All posts by Perry

What I Love for April…

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chase_begins_with_the_seed_smIt’s Aggie Days time – both Calgary and Lethbridge! Imagine thousands of students, teachers and parents who converge in one place to learn about where their food comes from. And each year, it is our pleasure to share with them, facts such as these:

  • Canola is the only truly Canadian crop
  • Each canola seed has about 45% oil
  • What remains after the oil is removed is called meal, and when fed to dairy cattle, the cows will produce up to 1L more of milk per cow per day

2015 is the International Year of Soils, so we’ll be focusing our comments on the importance of healthy soils to the production of Canada’s food supply. Did you know that soil degradation costs Canadians an estimated $2 billion per year.

Want more information on soil? The Soil Conservation Council of Canada – the national organization that “concentrates on issues of soil health and soil conservation within a broadly-based landscape context”. Check them out: www.soilcc.ca

What I Love in March…

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I am sad – it’s been such a positive, learning experience – but the last of the Chase Superman Duffy children’s graphic novel goes to print today. For those who haven’t met Chase, he is

Name: Chase Duffy

Age: 12

Height: 4’11”

Hair colour: brown

Chase is a Grade 6 student in a mid-sized city in Alberta. He is a sprinter and long distance runner for the school track and field team, and practices by running around the path of his grandfather’s canola farm. In the winter, he runs on the treadmill.

Chase’s friends call him “Superman” because he can run so fast—a nickname he whole-heartedly welcomes. One Halloween, he even dressed up as Superman. His arch nemesis on the track is Gordon “Lightning” Smith.

Chase loves to read and write. He maintains a weekly blog at www.fieldsofhome.blogspot.com. He also writes short stories and poems—though he’s not as good at poetry. He also maintains a Tumblr account, an Instagram profile, a Facebook fan page and personal page, and he tweets teacher tips @SupermanDuffy.

Chase has a wonderful relationship with his grandparents, particularly his grandfather. The two of them go on many adventures. Check him out on www.supermanduffy. And if you want to get a free set of the books, send a note to [email protected] or tweet to @learncanola.

What I Love for February…

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It may be sacrilegious but come Valentine’s Day my fave treat is not chocolate, but rather the little red cinnamon hearts. I usually buy one (or two) bags, and then I use them all year long.

Because I don’t have a lot of dyes in my diet, the deep red of these hearts is not a concern – but I like to use it to my culinary advantage.

One or two hearts are just enough sweetness as a treat! But even tastier is using the hearts to flavour other foods like applesauce, plain yogurt and sweet popcorn treats. And finally, there’s little as comforting as popping a couple hearts in a hot cup of tea, on a cold winter night.

My second fave for February are the daily reminders to pay attention to my heart health from @TakingIttoHeart. Like short daily life meditations, each tweet reminds me of the importance of healthy food choices, regular exercises and managing my stress. Follow @TakingIttoHeart and check it out for your daily reminder to take care of yourself.

What I Love for January…

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It may seem strange, but my favourite Christmas gifts are not necessarily jewels, but rather gifts of food. It’s the small jars of specialty mustards, savoury sauces or varied spice combinations that can make any number of January meals ‘special’.

No. I do not keep these mouth-watering pleasures for ‘a special occasion’. Living in Alberta where -40° can be any winter day is special enough to be greeted with good food.

Unfortunately, this year I was given two items that WILL NOT be part of any of my cooking. The first is a bottle of flavoured canola oil. Thoughtful-Yes. Opportune-Yes. But without a clear processing label, and a name and address of the company that made it, this potential culinary delight WILL NOT be part of any of my cooking. The second is a container to make my own infused oils.

So why would I choose to not to use these items? First, a basic fact: all vegetable oils, including canola, are anaerobic. This means, that the oil, if not heated for a sufficient amount of time, will not allow any of the moisture (water) in any food, herb (including garlic) or spice to escape. And when the moisture remains trapped in the oil, it could be a source of botulism. So without knowing who made the product, nor being able to source how it was made, I simply cannot risk the potential of food poisoning in my home.

So then, why not use the second gift – the container to make my own oils. Because placing garlic, onions, and/or other herbs and spices in a small container that rests inside a second container of canola oil, does not remove the oil’s anaerobic nature. Because the flavourings are not sitting at the bottom of the container, makes NO difference.

So what do I do when I want a flavoured oil? I simply take ½ to 1 cup canola oil. Add the flavours that I am seeking – everything from lavender to make tasty, short-bread look-alike cookies to hot chilies for finishing a lentil or bean soup. I bring the mixture to the boil, then simmer till the oil has the flavour I am looking for. (Be careful when tasting: the oil is very hot and will burn your mouth!) I then allow the mixture to cool. Drain it of any of the infusing ingredients and store it in the refrigerator for a MAXIMUM TIME of three (3) days.

If this is more oil than you will be using during that time, pour the oil into small freezer ice cube making containers to make flavoured oil cubes. Because canola oil has such a low saturated fat, the cubes will gel but will not freeze solid for quite a few days. It’s then really easy to use – one cube at a time. I find this particularly useful for making stir-fries when the oil has been infused with garlic and ginger.