CSA – Inner City Farms

Le Marché St. George
Le Marché St. George

Car Free Day on Main Street was last weekend, and as Dave and I wondered the streets we stopped at a booth for a local CSA.  If you aren’t familiar with the term, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  You put down a large deposit at the start of the growing season and you either pick up or have delivered a box of vegetables each week.  Dave and I had been thinking about this for a couple years now and had signed up for one two summers ago, but it was cancelled at the last moment due to issues unforeseen with the organization we were going with.

We were looking for a CSA with a local pick-up spot that would cost about $25/week and found Inner City Farms at a booth on Car Free Day.  They CSA uses people’s yards and public spaces in Vancouver to grow vegetables and you pick up your weekly haul at Le Marché St. George, which is only 10 blocks from our condo.  It’s a beautiful little neighbourhood gem, that is a coffee shop/market in the front and pop-up shops in their back room.  They also have a backyard that they use for events and for the Inner City Farm pick-up location.

The place was filled with people having coffee at sidewalk tables and sitting in the backyard, playing music and visiting.  I can’t say I have seen many places the have as much community truly joined for no other reason than to enjoy each others company on a sunny day.

There were tables set up with the first pick-up items and the signs included the neighbourhood in Vancouver were they were grown.  It’s about as local as you can get.  We picked up Romaine lettuce, garlic scapes, radishes, kale and frisee (another kind of green).  It was all so amazingly fresh.

Once we got home, I spent an hour washing, drying and chopping the vegetables.  We now have more salad than we know what to do with! I had never bought or used radishes, so we cut them up thinly and added them to the salad and I made a garlic scape and radish dressing (sugar-free) with the rest.  It all tasted great with dinner…and it will taste great tonight, and tomorrow and Wednesday…  We are going to get more than our daily dose of veggies this week before we head out to Ontario.  I’ll be darned if we waste any of it!

Tonight I’m making kale chips as a snack.  I’m really looking forward to our next pick up and seeing how the weeks change the products we will be getting.  I’m also really looking forward to learning new recipes, eating more veggies through the week and learning how to store them.  Should be a fun summer of adventurous eating!

My Masterchef Moment

Tonight I had my first Masterchef moment.  I was looking for tomato soup in the soup aisle at the grocery store, because Dave and I were having Epic Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup.  A dish we try to improve on every time we make it. Frustratingly, I realized that all the soups had crazy high sodium levels or included sugar.  They weren’t an option.

Silly as this seams, soups are not something I make often, so I have little confidence usually about making one, but I kind of got a little gusto in my step as I hightailed it to the tomato sauce section.  I can do this!  I can make tomato soup from scratch!  For $1.50, I picked up a can and headed home.

I’ve been learning more and more about balancing flavours and knew tomato sauce was very acidic, not something you would eat on its own.  So I scrounged around in the kitchen and pulled a nice balancing act by adding the following to the tomato sauce:

  1. Leftover buttermilk about to expire (added to taste)
  2. A clove of garlic
  3. 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  4. Salt and Pepper

Topped with fresh basil from my herb garden, an extra strip of bacon from the grilled cheese sandwiches and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Voila!  A pretty decent tomato soup and it took no time to make.  Dave and I both liked it, and I have to say, I felt pretty proud of myself for not using a recipe and just going with my gut to get the right balance.  I’m a recipe girl, so this was a step in the right direction to get my creative kitchen juices flowing.

Sauces, jus, and consommes are next on the list, along with pasta.  I think it will be an adventurous summer in the kitchen.

Sugar Free

While I was in Australia, I came across two books by Sarah Wilson that I heard about on a health food blog I follow called Eating Bird Food.  The books were called I Quit Sugar and I Quit Sugar For Life.  The books had only been published in Australia, but one was going to be published in North America in late April/early May.  With all the flights we had, there was plenty of time sitting around airports and browsing the book stores and, eventually, I bought them.  Seriously, look at her, who wouldn’t want to look that healthy…and tan!

It ended up being a lot of my reading while I was there.  The more I read the more I wondered: Could I do it?  How long would I last?  What sacrifices would I have to make? I can’t give up my favourite bakeries!  They’ll never forgive me!  I LOVE SWEETS!  The panic it caused in my mind made me realize that perhaps I had a wee bit of a sugar problem and that it needed to be addressed.  I had always had a hard time with afternoon cravings or wanting dessert instead of dinner.  And these thoughts shouldn’t be more powerful than your will to control them.

So after eating all the desserts I could on our trip and finishing our last meal with a heavenly dessert of lemon panna cotta, I quit sugar.  I really did.

I am in my sixth week of an eight week program of no sugar (processed or fast absorbing, like honey), and strangely it hasn’t been that hard.  I miss things, but I don’t crave them. The real challenge was finding non-sugar food to eat.  Sugar is in everything, from packaged meat, to bread, in practically every cereal and drinks.  I felt hungry all the time and bacon, while a good non-sugar option, couldn’t be had for every meal. Sarah’s books are great though, they have a good balance of recipes for savoury and sweet using alternatives like Stevia and brown rice syrup, which are natural or slow absorbing, so you don’t get a sugar rush.

This first week I had headaches, the third week I had some vision problems, (this was from taking fruit out for a couple weeks), but everything went back to normal in the fourth week. My body finally is adjusted.  I haven’t had any strong cravings, and never came close to breaking.  I just say no to everything with sugar, it is far easier than telling myself I can have something sugary once a week, there are too many decisions and temptations that way.

I miss my favourite things, like Earnest ice cream, and Chunky Monkey Bread from Trafiq, but they will be there when I’m done and for years to come.  I’ve learned that I don’t have to have my favourite things every week (I won’t die!), that I can enjoy fruit, or sugar free desserts and be really satisfied.

People have been asking why I am doing it?  To lose weight (I haven’t), to cut back (yes), will it be forever (no).  I want to get through the eight week program, and make sure I come out not being controlled by my sugar urges.  I want to enjoy ice cream and pie, but not feel like I need it every day, more like once a week.  

In Wilson’s books, I have found some really great recipes including Paleo Choc-coco Muggin, Cashewy Chia Pudding and Vietnamese Chicken Curry.  She also has loads of great recipes on her website.  I’m hoping to make her Raw Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake soon.

Courtesy of I Quit Sugar
Courtesy of I Quit Sugar

I will always have a sweet tooth, but at least now I know that there are good alternatives to satisfy me and that it is possible to tame the beast that my mind can be.