Archive for the ‘Food’ Category


As I was breastfeeding my toddler for what felt like the umpteenth time yesterday, I started to try to think about the postive aspects of nursing forever and ever amen. This is what I am going to try to focus on instead of trying to figure out why this baby just does not want to be weaned. (Her favourite thing seems to be chanting “na na na na” while trying to jump onto my chest from the floor.)

Here are five reasons breastfeeding is good for the planet:

1. It produces no garbage.

2. It doesn’t have to be shipped from a factory, burning fossil fuels and creating greenhouse gases.

3. It doesn’t require the production of bottles, bottle liners, nipples, or formula containers.

4. Breast milk is a renewable resource.

5. It requires no energy (except for what the mother’s body uses to make all that milk, but hey all those calories burned by breastfeeding help that pregnancy weight come off!)

I feel like I’ve been nursing a baby forever — well, for a good part of the last eight years anyway. Since my first baby was born, I’ve noticed that more and more women breastfeed, and they do it publicly without having to drape themselves in sheets and blankets to hide what they’re doing. Although my hairdresser still tries to get me to go into a different room to nurse the baby if she wants a snack while I’m getting a haircut. It seems some of the older customers aren’t so into breastfeeding in public.

This week, a Montreal neighborhood began handing out stickers to local businesses that welcome breastfeeding mothers. I hope that means an end to places that expect women to nurse their babies in the bathroom. How gross is that?

You can read more about the new stickers — like the image you see above — in a story from La Presse here.


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This would be one of the many squirrels that has discovered the buffet at our backyard compost bin. Hard to see the bins, buried under the 26cm of snow that fell here on Saturday night.


But what hungry squirrel would let 26cm of snow keep them from a tasty snack? Not this one, who dug a path down through the snow into the bin yesterday. That’s the very tip of his tail, sticking out of the snow while he dumpster dives.


Victory! He found something to eat.

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Ever since our family did a one-week garbage-free experiment last summer, I’ve been trying to keep our kids’ packed lunches and snacks as litterless as possible. The average Canadian kid’s lunch (like the one pictured above) is estimated to create about 30 kg of waste each year. I’d been at the kids’ schools at lunch and snack time and had been surprised by the amount of garbage being produced.

We have piles of reusable plastic containers, water bottles, real cutlery and cloth napkins that the kids are very good about returning in their lunch boxes each day. We also have a plastic bento-box style lunch kit that is great for lunches. We got ours as gifts from Laptop Lunches and they are sturdy, clean easily and can carry a lot of food for a hungry kid.

We also try not to pack individually-wrapped foods such as granola bars or cheese sticks. The kids take juice boxes from time to time, but usually have water or juice in a reusable bottle. They bring home any small plastic sandwich bags or snack-size bags to be recycled. It would be nice if our older child’s elementary school could provide recycling facilities in the lunchroom, but that’s something I hope to raise with the school shortly.

Here’s a picture of one of our kids’ lunches that I made last week:


Yes, it’s true, she has a paper napkin but that’s because all the cloth napkins were in the laundry that day!! Besides, she brought it home and it went straight into the compost.

I also picked up stainless-steel water bottles for the kids to use after reading several reports raising concerns about dangerous chemicals leaching from plastic water bottles into water. They love them, but they were a bit pricey so every time they leave the house they get a “Don’t lose your water bottle!!” reminder. So far, so good….

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The winds are howling, it’s a cool  -6C (-14 with the wind chill) outside and all I can think about is a plan I cooked up to grow a big garden this summer at my parents’ house in the country.

A couple of months I ago I read Barbara Kingsolver‘s excellent book Animal, Vegetable Miracle, the tale of her family’s year-long experiment to eat locally. They moved to a farm in Virginia and decided to eat only food that was produced near them – either on their farm or by local farmers. Bananas were out but there was much excitement during asparagus season.

It’s a great story about food production, the changing seasons, agriculture and modern food production. It made me want to plant a big garden that would feed our family for at least a few months of the year. But we don’t have the soil for it — our city back yard is small and shaded by an enormous decades-old maple that keeps our house so nice and cool all summer long. But my parents, on the other hand, have a few acres of land in the country where they say we can plant a big garden.

Soon, once this neverending snow melts and the ground starts to thaw, we’ll be heading out there to get our hands dirty. I can’t wait.

You can whet your appetite for summer’s vegetable bounty with this recipe, designed to use up an overflow of zucchini in the Kingsolver’s garden. And you can dance around your warm cosy house while the wonderful Arlo Guthrie sings the Garden Song.

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A few years ago I wrote a story (see below) for the Montreal Gazette about a British Columbia couple who were following what they called a 100-Mile Diet. For a year, they would only eat food that came from a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver home. Their project later became this book.

Writing that story really put the idea of trying to eat local in my head. Ever since, whenever I’ve had the choice, I try to buy locally grown food on my weekly (okay, sometimes daily) shopping trips. It’s not a hard job in the summer, when Quebec produce is everywhere, and we get a weekly box of organic vegetables from farmers  Jamie & Nora Quinn’s farm in Elgin, Qc.

But in the dead of February, with 20 cm of fresh snow on the ground, and last summer’s harvest just a dim memory, it’s another question altogether. You can usually find some root vegetables, maybe some hydroponically-grown lettuce and tomatoes, and apples from storage. Still, I thought I did a good job on a locally-grown dinner for the fam tonight:

  • Mashed Quebec potatoes and one of the last heads of celeriac from last summer’s vegetable deliveries
  • Quebec-grown turnips
  • Quebec-raised turkey meatloaf with Quebec carrots and onions
  • And for dessert, stewed Quebec apples.

Not bad for a snowy February day, I’d say.

Here’s that story I wrote:

How what we eat helps climate: What’s good for the environment is great for the economy
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
By Monique Beaudin, The Gazette

Eight months ago, Vancouver writers and J.B. MacKinnon undertook what many thought would be an impossible task – for a year, to eat only food produced within a 100-mile (160-kilometre) radius of their home.

They were concerned about the environmental impact of the global food-distribution system: trucks carrying summer fruit and vegetables to snowbound Canadians, burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“Our food is travelling even more than we do, and that seems ridiculous when a lot of things like salads, carrots and potatoes can grow locally, but you don’t necessarily see them in your local grocery store,” Smith said.

They never expected their “100-mile diet,” which they chronicle in an online magazine, to draw international attention and generate buzz all over the Internet.


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 We’ve toyed with vegetarianism over the years. Sick of meat, we launch into delicious veggies, legumes, tofu,  eggs and even texturized vegetable protein for a few weeks. But we always slide back into meat eating, either with a hamburger or some crispy slabs of bacon. Or a big juicy steak from The Keg.

Our flip-flopping on food was in my mind as I read this piece in the Globe and Mail. The author, from the Vancouver Humane Society, argues that we should reduce our meat consumption in order to reduce the impact of climate change. He’s not saying go veggie, just eat less red meat.

The head of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the scientists who won the Nobel Prize) recently called on us meat-eaters to cut back on eating meat by 10 per cent, use bikes and stop shopping for the sake of shopping.

Well, our Christmas credit card bills continue to roll in, so that’s put a big damper on the shopping. Our bikes are packed away for the winter, but we are walking more. So I think it’s time we look at the meat question.

In the past week we’ve eaten meat almost every day. Mostly chicken, but there was some lamb and a meal of pork chops. One thing we eat very rarely is beef and that’s because the sight of a big slab of raw beef turns me right off cooking. It makes me think of flesh, which I know all meat is, but there’s just something about the raw beef that brings it home every time.

We can’t all be like British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who adores meat and is always suggesting to cook it way rarer than I could ever consider eating it. In her latest cookbook, Nigella Express, she recounts how she tells restaurant staff how she’d like her meat cooked. No rare or medium for her: “I tell them just to hit it on the head and walk it straight through.”

Bring on the vegetables.

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As part of our family’s quest for a greener lifestyle, I’ve been baking a lot of bread.  Like most people, we love our carbs, but I don’t really like the long list of ingredients on the whole-grain breads we’ve been buying at the supermarket. Sodium Stearoyl-2-lactylate anyone?

We have a bread machine, which takes a lot of the work and the mess out of bread baking. Apologies to bread purists, but we have to take some shortcuts sometimes! I dump all the ingredients in ours and set it on the dough cycle to mix it all up and let it rise. Then I take it out, shape it into a loaf, let it rise again and bake it. Delicious.

There are a few good breads in our collection: a basic whole-wheat, a whole-wheat cinnamon raisin, and our family’s favourite healthy grain bread. But we had a hankering for something different, so before Christmas I got some advice from a bread-baking friend. He suggested sourdough, which I thought would be a great change in the bread department.

I remember my mom having sourdough starter on the kitchen counter when we were kids and her baking it into bread. So I threw together some flour, water and two grains of yeast and let it ferment away. The first batch worked out well, once I scraped off some pinkish stuff that seemed to be growing on top. After four days, it baked up into a couple of loaves of bread that had a tiny sourdoughish flavour.

Then I forget to “feed” the starter — which means to add more water and flour, so it basically shrivelled up over the Christmas holidays. My second attempt turned black so I abandoned that one. I’m going to do some sourdough research and try again, but in the meantime, I’ve got a nice fresh loaf of whole-wheat on the kitchen counter, just waiting to be made into delicious sandwiches for lunch.

And not a speck of Calcium Propionate.

Here’s the recipe:

1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup carrots (chopped or grated)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup bran flakes
2 tbsp wheat germ
1 cup unbleached flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tsp bread machine yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine in order listed. Choose whole grain setting & back, or choose dough setting to shape your own loaf.

Makes 1 loaf.

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