Category Archives: local

friday favourite – tapping trees

Every spring, it gets me. When the snow starts to melt, and there’s a hint of warmer weather, I stick my noise in the air like the dog because I can smell maple syrup season coming.

We had a great family operation way back when. And the fillings that take up every one of our molars are no surprise given the amount of syrup and maple sugar we would consume during the six or so week season every spring. We had agro-tourism before it was even a thing, selling maple syrup direct from the farm, offering tours of our operation and serving up an impressive menu of pancakes, tea biscuits and johnny cake – as the carrier for some variation of our homemade maple products. Here are a few shots — from the Maplewood archives.


And maple, well, you know it goes with everything and with every meal. Maple sugar goes in my coffee every morning. Maple syrup is the only thing that ever tops pancakes or maple syrup in our houses. And maple butter is often just eaten off the spoon, or sometimes it makes it onto toast. I might just have an entire shelf in my frig dedicated to maple.




costa rican coffee

Before boarding our small ship for a week off the coast of Costa Rica, we found a coffee plantation tour that we could just squeeze in during our one free morning.

Britt Coffee has a small plantation at their roasting facility that was about 45 minutes from our hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica. The hotel arranged a taxi for us, we paid for the tour and lunch and we were on our way.

The tour was very entertaining with two hosts who must have a background in theatre! Throughout the plantation there were coffee stations so by the end of the tour we had tasted most of their blends, and had a caffeine buzz!



IMG_1159I wanted to buy some coffee but didn’t really want to carry it with me all week on a boat. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought this way since they made it very easy to ship coffee home. I placed my order, it arrived last night and this morning I ground my Costa Rican beans and drank my coffee watching the snow fall!







It’s taken me until the middle of August but I finally made homemade burgers this week. It was so worth the wait.

Homegrown beef from my friend Jeanine, tossed with local grated two-year old cheddar, and a heaping spoonful or two of my cousin Pat’s homemade pesto. I rounded out my summer backyard feast with lots of fresh veggies from my local farmers’ market – sautéed cremini mushrooms, diced tomatoes and fresh carrot sticks.

100% Simple. Local. Yum.



braised ribs take 2

It hasn’t exactly been crockpot weather – but I had a nice little package of local beef braising ribs. I cut them up and loaded them in my mini crockpot, added BBQ sauce, a little red wine, chopped onions and quartered cremini mushrooms.

I added new potatoes after about 3.5 hours, and it was all done in 4 hours (on high).

And then – the leftovers turned into this. I chopped everything up, tossed it in a saucepan with a little white wine, freshly shelled peas and a few cherry tomatoes.

 One bowl easy. Included lots of food groups. And was as tasty as it was colourful.


rhubarb muffins

I love seasonal food that’s only really, truly fresh and local for a few weeks of the year. Probably something to do with the memories of picking and eating fresh-from-the-large-farm-garden we had growing up.

It’s rhubarb’s time. And I just made some whole wheat rhubarb streusel muffins, thanks to a Smitten Kitchen recipe. I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream, and added some ground flax seed to the streusel.

My new non-stick muffin tin is something I should have upgraded to years ago…glad I had it today.

I’ve tried streusel muffins before and the topping always falls off. Learned the trick is less batter and pat down the topping to stick onto the muffin as it rises in the oven.

Perfect recipe for a rainy weekend morning with a coffee and the crossword.




finding veggies again

Well, it’s not exactly warm spring weather yet, but seems like it’s time to start to find some vegetables and salads again. I don’t know about you, but winter left a few extra pounds hanging around, so I made my first chopped veggie salad of the season to lighten up.

I found a cool mix of grains and lentils from Floating Leaf food company in Manitoba. I cooked up a cup of them. Roasted some fresh local asparagus. Chopped up grape tomatoes, cucumber, green onion and some salami chunks.

Tossed it all with olive oil and lemon juice, salt/pepper and a mitt full of crumbled feta.


maple trees

Nature seems to know just what we need about the middle of February. A general grumpiness is evident in many people you meet and there’s really no point in talking about the cold, dark winter weather any longer.

And suddenly. Magically. The sun shines again, warming up the snow, awakening the mud and sap starts to flow through the veins of the sugar maple. Ahhh…maple syrup season is here.

It started this past weekend in my area. And as I stepped outside I could just imagine the smell of the steam billowing from the evaporator in our maple bush to signal the start of the short, sweet season of syrup.

In the heyday of our small hobby farm, we had 1,000 maple taps and a pioneering farm market retail business during the hectic six weeks that made up our every spring season. It was the best job I ever had – making pancakes, selling (and consuming equal amounts of) maple sugar, slathering homemade tea biscuits with maple butter, and bringing consumers to the farm to learn about how one of the best agricultural products I know of is made.

Our maple operation started small – and here I am (not yet enjoying my best job ever) selling coffee, syrup and maple sugar out of our drive shed. It got better and bigger from there…and I started to smile as I greeted customers!


If you are looking for ideas on how to use maple syrup – check out these recipes from the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.