Last year, when I started my career as a Chef, a friend asked me to donate a dinner as a fund raising item to the Riverwood Conservancy for their silent auction. I did, and the winning bid was from Liz Primeau, HGTV Personality. I blogged about it – http://www.foodinspires.com/2013/06/28/lizs-garden-party/
– so did Liz – http://www.lizprimeau.com/category/in-the-kitchen/recipes/. I didn’t know at the time, but that contribution to the Riverwood Conservancy almost a year ago, led to a wonderful learning opportunity with them.

If you live in Mississauga and have not been to the Riverwood Conservancy, it’s a shame, but you are probably not alone.  The conservancy is located off Burnamthorpe Road and is bound by Mississauga Road and Creditview Road.  It is a beautiful environmentally protected piece of land – check out their site at http://www.theriverwoodconservancy.org.  It will tell you a whole lot more about who they are and the environmental learning programs they offer.

My connection with Riverwood is through their Enabling Garden program.  This program is “a hands-on teaching garden, fully accessible and innovatively designed for physically and developmentally challenged children, youth, adults, the elderly and their caregivers in the Region of Peel”.   They have partnered with Whole Foods Mississauga in an exciting pilot program.  In the first phase, the participants of this community program are from The Next Step to Active Living, which is comprised of adults with physical limitations.  They will be coming to the Whole Foods Community Kitchen to learn not only shopping skills, but also how to create simple and healthy nutritious meals.  I am thrilled to lead these classes and it is an honour to be a part of this program from the start.

In developing the recipes, I needed to ensure the meals were healthy, the produce available and the instruction provide enough guidance to have participants want to make these meals at home.  The Enabling Garden program encourages participants to grow their own produce at home.  Connect them back to the roots (no pun intended) of food growing, all while reinforcing the Enabling Garden concept.  You don’t need an acre of land nor do you need to be able to walk that acre to farm it, just use the concepts taught through the Enabling Garden program and apply them to your space.

This is a very exciting venture for me as it is new territory, so I’ll be learning as we go as well.  Our first set of classes was at the end of January and the menu ranged from how to make chicken stock and of course turning it into a variety of healthy ingredient soups, as well as stuffed chicken breast, quinoa salad with arugula, apples, dried cranberries and pine nuts – dressed simply with a balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil.  We also made a roasted red pepper soup (recipe will be posted tomorrow), simple, easy and good for you – especially on these cold winter days!   The key message in all my recipes and teaching is variety.  A recipe is simply a guide – I will never be offended if someone varies ingredients and comes up with a different dish (just make sure you share the results with me!).

Just thought I’d let you know what’s keeping me so busy.  Over the next few days and weeks ahead, I will be developing more simple nutritious meals and teaching the participants how to make these recipes.  I’ll share additional stories and recipes with you as we move through the program – simple is good.  Make wonderful memories around wonderful meals – from preparation to digestion.  Thanks to those who participated in the class, those who helped bring everything together (and clean up after we were done) and those who provided the food we prepared.