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New Discoveries and Crafty Substitutes July 4, 2010

Posted by maggieknight in Une diète pour La Belle Province.

When I first moved away from home, I couldn’t afford to eat out or buy a lot of premade or packaged food, so I quickly gained confidence at cooking from scratch (alongside the housemates I cooked with). Mostly, however, I stuck to recipes from the book of favourites my mother made for me as a leaving home present. A few years later, I still rely heavily on those favourites, although I’ve picked up some others along the way. Part of my hope for this experiment was that it would challenge me to try new recipes and new tastes, partly by needing to find substitutes for things that are no longer options, and partly by spending more time and energy on exploring the local foodscape. A week and a half in, I figure it’s time to talk about the things we miss most, the substitutes we’ve found for ingredients we’re used to using, and the new tastes we’re trying out.


Tea (with my British upbringing, this is my standard way of starting my day)

Beer (most missed on hot days or when wanting to celebrate with friends)

Coffee (mostly for its social place in meeting up with friends in coffee shops)

Peanut butter (delicious, and a staple of our spicy peanut butter stirfry)

Rice (also a staple of stirfry…)

Pasta (easy, tasty bed for whatever delicious veg or sauce we prepare)

Chocolate (not too bad so far, given the availability of sweet treats such as strawberries)


Some things are difficult to give up, so we’ve found reasonable local substitutes.

Mint hanging to dry

Honey or maple syrup instead of sugar. Check this out for guidelines on substituting honey for sugar. (I did this in the rhubarb muffins I made this morning, and you can taste the huskiness of the honey in the final product…delicious!)

Mint tea (from fresh mint, or what was fresh until it started to wilt; it is now hanging to dry–hopefully the resulting tea will be just as good)

Sunflower oil (for olive oil) – not appropriate in all situations, but available locally. Especially good for savoury baking and salad dressings.

Melted butter (for olive, canola, or vegetable oil) – burns more easily in the pan, but for most things works well. And makes onions, mushrooms, etc. smell absolutely fantastic.

Apple cider (Nat likes this in place of beer because of its fizz)–we’ve found a kind produced in St-Nicolas (a district of Lévis, the city across the river from Québec City) that sells for $9 in our local grocery.

Honey wine and blackcurrant alcohols (to increase the variety of wines available)

La terrasse (raspberry honey wine), Rubis (blackburrant aperitif), and the St Nicolas sparkling light cider. The first two from the Plateau Marché Fermier, the last from Provigo or the SAQ.


A couple of these I’d never eaten before. Many others I simply don’t normally cook with. If you have more ideas for what to use these in, I’d love to hear them.

Garlic scapes – the above-ground part of the garlic that sprouts the flower. Less strong than the garlic bulb, but still distinctly garlic-y. So far I’ve added them to salads and soups.

Garlic scapes

Baby kale leaves – I was sold these by a young man at the Marché Fermier Mile End market who assured me that kale is the tastiest of greens. I expressed some scepticism (recalling the tough winter kale that grows in West Coast gardens), but will be adding these to my next salad.

Rhubarb – I’ve expanded from strawberry-rhubarb pie to include muffins and stewed rhubarb. I think rhubarb-zucchini bread may be in my future.

Rhubarb muffins (honey substituted for sugar)

Radishes – I disliked these as a child and usually they come smothered in styrofoam and plastic wrap in the grocery store. Looking to spice up our salads with fresh radishes proved highly successful.

Asparagus – I’ve always been intimidated by asparagus, perhaps because of the idea that asparagus is a seasonal luxury (it only comes once a year, don’t mess it up!). The authors of The 100-Mile Diet and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle both discussed the simulated seasonality with which asparagus now appears in many supermarkets (where imported asparagus merely journeys from the back shelves to front displays when “spring” arrives). I have overcome my trepidation, however, and have happily made asparagus-mushroom quiche, asparagus-mushroom soup (ok, a little repetitive perhaps, but they just go so well together!), and sauteed asparagus–and added asparagus as a topping to our last batch of pizza!

That’s it for now. We’ve gotten lax about taking photos of our meals, but I’ve been hearing that people like our food pictures, so we’ll try to get back in the habit. Since the last post we’ve eaten pizza again (this time with a wholewheat crust and Québec mozzarella) and a creamy broccoli soup I concocted out of what needed using up in the fridge and seasoned with nutmeg.



1. Samantha Cook - July 5, 2010

It’s so great to watch this diet progress and hear about what you’re cooking, Maggie (and Nat)! Also, really glad you posted about garlic scapes – I saw them in the store the other day and had absolutely no clue what they were. I assumed they were string beans gone a little wonky.

Good luck!

2. Devin Alfaro - July 5, 2010

Interesting stuff. This summer (like the last) Joël and I are getting a weekly crop basket from a farm in Montérégie. It’s really cool having a steady supply of local, organic food, but what’s even better is getting new veggies and having to figure out what to do with them. Garlic scapes were something we discovered through the basket.

So why is it that you can’t drink beer? Isn’t there a lot that is locally produced? Are certain ingredients imported from afar?

3. Devin Alfaro - July 5, 2010

And living without tea? You poor thing, I don’t know how you manage. Another substitute: dried raspberry leaves. They create a decent tisane.

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