sweet potato mash (the one that kids love!) and a little sweet potato mouse

NutriSue - sweet potato mouse

Today at the market, where I volunteer at the kids’ nutrition education table, the kids learned about sweet potatoes. Apparently the orange fleshed yams are called sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes/yams also come in white and purple. Christopher Columbus brought them … Continue reading

how lucky am I

Volunteering at my local farmer’s market, working with kids, making food together – things like applesauce, corn salad, pesto and purple dip with broccoli, (sneaking in some nutritional facts and lessons), has been for me, and I think, the kids and their parents, a lot of fun, as well as our weekly get together to share food, new recipes and giggles. Over the course of the summer, I’ve met some good people. People I now consider friends. These people are farmers, producers, other volunteers, kids, parents  and market regulars. The farmer’s and producers (as well, of course as my fellow volunteers) are hard working people. The market starts selling at 9 am, we start setting up at 8 am, so I can’t even imagine what time the farmers and producers get up to drive to the market in downtown Toronto from their farms/homes outside the city. And this is not the only market they bring food to. I’ve seen many of them at countless markets throughout the city. So, they’re selling their produce at markets, working their farms, making food, cleaning food, transporting it, displaying it, selling it, doing their book keeping, planning next year’s crops, planting, cultivating and doing a lot more. I wonder – when do they sleep? And when I see these farmers and producers at the market, they’re on. From the minute they get to the market and set up their stalls they’re moving. Barely a second to breathe. Ready to tell you about their produce, sharing recipes, helping you pack that giant squash into your bag and scrambling to get more eggs onto their tables. And always with smiles on their faces.

Even last Sunday, when the weather was miserable, rainy and cold. Although early October, many of us were wearing mittens! Still, we were all out there, at the market we love, standing in the rain, still smiling.
It was slower than usual at the market so I did my shopping early. I went to Highmark Farms to buy purple potatoes, yams, garlic, carrots and hot peppers. As usual, they put extra produce into my basket and didn’t charge me for it. I didn’t ask for it – it’s just what they do. I don’t know about you, but my big supermarket has never done that. I also wanted to purchase mini pumpkins to serve up the purple dip I was making with the kids. Highmark donated those pumpkins. Most of the produce we use when working with the kids is donated by the farmers and producers.

Because the market was slow, I decided to go home and whip up a big pot of squash soup to pass out to all the cold and wet vendors at the market. Home I trundled with all my veggies. I’m the type of person that often doesn’t use recipes. I just decided to use the produce Highmark had just given me, as well as a couple of butternut squashes given to me by my neighbours. Like the squash, I’m pretty sure that a lot of the produce from the market had come out of the ground or was picked, the previous day. This freshness, as I cut into a carrot, made a sound. Sounds odd, but that sound triggered some thinking. I’ve never cut into a supermarket carrot and heard that sound. Where did that carrot from the supermarket come from? Outside of Toronto?, Ontario? Some far off land? Do I have a connection with that supermarket carrot, like I do with the carrot I bought from my friends. How about the beets I wanted to purchase from the supermarket the other day (because I forgot to buy them from the farmer’s market the previous week). I went to 2 supermarkets and their beets were labelled, ‘produce of U.S.A’. Why?, I thought. I passed on those beets. We have perfectly good, if not better beets right here. I’d wait and buy them from our market. I’m thinking though, that I’m going to ask the produce managers at the supermarkets why their beets come from the States. I’m curious.

So, why am I so lucky?
I’m lucky because I was able to experience the sound of my food. Not because I had just remembered that I should be mindful of my food (because I learned that at my meditation class), but because (this is going to sound so ‘out there’) the food spoke to me. It made a sound when I cut into it. A very distinct sounding crunch. A sound of freshness. It made me stop to think about why it made a sound. About where that food came from. Who grew it. When it was picked. How many hands touched it. How it got to my kitchen.
Often I’ve thought about the taste, texture, smell and visual of my food, but this was new. This sound.
Yeah, I’ve heard my food before, when I’ve crunched into an apple or chewed on some fresh almonds, but this was different. Because it made me stop. And wonder. And I have to say, that after all these decades of being alive, that I’m glad that something as simple as a carrot can make me stop and think and experience it in a new way.

So, thank you to the people who bring me the food that makes me think, and enjoy and listen – you make my life richer.

a big discovery…

making ice cream in a bucket

This past summer (sad to say ‘past’ – it is indeed fall now) I discovered something.
I wasn’t looking for it; it found me.
In June, I starting volunteering at my local farmer’s market, working with kids, food and nutrition, as the market’s nutritionist.
At first there was a bit of a scramble on my part to plan what to do. I was even a little nervous. I don’t have kids and really, before this market, had few interactions with them.
I had to consider that we were outdoors, there was no timetable set, kids just came to the Kids’ Corner with their parents, sat at my table and did whatever activity I had planned.
This meant, if I was working with food, I had to think of ways to have kids interact with it, while learning about the value of local, organic food, the soil it’s grown in and just how hard our farmer’s work to produce it and bring it to us.
Every week, I found new ways to do this. My first week, we tasted honey and compared pasteurized processed honey, with raw, unpasteurized honey. It was sticky, messy, fun!
Another week we made ice cream in a bucket. Yes, in a bucket. It was simple…coconut milk with a bit of sugar was added to a cookie tin. This was encased in a bucket full of ice and duck-taped shut. Kids rolled, pushed, kicked and tossed the bucket around. Even my dog got in on the act, and despite his chewing the tape off the bucket and it springing a leak; the end result was indeed, sweet, creamy ice cream. The kids all tried it and loved it. Imagine it was made with 2 ingredients, and the kids loved it.
One week the kids tried kohlrabi. Instead of all the ‘yucks’ you might expect – kids tried it and many really liked it. (If you’re unfamiliar with kohlrabi, check it out here).
Every week we make new things, we made bean dip in a bag with our secret ingredient – peaches. Another hit. Kids couldn’t get enough of it. Last week we made applesauce in a bag. I called it SQUISH-A-LICSIOUS apple sauce because along with the apple in the bag, we added a bit of cinnamon, maple syrup and honey and the kids squished everything together until it became apple sauce. I explained that there are so many varieties of apples that we don’t see in our grocery stores. Some are red, some green, there are even yellow and almost white apples. Some are sweet, some are tart, but they have a natural sweetness and it’s not necessary to add maple syrup or honey. We tried it plain and we tried it with those sweeteners because kids love to participate in the process and have choices. Another hit. The kids loved the applesauce that they made. One little boy ended up laying across the table trying to get more. So wonderful to see children engaged like this and eating food that isn’t packaged or processed and doesn’t have preservatives, artificial ingredients or colours added to it.

As a holistic nutritionist, this is what I’m all about. Real food, as close to the source as possible.

Parents can learn a lot from their children. They are not as artistically challenged as they might think, and they love to try new foods. They also really enjoy having choices, making food and then trying their creations.

I learned a lot from these kids too.

And that brings me to my big discovery.

I love kids and I love working with them.

Teaching them the qualities of good foods, where they come from, how farmers are so important to us, experimenting with new ingredients.

Apparently, (based on feedback from my fellow volunteers and parents) I’m a natural at working with kids. I guess that’s because they offer me so much. Insight and honestly about their likes and dislikes and their sense of adventure when it comes to food.
I’m now looking at working with kids and nutrition as a new branch of my services, as well as continuing to see groups and individuals as a nutritional consultant. I would love to work at schools, community centres or anywhere else where kids and food meet. If anyone has any contacts or connections I would be very grateful.

I couldn’t be happier about this new discovery.

p.s.-  to all my Kids’ Corner regulars, newcomers and all the parents; I can’t wait to see you at the market. I know it will be a day of fun and discovery for all of us.

must have more bean dip!

fun at the market

kohlrabi

Bought some kohlrabi from Highmark Farms, at the Leslieville Market on Sunday. I hate to admit it, being a holistic nutritionist and all, but I had never tried kohlrabi before. As I volunteer at the market on Sundays, working with kids to help them develop new tastes, we made salads and kohlrabi was one of the featured vegetables. This gave me the opportunity to try it. You can learn a lot from kids. We sometimes think they won’t try new things, but from my experience at the market, kids are all over new things…especially if someone else likes it too! Yay kids!

Anyway, kohlrabi is one of those vegetables, that when you see it, you wonder, should I be eating this thing or did it just fall from the sky. Kind of an odd looking vegetable. Pretty green or purple colour, but oddly shaped with spiky arms orbiting around it’s center, kind of like a sputnik. It has a bit of a sweetness and tastes like a combination of radish,  turnip, and zucchini, and has a nice crunch. The one I purchased was green. I peeled off the outer skin and julienned it, adding it to a salad of mixed greens and other veg. It got me thinking…what else do people do with kohlrabi and where did this vegetable originate.

Here’s what I found out:

Kohlrabi comes from the German, Kohl meaning cabbage and Rabi, turnip. It’s part of the brassica family (which also includes, cabbage, rapini, collard greens and broccoli). Brassicas contain health-promoting phytochemicals such as isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol that are said to protect against prostate and colon cancers.

There are several varieties ranging in colour from green to purple, including White Vienna, White Danube, Grand Duke, Purple Vienna and Purple Danube. The purples are superficially purple. The skin is purple, but the flesh is pale yellow.

It tends to be more popular in Europe and is regularly eaten in Kashmir, cooked with the leaves as a spicy main dish, eaten several times a week.

Other popular ways of preparing kohlrabi are as part of a slaw, stewed or diced into soup.

Kohlrabi leaves or tops, like turnip greens, are also very nutritious, abundant in carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin K, minerals, and B-complex vitamins.

The flesh contains small amounts of vitamin A and carotenes.

Kohlrabi is loaded with fiber and packed with Vitamins C, a water soluble vitamin and powerful anti-oxidant (protecting the body from diseases and cancer by scavenging harmful free radicals). Vitamin C is important in the maintenance of health connective tissue, teeth and gums. It also contains glucosinolates. Research indicates that the glucosinolates in kohlrabi, can help ward off the development of cancer.

So do yourself a favour and pick up some kohlrabi the next time you’re at the farmer’s market. You may just find that it becomes a favourite in your daily vegetable selection.

And if you have any favourite recipes for preparing kohlrabi that you’d like to share, please post them!