Adventures of a First Time Gardener

I decided this year was high time for me to grow my own garden. I love local food, and so why shouldn’t I take the time to grow my own food, with the carbon footprint of 10 steps from my Garneau Home Kitchen? This is the first time I’ve ever grown anything in my life. Mylexandra can attest that I was highly reluctant, given my track record with household plants… I figured, hell, let’s give it a shot. It’s been an adventure so far!

We planted around the second weekend in May. I had many people telling me that was wayyy too early to plant, but I wanted to get going, so I planted, and really I’m happy I did, because it is now the second week of June, and my garden looks great!

I planted a few planters, and a few seeds. Here is my row of green beans.

I decided on fresh strawberries this year. Hmm.. Who doesn’t love handpicked fresh strawberries?

Here’s my little baby zucchini plant. She looks so cute and little…

Here’s the mint starter plant we planted. It was big to begin with. Wait until you see it after a month…

This is me, proudly watering my newly planted garden.

Note the size of the rhubarb plant in this picture. It’s nearly quadrupled in size since then!

Three weeks later

Three weeks later, I look my camera back into the garden, to snap some photos of the newly budding plants! These are sprouts of my newly budded red onions.

Don’t they look like they are trying so hard?

Here is the almost ripe, cutest little local strawberry I’ve ever seen.

A newly budded green bean plant.

Tiny buds of my baby lettuce.

Even tinier little spinach buds. They are all growing so well!

Two weeks later (present day)

With all the rain we’ve been having over the past week, my garden has exploded!!

Red onion heads. Mighty and awesome!

Here they are all growing in a row!

My strawberry plant, growing nice and strong!

My once baby zuchini plant, now huge!

The baby green beans, maturing quickly.

The massive mint plant. Mojitos, anyone?

The spinach row. Looking good!

The lettuce is not so baby anymore.

And the rhubarb. This is after having cut it down, twice! I feel like we might drown in rhubarb this summer!!

The teeniest tiniest green onion sprouts are doing so well! I am so happy for them!

Stay tuned for further adventures of a newbie gardener. 🙂

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Eat Alberta: A Day of Local Foodie Awesomeness!

Yesterday was the much anticipated Eat Alberta Local Food conference. It was wonderful! A full Day of local foodie awesomeness, where I got to nerd out over how much I love food, and local food at that, with other local food lovers! Before I begin to tell you the tales of the day, I wanted to send out a HUGE Thank you to Valerie and to Slow Food Edmonton for organizing such a wonderful day! I had so much fun!!

My mom and my sister Michelle took time out of their super busy lives (My sister is getting married next weekend!) to partake in the fun.

The morning Keynote was wonderful! Jennifer BerkenBosch and James Vriend recounted their tales of falling in love with food, and endeavoring to sustainably feed their family with the food that they’re grown with their own two hands. I loved the uniqueness of their story; how they gave up with urban lives to buy a farm and live sustainably on it. It was a great kick off to the day!

Our first hands on session of the day was Apple Pie Making with Christian Miller, who so kindly shared her expertise with us, as well as her family’s secret tricks to baking the best pie every time.

She also let us play with the apple peeler/core-er. It was so cool!! All you do is stick the apple onto the spikes in the machine.

Then you turn the handle

And watch the entire apple get peeled on its own!!

This machine even took out the core. Lucky us, we barely had any work to do to get the perfectly peeled apple!

Also made for a pretty interestingly cut apple!
After we played with the apple peeler for a while, Christian explained the fine art making fresh pie filling. Always use a tart apple, she says, and then add brown sugar. You know that you’ve added enough brown sugar when the apple tastes at a perfect balance between sweet and tart. Next, don’t be afraid of cinnamon. Add a lot, because it tastes good!

The dough was a lot easier than I thought it would be! Apparently, Christian uses the recipe on the side of the Tenderflake box!

We each got to take home a mini pie. It was quite the fun experience to learn how to cook altogether!

Here’s my overstuffed pie! I was told to bake it with a cookie sheet underneath, as it is sure to explode in my oven!

My mom, so proud of her little pie!

Here’s me trimming the edge of my super huge pie.

Beautiful! I got tips on how to add finishing touches, like curling up the edges for that classic apple pie look, and adding different types of ventilation holes!

The next session of the day was fresh, homemade pasta making with Kathryn Joel of Get Cooking (she hosts local Edmonton food classes. Check her out!) I was so blown away to be learning how to cook fresh pasta from a Corbon Blue trained Chef. This was such an interesting session! It make me seriously consider investing in a pasta maker…

The recipe for making homemade pasta is actually way easier than I thought. All you need is 1 egg per 100 grams of flour. No seriously, that’s it. I’m not lying!!

Kathryn showed us a technique that you create a little well, and crack your egg in it.

Mine didn’t work out as nicely as Kathryn’s did.  (My well exploded and the egg fell all over the table… quite messy but really fun!!)

Next, you beat the eggs until they are incorporated into the flour, and you are able to kneed it.

This is me, kneeding my dough with my full force, because the dough was so thick.

Next, you have to let the dough rest for 30 minutes, because we were kneeding the heck out of them…

While we were waiting, Kathryn gave us a demonstration on how the Pasta press works. Very cool machine!

Hmm… I could see this contraption being rather effective in this home kitchen…

Also while we were waiting, Kathryn gave us a demonstration on how to make our own pesto. Its really simple. Use fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. That’s it! Stick it in a blender, and blend it up fine. Toss with freshly made pasta! Delish!

Chunky, delicious, fresh homemade pesto!

We stayed a bit longer into lunch to cut our pasta. It was actually really fun!

We had the most amazing lunch! This was the sample platter, telling you what cheesy ordevres there were to choose from. Wow. Do I ever love goat cheese. This was an awesome foodie lunch!

After lunch, it was time to make some sausage. Allan Suddaby from Button Soup passed along his knowledge on how to make the perfect Spicy Italian and Kubasa sausages.

Being on the Italian Sausage side of the room, I hand-mixed in all the spicy goodness into the pork meat, before we added it into the grinder.

Can you see the marbling of the ground meat as it comes out of the machine? That’s because sausage is half half meat and fat. That I did not  know before taking this workshop. It was very interesting, but also kinda gross!

Once all the meat was ground, it was time to ferment it, using a little vinegar and salt. I didn’t know sausage was fermented!!

Allan then told us the next most important step was to taste it, to see if your spices were right. He fried some of each sausage up, so that we could have a taste. These were really really good!!

The next step in sausage making was probably the most gory (I’m warning the squeamish, you may want to skip ahead a few pictures if you don’t have a strong stomach. It was almost too much for me…) This is the sausage stuffer. Pretty innocent looking machine eh?

This however, is not to innocent. It’s a nicely washed and preserved small pig intestine. Yummy.

The pig intestine got wrapped onto the sausage squeezer machine kind of like a condom. (Really, I can’t think of a better analogy for that one…)

Then the meat was literally pressure pressed into the intestine tube. We didn’t section it off as we went, rather we kept one long tube until the end.

To section it off, Allan showed us that we needed to twist every second sausage in the opposite direction, so keep it from falling apart while drying.

Be proud of me! I got over my meat touching aversion to learn how to section off sausages!

So did bride to be Michou!

The end result of our sausage making extravaganza!

Kevin Kossowan delivered the afternoon keynote. It was so interesting and rounded off the full way so nicely!! He talked about the challenges to the growth of the local food system in Alberta (such as long waiting lists at farmer’s markets, and silly provincial laws preventing farmer’s from selling ducks as agricultural products), and the plethora of options that you have to chose from when it comes to local food! I found Kevin’s talk to be quite inspiring. He really solidified for me all the reasons why I decided to go down the local path in the first place.

Eat Alberta was a wonderful day filled with local foodie awesomeness. I really appreciated the huge amount of work slow food edmonton put into the day to make it a huge success! I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference!


French Canadian Crock Pot Baked Beans

In honor of sugar month (Les temps des sucres au Quebec), I decided to make one of the most traditional French Canadian dishes, to celebrate my heritage. Live local Alberta’s Eat Local First initiative were very generous to my endeavor and provided almost all of the local ingredients for this meal.
Local and sustainable, Irvings Farm Fresh’s Back Bacon slices are dry-cured and un-smoked. They were such tasty, thick pieces of bacon that it was very hard for Justin and I not to eat them right out of the pan, without giving them a chance to go into the recipe. Wow. This is high quality bacon. If you’re a bacon lover, you’ll find it hard to go back to the thin pieces from the grocery store…
Did you know that you can get locally grown and dried beans in Alberta? Yea, I didn’t know that either! Eat Local First sells beans and seeds from Columbia Seed Company, where you can purchase chickpeas, as well as black, red, and white beans!
The recipe was actually really simple, and didn’t take much more than the beans, the bacon and this onion.
I let the beans soak overnight in the crockpot. Warning! They will double in size when left soaking. Strangely, some of the beans didn’t expand in the first soak. This was because the larger ones choked out the smaller ones, not letting them expand. You may want to put all the beans in a larger bowl (or two separate bowls) and add double the amount of water, so that all the beans are able to absorb it!
I let the beans cook on low for 10 hrs while I was at work, and ta da! Don’t they look amazing?
We served the beans with a locally made, scrumptious organic whole wheat pita from Happy Camel (one of these days, I will do an entire post just for Happy Camel. I have the biggest Happy Camel addiction!!)
They went from freezer to toaster and ready to eat in 2 minutes. Hmm… Happy Camel…
Enjoy! This dish reminded me of the community league Cabanne a Sucres from my childhood. Delicious!
Jacquie’s French Canadian Crock Pot Baked Beans
  • 2 cups red and white beans (measured prior to soaking)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 lb bacon (sliced small)
  • 1 medium onions (chopped) or 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (chopped or sliced)
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Soak 2 cups of bean in water over night, or in the morning. The beans must have soaked a minimum of 6 hours. For those who have never soaked beans, pour the beans in to a bowl and cover beans with water. Water should be at lease 1/2 inch to 3/4 of an inch above beans. This allows beans to absorb enough water with out getting dry.
  • Strain and pour the beans in the crockpot. Slice your bacon I use scissors if it is completely unthawed medium to thin slices. Chop onions to your preferred size I like Medium, and chop garlic. Add to the beans.
  • Pour water into a bowl and mix remaining ingredients in the water and stir. Pour over beans and mix well.
  • Cover turn on LOW and cook 8 to 10 hours. DO NOT LIFT THE LID, only when it is close to the end of cooking time. Take a test and see if you like the texture, if not cook for remainder time.

  • Eat Alberta Conference – AKA: an epic day of local foodie awesomeness!

    Have you heard? Slow Food Edmonton is hosting a conference to Celebrate Local Food Heroes!

    Whoa. This is epic.

    The minute I read my emails on Monday morning, I signed my mom and I up. A whole day of hands-on local foodieness? Yes PLEASE! I am excited beyond words, and really think you should all take the chance to participate in this awesome experience!

    This is how the day is going to look like:

    Pick one from each of the following sessions:

    10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
    Smoky Valley Goat Cheese Tasting
    Artisan Sausage Making (hands on)
    Apple Pie and Pastry Making 101 (hands on)
    Honey Tasting

    11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    enSante Fruit Wine Tasting
    Top 10 Edible Plans with in the City Limits
    A World Tour of Coffee
    Pasta Making (hands on)

    1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
    Making Goat Cheese Brie (demonstration)
    Artisan Sausage Making (hands on)
    Apple Pie and Pastry Making 101 (hands on)
    Honey Tasting

    2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
    Eating and Drinking with Mary Bailey
    Making a Personal Connection to Your Food Source
    Home Brewing Coffee Techniques
    Slow Rise Pizza Dough

    There will also be opening and closing keynote sessions on urban gardening and urban homesteading, respectively.

    What the day looks like:
    · Saturday, April 30: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    · Continental Breakfast followed by the morning keynote speaker
    · Two morning break out sessions
    · A charcuterie and cheesetasting lunch with artisan breads
    · Two afternoon break out sessions
    · Closing session followed by a “wine” down

    When: Saturday, April 30, 2011, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    Where: Enterprise Square, 10230 Jasper Avenue
    Cost: $90 to $125

    Register at: http://www.eatalberta.ca/

    Seriously. You should go. I wouldn’t miss this for the world!