Where is our Food Coming From?! What President’s Choice Brand Won’t Tell you

So I am typically very good at reading food ingredient lists as well as looking at the country of origin. I grow my own vegetables when the Canadian summer permits, shop at the farmers markets whenever possible and purchase Canadian/American/Mexico fruits & vegetables during the off season. One of the most popular food brands here in Canada is Presidents Choice. They have TV ads that make you want to buy their stuff. Their spokesperson is the president and he looks pretty trustworthy.

So imagine my surprise when I opened a bag of President’s Choice Frozen Raw & Peeled Pacific White Shrimp and noticed a strong smell of chemicals, almost bleach-like. I turned the bag over and saw that they are farmed shrimp from India. Well WTF. Shame on me for not seeing this sooner. I unfortunately just assumed that with a Canadian brand it would be Canadian sourced, or at the very least North American.

This led me to question a couple of my other favourite President’s Choice products. Their Smokin’ Stampede Ribs (which are DELICIOUS) & cereal bars I used to give to my daughter. With the cereal bars I just never had the time or will to call and get a country of origin for the ingredients but the box does say Canada Made.  The ever popular Mum-Mums cookies are sourced from China and say this on the box in the ingredient section (hence I stayed away from them).

So, I actually called a customer service representative at President’s Choice. I explained why I was calling originally (the funky smelling shrimp) and I gave her the product numbers of the ribs & the cereal bars. After a short hold she came back and told me the ribs were made using domestic and imported ingredients but she could NOT tell me if the meat was Canadian. Heck she couldn’t even tell me if the meat was North American. This is shocking to me. Maybe I’m crazy, but how the heck do you sell food to consumers and refuse to tell them WHERE IT COMES FROM???

She also mentioned that if I still had the bag of shrimp to let her know the lot number – unfortunately this was 3 days later and I did not keep the bag or take a picture of it.

So onto the cereal bars – she actually couldn’t give me any information on these but promised to call or email in the next 3-4 days with the information. Once again, what the heck. This is YOUR product why on earth is it a big secret where it comes from? I did receive an email from them and was happy to see that they are Canadian sourced and made and the email went on to explain with such strict Canadian regulations everything in the produce has to come from Canada to get that seal of approval.

So, back to the ribs, the fact that they refuse to release this information makes it look like they are hiding something. I am sure the food factories are up to standard in whichever country they are but I want to know WHERE MY FOOD IS COMING FROM! I am not asking for secret recipes.

I did try and search the internet for more answers but couldn’t find any. Interestingly enough there was a post on their Facebook page about dog food and a consumer had asked where the ingredients were sourced from. The answer from PC was “domestic and imported products.” So, basically the same places the ribs are from?

I love most PC products but I now know to read the labels and ensure the country of origin is clearly marked. I am unsure how a company can sell food without telling consumers where it has come from, especially meat. This obviously goes beyond PC and into government regulators but you think as a proud Canadian brand PC would go a long way in promoting Canadian pork for their ribs .

Maybe I’m just an idealist but I think not knowing where your food comes from is a terrible path to be on, especially when we live in such an agriculturally rich country. I doubt this extends just to President’s Choice but it is a brand I typically buy and was voted the second most “trust-worthy” in a recent Globe & Mail article.

I will still buy PC brand. Their stuff really is delicious. However between the shrimp & the ribs I’ve learned not to trust ANY food company at face value in any circumstance.

Stacking up Sunday: My 100 KM challenge so far

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Well I am definitely on track! I have racked up 18 km of walking/running in the past two weeks (with still 2 days to hit 20) AND have also biked 16.8 km! My MOTHER is kicking butt at the challenge and is actually in front of me with walking/running kilometers. Which I find amazing and it’s truly remarkable how setting a time-specific goal can help motivate people! My sister on the other hand has managed to come up with every single excuse in the book not to get moving!!

Not only is it nice to see the numbers but I feel SO MUCH better. My body is starting to feel like my own again, my stomach is  a little less pillsbury dough boy-ish and I’ve found it easier to get back into yoga with the cardio work.

Just over 8 weeks and left and 80 km to go – and it feels attainable. I don’t feel daunted by this number. Maybe I’m just having a good day, maybe that glass of Valpolicella at lunch made me feel light & airy – either way I’m definitely coming back to this post if I ever feel down!

Also – I don’t feel as stressed about getting pregnant. I don’t feel as sad about my miscarriage. These exercise hormones are good things. Someone should seriously consider bottling them up.

So cheers to setting goals and kicking ass! Every little step helps! Now I’m off to get those 2 km in before my mom gets too far ahead of me! … after I head out to enjoy the sunshine & lake…

Simply Saturday: Zucchini Flower Fritters

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These were one of my favourite things growing up. My nana would make them daily when the zucchini flowers were blooming. Now that she doesn’t cook as much it is up to me to figure out how to make them! I knew the basics, I had seen her do it a thousand times, sans any measuring. So I had a faint idea the consistency the dough should be. Being from Calabria the recipe is simple & cheap (as are most recipes from this region of Italy). If you love food you know recipes that call for fresh vegetables and simple ingredients are typically the best tasting.

SO without further ado, here is the recipe I’ve found works best:

Ingredients:

~ 1 cup (moderately packed) zucchini flowers – 14-16

1/2 cup Flour

1 cup water

1 egg

Salt & Pepper to taste

~ 1/2 cup Mozzarella cut into small cubes  (optional, fresh is best!) – if you’re using buffalo mozzarella just rip it into small pieces.

Vegetable oil for frying

Steps:

Step 1: Cut/rip the flowers away from the stem. We don’t need any zucchini busy parts in our fritters! You’ll want them cut coarsely and they definitely don’t have to be perfect. I usually just rip with my hands.

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Step 2: Put them in a bowl along with one egg, the flour, water and some salt & pepper (mozzarella as well if you’re adding it) and mix it all together!

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It was hard to capture but you basically want the mixture falling easily from your fork/spoon. You don’t want it clumpy or dense.

Step 3: Heat the oil up. You’ll want about 2 inches in a pan and you’ll want this to get HOT. I usually put my dial to just past medium heat. Different ovens vary and I suggest you have a few practice rounds before frying them all up.

Step 4: Test Fritter – take a large spoon (think ladle-ish) and just gently pour into the hot oil. You’ll fry for about 2.5 – 3 mins per side until the fritter is lightly brown. If you find it’s NOT browning and staying a sickly white colour – turn up the heat.  You will also want to prepare a plate with paper towel on it for the finished product (the paper towel will absorb the extra oil).

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Step 5: Eat the test fritter – Make sure there’s enough salt/pepper. If they taste “dough-y” add more water. You don’t want to feel like you’re eating a terrible piece of fried bread. They should be light and airy. If you’ve added some mozzarella you’ll get a bit more depth of flavour. This is about trial & error. Even though I have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing I still rely on my “test fritter.” Plus if it tastes delicious right off the bat then bonus points!

Step 6: Fry ’em up! & Enjoy!

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These are amazing, simple & delicious. Basically what Calabrian cooking is all about. No need to get fancy here. If you decide to double the recipe – do NOT double the flour… start with maybe 3/4 of a cup and work from there. It is very easy to add too much flour to these and destroy the taste.

Salute!

Work-Out Wednesday: Summer Goal

Running the Lululemon Seawheeze Half

Alright. I’ll admit it. I’ve been slacking. It’s time to get back to my semi-regular routine of running.

Since the miscarriage I’ve just had a fear of exercising in case I get pregnant again. I was fairly active during my first pregnancy with my daughter and during my pregnancy that ended in miscarriage earlier this year. Plus I ran a half marathon last summer (the Lulu Seawheeze – Ah-mazing)… so I was in pretty good shape for awhile.

My mind knows that exercising didn’t cause the miscarriage but sometimes your heart needs a bit more time to believe.

We are heading to Europe in 11 weeks. So I’ve made the modest goal of 100 km of running in 10 weeks. 10 k a week. 2 5k runs. I can do it. I can get back into this. If by some miracle I get pregnant again (trust me, we’re trying… at this point I just want a baby put into me) I’ll maybe just walk vigorously… prancercise anyone??

I’ll be using Strava to track my runs and hopefully make a few records around town. Just last year I was the queen of a few segments… I’ve now been dethroned (& rightfully so).

What are your summer fitness goals?? Want to join me on my 100 km challenge? I’ll try and update every Wednesday with my progress!

Cheers! I mean… Run. Then Cheers.

Summer Fit Gear Exchange: Canadian Version

Summer Fit Gear Exchange

I was so excited to see that Brittany over at Running Mama Journey was organizing a Summer Fit Gear Exchange. I’ve been slacking terribly on running and even my yoga practice is beginning to slide so I thought what a great way to get motivated by connecting with other woman who are doing their best to keep in shape!

By the luck of the draw I was buying for Janelle at Wholly Healthy Blog all the way on the West Coast- pop over to her site to see the goodies she received from me! I won’t spoil it here – but you NEED to check it out, I think it’s pretty cool 🙂

Laura over at Healthy Foodies Losing Booties had my name and these are the goodies I received!

My Goodies!

Asics Hera quarter socks (which are incredibly comfy for long runs), a neon Under Armour head band which I will no doubt wear stylishly every opportunity I get. A Vega-One nutritional shake which was actually YUMMY (unlike those terrible carnation drinks I have nightmares about when I swam competitively) and a Cliff Chocolate shot which I’m keeping for when I do a longer run! Also a really sweet card which I totally did NOT send to Janelle. Oops!

It was great seeing new blogs and making some new friends! Here’s to keeping fit & keeping in touch! Cheers!

The other ladies who participated and who you should totally check their blogs out:

Tina @ Fabulosi – T

Anna @ Pipers Run

Kyla @ Early Bird Fitness

Charlotte @ CharFlew23

Review: Kit & Ace Clothing

So if you have an unhealthy amount of Lululemon clothing in your closet you know there are days when you think “Can’t I just wear some Lulu to work?” Unless you’re a yoga/pilates/athletic instructor.. the answer is no.

Until now… sorta.

I somehow stumbled across Kit & Ace and their wonderful technical cashmere. The owners are actually the daughter-in-law & son of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson (whose face is still on my shoe from the SeaWheeze Half). Free shipping & free returns means I filled my cart up. Then selectively removed the majority of the items since I wasn’t about to drop $600. Shipping was prompt on their behalf, not so fast with our local delivery people which is pretty typical for living in a northern community.

I ordered the Grace Tee (Size 4), the Claire Tank (Size 2) & the Balsam Tank (Size 2).

Claire Tank

I loved them all. They are cozy, comfortable and look fantastic on. Definitely appropriate for professional wear. They wash well which is extremely important to me and all other mom’s out there. I haven’t put them in the dryer – yet. As with most of my belongings there will be a point where they will be tossed into the abyss of the dryer. Although the tags for the Balsam & Grace say the dryer is OK (hurray!)

I wore my Balsam tank while out & about in Michigan last weekend and felt like a brand ambassador as nearly every second person on the street tried to either pick off the markings on my back or actually ask what they were. And same thing happened when I had the Claire tank on while I was running errands in my hometown. I’m almost hesitant to tell people about Kit & Ace. It’s THAT good. You want to pretend like you just wear the S*@T out of all your clothes.

So if you need some new “professional” wear that IS comfortable enough where you’ll never say “I wish I could wear Lulu to work” head on over to Kit & Ace

Plus it’s a Canadian company. You can’t go wrong!

Food Friday: FIGS! with Goat Cheese & Prosciutto

I was introduced to figs a couple years ago while dining at a local restaurant. Now I scour the grocery stores in early summer to find the freshest California figs possible. If you love figs, goat cheese & prosciutto then this recipe is for you!!

For 6 figs you will need:

6 teaspoons of goat cheese (~ 50 grams)

3-4 slices of THINLY cut prosciutto – cut in half lengthwise. Sometimes they don’t cut very well so you may need an extra slice for back up.

Scrolling back through my pictures I missed a couple of steps – probably because I was licking my fingers – but I’ll explain it. Trust me, it’s easy. And delicious.

First: The Figs

California Mission Figs

I start by cutting the ends off so they stand up on their own. Then PEEL them. Very gently. They are delicate so make sure you have a sharp knife!

Fig PrepPeeled Figs

Next: Freeze ’em! That’s right. Throw them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for a couple hours. If you don’t plan on using them right away (which tends to happen if you buy a case) – vacuum pack them and then freeze.

About an hour before you’re ready to cook, take some goat cheese out of the fridge. You’ll want about a teaspoon per fig.  I use PC Blue Menu Goat Cheese. Also get out your thinly sliced prosciutto that has been cut/torn in half lengthwise.

Start your grill and let it get up to at least 400 F but no hotter than 500 F

Take the figs out of the freezer and start working. You need to get this part done before the fig has time to defrost.

Cut the fig in half lengthwise (top to bottom). With a spoon place about a teaspoon of goat cheese between the two halves and then wrap it with half a slice of the prosciutto. Continue on until they are all done.

Place on the grill for about 2-3 minutes each side. Just so the prosciutto crisps up a bit.

Delicious

SERVE! The warm prosciutto and goat cheese with the chilled fig is like a party in your mouth. They are delectable!