Sunday, June 26, 2011

Homemade Pie !

Baking pies has almost become a lost art these days.  Besides, who has time to bake pies !   Pies are easier to make than most people think and doesn't take long to make.   The secret to a good pie is the pastry.   

It's strawberry and rhubarb season here in Southwestern Ontario.  These two fruits go great together in a pie - the sweet strawberry and tart rhubarb ! 

I'm posting my favourite "full-proof" pastry recipe for everyone along with my Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe - ENJOY !

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie - Fresh from the oven

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 egg
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups sliced strawberries
Pastry recipe below

Preheat oven, Mix sugar, flour and eggs, add to strawberry/rhubarb mix.  Prepare pastry and line pie plate, reserving some for top crust.  Add rhubarb/strawberry mixture and cover with top crust; seal and flute edge.  Make slits on top crust to allow steam to escape.  Bake in hot oven, then reduce heat and continue baking until fruit is cooked and pastry is golden brown.

Pie plate : 9 inches (23 cm)
Temperatures and cooking time:
230 C (450 F) - 10 minutes
180 C (350 F) - 45-50 minutes

Full Proof Pastry Recipe
Makes enough pastry for 3 pies -
left overs can be frozen to used for
another pie later.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Harvest Share - CSA

What is a CSA ?   "Community Supported Agriculture" (CSA) is a model of food production, sales, and distribution aimed at connecting local farmers with local consumers. 

Members of a CSA pledge financial support towards the farm's seasonal operating budget at the beginning of the season when the money is needed most.  This helps with the financial pressures farmers have and allows them to focus on the fine points of growing good food for the membership.  In return for their investment, members ensure that they have access to a weekly portion of the harvest.  Becoming a member of a CSA creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown and those who grow it. 

This is the first time I am a CSA member and supporting a local farm close to where I live.  This farm uses organic and biodynamic practices.  Once a week I can pick up my food share at the farm.     It is week 2 into the season and here is a list of vegetables I have brought home:

Mixed Salad Greens
Bok Choi
Sweet Potatoes
Green Garlic
and Pick my own herbs

I try to build our meals around our food share and am learning to cook vegetables that I haven't tried before.    I am learning to be more creative and try to use every bit of the vegetables I get that week.  For instance, I didn't know that radish greens were edible and how tasty they are in soup.   I made this week a delicious creamed radish greens soup (I'll never throw out radish greens again), sweet potato salad (with a curry dressing), spring stir-fry, among other delicious meals.    

Here is the recipe for the Radish Greens Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cups radish greens, chopped
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 green garlic
salt/pepper to taste
1/2 cup balkan style plain yogurt (I used low fat) / or 1/3 c heavy cream

In large saucepan, heat oil of medium heat, add chopped onion.  Saute, stirring often until onion is soft and translucent.  Add radish greens and wilt, then add stock.  Bring to boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add mint, parsley, salt/pepper to taste.     Remove from heat and puree in blender in small batches.   Stir in yogurt.   Reheat if necessary.  Garnish with chopped chives before serving.

Makes about 6 servings.

Enjoy !

Friday, June 17, 2011

Simple Pallet Garden

Do you one of those spots in your garden or yard where you can't seem to grow much?
I have one of those spots !  There is one section of the back wall our house, which just bakes in the late afternoon sun, doesn't get much, if any, moisture because of the roof overhang, and the wall itself isn't much to look at. 

In browsing the internet one day I came across this blog ( a perfect solution to our problem - "Turn a pallet into a Garden" !   What a great idea !   And, since we had pallets already at our house from hubbies wood foraging expeditions, I decided to give it a try. 

I used a couple of bags of potting soil and dug up a few drought resistent perennials I had in the garden, such as "hens & chicks" and sedum and a sun loving drought resistant annual - portulaca.

Thanks "Life on the Balcony" for a great idea !

My new pallet garden

Hens & chicks - and a litte sedum peeking through

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Things I have learned to save money

According to some of the news headlines the "recession" may not be over yet and the economy is slow to recover, and there is some talk of a "double-dip" recession.   

There are ways you can protect yourself.  The secret is what you are prepared to do, give up or do without.

In one of my previous posts we have learned to live on one salary (not by choice). 
Here's my list (not in any particular order) of ways we have learned to cut back, but still enjoy life.

1)      Learned about phantom power - installed power bars - electricity savings
2)      Changed light bulbs to LED or CFLs - electricity savings
3)      Use the library instead of buying books
4)      Installed low flow shower head in shower, as well as one for kitchen sink to save on water bill
5)      Installed a low flush toilet - more savings on water bill
6)      Stopped using the dryer for drying clothes.  Instead hang laundry inside and outside on a clothes line - more electricity savings - plus less wear/tear on clothes makes them last longer. (see my post on "Simple Laundry”)
7)      Regularly review all utility bills to see what we can change to reduce bills further.
8)      Save rain water for watering plants inside and garden - (free water)
9)      Heat with wood in fireplace in winter to cut heating costs (see my post on "Simple Heating")
10)  Subscribed to various blogs such as "The Simple Dollar", "Get Rich Slowly", "Simply Frugal" to keep me focused.
11)  Read books on personal finance.  Re-read "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robins & Joe Dominguez every year.
12)  Cut out unnecessary add-on's to cable TV/internet/telephone.  These little extra charges can add up quickly (consider cutting out TV altogether)
13)  Started a vegetable garden and grow as much as I can (see my posts on “Simple Garden”, "As My Garden Grows" and “Simple Winter Garden – Growing your own indoor winter garden”)
14)  Take vacations at home
15)  Look for free entertainment (borrow DVDs from Library, go for picnics/walks, hikes, etc)
16)  Do my own taxes (ie don't pay someone else to do them for me)
17)  Stopped colouring my hair (it's not healthy anyway)
18)  Try and "buy nothing" for a month, or 2 or 3 (except essentials)
19)  Simplify meals - go meatless a couple times a week.
20)  Cook from scratch (it's healthier for you)
21)  Build meal plans around what is "on sale" at the grocery stores
22)  “Brown bag” work lunches, and bring my own coffee/tea to work.  I carry with me health snacks when out on errands or when I know I'll be home past a meal time so I'm not tempted to buy something.
23)  Use slow cooker more often, use oven less (electricity savings)
24)  Stock up on items when on sale, use coupons (but only for items I would normally buy)
25)  Shop 2nd hand first before buying new
26)  Mend it or make it when I can
27)  Reduce or re-use
28)  Learning to forage (Foraging is the act of searching for food - finding edible wild plants).  This year have made jelly from dandelions, and honeysuckle.  Picked garlic mustard (soon to be another post) for use in soups and stews.  Check out a wonderful blog on foraging …. for some great ideas.  (see also my post on the Simple Dandelion)
29)  Keep healthy – regular exercise (see my post on “Simple Exercise”)
30)  Simplify my life (see post on my Journey to Simplicity)

I’d love to hear about ways you have saved money.  Post your comments.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Simple Dandelion

For years people have tried rid of their lawns and gardens of dandelions.  They spray them with chemicals, dig them up, pour boiling water on them, and try every trick in the book to get ride of them.   But, still they prevail.    With the recent ban on pesticides in our province this year there have been more dandelions than I can ever remember.  

Did you know that dandelions are good for you ?  According to Health Canada, 1 cup (250 ml) of raw dandelion greens equals a daily serving of vegetables and they're packed with vitamines, including A, C, and K, and minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium.   "From the bright flowers down to the dark--almost black-- roots, dandelions complement a variety of tasty, and nutritious, foods and beverages.  And their reputation as medicinal plants reaches at least as far back as ancient Greece.  The dandelion's official name, Taxaraxacum officinale, stems from the Greek taraxous meaning disorder, and akos, or remedy.  (According to "Alive Magazine", a Canadian natural health and wellness magazine),  

"In China, by the 7th century, dandelions had claimed their spot as herbal remedies for ailments, including liver, kidney, and digestive disorders.  By the 1400s they had found their way into the cuisine of most European countires.   The French have feasted on this plant for centuries, calling it dent-de-lion because its sharp, serrated leaves resemble lion's teeth.  Hence the anglicized dandelion."

Dandelions can be used in a variety of recipes.  The leaves are great in salads, sauteed, and blanched.  The flowers can be used in making dandelion wine, jelly/jam, and sauteed as a snack.  The roots can be roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute.   The leaves can also be steeped in boiling water for 4-6 minues to make a tea and sweetened with honey to enhance digestion. 

Next time you go to dig up that dandelion in your yard think of all the think of all the benefits this simple plant can bring !

This year I picked the flowers and made dandelion jelly.  There are many recipes to choose from, and I chose one to try from "", a light, delicate tasting jelly.

Fresh picked dandelion blossoms

Dandelion blossom petals ready for making jelly

Dandelion Jelly

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