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Eat Alberta Conference 2011 a major success!

Starting off the day with coffee from Transcend and ginger apricot scones from Queen of Tarts would make one think that the day could not get much better, but it did.  Spending Saturday at the first ever Eat Alberta Conference meant my day just kept getting better and better!

After a busy week at work and an extended fun-filled Easter weekend visit with my parents the thought did cross my mind to just stay in bed Saturday morning and skip out on the conference.

What a terrible move that would have been.  I am so glad I attended! I had a fantastic time, met great people, learned a lot, and ate a ton of fantastic food!

Furthermore, the day went off without a hitch.  The organizers did a splendid job and I am sure that next year’s event will feature another sell-out crowd of very happy participants.

We started off the day with the morning keynote talk featuring Jenny and James from Sundog Organics.  The talk provided wonderful insight into the life of a local food producer and Jenny shared some great tips and pointers about producing food on your own. The information about obtaining seed from small producers such as Heritage Harvest Seed and Salt Spring Seeds will really come in handy now that spring has finally arrived!  I will be sure to stop in at their stall this summer at the downtown farmers market.

My first session was Honey Tasting with Patty Milligan from Lola Canola.  I will confess that this was the session I was most excited about and it was great.  We got to try 8 different types of honey from all over the world: mango blossom honey from Indonesia, acacia honey from Europe, blackberry honey from the USA, and traditional sweet clover honey from Canada.

Keeping with the spirit of the conference we also got to try some great honey from Alberta, which was one of my favourites.  I will definitely be picking up some dandelion honey from Lola Canola’s booth at the Downtown Farmer’s market at the end of the month.  Another favourite was the raspberry honey (the real McCoy, not honey flavoured with raspberries) from British Columbia and of course my all time favourite buckwheat honey from Saskatchewan.

Who knew that there is such a variety of honey out there and that bees are so interesting.  Thanks to Ms Milligan for a truly informative and tasty session!

Next I was off to learn about edible plants from around Edmonton with local botanist Robert Rogers.  I was surprised to learn that fireweed is an edible plant. Apparently the shoots are reminiscent of fresh asparagus and the flowers make a great addition to a salad.  He also went into great deal about cattail.  I was very interested to learn that the pollen from  the brush like top of cattail can be collected and combined 50/50 with wheat flour  to make delicious crepes.

He also talked about a popular plant around the city-the bearer of the tart rosehip.  I have always wanted to forage for rosehips and make some jelly and if I ever do get around to it I will take Robert’s hint to pick the berries after the first frost.  Apparently this makes it easier to separate the pulp from the seeds.  If you are interested in learning more about edible wild plants take a look at Robert’s website for upcoming events!

After learning about the tasty parts of cow parsnip and bear root, as well as the delicious ways to make use of highbush cranberries,  it was back to Enterprise Square for lunch!

Stay tuned for my next post on the afternoon edition of the Eat Albert Conference 2011!

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Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

Well, even though we had to push the car into a street-side parking spot,  we made it to my work Christmas Party in January in one piece and only a few minutes late.

I cannot believe the amount of snow that has fallen in Edmonton over the last 10 days.  It is astronomical!  It must around 40 cm by now and word on the street in another 10-20 cm by the Tuesday.  And cold!  I do not think the thermometer has made it over -20°C in the last week.

Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, I have come to terms with the fact that I live in a cold Canadian city, but with all this snow I wish it would warm up a bit so we could at least enjoy it.

In order to cope with the weather I was reminiscing about our winter holiday to Cancun last Christmas.  We stayed at The Westin Hotel and Spa and the poolside restaurant served a fantastic tomatillo salsa before each meal.  After eating the salsa every day for a week I didn’t get tired of it, but instead decided that I needed to get the recipe for myself.

The chef gave up the recipe with pride and I tucked it into my suitcase, saving it for a snowy day when I needed reminding of warm weather flavours.  I love tomatillo salsa, or green salsa as it is often called, and with the added avocado it is even better.

At the party last night I served the salsa with tortilla chips, but it would be great stand-in anywhere you would use a standard red tomato salsa.

I plan to make up another batch this week!

Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

4 or 5 green tomatillos
3 tablespoon chopped onion
1 -2 serrano or jalapeno chiles, chopped (I removed the seeds to reduce the heat)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 -2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado, mashed

  • Remove the husks from the tomatillos, wash the fruit with a bit of soap and rinse well.
  • In a small pot cover the tomatillos with water and bring to boil.  When water is boiling, reduce heat and  simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove tomatillos from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  • Add tomatillos, onions, chile, lime juice, garlic, salt, and cilantro to a food processor.  Pulse until mixture is well combined.  Let cool.
  • Stir in avocado before serving.

Click to print

Homemade Onion Rings!

Don’t these onion rings look delicious?

They are!

They are crispy and flavourful and in my mind the bread-crumb coating is reminiscent of A&W’s onion rings.  EPC says they are much better than that.  In fact, other than the bread crumb coating these onion rings are happily without all the fat, calories, and sodium that you would normally find in an A&W onion ring.

Not that fat and calories are bad and I like salty snacks as much as the next person, but I do not have a deep fryer and I do not want to get one.  So if you don’t want onion rings from a fast food chain, why not slice, dip, coat and bake them at 450°C to feed your craving.

I have been poking around on the Post Punk Kitchen website over the last few months eagerly awaiting the release of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new cookbook Appetite for Reduction.  Bye the way, I am first in line to preview the book once it arrives at the local library.  That is how excited I am. If you are not familiar with her work check out her site.  In a nutshell she has taken the vegan world by storm with her great vegan cookbooks, such as Veganomicom and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  I noticed last month that she had posted a few samples recipes from her soon to be released book, one of which is the delightful onion rings that I made to go along with tonight’s dinner.  The other recipes look delicious too.

I followed the recipe, but made a few changes.  I used whole wheat flour (of course), reduced the salt to 1/2 teaspoon, and used cow’s milk instead of almond milk.  If you are feeling creative I think that you could add some Cajun seasoning or even a bit of cayenne pepper  (or not, they are great just they way they are).

I can’t wait until Appetite for Reduction arrives this winter.  I am hoping she provides some other healthier options for comfort foods to get me through until spring.

Click here for the recipe