Sunworks Farms: The Story of a Great Canadian Farmer

This month on the Canadian Food Experience Project, we were asked to write about a Canadian Farmer or Producer that we believe is quintessentially Canadian. I found it hard to narrow down just one producer to write about. There are so many farmers and producers that make all of my favourite local foods and if you’ve been following along with my blog, you would definitely have encountered one or two over the years. I left it up to fate and headed to the market, armed with phone as a camera and a voice recorder. I decided that I would write about the first producer I encountered.

I was very lucky that my favourite chicken farmer, Ron Hamilton of Sunworks Farms was at the Strathcona Market, as he is every Saturday. You can always find him behind his portable BBQ at his booth, cooking up some of his famous chicken sausages. He had some time to stop and chat with me.

Ron and his wife Sheila lived in the city before they decided to move out to the farm. Their family was experiencing a multitude of health problems and allergies and they wanted to grow good, clean, pure, real food for their family. In their first year, they farmed 80 chickens. When it came time to process, they brought the chickens to a plant near Andrew, Alberta, and, as Ron said: “It was quite the sight to see Chickens being processed for the first time.”

Ron and Sheila believe that everyone needs good, clean, real pure food, and that is why they are a certified organic and a certified humane farm (an animal welfare certification I didn’t even know existed until I chatted with Ron.) They are also working on building the first certified humane poultry processing plant in Canada. They feed their animals only organic feed and even have their own certified organic feed mill. They have a butcher shop close to their farm in Camrose, where they break down the chickens and make all of their products. They also produce beef, pork, lamb, turkey and eggs.

They have quota for their chicken, turkey and eggs, which allows them to grow and make sound financial decisions for their family and their farm. (For some background on the quota system, check out Alberta Supply Management.) With the freedom to grow under supply management, Ron wonders where he should stop. He uses his values as a benchmark for when to quit, and he would quit before compromising those values. By working to his values in agriculture, he is able to gain his consumer trust in what he does.

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Next time you’re at the Strathcona market, pop by Ron’s booth for some good, clean, pure, real food. I would also highly recommend the Rosemary and Garlic chicken sausages (maybe try them in some homemade mac and cheese?) They are to. die. for!


Roxanne’s Little Girl Bacon and Egg Salad Finger Sandwiches

My favourite story growing up was (and still is) Alice in Wonderland. I would read it compulsively as a young girl, and now, whenever I’m looking for a nonsensical escape, I flip through the pages of this absolutely, wonderfully, heatwarmingly absurd story. You can imagine my mind-boggling excitement when I found out that Julie Van Rosendaal, my Canadian favourite food writer and cookbook author, was writing a cookbook based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland! As always, life overtook me in the past few months, and I haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore the recipes in “Alice Eats.” The perfect opportunity presented itself this weekend when my niece, Roxanne, turned 5 and wanted to have a garden party theme birthday party…DSC05254

I had received Alice Eats for Christmas, and had not yet had the opportunity to crack her open. I am so happy I got the chance this weekend!

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My sister was already making cucumber sandwiches. So I decided to try my hand at Julie’s “Alice’s little girl bacon and egg salad finger sandwiches.” While I had to modify them, because my nieces are allergic to the raw eggs in mayonnaise, they were truly incredible sandwiches!DSC05255

First things first, pop your eggs into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to  a boil. DSC05256

I was also making a veggie tray for the party, so I decided to dice some celery very small and throw it into the bowl for the sandwiches. The recipe also called for green onion, so while the eggs were boiling, I thinly sliced some green onion stems too. DSC05257

Les voila, waiting for their egg friends. DSC05258

In the recipe, Julie suggested running the eggs under cold water and then letting them sit in cold water until cool enough to handle. Smart idea! It certainly sped up the process.DSC05260

Peel all of the eggs and throw them in the bowl with the chives and celery.DSC05261

Using a potato masher, I minced the eggs into a tasty pulp. DSC05262

Here they are, all ready for the sauces that will hold them together. DSC05264

I diced up some bacon that we had made for breakfast that day and threw it in with the eggs.

DSC05266Then I began to put together the sauce. As I mentioned, the girls are allergic to the raw eggs in mayonnaise, so I had to come up with a alternative. Scanning the fridge, I found sour cream & plain yogurt (perfect!), so I threw those into the mix. Then I added the grainy mustard and added some prepared mustard as well, because both my my nieces love the stuff (I know, right?). Trying to imitate mayonnaise is tricky – you need the perfect balance of zippy and sweet. I got the zippy down pat with the sour cream, yogurt and mustards, but then I just needed the sweet – and who doesn’t love a honey little honey with their mustard? After another taste, I felt like I had nailed the flavour profile of mayonnaise, without the raw egg!

DSC05265

In the sauce went to the mix.DSC05267

For layering the sandwiches, I took two pieces of whole grain bread.

DSC05270Heaped on a generous amount of the salad.

DSC05268Topped with butter lettuce from the market.

DSC05269

Then sliced it in half. DSC05271

I made a lot, hoping they would be a hit at the party. DSC05273

They turned out so well that Justin was thrilled there were leftovers from the party! We got to take them home and enjoy them all to ourselves.

Roxanne’s Little Girl Bacon and Egg Salad Finger Sandwiches (Modified from Julie Van Rosendaal and Pierre Lamielle’s’ Alice Eats)

You will need:

A dozen large eggs

2 tsp each grainy and prepared mustard

1/2 cup each sour cream and plain yogurt (Greek would make it thicker)

1.5 tbsp honey

6 slices of bacon, cooked

1 green onion, finely chopped

1 sprig of celery, minced thin

10 slices of whole grain bread

6-7 leafs of butter lettuce

Place the eggs in a large saucepan/pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Drain, then set the pan in the sink and run cold water over the eggs to stop them from cooking. Let them sit in the cold water until cool enough to handle. While the eggs are cooking, mince celery, green onion and crumble bacon. When eggs are cool enough to handle, peel and place them in the bowl. Roughly chop them using a pastry cutter or potato masher. Add your sauces and stir well to fully incorporate. Assemble sandwiches by layering salad and butter lettuce. Cut into quarters or halves to serve for a wonderful little girl’s fifth birthday party.


The Story of Hubbard and The Adventures of a First Time Vegetable Seeder

Once upon a time, there was a squash. Let’s call him Hubbard. A farmer grew him to sell at the Strathcona Farmer’s market, and grew throughout the summer of 2013. He was a medium sized squash destined for a tasty meal. Harvested in the fall and set out for sale, Hubbard was picked over for other squash. Time rolled on and Hubbard was still at the Market, waiting to be bought and taken home.

One day, a girl named Jacquie bought Hubbard and took him home. Finally, his destiny of turning into a tasty meal would soon be realized. Jacquie opened him to make a meal for her family. Inside were seeds – lots of seeds. Then she realized that because Hubbard had sat so long on his own, that the seeds inside his belly has begun to sprout! Much to Jacquie’s delight, Hubbard wanted to live, and by golly, she wasn’t going to stop him. She removed all of the seeds and picked through the ones that were most likely to survive.

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She cleaned the seeds, wet a paper towel and left them to warm in the sun.

DSC05142Here are all of Hubbard’s seeds that Jacquie saved.

DSC05144Then, one day, when Jacquie had the day off from work, she went out and bought seeding supplies. By then, Hubbard’s seeds had begun to sprout even more.

DSC05145She filled four small planter boxes with soil and planted Hubbard’s seeds into each pot, approx 2-3 per pot. She watered them and placed them in the sun. Every 1-2 days, she’d check on them, speak kind words of encouragement to get them to sprout out of the soil and waited.

DSC05208In about 2 weeks, the first baby bud poked his head out of the soil, happy to greet the first warm rays of spring sunlight.

DSC05246The baby buds grew stronger and larger every day, soaking up the sun’s rays and turning them into energy. DSC05249More buds poked their heads out the soil to greet the early spring sunshine. They were happy to be here.

DSC05250Some had even grown upside down, making it rather difficult to capture the right amount of rays.

DSC05251This guy is even trying to invert himself, to join his brothers to catch some rays of glorious sunshine.

DSC05252Hubbard is excited to join us for another season.

… To be continued.


Baked Eggs

Ah daylight savings time. It sure has its pluses and minuses, eh? Pluses, it means spring and longer days are coming. Minuses: you end up waking up super early for no reason, or at least I do. Ugh. I was up at 6:30 this morning (so actually 5:30), for no reason at all, so I decided to make a fancy breakfast: Baked eggs with roasted potatoes. Hmm!

DSC05203

I’ve seen baked eggs in several magazines, and they’ve always seemed like a good idea, but altogether too much work in the morning when you’re hungry. But when you have tons of time, it’s the perfect opportunity to make something elaborate.

DSC05204First things first, I preheated the oven, then chopped up some peppers and onions. I baked them for a while before adding the other ingredients.

DSC05205For the potatoes, I used roasted red pepper and garlic seasoning, with some olive oil. Hmm!

DSC05207Once the peppers and onions had a chance to cook a little, I added canned tomatoes, garlic and rosemary. Then I cracked 2 eggs on top and popped them in the oven.

DSC05213Out they came, 20-25 mins later, cooked to perfection. I grated some Sylvan Star Grizzly Gouda on top, for some added awesome. You can serve it with crusty bread to soak up the awesome, or dip some roasted potatoes in the tomato goodness.

Baked Eggs

You will need:

1/2 small bell pepper

1/2 small onion

1 can of diced tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic and rosemary, crushed together.

4 eggs

Aged cheese, grated.

Preheat your oven to 400. Dice peppers and onions and add to a ramekin. Cook for 10 mins. Mince garlic and rosemary. Add tomatoes, garlic and rosemary to ramekins. Crack egg on top and bake for an additional 20-25 mins, until eggs are cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with cheese. Enjoy!


Freezer Burritos

Ah Pinterest. You always give me such good ideas that fill my fridge (and freezer) with yummies. Here’s a perfect example: Freezer Burritos! Now, do you ever have days where you’re running out of the house, with no leftovers in the fridge, on your way to work and you’re not inspired by another sandwich? In steps freezer burritos: saving your mornings and taste buds!

DSC05126

I opted to make mine cheesy and full of rice, to make as a full meal.

DSC05127First things first, I browned an onion with the ground beef, with plenty of seasoning for flavour.

DSC05129While the beef is browning, cook your rice. (I used an Uncle Ben’s package of Spanish rice. Super simple.) Throw in some black beans and frozen corn for good measure. I also added some salsa for more flavour.

DSC05128Next, the cheese. I would argue this is the most important part. Add lots of cheese. You want it to be ooey gooey when you heat up your frozen burrito another day!

DSC05130Fill the burritos, and roll then up tight. Then, in a non-stick pan, heat those bad boys up to seal the goodness inside.

DSC05131Tada! You now have a beautiful burrito to run out the door with!

DSC05132This recipe made 10 burritos (I froze 7, and we ate three :)

Freezer Burritos

You will need

1 lb ground beef

1 onion

2 tbsp taco seasoning (I used chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika)

1 package of Uncle Ben’s Spanish Rice

1 cup frozen corn

1 can black beans

1 cup salsa

1 bag of shredded tex mex cheese (or cheddar!)

10 whole wheat flour tortillas

Begin by cooking your rice according to package instructions. Then, dice your onion and brown it with the ground beef. Add seasoning and let simmer for about 10 mins, until fully cooked. Let cool a little then transfer to a large bowl. Add corn, beans and salsa. Once rice is cooked, add to bowl. Add cheese. Mix until fully incorporated. Fill tortillas and roll burrito style. Using a hot non-stick pan, seal the burrito. Let cool before transferring to a freezer bag. You can freeze up to 3 months.


Canadian Food Experience Project: Raspberry Pistachio Cake

As part of the Canadian Food Experience Project, we are writing about regional food this month. I can’t think of a more regional food than raspberries. I remember when I was growing up, my Baba’s house had a huge raspberry bush that we would pick every summer. She would can her raspberries with sugar and we would serve them over ice cream. Some of my fondest memories are from summer evenings at the lake with a big bowl of Baba’s raspberries, all soupy, sweet and delicious.

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So to celebrate one of the best regional food our province has to offer, I made a raspberry pistachio cake. It was lovely, and while the raspberries are obviously not local this time around (it is currently -35 outside), I will certainly make this again this summer from the raspberries that will bloom from our backyard bush once we plant it! (Stay tuned for exciting posts on our garden!)

DSC05160First things first, ground up some pistachios in your food processor.

DSC05163Then make your batter.

DSC05165Add the pistachio meal,

DSC05166and mix it all up!

DSC05167Spray your pan, and add the batter.

DSC05168Then top it with more crushed pistachios, as well as some tasty raspberries.

DSC05169I pushed down the raspberries to make sure the cake baked around them.

DSC05170Bake, until batter is set in the middle. Enjoy, with thoughts of glorious summer sunshine!

Raspberry Pistachio Cake (Courtesy of Sips and Spoonfuls)

You will need:

  • 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tbsp pistachio meal
  • 1 1/2 cup whole grain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed pistachios
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease your baking dish. Using your electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients (including pistachio meal) and stir to evenly combine. Add milk and fully incorporate. Pour into a baking dish, cover with crushed pistachios and fresh raspberries. Cook until middle is set and if you insert a toothpick or knife, it comes out clean (about 50 mins.) Enjoy!


Salted Caramel Overnight French Toast

I know what you’re thinking: “That sounds a little extravagant, doesn’t it?” Why yes, yes it does. But what else are you going to make on the coldest day of the year? That’s right. When you’re freezing your butt off, there’s nothing much you can do other than pack on the carbs, butter and caramel and hope that you survive until spring decides to rear it’s beautiful, green head. So, on the day that I decided, unequivocally, not to leave the house in protest of the season, I treated Justin and I to an over-the-top extravagant breakfast. So worth it!

DSC05171I’ve only ever made homemade caramel once before, and it didn’t turn out so well the first time. I had better instructions this time, courtesy of the queen of caramel herself, Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen.

DSC05174She said to melt the butter, sugar and salt in a pan until it begins to bubble and turn brown.

DSC05176Take it off the stove just as it turns brown, as the pan will continue to cook it for a little while off the heat.

DSC05177Deb used a nice brioche for hers, so I decided to go for a multigrain loaf, to try and make myself feel a little better for eating desert for breakfast ;)

DSC05178I sliced and diced it all up.

DSC05179Next, make your egg batter. I used one extra egg, and an extra 1/4 cup of milk for this recipe, because I like my french toast extra saucy.

DSC05180Dunk your bread into the egg batter and leave it there for about a half hour, while the bread soaks up the egg and your caramel cools in the fridge. Stir every once and a while to evenly coat the bread.

DSC05181Dump it all into the pan on top of the caramel.

DSC05182Now here’s the fun part. Cover it with saran wrap, then squish it with a plate, to get the bread to absorb as much of the egg mixture as possible.

DSC05183In the morning, bake it at 375 for about 50 mins.

DSC05184You can see the ooey, gooey caramel bubbling up the sides of the pan. Hmm!

DSC05185Flip it over onto a plate, to showcase the caramel glory.

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Tada! Perfect over the top breakfast for a morning that is colder than a witch’s bosom.

Salted Caramel Overnight French Toast (modified, from Smitten Kitchen)

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 or 3 pinches of a coarse salt
1 loaf multigrain bread.
9 large eggs
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese (I used ricotta because I couldn’t find marscapone…)
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large cast iron skillet, place 3/4 cup sugar, butter and sea salt and heat over medium heat. The butter will melt and, after 7 to 10 minutes, the sugar will dissolve and begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir with a spoon or spatula so that it browns evenly. You will find that the butter separates from the melting sugar and this is just fine. Do your best to keep them stirred together but know that it will all work out in the end even if it’s split. Stop cooking the caramel once it’s reached a medium brown colour; it will continue cooking and darkening for a minute off the stove.

Place pan in refrigerator and chill until caramel is cold and solid, about 30 minutes. While the caramel is cooling, make your egg base and cut up your loaf of bread.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs and 1/4 mascarpone or ricotta cheese, until very smooth. Add milk and vanilla extract. Dump bread into your egg bowl, making sure to saturate all of it. Once your caramel is completely cool, pour bread over top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight. If you bread seems too high in the pan to get a good soak, you can weight it with a plate in the fridge.

In the morning, heat oven to 375°F. Take dish from fridge, remove plastic, and bake 50 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and run a knife around edge of dish, loosening bread from sides. Place a serving plate over top of dish (bottom side up), and, using potholders, hold pan over sink and flip french toast onto it. Lift baking dish off plate; scrape any extra caramel from pie dish over french toast. Serve, warm with a mug of coffee.


Pad Thai

Last weekend, my friend made me Pad Thai. It was a pre-prepared sauce mix, but it was sooooo good! I didn’t realized I liked Pad Thai so much, and so, of course, I had to make it from scratch, now that I’ve tried a simpler, store bought version.

DSC05146This recipe did require many steps and lots of dishes, but I think Justin didn’t mind all too much, considering I was making him an incredible meal from scratch!

DSC05147First step was to chop up the chicken and marinade it in soy sauce and fish sauce.

DSC05148Then it was time to make the Pad Thai sauce. Fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar,  brown sugar, chicken broth and cayenne pepper. Hmm!

DSC05149Next, chop up an onion.

DSC05150Mince some garlic and ginger, and add your snap peas.

DSC05151While you’re doing all this chopping, boil some water and throw your rice noodles into a heat proof bowl. Once the water is boiling, pour it over the noodles and let sit for 5-8 mins.

DSC05152When they are ready, rinse them under cool water to prevent them from sticking together.

DSC05154Saute the onions, garlic, ginger and snap peas until they are crispy, but cooked.

DSC05155Add in your chicken and cook until no longer pink, then add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink.

DSC05156Throw your noodles into the mix and mix until they are well coated.

DSC05157Your meal should look like this!

DSC05159Serve with bean sprouts and covered with chopped peanuts. This is definitely being added to a new favourite meal list!

Pad Thai

You will need:

  • 1 package of Thai rice noodles linguini-width
  • 2 chopped chicken breasts (Marinade: 3 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp fish sauce)
  • 10 tiger shrimp, peeled, tails removed.
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups fresh snap peas
  • 1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped peanuts
  • 3 cups fresh bean sprouts

For the sauce:

  • 1/3 cup good-tasting chicken stock
  • 3 Tbsp.white vinegar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Place chopped chicken in a bowl and toss with soy and fish sauce (1.5 Tbsp). Set aside. Combine Pad Thai Sauce ingredients together in a cup, stirring to dissolve sugar. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Dunk in rice noodles and switch off heat. Allow noodles to soak approximately 5-8 mins. Drain and rinse noodles briefly with cold water to keep from sticking. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in some vegetable oil and swirl around, then add the garlic, onion, ginger and snap peas. Stir-fry 1 minute. Add marinated chicken and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the shrimp, continuing to stir-fry until they turn pink and chicken is no longer pink (2-3 minutes). Add the rest of the Pad Thai sauce into the pan. Using two utensils, lift and turn noodles with other ingredients. Heat until sauce and noodles are warmed.

Fold in bean sprouts. Top with crushed peanuts. Enjoy, a lot!


My Canadian Love Affair

As part of the Canadian Food Experience Project this month, we are all writing about our Canadian love affairs. I find it tough to write about how much I love this place, when my backyard is covered in snow, my skin is cracking and peeling, and I am so fed up with winter that all I can do it crumble about it. But rather than being a sourpus and making you all read about it (now wouldn’t that be a lovely post?), I am going to write about my favourite things, right now. I’m talking vendors, products, shops… etc. That’ll make me a little more hopeful for those lovely spring buds.

First things first. As I sit and write this, I am sipping a lovely, velvety thick hot chocolate from Choklat. They claim to be the only chocolate maker in Alberta (which I’m not so sure about… doesn’t Jacek and Bernard Callebault make their own chocolates? Or is that not the same thing?) Whatever. It’s gooooooooooood. Their hot choclates are so thick and spiced that it coats your tongue with awesome, making you crave more the second it’s gone. (I’ve been there twice in the past week). It’s melting my hard, cold exterior from the inside out and making me feel more positive with every sip. Try it. You won’t regret it!

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The Blue whip cream is a nice touch, too!

DSC04694Another great product I love it mighty trio. First off, Emily and Sean are fantastic people. Working across from them at Strathcona for a year really gave me an appreciation for how hard they work. Also, their kids are CUTE! Anyway, their canola oil is a staple at our place. I use it all the time. It’s got a great flavour and nice colour. It’s great!

DSC04697Another fav: Elaine Wilson’s Food You Can Cook. Her sauces and spices make any meal just that much better. I’ve got a whole bunch of her dried spices in the cupboard right now (Try the smoky asado. Now. Do it!) I also just really appreciate her love of fresh, readily available ingredients. She always takes care of her customers, making sure they get exactly what they are looking for. Props, Elaine.

DSC05051 DSC04282Finally, and of course you guessed it, Gold Forest Grains products. It might be because I was surrounded by John’s products for a year, or it might just be because they are truly awesome, but I love everything he comes up with. I use his oats, flour, barley and lentils on a regular basis. Using local grains make me feel more connected to my community and my province. Also, I’ve been graving cinnamon bunch and rich, creamy steel cut oats. Maybe it’s the weather. Yep. I think I’ll be making some thing weekend!

So, these are my favourite things. Hopefully, they’ll take me to spring.


Creamy Cauliflower and Shrimp Alfredo

Ah Cauliflower. It has appeared to have become the new “It” veggie, and thank goodness, too! Kale tastes like feet, so I’m happy to see a tasty, cancer fighting cruciferous veggie taking the spotlight for a while.

DSC05089I think I might try my hand at growing some of these bad boys this summer!

DSC05090I started off my pan frying some seasoned cauliflower florets in a pan with some olive oil.

DSC05092I cooked it down until it was nice and mushy.

DSC05093Then into the food processor it all went!

DSC05094Until it was blended to perfection.

DSC05095I felt like this tasty pasta needed some texture, so I seasoned up some shrimp and cooked them in a pan, until slightly pink.

DSC05096Once all the cauliflower was pureed, it was time to add the milk and cheese.

DSC05097Stir until fully incorporated.

DSC05098I added it back to the pan to fully stir it around.

DSC05099Serve on top of pasta and enjoy, a lot!

Creamy Cauliflower and Shrimp Alfredo (Adapted from a Pinch of Yum)

You will need:

  • 8 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 5-6 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cup milk
  • 1.5 cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 10 shrimp, peeled, tails removed
  • 1 box pasta

Boil water for your pasta. Begin by separating your cauliflower head into florets. Melt butter or heat oil in pan and cook cauliflower until it is tender. Add garlic and cook down some more. Transfer to your food processor and puree until smooth. Add cauliflower to a heatproof bowl and add Parmesan cheese and milk. Stir until evenly combined. Cook shrimp in the same pan as the cauliflower, until lightly pink. Add sauce back into pan with shrimp and coat the shrimp evenly. Once pasta is cooked, serve sauce over top, with extra Parmesan, if you wish.


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