‘Operation ReLeaf’ set to dig in 1 year after devastating Fort McMurray wildfire

Thousands of people in Fort McMurray either have rebuilt or are rebuilding their homes after last year’s devastating wildfire, but one group is focused on restoring something more natural.

Tree Canada is spending $1 million to bring trees back to the city, as a part of Operation ReLeaf.

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    Paul Jorgenson, a spokesperson with the organization, said it’s going to be a massive undertaking.

    “This will be the single largest tree-planting initiative we’ve ever attempted in our organization’s history,” Jorgenson said. “It’s pretty ambitious.”

    READ MORE: ‘There were thousands of trees lost’: Tree Canada to help Fort McMurray regenerate urban forest

    Seventy-thousand trees are planned for this year alone, in what will be a multi-year effort.

    “We’re already starting to lay the groundwork for 2018, and also, possibly, 2019 as well.”

    READ MORE: ‘Hope tree’ a gift to Fort McMurray from a 6- year-old Edmonton girl

    The trees will not only be good for the environment, but will also help people heal, as the new trees will replace the ones that were burned.

    “Communities need parks and green space,” Jorgenson said. “They need this to help have a sense of normalcy, to return to everyday life.”

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: boreal forest slowly bouncing back

    Jorgenson stated that while trees will grow back on their own, it’s a slow process and trees in the city often take more care to be properly rooted.

    For now, they just have to wait until the ground thaws, and then shovels can hit the ground.

Canadian celebrity chefs share their Mother’s Day brunch tips

Whether you grew up with the type of mom who made everything from scratch or one who had a more pragmatic take on cooking (who doesn’t love frozen pizza Fridays?), a Mother’s Day spread filled with all her favourite foods — and her kids — is the perfect way to say, “Thanks, Mom.”

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Brunch is always a crowd-pleaser, mainly because of the opportunity it presents to serve both savoury and sweet foods, not to mention cocktails. (A Google Trends search consistently shows its rising popularity, with spikes in the springtime around Easter and Mother’s Day.) Although most urban centres are bursting with brunch spots, nothing beats the intimacy of hosting a brunch at home.

READ MORE: Mother’s Day gift ideas for $50 and less

This Mother’s Day, treat your mom to a truly special brunch with tips from some of Canada’s most renowned celebrity chefs.

For a health-conscious brunch

Chef Roger Mooking, host of Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food, wants to treat his wife to a special brunch while observing her fitness goals.

“My mother lives in Alberta and won’t be visiting us for Mother’s Day, but my wife deserves the golden treatment,” he says. “She’s been on a fitness transformation for the last year and has achieved every single marker to date, and she has set a new goal that will be in very full swing for this Mother’s Day.”

As such, Mooking is planning a tasty yet health-conscious meal that includes lean proteins, cooked vegetables and whole-grain carbohydrates.

Grilled steak with grilled or fresh vegetables and complex carbohydrates makes for a delicious and health-conscious brunch.

Claudia Totir

“I’m thinking that raw shaved Brussels sprouts and grilled broccoli rabe [rapini] with lemon and chili is in order,” he says. “For the proteins, it will be grilled flank or skirt steak rubbed with blackening spice, and cooked over open fire using natural lump-wood charcoal.”

Less-experienced cooks can simplify this meal by serving a fresh salad with a mixture of lettuces and vegetables to pair with the grilled meat. If you’re opting for a buffet-style brunch, slice the meat and put it in a serving dish so guests can easily help themselves. Add some complex carbohydrates like roasted sweet potatoes or brown rice.

While it’s not recommended to eat red meat daily, moderate consumption is fine, experts say.

For a spring-themed brunch

“Half of cooking is curating,” says chef Craig Harding, host of TLN’s The Chef’s Bar and owner of Campagnolo in Toronto.

The idea behind Mother’s Day, Harding says, is to spend time with your mom, so don’t try anything too elaborate that will require last-minute attention. He advises choosing fresh, in-season ingredients that are packed with flavour and won’t require too much fuss.

“If you’re serving eggs, opt for a frittata that can be assembled the night before and popped into the oven in the morning,” he says. “Add in springtime ingredients like green or white asparagus, fresh peas or ramps.”

Infuse simple, make-ahead dishes with fresh, in-season ingredients like asparagus, strawberries and peas.

Oliver Schwarzwald

He also recommends a light pasta, like spaghetti tossed with lemon juice and butter, and topped off with shaved parmesan. For dessert, he says the season’s fresh fruits, like strawberries and rhubarb, are perfect as a stand-alone ending to the meal.

“Topped with lime juice, icing sugar and fresh mint, they’re the perfect Mother’s Day flavours,” he says.

READ MORE: Mother’s Day gift ideas: 10 finds for $25 and under

“By doing some research on the freshest ingredients and some good shopping ahead of time, it’ll make your life easier and your brunch successful.”

For a decadent brunch

Splurging on a meal can, in many ways, be the best way to spend money: it satisfies your visceral appetite, while sharing it with others feeds your soul. Or at least that’s how chef Rob Gentile, owner of the Buca restaurants in Toronto, sees it.

“I love to splurge on ingredients that I wouldn’t use every day, like truffles and caviar,” he says. “And for these occasions, I’m not too shy to open a bottle of champagne.”

Splurge on decadent ingredients like caviar, and don’t be afraid to pop open some champagne, Gentile says.

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For him, indulgence is the word of the day.

“For brunch, make a soft scramble and add some caviar or fresh-shaved truffles [which are in season now] with some burrata cheese,” he says. “If you play with wonderful, special ingredients, your dish will taste great.”

On the same note, chef Mark McEwan, host of Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, says to put an indulgent spin on a classic Canadian ingredient: lobster.

“For Mother’s Day, I like to elevate classic dishes to give them a wow-factor — everything should be indulgent,” he says. “Nothing beats Canadian lobster and it’s cooked perfectly when poached in butter.”

Chef McEwan’s ‘indulgent’ lobster Florentine.

Cole Wielgosz

He pairs it with runny poached eggs and shaved truffle on top of garlic brioche and sauteed spinach for an upscale Canadian take on eggs Florentine.

“Once plated, everything looks stunning, and it really is a memorable, standout meal,” he says.

Some tips on decor

When it comes to sprucing up your home for Mother’s Day, nature is in your favour.

“Seasonality means you have lots of beautiful fresh blooms to choose from, like tulips, flowering branches, lilacs and peonies — it doesn’t get much simpler,” says Becky De Oliveira, owner of Blush and Bloom Flower Studio in Toronto.

Coordinating your flowers to a label on a wine bottle is an interesting way to showcase both.

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For table arrangements, go for an unscented floral, like tulips, that won’t interfere with the aromas of your food. And if you have allergy-prone guests, go for plants or pussy willow branches, or decorate with colourful napkins and candles (also unscented).

An interesting new decor trend is matching florals to wine.

“You can pair floral wines with flowers, matching the notes in the wine to your blooms,” De Oliveira says. “Or match the label of your wine bottle to a floral arrangement. It’s an interesting way to display both together.”

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