogurt and other favourites... Yogurt Garlic February Cooking Recipes [Read more...]

*Event* Seedy Sunday Toronto – Tomorrow

Many of our readers are not from the Toronto area.  If you`re not, you may still be interested in reading more about the unique location of this event (it`s super cool and food related) here.

We attended Seedy Saturday last year – it`s a local seed exchange and sale that can`t be beat if you are planning a garden.  It is hosted bt the Toronto Community Garden Network and is a $2 or pay what you can event.  You can bring your own seeds to trade or purchase envelopes f them for as low as $0.25.

It`s a busy event and you can feel the anticipation of Spring in the air.  We were shocked how jam packed the event was – both with attendees, seeds and offers of great information from groups related to gardening through the building.

The event has been moved to a Sunday this year – as in tomorrow.  It lasts from 12..30-6:00pm and you can get more info here.  Our friend Sarah lists more information on the event on her great blog, Toronto Tasting Notes.

Sarah also mentions an event this Wednesday evening to launch a new gardening book, Grow Great Grub.  The author is  a digital pal of ours as well (Gayla Trail, otherwise known as You Grow Girl) and this looks like a must-have for us.  It’s focus is on growing organic food in small spaces.

You can find Sarah on Twitter here and Galya here.

Anyone looking to plant something soon?  What’s are you going to grow?

Can Jam – Carrot Cake Campfire Toast Pie Filling

It`s time again for the can jam.  Heeehaaaaw!

The mystery ingredient (picked by the most fabulous Dorris and Jilly) was carrots.

Can Jam   Carrot Cake Campfire Toast Pie Filling Preserving Recipes February Carrot [Read more...]

Jamie Oliver is fired up about making a difference – TED

We are fired up this week.

Jamie Oliver (British celebrity chef who is gaining ground in the US) spoke at TED this week.  He passionately describes his mission to change how we eat and how our children do.

Set aside the 20 minutes to watch this video, it`s worth every moment.  If you do, we`d love to get a discussion going in the comments section below.  Jamie Oliver is fired up about making a difference   TED February

Dehydrated Onions and Carrots

The dehydrator was out and we had a counter full of onions and carrots.  I almost passed them by justifying that they were one of few foods I can buy local and fresh (though not nearly as good as the moment they come from the ground) throughout the year.  I also associate them with the hard chunks I have received in homemade instant soup recipes – the kind that you add water, an oxo cube and transform a jar of pebbles into nourishment.

Then again, the carrots and onions were there.  I have eaten dehydrated versions of them my entire life (not in great quantity, mind you) and I like the idea of learning more about what you eat by cooking it at least once (something I`ve wanted to extend to the world of cheese for some time).

Dehydrated Onions and Carrots Preserving Recipes Onion February Carrot [Read more...]

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – Solutions for Healthy and Affordable Eating

We started this series of posts in response to many things – an undeniable motivator (as previously shared) was the focus on poverty and eating well and a particular scene in Food, Inc which spoke to the cost of good food vs. `filler`.

Michael Pollan shares that the cost of food on the outside of a store is dramatically more expensive than the inner aisles (see his 2007 article here).   The article is a must-read and it`s fascinating food for thought to consider that a dollar yields 250 calories of carrots compared to 1,200 calories of potato chips.  I find Pollans` writing fascinating and thought provoking.  I also find it deeply troubling.

As our $6 dinner for 4 people roasts in the oven, I find myself deep in reflection.

According to Discover Magazine (here),  15-35% of North American food spoils in the field while 10-15% is lost in transport.

The Farmer`s I speak with (regularly), feel that the argument for cheaper food is dangerous – it threatens their livelihoods, could create shortcuts and threaten the future of farming.  Cheaper can come with ethical issues as well – both of what goes into the product and how it is created.

There are enough voices fighting the virtues of all sides of the arguments.  I`m not nearly enough of an expert in any of the above – though I`ll cheer for anyone trying to make a difference.  There`s enough battling in the world of food – much of it is important – but we also need to findprovide solutions.  A significant amount of food is rotting while people are starving or not being able to afford fresh, real food.

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet has been both easier than I thought and way more difficult than I could have imagined.

Making the cost work has been easy.  Most meals have been less than $2 and focused on good food with solid technique.  They have been healthy, satisfying and simple to make – even when balancing a 60 hour work week, writing 7 days a week, a young puppy and life at large.

What`s been tough?  The meals could have been better, healthier and cheaper.

Recall our recipe for roasted red peppers in the fall.  We bought a bushel (25-30 pounds) of red peppers for $14.  Our freezer is full of $0.30-$0.40 bags of fire roasted peppers that take any soup to another universe.

Our canned peas taste like summer and cost about $0.70 each.

Our Romano beans were about $0.60 a can.

Fresh from the field beans were pressure canned for well under a dollar.

Our preserved turkey stock was practically free with the leftover carcass from Christmas.

We preserved 24 liters of peaches for around $19.  126 liters of tomato sauce cost us about $1 each.

Garlic scapes and wild leek chutes fill our freezer all waiting for sauces and soups.  More than 60 units of these flavors fill our freezer – the total cost was $4.

There is certainly start-up costs and a learning curve.  It`s not easy (though not difficult) and takes some time.  It`s also the way that many families functioned for a long time from all around the world.

The results are stunning.  When we opened our first can of peas last night we both started to laugh.  We have 10 cans of summer peas left that taste like they just came from the field.  They contain peas, water and a bit of salt and nothing else.

I haven`t been using our preserves in these posts because I thought that was cheating.  It`s time to change that.  Starting next week we`ll be using the pantry to raise the bar a little.

From now on we will also price all of our preserving posts (based on ingredients).  Not all of our preserves will be considered cheap (wild blueberries with maple syrup is an adorable jam but not for the most cost conscious), but I want to help get the message out that preserving can help make a significant difference – in the amount of food that rots, the cost of what you eat and the quality and taste of what appears on your plate.

I`m also asking for those of you who preserve to share the word with your own communities (online and organic).  Together we can make a difference.  There are so many problems in our food system – we have part of the solution and we need to continue to inspire those around us with it.