Raspberry picking at Proulx Farm

In mid-July, we went raspberry picking at Proulx Berry Farm in Orleans. We are more accustomed to the busy seasons of strawberry and pumpkin picking, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were just a few other groups of pickers for raspberries. Proulx is great as a U-Pick location. You pay a small admission fee per person but that cost is deducted from your berry price at the end (keep your entrance receipt!). Their pricing for both strawberries and raspberries seemed fantastic (compared to buying berries at the farmers’ markets). You take a short wagon ride (attached to a tractor – selling point for young kids) to and from the bushes. Raspberries are a bit easier to pick than strawberries as they grow on bushes (not along the ground). We went a few weeks into the season but there were lots of ripe berries to pick.

Raspberries

After we had finished picking, we enjoyed a pre-packed allergy-friendly lunch on a grassy area. Our toddler played on their play structure and with their numerous toy trucks in the sand ‘pit’ (really more like a huge pile of sand). We also visited their animals and looked at more tractors.

Animals Little chicks! Hello! Sitting Pigs Hanging out

Roots and Shoots CSA share – 2nd week of August

Share

Summer is really ticking along! This is the first share where we’ve gotten a hot banana pepper. I don’t recall ever having one in any of our shares over the past years. We got some eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and beans – the staples of summer.

A garlic harvest of our own

Last weekend, we celebrated our very first garlic harvest! After eating the little scapes from our garlic last month, we were excited to see what the bulbs looked like beneath the soil. I think we harvested them a little bit later than we maybe should’ve (1 week earlier would’ve been good) but sure enough, we found fully formed bulbs! They were rather small but I’d still say we were fairly successful for a first ever garlic planting. These were from cloves that we picked up at last year’s Carp Garlic Festival. We’ll be going back to the festival this year to buy a few more bulbs for eating and for planting.

Fresh out of the soil Ready to be hung

In other news, our tomatoes are still green but there are a good number of them growing larger by the day. We also have a healthy number of flowers that will become tomatoes very soon (fingers crossed!). The peas are doing fabulously but like last year, the plant is large and unruly. I really need to work on how to grow a nicely contained pea plant. Our purple beans are beautiful as ever and the plant looks like it is doing well. The chard and kale are producing good yields, and unlike last year with a mold issue, this year’s cucumbers are looking great! We’ve got a lot of flowers and a few cucumbers already growing.

Ripen, babies, ripen Future tomatos Part of the haul Peas IMG_4481

I love seeing our vegetables doing well. It is so satisfying! But I also cannot believe that it is August!?

Roots and Shoots CSA Share – 4th week of July

So fennel…really not a fan. There is just something about the smell and the flavour that I absolutely dislike (black licorice…). Otherwise, we had another healthy helping of zucchini (which I blanched, chopped and froze) and cucumbers, a lovely bunch of beets, onions, beans, carrots, kale and chard.

CSA share 4th week of July

New this week: some cute and crisp green peppers and a bulb of garlic! Can’t wait to get more peppers!

Roots and Shoots CSA share – 3rd week of July

I cannot believe how quickly time seems to pass by. I used to think time passed quickly but now, with a toddler, I feel like it whizzes by! This week’s share included one of my least favourite veggies: fennel. I just cannot tolerate the licorice scent or taste! However, in looking for fennel recipes, I found fried fennel. Maybe we’ll give that a whirl this weekend….

It looks like we got a mound of zucchini but half of them are from my trade this week (I traded in my cilantro for more zucchini). Scapes are still looking great! The garlic that is growing in our garden is long past the scape stage, with its greens almost completely brown and dried. Almost time to harvest?

CSA share 3rd week of July

From left to right, we have a bag of mixed beans, lettuce, beautiful beets, kale, carrots, onion, zucchini, fennel (ugh), scapes and cucumber.

Nothing says summer like….

Nothing says summer like...

We took our toddler strawberry picking for the first time at the end of June. For the first time that I’ve gone, it wasn’t hot, humid and sticky but rather pleasant. Sunny blue skies with no humidity! Definitely a welcome change as there is absolutely zero shade in a strawberry patch. Makes me appreciate commercial strawberry pickers even more.

Of course, preceding this trip to the strawberry patch was the introduction of strawberries to our toddler to make sure he wasn’t allergic to them. I had wanted to wait to test strawberries until we could give him fresh ones (not ones that had been trucked hundreds of kilometres) so the timing is limited. I missed last June/July so this year it was! And he was fine – phew.

I’m guessing like most of the other kids, he stood in the patch eating berry after berry while we tried to pick as many to take home as we could. Then came the mass processing – washing, cutting the greens off and freezing. I also tried canning a no pectin strawberry jam, which turned out marvellously. Got to use our candy thermometer for the first time! I’ve learned that greener strawberries naturally contain more pectin so next year, note to self, I need to bring home a few part-green ones for jamming.

Next up: raspberry picking. We had wanted to go blueberry picking but the farms closest to us seem to have all lost their crop during our tough winter!

Roots and Shoots CSA share – mid July

The first year we joined our vegetable CSA (community shared agriculture), I took photos of our shares each week. I decided that it would be fun to start with the photos again this year. We are still with the same fabulous Roots and Shoots Farm (see some photos from the farm tour several years ago) and are getting a full share this year, as we cook just that much more from scratch nowadays.

Do you know what each of the vegetables are?
Do you know what each of the vegetables are?

Our shares actually started a few weeks ago. Radishes, hakurei turnips and onions have been the staple vegetables for all of the shares. We’ve had scapes for two weeks, zucchini and cucumber for two weeks, last week was the first showing of broccoli and this week, we have carrots and beans! I’m fairly certain tomatos are just around the corner, which is exciting…but it also reminds me that summer is passing so quickly!

Lately, we’ve been making a lot of green soups. Using our homemade stocks, we add beet greens or radish greens and puree with our Vitamix (new addition to our household this Spring – loving it!). Our toddler absolutely loves these soups and we’re happy because he’s getting greens and fiber. Occasionally if we’re inundated with lettuce or chard, we’ll throw those into soups too.

Cucumbers, when not added to salads, are turned into quick Japanese pickles (I just use rice vinegar, sugar and salt). These are so refreshing on a hot summer day! I tried this recipe with radishes but found that they were a bit spicy; the pickles tasted like wasabi. However, the recipe with hakurei turnips is reminiscent of pickled daikon, which I love!

I love seeing that some of our friends, near and far, are getting onboard with CSAs in their area. They typically start with vegetable CSAs but I like to remind them that there are beef, chicken and pork CSAs too!

Allergen-free chocolate

Ever since finding out that our baby has food allergies, as a breastfeeding mom, I have been working to cut out his allergens from my diet. It’s quite the educational experience for me as I delve into the world of cooking without dairy, eggs, and nuts.

Ah, chocolate. That brown square that melts like velvet in my mouth. Oh but so many of the chocolates lining the shelves at stores contain milk and if not milk, they may contain or be cross contaminated with a variety of nuts. At my local health food store, I asked for a chocolate bar that does not contain milk. The lady pointed out a few good choices. I further clarified that I needed a chocolate bar that has never made contact with nuts. I was given one bar out of their entire display of chocolate bars!

When I think ahead to the Halloweens, Christmases, Easters, and Valentines of my kids’ life, I’m saddened to think that he won’t be able to readily partake in the chocolatey goodness that so many others easily enjoy. That Lindt advent calendar just isn’t in our future *tear*. It’s not just the holidays that will be difficult but facing the sheer abundance of milk/nut chocolate bars that line shelves at the grocery store, gas station, restaurants, vending machines, practically everywhere (I swear I notice it more now that I can’t eat it).

However, there is hope and that hope exists in allergen-free chocolates. Unfortunately, they are challenging to locate and the selection of flavours isn’t the greatest, particularly in my city (ie. not in the United States). Still, they are hidden gems! So far, my finds are:

  • Giddy Yoyo (free of dairy/nuts/soy). An Orangeville, Ontario company!
  • Hummingbird Chocolate (free of dairy/gluten) has no nuts in their bars. An Ottawa, Ontario company! (updated July 2015: I’ve noticed that Hummingbird now has “may contain traces of nuts” on all of their bars…boooo)
  • Enjoy Life! chocolate bars, chips and chunks (free of the common allergens). An American company that produces many products that are all free of the common allergens.

It’s super exciting when I find an allergen-free chocolate and I’m hoping to discover many more in the months to come!

Ginza: a ramen shop in Ottawa

Ginza Ramen (832 Somerset Street W – in Chinatown)

A dear friend messaged me one evening to let me know that she was eating a bowl of ramen at a new ramen shop. In Ottawa! At a place called Ginza.

I had seen the first Ginza shop in passing, on Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa, and in great excitement searched for a menu online. After seeing the menu online (mix of ramen, pho, vermicelli dishes, sushi, rice noodle soups, grilled foods), I figured it was your typical all-encompassing Asian restaurant…and my interest waned. But my dear friend assured me that the place that she was eating at in Chinatown served *just* ramen. And she liked it.

Ginza

The shop in Chinatown incorporates a lot of wood into its interior and has a warm feel inside. The kitchen isn’t very open to the eating area, which is key to a ramen shop so that you can watch all of the fast-paced action, and there was no hearty irashaimase from the staff to welcome patrons inside. However, the server provided courteous, friendly, and prompt service, with just the right level of attention (because nobody likes a server who hovers or forgets about you).

Ika-age with wasabi mayo
Ika-age with wasabi mayo
Chicken karaage with a wasabi mayo
Chicken karaage with a wasabi mayo

We ordered chicken and ika karaage as appetizers. Both were accompanied by a mild wasabi mayo dip. The chicken was dry and the batter was average, but not having had karaage for a while, it did hit a spot. The ika (squid) had a good crunch from being deep-fried.

Miso tonkotsu ramen with corn, char sou, bean sprouts, green onions, mushrooms, and nori
Miso tonkotsu ramen with corn, char siu, bean sprouts, green onions, mushrooms, and nori

Continuing from previous ramen adventures, which you can read about here, here, here and here, I ordered the miso ramen. Ginza has a tonkotsu base and a chicken broth base; the miso is a tonkotsu ramen. The broth was decent but the balance of flavours and textures in it doesn’t quite meet some of the better ramen bowls I’ve had elsewhere. The noodles were cooked well and the range of toppings offered in the bowl was good, but the char siu slices were thin, not the awesome wrapped kind, and not as fatty/melt-in-my-mouth as I like them.

Considering Ottawa has no other reputable ramen shop yet, the ramen at Ginza would definitely entice me to return when I have a craving. However, if I were in Toronto or Vancouver, where there are a myriad of ramen shops, I would likely go to another place.

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