A Foodie Read: Animal Vegetable Miracle

25 07 2011

If you are at all interested in living in a sustainable way, love local food and want to be apart of the growing slow food movement, read this book: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. You don’t have to try to attain 100% of what she does in the book, but reading it will inspire you to think differently about the food you put on your families table (and in your mouth). Kingsolver is a well known novelist (The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible), I haven’t read anything else of hers but having read this book, I am sure her fiction is a wonderful experience to read. Animal Vegetable Miracle is a non-fiction account of her family’s experience to grow their own food and source everything locally for one year. The book has three authors, Barbara is the main one, and she actually has a graduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Her husband Steven is an environmental studies professor and her daughter Camille is one a very inspirational young adult.

The book tracks the growing season, from planning to seeding to growing to harvest to planning again. She deals with vegetables, chickens (in which her younger daughter creates an egg enterprise… I so want chickens), meat and cheese. For those of us that do not eat meat, I have to say her explanation of animals is incredibly respectful. She is anti processed food, supports farm raised everything and gives you lots to think about when eating raspberries in the dead of winter;

“We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by wholesale desires.”

The book is full of recipes, meal plans and has a wonderful website where you can also get them from, click here.

We do okay in the arena of slow food, we’re not perfect, that’s for sure, but conscious of our choices and more so every day. I am very happy to pick fresh lettuce from the garden on my way into the house after work, but come winter, it is tough in Alberta. The farmers markets keep us going and it is amazing what they are growing in hot houses these days. I encourage you to pay closer attention to the seasonality of your food. Watermelon in the dead of winter, not so kind. The watermelon we had recently, very yummy and it didn’t travel that far to get to us (although, it certainly didn’t grow up on the prairies).

What are you reading this summer? Maybe this is the book for you.

Be well, Eat well,


Peonies, Dad, Lettuce and Asparagus

19 06 2011

June is slipping past us and a sign that the weather is different is in the peonies. Our wedding anniversary is on Tuesday, June 21 and peonies were the flower of the day. At our wedding in 2008 I was able to cut one to bring with me, placing it on a chair as a symbol of those who were no longer with us. White peonies are my favourite. Big white flowers with their enveloping scent. A sign summer has arrived. We have three beautiful peony plants in our yard, and they are tall with big flower buds, but no sign of blooming, maybe by Tuesday? We’ll see. The sun is peeking out from the clouds and the rain has stopped (sort of) today, crossing fingers we’ll dry up a bit.

Memorable Peony

June is also the month for Fathers Day. Wishing the fathers out there a wonderful day. Here’s one of my dad and I from the archives…food related of course. 🙂 Love you dad.

Me and Dad

How’s the miracle lettuce you ask? Well it is a miracle. Growing and should be ready to eat in a few weeks (you can see the little spinach sprouts on the left and more lettuce on the right in the picture below). Can you believe it? I am going to leave the plants in this fall and see if we can have an early harvest again next year. Must have been all that snow that insulated it, it’s good for something!

Growing 'Miracle' Lettuce

Nothing says spring like asparagus. In Alberta we are seeing local crops at the farmers market. Asparagus is a flowering perennial that is picked before it flowers. Only in the spring is asparagus in season and lucky for us in Alberta we see asparagus from April through July because of all the ‘springs’ we can take advantage of! I picked up some local asparagus at the Kingsland Farmers Market on Friday and roasted it last night. It is so nice to grill asparagus, but it was pouring rain outside. If you are in Calgary enjoy the local harvest, it is good for you. Asparagus is full of vitamins and minerals.

  • A bundle or two of Asparagus, snap the ends off
  • Olive Oil
  • Course sea salt
  • Course cracked pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Creme Balsamic Vinegar
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet, in one row. Drizzle with olive oil. I used my Piri Piri Olive Oil, I use it on EVERYTHING. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast in oven for 15 min, turning over half way. Don’t over cook, I like them bright green and a bit firm. Take out of the oven, place in a dish, shave or sprinkle with parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar. If you don’t have creme balsamic, use regular, but I highly recommend getting a bottle of the creme, it’s so good on fresh tomatoes and basil in the summer. (and check out my attempt to use the photo app Hipstamatic to capture the asparagus)
June 21 marks the first day of Summer, the Summer Solstice. Wishing you a lovely and bountiful season.
Eat well, Be Well,

Miracle Lettuce?

29 05 2011

So last year I seeded a second row of lettuce in August (I write these things down in my garden journey). It sprouted and I realized it was way to late for it to grow enough to be edible, and noted that next year I would think to do that MUCH earlier.

Where the garden is use to be a 5 foot pile of snow 🙂 Well under that pile of snow emerged these little lettuce sprouts and leaves, green, looking alive. I left them and I am not really sure if they have grown since the snow melted, but then again that was just a few weeks ago. 😉 I tilled the garden last week and couldn’t resist just leaving that little row of miracle lettuce to see what would happen. Grandma says it’s possible….well it rained all week so nothing yet (and no sprouts yet from everything else I planted) but the sun was out today so this week I am sure I’ll be able to tell if it is growing lettuce or if it froze and defrosted in the exact state it was in!

I’ll keep you posted.

How does your garden grow?

Eat Well, Be Well,


Early Garden Tips

5 05 2011

Gardening season is coming and I have started to plan what changes I am going to make based on what I learned from last year. You can reminisce with me by clicking here. It is so tempting to get out there on the first nice day, but we know here in Calgary we will get frost or snow yet. What I have learned though, is that you can plant some seeds now! Lettuce, carrots, beets, kale, radishes, spinach and peas are hardy enough. Now, with harsh weather, you might lose little seedlings, but I think the risk is worth it.  If you plant lettuce now, you’ll probably get two harvests from it.

I was chatting with a gardener tonight, she is a long time student at the yoga studio and we chat about landscaping and gardening all year-long. She taught a gardening class this year at the Calgary Zoo.  I wasn’t able to take it in this year, but it sounds perfect. She reviews the planning process, staggered germination timing, soil prep and planting. She does this in real-time so that the gardeners’ homework is their own garden.

Jane told me the BEST tip today, besides convincing me to plant seeds early to extend my harvest time, she said to plant the radishes with the carrots together in the same row. The radishes come up fast, and naturally help to thin out the carrots. I love this. I didn’t thin my carrots well last year and this helps PLUS it saves me a row in my modest garden for planting another row of greens, staggered from the other rows so everything doesn’t come to harvest at the same time. Jane buys seeds with different germination times and charts everything. That sounds fun (for analytics like me).

We’ve been looking at converting our garden space into a green house. I love this idea and my grandma has me convinced. She had this huge green house when I was growing up. With hale and such in Calgary, you can really benefit from a green house, and for busy urban gardeners like myself, it makes for less fuss and longer growing seasons. If not this year, then next. We’ll let you know.

Are you getting ready to plant a garden? How about a community garden?

Eat well, Be well,


Seeds of Change: Part V

26 09 2010

Well, it’s the end of the garden season, sad. I, like many others feel like summer never arrived. We sought out hot weather and summer days in the Okanagan and Spokane. Soon it will be a trip to the house in Vegas to remind us of the warmth, ah 20 degrees in November…I digress.

Even with the weather we had, my first garden was a great success. I had my doubters (uh, um grandma, who has been raiding the garden all summer). Besides the tomotoes that are now on the counter in paper bags attempting to ripen and the two handful of beans I got, all and all, we harvested lots of food. Here’s the low down on how things did and lessons learned:

  • Carrots: should have thinned them out sooner, but they are the sweetest, yummiest and remind me of our garden growing up
  • Beets: gorgeous, so sweet and I am going to attempt my mom’s borscht one of these days, just need a day off!
  • Radishes: need to put them closer to the fence, they grew very quickly and need a cooler place, we didn’t get to enjoy many of them, they were really woody
  • Spinach: biggest surprise of them all, grows on stalks and the little leaves keep on coming, but they needed more hot days to really harvest a lot, the leaves stayed really small
  • Lettuce: amazing, been eating it since it was ready, cut it back, don’t pull, it grows back. I planted another row in August, but will do that earlier next year because it’s too late for it to come up
  • Swiss Chard: maniac grower, used it every day in my green smoothies
  • Kale: started this from plants, just six of them, incredible big green leaves, a green smoothie fave
  • Tomatoes: grandmas right, needs to be in the sunniest spot, those few minutes of sun a day from placement in the garden would make a big difference. We haven’t eaten a good one yet, still green, but this is common for gardeners this year 😦
  • Zucchini: we had a huge one and lots of smaller ones, however, some had rotted at the end and when I looked it up they say it is from a calcium deficiency. I also think the blossoms didn’t dry up and fall off, it was too wet and they were damp. I’ll remember to pull them off next year
  • Beans: again, these need more sun, placement change next year, but we had a couple of handfuls of sweet and tender green beans
  • Raspberries: against the fence wasn’t the best, but this is a short-term home. When our new fence goes in and the shed is moved, we have the perfect place for them
  • Sorrel: huge plants, did amazing along the fence with some shade, made soup a few times (and so did grandma)
  • Mint: mint is always insane, I gave some away and never used it myself, why do I grow it again?
  • Strawberries: a few pieces of fruit in July and then nothing, maybe next year
  • Rhubarb: I think I am onto my fourth or fifth cutting (and grandmas third), it produces like a champ

I think i’ll keep things relatively the same next year with a few placement changes. I might even experiment with a few others things. Well there you have it, a growing season well done, even with challenging temperatures. How did your garden grow?

Eat well, be well,


The Bottom Line

8 08 2010

David Suzuki has a radio program on CBC called The Bottom Line. I listen occasionally, it airs on Sunday’s. If you miss it you can download the podcast from iTunes or go to the CBC podcast site and get them there. He has done a great group of episodes on agriculture, farming, soil, organics, etc called Soil and Life in the Dirt. He interviewed Joel Salatin, our favourite farmer from the movie Food Inc. in Episode 3 on July 18 (see my rants from previous blog entries Seriously Now and  A Way Forward).

If you have the time, get filled in on The Bottom Line.

Be well, Eat well,


Seeds of Life: Part II

10 06 2010

Ok, we did it. Got the garden in. It was a dreary day on Tuesday, but the rain stayed away for the day. In between errands and writing a presentation I put my floral rubber boots on (wedding gift from my friend Kathy in Van) and got to work. I checked the lay out and started back to front. Like a good project manager I had a plan.

The soil was pretty wet, but since it was warm’ish out and damp, it was good weather to get the seeds started. Dry weather isn’t the best and you have to water it a bunch. I hope it will turn out okay. I still have some raspberry plants to plant in the back that grandma gave me yesterday. It is a lofty first try, but hopefully we are reaping the rewards of our own organic food by the end of summer. I guess this leads to canning and preserving too, huh.

Looking forward to sharing the fruits of our labour with all of you. Anyone else plant a garden? What’s your favourite garden treat?

Eat well, Be Well,


Seeds of Life: Part I

7 06 2010

So, we have been attempting to get the garden in for a couple of weeks. With the rain and cold it has been a challenge to sync calendar with sun. This past weekend Tony borrowed the rototill from my folks to till the garden. We (I meant he) added an entire black barrel of compost from our house, two bags of Sea Soil (compost enriched with sea creature scrap) and a bag of manure my grandma gave me.

Alright, so now in-between appointments and meetings, Monday is the day, to get the seeds sown and plants planted. Grandma gave me eight tomato plants, I have eight zucchini plants, four kale plants, two raspberry canes and a bunch of seeds including; carrots, green lettuce, radish, beets, swiss chard, spinach and green beans. Already in the garden is rhubarb (see Spring Rhubarb post), strawberries, mint and sorrel. I did a little drawing and laid the lot out. The raspberries are temporary, they will be moved once our shed is moved and a new fence put in, this year or next. I think I need to get another one though, two doesn’t look right, needs a third to balance.

I went out this morning, took a before picture:

Then I laid out the plants and where the seeds would go, measuring with my measuring tape the recommened distance apart from each plant. The bamboo canes represent where a line of seeds would go. Good, i’ll be back after lunch, do some sowing, off to the next appointment, back to finish, out to dinner. I can do it.

HAIL!!!!! I am about 5 km from the house post appointment #1. I can do it. Pass the bus, get through the light (without a speeding ticket), safety belt off, garage door opened, into the garage, eerch. Umbrella, back seat, run, tomatoes first, zucchini next, into the basket, run, into the gazebo. Flowers, move, into the gazebo, done. <long sigh>

I’ll try again tomorrow.

Be well,