Coconut Palm Sugar Syrup

I love maple syrup. To me, a stack of fluffy pancakes, dribbling with bronze-y maple syrup is REAL comfort food, definitely on my ‘last meal’ list. Over the years, the white, soda-tasting pancakes of my childhood have morphed into the homemade whole-wheat nutty ones I whip-up on the odd Sunday but the maple syrup remains.

In my Grinola, I have been using a fabulous eastern Canada brand; their Grade C packs the biggest punch of sweet maple in the smallest amount required, which is always a good thing. After all, sugar is a food we need to measure and if we are going to raise the bar on the G.I. (glycemic index) scale, than it better bring something brilliant to the palate. And maple syrup does. Few other sweeteners have so much flavour which is why it is a staple in my cupboard.

Coconut palm sugar is a very low processed, low G.I., flavourful sugar that I have been baking with for over 3 years. It is becoming so mainstream (Dr. Oz proclaimed it the “best sugar” last year), even Costco stocks it. Last year, I started making a syrup from it to use as a binder for all the seeds and grains in my Grinola bars. The syrup has a deep, caramel flavour and colour which I could breathe in forever. Running low on maple syrup in January, I decided to bake a test-batch of Grinola cereal using the coconut palm syrup. It worked brilliantly. Although I use no more of the coconut syrup (1/2 tsp per serving) than maple, it complements rather than competes with the coconut sugar already in the recipe.

So I’ve lowered the recipe’s G.I. AND made it tastier.
You’re welcome.

Bye, bye canola oil. Hello, grapeseed oil!

At Hempress, part of my mission is to use the best ingredients I can in the products we make. Ideally, they must be: whole and unprocessed, organic, non-genetically modified and locally grown. Obviously, all that is not possible for all my ingredients so balancing the pros and cons of each item while maintaining a healthy, TASTY, affordable product, is a constant dance for me.

A few customers in the past have been concerned with my use of canola oil since it is generally considered a Genetically Modified plant. I originally chose it because it is a light and low-flavour oil, produced in Canada, and according to the oil Council, any modification affects the protein of the plant only, none of which is in the oil.

However, I received enough push-back to make me consider another choice and after some trials, please welcome aboard Grapeseed oil! Pressed from the seeds of grapes, this oil is light, slightly fruity and contains more linoleic (Omega 6 fatty-acid) than other oils. One study done in 1993 supports the claim that grapeseed oil increases HDL (good cholesterol) lipoproteins and lowers LDL (bad cholesterol). It is being produced in Canada but in low volumes so some oil is imported and blended domestically.

Having said all that, the total amount of oil used in my Grinola is about a teaspoon per serving. So there.

Here we go……..

Spring has sprung! And with it, we have some changes at Hempress (because the only constant in life is change, right?). Far from hibernating or enjoying the Costa Rican sun, I have spent the last few months working behind the scenes, tinkering with ingredients and playing mad scientist. I’m pretty excited; with improvements and new products in the works, I feel totally refreshed and ready for market. Thanks to all my regular customers who kept me busy churning out Grinola and bars through the winter. I’m happy to be part of your daily routine and love hearing how my products are helping you.
So stayed tuned and stay happy!

When the master is away....

A neighbour complained about noise from the dog while the owner was at work so he set-up a camera. Doesn’t he love the sound of his own voice?!

Happiness is a bowl…..


….full of ripe avocados.



Summer has ended. I went for my usual power-walk yesterday and there was an earthy moistness from the fallen, sodden leaves. Trees were saturated with gold and their leaves littered the edges of the road. I passed our driveway and saw our hauled boat, looming large and naked, no longer bathed and half hidden by the Salish Sea. Fall is here and that’s okay.

Giving Thanks

My folks popped over to the Island for Thanksgiving weekend. With never-before-seen weather and a Saturday free, we walked on the ferry from Crofton to Salt Spring Island to visit the market. It’s only a 20 minute crossing but this was the view from the deck. I MAY have had a light jacket on as we were sailing into the wind but really, it was as gorgeous as the picture seems. A sprinkling of pixie dust in the corner was an added bonus.

Eats shoots and leaves

Is this not the most glorious cauliflower you’ve ever seen? Who knew this under-rated vegetable could be so bold and beautiful! I purchased this gorgeous hunk at the Lantzville market yesterday, sneaking away from my booth of Grinola to do a bit of shopping. I’m ashamed to say that, in my haste, I did not notice the name of the farm and I was so struck by this gem that I forgot to go back and ask. I rarely, if ever, get to see a cauliflower still wearing its protective green frock since commercially, they are slashed and laid bare or cello-wrapped for transport, often from California. Not this baby – there were lots of soft green curly leaves protecting the pearly orb and lustily, I tore a small one off and ate it. Delicious! Its crunchiness reminded me of cabbage and brussel sprouts but the taste was creamier, more subtle and, of course, VERY fresh. I excitedly passed it round to my neighbouring vendors, begging them to try a leaf. They all did and loved it. We talked enthusiastically of food pairings for those leaves; shaving them with apple for a slaw, tossing with salad leaves, sautéing with butter and pine nuts, the possibilities endless. Today, I just added them chopped to a quick Asian beef stir-fry, bathed in a little hoisin and orange juice. Worked like a charm. The florets have been reserved for my man who requested them with good ol’ cheese sauce tomorrow. Sounds good to me!

Fangorn Forest?


When this photo popped-up on my monitor, I was surprised at how ethereal it appeared. We’d been hiking through the forest in the uninhabited area of Desolation Sound on our way to Win Lake one late afternoon in August. We had crossed a few creeks and plenty of mossy, fallen logs when I used my iphone for the shot. To me, it feels very Lord-of-the-Ring-sy, magical and mysterious; I almost expect something other-wordly to appear! A quick peak at it now again takes me right back there to that moment. What on earth did we do before photographs?

Water, water everywhere.....

We’ve all heard how important it is to drink plenty of water (or colourless liquids, vodka and gin not included – damn) but I admit that I have (many) days when I fail. Adding a slice of something citrus-y or even cucumber (try it) to my glass does raise the enjoyment and if I make up a big jug in the morning, I can really see how much I’ve had by the end of the day. These tricks do help; I just need to do them daily. For incentive, how’s this info-gram I found on Pinterest? It explains why my poor shriveled brain causes me such pain after a red wine binge (don’t judge, peeps).