That time I ate a car …

To be honest, I didn’t exactly eat a car, but I did eat many delicious things that were made of the same biomaterials that Ford is using in automotive research and production.fordfarmtocarpicture

As food editor of Ottawa At Home magazine and an eager recipe developer, I was engaged to curate a menu for a Sustainability Breakfast that Ford of Canada was presenting as part of the BConnected Digital Influencers conference in Ottawa. The challenge I was given was to come up with recipes for dishes that used the foods and food by-products that Ford is working with and it’s been one of the neatest food projects I’ve ever worked on. I have to confess I was both surprised and impressed to learn of all the biomaterials Ford is using, per the infographic below:

FordFarmToCarInfographic 001

I had a lot of fun thinking about the theme of sustainability as I sketched out menu ideas and it got me thinking about my approach to food in general terms. To me, one of the most important aspects of sustainability is about making use of what you have around you, sometimes in creative ways. For example, clean-out-the-fridge omelettes are one of my favourite things to make. As an extension of this, rather than letting by-products go to waste, perhaps they can be re-purposed? With food, this might be something as simple as making a dish with beet or turnip greens in addition to preparing and serving the more commonly consumed root portion of the vegetable. The same concept is at the heart of the myriad efforts Ford is making towards incorporating sustainability into its production; the company is working hard with both farmers and scientists to find ways to use non-consumable biomaterials like rice hulls and tomato skins, to name just two.

As I was creating the menu for the breakfast, I also spent time thinking about how I didn’t want to simply include ingredients to tick them off a list. Rather, I wanted to apply some of the same principles as Ford, which is to look at creative ways to incorporate items you might not expect to find on your breakfast menu (or in your car) and present them in effective and appealing ways. I also included primarily gluten-free and dairy-free dishes as well a few locally-sourced foods (despite it being April), because I believe ecological protection and safeguarding human health – things Ford does with the safety and emissions aspects of its vehicles – are also key elements of sustainability. Here’s the menu card from the conference breakfast:

fordfarmtocarmenu 001



Curious to know more about the ways Ford is using biomaterials? Here’s a quick recap:

Currently used in production:

  • Soy-based foam is used for all seat cushions and back plus 85% of headrests
  • Coconut coir made from the fruit’s husks is used in the trunk mats of some vehicles
  • A new composite plastic material reinforced with rice hulls (by-product of rice grains) is used in the wire harness of the Ford F-150
  • Wheat straw-reinforced plastic is used in the storage bins of the Ford Flex – the world’s first application of this material
  • Cellulose-reinforced plastic is being used to replace fibreglass reinforcement in the centre console of the Lincoln MKX. The cellulose fibres in this composite come from sustainably grown and harvested trees and related by-products.

In development:

  • Inedible tomato fibre (a by-product of ketchup production) is being used to develop bio-plastic material which is being durability-tested for potential use in vehicle wiring brackets and storage bins.
  • Algae is yet another promising biomaterial that Ford hopes to repurpose as seat foam. It grows quickly, replicating up to four times per hour, and has a high per acre yield compared to other crops.
  • Sugar cane–based plastic has been made into interior fabrics and is being tested for durability and performance.
  • Agricultural corn by-product can be processed into plastic parts, fabrics, fibres or films. Ford is currently testing the product for potential uses in carpeting, upholstery and interior trim.
  • Fast-growing bamboo is being researched for potential uses in veneers and as filler material.

And here’s how the menu items made use of the biomaterials, in food form:


Tropical Smoothies – these contain cellulose, which is found in leaves such as the spinach in this morning’s beverage as well as algae, in the form of Chlorella powder; it’s a nutrient-dense superfood touted for its detoxification properties.

Breakfast Polenta – this is a twist on traditional oatmeal porridge or the now-popular steel cut oats. I’ve added in maple syrup to the cooked cornmeal for a local element, but you should also know that locally-grown cornmeal and corn flour is available from Barkley’s Apple Orchard which sells its many products at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. I couldn’t stop at one dish with corn because it’s such a versatile ingredient, so I used corn flour and canned creamed corn (really!!) it in the muffins, with local blueberries in the cream cheese centres. This dish also uses wheat, one of Ford’s biomaterials; it’s the only item on the menu that is not gluten-free.

Fruit Summer Rolls – I thought of many different ways to incorporate rice and realized that rice paper might be fun and unexpected. Since most breakfast buffets include fruit salad, I decided to stuff it in rice paper wrappers for a delicious twist.

Yogurt Parfaits – featuring a coconut muesli from an initiative founded at Ottawa’s most innovative food bank, the Parkdale Food Centre. The project has allowed 15 youth to launch a food-based social enterprise called The Muesli Project. It’s a one-year opportunity for these kids to start, run and grow their business with the help of expert mentors. At the end of the venture, any profits will be distributed among the youth for further education and/or to start their own business. That’s my kind of sustainability!

Egg Frittata – when I looked at ways to incorporate tomatoes, I thought of frittatas and then realized that adding an Asian flavour profile could be fun because you don’t typically see that; it made a natural tie in for the pickled bamboo shoots.

Pork Belly – I’m a big fan of pork belly and we have beautiful Heritage pork produced throughout Eastern Ontario. When I saw soy and sugar cane on the list of Ford biomaterials, I knew right away these two ingredients would be glazing some slow-roasted pork belly; it’s a nice change from regular bacon.

Here’s a recipe roundup in case you want to taste some of the items (more links to follow as the recipes get posted).

Fruit Salad Summer Rolls

Breakfast Polenta with Spiced Apple Compote

Corn Muffins with Blueberry Cream Cheese Filling

When Matt Drennan-Scace, Ford of Canada’s communications manager, and I presented at the BConnected breakfast, it was great to hear many in the audience express their surprise at these unexpected innovations in research and development. I was grateful for the opportunity to talk briefly about the recipes I developed and have to confess it was kind of a thrill to see the food spread out on the buffet table and then watch a room full of people eating my menu! Check out the hashtag #fordfarmtocar on twitter to learn more.

Fordsustainability breakfastbuffet

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Breakfast Polenta with spiced apple compote

I love oatmeal for breakfast as it’s so hearty and satisfying, but sometimes it just seems a little boring, especially when you eat it often. Swapping in cornmeal for oats is a great way to shake up your morning routine. As a matter of fact, porridge can be made with many different grains beyond oats and corn – I’ve enjoyed barley, semolina, rice and quinoa prepared this way. One of the reasons it’s such a popular dish around the world is that it’s highly digestible and can be a great source of both fibre and nutrition. You can skip the apple topping included in this corn porridge recipe in favour of a touch of your favourite sweetener if you prefer, though the apples (and nuts, if you like) add a delicious hit of flavour and texture to the polenta.

Using cornmeal instead of oats makes a delicious new kind of breakfast porridge.

Using cornmeal instead of oats makes a delicious new kind of breakfast porridge.


For the polenta

  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarse (polenta) cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the compote

  • 3 large apples, peeled and diced small
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

To serve

  • few splashes light cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


  • To make the polenta, put the milk, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a low simmer. Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly the entire time.
  • Turn the heat down to low and partially cover with a lid. Cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, whisking every few minutes to get out any lumps (be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan). You want the polenta to thicken and have a creamy consistency. If it starts getting too thick, you can add in a little more milk (a tablespoon or so at a time).
  • While polenta is cooking, combine diced apples, water, cinnamon and maple syrup in a medium saucepan and cover with a lid.
  • Bring apple mixture to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, over low heat until apples have softened. Remove from heat, cover and let stand until polenta is cooked. Note that apple mixture can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature over the hot polenta.
  • Remove polenta from the heat and add vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
  • Ladle the polenta into bowls. Top with the diced apples, a splash of cream and a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: about 6 servings


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Corn Muffins with Blueberry Cream Cheese Filling

These delightful muffins are super tasty and also a little more satisfying than some recipes which don’t have a lot of substance. It’s the corn that makes the difference, adding both flavour and fibre. Take note that this recipe calls for corn flour, not corn starch. You can make your own corn flour by grinding cornmeal to a powder in a blender or food processor; if you live in Eastern Ontario, terrific locally-milled heritage corn flour is available from Barkley’s Apple Farm and available at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. This recipe makes a big batch but the muffins freeze beautifully or you can halve the recipe if you prefer. You can make the blueberry and cream cheese filling ahead of time and freeze until needed, making this a fast recipe to whip up fresh for breakfast or brunch.



  • 8 oz (225 g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) frozen blueberries, thawed
  • 1 cup (250 mL) corn flour
  • 3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
  • 5 teaspoons (25 mL) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 1 can (14 oz / 400 mL)) creamed corn


  • Beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and thawed blueberries until smooth. Refrigerate until firm then, using two spoons, form twenty-four balls (approximately 2 tsp each) and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Once solidly frozen, transfer to an airtight container until ready to use.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a slightly smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, butter, vanilla, eggs and milk. Add the wet ingredients to dry and stir gently with a spatula until a batter forms. Fold in the corn to the batter.
  • Line 24 muffin tins with muffin liners. Place about a tablespoon and half of batter into the bottom of each muffin liner. Top each with the frozen balls of blueberry cream cheese filling.


  • Divide the rest of the batter evenly among the muffins liners, covering the cream cheese filling. Batter will come almost all the way to the top of the muffin liners.
  • Bake muffins for about 20 minutes, or until tops are firm but springy to the touch.


  • Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes in the muffin tins before removing to cooling racks to cool completely before serving.

Makes 24 muffins



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Maple Crème Brûlée

2016 is proving to be a great year for fans of maple syrup, according to the Ontario Maple Syrup producers’ blog. A recent post states, “In Ontario, the maple syrup processing season has shaped up to be a fantastic year for syrup quality and yield, with a full range of colour grades and flavour intensities.” This dessert needs no explanation, I’m sure. It’s an homage to not only the indigenous people who first discovered the liquid gold inside maple trees but also the hours of hard work that to this day go into each bottle of maple syrup. Enjoy!



  • 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) heavy (35%) cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla bean paste
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup (180 mL) maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons (60 mL) maple or brown sugar for brûlée topping


  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • In a small saucepan, heat cream and vanilla, stirring often, till cream is steaming and bubbles are just beginning to form around the edge of the pan. Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and eggs with maple syrup.  Set a strainer over the bowl and pour the lukewarm cream mixture into the egg mixture.
  • Stir well to combine. Don’t stir too vigorously as you don’t want to create too many air bubbles.
  • Strain the egg and cream mixture into a pitcher or measuring cup (for easy pouring) then divide among eight small ramekins.
  • Put the filled ramekins in a large heatproof baking dish and carefully pour hot water into the baking dish to come two thirds of the way up the sides of the ramekins.
  • Carefully transfer the filled baking dish into the preheated oven.
  • Bake until the custard is just firming up but still slightly wobbly in the centre (you can test this by gently jiggling the baking pan) – about 30 minutes.
  • Cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes then refrigerate.
  • 15 minutes before serving time, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle the top of each ramekin with 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) of maple or brown sugar.
  • Use a kitchen torch to scorch the sugar on top. Let sit 2 minutes then serve.

Serves 8.


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Coconut Mango Biscuits

A childhood favourite, baking powder biscuits remain one of my go-to breakfast treats. I love to make a batch often in the morning as they’re quick and easy. I usually enjoy one or two then tuck the rest in the freezer as they reheat beautifully in the microwave. In addition to being a favourite start to the day, I find they’re a great sidekick for soup or salad to round out a light lunch or dinner. I’ve tried many different additions to my basic biscuit recipe and I think that coconut and mango is the best combination ever.



  • 2 cups (500 mL) plain flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 mL) baking powder
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) cold butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) light cream or milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
  • 1 cup (250 mL) mango, diced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) light cream or milk, for brushing tops


  • Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Put the flour, baking powder, coconut, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse to combine (alternatively, cut the butter into the mixture in a regular mixing bowl using a pastry blender).
  • Add the milk, vanilla and mango and pulse until a dough is formed. Add extra milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough is a little bit dry. If you add too much milk and the dough seems very sticky, add extra flour, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  • Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and shape it into a disc about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick.
  • Use a 2 inch biscuit cutter or similar sized drinking glass to cut out the biscuits.
  • Press scraps together and cut out a few more biscuits.
  • Place the biscuits on the parchment-lined baking tray, about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the tops with the cream or milk.
  • Bake 13 – 15 minutes until just starting to turn golden on the bottom and sides.
  • Remove scones to a wire rack to cool slightly before eating.

Makes approximately 15 biscuits.



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Gluten-free chewy chocolate walnut cookies

I came up with this recipe to replicate a favourite treat available at a neighbourhood coffee shop. It’s perfect for anyone who cannot tolerate gluten or dairy but craves the rich taste and texture of traditional brownies. I suppose these cookies would freeze well but I confess I’ve not tried yet; they disappear too quickly at our house.



  • 2 1/2 cups walnut halves
  • 3 cups powdered (icing) sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Place the walnut halves on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8 – 10 minutes, until fragrant and starting to turn golden. Watch them carefully to be sure they don’t burn.
  • Remove from oven; let cool for 3 minutes, then chop them into small pieces.
  • Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 325F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, combine with a whisk or an electric mixer on low speed the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips.
  • Add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat more vigorously just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat).
  • Use a scoop or two spoons to portion the batter onto the baking sheets in 24 evenly spaced mounds (about 2 tablespoons / 30 mL per cookie). Allow room between the mounds of batter as the cookies will spread; use a third baking sheet if needed.
  • Bake for 10 – 11 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking.
  • Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.


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Butter-roasted Watermelon Radishes

Chances are you’ve seen a watermelon radish on a restaurant plate and wondered what the heck it was. It was probably sliced paper-thin, and may or may not have been quick pickled. Hopefully you ate it, because watermelon radishes are one of the unsung heroes of the winter vegetable world. Also known as rooseheart or red meat radishes, they are an heirloom Chinese daikon radish that is larger than more common radishes with an exterior that looks almost like a white turnip. I can’t get enough of them, partly because of their vibrant interior colour, but also because of their unique, ever so slightly bitter and peppery taste which delivers a welcome jolt of flavour to any plate. I do like them pickled, but roasted in butter they are out-of-this-world delicious and really pretty too. These would make a fun cocktail snack as well.

Watermelon radishes roasted in butter make a delicious, pretty vegetable side dish.

Watermelon radishes roasted in butter make a delicious, pretty vegetable side dish.


  • 2 watermelon radishes
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh lemon quarter for garnish



  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Scrub the radishes (no need to peel) then trim off the tops and tails.
  • Halve the radishes crosswise then cut wedges about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) wide by one inch (2.5 cm) high.
  • Spread the radishes out on a baking sheet.
  • Melt the butter then spoon half of it over the radishes, being careful to drizzle each segment with a little butter.
  • Sprinkle with just enough salt and pepper to lightly dust each segment.


  • Roast in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Flip the radish segments, drizzle on the remaining butter, and roast for 5 – 7 minutes more until they are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife but not mushy.
  • Don’t be put off by the slightly sulphurous aroma of the radishes as they cook; much like fine stinky cheese, the taste is much mellower and gentler than the smell.
  • Transfer to a serving dish, scraping browned butter and seasonings off the baking tray into the dish.
  • Squeeze lemon juice over top. Toss to blend and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 2 as a side dish; can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.


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