The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

Corny blurb September 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — MindfulMerchant @ 12:00 am
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 Visit to Toronto July 2009 177

I am part of a big, growing family. As the years go by it seems we see each other less but when we do, it is all about being together… and of course, the food. We are in the strange habit of referring to one another with “cousin” before our names. Not sure where that originated, but we sound like we are right off “The Beverly Hillbillies” show. What an un-Canadian way of speaking!

In the past few years, we have come together for very sad goodbyes. Gatherings are different now as we are all dealing with our losses.

Recently, Cousin Sue & Carrie hosted a BBQ for our big clan. Talk about yummy food…it was a gourmet feast! Cousin Margaret was on dessert duty and brought a beautiful, homemade chocolate cake. When she placed it on the table, we noticed very unusual decorations. Printed little flags lined the cake. “What’s up with all the flags?” someone asked. “We have lots of things to celebrate,” she explained. As we examined the cake, we read all kinds of happy things. Birthdays and anniversaries were noted, passing a driving test, graduating grade 8, etc. I am not sure who was happier to spot their name on the cake, my 9-year-old daughter or me! It was unique and very thoughtful.

At the risk of sounding incredibly corny, I wanted to share the idea of making a celebration cake, especially when it seems like there is not a lot to cheer about at the time. I bet you can think of many happy things to fill flags for the people you love.  Cake – yum!




Coffee Talk September 8, 2009

2662152024_ca7139a467[1] I love coffee. I also enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon, but aaagh coffee is the nectar of the gods. I credit coffee for getting me through every morning since the birth of my children. Addicted? Perhaps. After a night of  “I peed the bed”, “I lost a tooth” and “When is the tooth fairy coming?” kind of sleep, coffee is the only morning beverage choice for me. I suspect many of you with toddlers and young children are nodding your heads in agreement.

The organic coffee debate is a popular one in our home. My husband emails me articles citing organic marketing fraud blah blah blah. I in turn show him information touting the health and environmental benefits. Perhaps you have this debate in your home too.

Here are my thoughts on the issue. I have consumed a cup of coffee every day, sometimes more, for the last 18+ years. (yikes)  Coffee is a heavily sprayed crop. For those of us trying to avoid pesticides this means buying organic. There are also worker labour rights and farming practices to consider too.

I think Canadians fall into two categories when it comes to coffee…Tim Horton’s and Starbucks. I am a Timmy Ho’s kind of gal and my Hubby is a grande-bold man. We are unable to find an organic coffee that suits either one of our tastes. It has been a frustrating and expensive experiment searching for a good organic coffee and frankly, I cannot bear to drink a whole bag worth of bitter bad sludge. My frugal side has reached its limit.

Has anyone found a great tasting organic coffee? I need a good recommendation please. 🙂




To Market we go September 4, 2009

I like to shop at our local Farmers Market. On Saturdays, I attempt to feed our 100-mile diet. The rest of the week, I am not as successful. It is a fun outing for the whole family. There is so much more to buy  than fruit and vegetables. You can find arts, crafts, meat, dairy, homemade jellies and sauces, fresh baking and sometimes a live band.


Our children are fussy eaters. Visiting the market has grown their vegetable repertoire. Seeing varieties of produce in beautiful shades and colours has inspired them to try new things. My daughter was offered a raw brussels sprout, tried and liked it.  I could not believe my eyes.   Who knew you could eat them raw?!  I thought they only appeared at Christmas boiled until they are pale green and mushy. (gag)


Meeting the farmers that grow the produce and chatting with them has given me a completely new outlook on vegetables.  Feel free to ask questions, their answers might surprise you. Some of the easiest and delicious recipes I use have come from producers. 


I realize that some prices are slightly more expensive compared to a large grocery store chain but you will find that many prices are cheaper.  I think the quality and freshness of the produce is undeniable. It feels good to support family farms and local business. There is value in knowing how your food is grown and produced. I like feeling connected with neighbours and the community.

If you are looking for something to do with your family consider a visit to your local farmers market. Happy shopping!


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It’s all about cake August 29, 2009

September means back to school in our home.  Every year my children have classmates with serious food allergies. Approximately 1-2 % of Canadians live with the risk of an anaphylactic reaction. More than 50 % of Canadians know someone with a life-threatening allergy. We have loved ones in our family and close friends with life threatening allergies, perhaps you do too. Keeping themchoccake_box[1] safe is a big concern.

I worry especially when entertaining in our home. Serving safe and delicious food takes thought and effort. I can only imagine how much courage it takes a parent to send a child with life-threatening allergies out in the world without being able to keep a close watch.  These families are counting on us to be vigilant, send safe lunches to school, read and re-read labels, and educate our children and ourselves on this issue.

Whether its allergies, intolerances or dietary restrictions, I try to serve food that is inclusive. It must be awful to feel different or odd at meal times, especially if you are a child. My friend Pam served us a homemade chocolate cake that was nut free, egg free and I-will-have-a-second-slice-please, delicious. It is easy to make and more importantly, everyone thought it was just a yummy “normal” cake. No weird, dry, odd taste to signify it is missing some common ingredients. I like to send this to school with the kids for class celebrations.

Perhaps baking is not your shtick. I get that. Here is another very good option. Cheery Brook Kitchens make yummy cake mixes that manufacture in a nut free/egg free/dairy free/peanut free facility.  They even make icing!  We use this mix as our special occasion cake for big family gatherings. I have yet to find a Canadian made mix that is comparable.  I will keep searching because some days…it is all about cake.

   Pam’s Cake

1 1/2 Cups Flour

1 C Sugar

1/3 C Cocoa

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

5 tbsp corn oil

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1 C cold water

Process dry ingredients first, mix in the remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 8” square baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a  350 oven.




A tribute to the Cob August 16, 2009

Filed under: healthy,organic farming,Ottawa,recipes,shop local,vegetarian — MindfulMerchant @ 3:22 pm
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a79aa99855f1e824[1] Ontario summer corn is such a treat. My favourite childhood meals involve buying it from the side of the highway on the way to the cottage. Freshly picked…sweet and juicy…a bit of butter, perhaps some salt and pepper. Perfection.

I was patiently waiting to buy a dozen at our local farmers market when the gentleman that grew the corn started raising his voice. “25 minutes – are you crazy?!”  Then someone piped in “Aren’t you supposed to cook it for 15 minutes?!” The farmer feigned a collapse clutching his chest.  What can I say? The man loves his corn. “Listen up people” he began and we all moved in closer to hear his wise words.  Now I will share them with you.

    How to boil corn

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the freshly peeled cobs of corn, NOTHING else. No salt. (makes corn tough) No sugar. (makes it mushy) Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes depending on the size. 5 minutes MAX.

I know, I know, it is not how your Mom cooked corn. I have polled my friends and it is not how we have been cooking corn too. It took all my concentration to follow his instructions. Usually I forget about it on the stove, answer the phone, set the table, cook something else and remember it when the kitchen window sweats. After trying Farmer Andy’s method I will always set the timer to 5 minutes. It is perfect every time. You will be a superstar when you serve up the BEST tasting corn your family has ever eaten. Enjoy!




Cow farts and the Successful BBQ August 13, 2009

Filed under: climate change,healthy,vegetarian — MindfulMerchant @ 9:55 am
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natureburgerbox[1] There is so much in the media today encouraging us to cut down on our consumption of meat.   Studies that prove increasing fruit and vegetables in your diet reduces the risk of cancer are persuasive. The most shocking headline I have read recently is how the stomachs of the world’s 1.4 billion cows account for 15% of the global emissions of methane.  Apparently, their farts are more than just offensive. How frightening!  It seems more and more people agree that cutting back on meat consumption is not only better for our health but for the planet too.

I have many friends and family members who are vegetarians (love you!).  I tend to get crampy when I think about having them over for a meal.  They must grow weary of the tried and true Vegetarian Lasagne, or the classic Pasta Primavera.   I have never asked them their thoughts on those dishes only because I am certain they want to beat their heads against the wall when they see me serving this for the 200th time.   “Yum, Primavera again!”

Now that summer is here and BBQ season is in full force, I would like to share a tip for vegetarians and carnivores alike.  I am about to suggest a vegetarian burger that is a winner.   Hey, do not run away!   I know there are very “interesting” simulated meat products out there trying to masquerade as hot dogs, cold cuts, and even a holiday turkey.  Since I refuse to write a negative review about any product, let me just say that I have tried countless brands and find there is consistently..shall we say….a texture problem.    Not so with these burgers.  The first time I tried a Nature Burger from a restaurant called Licks I  took a bite and ran back to the counter to tell them they made a big mistake. ”Oh no, you gave me a meat hamburger!”  To my surprise, I was actually eating a vegetarian product.  Totally fooled. My friend Karen was there, you could ask her.

You can buy Licks Nature Burgers in major grocery stores across Canada or in their restaurants.  I encourage you to try them.  Next time your vegetarian loved ones come over for a little “Q”, slap these on the grill and feel good about serving it to everyone.  My husband eats them and has no idea its soy.   I guess he does now…

Anyway, it’s a tasty idea help cut down your meat consumption…baby steps, baby steps.