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To Be or Not To Be Organic

More and more Consumers want certified organic foods because they know these foods are grown without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and that they are grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones.

Organic food is highly regulated in Canada. Every farm, producer, processor and distributor is inspected at least once a year by the Canada Food Inspection Agency to ensure the food is truly organic.

Organic agriculture is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

* Soil is enriched with compost, green manure and organic amendments.

* Weeds, pests and disease are controlled through crop rotation and selective use of natural non-chemical pesticides.

* Livestock are provided quality living environments and are raised without hormones or antibiotics and are not fed animal by-products. 

Natural and organic are not interchangeable terms. You may see “natural” and other terms as “all natural”, “free-range” or “hormone free” on food labels. These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term ‘organic”.

Price comparisons are often made between organic and convention food items. Organic food is much more labour intensive because farmers do not rely on the same mechanical and chemical levels as conventional production. Organic certification and maintaing that status is expensive. Organic feed for animals can cost twice as much and of course there is no room for Government Subsidy as the organic farms tend to be smaller then convention farms and produce under the range for subsidy aid. But the Organic food industry is more efficient and direct with fewer steps in the supply chain from farm to table. When you buy organic food, your money goes to the actual growers of that food, and less to the shareholders and bankers behind the large grocery stores. This means you have a significant impact on farming families with your food dollars.

Did you know that conventional produce from the farm to your dinner table travels an average of 1,500 miles. This uses a lot of fossil fuel and emits carbon dioxide into the air. In addition produce must be picked while still unripe and then needs to be gassed to “ripen” after transport or the food is highly processed in factories using preservatives irradiation and other means to keep it stable for transport. Local food is the freshest food you can buy,  fruits and vegetables are harvested when they are ripe and thus full of flavour.

Many factors influence the decision to choose organic foods:

* Pesticides – Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops. When farmers spray pesticides it can leave a residue on the produce. People buy organic to reduce their exposure to this residues.

* Food Additives – Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids and fortifying agents commonly used in non-organic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings and monosodium glutamate.

* Environment – Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.

Wether you go totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and chemical traces. You should even wash items with inedible skins like melons, citrus fruits, because cutting the rinds with a knife brings contaminants to the inside.

Select a variety of food from a variety of sources to reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.

Read food labels carefully, even if it says organic it can still be high in sugar, salt and fat ingredients, so opt for healthier alternatives.

Fruits and vegetables where organic labels matter the most because they have the highest pesticide levels when conventionally grown are:

Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Grapes, Cherry Tomatoes, Kale, Summer Squash, Imported Nectarines, Peaches, Spinach, Strawberries and Hot Peppers.

In the Summer try growing your own produce in your garden, community plot, or windowsill container, you’ll know they don’t have pesticide residue and tending the garden is a healthy activity.

Through environmentally sound practices, organic producers and processors strive to sustain the health of the earth while providing food for those who inhabit it.



Planning A Festive Office Party

The most effective way to plan a successful festive party is to first understand the goal behind the event.

1. Are you using this as a motivational event 
2. Do you want to hand out awards to employees in recognition of performance
3. Do you want to say thank you to everyone and Celebrate.

When you know what your goal is it will help you get started and organize things into place.

The top key initiatives to begin with are;

1. Set a preliminary budget
2. Select the location for the Festive Party
3. Select the menu for the Festive Party
4. Select the entertainment, decor, gifts and if necessary the awards 

Remember to consider the time and location, it should be a place that is suitable to everyone. Is it close to public transportation, is parking included, do they have over night accommodations? Wether your hosting a cocktail party, a buffet, or a sit down meal it is easier to have a theme which sets the tone of the event and gives you a starting point when selecting your menu, entertainment and decor.

Knowing your budget will determine how much you can spend on food, entertainment, room rental, decorations and other items you may wish to purchase.

When you find a location suitable make sure you discuss room rental costs and what is included in those fees.  Do they provide security for your event? Do they provide bar tenders? Do they provide linens, plates, napkins and silverware? Do they have in-house Dj’s? Do they have any festive decorations? Take advantage of everything they offer for free to help with your budget.

As you get closer to your date it’s a good idea to make a critical path list, tracking all the details big and small. Make sure you have covered all the time-sensitive details and double check your list to make sure you have not forgotten anything.

When you make the organizational experts at the Old Mill Toronto an integral part of your planning team, you can be confident that together, we will accomplish your every objective for a successful Festive Party.



Centennial Event

By the early 1900′s one man’s vision began the transformation of the Humber Valley forever. Robert Home Smith, financier, railway builder, real estate developer and avid sportsman purchased 3,000 acres in the Humber Valley, from Lake Ontario to what was to become Eglinton Avenue. His concept was to develop a unique modern community.

The Old Mill Tea Garden acted as the community centre for the residents of this new residential development, a place where news and events of the day were exchanged. Home Smith’s motto “A LITTLE BIT OF ENGLAND FAR FROM ENGLAND” epitomized his objective to create a Toronto suburb of grace and tranquility through English Tudor architecture.  

In 1991 George and Michael Kalmar restored and reconstructed the original grist mill and opened the Old Mill Hotel on October 2001, featuring 57 luxurious appointed rooms and suites, a full service spa and an English style bar dedicated to Robert Home Smith.

On September 18, 2014, one hundred years following Robert Home Smith’s vision, the Old Mill Toronto celebrated their Centennial Anniversary with an opulent Event.

So begins the new chapter in shaping the history of the Old Mill.

The Red carpet was rolled out in anticipation of our guests arrival.

The Paparazzi were feverishly waiting to snap away at our honoured guests.

Everyone was smiling on the Red carpet!

Our “TIFF” board was a hit with all of our guests posing for the cameras!

Stilt walkers, mimes, contortionists, magicians, balloon sculptors and jugglers were all on-site to entertain everyone with their talents.

  

The Executive Chef Martin Buehner and his culinary team went over the top to impress and tantalize our tastebuds with Italian flare, Sushi Bars, Seafood Stations, Ultimate Patio BBQ, Gourmet Grill Cheese, decadent desserts and much much more, oh and of course one can’t forget the ultimate liquid nitrogen Ice Cream stand!

Our flower shop team of designers were responsible for the decor, which was spectacular!

Of course the night was not complete until we sang Happy Birthday to the Old Mill…you don’t turn 100 everyday!

Thank you to all of our guests and to our partners, AV Canada, Trius Wines, Belvedere Vodka, Mill Street Brewery and Ken Shaw Lexus for celebrating our Centennial in style.

 More Photos can be viewed on our Facebook page

 





Baby Shower Planning

Traditionally baby showers are given for the families first child and only women were invited to “shower” the mother to be with gifts, celebrate new life and share their wisdom and knowledge of becoming a mother.  It was also considered that someone who is not a family member should throw the shower to avoid having it look like the family was asking for gifts.

Today anything goes and traditional rules are not followed as any relative, close friend, close co worker can plan an amazing baby shower both before or after the baby arrives, typically the last two months of pregnancy. And, although baby showers are predominantly still “for women only” holding a shower for both men and women is becoming more popular especially when it’s for the 2nd child.

When setting a date for the shower you should check with grand parents or other guests of honour to make sure they are available. It wouldn’t be good to send out invitations only to find that the most important guests can’t attend. Invitations should be sent at least 3 weeks in advance to an intimate number of friends and family.

Baby shower themes can also be great fun and sometimes helps to organize the party preparations, but are not necessary.  What about a tea party? Fancy table cloths, tea pots, plates and cups. Serve assorted teas, scones with clotted cream and jam, finger sandwiches etc. You can even theme your tea party; everything to do with pink or blue, of course that can only be done when you know what the mom to be is expecting.

Throw a long leisurely baby brunch shower! or how about breaking tradition and having a “Mommy Shower”. Instead of guests bringing baby gifts, everyone brings something to pamper the mommy, like chocolate, bubble bath, gift certificates for take out food, spa services, comfy clothes etc. If you opt not to have a theme, a simple, elegant bright decor with flowers are most appropriate, remember all eyes will be on the belly of the mom to be, so keep the decor simple and to a minimum.

Serving food at the shower is always easiest as a buffet. Serving finger foods allows your guests to try something different and by spreading small bowls around the party, allows guests to also mingle by moving around the room.  Keep food light and simple by serving such items as a veggie tray, fruit tray, keish, sandwiches, cheese & crackers, salads, deviled eggs, buns & cold cuts and lets not forget cute cupcakes. There is also no shame in pot-luck either!

Gift opening is the main event but baby shower games and prizes are always a fun way to create atmosphere and there are many games to choose from.  One unique idea referred to as “Diaper Extraordinaire” is simply putting together a gift basket filled with items like a bottle of wine and glasses, cheese and crackers, wine opener etc. and on your invitations write that there will be a draw for a gift basket that anyone would love. The price of a ticket is one small pack of diapers & wipes. Guests can enter as many times as they want. The lucky winner goes home with a beautiful basket while the mom to be will have a lot of  diapers that can be quite expensive.

When deciding on a gift sometimes practical versus cute for example can be the most invaluable.  Perhaps a group gift for those big-ticket items is the way to go – a stroller, car seat, portable crib, items that will endear you to the parents on a daily basis. Of course everyone wants to ooh and ahh at all the cute little outfits, blankets and booties. 

Send your guests home with a simple party favour. Perhaps something edible, like wrapped home made cookies or a boxed cup cake, a sweet ending to a beautiful shower and it’s a nice way for you to say “Thank you for coming”.

 



Roasted Chicken Breasts

Because most of the fat in chicken is in the skin, removing it — and its 16 grams of fat — makes chicken a lean choice. The parsley, lemon and garlic topping does the job the skin usually performs, keeping the breasts moist and juicy. Serve with rice pilaf and Honey Acorn Squash. Pop the squash into the oven 15 minutes before adding the chicken.

  • Portion size 4

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grated lemon rind
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Preparation 

Remove skin from chicken and discard. Brush mustard all over chicken. Place on rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In small bowl, stir together parsley, lemon rind, garlic, oil and cayenne; press onto chicken. (Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.) Roast in 375°F (190°C) oven until crusty, golden around edges and no longer pink inside, about 30 minutes.

Additional information :

Side Dish Savvy - Honey Acorn Squash:

Cut 2 acorn squash (2 lb/1 kg total) in half; scrape out seeds. Arrange, cut side down, on rimmed baking sheet. Roast in 375°F (190°C) oven for 30 minutes. Turn cut side up. In each cavity, place 1 tsp (5 mL) each butter and liquid honey; roast until tender and golden, about 15 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: about 125 cal, 1 g pro, 4 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 24 g carb, 4 g fibre, 10 mg chol, 44 mg sodium. % RDI: 5% calcium, 9% iron, 9% vit A, 23% vit C, 11% folate

 

Source: Canadian Living Magazine