Show. Share. Connect.

2016-07-05-13-09-39

Canola in bloom east of our farmyard

Recently I had the opportunity to host the Manitoba Canola Growers booth at an Ag Awareness Expo. Not having done this before, I was a little nervous. But I was advised to, “Be you. Be authentic. Listen for common ground.”

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“It’s what in the inside that counts”

As people stopped by, conversations began to flow and it wasn’t long before nervousness transformed into enjoyment and ultimately, gratitude.  Parents watched and listened as their children exuberantly ‘crushed canola’ and saw for themselves how it’s possible for those tiny black seeds to make clear yellow canola oil.

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“Shaken not stirred”

Youngsters and adults alike enjoyed picking out ingredients to create and customize salad dressing following the simple 2:1:1 ratio – 2 parts canola oil, 1 part acid (vinegar or citrus), 1 part emulsifier (mustard or honey), adding herbs if they wanted to kick the flavour up a notch.

These hands-on activities led to a variety of discussions on food and farming:

  1.   p1170714The patience a farmer needs to wait for the canola to ripen.
  2.  Bees – how they love canola and so many of us love honey.
  3. Half your Plate– how kids custom-creating their own dressings can lead to trying and consuming more salads and veggies.
  4. Canola meal – how the ‘leftovers’ after the oil are crushed and used in livestock feed, and help dairy cows produce more milk.
  5. Baking and cooking – using canola oil to make cakes, cookies, fries or even grilled-cheese.
  6. Ag in the Classroom – some students had done one or both of our activities at their school though AITC but were either anxious to repeat and/or encourage their sibling or parent to do the same.
  7. The variety of Made-In-Manitoba products and booths around us – using honey, jam or beet juice in a dressing. How quinoa can be used instead of greens for a salad and how lucky we are to have so many prairie fruits to add to flavour to our salads in the summer.

ag-expo-portageThe majority who stopped by were genuinely interested in conversation, with many sharing how they use canola oil in their kitchens. This gave me the opportunity to say, “Thank you,” and, “As a canola grower, I appreciate you using a product we grow on our farm.” Something happened in this moment.  A connection was made. Many did a double take, perhaps surprised. When our crops are sold directly to a grain company or processor, there is no contact with the end-user. I’m not sure I’ve ever had the opportunity to directly thank a consumer, but it felt good.

While hosting this booth was a little out of my comfort zone, I’m glad I accepted the opportunity to show, share and connect. It was enjoyable, gratifying and a reminder to express thanks whenever the opportunity presents itself. While I truly value the sentiment behind “Thank a farmer”, appreciation should flow both ways.

So whether you’re a home cook, chef, baker, dietitian or home economist who chooses canola oil, from our farm to your kitchen – thank you.

2016-06-30-20-29-34

Canola field at sunset

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Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Short on eggs and long on zucchini? This cake is for you! It’s that time of year when either your garden, or your neighbour’s,  is overflowing with this popular, prolific squash.  My family loves this moist, delicious, easy-to-make cake.  After all, who doesn’t like turning a vegetable into chocolate? Sounds like a super-power to me! 

Eggless Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk *
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1.    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2.    Grease 9 X 13 pan or line with parchment paper.
  3.    In large bowl, mix canola oil and sugar.
  4.    Add milk, grated zucchini and vanilla. Stir well.
  5.    In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and chocolate chips.
  6.    Add to zucchini mixture.  Batter will be thick.
  7.    Spread evenly in pan. Bake 25 – 35 minutes, until toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8.   Let cool completely before serving.

Storage:

Can be kept in a covered container for 2 to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Notes:

*Buttermilk substitute – add 1 tbsp vinegar to milk (at least 1% milk fat).

Want to preserve excess squash for later use? Simply measure out desired amount of grated zucchini (2 cups for this recipe), pack in freezer bags, date and label. Keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

 

 

Learn. Create. Eat. ~ Spicing it up with Chef Raghavan Iyer

When the Canola Eat Well team asks you to volunteer for an event, there is only one answer, “Absolutely!” You are guaranteed to learn along with the participants and will always leave feeling inspired.

2016-06-09 15.57.08On June 9th I had the opportunity to assist at an extraordinary workshop held at Kelburn Farm, just south of Winnipeg. The Manitoba Canola Growers hosted over 100 guests in conjunction with the Dieticians of Canada conference.

One of the my favourite highlights involved food, which for those of you who know me is no surprise! My taste buds were taken on a tour of India with a divine meal prepared by the award-winning Chef MJ Feeke and her incredible team. It was inspired from Chef Raghavan Iyer’s cookbook, “Indian Cooking Unfolded.”

2016-06-09 19.07.03Indian Slaw, Truck Stop Beans, Sweet Scented Pilaf, Cardamom Fennel with Firm White Fish along with Corn Bread & Mustard Greens were plated beautifully and served ‘family style’ at our tables. Every single bite was delectable.  No one passed on second helpings when the bowls of food made another round.

Indian cooking is not in my repertoire, nor did I think it ever would be. But as we ate our meal, Chef Raghavan and Registered Dietician, Patricia Chuey broke it down, banished a few myths and made me believe that I too, could bring this fabulous cuisine to my kitchen table.

Chef Raghavan & Patricia Cheuy, RD - dynamic duo with seamless, informative & hilarious banter.  Courtesy of Canola Eat Well

Chef Raghavan Iyer & Patricia Cheuy, RD – dynamic duo with seamless, informative and entertaining banter. Photo courtesy of Canola Eat Well

As I savoured the delicious meal, I also gathered a few key take-a-way points from Chef Raghavan’s conversation and demonstation with the practical, adorable and comedic Patricia Chuey.

2016-06-09 16.24.101.   “Curry is not a flavour, it is an entity”. In India, curry has nothing to do with spices, it is about sauce but spices form the backbone to the many sauces.

2.   Do not ask if food is ‘spicy’! Ask if it is ‘hot’ – heat is a component of spice.

P11600263.   Chef Raghavan loves canola oil because, “It takes a backseat to the diva of Indian food, which is spices.” It is perfect for cooking as it has no flavour and a high smoke point.

4.   Body language plays an important role in cooking.      Do you want saltiness without too much salt? Don’t get so close to your food! Sprinkle salt from higher above, you will use less and get the desired effect.

5.   Searing is important. When searing fish, give it time.

6.   Cooking spices changes the flavours. To cook them without burning, coat them in a little canola oil first.

Indian Slaw - Shel Zolkewich Photo

Indian Slaw – Shel Zolkewich Photo

7.  Always ask yourself, “Does your recipe ‘sing’?”

8.   Presentation, presentation, presentation! “If it looks like s#*t…” Remember we eat with our eyes too!

9.   If you haven’t tried cooking Indian food before, start with one of Chef Raghavan’s all-time favourites, Turmeric Hash Browns aka “Shredded Wonders.”

10.   Don’t be afraid to unfold the flavours. Experiment. Enjoy. Celebrate.

P1160027It is never too late to learn and learning in the kitchen never gets old! Now with my own copy of Chef Raghavan’s “Indian Cooking Unfolded” it’s time to get started and meld some new and fascinating flavours to spice things up at my farm table!