Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Year's Food Resolutions

(Originally published in the Star Phoenix)

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, and for that, I usually look to the kitchen. My resolutions always seem to revolve around food. One year I resolved to eat more potatoes. My dad grows enough potatoes to feed an army so it’s “free” food to boot. Another year, I resolved to make a pot of soup for each week of the year. Two years ago, I resolved to eat more berries. Before that, I resolved to eat more beans.

In all instances, by “more” I am referring to more of these products that are grown in Saskatchewan so that, as the year progresses, I am also delving deeper into the local food economy. These resolutions may seem frivolous compared to more serious pledges for personal self improvement, but I have the satisfaction of having never failed to meet my goals. Gain without pain.

In that spirit, here is a list of delicious, achievable and painless New Year’s resolutions that may spice up your year.

1. Shop at a farmers’ market at least once per season – winter, spring, summer and fall. There are several options: the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market at River Landing; the Wednesday market at St. James Church; daily summertime markets held in parking lots around the city; and weekly markets in neighbouring communities such as Warman and Borden.

2. Visit a farm in 2013. More specifically, resolve to visit a farm at which you can buy farm products. Two good options near Saskatoon are Pine View Farms at Osler, which sells their own meat products, and Robertson’s vegetable farm on Valley Road. Both have on-farm stores.

3. Go berry picking. Berries are the most abundant fruit on the prairies and they are also the healthiest fruit to eat. Picking wild berries such as saskatoons, cranberries and blueberries is an adventure in itself, if you know where to look. U-picks offer the convenience of growing the berries for you, including saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, haskap and cherries. The fruit growers association produces a map of u-picks around the province.

4. Eat wild foods. If you pick wild berries, you’ll have this one covered. Other wild foods found in Saskatchewan include mushrooms, dandelion and chickweed greens, muskeg tea, juniper berries and, of course, all manner of wild fish and game.

5. Eat more lentils. Saskatchewan is now the world’s largest producer of lentils. Not only do we grow the most lentils, we also grow the greatest variety of lentils – brown, black, green and red. If you are not accustomed to cooking with lentils, check out some cookbooks of world cuisine or ask someone whose family heritage comes from those parts of the world where lentils are eaten every day.

6. Eat your vegetables. Saskatchewan imports well over 90 percent of our fresh vegetables. Both Manitoba and Alberta supply a far greater percentage of their vegetable market. Support our local vegetable growers by asking for and choosing fresh produce that is grown closer to home.

7. Prepare one all-local meal, whether you define local as close as your backyard or as broad as the province. For extra challenge, resolve to cook this meal in the wintertime. For an easier challenge, make it a potluck and share the experience.

8. Be a food tourist: where ever you travel in the province, look for food “souvenirs” that reflect the passion and produce of this varied land.

Finally, my 2013 New Year’s resolution: to eat myself out of house and home. Dig to the bottom of the freezer, clear out the canning cupboard, use up the various bags of lentils, dried mushrooms and oat groats, eat up dad’s potatoes. So by summer, I can start all over again.

Venison Stew

This hardy winter stew makes use of many Saskatchewan ingredients, including frozen peas from my garden. I picked the juniper berries while walking in a city park.

2 pounds venison or beef
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp canola oil
8 potatoes, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 big onion
2 garlic cloves
Handful of mushrooms, fresh or rehydrated in water
3 crushed juniper berries
1 tsp crushed dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt and some freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, optional
2 cups water or beef stock

Cut the meat into one-inch cubes. In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the meat in melted butter and canola oil. Remove the meat from the pot. Meanwhile, chop the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and mushrooms. Place the vegetables in the pot and cook until the onion is soft. Return the meat to the pot. Add the juniper berries, thyme, whole bay leaves, salt, pepper and peas (if using). Pour in two cups water or beef stock. Cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender, two or three hours.

1 comment:

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