Farm serves up nutritious, delicious cooking course

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“Beet or carrot?” That was the follow up question, the operations manager of the Northern Farm Training Institute, had for me after she asked if I wanted a fresh popsicle.

I was hesitant at first, but went with beet. Much to my surprise, the popsicle was not just refreshing, but sweet.

Joletta Larocque, left, Melvin Larocque, Becky Oribello, Judy West-Pratt, Mary Davies, and Kim Rapati pick fresh vegetables in the Northern Farm Training Institute greenhouse before preparing fresh recipes at a free cooking course at the farm. The weekly program, held on Wednesday evenings, encourages residents to make healthy meals that are also tasty. Cody Punter/NNSL photo

It doesn’t take much time at the Northern Farm Training Institute to realize the Rapati and her team of volunteers are full of surprises – delicious, nutritious surprises.

Now thanks to a free from-the-land cooking classes, which the Northern Farm Training Institute started running at the end of June, nearby residents can get a first-hand taste of the dynamic ways that local produce can be incorporated into healthy tasty treats.

“This is a new thing that we’re working on,” said Rapati. “People get to experience the whole spectrum from going and harvesting their vegetables to cooking and taking it home.”

The weekly program, which is funded through the department of health and social services, has been running since the end of June.

The two-hour cooking class is free, and each participant can take home as much food as they want. Those in need are also provide specialized kitchen ware, such as vegetable shredders.

“Our big goal is to find recipes that easy, and good for families, and are diabetic friendly and can be storeable, so that people can cook a bunch on one day and then store them or freeze them.”

In addition to popsicles other items on the menu have included breakfast muffins, fish recipes, pizza pockets, rhubarb and zucchini cakes and all kinds of preserves and canned foods.

Becky Oribello, who was born and raised in Hay River but now lives in Edmonton, decided to go to the July 24 cooking class with her mom.

“I don’t have a garden or anything because I live in the city now, but it’s nice to just see the kinds of thing you can do in your own backyard,” she said.

“I’ve never like Kale, but Kale chips are so easy and it’s only two ingredients.”

Indeed, most of the recipes that NTFI require only a few simple ingredients. The recipes also tend to compliment one another.

So rather than throwing away the pulp used to make carrot and beet juice – both of which are so much sweeter than expected because the produce is so fresh – it is recycled to use in the muffins.

Leslie Solomonian is one of the dozen or so volunteers that help around the farm. The Toronto resident is a naturopath currently taking a year off to study work on her masters. With her background in nutrition, Solomonian has been helping NTFI innovate recipes.

“I’m finding it a really fun challenge to take what I know theoretically and practically for Toronto and translating that into what are people likely to eat,” said Solomonian.

A big part of the NTFI’s program also involves a partnership with Katlodeeche First Nation. NTFI will be partnering with the band’s wellness centre to provide weekly cooking courses followed by a free meal for the community. The band will also be organizing a wellness activity in the afternoon following the community feast.

“We’ll be cooking food to give away so people can come and eat a community lunch there,” said Rapati.

With the meals starting up for KFN, Rapati said she might have to change the dates for the weekly cooking class at the farm. Regardless of whether the schedule shifts, Rapati said the farm plans to continue the courses indefinitely.

Anyone interested in joining a class is requested to contact the institute on the Friday ahead of the week they hope to attend.

Power Popsicle Recipe

Prep Time: 5 min

Freeze Time: 4 hours minimum

6 servings

Storage: in fridge for 3 days; in freezer for 3 months

These veggie-packed popsicles can be a fun way to use your garden produce and have a cool snack on a hot summer day! You can really experiment with your own recipes and flavours to make something unique that your family will love.

Purple Power Popsicle

1 cup juiced beets (can be fresh, roasted, steamed)

1 cup strawberries fresh or frozen

¾ cup apple juice

1 tsp lemon juice