Category: Healthy Eats

Sunworks Farm

Sunworks Farm

Sheila is very passionate when she talks about her farm and the way that the animals are treated humanely and respectfully.  Coming from an indigenous background myself, this is something that has always been important to me. The animals should be treated well, killed humanely and we should use as many parts from snout to tail as we are able.  Sunworks does all those things.

Their farm was started because their daughter had such severe allergies and food sensitivities that they needed to be able to grow their own food.  They started out feeding themselves and through a few requests started raising a little bit more, and a little bit more until it grew into what it is today.  No farming background. Amazing!

Free range, BCSPCA certified humane, grass fed, certified organic and “as close to nature as possible”.

These folks are passionate about their farm and their animals and it shows.  The end products are delicious, good for you AND celiac safe and allergy free.  The Chicken Moroccan sausages are so good.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend “Family Farm Day” at the beginning of September to see where my food comes from.  This is an annual event put on by Sheila and family where you can come out and meet everyone, have lunch and a farm tour.

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I am guessing there were about 800 people in attendance.  The weather was pretty crappy that day, so they cleaned out one of the winter chicken coops for everyone to gather in.  We had some lovely live entertainment while we were waiting.

Lunch was simple elegance.  Smoked chicken wings with organic salad and apples for dessert. It was delicious!

After lunch we got to see some happy animals!  The turkeys and chickens are about as “free range” as it gets.  They are in outdoor shelters, but the buildings are moveable. So they get to run around and just “be”.

All of the meat is processed on site.  Always treated respectfully. They gave their lives so that we could be nourished.  These folks have their family values that they live by and refuse to compromise quality.

If you are like me and have a hard time making it out to the farmer’s markets on the weekend, you can try Blush Lane Organic Market, or Planet Organic on Jasper Avenue to find the chicken, turkey, beef, pork and eggs.

You can taste the difference!

Twitter: @sunworksfarm

Instagram: https://instagram.com/sunworks_farm

 

OSFM Quarterly Local Food Tour – Picnic Edition

OSFM Quarterly Local Food Tour – Picnic Edition

One of the most epic places in the city of Edmonton to be able to support your local small businesses, find sustainable and healthy food choices and get that “Farm to Fork” experience is the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market

The market started outdoors in 1983 in the space that is now the free parking.  It is now Edmonton’s largest year-round indoor market with approximately 10,000 people through the door each Saturday. 

A team of Edmonton bloggers was invited to a meet and greet with some of the local producers and farmers this past weekend.  This was their first “food tour” and they called it the “Picnic Edition”. 

It was an early start for some, but the market gets busy (and quite crowded) quickly.


After we were all introduced to our lovely Hostess, April, we were on our way to our first stop which was Sunworks Farm

Sheila was very passionate when she was talking about her farm and the way that the animals are treated humanely and respectfully.  Coming from an indigenous background myself, this is something that has always been important to me.  The animals should be treated well, killed humanely and we should use as many parts from snout to tail as we are able.  Sunworks does all those things. 

Their farm was started because their daughter had such severe allergies and food sensitivities that they needed to be able to grow their own food.  They started out feeding themselves and through a few requests started raising a little bit more, and a little bit more until it grew into what it is today.  No farming background.  Amazing! 

Free range, BCSPCA certified humane, grass fed, certified organic and “as close to nature as possible”.

These folks are passionate about their farm and their animals and it shows.  The end products are delicious, good for you AND celiac safe and allergy free.  The Chicken Moroccan sausages are so good. 

 

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Sunworks has an open farm day on September 3.  Go and meet the family, have lunch and get a tour.  You need to REGISTER to attend.  See you there!  

 


Our next stop is now one of my new favourite things to eat!  

Alex from Golomein Noodle House introduced us to his fresh, healthy and convenient meal packs.

There is always a lovely story on how every small business started and Alex’s story is inspiring as well:

“Our Dad developed the recipe initially 52 years ago where he worked the streets of Brunei, as a hawker trying to earn enough money to support a family of 10.  Struggling agains all odds, he developed the awesome recipe he would later bring to North America”.

He made his noodles only to serve his friends, family and coworkers charging them only for their gas and their time it took them to visit his home.  He even delivered packages to his mother who always looked forward to the tasty treat. 

The fabulous noodles caught on and before long, everyone wanted more.  People searched for the delicious meals, but they were at the mercy of whenever Dad felt like making them and his kitchen was the only place this amazing taste could be found.

Alex, the youngest was unable to sleep one night , so he decided to do a marathon session of watching 5 episodes of “Dragon’s Den”.  Tired of beating his head in the corporate world, he decided a change was in order.

It brought back memories of the work his Dad put into his noodle recipe that he created over 50 years ago.  The noodles were so good that Alex’s childhood friend, Paris, would rid his way too small bike halfway across the city just to eat the noodles. 

Recognizing the incredible opportunity before him, he immediately told his 2 brothers, Albert and Allen.  Alex’s enthusiasm was infectious and it didn’t take much convincing to persuade his 2 siblings to join his quest to bring their dad’s noodle recipe to the masses.  All 3 brothers were excited about continuing their beloved Dad’s legacy and making noodles for future generations.”

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For the meal packs, the noodles are lovingly prepared and then packaged in a neatly folded square of butcher paper.  They are then frozen.  They are sold individually ($11) or in packages of 5 ($50).  You simply pop the frozen package, paper and all in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes and then unfold the package to open and enjoy!  You don’t even need to transfer the contents to a plate or bowl.  They are available in beef or pork.  

If you crave them like I do, the family has a restaurant waaaaay in the south with a more varied menu. Worth the drive!


Next stop was Mojo Jojo Pickles and Preserves.  Johwanna has been an Edmonton staple for many years now.  She is definitely a pickling artist and knows how to make the vinegar bend to her will!

Salted caramel pear butter… Do I even need to say anything else?  We were treated to some very lovely marscapone grilled cheese sandwiches with some equally lovely pear butter to dip it in.  This was simply joy on the tongue!  The pear butter would go well with so many things, as do many of her pickled veggies.  Charcuterie anyone? 

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Johwanna was also sampling “Shrubs” which is a drinking vinegar.  I had no idea how tasty they are.  I am a new fan!  

If you can’t make it to the market, Johwanna has a store on the website where you can purchase most of the products. 


Nancy from Market Pizza was our next stop.  “Delicious take & bake pizza made with the finest ingredients”.   The booth smells amazing!  They offer samples all day. 

If you would like to make your own creation, they also offer frozen, ready-made crusts.  They have a secret recipe that makes it the lightest pizza crust that I have ever come across. It is not a thin crust, but it is light and airy, almost like the dough is whipped before baking.  

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The take & bake pizzas are frozen and are $15 each.  There are some amazing flavours available and it will be a different mix every Saturday at the market.  I tried the Bacon Cheeseburger and the Donair pizzas.  It was like you were eating a cheeseburger or a donair, just a flat version without the traditional bun or wrap.  Both of them were delicious, but my favourite out of the two was the donair pizza.  A donair eating experience without all the mess!  

I can’t wait to get my hands on another.  


Monica with Rainbow Acres was our next stop.  Berry farm extraordinaire!! 

How Rainbow Acres farms differently:

From Dave’s own market garden specific equipment to their modified old granary pack house, Dave and Monica are masters at making use of materials to fit their needs. This kind of instinctual innovation is part of what makes their operation so unique.

Their incredible variety of crops is a result of their eagerness to try anything new that comes to their attention. They like to “dabble” in many crops to see what will thrive on their land and add to their already diverse produce offerings. Anytime something new comes up, they want to try it out.

When they started in 1989, Dave and Monica were cautioned against doing fruits and veggies at the same time because their harvest seasons overlapped. While it can be an intense work load, they’ve been making it work for years. While most of their fruit is used in processing their delicious jams, jellies and juices, in her commercial kitchen Monica also processes many of the veggies that are leftover from market. To make sure none of their product ever goes to waste, Rainbow Acres regularly donates left over fresh produce to the Edmonton and Leduc Food Banks.

And those are just the Coles notes!  Rainbow Acres is famous for their carrots, but they have a wide selection of preserves to choose from at the market.  These are some hard working farmers!  

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I used to help my Grandmother with the canning, pickles and jam.  It’s a lot of hard work!  Rainbow Acres makes it easy for you to stock up for the winter and to pop a few of their products into a gift basket at Christmas time (its close folks!) 


Martina’s Vegan House, where veggies are sexy, is up next. 

I got the impression that the Peanut Brittle is what Martina’s passion is.  Vegan Peanut Brittle is available in the regular version, or the spicy version.  The spicy version is amazing.  

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Martina has frozen vegan meals, soups and stews at her booth for all of you folks that are passionate about plant based eating!


Doef’s Greenhouses visit was a bit of an eye opener.  The family has been farming since 1979.  What is grown today is all done hydroponically in greenhouses which allows vegetable production all year round.  Currently the greenhouses span 11 acres and employ 50 people. I had no idea that we even had such an operation near Edmonton.  

Tomatoes are what they started with, their grape tomatoes are juicy and full of flavour. The main crops continue to be Long English cucumbers, mini cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers, with small amounts of eggplant and hot peppers as well.

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Birds & Bees Organic Winery and Meadery was the next stop.  My Grandfather kept bees so I was fortunate to see the whole process of how the honey was extracted from the hives.  A sweet treat for me as a child was to be able to chew on the beeswax that had a bit of honey left behind.  As an adult I still love the smell of beeswax and used to be obsessed with making candles. 

From the website: 

“Birds & Bees Organic Winery and Meadery straddles the fine line between naughty and nice – and sometimes more. Flirtatiously flavored and seductively styled, our full-bodied wines and mead are always up for a one night stand or an evening rendezvous. 

But, you can’t have your Marilyn Monroe without your Jackie-O.

A little restraint can make a true romance.

So how do you like it? The purity and innocence of the Bird? Or the seductive tease of the Bee?”

The statement above from the website sums things up quite nicely.  Naughty names like “Kinky Cranberry” and “Big Tease Raspberry” adorn the bottles.  If you visit the website, it gives you the sassy profile of the wine and tells you what it pairs best with.  

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The wines and meads are available at some liquor stores in Edmonton. Liquor Connect can help you find them! 


Ben was next up with Farm Fresh Lamb/Blacksheep Farm 

Another reason why I love the farmer’s market: Sustainably grown & humanely treated without the use of animal by-products or growth promotants.  No antibiotics, no animal by-products.  The sheep are fed a mixture of oats, barley, yellow peas and alfalfa hay grown on the farm in the Peace Country, and allowed to pasture graze during the summer months.

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I find that when you treat the animals well and give them a good diet, the meat tastes much better.  With lamb, if it is butchered properly, it doesn’t have that “gamey” taste that a lot of people complain about.  I am going to be looking up all kinds of lamb recipes now!  

 


Last, but certainly not least was Sean from Mighty Trio.  (no website)  From Organic Box:
 
“Mighty Trio Organics is a family owned and operated business located on a beautiful acreage just outside of Redwater Alberta. They are both a manufacturer and distributer of highly nutritious, fresh foods such as hemp, flax, and canola oils. This allows them the opportunity to interact directly with customers and seed producers. By bringing people closer to the farms where their food is grown they are able to provide the freshest, most nutrient rich foods available. Mighty Trio Organics values the environment and supports local businesses, which is why they only use seeds that are grown as close to their facility as possible. By supporting Mighty Trio Organics you are also supporting local farmers and because their products have not traveled great distances, you are also making a friendlier choice for our planet. Mighty Trio Organics provides you and your family with the fats, fibers, proteins and nutrients essential for healthy bodies and minds. To your good health!”

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Smoke Point” is a thing.  Hemp is not recommended for frying.  Canola on the other hand has a pretty high smoke point compared to other oils.  So the hemp and flax oils are great for salad dressings etc.  In fact Culina has done a collaboration project with Mighty Trio to make their salad dressing. 

This food tour was an absolutely wonderful experience.  It gave me the opportunity to get to know the people behind the brand.  I am very passionate about shopping local, but not necessarily someone that will approach the owners to get to know them.  This was very informative and very fun.  

I look forward to meeting more of the vendors for the next round, and sharing them with you! 

 

Camola Sustainable Foods

Camola Sustainable Foods

Two nerds with Italian heritage tried eating a grasshopper one day and fell in love with the idea that everyone should eat insects.

Silvia and Claudio have teamed up to bring you a line of products that are not only delicious and nutritious, but better for the environment and more easily sustainable.

Silvia and Claudio are Entomologists which basically means that they study insects.  Silvia is the baker of the team. With their Italian roots they have created a “Bugscotti” that is delicious and like no other biscotti, has the added protein of the cricket powder.

What do crickets taste like you ask? Personally I don’t find a discernible taste difference in any of the Camola products.  They will apparently taste like celery in the new soup line coming out soon! The cricket flour doesn’t emulsify like regular flour.  This means the cricket flour needs to be mixed with regular flour to get the same results. Your baking will just have more protein.

I wanted to know how crickets were farmed.  Camola will have their own cricket farm soon, but for now they have an outside source.  The crickets are raised in controlled conditions until they are the right size and then they are humanely harvested by freezing.  They are then baked in an oven and ground into flour.

How do crickets contribute to sustainability? From the website:
To produce 1Kg of cricket flour requires about 4 L of water. In comparison, 1Kg of beef can require up to 48000 L of water! The difference is astonishing! Insects also have a high conversion factor (amount of feed that becomes body mass): for example, 1Kg of crickets only 3-4 kg of feed are required, compared to the 10 kg necessary to farm 1 Kg of beef.

And nutritious!  I already knew that they had a lot of vitamins and other goodness but wasn’t aware of how much until Sylvia let me know.  Again from the website so that I have the facts straight:
In terms of nutrients, they are 66% of protein in weight, rich in iron, potassium, calcium and vitamin B12. One tablespoon of cricket flour (about 10g) provides 100% of the B12 you will need in a day. Crickets have a complete aminoacidic profile, including all the 9 essential amino acids, making them a very healthy protein!

As an additional bonus, crickets are low in cholesterol and other unhealthy fatty acids (which means you can eat more protein without the guilt!). Also, farming insects does not require hormones, steroids or antibiotics, making them a healthy choice for people with specific allergies or that want to avoid food contamination.

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Camola is going to expand into many different kinds of products, they are not just a bakery anymore!  My favourite product so far is the “Bug Bites” which are basically little date balls that have the cricket powder mixed into them.

The Crick Chips and the Bugscotti are also very tasty.  No discernible “off” taste in any of the products that I have tried so far. Try them, you just might like them!

All of the products can be ordered from the website and delivered to your door.  If you visit the farmer’s markets, you will find them Camola selling there as well.

The website has just been re-vamped with all kinds of new information.  The social media accounts have all changed as well.  Find them all here:

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Chutneys Fast Casual Indian Grill

Chutneys Fast Casual Indian Grill

When I first walked into this place, my brain was screaming “franchised”.  It looks a lot like any fast food place that you would come across in your neighbourhood.

The very minimalist, cafeteria type of atmosphere is cheered up by the choice of music.  I’m no expert, but it sounded like the catchy beats of Bollywood.  The place is super clean and the staff are friendly and accommodating.  Free parking available out front.  It is located very south–east, in a new shopping district.  Currently it is the only location in Alberta.  They are planning another in BC that will be opening shortly.

“Fast Casual Indian Food” is how Chutneys is marketed to the public.  It is a unique concept that has not been done anywhere else.  So, yes, it could be considered fast food because it can be prepared quickly, but it does not have the same connotations to your health.  This is all freshly prepared and healthy food.

If you are expecting to be eating your traditional butter chicken or palak paneer, you will need to look elsewhere.  This is a concept where you create your own experience.  It is reminiscent of traditional Indian street food. The ingredients are laid out and you put the flavours together according to your taste.

To start off, you pick the style:  Burroti, bowl or platter.  Burroti is great for the hand-held, “on the go” experience.  The bowl is the more medium sized meal.  The platter is where you can get a little bit of everything.

The roti for your Burrotii are pressed fresh for you, right before your eyes.  It gives you a couple of minutes to try and decide what to put inside of it.  You pick a protein, then you pick your rice, sauce, veggies go on top of that and lastly your choice of chutney.  There are several different combinations available – the only limit is your imagination.

The bowl is sort of the same idea without the wrap.  This can be made gluten-free or vegan.  Again; protein, sauce, veggies, chutney.  They have a poster near the ordering counter that has some pre-made choices if you can’t make a decision like me!

The platter is the big boy of Chutney’s.  I didn’t have an appetite to match, but one of the customers that was there while I was enjoying my dinner tried it.  You can fill that bad boy up and you won’t leave hungry!

The mango lassi is the crowning jewel.  It is freshly made as well with yogurt, milk, crushed mango and honey.  No sugar, no sweeteners.  It was lovely.

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So after a meal of flavourful, healthy food, I left satisfied, but without a heavy stomach.  My Burroti was awesome as was my husband’s bowl.

If you have room, they also have a healthy dessert option called “Laddoo Bites” which are packed full of energy; honey, oats, coconut, peanut butter and a little bit of chocolate.   Great as a pre-workout snack too!

Super reasonably priced for such healthy food options!  The Burroti or bowl are both just under $10.  You can’t go wrong with a deal like that.

Next time you are craving fast food, consider a healthier option and try out Chutneys Indian Grill!

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Greens, Eggs and Ham Family Farm; It Takes a Village

Greens, Eggs and Ham Family Farm; It Takes a Village

This particular story that was shared with me could probably fill a book, so I will need to condense it down into a few pages and still make sure you get the whole picture.

Andreas and Mary Ellen are a wonderful pair of human beings that were living like any of the rest of us.  Andreas had a job teaching and Mary Ellen was working as an Ultrasonographer.  Andreas had a dream…  He wanted to farm.

The original farm started in 1999 located just south of Edmonton.  Andreas and Mary Ellen were both still working and then coming home and working some more.  They had 10 acres of land with a barn and a house.  The whole story started out with some hogs.

Andreas found himself out of work one day and decided that he would try this whole farming experiment full time.  He started a non-conventional farm that specialized in ducks and heritage vegetables.

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Urban Leaf Farms Wheatgrass Shots

Urban Leaf Farms Wheatgrass Shots

When I was approached by Urban Leaf Farms to go for a tour of the business, I was a bit hesitant.  My relationship with wheatgrass is not necessarily a good one.  My first and last experience with a nationally franchised smoothie and juice business was not a good one to say the least.  The stuff actually made me gag, and it was just not pleasant at all.  I have not re-visited since then.
I know this stuff is a “super food” and is really good for you, full of nutrients etc. Here is the wiki on wheatgrass in case you are curious. Since one of my goals this year is to try to eat healthier, I thought, why not?
Wheatgrass is a powerful health food that is packed with highly concentrated chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and enzymes;
  • one of the best natural sources of living chlorophyll
  • wheatgrass detoxifies the liver, circulatory and digestive systems
  • reduces high blood pressure and alleviates stress
  • activates white blood cells to boost your immune system
  • helps prevent tooth decay and improves digestion
  • restores alkalinity to the blood and circulatory system
  • heals cuts and bruises when applied topically
  • gluten free even though it is a wheat product
I met with one of the owners, Mark Farrugia.  He is an Australian native, but has been in Canada now for several years.  He is familiar with our Alberta winters and all of the difficulties that they present our farmers with.
Urban leaf grows their plants hydroponically and aerophonically INDOORS. Their system is completely automated with a dedicated server that monitors water, light, carbon dioxide, humidity, temperature etc.  The water, phosphates and nitrates are measured and timed.  Each crop has a “grow ID” that is very much like a growing recipe.  All of the information is saved so that a crop can be replicated with the same growing conditions. It was a really interesting sight for this nerd to see!
All of that scientific information and measuring leads to a very consistent, high quality product.  Mark and his team are always trying to improve everything as well.  They have also done a light study on the plants.  There is a difference in taste between when fluorescent lights and LED lights are used.  LED light apparently makes the product taste better.

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Harvests are done once a week and then juiced with a special commercial juicer, packaged and frozen to preserve freshness.  They have only been approved to sell since January of this year, so I imagine like everything else, this process will be improved upon and changed as well.
Mark tells me that home juicers can destroy some of the nutrients in wheatgrass due to heat.  Their motors and blades heat up and in turn heat the wheatgrass.
So how should one consume wheatgrass?  Straight up.  First thing in the morning on an empty stomach.  Each box of Supershots contains a 14 day frozen supply.  Take one out of the freezer the night before and let it thaw.
Mark made sure I got the full meal deal with my visit.  They sent me home with a 28 day supply.  I will definitely need to update this article on my blog to let you know how I am doing on my wheatgrass journey.
Urban leaf wheatgrass is actually palatable!  It wasn’t anything like the smoothie bar experience that I had before. It is a sweet taste along with the herbal, grassy taste.  If you have ever chewed the soft end of grass as a kid, it is very similar to that.
I suffer from IBS.  This means that I have a hard time digesting raw vegetables and the nutrients that go with them.  I try to ensure that I make a smoothie for myself every morning because it is the only way I can really “do” vegetables.
I have also done some research on Turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties.  It needs to be mixed with black pepper to activate those nutrients.  Here is my mixture:
  • 3 Tbsp powdered turmeric
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp powdered ginger
If you put these ingredients in a small mason jar and give them a shake, they are ready to add to smoothies, or heat up a cup of milk, or coconut milk.  Add 1 tsp of the mixture to your favourite smoothie recipe.
Coincidentally, guess what is next on the growing roster for Urban Leaf?  Turmeric, ginger and basil!  With the experience that I have had so far with the high quality of the supershots, I am excited for both the turmeric and the ginger.  My smoothies will be super packed with nutrients!
So where can you get your hands on this amazing health product?
Keep your eyes on Glo Juice as well, during the month of March Urban Leaf will be performing pop ups in their Edmonton locations (incl St.Albert and Sherwood Park) to promote a new juice flavour they are developing that contains Urban Leaf SuperShots wheatgrass.
Soon to be on the Urban Leaf website will be recipes that you can use wheatgrass and their other products in.  Mark was telling me about a pesto-like recipe that he had experienced that sounded amazing.  I will look forward to trying it.
You can get more information on the product and stay up to date on new products by following Urban Leaf on one of their social media channels: