Posted in Farm, Healthy, Home Economics, On Location, Opinions & Commentaries

Harvest Moon Reflection

Tonight in Ontario is the Harvest Moon – a signal to past generations that the crop was ready.  I thought it was fitting to reflect (pardon the pun) on my recent trip to Manitoba.



Months ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a Food & Farm trip during harvest time in the prairies.  All expenses paid, yes.  What did they ask of us all participants?  NOTHING.  Yes, I truly mean that.  How they picked us all, I don’t know – the only connection I can figure out was our love of good food!

After settling in to my regular life, I have had a few days to gather my thoughts (and my sleep). I am sure to blog about my specific experiences of a whirlwind 3 days but this summary at least represents the table of contents.

  • I had a quick walk (twice) to The Forks for a few hours in Winnipeg, MB.
  • I met 9 other amazing “foodies” who ranged from Registered Dietitians, chefs, restaurateurs, a food photographer, a news anchor and a travel & food blogger.
  • After a weekend, the titles of these strangers faded away.  The names turned into personalities and the glimpse of everyone’s passion started to come through.
  • Visits to vegetable, bison, honey, beef, grain, bean & canola farms were the main staple of our tour.  It definitely kept us busy & active with the full itinerary.
  • Throughout the tours and conversations with farmers, it became apparent that everyone had their own interest and investment into food.  The questions and comments helped to clear up misunderstandings as well as provide us with many facts and figures we didn’t know.
  • On top of the educational pieces about the agricultural processes and business side of farming, some history was retold.
  • The families and farming community were like Pleasantville.  Yes, I was told that they are regular folk too but, coming from a metropolitan city of London, Ontario – it was like walking INTO history and old fashioned values – everyone was so sweet & nice in EVERY conversation plus hospitable, opening their homes to us (literally)!
  • Farmers really care about sustainability and being stewards of the earth.
  • The food served was out of this world and amazing – ranging from a Pinterest-like party setting in a barn catered by several amazing chefs to my roomie cooking me breakfast (who is an award winning executive chef) and having it ready after my shower (so sweet).
  • The farms were stunning pictures that really captured the essence of how much space Canada has and how beautiful every turn, hill top and valley is.
  • Everyone has a story to tell – Using media (videographers followed us, social media used by guests & farmers ) with so many Canadian farms out there, can help continue the conversation about our food.

My takeaway from a 3 day weekend is that I feel even more passionate for food.  It has sparked new interests, questions and ideas that will last me for years to come.  What I love most is that this experience has now become part of my story and memories.  It will shape my future of food, not just in my career, but personally.  I will share what I’ve learned on my path, because connecting more with our food and health can help us all live a great life. This trip definitely fed my body, but more importantly, my mind and spirit.


The most sincerest Thank You goes out to:

  • the Canola Connect team who invited & hosted us,
  • the farmers who were welcoming and asked ANY question we had,
  • the families that showed up to help to host us at their farms (children & adults alike),
  • the other people who toured with me.


Posted in Healthy, On Location, Ontario, Opinions & Commentaries

“Funny things people say to me” Series by Nutrition Bites

Ok, so after knowing Mr R Ginger for almost two years, I have obviously met some of his friends. 

Last night we had an evening out in Kitchener-Waterloo with his childhood buddy we will now call Special K. 

Special K always comes up with funny things to say to people including me. Last night was no different but I thought I’d share it with my readers. 

So he had chips on his kitchen table when we arrived. I was famished after teaching a private child cooking lesson in London and then driving straight away to their place. Mr Ginger opened a bag, and knew they were one of my favourites (Gasp! I do eat chips!!! Don’t be alarmed. Be worried if I’m pretending to only eat vegetables. Moderation people.)

I went to eat some chips. Special K said “You don’t want to eat those!” And proceeded to take the bag away from me. Um, kinda rude but Special K is well ….. Drowning at times. So, with my humour, I never help the matter. 

I told him, “Of course, I do! Why would you think that? Because I’m healthy? Because I work in nutrition?”  

He says…….

….. Get ready for it…….

……. “I thought you only eat hummus and spinach!?”  

I think he was serious. Yes. Yes he was. 

What did I do?

I laughed loudly aloud!

I looked at my Ginger and he smiled and laughed too. 


Hummus and spinach do reside in our fridge and home… but so do other less nutritious foods.

Here’s the thing – eating a treat or less nutritious food is not against my nutrition mantra or most others in the nutrition/dietetic field. 

My sensories are just like his. But I wondered then if he put the bowl of fruit out for me?

And even out at Abe Erb, I ordered a freshly made, gourmet chicken burger on a bun, and Special K said “You eat bread now?”    

Gourmet Chicken Burger at Abe Erb in Waterloo

I looked at Mr Ginger and I said, “Now I’m gluten-free?”  I smiled. 

Ahhhhh. I guess everyone wants perfection out of a profession. That being said, do lawyers and cops never speed while driving? Are they not someone to respect because they made a rolling stop or didn’t check their blind spot before changing lanes?

It’s kind of the same idea. 

But we will be enjoying Special K for years to come. He makes us smile, and teaches me what people think about nutrition (and things I can help teach, address and advocate for in my career and blog!). 

 And I’ll be sharing his “hummus and spinach” quotes along with others (confidentiality will be honoured!) of what funny things people say to me about nutrition, food and home economics. 

Enjoy. There is lots more Special to come. 

Posted in Home Economics, Local, On Location, Ontario, Opinions & Commentaries, Recipes, Special Events

I went to a Food Fight and won!

I was invited to participate in the Arts & Cookery Bank’s Food Fight this summer when I poked my head into their amazing heritage and social enterprise site in West Lorne, ON. (See my previous post on the tour I received.)

IMG_0504It was really a push outside my box.  Not the black box that contained the secret ingredients.  The comfort zone I had remained in.  I was asked by Coupons for Hunger to compete in a salsa competition at the Covent Garden Market the previous year.  Being a single mom, I turned down the opportunity. I usually never back down from a challenge, but after a few years of not fitting myself into any specific niche or exact career in food and nutrition, I had less than optimal confidence at the time.   It was a regret I had – I could have taken the girls along (they love these sorts of things!

So, I said yes this time.  I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and when given second chances – TAKE THEM!  Out of my shy box and into the black box I dove!

The experience was a whirlwind.  Days leading up to the anxiety increased: Would my product flop? Would my friend bail on me at the last minute?  Would I embarrass myself in front of the judges including Emily Richards, fellow P.H.Ec.?

But honestly the day came, and I was happy to just do it.  I was conquering my fears of failure and doing what I normally do: give it my best effort and have fun.  It’s not like I was doing brain surgery and someone’s life was at stake!  It was just food. And I love food, cooking and adventures! So what’s the worst that could happen? I was going to get messy and lose.  Ah well, I’ve had worse happen to me. And wasn’t West Lorne far away from London and Niagara – who would know? Except maybe my twitter followers because I tweeted it.  But who really follows me anyways? But if you are looking, you can follow me here 😉IMG_0693

So we got to the place around 6:40pm.  The first of that round of teams to arrive.  We grabbed a few pics to remember our experience.  We waited, and tried to figure out any hints.  We discussed options based on what we knew:

  • It was to focus on local ingredients but give it a new twist
  • It was to be part of the product development for a signature line of preserves for sustainability at the Arts & Cookery Bank (great idea, like YOU in London, ON)
  • It would possibly use what was in season (being near Lake Erie – I thought tomatoes, blueberries, honey)

7 pm came and we were allowed to enter the kitchen.


But then we walked in, donned our aprons and each team was given a different black box – so no cheating off others’ ideas! We were allowed to use other ingredients around the Cookery Kitchen – onions, garlic, peppers, gooseberries, strawberries, fresh herbs, carrots, tomatoes.

I opened up the box and we had:

  1. Ground Tumeric
  2. Fresh Ginger
  3. Local Honey

I got so excited and my friend was less than impressed.  I used those ingredients all the time, her hardly ever!

We were also told we had to make an edible paste and 4 litres of the product!  What???!!! They told us they didn’t want a jam.  It had to spread using a knife, not a spoon.  Oh my!!!  This threw I think all three teams for a loop.  Oh and did I mention we had 3 hours to complete the entire task – ideas to product completed and in jars!? Glad I’m an energetic person that is a “planner” and very organized.

So we came up with a plan to do roasted peppers and make a chutney-like spread.  We asked the other teams if we could take all the 10-12 peppers in the basket. They were good with that and so away we went.


Working as a team with a friend was different.  We both cook daily AND teach nutrition and cooking, but have never done it together!  And did I tell you that we are both Italian decent?  (Of course we were louder than the other groups and using our hands a lot more to talk 😉 Don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it! It’s true and we are culturally proud!)  She roasted the peppers on the gas grill and I began the recipe development.  I tried three tiny batches because we had super limited ingredients to make 4 litres – every piece of pepper was worth their weight in gold!  In turn we worked pretty good together, considering we have our own style and personality.

I’m a ginger lover (yes Mr. R. Ginger can attest to that in both ways 😉 ) and my friend is not.  So that meant that I had to reduce the ginger until she was not completely disagreeing with the amounts I added.  Other than that, I reduced the sweetness of honey as well – that natural sweetener really packs a punch!  Tumeric is a very easy spice to use and it’s difficult to really add way too much.  But it does stain everything yellow – so watch your apron, tea towels, finger nails and skin!

We struggled with making 4 litres and added more onions, carrots and gooseberries to the mix at times.  We used an immersion blender to blend some of the chopped roasted peppers to make a spread consistency and left some for a chunky “edible paste” – definitely not the norm.  The other two groups used the standard corn starch thickening method to try get their product to a consistency.  Hats off to the Sweets Bakery ladies who got gooseberries as a main ingredient.  They did make it LOOK good – like a bakery product with a kind of “whipped cream” topping!

Looking a little exhausted but task completed!


We didn’t want to change the taste so we committed to having less than 4 litres and keeping the taste better.  My idea for the product jars was to add carrot ribbons to be a part of a garnish of sorts (DYK: a “garnish” technically HAS to be edible) and make it even more visually appealing.  Topped that with parsley leaves and voila, our finished product:

Honey Ginger Roasted Pepper Spread

IMG_0698 IMG_0699

We packaged them up and then found three other jars we were supposed to fill!  So we got a spoon out and started robbing Peter to pay Paul.  We made the timeline with a completed EDIBLE product!  Success!

Funny or interesting things that were part of our experience:

  • Blood, sweat and tears were put into this product development: She cut her finger (yes, even veterans do it!), we were sweating buckets and running around a lot, and I had to chop onions and cried a few tears
  • My carrot ribbons were taken as “scrap” and whisked away to be thrown out
  • We had a clean up crew that was fantastic – and now I realize why “chefs” are so lucky – they never clean up after themselves – Professional Home Economists, we do because who else it going to at home?  I was spoiled to get to use endless dishes! A big THANK YOU to those wonderful volunteers!

We had a great time doing it and all our hard work paid off:  we won the business category under my Nutrition Bites Consulting business!  We were not in attendance, but Grace made sure to hold on to our gift bags/prizes.  We received two cookbooks from the judges Jill Wilcox from Jill’s Table in London, ON and Emily Richards new cookbook coming out in the fall.  We also enjoyed Forrat’s chocolates and other kitchen stuff including an awesome heavy duty Foodland Ontario apron as well.  I’m sorry we missed out on the final event that Saturday, including Fresh Air Media’s Andrew Campbell, who is an educated young farmer in the area who is a great public speaker and media host.

The best part of the entire experience: I survived a personal and public challenge and am better for it.  And it had to do with food.  When can things ever go wrong from pushing your limits?  It definitely made me more confident in my abilities, even though deep down I know that I shouldn’t really be that hard on myself.  I learned to have faith in what I know is there, but the world might not know yet.

Hello World, I’m out of the box now and happy to face my next challenge!

The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.
The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.
Posted in Farm, Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Local, On Location, Ontario

Quality Frugal Food Tip: Want “Seconds” or “Thirds” in Fresh Fruit?

On my gourmet Southwestern Ontario trip this past weekend (one day to be a blog post, hopefully soon), we stopped at Delhaven Orchards in Blenheim, Ontario near Lake Erie. We were blessed with a $25 gift certificate, and honestly it was crazy how much fruit we had to buy to spend it!  (Farmers stands and markets are where it’s at for buying fresh produce for cheap!). 

So what did we buy?

An 11-litre peach basket filled with “seconds” apricots (for $12 – no taxes ever on fresh fruit and veggies by the way in Canada) plus a whole bunch of apples, some peaches and plums (they are fully in season in Ontario right now so fill up your baskets and cars!). In comparison, “firsts” apricots were $4 or so for a quart (the average one pound countainer for strawberries).

And what are seconds?
They are the fruit and veggies that don’t look “perfect” in our eyes – smaller, some marks, or even sometimes under-ripe or over-ripe.

There are high standards for canning companies – so usually the biggest ones go to the processing facilities because they can get bigger slices (but then pack it in cans and lots of added sugar and “syrup” – always buy fresh if you can, or packed in water only).  There is usually NOT bugs inside, and they can be SO much cheaper than “firsts”.   Thirds exist too, but many are discarded or in a case like apples – might be made into a cidre or something that uses the fruit or vegetable but it is processed to a point so it doesn’t look physically like the same thing.  It could still be a natural product, just perhaps not the full, whole food/fruit/veggie.

Watch this little video I made:

(Also found on my YouTube Channel)

So don’t forget to look for deals everywhere but don’t judge a fruit just by the outside. Even peaches don’t have to be red to be the sweetest and juiciest. That depends on each variety, just like apples!

So enjoy seconds and thirds just like you would silver or bronze. Working hard for your money doesn’t mean you have to have the gold standard – you might just be paying for looks, not taste or nutrition.

PS – Those eating solely organic know that imperfect and sometimes downright ugly still tastes good. Nature is not always perfect to us, but that’s because how we view things. Literally sometimes.

Posted in Home Economics, Local, On Location, Ontario, Recipes, Special Events

It’s official – I’m a Black Box Food Challenge Winner!

So, a previous post on The Arts & Cookery Bank in West Lorne, ON did tell of the Food Fight Challenge that I was asked to enter.  I’m proud to say that my home ec teacher friend, Tiz, and I won the business category (yes for my Nutrition Bites Consulting business).  I’ll bring you through the whole process and my experience (good and bad – always honest here!) in another post.  But I thought I’d share a picture until I have time to finish my Black Box Experience post.

Our finished product was a Honey Ginger Roasted Pepper Spread.

The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.
The swag, the kitchen, the product and the home ec brains behind the winning product.

I believe they are planning this event to be an annual thing – so sign us up for Food Fight 2016!  We have a title to defend!

Posted in Healthy, On Location, Opinions & Commentaries

I gallivanted in West Lorne, Ontario and ended up there the whole day!

If you live anywhere in Ontario I bet you are thinking “Where?”, “Are you kidding?” or “You are lying!”

I began my trek at 9:30am by tweeting @ElginCounty where good foodie or farm places to go in between London and West Lorne. They responded with two farms that I still have yet to go to! It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I had to let my dog out back home (my grandma would enjoy that saying -her big excuse to leave somewhere – but this time it was true!).

My purpose of going was to fill out paperwork for volunteering at a kids cooking class at West Elgin Community Health  Center. Conversations with Shelly led to my Twitter account, my tweet from the county, and low and behold another recommendation.

So off I went to Fit Workz.

It looked cheery and Shelly, who recommended it, was an amazing community person so I went in.

A hallway with many doors and openings made me peak into the first opening on the left. A small room had Steele working in it. I asked to come in and if they sold food. She welcomed me in. I took one look:

and even though it looks like not much – smaller menus can mean tried and true favourites with less waste.

I chatted with Steele who was attending university for nutrition and family studies after not choosing dietetics stream. (A post on that should be done one of these days!). She was lovely. I couldn’t decide so I picked both a salad with quinoa and the curry chickpea blend.  Not being big on smoothies I took Steeles favourite one for a spin too.


It was so nice to sit outside and eat but it went into my belly very quickly!

And yes the sign is right, a cute small stand of organic fresh fruits and veggies they have inside too!

So for three items it was $17 approximately. Not bad for quality stuff and a big green smoothie made right in front of me.  I’m not big on green smoothies in general. The cucumbers helped me out but throw a berry in it (I should have asked ) and it’d be perfect for my taste. Knowing most people though… It was fab for smoothie people.

But I wasn’t done … Walking back to the health Center (Fit Workz is super close and on Main St) I jumped into the car after posting on Facebook ( if you are looking) and started driving.

I was not 2 minutes before I saw something that had caught my eye on Twitter AND those tourist signs cities and towns put up. I drove past these buildings and yes, the awesome black flags flagged me down and in!

Welcome to one of the most unique spots I have ever been to! The Arts & Cookery Bank.

It’s a blend and connection of:

  • Two buildings – a bank and a barn.
  • Two times – the past and modern day.
  • Two types of communities – rural and big city.
  • Two types of purpose – Arts (photos, graphic design, architect) and Cooking (holy Batman I’m in love with the kitchen!)

So I walk in to see what this tweet that said something from farm to cookery and Rogers TV doing an episode there.

I walked in and above a beautiful wood and cushioned bench – the wall’s message explained it so well.

  Welcomed so warmly by a fabulous employee I was immediately asked if I wanted a full tour! YES PLEASE!

So first she took me into the huge barn turned into kitchen.  What you can’t see is the amazing Pony Stalls on the left with the original sliding barn doors – 3 of them!  Behind them is where student interns and many computers reside.  They are big on photography as an art.
  They were doing a planning session for their Food Fight coming up in July!  Saturday, July 18th it is open to the public 3-8pm for demonstrations, lots of goodies and awarding the best product made during the week of Food Fights.   Fellow OHEA member and P.H.Ec., Emily Richards (cookbook author), will be one of the guest judges. And Fresh Air Media, Andrew Campbell, will be speaking on the Saturday – he’s very well-spoke and a riot.  I met him at a Dietitians of Canada conference two years ago and we sat beside each other at a Canada Beef/Dairy Farmers informal dinner.  Great local farmer to be speaking.

This event is highly recommending you make your way down on Saturday, July 18th for this very well put together fundraiser (and for you it’s free!). For more info:

Ok so I need to continue the tour…. in between the barn and the bank is the entrance I originally walked into. It was recently built (did she say 2004?) to connect the two donated buildings.  And then you walk into The Vault.  On one side it says this:  Wow – I hope you read that to the bottom.  (Read again if you missed it.  Go ahead.  I will wait.)

The other side is what they were talking about – prints.  I love it – not hand prints but finger prints as in breaking into the bank!  Adorable.  Those who live in the community can do this.  Amazing.
  Remember, that wherever you live – especially if it is a big city – you might feel like you can’t be a part of your community.  Whether you think you affect your community or not, I challenge you to think – when was the last time you saw a neighbour helping a neighbour.  When was the last time you volunteered your time?  When was the last time you dragged their garbage and recycling cans in, just so they didn’t have to when they came home from work after you?  All those small things actually do help and are appreciated.

Be good.  Do good.

That will always leave a mark on your community for the better.  BE & DO!  It doesn’t work if you do nothing or don’t include good and positive.  We are afraid of going out of our way for neighbours and strangers.  When I have done things to help, or ask someone if they need something – they always look in shock.  Community is connections.  And sometimes it starts by smiling, opening a door and genuinely asking how they are or how you can help.

So into the bank we go.  A beautiful hanging dividers with photography art.  Around the room are all the historic families that contributed to West Lorne.  Imagine all the research it took.  I’m so happy someone preserved all those documents and photos.  Then, the art of the architecture and design.  Look at those ceilings!  Look at the windows.  And love the fireplace (how else would they warm the building?).

We went upstairs to what would be the Banker’s apartment.  That would be some good security if a person was always above the bank!  Upstairs has many resources to pick up and maps so you can pick different trails (driving mostly) to discover towns, history (quilt art trail) and southwestern ontario culinary day trips.  As well, there are meeting rooms, more computers for photo editing (upstairs is the Mac behind that wall).  I think they should have a Christmas historic bash with a live band and appetizer stations set up throughout the whole place.  That would be amazing party I would attend!

And that’s not all…

If you were watching my instagram ( or twitter ( you will know that somehow I said yes to entering the Food Fight on the Wednesday night!  They still have openings for you to compete against other organizations and companies (think team building!).

  I will be representing ‘NSTEP – the charity I work with.  We teach nutrition and physical activity to children with the mission of eliminating childhood obesity and all the health concerns that go with it.  (More info on that or contacts please visit  Unfortunately, my co-workers have other part time jobs and I’m still left without a partner.  My mom was my next go to, but she has bummed out her knee.  So still looking for a partner in crime for this event.  If not, I’m going to be on my own!  Ah well, I’ll still be trying and supporting a great cause AND getting messy in a kitchen – yes please!!!

So I’m inviting you to take a Sunday, or Saturday (July 18th) drive to West Lorne.  It was less than an hour from my Northwest London home.

Definitely hit up Fit Workz for lunch

Stop into The Arts & Cookery Bank for a historic, artistic and yummy destination. A high-end non-profit is a great blend of a museum, community centre and local art & food education centre.

And next time I’m there, I’m going to take Elgin County’s advice and try out those farms: Great Lakes Farms & Empire Market.  If you go first, let me know how it is:  Comment below or tweet me at @nutritionbites8 .

Who can really love Canadian history, food, art and community and not stop in here?  Like Paul Brandt would sing, Small Town, Big Dreams.  And did they ever dream big and make it a reality!

Posted in Farm, Fruits, Healthy, Kid Friendly, On Location

Pick your own berries? Yes, please.

The little one won the
The little one won the “biggest berry” pick.

So our family tradition is to go to a local pick your own strawberry farm (Heeman’s in Thorndale, ON) the day after school is done for the summer.  This year, we had a late start and went around 4 pm to pick.  We saw an old friend that worked the Pick Your Own (or #PYO ) and walked instead of waiting for the tractor and wagon ride.

The memory capture - quick shot and on to picking.  No selfie stick and short arms make a stiff neck ;)
The memory capture – quick shot and on to picking. No selfie stick and short arms make a stiff neck 😉
The end of the pic.  Sticky and still sweet.
The end of the adventure in front of the PYO barn at Heeman’s.

There the pickings were slim.  It turns out our nasty winter left some of the strawberry plant roots, a little worse for wear.  So that might have been the last day for picking!  We were so lucky!  We got assigned to our row, and the lessons began. So many questions from the girls even though we have done this for years.  Every year, there is a different level of questions or different people to interact with.  It’s nice because it gives us the outdoors, the fresh air, and fruits (literally) of our labour.  Quality time and no electronics (which I limit to 60 minutes a day for each child anyways – it works, try it!). So we got our strawberries back to the super clean barn.  They weighed them ($2.25/pound) and the price tag – $47 and some.  Yes, myself and two children (8 & 11) picked about 21 pounds of strawberries in less than an hour.

The girls showing off their "biggest pick" and our bounty.
The girls showing off their “biggest pick” and our bounty.

What does one do with that many strawberries?  We delivered some to a friend.  One more delivery still has to be made.  And that night we brought more to a neighbour having an epicure party (their fruit dip mixes are delish!).  Still there was way to many to eat fresh (we pick them at very ripe, as they taste the best and are super sweet then) even for my strawberry monster (the 8 year old).  The plan, as always is to “jam” and to freeze whatever is left if I’m waiting for blueberry and raspberry season (which usually comes later in July & August).

So for an adventure, lessons in life, some free child labour (kidding!), and a tractor/wagon ride – plus tons of fresh produce at a fraction of a price (who says healthy, fresh and local is expensive?) the answer is simple:

Get picking your own fruits & veggies.

Cheap food plus:

  • Physical activity for the whole family
  • Entertainment that is cheap and you get a prize worth more than a dollar or stale popcorn
  • Nature and fresh air
  • Sharing with friends and family (community & social support), or a local food bank – yes they take it!
  • Do some home cooking to get sweet & stick, and
  • Enjoy your work and memories for months to come (preserve laughs and food).
Before the actual picking began.  Notice the amount of people and Heeman staff (orange tshirt) were always around.
Before the actual picking began. Notice the amount of people and Heeman staff (orange tshirt) were always around.

So when raspberry or blueberry season comes, grab a friend or the family, and you will be berry, I mean very, happy that you did.  It’s always a new experience, even if you have done it times before.  If not, the staff are always so willing to help – so just ask.  There is a first time for everything for everyone. (Or just comment below and I will help!)

Smile :)
Smile 🙂