November 10, 2013

Feeling Chili?



The weather has made a big change becoming cooler and the wind picking up. It rains frequently putting dampness deep into your bones. And snow last night!!! It looked so pretty, but I’m only going to have those thoughts for the few first snowfalls, then it’s ‘Oh not more snow!’.

With this chilly weather I’ve been in soup mode and made a nice pot of chili. I think another one is in this week’s plan. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled then put into small containers for an easy lunch or dinner. It’s sure to warm your insides.


Chili
Serves 4
45 minutes

2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup each diced carrots, celery, green pepper, and mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs oil
2 cups kidney beans (canned)
2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned)
¼ cup tomato paste
1 ½ tsp each ground cumin, basil, and chili powder
½ tsp black pepper
3 bay leaves

*There’s no need to add any salt as there is usually enough from the canned tomatoes and beans

In a large pot sauté carrots, celery, and green peppers with the garlic and onion in oil. Stir in beans, tomatoes, stock, tomato paste, spices, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Add mushrooms then reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins.

October 30, 2013

CCA Certification



At the beginning of June I attended the CCA conference in Mississauga. This is an occasion to hear speakers talking about ongoings or new research, not just on celiac disease itself, but links to it – the emotional toll, new products, other health issues – plus you get to venture through a gf marketplace where you can find so many gf products and services that can benefit those with gluten issues; food and otherwise.

For myself, the conference began with a summary of the CCAcertification. Did you know there are currently over 175 products with the CCA gf trademark? I had no idea! In this presentation (by Paul Valder) I learnt about the background and the whys of the certification program (some seemed obvious, but some big gf companies are hesitant), and how it’s growing. There were some interesting pieces of information too – 9 million Canadians are eating gluten-free, but only 1% are celiacs. The rest avoid gluten due to digestive issues, nutritional value, and weight loss (The last one reminded me of my vegetarian days and hearing from people that they were going veggie to lose some weight; Give me a break!).




It was very reassuring to learn that this label isn’t handed out all willy-nilly, which seems to occur in the U.S. (You may recall the Dominoes gf pizza crust that wasn’t suitable for celiacs and quickly had their gf logo pulled) and who also seem to have a half dozen or so ‘gluten-free’ logos for packaging (Note: The U.S has now implemented a gf label which standards are similar to Canada’s). Here the CCA’s standards are set higher than Health Canada’s. Also a third party of trained auditors visit the specific company and where its products come from so all angles are covered (scrutinized, analyzed, tested, etc,etc). 

There are a few reasons for the certification: to help create trust and brand loyalty; to prevent logo and certification brand confusion; help capture a market; and companies gain access to more customers by being seen on the CCA and certification website. In the end it comes down to consumers having confidence in products they may not have had before. 

Auditing these companies for certification isn’t limited to facilities in Canada. Auditors travel around the world following the supply/manufacturing chain, travelling to places like Sweden, India, Italy, and China to make sure the product and ingredients are truly gf in every aspect. 

Certification doesn’t come cheap and so companies that apply for and obtain the CCA certification are serious and committed. The application itself costs $500, then the annual program license fee costs $1000-20,000, then the costs of audits run between $1000-3000 per facility, then any consulting fees on top of all that. It can be pricey, so it wouldn’t make sense for a company that isn’t serious about their gf product to obtain it merely for the CCA label.




For myself, I’ve been on the lookout for those CCA certification labels since. It has opened up a few options and I’ve tried a few that I was hesitant about buying before. One more result I found in looking for this logo: It’s one less label I have to read for any gluten content.

October 10, 2013

Long Weekend Indulgences



Here we are coming up to Thanksgiving Weekend and I’m reminiscing about the last one, which now seems so long ago. Our neighbour’s tree is crimson and our little Downie Woodpecker has returned to his hole in the stump of our maple tree (after getting kicked out by some nesting blackbirds in the spring). We are happy to see him return and I am pleased to hear him chirping every late afternoon when he returns to our yard for the night.


It didn’t seem too long ago that we were marking the end of summer enjoying the late sunsets and warm temperatures that marked Labour Day weekend. Although it technically isn’t the end of summer, people treat it as such since we all go back to our usual routines of work and school. While this coming weekend will be a busy one with family get-togethers, Labour Day was slow and relaxing; doing as we pleased.


We took a drive further up the valley and found ourselves at BonnechereCaves in Eganville. We had talked about going before so we didn’t want to pass up the chance fate put in our lap. Luckily for me, my hikers have a permanent home in the trunk of our car so with a quick change of shoes we were about to get a quick geology lesson. Now, I had studied geoscience so I knew all the information we were given; however, it was so great to feel and touch fossils and walk through a cave that had been shaped by water (and continues to do so every fall-spring). You could feel the ripples that had been carved. The caves have been open to the public for a very long time so there is no excuse why none of my geology profs hadn’t booked a trip out there. Yes, I could (and did) read about it in text books, but it is very different experiencing it. Seeing small stalagmites and stalactites brought concepts back to mind and was also a reminder that earth also shapes itself.

 

We also indulged a little. I’ve discovered a new gf beer out of Montreal – Glutenberg. It’s gluten-free and fabulous! There are a few available: red, Belgian, blonde, and an American pale ale. The BSG is prominent on the label (biere san gluten) and so far the closest place to pick them up is across the river in Gatineau. The blond is your typical blond beer and same for the Belge. For regular beer that may be an insult, but for gluten-free beer I see it as a complement. They have body and flavour and are pleasant to drink. The red/rouge is different with a strong flavour and nuances of chocolate and coffee.



Again, because it was the long weekend we picked up some chips to munch on. I had come across Late July organic chips on sale and the mild green mojo sounded interesting. I was concerned the green chilies would be too spicy, but it was perfect; a chili flavour without the heat. Another day the sea salt was a great match with guacamole. To balance the guilt of the gf beer, these multigrain chips also contain chia seeds, flax, millet, quinoa, and amaranth.

With these indulgences, thankfully, we also got a lot of walking in. With not-too-hot-temperatures we made our way through our neighbourhood over and over again.


 



September 18, 2013

Having a Field Day






Back in mid-August I had a weekend to myself as The Honey had gone away on a golf weekend. It was quite nice to have the time to myself and a break from my weekday routine. I had heard about a food event at Upper Canada Village and thought I would check it out.

Food Lovers’ Field Days was inside Upper Canada Village and was included with park admission. I only wanted to attend the food event since my hometown is close to other similar historic parks and buildings and I had been to them numerous times while growing up. Going through another was not of interest to me, especially after a long drive, so I wasn’t too pleased I had to pay park admission (around $18).


The vendors were in a field not too far from the entrance. Along with food, there was a brewer and two wineries and some cooking sessions. There was a variety on offer with pickling and canning, honey, bread, cheese, maple syrup, fruit and veggies, along with some prepared items. I got myself some tasting tickets and made my way to Niagara’s Palatine Hills Winery (Did I mention it had been a long drive?). Since the field was surrounded by an old fashioned fence, people were free to wander around with their wine/beer in hand.


LoveLoveFood had a selection of enticing jams and sauces. I couldn’t resist a raspberry ice wine jam and it was delectable on plain cheesecake. The Health Nut, aka Sylvie Thibert, brought healthy and mostly gluten-free goodies from Cornwall. I purchased a raspberry date bar for breakfast the following morning and it was filling and healthy. Of course I had to partake in some wine. From Palatine Hills (Niagara) the 2008 Chardonnay was full-bodied and fruity while the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was fresh and crisp; perfect for the hot sunny day. I was also happy to try a few from Sandbanks (PEC) since we had skipped by it last summer. Dunes was a nice medium-bodied wine while the Ros√© was sweet, crisp, and fresh; another perfect match for the temperatures.

 

Perth Pepper & Pestle makes fabulous red pepper jellies. I already had a few jars at home and the burger mustard tempted me instead. I have yet to open it, but I’m sure it’ll be good. Another vendor had jams, jellies, and canned produce and I couldn’t resist the raspberry jam because I didn’t make any this year. I also got a big jar of dill pickles after being told how good they were. They’re nice, but not the garlicky-type I prefer. The Mix Company also had a booth, but only had their spice blends and mixes. They are great, but since it was close to lunch I was getting hungry and hoped they had brought some baked goodies.

There were a few options for lunch: Aura Culinary Arts serving up raw food; Katerinas with Greek fare; some vendors with smoked meat, grilled sausages, and pizza; and Tai’s with wonderful looking Thai food. But I made my way to Natasha’s. It was too hot for cabbage rolls and I would have loved the pierogies, but it was the beet salad that lured me in. I love beets. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any so I ended up getting the potato salad. After taking my first bite I learnt I wasn’t settling for any old potato salad. It was a cold salad with the right amount of creaminess. There were peas, some dill and chopped pickles that gave the potato salad some kick. It was something my Babcia would have made. My glass of Sauvignon Blanc paired with it perfectly.


After doing a few laps of the field I was growing bored. I had browsed, purchased, drank, ate, and drank some more (those 2oz cups don’t go very far). I figured I would wander around the park; I had paid the admission after all. Although I was reluctant, it is nicely done and gives visitors a look at what life was like.