Produce at your Doorstep

As an avid cooker and veggie lover and living in the city without a car, I have spent way too much time weighing the pros and cons of signing up for a program to have my weekly produce delivered to me. Every few months, I do a google search and come up with a new kid on the block selling these services. It’s time for me to share this information with you all, but it’s also time for me to bite the bullet and sign up with one of these companies.

No matter your priority, there should be something out there for you. You can focus on organic, on local, on in-season varieties, and you can even add bread, eggs, dairy and meat to your order.  You can choose the size of your produce box, and have it be filled with only vegetables, only fruit, or a combination of both.  Some companies will deliver right to your door, some to a local hub in your community. Sometimes you’ll be charged to make substitutions to the weekly stock, sometimes not. The boxes are all priced similarly, with minor differences in services.

Image from Fresh City Farms

Image from Fresh City Farms

I recommend you take notice for a couple of weeks of what types of produce you absolutely eat every week (avocado? lemons? kale? apples?), and what items you buy and subsequently struggle to use before they go bad.  Summer is a particularly great time of year to sign up and give produce delivery a whirl, because the items will inevitably be a lot more exciting than the potatoes, carrots and turnips that will fill your produce box in the winter time!

Good news for the suburbs: most of these companies deliver to your door in Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Etobicoke and Mississauga! Better yet, check out Ontario’s Community Supported Agriculture website for farm to kitchen boxes all over Ontario. The following company names are linked to websites where you can get specific information on pricing, product selection and delivery.

Mama Earth Organics

Probably one of the most popular services in the city thanks to to an effective marketing campaign, Mama Earth offers four sizes of boxes ranging between $27 – $55, with a $2 charge for customizing your entire basket. Delivery is free on orders of $30 and there is no commitment, so you can place an order on a week-to-week basis. For no charge, you can select 5 items you’d like to never receive. Mama Earth has partnered with many local companies to deliver cheeses, breads, jams, coffee and more with your order, priced as they would be on the store shelves (but with free delivery!). Live in a condo/apartment? Buzz in the delivery people remotely and they’ll leave the produce box right at your door. In season, Mama Earth aims to have 80-90% of your basket locally sourced.

Fresh City

A typical box comes with about 7 – 12 types of produce and sizes vary between $28 and $31, delivery included. Fresh City requires no time commitment and Fresh City claims to be 26% cheaper than buying the same items at your local big box grocer. Live in a building? If you get at least 3 people to sign up in your building, you’ll save $3 per order! 80% of your box is aimed to be local, with greens and sprouts grown in a greenhouse at Downsview Park. Check out their website to see what was in the box last week to get a feel for the mix. Fruit only boxes feature some pretty cool tropical fruits, like starfruit and passion fruit! Everything at Fresh City is organically grown, but not necessarily certified organic since the cost of certification is cost-prohibitive for many small local farmers.

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Sprouting at Home

Here at Things that are Awesome, we love food, but we also love our bodies, so most of what we eat (at least at home) is clean, fresh and nutrient dense. Sprouted grains, nuts, beans and seeds are an easy source of multiple nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C and E and can be readily incorporated into almost any meal. Unfortunately, sprouts lose a whole lot of their nutritional punch in transit and can play host to a variety of bacterias, so the best way to get your sprout fill is by sprouting them yourself at home. But good news: at home sprouting is not only super easy to do, but also cheap!

Supplies: Glass jars, water, loose burlap or other breathable material (it also needs to be porous enough to be able to drain water) cut into squares big enough to cover the top of the jars, elastic bands, a drying rack, and your seeds of choice (for this post, we sprouted alfalfa, crunchy beans and crimson lentils).

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Step 1: Put a tbsp or 2 of seeds into the jar. If you’re sprouting alfalfa, be sure to use a fairly wide mouthed jar as it needs room to branch out. Fill the jar about half to 2/3 full with water, cover with burlap and secure with elastic band. Give the seeds a swish to rinse, drain the water, then refill. Let seeds soak overnight (with the burlap cover), for about 24 hours.

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Step 2: After 24 hours, drain the jars, flip upside down on a drying rack, and leave for three days, filling with water to swish and rinse (draining through the burlap) 2-3 times each day (a good rule of thumb is to leave your sprouting jars in the kitchen and to rinse with breakfast, lunch and dinner).

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Niagara’s Wines

This past weekend, we gathered Kelly’s closest girlfriends for a weekend to celebrate her upcoming nuptials in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This post isn’t meant to be a play by play of the weekend’s activities and events, though.  Rather, the time away served as a great reminder of the fantastic wines this region of Niagara produces. With the holidays and New Year around the corner, I thought I’d share my favorites, whether to take to a party or to pour a glass (or three) and enjoy in your cozy home with dinner as the temperature dips outside.

wine collageI should preface this by saying I am by no means an expert. I know a little about tannins (bitterness), sweetness, acidity, weight and the very basics where wine pairings are concerned. But let me to point you in two directions for more information: your local LCBO staff are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and a visit to the wineries themselves is extra special (not to mention much cheaper to buy the wine).

This weekend we traveled around to a handful of vineyards with Niagara Getaways. Jeff, our tour guide, was really informative and entertaining, and incorporated larger and more well-known, award-winning wineries in our tour along with smaller ones (Between the Lines, as an example, only sells out of their store and online). Taking the tour allowed us all to sample the wines as much as we’d like without having to spit out our samples and worry about driving. Of course, by the 5th winery, our discerning tastes were long gone. If you take an afternoon tour, you may be lucky enough to catch a gorgeous sunset like we did – picture perfect against the vineyards.

barrell sunset

And here you have it.. my favorite Niagara wines: Continue reading

Keep Warm: Homemade Wonton Soup

One of my favorite ways to spend an evening with friends is cooking together.  Last week as the temperature dropped in Toronto, a good friend and I decided to spend our planned evening of quality time and catching up by reprising what was a most successful cooking evening last year: making fresh wontons.

After reading through a few different recipes and settling on pork and shrimp as the main fillers, we doubled the recipe, wrote out a shopping list and headed out to the grocery store together. You’ll see that the ingredients are simple and lean and the recipe couldn’t be any less demanding: just throw all of the chopped ingredients into a bowl and mix.  While years ago it may have taken a trip to Chinatown to get wonton wrappers, they are available in your most basic of grocery stores around town now – just take a look in the refrigerated tofu areas, usually near the produce and fresh herbs.

wontons2

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Cooking with Gwyneth: It’s All Good

A couple of weeks ago I started the self-titled “Gwyneth diet”. ‘Cause you know.. if I eat like her I’ll start to look like her, right?? For a while now, I’ve been a subscriber of Gwyneth Paltrow’s weekly lifestyle newsletter called GOOP where she often publishes her own favorite and her famous chef friends’ favorite recipes. Some of these recipes are complicated and include ingredients I’ve never heard of, while some are surprisingly simple. Truth is, I had never tried to make any of them until I got my hands on Paltrow’s latest cookbook titled “It’s All Good”.

gwyneth-paltrow-its-all-good-cookbookI’d heard great things about the recipes but to be frank, I only half believed the hype. Immediately after getting the cookbook (cheaper at Costco, by the way!), I crawled into bed and read the entire book cover to cover. The photography is beautiful and hilariously features Gwynny and her kids, you know.. shopping at the market, picnic’ing on the beach and riding scooters. Just like you and I…

Ok, back to the cookbook. The single most impressive thing about it is that each recipe is simple: they require 5 or 6 ingredients, they use your basic kitchen tools and they don’t take too much time. There are a couple of less familiar ingredients used throughout the book (namely, chillies in adobo sauce and gochugaru, coarse Korean red chilli flakes), but they are used time and again and make it worth the trip to Kensington Market/Chinatown to hunt down to have on hand in your pantry. The recipes are all dairy-free, healthy and clean, and usually gluten-free with vegan substitute recommendations. Continue reading