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Where Food and Culture Meet

May 5, 2022

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Western Food Processor magazine.

Where Food and Culture Meet: Prairie Research Kitchen at RRC Polytech

Canada celebrates cultural diversity in a number of ways — especially through food. Manitoba is one of the leading provinces for cultural and food diversity, an apt location for the Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK) at RRC Polytech’s downtown campus at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute.

From 2018 to 2020, immigration to Manitoba has primarily been made up of people from Africa, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions, accounting for between 80‐85 per cent of immigrants each year, according to data from the Province of Manitoba.

“Our diverse population is reflected in the new products and restaurants available here,” says Mavis McRae, director of PRK. “We are lucky to be a resource for bringing those ideas to market.”

Food processing businesses contribute to the diversity of food options available to Manitobans. Often, members of visible minorities seek foods from their own culture for ‘new’ product ideas and many such foods are either not available or only at a price premium.

“Our team works well with new product ideas and ingredients,” says McRae. “We’ve worked with over 70 companies from Manitoba to B.C. and have generated over 120 product ideas. Many of these have roots in global cuisine.”

PRK infuses their myriad of services with a foodservice perspective, serving clients seeking to adapt a recipe for many needs — like reaching a broader population or for larger scale production. One of three Technology Access Centres at RRC Polytech, they are funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

“We work with many new companies who look to their own cultures for food product ideas,” says Jeff Fidyk, business development specialist, Manitoba Agriculture. “PRK’s services offer timely, practical solutions to help these companies bring their products to grocery and foodservice markets.”

Their modern facility offers a bevy of research services from rapid prototyping and ingredient applications to consumer research trials and customized training with flexibility to meet any companies’ innovation needs. They also work with companies to identify research focused funding resources for eligible organizations.

The diversity of companies is not where equity, diversification and inclusion ends for PRK. The college is committed to building strong relationships with various communities in Manitoba and fostering reconciliation between Indigenous and non‐Indigenous Peoples.

“Since inception we have recognized the connection between culture and food,” says McRae. “We have built a diverse team through staff, instructors and students. We are fortunate to be in an environment that recognizes the benefits of providing diversity education. We are committed to our responsibilities toward Truth and Reconciliation actions.”

Staff at PRK have completed the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation course, developed by Reconciliation Education, offered in partnership with RRC Polytech and First Nations University of Canada, as well as several courses related to respectful workplace, anti-racism and gender diversity. The result is a talented group of food specialists backed by a plethora of expertise committed to bringing the best of all cultures to market.

RRC Polytech is making plant-based impacts across the country, from the Prairies to Big Mountains

April 22, 2022

Pictured from left to right: Bill Greuel, CEO of Protein Industries Canada, Hailey Jefferies, President and Co-Founder of Prairie Fava, Parm Bains, MP for Steveston Richmond East, Jasmine Byrne and Kimberly Chamberland, President and CEO of Big Mountain Foods, and Mavis McRae, Director of RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen

A new high-protein, plant-based food product will soon be available to Canadians, thanks in large part to RRC Polytech’s Prairie Research Kitchen and Protein Industries Canada (PIC).

On April 21, PIC announced a major investment that will enable Big Mountain Foods, a Vancouver-based innovator of plant-based consumer packaged goods, and Prairie Fava, the leading Canadian grower and ingredient supplier of fava beans, based in Glenboro, Manitoba, to bring more fava-based consumer products, including fava tofu, to market. The Prairie Research Kitchen has worked with both companies as a product development partner.

“We are thrilled to have played a part in the development of this exciting new project. This is a perfect example of how the Prairie Research Kitchen team can lend our expertise in food sciences and culinary arts, as well as our experience in pulse products, to work with companies to develop new products for consumers,” says Mavis McRae, Director, Prairie Research Kitchen.

The Prairie Research Kitchen has partnered with Prairie Fava since 2016, starting with research on fava flour, a protein rich gluten-free flour that can be used in baking and conventional recipes. In 2019, the Prairie Research Kitchen began collaboration with several research and industry partners to develop value-added platform technologies using Manitoba-grown plant proteins. This led to the base knowledge of how various protein sources function in a tofu platform, as well as showcased value-added applications for the co-products of tofu production. Prairie Fava was an industrial partner in this project, as well as an ingredient supplier.

“The Prairie Research Kitchen has been instrumental in our product development since day one,” says Hailey Jefferies, President and Co-Founder of Prairie Fava. “The Prairie Research Kitchen team brings a unique blend of skills and creativity to applied research. Their input has expedited our product development in the early days when we were investigating the use of fava flour and provided us with valuable information as we grew the company. We appreciate the team’s support, responsiveness and advice over the years.”

The Prairie Research Kitchen started working with Big Mountain Foods in 2020, initially conducting product and process validation work on a new process the company was trying to replicate. This grew into an ongoing partnership, and the Prairie Research Kitchen team became Big Mountain Foods’s product development partner. This work established the groundwork for a new product development project for Big Mountain to coincide with the investment the company was making into tofu manufacturing capabilities.

“The technical knowledge provided by the Prairie Research Kitchen team was crucial to our product development,” says Jasmine Byrne, President of Big Mountain Foods. “From many refinement trials to on-site troubleshooting, their expertise helped guide us to achieve the results we’d been looking for.”

Tofu production

Big Mountain Foods will produce the fava bean tofu at the world’s first allergen-free tofu factory. The company aims to produce 15 million units a year.

The product is anticipated to hit grocery shelves in Manitoba next month.

Prairie Research Kitchen plays key role in development of soon-to-be-commercialized non-allergen tofu product

April 21, 2022

Today, Protein Industries Canada announced a major project that enables Big Mountain Foods, a Vancouver-based innovator of plant-based consumer packaged goods, and Prairie Fava, the leading Canadian grower and ingredient supplier of fava beans, based in Glenboro, Manitoba, to bring more fava-based consumer products, including fava tofu, to market. The Prairie Research Kitchen has worked with both companies as a product development partner.

Prairie Fava and Big Mountain Foods are joining forces to create a new line of fava-based food products, such as non-allergen tofu. This partnership will result in more healthy food options for Canadians produced in a next-generation manufacturing facility purposely designed to meet and exceed sustainability requirements.

Read more on Protein Industries Canada’s website.

Applied learning in action: ACE Project Space students work to innovate visual care

March 31, 2022

Our eyes are the primary way we see the world and navigate daily life. They also are an important means to diagnosing unseen neurological changes, due to injury (concussion), stroke, or other neurological disorders.

Students from RRC Polytech’s ACE Project Space are at the cutting-edge of innovative technology development with researchers at Neuroptek, a new start-up headed by Drs. Neda Anssari and Behzad Mansouri.

“The Neuroptek project has been the backbone of my entire program,” said Navdeep Kaur Sran, student team lead. “It has given me firsthand experience at how to integrate and apply all the skills I’ve learned throughout my courses.”

The researchers’ vision was sparked by their experiences delivering eye exams to children in rural areas of Ontario several years ago. Anssari is a neurologist and concussion subspecialist, Mansouri is a neuro-ophthalmologist and neuroscientist.

“The team had to pack up equipment and travel for hours in order for us to get to the remote area,” said Anssari. “It’s very difficult to reach some remote areas with all the equipment. Add to that the Canadian winter weather challenges, we saw the need for a more sustainable solution.”

Anssari expanded on the importance of access for children. Refractive errors are very common in children and play a significant role in their literacy, especially in preschool ages, kindergarten and elementary levels.

Their new technology is called EyeMirage. It realizes their vision to put eye care in the hands of the public, making it available virtually via an easily downloadable app. Additional versions of the app are available for use in clinical settings and by elite athletes and training programs.

“I’ve been working in the field of concussion for a few years now. The major challenge that I see happening in our day-to-day practice is that we do not have a readily available objective measure to diagnose concussion and early diagnosis is important,” said Anssari.

RRC Polytech students were on the ground floor over the course of two terms, working with the two researchers and Samantha Phrakonkham, Project Manager for Neuroptek.

Pictured from the back row from left to right is Naidong Zhang (RRC dev), Justin Horton (RRC dev), Kuldeep Kaur Sandhu (RRC Information Security), Biniyam M Mezgebo (Neuroptek AI dev), Daniel Leclaire (Neuroptek dev). Pictured in the front row from left to right is Samantha Phrakonkham (Neuroptek Project Manager), Dr. Neda Anssari (Neuroptek, CEO), Dr. Behzad Mansouri (Neuroptek, COO), and Arsalan Alizadeh (Neuroptek, CMO).

“Working with the RRC Polytech students has been very exciting and rewarding,” said Phrakonkham.

Initially, in spring and summer 2021, the first team of five students were tasked with developing an app to perform eye examinations.

“This wasn’t an easy task, given that none of the students had any mobile application development experience, which means they had to build this app from scratch. An experience that the majority of students that graduate from a postsecondary program would not have.”

For the fall 2021 term, a new four-student team have focussed on refining those eye examination tests to ensure that they meet the criteria for Clinical Standards.

“Currently, the students are making headway, but they do have a long road ahead of them, since most of the work is to improve the functionality of the app,” added Phrakonkham. “The most noticeable difference between this term and the last is our focus on quality control and engineering practices, in order to better prepare the students for the workforce.”

This synergistic partnership with RRC Polytech brings Neuroptek closer to their mission, while providing valuable industry experience for the students.

Phrakonkham noted, “Students have hands-on experiences with processes and tools they are likely to encounter in industry. They have had to move out of their comfort zone, adapt to the changes that might arise and take on duties that are not part of their existing skill set.”

Their days are structured to reflect the standard workflow of industry, like daily stand ups, road mapping, sprints, one-on-ones and brainstorming sessions.

“They gain practical experience using common tools, adopting common practices in the use of those tools, while providing them an agile work environment similar to agile software development processes in the industries they will seek employment with, post-graduation.”

RRC Polytech to participate in virtual meetings with Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery

February 10, 2022

RRC Polytech is pleased to participate in virtual meetings being led by the Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) with federal parliamentarians on February 10, 14 and 15, 2022.

C2R2 members will be meeting with federal parliamentarians to ensure they understand that Canada’s colleges, cégeps, institutions, and polytechnics play a critical role in preparing workers for a changing economy. C2R2 committed to working with the government and parliamentarians of all political stripes to ensure workers are prepared for the employment opportunities that are emerging in every region of the country, and that they fully benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy.

C2R2 members are working to ensure that its members are at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon future by:

  • Rapidly implementing and scaling curriculum initiatives focused on training workers for a resilient recovery to meet federal targets
  • Demonstrating new and existing research expertise and facilities to innovate technology, techniques and products to drive the low-carbon transition and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Utilizing the C2R2 pan-Canadian network to collaborate and expand the reach of training and research abilities to better support women, underrepresented populations, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples

C2R2 is a coalition of highly aligned institutions from across Canada with an established commitment to sustainability, that have come together as a driving force, providing the skills required to transition to a clean economy in Canada.

RRC Polytech is committed to C2R2 and has embedded its priorities into a number of ongoing projects, including:

  • Energy Advisor micro-credential – developed in partnership between RRC Polytech (BETAC) and the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association (MEIA) to meet the need for Energy Advisors (EAs) to help deliver the one million EnerGuide rating services for eligible homes in Canada, as per the federal government’s Greener Homes initiative.
  • Diagnostic Support Worker (DSW) program works in partnership with Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc. to deliver a suite of micro-credentials to enhance the accessibility to health care services for remote communities. Focused in community, students are provided with the opportunity to learn and practice clinical skills close to home. The program works with Indigenous Link to find candidates that wish to pursue careers in nursing stations within their own communities. The program allows students to add the skills their nursing station and its equipment requires.  
  • EV Tundra Buggy prototype – RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology and Energy Centre helped support the validation of converting diesel-powered Buggies to battery electric. Frontiers North Adventures launched the first EV Tundra Buggy in November 2021, with the goal of converting its fleet of 12 Buggies by 20230. It’s estimated that converting the entire fleet to battery electric will reduce GHGs by 3600 tonnes over the course of 25 years. The conversion will also open up opportunities for new clean tech jobs.

For more information about the virtual meetings visit: https://resilientcolleges.ca/

Keeping it tight: BETAC is ready to meet the growing need for building air tightness testing

January 6, 2022

Red River College Polytechnic’s (RRC Polytech) Building Efficiency Technology Access Centre (BETAC) is providing a breath of fresh air these days. Using high-powered fans and specialized equipment, researchers are pressurizing and depressurizing buildings of all sizes to find out where they leak, and help builders, engineers and property owners meet rising standards of energy efficiency.

The value of whole building air tightness tests like these have long been recognized for residential properties. New codes, policies and regulations may soon pump up demand for testing on commercial buildings, too – and so far, BETAC is the only organization with the skills, expertise and equipment to offer them in Manitoba.

“We’re looking forward to playing a greater role helping our community make buildings that are more durable and sustainable to operate, especially as we adapt to a future that places higher premiums on energy efficiency,” says Rob Spewak, BETAC’s business development manager.

Breathing new life into old buildings

The need for a more energy-efficient building stock is especially acute in Winnipeg, which boasts a relatively high proportion of heritage buildings. In September, for instance, BETAC completed an air tightness test at Gordon Bell High School, whose building features walls and mechanical systems are more than 50 years old. The results will provide insights into the most cost-effective measures for reducing energy usage when Gordon Bell undergoes an upcoming renovation.

Chris Buzunis, the Province of Manitoba’s Senior Energy Engineer and project manager for the Gordon Bell retrofit, says BETAC’s pre- and post-renovation air tightness testing has proven valuable on many projects like this.

“It helps identify problem areas to address at the start of a project and has also been a fantastic quality control tool when construction is complete. We have identified many deficiencies that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.”

BETAC will perform a post-renovation test on the school to validate the airtightness improvements and identify any problem areas before the building goes back into service. The goal of the renovation is to reduce energy costs by 50 per cent.

“Gordon Bell isn’t that different from many other schools in our city,” says Spewak, “so what we can measure and learn from here will help us devise guides to help other schools retrofit their building envelopes.”

It isn’t just schools BETAC hopes to help, he adds.

“Our goal in the next few years is to reach out to more private sector partners to show them what is achievable with a tighter building envelope. For one thing, the knowledge we provide leads to better decision-making. It’s a simple equation of investing now to save later.”

Putting your building to the test

Buildings that leak air cost more to heat and maintain. Up to 40 per cent of the cost of heating can come from air leakage, “so it absolutely impacts the bottom line.”

But in cold-climate regions, a leaky building envelope can result in up to six months of structural freezing and thawing, rusting metal, rotting wood, and expanding cracks, compromising the building’s durability as well. Even in warmer climates, leakage allows moisture-laden air to infiltrate or exfiltrate a building envelope. Air tightness can also affect noise levels and the comfort of a building’s occupants.

“Sealing the leaks may save you money and extend your building’s lifespan,” says Spewak. “But first you have to find the leaks, which often turn up in unexpected places you can’t find just by looking.”

BETAC offers a variety of non-destructive tests that target specific building sizes and challenges. The process usually starts with a walkthrough to assess door locations, HVAC intake and exhaust grills, power supply, and whether the building can be isolated.

Pictured: Blower door fan setup at Gordon Bell High School.

During the test itself, powerful fans pressurize and depressurize the building, while equipment measures how much air is moved into or out of the building and tracks the corresponding pressure difference across the building enclosure. 

The results of the envelop test speak to the general durability of the building, and the continuity and performance of the air barrier. A second set of tests, conducted with all intentional openings left open, measures the energy performance of the building more directly. At this stage, testers may deploy smoke pencils and infrared thermography cameras to identify specific air leakage pathways.

All together, these tests can take anywhere from several hours to three days, depending on the size and complexity of the building. The results deliver quantifiable data that can help owners of existing buildings locate problem areas and determine the costs and benefits of a retrofit. For new buildings, a final air tightness test can complement air leakage testing performed throughout construction.

A track record of success

BETAC has been researching air tightness and methods of testing it since a 2012 pilot project, which means the partners who turn to BETAC for air tightness testing engage some of the province’s leading expertise in the field.

Between 2012 and 2014, with the support of Manitoba Hydro and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, a total of 26 commercial buildings in Manitoba were tested for airtightness.

BETAC has also completed air testing research projects for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and, more recently, for Fort Whyte Alive, to measure the air tightness of an interpretive centre before and after a retrofit.

This same air tightness testing service used at Gordon Bell High School was also recently completed on the BMO Bank of Montreal building in downtown Winnipeg. BETAC plans on performing this testing for Manitou a bi Bii Daziigae (formerly known as the Innovation Centre project) soon.

Spewak says demand for tests like these will only increase as more cities and governments incorporate air tightness and energy efficiency into their building codes and green mandates. In addition to air leak testing, BETAC has committed to ongoing public outreach efforts to share the findings of its research. The results of BETAC’s work will inform the Province of Manitoba’s Green Building Policy and low carbon initiatives.

The Building Efficiency Technology Access Centre (BETAC) supports the building industry by helping clients address the challenges of designing and constructing durable, energy-efficient building envelopes, components and assembly in an environment with extreme conditions. Its core purpose is to support the needs of those involved in the design, construction, renovation, commissioning and maintenance of a building’s envelope.

Jojo Delos Reyes elected to the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association board

September 17, 2021

Congratulations to Jose (Jojo) Delos Reyes, Program Manager, Research Partnerships & Innovation (RPI) at Red River College on being elected to the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association 2021-22 board.

Jojo Delos Reyes, Program Manager, Research Partnerships & Innovation at RRC

Delos Reyes has been part of the RPI group at the College for over a decade, and oversees applied research projects, specially focusing on the shift to electrification and alternative fuel sources.

Most recently, Delos Reyes oversaw the Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre’s (VTEC) involvement in the Electric Vehicle (EV) Tundra Buggy project, with Frontiers North Adventures, a leading tourism provider in Manitoba.

Delos Reyes also sits on the board for the Vehicle Technology Centre (VTCI), a non-profit organization that supports technological advancement within Manitoba’s heavy vehicle manufacturing industry.

Going electric in the sub-Arctic: The EV Tundra Buggy project

September 16, 2021

The Electric Vehicle (EV) Tundra Buggy was more than three years in the making for Frontiers North Adventures (Frontiers North), a certified B Corporation® and leader in sustainable travel.

The EV Tundra Buggy is a proof-of-concept project that engaged several partners, including Red River College’s Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre (VTEC), and was made possible in part by support from the Vehicle Technology Centre (VTCI) and funding from the Province of Manitoba’s new Climate and Conservation Grant.

Frontiers North’s goal of converting a Tundra Buggy® in their touring fleet from diesel-powered to battery electric was two-fold: to lessen their environmental footprint and reduce sound pollution across Manitoba’s sub-Arctic.

“Our company’s purpose is all about stewardship, and positively contributing to our communities and the environment,” said John Gunter, President and CEO, Frontiers North.

“By starting the conversion of our fleet with this first EV Tundra Buggy, Frontiers North is taking meaningful steps towards reducing our GHG emissions and creating new clean tech jobs.”

RRC’s involvement in the EV Tundra Buggy prototype commenced in early 2021. The opportunity to assist Frontiers North and project partners with testing and validating the Tundra Buggy conversion to battery-electric, meant leveraging the expertise of VTEC researchers, engineers, and technicians. It also provided the opportunity for RRC students in the Electrical Engineering Technology program to put their applied learning into practice, taking batteries provided by New Flyer Industries, and repurposing them for use in the EV Tundra Buggy.

A major component of the conversion to electric is providing training, specifically on safety procedures. Building upon past electric vehicle projects, VTEC provided training materials on safe handling and operation of the repurposed batteries.

VTEC’s role in EV Tundra Buggy project highlights the College’s commitment to supporting local industry integrate new technologies through its dynamic research facilities.

“The EV Tundra Buggy is a quintessential made-in-Manitoba story. The project has links to conservation, tourism, and environmental stewardship, highlighting the ability of industry partnerships to create positive impact in Manitoba, for Manitobans, through reducing environmental impacts and benefitting our local economy,” said Dr. Simon Potter, Director, Research Partnerships and Innovation, Red River College.

The EV Tundra buggy is estimated to reduce Frontiers North’s greenhouse gas emissions by 8.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide during this autumn polar bear touring season. With the goal of converting their Tundra Buggy fleet to electric by 2030, Frontiers North is paving the way to further promote sustainable tourism, while continuing to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for guests.

The EV Tundra Buggy was recently unveiled by Frontiers North and RRC at the College’s Vehicle Technology & Research Centre. Click here to watch the event recording.

RRC receives grant to support building performance project for long-term care housing

September 14, 2021

Red River College (RRC) has received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF) grant.

The grant supports a three-year project led by RRC’s Building Efficiency Technology Access Centre (BETAC) to provide building performance evaluations (BPE) and post-occupancy evaluations (POE) for existing and new long-term care homes (LTCHs) in Manitoba.

The built environment is a contributing factor for health outcomes, for example, poor air quality can be detrimental for people living with respiratory conditions. Additionally, poor air circulation can be connected to the spread of COVID-19.

The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on long-term care residents, highlights underlying issues and the need to re-think the design, construction, and operation of LTCHs.

With approximately 10,000 residents currently living in LTCHs in the province – and the number of long-term care beds required in Manitoba projected to drastically increase by 2035 – the building performance project is an important initiative that will help inform critical improvements, impacting lives of long-term care residents.

“Students from RRC’s Nursing, Architectural Engineering Technology and Construction Management programs are working in tandem with industry partners, which gives them a unique opportunity to develop their skillsets as they relate to industry and other program areas,” says Arnold Boldt, Executive Director, Academic, Red River College.

“The project not only provides students with applied knowledge for their future careers, but students are also getting the opportunity to help improve the lives of older adults in the community.”

The project has a strong interdisciplinary approach, engaging local industry partners – Efficiency MB, fT3 Architecture, MMP Architects Inc., and the University of Manitoba – alongside BETAC and RRC students. The interdisciplinary team is undertaking BPE, POE as well as using qualitative measures, including resident surveys, to determine perceived quality of life in the built environment.

The project brings to light the challenges of a global aging population, and how it relates directly to residents in LTCHs in Manitoba.

“The College and Community Innovation program provides innovative solutions for local and regional challenges through the expertise of Canadian colleges. On behalf of the Tri-agency, I would like to congratulate all college recipients and their industry and community partners who provide social, economic and environmental benefits to communities of all sizes across the country,” says Alejandro Adem, President, Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada.

BETAC staff, industry partners, and RRC students are currently working on the first phase of the building performance project. In addition to BPE, the project also uses POE, an area where there’s currently a lack of data for LTCHs, helping generate benchmarks.

The project’s reach will extend beyond provincial borders, through building awareness and sharing findings at national conferences and online webinars.

Powered by Plants: The Prairie Plant Protein Project

September 8, 2021

Products featuring plant-based proteins continue to pop up on grocery shelves everywhere – from cashew-based, non-dairy cheese to a plethora of plant-based beverages to jackfruit jerky and much more. The market for plant-based food products is growing and the Prairie Research Kitchen is at the pulse of new innovations.

The Prairies are home to an abundance of pulses – creating a rich opportunity for research centred on new ingredient applications and product developments. Over the past two years, the Prairie Research Kitchen, in collaboration with local and national partners, has continued to pave the way for pulses as the star ingredient in plant-based food products.

The Prairie Research Kitchen (PRK) collaborated with the University of Manitoba’s Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, as well as the ARD-Food Development Centre (ARD-FDC) – in partnership with funding from the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG), Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and Ag Action Manitoba – to research new, innovative applications for Prairie plant proteins, including a variety of pulses, soybeans, and hemp.

The primary goal of the research project, entitled: Development of value-added food platform technologies using plant-based protein sources including bean, soy and hemp (The Prairie Plant Protein Project), was to discover novel plant-protein sources that function as protein extenders or replacers.

Project objectives also included fostering partnerships to integrate applied and culinary research into Manitoba’s research network; demonstrating new plant-based protein options for Canadian consumers, sourced from Manitoba and throughout the country; and helping increase and diversify the range of foods Canadians eat, highlighting the versatility of plant-protein sources.

The first phase of the Prairie Plant Protein Project involved assessing the macro-nutrients, specifically the proteins present, at the University of Manitoba’s Food and Human Nutritional Sciences lab. Outcomes indicated that fava beans had a good profile for making tofu, which helped shape the focus on the protein blends developed throughout the course of the project.

Next, researchers at ARD-FDC extracted the proteins from the Prairie pulses, coagulating them to form curds. The curds were then formed into tofu-like blocks. The intent for the new-style, or “nouveau tofu” was to incorporate into various food product applications to replace animal ingredients, or to complement and/or increase nutritional value.

The novel plant protein sources were tested to determine their unique nutritional profiles, with the end goal of combining amino acids from pulses, soybeans, and hemp to create complete protein sources.

Testing was completed to validate the increase in nutritional profiles of combining plant-protein sources, for example, soy-hemp tofu.

After developing several varieties of nouveau tofu, including a new take on traditional soy tofu, Prairie Research Kitchen’s chefs transformed the Prairie plant protein sources into food applications.

The culmination of research and culinary art comes together in a cookbook, Pulse of the Prairies: A Culinary Celebration of Manitoba’s Plant Proteins. Throughout the cookbook’s pages, you’ll see recipes such as Smoky Red Pepper Non-Dairy Cheese made from fava hemp tofu and Tofu Taquitos (see recipe below) made from dehydrated and reconstituted fava hemp soy tofu. In addition to nouveau tofu, the cookbook also features recipes made from navy bean plant-based milk and okara, the starchy by-product of coagulating the plant proteins into curds.

The Pulse of the Prairies cookbook highlights the exceptional nature of resources, crops, and food ingredients combined with the skills and expertise of our province’s research community, demonstrating exciting opportunities for Manitoba plant proteins. Overall, the project helped build platforms for knowledge and technology to showcase how plant-based protein can be used in food systems in Manitoba, nation-wide, and beyond. Manitoba pulses are functional ingredients that can be used to meet growing consumer trends – our Manitoba research network and the Prairie Research Kitchen can help businesses apply and integrate plant-based proteins.

– Heather Hill, Research Manager, Prairie Research Kitchen

Tofu Taquito Recipe

Tofu Taquitos
Yield: 6 taquitos

IngredientMassVolume
DEHYDRATED FAVA HEMP SOY TOFU  
Fava Hemp Soy Tofu, firm454 g1 pound
   
TOFU TAQUITOS  
Fava Hemp Soy Tofu, dehydrated crumbles35 g1/2 cup
Water, hot (95°C)60 g1/4 cup
Canola oil5 g1 tsp
Onion, minced12 g1 tbsp
Garlic, minced5 g1 tsp
Cumin2.5 g1/2 tsp
Paprika1.25 g1/4 tsp
Coriander1.25 g1/4 tsp
Chipotle pepper, minced25 g1 whole
Adobo sauce10 g2 tsp
Salt3.5 g1/2 tsp
Mozzarella, grated60 g1/2 cup
Corn tortillas 6

Method

Dehydrated Tofu:

  1. Freeze tofu until solid.
  2. Thaw tofu and drain off all excess water.
  3. Crumble tofu into pea-sized crumbles. Using a dehydrator, dehydrate crumbles at 63 C/145 F for 10-12 hours until crumbles are completely dry.
  4. Store in an airtight container.

Tofu Taquito:

  1. In a small bowl, add hot (simmering) water to dehydrated tofu crumbles, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. In a separate small bowl, combine all seasonings and spices.
  3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add oil. Once oil is hot, add onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add garlic, seasoning mix, chopped chipotle and adobo sauce. Sauté for 1 more minute and then add hydrated tofu.
  4. Sauté tofu mixture for 1-2 minutes until hot and just starting to get brown, crispy edges. Adjust seasoning as desired.
  5. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a bowl to cool for 5-10 minutes. It should be cool enough that the cheese does not melt when you mix it in.
  6. Add grated mozzarella to slightly cooled tofu mixture and stir until well combined. You may want to add 1-2 tsp of water to moisten mixture. You should be able to form it with your hand, so it doesn’t fall out of the shell during the filling/rolling step.
  7. Heat oven to 400 F. Using a non-stick skillet, over high heat, add 1-2 tsp of oil. Once oil is hot, gently lay in 1 corn tortilla for about 5 seconds, and then flip, swirling to coat the tortilla with the hot oil. This helps to soften the tortilla for easier rolling as well as crisping up during the baking process. You may need to add more oil as it coats the shells.
  8. Carefully remove the tortilla and add 1/6 of the filling (or desired amount) to the bottom third of the tortilla. Tightly roll up the taquito and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan, seal side down. You may need to use a toothpick to seal if the taquito rolls open on its own.
  9. Repeat until all the filling is used up.
  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are crispy and cheese is melty. Serve with sour cream and fresh salsa.

Note: Adjust the amount of cheese as desired. For added flavour, bulk, and nutrition, add minced green peppers and mushrooms to your sauté mix before filling!

This is a great option that will be loved by both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.

To request a copy of The Pulse of the Prairies: A Culinary Celebration of Manitoba’s Plant Proteins cookbook please contact the Prairie Research Kitchen.