Sunday, 30 June 2013

A Long Name with a Great Aftertaste

Oven-Baked Mac and Cheese with Belgian Endive, Smoked Cheddar and Bacon.
  

After touring Van Eekelen's endive facility and fields (read up about that here) we were given two endives, with a salad recipe on the back of the package.
 
I was feeling for something a little more hearty (and comfort food inspired) so visited Endive.ca and discovered this Oven-Baked Mac and Cheese with Belgian Endive, Smoked Cheddar and Bacon...which is a long name so feel free to simply call it Delicious.



INGREDIENTS:
  • BC Belgian Endive (2-3 heads, diced)
  • Onions (two, diced).
  • Macaroni Noodles, uncooked, (1 bag)
  • Cheddar Cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • Cream Cheese (2 cups)
  • Whole Milk (2 cups)
  • Dijon Mustard (2 tbsp.)
  • Garlic, diced (2 cloves)
  • Thick-cut bacon (eight slices)
  • Canola Oil (1 tsp.)
  • Butter (1 tsp.)
  • Seasoning (salt and pepper).





PREPARATION:

Preheat: 400'F  Preparation: 30 mins. Bake: 20 mins.
  1. Fill a medium sized pot with water, add dash of salt, canola oil and turn to high heat. Bring to a boil and add pasta. Cook until tender but keep in mind it will also be baking in the oven.
  2. Add butter to a medium sized pot on medium heat. Add bacon, onions then garlic, sauté until onions are clear. 
  3. Add milk and cream cheese. Whisk together and allow to simmer (not boil). Add cheddar and mustard. Mix together once more.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the cooked pasta and chopped endive. Mix until evenly coated.
  6. Put all ingredients into lightly buttered casserole dish, bake until bubbly for approximately twenty minutes, stir occasionally.

 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Joining the Dark Side

This post is a continuation of an Agricultural Bus Tour I went on which was a fantastic (and rather tasty) experience. To start at the beginning of this agri adventure click here. I promise you'll be happy you did!

Van Eekelen Enterprises , second stop on the tour, allowed us to get close and personal with endives. The first time I met this heart healthy veggie was as a pizza topping in Vancouver, a year ago. However, this time around, we were seeing the real thing, not a sliced or diced version, but root and all. Talk about personal.
 
Upon touring the growing and packing facility (and fields) where the B.C Belgium Endive calls home I learnt new things, busted some myths, and got two endives as gifts.

Boxed and ready to go!
 
First off, as with nearly any facet in agricultural, endives are a lot of more work than meets the eye (or the pizza topping). Matter of a fact, it is double the work because that's how endives are grown. Twice. 
 
I'm already tired.
 
Our host, Ria Van Eekelen, explained that endives are planted out in fields as tiny seeds, grow up, are harvested and then replanted in the great, dark indoors, to regrow (the leaves, from the first harvest, are chopped and left as additional compost for the soil).
 
Why?

Because normally endives, like most vegetables, cannot grow year around as not all the seasons suit them. Also: this vegetable has a dark past. On my previous post I mentioned that we would discover "what is so sweet about this sour veggie" and yes, the endive on my pizza was sour. The endives we were given from Van Eekelen were not. At all. The reason being that endives must be grown in the pitch black because, any hint of light causes their leaves to turn green and, instead of green  meaning "go", green leaves are a loud STOP. The endive will now taste sour. Therefore, this chicory root needs darkness to thrive.
 
The biggest question was, before this visit, what to do with endives? Other than as a pizza topping? It so happens that this veggie makes for an amazing "scoop" for dips, can be an hors d'ourves staple or sliced and diced in salads...and maybe another recipe or two (coming up next!)
 
In the meantime, discover the delicious details at Endive.ca and who knows, you may just be brought over to the dark side like me.
 

Next Post Perquisite: You must have an endive (or two) and an appetite for comfort food!
 
 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

All Aboard!

I had a fabulous opportunity Friday. It tied in perfectly with Dairy Month, my freelance writing (hello new article in the works!) and my personal enjoyment of "seeing new things."
 
And did I ever.
 
On Friday morning I woke up at 6 a.m bright eyed and energetic (that is called artistic license) and drove into Abbotsford. Here I, and one hundred other agricultural enthusiasts, boarded buses and embarked on an Agricultural Bus Tour.
 
The main area we traversed is a region called Sumas Prairie and as 'prairie' suggests it is a superb place for farming--but not just cows. Even though it is Dairy Month, the entire agricultural community deserves recognition and Friday was the day.


We had four stops in total: a bulb and flower farm, an endive producer and packer, a greenhouse and chicken and turkey farm.
 
We were treated better than VIP's. The owner of each farm greeted us, toured us around and answered questions from an array of backgrounds. There were retired teachers and greenhouse workers, accountants, lawyers and bankers who work in agriculture sector, seniors, member of the agriculture committee which organized the trip, writers and fellow farmers. We asked a lot of questions and I ended up taking over a hundred a fifty photographs--and still missed things!
 
So where did the tour begin? Lakeland Flowers. It is the home of fields and fields of peonies, tulips, daffodils and gladiolas. Talk about flower power. They also grow tulips and daffodils indoors in greenhouses to help combat sometimes fickle weather.

 
Our guide (and owner) Nick doesn't just smell the flowers but has a completely automated machine which bunches them. It is called a tulip buncher. This machine takes cut flowers which can be piled onto a conveyor and from there the machine scans and sorts. The final result: a bunch of tulips, tied and bundled, deposited onto a table. Just like that. The rotten ones or those too small are taken out and the good ones get tied up and are ready to be sold. 
 
That's the magic of it all. A computerized and automated tulip buncher than optimises productivity and helps with the ever present need for workers. It ties and bundles, so the cut flowers can be sold at a local, traditional farmer's market. Welcome to modern day farming.
 
Interesting?
 
I invite you along on the tour as I revisit the stops and share some behind-the-scenes photographs. It's exclusive and informative and promises to be a good deal of fun. Stay posted!
 
NEXT STOP: The Belgian Endive--what's so sweet about this sour veggie? 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Colour Cure

I was meeting a friend in Fort Langley for dinner and the weather was absolutely wonderful which called for some bright colours to pay homage to an even brighter sun.
 
I pulled together some of my favourite colourful accessories and, using my crisp white blouse as a canvass, allowed them to "pop" all they wanted. The unique thing is, that with both bold accessories, I remember, like it was yesterday, when and where I bought them.
 
 
I felt like I was back in New York wandering crowded Canal Street with my Mom sleuthing out some good deals for my school wardrobe (and possibly for the bragging rights of: "oh this little thing? You like it? I got it in New York...")
 
We came upon the store Steps. The distinguishing characteristic of many New York businesses, including Steps, is that they have high windows and are long and narrow dating back to their garment factory years. The high windows guaranteed as much natural light as possible for the sewers inside and the narrow shops accommodated the long clothing racks. For that time it was an excellent fit.
Pun intended.
 
 
I recall rifling through a round rack of colourful jeans, blue and cherry red, but not finding a size that fit comfortably. I ended up purchasing my electric blue beaded necklace and a purple faux snakeskin bracelet (that is exactly as tacky as it reads). I took a business card along, a slate grey one with a beige butterfly on it, flitting towards the topmost corner. It is long lost by now.  
 
All that occurred six years ago. Not bad when yesterday's lunch escapes me.
 
Other details of New York resemble that of a blurry mental photograph and sadly that is the case with some more trips. But I think I have found the problem and the cure: I clearly wasn't shopping and buying enough colourful clothing. Looks like my future travel budget will need to be doubled.
 
Whew.
 
I'm glad the solution is black and white. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Pandora's (Cereal) Box

A box of granola, sitting in the cool confines of the cupboard and had expired but no one in the house would throw it out. We all claimed because it was still full but I am nearly positive that no one dared touch the box in case the festering contents within would burst out through the seal, in a spore-rific geyser and infect us all. Or, it could be, that a newer, non-expired granola bag had come along and captured our hunger.

So the box remained in suppurated silence until, in a moment of weakness I needed to bake cookies.


Equipped with oven mitts, wielding a spatula and a bread knife I inched, slipper by slipper, closer to the cupboard. With great skill, that would make any angler proud, I hooked the corner of the spatula on the handle and swung the cupboard open.

There it stood: the brewing box of mystery. It had certainly moved since I had last looked (we practically barricaded behind the unsalted crackers and nacho chips) but all the other snacks had inexplicably crowded to the opposite side leaving me and the box. I studied it's blank canvass for any sign of fear, but it hinted at nothing (damn no-name packaging) and just when a drip of sweat traced down my temple it fell out of the cupboard and plummeted towards the wood flooring. The seal broke, I squinted in fear, and out poured a air-tight plastic bag containing a harmless granola mix. And so I made the cookies.

The end.


Want a similar thrilling adventure of your own? Let a box of granola expire (only by a few days, mind you) and try this delightful recipe below!


Cheddar Granola Cookies

INGREDIENTS
  • 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 tsp each Baking Soda and Salt
  • 1/2 cup Butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 Liquid Honey
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 cups Granola
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese (in honour of Dairy Month find Canadian cheddar--support local farmers!)
  • 1 1/2 cups Raisins
Preheat oven to 350'F. Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 15 minutes

In a large bowl, stir together all-purpose and whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt. Cream in softened butter and gradually beat in sugar and honey. Add eggs. Mix in granola, cheddar cheese and raisins (for a thick consistency).

Drop tablespoon of batter onto lined cookie sheet and space generously, these spread. Let them cool and enjoy! I specifically loved the salty addition of cheddar which mingles delightfully with the honey and raisins.



Recipe courtesy of DairyGoodness.ca
Keep your eyes tuned for Pandora's (Cereal) Box Part Two.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

A Tale of Tuning-In

The radio of my Jeep hasn't worked for over a year now.

One day, after an errands run the music that had carried me into town deflated from the speakers like a balloon. So, like any caring car owner, I figured the Jeep may just be going through "a phase" and didn't get too upset. And what did I get for my compassionate nature? The silence treatment.

For a year.

When I decided to get a new car deck for the Jeep I went to the store and found that my original budget was going to double. The cheaper model I wanted was not in-stock, and they could do (and advised to do) installation which I signed up for but came with a fee. I was still determinedly decided to get the radio fixed but needed to shuffle around some funds and put the deck on hold. Leaving the store I returned to the Jeep and instead hearing the engine come to life I was first met by a crisp, clear country song wafting through the speakers.

Music to my ears!

I am not techie enough to say why the radio started working (or maybe it was more a psychological thing which would have required a psy car itrist) but I have a functioning radio so no questions asked. A year of involuntary silence meant that I had to go "sound searching" for something to fill the void. I revisited CD's (since the player still worked) and discovered a bevvy of artists that I was never aware of. So now, after a year of musical experimentation, my radio has twice the workout; I now venture beyond my original selective stations and am sampling the whole musical spectrum.

Which brings me to my final point: Dairy Month. Having a month dedicated to dairy gives us the opportunity to "tune in" as it were. A local paper had a five page special on agriculture and farming in the community which I read and learnt a few things. Here are a few, fast facts:
  • 95% of all farms in Canada are family owned (including ours!)
  • The only thing added to your milk is Vitamin A and D
  • The average weight of one cow is equal to eight men
I am not insisting you memorise the above, but if you do, there is a theory that music can help some people to better remember (and we know it helps cows milk) so I would like to present one of the hottest bands around. Their song "I'm Farming and I Grow It" has gone off the pop charts and practically jumped over the moon.

So go ahead, and tune into Dairy Month.




Missed last week's moooosical byte? Check out music sensation Little Fred with "Farm it Maybe."

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Allergies in Bloom



This past week I have had red, swollen eyes, a blotchy swelled up nose that is running like a leaky faucet and, between you and me, it's not dripping water.


I have become a faithful follower of the tissue box, showing my respects by the minute and then chucking it the length of the room in frustration when I swipe the last tissue, drawing up in my hand like a wisp of white smoke, and revealing the barren cardboard bottom. This sends me fleeing through the house in search of anything absorbent because the way its going these days a single tissue isn't enough.

 What's the cause?
 

Am I run down with a cold? Recovering from a bad breakup?

 All similar symptoms sure enough, but instead I am suffering a full on attack by Mother Nature and, looking around I see I am not the only P.O.W (Prisoners of the Weather). There are fellow snivellers, eye itchers, and sneezers around. The t.v. commercials (especially on the weather network) advertise the cure-all tablet for instant allergy relief. We are nearly a nation. 

I try my very best to not take the above, but as of late my allegiance has been equally divided between the tissues and Claritin Clear. It has helped but we P.O.W's are being attacked on all sides. Throw into the mix living and working on a farm and you have enough dust, hay (fever), pollen and an endless assortment of animal fuzz to tickle your nose until September.
 
It has not been fun, and June so far seems to be the worst of the worst but I will try my best to soldier on, dispiritedly chanting "itch, sneeze, snivel, repeat!" and remember what they say after a bad breakup: each month it gets easier so, Mother Nature, I am going to hold you to it.
 
 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Rake, rake, rake your Brains


Today, I was raking a field that, because of the sunshine and warm winds dried perfectly. We did not make hay, even with the sun shinning, but instead harvested the grass and packed it into a stack to eventually, after it ferments, make cow silage.

The reason farmers say "make hay while the sun shines" is because wet, soppy grass will rot and spoil and will need to be thrown out, which was a waste of effort in the first place. Wet grass, just like when you are mowing your lawn in the rain is difficult to work with.

It clumps,
it sticks,
it plugs
 
machinery and when the struggle finally ends at the stack? Well, consider the cows that will need to eat it at a later date. It will look and taste like spoiled lettuce.

Bleh.


Even if you have the sun shining when you cut, as weather goes, it may rain before you collect the grass. To avoid the above unpleasantness, it needs to be aired out. In these instances we will use a hay tedder to fan out the windrows of cut grass and, like laundry strung out on a line, it dries. 

However, to pick up this grass it needs to be put back into a windrow and today I raked those into being. Thankfully, not by hand. We have a tractor attachment that does the grunt work I just need to a keep my hands on the wheel and make as straight of a line as I can, across the field. 

The rake has two rotating drums which have steel tines and, like your average hand rake, rake the surface of a field pulling the cut grass, from both the left and right sides, into the center. Tines sometimes fall out due to age or snagging something in the field like a rock and a new one needs to be bought and bolted back in...and then we slip a dollar under the rake's tire when it is sleeping. We call it the Tine Fairy.

I really enjoy raking, especially in a nice field (rather square, not too bumpy) because you organize a seemingly chaotic mess and bring it together into neat, straight lines. And if the job turns out good I have just made everyone else's life easier.

Those are all the details. I don't think I left anything out because I raked and raked my brain to make sure--or is that racked?


What happens after we pick-up the windrows? Click here  to find out! 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

30 Days of Dairy (and counting)

We have a World Milk Day (June 1st) but for anyone who may have missed out, don't cry over spilt milk because you have the entire month to catch up: June is Dairy Month!

So how can you celebrate and part take?

Here are some ideas:

How about trying a new artisan speciality cheese from your local grocery store, enjoying ice cream as a main course or embracing the 'slow food' trend and take a leisurely, self-guided  Circle Farm Tour through the countryside?

However you decide to spend your month, I have some country mooooosic to accompany your agricultural adventure. 

This Dairy Month keep your appetite ready for dairy delights, eyes peeled for new agricultural sights and ears tuned for weekly musical bytes, all on F-Bombs.
 
Song of the week:

The catchy (and oh so cute) "Farm it Maybe" sung by Little Fred. If you haven't heard of him yet it is probably because he was out in the barn.