Category Archives: Food and Recipes

Green Drinks and Level Ground

Level Ground TeaEarlier this week we went to a Green Drinks evening. I’ve had ‘Green Drinks’ at marked down in my daytimer several times over the past while, but somehow the schedule has been so full I haven’t made it to one yet. I had thought that this was a local thing – there are a lot of green people in this neck of the woods. Turns out, Green Drinks International is a whole movement! How could I have slept through this?

From the website:

Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up at informal sessions known as Green Drinks.We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you’ll be made welcome. Just say, “are you green?” and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there. It’s a great way of catching up with people you know and also for making new contacts. Everyone invites someone else along, so there’s always a different crowd, making Green Drinks an organic, self-organising network.

This particular meeting was held at Level Ground Trading, a local success story started up by four Canadian families “for the purpose of improving the lives of disadvantaged producers through trade.” The evening started with a short, excellent talk about the company, how it started, and how it works (coffee and tea are a couple of their main products and company members travel to the small farms and farmer collectives in countries all over the world to meet the growers, sample product, and negotiate fair trade deals). After that, we all donned aprons, hairnets, and beard nets (!) and set off on a tour of the coffee roasting facility.

Dad in his beard net, a sight I never thought I'd see!

Dad in his beard net, a sight I never thought I’d see!

Our tour guide, Stacey (one of the founders), was passionate and knowledgeable about his subject, which made for a fascinating evening.

Stacey at Level Ground

Coffee Warehouse


The sacks used to transport coffee beans are destined not for the landfill after they are empty, but for local gardens and farms where they are used as mulch and over paths between beds. Fully biodegradable, they compost and disappear completely within a year. The whole facility is garbage free (as in, they send nothing to the landfill). This was a side note in the presentation but seemed to be typical of a company that appears to be trying hard to operate ethically and sustainably.

At the end of the night we were all given something to take home. I’ve been enjoying my loose leaf black tea (from Assam, India) and some delicious dried pineapple from Santander, Colombia (SO good!).We saw some short video clips of the various farmers at work and it was fascinating to learn more about where these products come from and what goes into producing my morning cuppa…

And Now, Root Vegetables: The rutabaga vs the turnip

What is the difference, anyway?

What is the difference, anyway?

After yesterday’s topic of discussion (which has triggered quite the mind-bending conversation over in the comments) I feel the need to return to a subject that’s a tad easier to wrap my head around. What is the difference between a turnip and a rutabaga?


Behold the Mighty Rutabaga

When I posed this question to Dad he muttered, “Swedes?” and then something about cattle feed. According to Wikipedia, it’s common in the north of England (Dad’s original stomping grounds) to call a rutabaga (aka the ‘swede’ – from ‘Swedish turnip’) a turnip. Dad’s reference to cattle feed is a standard comment delivered whenever I mention certain easily grown vegetables which, apparently, were  deemed unfit for human consumption by Brits during WWII. Kale, collards, turnips, and parsnips are the main culprits and if the Queen would never deign to eat cattle food, then why should he? 



Unfit for human consumption isn’t quite right – it seems to have been more that things were so bad during the war people were reduced to eating fodder more often consumed by cattle and hogs. Though Dad now eats collard greens, turnips, and rutabags, he draws the line at kale. Steamed, baked, or served up as chips- kale remains in the cattle feed bucket as far as he’s concerned, regardless of kale’s current status as a super food.

Back to the question at hand, what is the difference between turnips and rutabagas?

According to Niki Jabour’s very good book,
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live I’m not the only one a bit confused about the exact differences. Both are in the cabbage family with bulbous roots and the varieties I’m familiar with sport the same colour scheme (white toward the root end and pink blooming into a deep purple toward the greens end). Turnips, though, are smaller and rounder (Niki harvests hers 6-8 weeks after seeding). Rutabagas are BIG (they can be up to six inches across) and take much longer to mature. In both cases,  you can eat the greens (we harvested all manner of brassica greens last year and sold them in our early goody boxes as braising greens – delicious!)

Niki suggests sowing turnips in cold frames late in the winter and then continuing to sow out in the garden from late April through mid-August. Rutabagas, on the other hand, she treats as a once a year crop, planted in early summer and harvested in the fall after 3-4 months of growth. Turnips can be eaten raw (I’ve never tried this, but Dad remembers snacking on them as a child… though if he called Swedes (actually rutabagas) turnips, then I’m not entirely sure what he called a turnip…) Rutabagas are generally cooked first.

Turnip v rutabaga - discrimination test - which is which?

Turnip v rutabaga – discrimination test – which is which?

We’ve used baby greens in salads but like most of the brassica family, they soon develop quite a strong taste and, when fully mature, can be bitter. Coat in butter or olive oil and add your savoury seasoning of choice and then sautee with garlic and perhaps a few onions and yum! A tasty veggie side dish.

I just stumbled across a recipe for mashed rutabagas and carrots, which I plan to try soon to take advantage of the gorgeous organic carrots Liz has been growing down at the end of the road. So good! We’ve been using them in salads, smoothies, and roasted  – mashed with rutabagas sounds like a cool addition to the list of carrot prep options.

Alderley Grange Goody Box 2014

Today’s post is a guest post by my lovely daughter and hard-working CSA/Goody Box coordinator, Dani…

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

What the Heck is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture programs, often known as CSAs, are becoming increasingly popular for farmers and their customers, but many who haven’t been exposed to them before aren’t quite sure what they entail.

While there are as many options as there are CSAs, the general principle of all of these ‘box’ programs is the same. During the early spring months, members of the community sign up for the program, essentially making a commitment to purchase a certain amount of product from a farm in the upcoming year. The commitment they make is a financial one as well: shares are pre-purchased at the time of sign up, even though products don’t start arriving for up to five or six months.

Why the delay? For farmers, some of our highest costs come early in the spring. This is when we are building needed infrastructure, purchasing seeds, putting in amendments, buying or breeding livestock, and generally preparing for the year ahead. Unfortunately, it’s also when income opportunities are lowest, as there is generally very little available to sell at that time. By buying in to a CSA, customers provide invaluable capital for farmers to start the season. Customers have pre-paid during the months when we have the most product available, and when our costs also happen to be lower.

If a CSA is a large percentage of a farm’s sales, as it will be for the Alderley Grange this year, then knowing how many shares have been sold before it is time to plant, order, and plan is also extremely important and helps us to provide our customers with the best-possible products over the course of the season.

Goody Box Contents - SampleOn the other hand, customers go into the summer knowing they will receive local, in-season produce all season, and that they will have the opportunity to get to know their farmers and food producers well. It’s a great chance to learn what is in season at any given time and to learn some new flavours and recipes. CSAs tend to provide the classics—carrots and potatoes—and the unusual—lovage and edible flowers—which lends itself to a varied experience from week to week.

The average CSA tends to provide a box of vegetables each week. Sometimes these come with a recipe, and sometimes you have the chance to add something like a dozen eggs. Some larger farms, such as Essex Farm in New York State, are able to provide fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains, maple syrup, and more to over 200 members, while others offer far more limited choices designed to supplement your weekly trip to the store.

At the Alderley Grange, we fall somewhere in between, and are also passionate about making our Goody Boxes a fantastic—and unique—experience for our customers.

Our popular Lifestyle Box, the flagship offering in our CSA program, offers members six veggie items, a fruit item, a dozen eggs or a package of sausages on alternating weeks, a specialty item (in 2013 this included a cook book, herb scissors, goat’s milk soap, and more), a recipe, 10% off all additional items purchased at the Grange, and more.  ($37 week; $740 season)

Other options include our Veggie-only box ($24/week; $480/season), and based on popular demand, an ‘everything-else box’ for members who grow their own vegetable gardens but want to enjoy local protein and goodies ($27/week; $540/ season).

We are also excited to be starting a monthly protein box this year, which will run from June–December and includes 12–13 pounds of meat each month, as well as a whole turkey for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Members of this box can expect to enjoy pork, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and some more unusual meats like bison or venison, knowing that everything they are consuming has been pasture-raised on organic feed, without any added hormones or antibiotics by small-scale growers here on the Island. ($160/month; $960/season).

Goody Box Alderley Grange

As much as possible, all box products come from us here at the Alderley Grange on the Saanich peninsula, but when we need to supplement from another farm, we make sure it is local, organic, ethical, and farmed with love. The bottom line is that our CSA customers get some of the best produce around, and have the opportunity to form a relationship with the source of some of their family’s food at the same time.

Registration is now open, so consider supporting local food and guaranteeing your weekly or monthly share of some truly amazing food and goodies!

Visit us on Facebook to find out more and sign up here:

[Note from Nikki: I will add a new CSA page here, too – check back in the next day or two to see if the link is up there at the top of the website… Also, if you are confused about the Alderley Grange vs Dark Creek Farm – Dark Creek Farm is the name of the farm and the Alderley Grange is the name of the farm stand. Corporate branding experts would no doubt be horrified that we have two names going on, but our customers are smart cookies and figure it out pretty quickly….]

Enter an Airport, Enter an Altered State of Reality

There is something distinctly unnatural about air travel. One minute you are doing your usual thing seeing how many boxes of brussels sprouts stalks and slightly soft apples and pumpkins you can squeeze into the back of the pickup truck for the hogs and the next minute you are in some other time and place with other people, other routines, other everything…

Dad and I popped up to Kelowna to visit family for a few days and arrived back late last night only to experience another round of slight discombobulation.

Of course, it didn’t help that I slept in a room (my lovely nephew’s) that really does look like some other kind of reality…

Welcome to the strange world of Minecraft...

Welcome to the strange world of Minecraft…... not that I know the first thing about the world of Minecraft... But it does look kind of cool. … not that I know the first thing about the world of Minecraft… But it does look kind of cool when you are sleeping in a bunk bed inside it. This is what happens, btw, when my dad doesn’t leave his paintbrushes at home when he goes on an extended visit to young relatives. Last time he did this I believe some Disney princess castles appeared on a niece’s wall…

Perhaps the oddest moment of this trip occurred when I was debating whether or not to put the turkey in my packed bag or carry on suitcase. I had a vision of the interrogation as I tried to get the bird through security screening:

Them: M’am – what’s that in your bag?

Me: Turkey.

Them: Who are you calling a turkey?

Me: You’re arresting me for the use of the word turkey?

Things could have gone terribly wrong in a hurry. And, what if they insisted on a cavity search?

Dad, of course, found this scenario highly amusing... out came the sketchbook as we were waiting for our flight.

Dad, of course, found this scenario highly amusing… out came the sketchbook as we were waiting for our flight. I can just hear the latex gloves snapping…

In the end, the bird travelled in steerage and arrived at the other end unscathed. We enjoyed a lovely dinner a day later and soup and sandwiches until it was time to come home.

It was all rather delightful, sleeping in and not worrying about toting bales or mucking paddocks for a few days. Many thanks to K., my delightful and efficient farm-sitter. You are worth your weight in golden eggs!

Oh, the Food!

Oh, how I love the way this season is all about the food!


We kicked things off with a bang with our Holiday Cookie Exchange party on December 1st and it has been plain good eating ever since.

A couple of weeks ago I tested out a new super fast, super hot oven turkey recipe (with butter and maple syrup slathered between the breast skin and the breast) – it was so super fast it was ready before I had the veggies done, but was delish nonetheless.

For our family Christmas dinner I cooked up one of little turkey hens (about 8 lbs) the way my neighbour C. suggested – 350 degrees for a couple of hours with a bottle of beer added to the pan. I stuffed garlic butter under the skin, tented with oiled parchment and then foil, and uncovered for the last half hour. Oh. So. Juicy. Very, very good – Thanks, C.!

It will come as no surprise that two fave presents this year involved food… A frozen fruit dessert/sorbet maker that requires nothing but the addition of frozen fruit (though, you can add a bit of yogurt, if desired). What a great way to dessertify the bags of berries and apricots and plums we still have in the freezer! Also an excellent way to use up very ripe bananas, just pop the bananas (pre-peeled) into the freezer and then, when frozen, run them through along with whatever other fruity deliciousness you have on hand. Yum!

The other most excellent handy gadget (and, yes, I know I shouldn’t be quite so addicted to handy gadgets) was a gift I received – a Magic Bullet. Though the various blades can be used for all kinds of chopping and blending, my plan is to use it mostly for smoothies [though, the ‘grown-up’ beverages they describe in the accompanying booklet along with instructions for how to host a refreshingly fun party are intriguing…]. I have experimented with various other blender type devices but this seems to be particularly well thought out in terms of being able to make small quantities in the same container you are going to drink out of. So far I’ve only indulged in fruity versions, but I have plans for adding kale, carrots, and various protein options so my smoothies stick with me for a little longer than they tend to given my high energy outputs on an average day.

Right at the moment, I’m jotting these notes while making turkey stock for soup tomorrow.

Too soon this season where food is front and center and nobody feels bad about food being front and center will move on into the New Year where so many people feel they need to to return to a relationship with food that centers on self-deprivation.

My food-related resolution will be this: more smoothies. And, to steal the theme word that will be getting a lot of airplay over in Catbird Quilt-land, EXPERIMENT. [Catbird Quilt Blog] Coconut oil. Sunflower seeds. Carrots. Parsnips. Maple syrup. Chocolate. Yes, chocoloate! I wonder what cool combinations I might be able to come up with in the smoothie department? I might have to re-listen to the An Organic Conversation podcast segment that was all about smoothies…

Which reminds me how much I enjoy their podcast. Are any of you podcast listeners? What are your favourites? I’ve loved the book and cookie recipe suggestions – how about some ideas for great podcasts I should be listening to while I muck out the horse paddocks and wash the hen eggs?