Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Niagara Peaches Insider Tour and Peachy Inspirations...


Mmmm, I love peaches! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ And it's even sweeter when they are Niagara peaches! As part of my 2019 ambassador partnership with Produce Made Simple, my fellows and I are treated to various food production and farm tours to get the inside scoop on the meticulous operations that go on behind-the-scenes- from field to store. So that we can share it with all of you! At this event, we learned what it takes for our proud dedicated Ontario stone fruit farmers to grow the best of the best rivalling those produced around the world. And we have 200 tender fruit growers right here in Ontario, with 10,000 acres of farmland producing peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries (in the Simcoe area)! Being close to Lake Ontario creates a micro climate that is perfectly suited to growing tender fruit. With our short growing season, we must take advantage while we can! Learn more on Ontario Tender Fruit.

With the opportunity to hear from farmers first-hand, we gained insights from the operations in the orchards to the sorting/packing facility to the table-- I am talking about two here specifically. The first was at a beautiful catered al fresco Niagara luncheon after our tour and the second- The Neighbourhood Table, at my summer program cooking in a church with kids. You will also see a delectable myriad of peachy inspirations along the way! There's no excuse for not finding ways to enjoy the fresh juicy sweetness of our local peaches, but if you want to eat them straight, juice dripping down your hand, well... that's probably the best way to savour them!


Niagara Region is a great area for growing peaches; the high and low temperatures help create flavour. “Fruit likes to suffer a little bit to get great quality.” Meaning that the hot and cold fluctuations tend to yield a better tasting fruit. I liken it to "the fittest survive", and when you do, you can't be compromised in any way, shape or form! 

PG Enns is a grower member with Niagara Orchard and Vineyard Corp. Rob Enns is 3rd generation Ontario peach farmer, his son also works in the business (4th generation).

Yup, that's Rob shown on the far right on their packaging label!


Peaches are hot when they are picked and need to be cooled quickly to maintain freshness and help them last longer. Therefore, they’ve invested in a new cooling system where fans push cold air through vented bins. All of the fruit can be cooled to 3 or 4 degrees Celsius in about 3 hours. Then it can be stored in a cooler before being packed. 


Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple

Top grade fruit is sold to large retail chains, seconds are sold to the local market direct to consumers for cooking, and home preparation. There are also some new distilleries in the area that are starting to use the lower grade fruit for alcohol. Less waste- YAY! #lovefoodhatewaste


Our next visit was to Vineland Growers Co-operative. They started 106 year ago by four local growers who decided to work together to have a central place for packing and transporting fruit beyond the local region. The company today serves the same purpose. They also provide packaging materials to their 50 grower members and provide sales and transport to major grocery chains. We visited the larger of their two facilities.

June from Vineland Growers Coop.

Controlled atmosphere rooms are used to “put fruit to sleep” for a period of time, to support market supply/demand. Also, frequently used in the apple industry. They expel oxygen in the rooms to 0.2 percent; creating higher levels of nitrogen -  to put the fruit to sleep. Fruit can be kept like that until ready to sell. CA controlled atmosphere fruit will not last as long as fruit that is not exposed to this, but it helps to extend and control supply into the market.

Their original building had two cold storage rooms; it’s been expanded twice. 


Quality Assurance QA meticulously sorts and grades the stone fruit in this room. Size, weight, scale insect and weather damage, such as hail are all factors for consideration.

Currently, about half of the peaches are sold in plastic clam shells, the other in cardboard. There has been a recent push back on plastic by consumers.


Our last stop before lunch was at Tregunno Fruit Farms, the largest tender fruit grower in Canada. Owned by Phil and his sons' Ryan (operations/packing) and Jordan (Orchard management), they manage 850 acres for growing peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, table grapes and now wine grapes. They grow organic too with 25 acres for peaches, and 50 acres for grapes.

Tregunno Farms Phil and Ryan


Their new packing facility is equipped with state of the art technology for sorting and grading fruit; monitoring for size, weight and even using infrared technology to detect hidden flaws.


What an impressive massive bustling facility! 

Guess what machinery this is for?

If you said for defuzzing peach skin, you are correct!

Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple

Look at those peach skids mechanically rotating above the workers.


Another shot of our fun group with the owners!

Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple

Out on the field. Tregunno pick from trees directly into small bins to protect gentle fruit and these are carefully unloaded on the lines. (approx. 20 lbs each small bin). They hire about 120 employees on the farm during peak harvest.

PMS photographer @jesusmazaphoto rounding up our crew.


Flat peaches... one of 30 varieties of peaches grown at Tregunno Fruit Farms πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘. The colour of a peach doesn’t indicate ripeness, rather variety. You know a peach is ready to pick when the background colour is yellow (vs. green). Peaches can be picked firm as they will ripen after picking. 


Heading to our lunch venue! A large red tractor is totally farm factor :D


A beyond ga-gorgeous Niagara al fresco lunch after our Produce Made Simple peach and tender fruits orchards tour over at picturesque #hiddengem in Virgil with Zooma Caters.


This is my second venue with Zooma catering, and they are known to create delish bold craveable flavours and indeed they did with an innovative yummy stone fruit-inspired menu. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ Starting with single-serve refreshing peach gazpacho, then a communal family-style servings of Korean rice noodles salad with grilled nectarines, Raddichio and stone fruit salad with gorgonzola and lavender syrup, and Smoked chicken, brie and peaches flatbreads followed, finished with a peach shortbread crumble and Chantilly cream 🀀.


Photo opps left and right!

Even the bathroom is pretty!

Peach gazpacho and a side of pickles peaches and red onions

Korean rice noodles salad with grilled nectarines

Smoked chicken, brie and peaches flatbread
Raddichio, stone fruit salad with gorgonzola and lavender syrup

Peach shortbread crumble and Chantilly cream

Photo Credit: Produce Made Simple

Switching gears but still on the same thread, onto my summer program The Neighbourhood Table at St.Philip's Lutheran Church in Etobicoke. I was able to arrange a few skids of baskets filled with Niagara peaches from June at Vineland Growers thanks to Nicole at Produce Made Simple. Not only that, PMS also supported us with 25 goodie tote bags with kids' fooducation activity books, flexible cutting boards and cute mini shopping carts. Each family got to take one home along with some fresh Niagara peaches.

The lovely church members and volunteers at St. Philip's.

Thank you Produce Made Simple and Vineland Growers!

Kids building our gorgeous peach salad for 50 people.


Stone Fruits Mixed Greens Salad
Makes 6-8 servings

1 125 g spring mix- about 5 to 6 cups
1 125 g baby arugula- about 5 to 6 cups
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 small bulb fennel, finely sliced
1/2 small red or Vidalia onion, finely sliced
3 ripe nectarines or peaches, pitted and sliced
1 small package of pea shoots
Note: Add toasted pecans, walnuts or almonds

Vinaigrette: (Yields 2 cups)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. liquid honey
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
pinch of ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil or sunflower oil

Place all salad items into a large serving bowl and just before serving, incorporate about 1 cup of the dressing until tossed well. Add more dressing as needed to coat the salad. Sprinkle with nuts if using.

TIP: Leftover vinaigrette can keep refrigerated to be used until the next day.



A huge thank you to PMS and Vineland Growers Coop from the church and the families over at The Neighbourhood Table. We appreciate your support very much!

With St.Philip's Church pastor Tuula on right.

Rebecca from Snapd joined us for a round about impromptu photo session to capture the great moments, volunteers and guests at our Back-To-School theme session last Thursday.

Read the original article here.

Snapd Etobicoke- The Neighbourhood Table

Need more peachy inspiration? How about a stack of buttermilk blueberry pancakes with a side of sliced Niagara peaches to brighten up a dreary rainy Saturday this past weekend? Served of course with maple syrup, from my sis-in-law's family sugar shack in Quebec!

buttermilk blueberry pancakes

Here is a beauty shot of my pretty peach salad recipe with sliced fennel, arugula and tomatoes. When I whip out this lovely Victorian-style runner, you know something good is up.

Peaches Mixed Greens Salad

With so many recipe inspirations of food that seems to leap off this page, there's really no excuse for not enjoying our fresh juicy Ontario peaches! The thing is don't wait! Savour them now while you still can! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ 



Monday, August 12, 2019

Neighbourhood Table Rainbow and Magic, and More...


It's pretty crazy to think we are on our homestretch with just two more Neighbourhood Table sessions to go. That means summer is winding down too... Boo :(.  Catching up here with our last two with themes Rainbow and Magic, and Meal In Minutes which have not been short of a brilliant array of fresh colours from vegetables and fruits as the name suggests. The sights, smells and buzz in the kitchen cooking with kids and volunteers have been magical in itself! ✨

With partners Salma and Nina from The Arab Community Centre.

It's bright colours and rainbow indoors and out with the kids' arts and craft activities too!


Did you know you can eat corn straight fresh off the cob? Try it in this refreshing black bean salsa.


Fresh Corn, Black Bean, Peppers and Tomato Salsa (Fresh From Florida Produce)
Serves 6

2 cups corn (about 4 cobs)
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1 green pepper, diced
¾ cup black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 lime, juice of
Salt and pepper to taste

Hold one cob vertically down in a medium-sized bowl and slice downwards against core with knife to remove kernels. Repeat with remaining cobs. Toss in same bowl, the corn with tomatoes, peppers and black beans. Squeeze in the lime and season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla corn chips.



A colourful skillet of vegetables- crinkle cut zucchini, blistered grape tomatoes and green beans.


Tossed with chicken and bowties to make this lovely hearty pasta dish. See it's similar recipe.

Topped with bread crumbs and parsley

My friend and former fellow Food Revolution Toronto ambassador Aviva joins in the fun with her daughter Talia to help teach kids how to cut up fruits to make the colours of the rainbow.

Aviva is a lunch packing guru. Check out her instagram.

Kids made fruit kebabs to dip in chocolate pots for an after dinner treat.


Wow!


Cheflings are the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow! πŸ“πŸŠπŸπŸˆπŸ‡πŸŒˆπŸ’ž


Colour your plate with these fresh rainbow veggie pinwheel wraps 🌈. This is a fresh and crunchy idea to get kids munching on vegetables maki-sushi style. Get 'em in the rollin' fun!.

Rainbow Veggie Spiral Wraps (adapted from Side of Sweet)
Makes 24 pieces

3 10-inch spinach (green) tortilla wraps
1 tub (227g) roasted pepper hummus
1 red pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, cored and thinly sliced
12 baby carrots, thinly sliced
¼ red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh baby spinach.

Divide the dip evenly into three parts and spread a thin layer on one side of each tortilla. Arrange the prepared veggies in rows on the tortilla. Starting at one side, roll the tortilla up over the veggies, pressing it together tightly. Slice the tortilla into 1 inch slices crosswise (about 8). 



These were such a hit with everyone, including my kids when I tested them over the weekend before. What magical kaleidoscope effect when placed together like that!

Rainbow Veggie Spiral Wraps

Vegetables Ceviche... sans fish... say whaaa? Ceviche is seafood-based, fresh raw fish or shellfish cured with citrus and seasonings. But not only, according to Chef Erika @ixiimtoronto.

I had a taste of her delicious concoction as she is set up as a demo vendor alongside The Good Food Market. Laaaaa...🎡🎢 what a revelation!!! πŸ€— The pieces of cauliflower yielded a similar texture to shrimp ceviche- incred! The tangy lime juice and savoury salt intermingling with the veggie bits were too tasty, I made it for my twins birthday family gathering! Served with crunchy tortilla chips it was a hit with everyone!! This is a MuST TrY!!!

Vegetables Ceviche (by Chef Erika)

1/2 small cauliflower, boiled for 5 mins.; cut into tiny pieces
2 tomatoes, small diced
1 small cucumber, small diced
1/2 red onion, fine diced
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
4-5 limes, juice of
1 tsp. of papikra
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and adjust seasoning to taste. Let set at least 30 minutes before serving.


Did you know you can sweat it out big time, just slicing up like five crunchy fresh baguettes lol...


Easy Crowd Bruschetta!!! πŸ…πŸ…πŸ…πŸŒ±. Our over deelish Italian appie with a meal of Japanese curry and rice in our next theme- Meal In Minutes, cause why not mix things up?

Love the plump Ontario juicy tomatoes we got on the vine from The Good Food Market selling fresh wares on site. Here are some storing tips for your tomatoes to keep them ultra-fresh from my partner over at Produce Made Simple:

KEEP IT FRESH:
Store them at room temperature in an open basket if they’re ready to eat for up to a week, but if you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper bag with an apple or an onion.
.
Avoid storing ripe tomatoes in a plastic bag or in the fridge, as the cold causes them to turn mealy and they lose their delicious tomato flavour. They are best enjoyed when served at room temperature.



Easy Crowd Bruschetta!!! πŸ…πŸ…πŸ…πŸŒ±

This is Joanna from Feed It Forward. She is a vendor alongside The Good Food Market showing families how to make use of salvaged good produce. FIF rescues food from Ontario grocery stores, farmers and growers, bakeries, distributors, and restaurants. Thousands of kilos of food a week that would have been destined to garbage bins, are rescued and made into delicious and healthy soups and healthy snacks for those in need. Read More about their great mission and how they have already made such a difference.

Making blueberry and mango smoothies.

Our main for Meal In Minutes is Japanese Curry. But it doesn't sound exactly Japanese... what's up with Japanese-style curry? When the English version was introduced to the country, it was more of a soup meant to be sopped up with bread. The Japanese adapted it to their taste by thickening it so it could be easily eaten with rice and added familiar ingredients to make it more homey- their classic curry pronounced as karΓ© contains onion, carrots and potatoes and often apples and cantaloupe for sweetness. 

There are some fantastic tasting Japanese brands of curry sauce that meets your meal preparations halfway, but not halfway delicious. Glico and S&B brands package curry sauce come in a dry block format for convenient use. Prep and cook for 15 minutes and dinner is on the table! You can choose from mild, medium to spicy. Serve it with toasted French baguette, ladled over steamed rice or Japanese udon! And add a side of crunchy cabbage slaw tossed with mayo.

Serve with a Side of Coleslaw: thinly slice ¼ small cabbage (stem removed), add 2 carrots (optional), cut into matchsticks and 2 thinly sliced green onions. *Soak cabbage in ice cold water for 10 minutes, drain. Toss all with Japanese kewpie mayonnaise upon serving.

Curry In a Hurry with convenient Japanese curry blocks.

Ahh-- these young ladies are cooking up a curry storm!

I encourage all to try apples and cantaloupe for the real Japanese curry deal!

Everyone loved it and finished to the last drop with leftovers packed to take home! Yum!

See here for my recipe. Also try it with chicken drumsticks.

Awww, I love her extra sweet smile! 

Layered Berries and Cream Angel Food Cake 

Layered Berries and Cream Angel Food Cake
Makes 8 to 10 slices

2 cups whipping cream
3 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla extract (optional)
1 prepared angel food cake (284 g)
1/2 cup each: sliced strawberries; raspberries and blueberries
6 whole strawberries, for garnish
1 lemon, zested into long strips for garnish

Place mixer bowl and whisk in freezer for ½ hour. Pour whipping cream, sugar and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about two minutes- do not over beat. (2 cups cream yields 4 cups whipped).

How to Cut Angel Food Cake: Mark cake into 3 layers by inserting toothpicks around side of cake. Use a serrated knife and gentle sawing motion to easily cut the cake.

Cut cake horizontally into 3 layers. Place bottom cake layer, cut-side up, on serving plate; top with ½ the whipped cream; sprinkle with mixed berries. Cover with middle cake layer and whipped cream with more berries. Top with remaining cake layer; spread with remaining whipped cream. Top with whole strawberries, any remaining berries and sprinkle with lemon zest. Refrigerate one hour to set.

Our cool chefling operation. I'm so proud of them.

Meal In Minutes is Served!



Love the creativity in these awesome layered angel cakes. As easy as cake to make!


More colour, freshness and a myriad of fun continues over the next few weeks... Stay Tuned!