An unassuming evening

I love where we live.  The prairie landscape is captivating and ever-changing. It isn’t perfect, but does offer many moments of perfection. The best ones are those which catch us off guard – the ones we don’t expect when conditions, as we perceive them, are less than ideal.

Last Tuesday had been relatively mild for the end of February in Manitoba. I was looking forward to a beautiful evening walk, but by late afternoon, the temperature dropped significantly.  An uncharacteristic fog rolled in as the sun began to set.

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Somewhat disappointed with change in conditions, I headed out with the dog  to take advantage of those last few lingering moments of  daylight.  As we walked along our quiet rural  road, the stillness of the evening engulfed us.    

The only sounds were my boots crunching in the snow, the tags on the dog’s collar lightly jingling as she trotted along, and an owl softly calling out in the distance. There wasn’t a breath of wind, no traffic in the distance, no planes flying overhead. It was if there were no one else in the world but us.

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Some might have found it eerily quiet but the stillness was beautiful, calming, peaceful. Ribbons of fog wove their way across the frozen, snow-covered fields and over the road. As daylight dwindled, a canopy of stars appeared above and the snow moon began to rise in the east.

It was a serene, unassuming evening, the kind you don’t want to end. One you would like to be able to bottle and share, so everyone could experience a touch of peaceful prairie perfection.

 


 

 

 

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Southwest Fiesta Chicken Soup

On a cold, windy winter day, one of my favourite things to make is a hearty pot of soup.  It is so versatile. There are no hard and fast rules – anything goes.  Start with a good base, use what you have on hand ~ be creative! 

This morning I planned on making my classic chicken and rice soup, but half a cabbage in my fridge was awaiting transformation. This led to an unintentional shift in direction.

I began with my usual chicken soup base of onion, celery and carrot and added the lonely, left-over the cabbage. The mixture was too pale for my liking so I added a jar of salsa. There was a cup of green peppers from the garden still in the freezer, so in they went. Corn added a touch of yellow and considering  it is the International Year of Pulses, a can of black of beans seemed in order.  

Suddenly my chicken soup had a ‘southwest fiesta’ zip to it – not what I intended, but the results were delicious!  A colourful, fabulous warm-you-right-up, meal-in-a-bowl. Carbohydrates ✓  Protein ✓   Fibre ✓  Veggies ✓  Lunches for the week ahead  ✓                Flavourful ✓✓✓

Give it a try!  Measurements are not set in stone, but I like at least half my pot to filled with veggies.  Always aim for Half Your Plate!  Feel free to adjust amounts to your taste.  


Southwest Fiesta Chicken Soup

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Ingredients:

  •   2–4 cloves of garlic
  •  1 large onion
  •  ¼ – ½  head of cabbage
  •  4–6 carrots
  •  2–4 stalks of celery
  •  2 tbsp canola oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  •  2/3 cup brown rice
  •  900 ml chicken stock
  •  418 ml jar of salsa (mild, medium or hot)
  • 1 ½ cups frozen corn
  •  1 green pepper, chopped
  •  4 + cups of water, to desired thickness
  •  540 ml can black beans
  •  2 – 4 cooked chicken breasts

Garnish options:

  • Crushed corn chips
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sliced green onions

Directions:

  1. Finely chop garlic and set aside.*
  2. Dice onions, cabbage, carrots and celery.
  3. In Dutch Oven or stock pot, warm canola oil over medium heat.
  4. Throw in diced veggies, season with salt and pepper and sauté for                about  10 minutes or until softened.
  5. Toss in garlic, sauté additional 1–2 minutes.
  6. Add rice, chicken stock, salsa, corn, green pepper and water.
  7. Cover the pot, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30–45 minutes.
  8. Drain and rinse beans, dice chicken. Stir into soup . Warm thoroughly.
  9. Serve as is or garnish with corn chips, shredded cheese & green onion.

Note:

*Pro-tip  for garlic from Professional Home Economist Mairlyn Smith – “For its antioxidants to become more bioavailable, garlic needs to oxidize before it is added to a recipe. By letting it sit there “breathing” the oxidation can take place.”

 

Practicing Appreciation

 “Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.”                               Albert Schweitzer

Last month our community lost a very special person who worked at a local financial institution. She always had a smile, a kind word, genuinely cared and went above and beyond to help her customers. She was exceptional and made a difference in the lives of all those she touched.

After her sudden and unexpected passing, I wondered if she knew how much she was appreciated. I wondered if I had ever let her know how I enjoyed our brief interactions. She wasn’t a friend, yet she was a familiar, valued presence in my life.

We all know people like this – they work in stores, banks, schools, healthcare, at service stations or tire shops. They stand out from their peers. They are cheerful, helpful, efficient. They improve our daily lives with their positive outlook and leave us feeling valued and appreciated. But do we reciprocate that feeling often enough?

P1140059A simple thank you or word of encouragement can go a long way to making someone feel valued for doing their job. It isn’t difficult, time-consuming or costly. Serving the public can be trying, and often only the negative is conveyed. Positive feedback is always appreciated and often leaves us feeling better as well.

I have always made an effort to express thanks but this recent loss left me wondering if I had done enough. It reinforced my resolve to not take people for granted, to ensure I always convey my appreciation. After all, the difference-makers in our lives, who brighten our days, do so quite often without even knowing it.

Innovation in Oil

Originally published January 2016 in Canola Digest


Three Manitoba canola growers are bottling and marketing canola oil with flavour characteristics unique to their own farms.  As grapes produce different flavour subtleties in wine based on their “terroir” – a  French word that covers soil, topography and climate – so does canola from different regions produce slightly different oil.

Photo courtesy of MCGA

Photo courtesy of MCGA

The Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) and the Manitoba Agri-Health Research Network Inc. (MAHRN) are studying virgin, cold-pressed canola oil, meal and co-products from processing as part of a Canadian Climate Advantage Diet (CCAD) project funded by Growing Forward II.  The three-year $396,000 project is looking at how the interaction between plant genetics and local growing conditions impacts the nutritional profile, flavour characteristics and end-use qualities of Manitoba-grown canola.  MCGA has contributed $10,000 to the project with a goal of adding value and finding innovative uses for Manitoba-grown and processed canola. The venture addresses the keen interest consumers have in local food, ‘terroir’ and virgin cold-pressed oils.

The three farmers involved to date are:  Brian Chorney of East Selkirk, Jack Froese of Winkler and Larry Bohdanovich of Grandview. They all grow the same variety but, surprisingly, the look, taste and even the nutritional profile of each oil is different. The East Selkirk Vintage has a higher iron content. The Grandview oil has a higher vitamin A number, is the strongest in flavour and has the deepest gold colour. Variations also exist in the percentage of crude oil extracted (33.9 – 39.5%) and clarified oil recovered (68.14 – 69.5%).  East Selkirk has the highest rates.  (Note that cold-pressing cannot extract as much oil from the seed, resulting in a high-oil meal.)

Photo courtesy of MCGA

Photo courtesy of MCGA

These unique, cold-pressed oils were test marketed at both the retail and food service level with highly favourable results. They are being embraced for salad oils, drizzles and a Canadian-grown alternative to extra-virgin olive oil.

The 2015 Vintages, prominently labeled with each growing area, will be available in early 2016 at five Winnipeg Red River Coops as well as the Winkler Co-op. These new virgin canola oils are also part of the Buy Manitoba Program. Such distinctive specialty oils demand a premium and sell at 20 times the price of conventional canola oil.

The long-term goal of this project is to develop on-farm enterprises and small and medium-sized business product lines. “It’s always exciting to see innovation in agriculture and Manitoba canola growers are definitely excited about growing future prospects for canola in Manitoba,” says Ellen Pruden, education and promotions manager with MCGA.

DEFINITIONS

Terroir (ter-war):   A term most often associated with grapes and wine, this is the special set of characteristics expressed in agricultural products when the geography, geology and climate of a location interacts with plant genetics. As a result of this project, we now know terroir exists in Manitoba-grown canola.

Cold-pressed oils:   Obtained by mechanically pressing and grinding the seed at a slow speed. Cooling methods are in place to ensure the temperature does not exceed 60 C during this process.