Thursday, April 29, 2010


We're having a lovely puttering kind of day today...must be the rain.  I've been using the time at home and inside to catch up on some things and also to make a treat.  I'm still working on using up items in our freezers and pantry and (yes, amazingly) I still have chocolate left to use up.  I like to melt it and mix it with an assortment of dried fruit, seeds and nuts and this time I decided to use currants (leftover from Christmas pudding making), raisins, hazelnuts (left from our old trees) and hemp seeds.
I usually drop them on the cookie sheet by the spoonful to make a chocolate blob but this time I thought I would try using these moulds instead.  We received some cookies in them as a gift and I thought they would be handy for something.
They worked out rather nicely.
I also found where I came across the idea for the scented vinegar.  It was at this gorgeous blog here.  I've started a jar of orange peel vinegar today with more peel to vinegar to see if I can't come up with a vinegar that E doesn't find offensive.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grapefruit Vinegar

I have used vinegar and baking soda for cleaning for at least 14 years (I started all this great stuff around the time my first son was born) but when my second son was very young he let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he could not abide the smell of vinegar.  Even now, at age ten, every time I spray vinegar somewhere E calls out "Eeeew, vinegar!" from wherever he is in the house (He used to call it "Vinekar" and the bottle of vinegar we use as a hair rinse still is labeled that way thanks to his older brother).  When I came across the idea for putting orange peels in vinegar and letting it sit until the scent was transferred I knew right away I had to give it a try (I saw this on a blog somewhere but I cannot remember the name of the blog or how I came to it, so if it was your idea I thank you very much).

We only had a grapefruit on  hand so I tried that instead.  E ate the grapefruit, I popped the peel in a jar, covered it with vinegar and left it for about 2 weeks.  It definitely is grapefruit scented and...E still doesn't like the smell. ;-)  Ah well, it pleases me that I have found another use for something and I'm all for grapefruit-scented bathroom mirrors and tubs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Homemade Perogies

I've always enjoyed homemade perogies, they were one of my favourite dinners when I was a child.  My own family loves them too and so E and I made a batch last night.  While these may not exactly be considered "health" food, they are very much a comfort food and to my way of thinking, a little comfort once in a while goes a loooong way towards maintaining good health.

A good dough recipe helps to make perogy making easier, this is the one I use.  It makes a nice stretchy dough that is very easy to work with.  I have also used the filling recipe in that link and it is a very good basic recipe.
You can also choose to make up your own filling depending on your preferences.  I like to make our filling quite flavourful so I always add a few extras.
I usually add regular onions (raw and finely chopped to the boiled potatoes but I've used up our big bag of white ones and am now using the red ones).  We like grated cheddar and cottage cheese (and have sometimes  used asiago).  The thing that really gives our perogies flavour is the raw garlic - two large cloves.
Then just put a large spoonful of filling on the circle of dough, fold the dough in half around the filling and pinch the edges.  We used to make regular size perogies - the size you see in stores - but now we make handsized perogies to save some time and work.
Make lots.  They'll probably be eaten up but if not they make great leftovers or you can freeze them uncooked for another meal.
My family likes them boiled, then fried with some spices and served with sourcream.  When I was little we used to just boil them and then serve them with melted butter, sour cream and chives.
I think they are delicious any way you serve them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

First Asparagus

I never used to go to the farmers market very much before we sold our old home - with all my gardens, fruit trees and planting there wasn't much need.  Yesterday we made a special trip in to get our yearly supply of honey (last year we got one 30lb bucket on Seedy Saturday and it has lasted us until now) and I also wanted to get a special treat - our first asparagus of the season.  I'm still feeling a little sad about leaving my new asparagus bed behind in my old gardens and buying 3 bundles of fresh, local asparagus goes a long ways towards helping me feel better.
We ate some raw as soon as we bought it (if you've not tried it raw you really ought to - it's delicious). We had some last night with butter, salt (nettle seed salt for me) and pepper.  Tonight, alongside homemade perogies, we will have more topped with hollandaise sauce and then if there is a bit left over I think we will have it in some springtime soup with nettle and garlic as well.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Easy Tomato Soup

Here is another good reason for having lots of preserved tomatoes on hand:  one jar gives you the basis for a really good, easy-to-make tomato soup.
Put some olive oil in a pot (I was fortunate enough to receive a large cast iron pot for Christmas so I no longer have to make soup in my big fry pan).  Add some crushed garlic and saute until soft.  Add a grated carrot and saute for just long enough to soften the carrot.
Add the jar of tomatoes and 2 -4 cups of broth.  Simmer.  Then add seasonings.  I like to add a cube of frozen basil (I whir it through the food processor in summer, freeze it in icecube trays and then pop the cubes into a bag).
After it has simmered for 15 minutes or so I use an immersion blender to blend it until it is smooth.  If you use dairy it is also nice with a spoonful of sour cream whirled through it.
And there you go, a simple and delicious lunch.

Oh, and I realized that I never posted a picture of the finished French Press slippers, so here they are with their buttons attached.  Now, just six more pairs to go...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Well Worth Watching Wednesday

Well worth watching Wednesday...that has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?  We enjoyed The Story of Stuff of when it came out and the boys and I found this new short film well worth watching this morning.  I hope you'll watch it too, you can just by clicking the link below.

The Story of Bottled Water

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stinging Nettle, Elderberry and Other Signs of Spring

When you're living at 1200 m you wait a long time for Spring to arrive.  We had snow 3 or 4 times again last week but the last of it has melted and we've had  a couple days of warm, sunny weather.  Warm and sunny enough that the air up here held the promise of Spring!!  The other day I headed down the bank to see if the nettle might possibly have decided to show itself here.  This is what I found. 
A few little stems poking their way of out the recently snow-covered soil.  I can't tell you how pleased I was to see it.

The nettle patch here grows right under the Elderberry bushes.  A glance at those showed more signs up Spring.
Then yesterday after a very warm day in town (especially warm when you're "mountain" people (like us just now) and come to town in jeans and long-sleeved shirts only to discover all the "town" people wearing shorts, sandals and short-sleeve t-shirts) I decided to spend some time on the garden beds here.

Aside from only 4 worms (such poor soil) guess what else I found...
tiny spinach plants growing where I had planted it last year.  Some of it was left to go to seed and it was such a treat to see this sprouting up here. 
Even though we're missing our gardens at our old home we can find pleasure in whatever we can manage to grow here.  Seeing that spinach helped me decide to go ahead and prepare more spaces to plant here even though we don't know if we'll be living here come harvest time or not.  If not, then we've decided to just hope that whoever is living here will be so excited by harvesting the food that they will become as enchanted by gardening as we are.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Favourite Curry Recipe

Last night I decided to make a big pot of my favourite curry recipe (and I forgot until just now that I meant to try just a titch of fresh nettle in it) so that we could have an early dinner last night, a dinner-on-the-run for S and leftovers for tonight's dinner so that I don't have to make anything when we get home.  We've been seeing a lot of these veggies these past months and, while we enjoy them thoroughly, we're looking forward to having some fresh, local veg available soon. 
Here's how I make this curry.

In a large pot I melt:
1/4 cup butter (or you can use coconut oil or grapeseed oil)
Then add:
1 chopped onion
several cloves of garlic (I like lots)
a spoon of fresh grated ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp garam masala  (those 3 are the must spices I use but you can also add some curry powder or tumeric if you like)
Stir this and let saute on lowish until onions are soft but don't let garlic burn.  Have all your veggies chopped and ready to add.  I like to use
2 large potatoes - peeled and chopped
4 carrots - peeled and chopped
1 large yam or sweet potato - peeled and chopped
a good amount of cauliflower - cut into bite size florets
butternut squash - peeled and chopped (although didn't use it this time)

I add the veg to spice/onion mixture and stir to coat.
Then I add about 2 cups of stock, 2 cups of my stewed (or canned) tomatoes and
1/3 cup red lentils (not any other kind, these cook up and blend in and act as a thickener).  I let it cook for about 15 or 20 minutes until the veg are soft and the lentils are blended in.  Then add
1 can coconut milk
1 cup chickpeas (or more)
1 cup frozen peas

Cook a few more minutes until the peas and chickpeas are heated and it is done.  I like it best served over rice with a splash of Braggs.  My boys tolerate it with rice but LOVE it served on bread.  Go figure.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tie-dyed T-shirts

I have always loved to Tie-dye things, I have since I was little.  When my boys were little I used to tie-dye their little t-shirts whenever they started looking too grubby or stained from food.  It seems another member of my family may have inherited this love.  W bought a white T-shirt at the thrift store this winter and, after a few uses noticed it had a spot that wouldn't wash out (he hasn't changed that much since he was a toddler after all).  He decided he would use some of the black dye I had mixed up for another project (I found a very nice pair of Lululemon fleece yoga pants at a thrift store for $1 but they were a mauve colour and I prefer black) to dye his shirt.
He sorted out how he wanted it to look and used elastics to "tie" it.
Put it in the dye pot.
Rinsed it out.
And hung it out to dry, he is quite pleased with how it turned out.  I have a feeling this may be just the beginning...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stinging Nettle Pie?

Thanks to my generous friend I have been able to keep us well-supplied in nettle this spring while I wait for ours to start to grow up here.  We've had nettle in all sorts of things and, after two dinners of nettle/chickpea canneloni in a row and countless smoothies, the boys (including S) were getting a little worried that I'd gone a little more overboard than usual  and was now going to be putting nettle in Every Single Thing we ate. 
Friday afternoon came on quickly this week and I decided to cap off our busy week with our favourite Dutch Apple Pie.  Just before the pie came out of the oven they all looked at me (a little anxiously, I think) and asked, "Is there nettle in the apple pie?"  Poor things.  I'd almost feel sorry for them except...
a visit to my lovely friend yesterday had me coming home with a huge amount of fresh nettle.  And, as is my tendency, I may have overdone it just a bit; I've got plenty to eat fresh this week and after filling one table cloth full to dry I had to get a queen size sheet out and set it up on the floor to dry more.  This should give me a good start on my year's supply of dried nettle for my infusion (a photo of the gorgeous green infusion on that link).
The Dutch apple pie?  No, it didn't have any nettle in it. This is the recipe I use (with just a little less sugar) and it is delicious. 
 And really, as someone living in an apple growing region, I feel it duty, really, to make apple pie with local apples on a regular basis, it is so important to support our local apple growers and I'm willing to do my part. ;-)  I hope you'll give this recipe a try with some local apples too.  If you do, let me know how you like it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Reasons to Love Preserved Tomatoes

When I preserve my home-grown tomatoes each year I make sure that, along with frozen stewed tomatoes and regular canned tomatoes, I put aside enough for a few batches of tomato passata.  It is such a wonderful thing to have on hand when you want a simple, delicious, no-work kind of homemade dinner.

Just saute some garlic, bay leaves and black pepper in olive oil.  Then add the jar of passata.  It is thin at first but it thickens up wonderfully.  I like to make this in a cast iron fry pan for a few reasons: 1) Cooking acidic foods in cast iron increases the iron content of that food. 2)  The shallow fry pan (as opposed to a pot) allows the sauce to thicken quickly.  3)  Um...I just have a thing about cast iron fry pans and love to use them as often as possible.
Getting nice and thick.  I added some of my dried oregano.
I mix it in with cooked pasta and then serve extra on top of the pasta.  We like it with a sprinkle of fresh romano cheese.  Last night we had it with a delicious Red Kuri squash a generous friend had given to us.
Simple and very delicious.  Not a speck left over.

Monday, April 5, 2010

So Much to Love About Long Weekends

We love long weekends around here.  We love them even more when they involve a road trip.  Road trips are a regular part of our life and we consider them a good opportunity to sort of blow the cobwebs out - change things up, explore something new and just have fun.  Our dog loves them too.
There were properties to look at and, when you're looking at acreages for sale then you're bound to pass some good garage sales too.  I found some metal chairs (4 for $5) that need a bit of fixing to be just what I've been looking for.  W was given a bike frame to work on (just what  he'd been looking for) and S got a box full of old glass insulators (probably 30 of them) for $5!!

There were eggs to be dyed.
There was chocolate to be found.
There were good meals with family and lots of visiting.  And...there was a new-to-us free re-use "store".  Do I even need to tell you how much I love this idea?  I think I'll show you instead.

Plus some other outside things as well. Why doesn't every landfill/transfer station have a free store?   Hope you had a lovely long weekend too.