Saturday, July 30, 2011


Earlier this year we lost our young cat to a most devastating disease - FIP ( Feline Infectious Peritonitis) .  It is a incurable feline disease/virus that cannot be vaccinated for. 

He wasn't even two years old - but he had already made quite a niche into our family.  Our neighbour found him in the wheel well of their truck.  He was about 6 weeks old, covered in flees, and needed to be de-wormed and vaccinated and very hungry. 

He came into our lives as a stray, when hubby was not well.  Even though he was just a baby, he constantly kept close to hubby and kept him company while I was at work.  It was though he came to us as a little angel from heaven and helped in hubby's healing process.   LBC (Little Black Cat - which isn't so little any more), our other cat took a while to accept him but eventually she did and would watch out for him.   They would play together, sleep side-by-side, and even wash each other.   They even teamed up to catch chipmunks and mice in our back yard - which was amazing to watch their strategies.

It was LBC who knew he was sick before we did.  She would constantly watch and sit near him.   This disease took over rapidly and within a month he went from a very healthy energetic cat, scaling fences, hunting for birds/mice/chipmunks, to one who couldn't eat and would hide in corners and have difficulty walking.    After he was gone, for about a week LBC would go from door to door crying, waiting and calling for him to come home.

For those of you who have lost their cat to FIP, or going through it now, it is so very tragic and my sympathies go out to you.  It is a senseless disease and so devastating. 

"Squeek" as a young adolescent

"Squeek" as a young adolescent

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Simple Kale Chips - Recipe

The Food Share CSA has had lots of kale this year.   A fun way to cook up Kale is making chips !

So delicious and lots of nutrients!   It is much healthier than regular potatoe chips.   Its a light, portable snack - for kids lunches, your own portable lunches or for anytime you feel like a "bag of chips". 

Below is the basic recipe, but you can experiment in so many ways with spices, ie garlic, nutritional yeast, chili powder, etc.   For those with sodium restricted diets - use a no-salt herb mix or have fun trying out different herbs and spices.

Wash and dry kale and break leafy sections off the stem.   Place leafy sections in a large bowl, toss with olive oil - or mist with a oil sprayer.  Add seasonings and toss until coated.   Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake in oven at 350F for approx 10-15 minutes. 

spread out on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven

Kale before going in the oven
Kale Chips - fresh out of the oven - yumm !

Friday, July 22, 2011

Water Conservation and Saving Money

Today is suppose to be the hottest day of our summer.   As I write this post at 6:00 am on July 21, the temperature on our thermometer is already 30C.  Today the temperature is predicted to reach 38C, plus with the humidity will feel like over 50C.  Its been many years since we've experienced temperatures like this.   The town has not issued an outdoor water ban yet, however I'm sure it will be coming very soon.  

My garden is wilting fast as we haven't had any rain for over two weeks.   Our nine water barrels, where we've been conserving/collecting rain water are almost dried up and I've been spot watering the veggies that need it the most.  The perennials and grass (which now looks like straw) will have to wait until we get rain.   For the first time this summer, I broke down and used the hose(city water) to water the vegetable garden.

A fellow blogger wrote a good post on "Cutting the Water Bill" (Heartland Living on a Budget) and how to read your meter.  Check it out.

Saving water is not as hard as you think.  Every drop counts!  When you save water, you save money on your utility bills too! Here's my list on ways to conserve water.    What's your's?

1.  Save/freeze the water that is used to steam veggies for soup stock  later.   Or let cool and water garden/plants
2.  Use front loading washing machine - uses less water than top loaders
3.  Installed low flush toilet (our Town had a rebate program which made it very affordable)
4.  Installed low flow shower head in bathroom shower
5.  Installed faucet aerator in the kitchen sink
6.  Turn tap off when brushing teeth
7.  Installed 9 rain barrels around our house to capture as much rain water as we could.   Hubby found most of the rain barrels during his foraging expeditions for free.  One is a 200L square tank, the other is 60L old hot water tank.   Some of these tanks/barrels don't look so nice so we grow vines around them to cover them up - ie Virgina creeper (drought resistant vine) grows fast and does a nice job - so does Boston ivy.
8.  We don't water grass in summer.  
9.  Don't wash your car at home (and if you do, wash it on your lawn so your grass gets watered and not your driveway.
10. When watering the garden, water in early morning or evening so that there is less water evaporation.
11.  Water hanging baskets or pots with ice cubes - giving a slow release of water and water is less likely to pour out the bottom of your pot.
12.  Wash your veggies and fruit in a pan of water instead of under running water.   Re-use the left-over water to water garden
13.  Spread mulch around plants to retain moisture and saves water, time and money
14.  Monitor your water bill for unexplained high use.  Your water meter/bill is a tool to alert you if you have a leak somewhere.
15.  Keep a water jug in your fridge so that you have cold water ready for drinking, instead of running the tap until the water runs cold
16.  Keep a bucket or two in the shower when you shower, to catch water as it warms or runs.  Re-use to water your garden or plants in the house.
17.  Insulate your pipes so that you get hot water faster and avoid wasting water while it heats up.
18.  Soak your pots/pans right after use instead of scrubbing and wasting water later.
19.  Plant drought resistant perennials and ground cover.
20.  Use moisture retaining earth in flower pots
21.  Use water from dehumidifier to water plants

New research we are doing:
- Learning about greywater and how to re-use/re-cycle.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beet Greens (Quiche-Fritta-Popover-Cheese Puff) Squares - Recipe

Early summer brings lots of green vegetables ready for picking.   Some vegetables grow better in the cooler weather.   With the heat we're experiencing now the greens bolt up and go to seed very fast.

Here's a recipe that you can use up those "green" veggies. 

Beet Greens (Quiche-Fritta-Popover-Cheese Puff) Square
Beet Greens (Quiche-Fritta-Popover-Cheese Puff) Squares - Recipe
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 chopped onion
6 cups chopped beet greens (or whatever greens you have - I used spinach and swiss chard and beet greens)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheese
salt (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 baking dish with about 1 tbsp of the butter.  Heat a large skillet and begin to saute the onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil.   Cook until onion begins to brown and soften. Make sure your beet greens are well cleaned and very dry.   Add beet greens and a sprinkle of salt. Cook until beet greens are just tender.  Drain off excess liquid given off while cooking.   

While the onion and beet greens cook whisk the eggs, milk and flour into a smooth batter.  Stir in the cheese.   Put 1 tbsp of butter in the baking dish and place in the warm ofen until the butter melts.  The swirl it around the bottom of the dish.  Put the onion and beet green mixture in the baking dish.  Pour the batter evenly on top.  

Cook for about 30 minutes in the center of the oven until puffed and golden.  It will deflate a bit while cooling.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

With the heat wave we are experiencing, the cool weather veggies in my garden are just about finished (peas/rhubarb/lettuce).   If we get the record temperatures they are predicting (may reach 50C with humidity) in the next couple of days they will be finished.

I've just cut up the last of the rhubarb from my garden, made muffins and froze the rest of the rhubarb to enjoy later.    This recipe came from an old Canadian Chatelaine magazine from 2008.   Very delicious !
Rhubarb Streusel Muffins
Prep 30 mins
Bake 25 mins
Makes 12 Muffins

Streusel Topping
1/3 cup (75 ml)
All-purpose flour 
¼ cup (50 ml) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50 ml) brown sugar
½ tsp (2 ml) cinnamon
3 tbsp (45 mL) cold unsalted butter

3 cups (750 mL) thinly sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (leaves removed and discarded)
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
2 large oranges
¼ cup (50 mL) butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp (5mL) vanilla
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
2 tsp (10mL) baking powder
¾ tsp (4mL) baking soda
½ sp (2mL) cinnamon and salt

1.  In a bowl, stir all topping ingredients, except butter, together.   Cut butter into small cubes and add.  Using your hands, work until just crumbly.   Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).  Lightly spray or grease a 12-cup muffin tin with oil.  If using fozen rhubarb, place in a colander and rinse with water to melt ice crystals.  Pat dry, then thinly slice.  Stir fresh or frozen shubarb with 1/4 cup (50 mL) flour to coat.  Finely grate 1 tbsp (15mL) peel from oranges, then squeeze juice into a small measuring cup.  If there isn't enough juice to measure 1 cup (250mL), add water.   Melt butter and set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk egg.  Stir in peel, juice and vanilla. In a large bowl, using a fork, stir remaining 1 3/4 cups (425mL) flour with sugar, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in centre.  Pour in egg mixrue and cooled melted butter.  Stir until evenly mixed.  Batter will be thick.  Stir in floured rhubarb mixture.

4.  Divide batter between muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.  Sprinkle with topping.  Bake in centre of a preheated oven until tops are golden and a skewer inserted into centre of muffin comes out clean, 25-30 mins.  Let stand a couple of minutes, then run a knife around muffins.   Remove to a rack to cool.  Muffins will keep well, covered at room temperature for up to 2 days.  Or wrap airtight and freeze up to 2 months.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

As My Garden Grows - Part 5

At this time of year there is so much to write about, that I don't know where to begin.  So mutiple posts during summer months on the recipes/yields from the garden and what I've done with them.   I'm trying to make the most of what we grow,  the CSA food share and some pick-your-own local farms.  In order to not waste anything, I'm making up (ie preserving/freezing/drying) whatever I can for later consumption during the winter months when fresh local vegetables are not available.  When winter comes it will be the inside crafts that you'll see the most posts on.

Yield from my garden (2 raised beds 4 x 16 ft and 4 x 12 ft) so far: (Zone 5-Canada)

Swiss Chard

swiss chard
garlic scapes
Herbs - into 2nd harvest - Oregano, dill, cilantro, chives, lemon thyme, rosemary

Just planted a 2nd round of swiss chard for fall harvest.



Garden - 2 raised beds (4 x 16 ft, 4 x 12 feet)



Monday, July 18, 2011

The Perfect Summer Day

Saturday, was the perfect summer day  (hot by Ontario standards), blue skies, ... although we really do need some rain. On Sunday temperature reached 42C in the shade !  Fortunately there was a nice breeze, otherwise the heat would be hard to bear.    Our nine rain barrels surrounding our house are down to their last couple of inches of water, which we use to water the vegetable garden and flower pots.  The grass has become brown and crunchy to walk on.

I started the day by volunteering at our local farmers market to promoting our Bruce Trail Organization. (Bruce Trail) where we had a small booth.

When I got home I cooked up some of the foods from our garden, paring them up with the local food share items, for our freezer.  Hung a couple of loads of laundry outside in the breeze to dry.
Hubby is puttering outside with his new "inventions" to "improve" things outside !   I just went and checked on his "progress", only to find out he's building me a trellis/obelisk for my garden from wood  he found on one of his foraging expeditions during our "large garbage pick-up" days !  Tonights dinner, big salad (from food share, paring up with our own home grown lettuce), Whitewater Cooks dressing (it is truly addictive (Whitewater Cooks dressing recipe), some BBQ pork chops and homemade local Chardonay.  

Once the sun sets somewhat and it is a bit cooler, I'll be doing a bit of weeding and puttering in the garden.   Several virgina creeper vines have cropped up in my veggie garden and will be moving them to plant against the fences.

Virgina Creeper in my veggie garden - soon to have a new home

LBC (Little Black Cat) lounging on her new favourite bench.
Bench was found in one of hubby's foraging expeditions - just needs
a bit of TLC and replace a few boards. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Garlic Scape Recipes - Garlic Scape Soup

In this week's CSA Food share pick up - Garlic Scapes were the "free choice".  I was pretty excited!   I took a large bag, but not too large to look too greedy.  We love the garlic scape pesto recipe I posted on  July 5 - Garlic Scape Pesto and have made about a dozen jars and froze most of it to enjoy for the months to come.

One of the CSA Food Share members sent in this recipe which is absolutely yummy... Garlic Scape Soup.

Garlic Scape
Spinach and Garlic Scape Soup (Serves 4 )
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ to ¾ lb. garlic scapes, trimmed
1 qt. vegetable or mild chicken broth
8 to 10 oz. spinach leaves (I substituted Spinach for Swiss Chard - from our garden)
1 Tbsp. crème fraîche or sour cream
Warm the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the green garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is soft and translucent.
When the garlic is ready, add the stock, raise the heat a bit, and bring it to a boil. Then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Add the spinach, and immediately turn off the stove. Let it sit for 5 minutes – not too long, or the spinach will lose its color – and then, working in batches, purée the mixture in a blender. (Remember never to fill the blender more than a quarter or a third full, because the hot liquid will expand when you turn on the motor.) The soup should be a rich shade of green and very smooth.
Return the soup to the pot, and place it over low heat to re-warm gently. Add 1 Tbsp. crème fraîche or sour cream and another pinch or two of salt. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve warm or hot, with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream, if you like....
Garlic Scapes

Swiss Chard from my garden

Garlic Scape Soup !

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stress Busters

Some of you have asked .. how do you do it !   I work full time, knit, do homecrafts, cooking/preserving , volunteer, keep a blog.   Well, somedays I don't feel like I "do it".    My day job can be stressful, but it's my hobbies and volunteer work that keeps me balanced and re-charges my creative side so that I can do that "day job". 

One of the volunteer jobs I do is being volunteer hike leader for the community.  I am guaranteed to have someone to hike with and being in nature at any time of the year, with the fresh air, exercise (challenging at times), seeing the most amazing scenery, the wildlife and meeting new people is one of the best stress busters going !   When I am out hiking, I leave the stresses of life behind when I enter the quietness of the trails and focus on walking.  Your senses are hightened, and you begin to hear sounds that you don't hear in the suburbs, and see the true beauty of nature.   I am very fortunate to live close to one of the longest hiking trail in Ontario (Canada) - The Bruce Trail.   It is over 850 km  from start to finish - Niagara Falls to Tobemory with many additional side trails too.

Here are few of my most favourie pictures I've taken while out on hikes, some of them I keep as screen savers on my computer as a reminder of the times I can escape on the trails.

Mushrooms - Bruce Penisula

Boardwalk - Toronto Bruce Trail section

Bruce Trail - Scotsdale Farm

Niagara Gorge

Niagara River

My "earned" badges - completed sections of Bruce Trail :
Toronto to Cheltenham - 50+ Km,
Cambridge to Limehouse - 50+ Km

Bruce Trail - August - Scotsdale Farm

Spring - Trillium - Ontario's Provincial Flower - Limehouse

Mushroom - Bruce Penisula

Hiking in Winter

Bruce Trail - Great Esker Side Trail

Hubby hiking on Duff Pit side Trail
That's Me !  Hike in the pouring Rain - Bruce Penisula

Winter Hiking

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blanket Canada

I love to knit and joined our local Knitters Guild.   I have made many new friends who share their passion for knitting and crocheting.    I have learned many new things at the guild.  There is a time for teaching, refreshments and show & tell.  The show & tell time is a fun time where members show what they have made, which is very inspiring.  

One of the members owns her own wool shop.   She has organized a program "Lets Blanket Halton".  "Community” is very important to her shop and thanks to many of her customers, being part of Lets Blanket Halton, over 1500 blankets & nearly 1500 pairs of mittens have been donated locally.    Many of the customers have made squares with donated left over yarns and put them together and last year were able to donate over 120 blankets to local charities.  Blankets were donated to Halton Womans Place, Salvation Army, and Links2Care to be distributed to needy people in Halton Hills.   
At our last Guild meeting of the year she brought bags of knitted squares that needed putting together.  I took a bag of squares home and have put together one blanket so far.   It is rewarding to be part of a group who gives back to the community in such a much needed way. 

The secret to making a blanket is very simple:  just spend at least 8 minutes a day crocheting or knitting.  Soon you will have an 8" x 8" (20cm x 20cm) square. When you have made 48 squares, you sew them together and will have a blanket that measures 48" x 64" (120cm x 160cm).

There are also other organization in Canada that you can contact to help with blankets in your area.   Contact your local knitters guild or visit for more information.

Donated knitted squares waiting to be put together for a blanket

Finished blanket - to be donated in the community where needed most

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Garlic Scape Pesto - Recipe

Our food share CSA pickup this week included garlic scapes.    With the scapes I had in my garden along with the food share I made the most amazing pesto !   It makes soups, baked potatoes, pasta taste so much better !

What are garlic scapes ? ... Garlic scapes are the flower stalk of the garlic.  The entire stalk and flower are edible.  With mild garlic flavor and aroma they are wonderful additions to stew, roasts, marinade, salads, sandwiches, sauces, bread, pasta, pesto, stir-fry, roasted, or even steamed and eaten as a vegetable.  The possibilities are endless!

The garlic scape serves as the stem from which the seed head of the garlic bulb is formed. As the bulb begins to grow and mature, garlic stalks also begin to lengthen. During the growth period, the garlic scape begins to curve. Contained within the garlic scape is a great deal of flavor, although the stalk never does reach the level of the pungent garlic bulb itself.   Initially, the garlic scape is relatively tender, making it ideal for use as an ingredient in several dishes.

There are many medicinal health benefits of garlic.  Garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity.  Garlic is also claimed to help prevent heart disease (including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure) and cancer.[26] Garlic is used to prevent certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancers.

Garlic Scape Pesto
1/4 cup walnuts (any nut or no nuts are fine)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmigiano
1 cup garlic scapes, top flowery part removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Salt/pepper to taste

Place scapes ad walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz unil well combined and somewhat smooth.  Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated.  With rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl.  Add parmigiano to taste, add salt/pepper to taste. 

Makes about 8 oz of pesto.  Can be frozen for later use.    Enjoy !

Garlic scape, before cutting in my garden

Basket of cut garlic scapes

Garlic Scape Pesto !

Friday, July 1, 2011

As my Garden Grows - Part 4

I'm posting the progress on my garden so far this summer.   It's the beginning of July and even though we had a slow start to the season in southwestern Ontario, things are progressing nicely.     Tomatoe plants are starting to flower, peas are flowering and have a few already....yum (which didn't make it to the kitchen - were delicious raw) !   Garlic scapes have been harvested and soon to be another post on what I've done with them !    Radish greens, mint, chives, lemon thyme, spinach and mixed greens have been used in various recipes complementing what I've brought home from our CSA Havest Share.  I'll be sharing various recipes soon on what I've cooked using our garden and harvest fresh veggies !  

Stay tuned ! .......

Raised veggie beds - Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, peppers,
herbs, radishes, peas

Peas, spinach, rhuarb, pol beans, tomatoes

Tomatoes - and my watchful trusty scarecrow rabbit !
Pallet garden - now 2 weeks old... starting to flower

Hens & Chickens thriving !

"LBC" (Little Black Cat) basking in the heat of the concrete deck

Homemade Jam

Preserving food in my grandmother's generation was a way of life.   They didn't have freezers and grocery stores lined with mass produced food as we do today.  Economy was also the motivation for preserving food at home.    Today, economy is again in the forefront.  

There are many benefits to home preserving - you know where your food is coming from, how it is grown, what form of pesticides/fertilizers have been used or if they are organic or not.  You can control what goes into your preserves ie. no added preservatives or colours, the freshest food (I try to make the same day as I've picked the fruit/vegetables).  Preserves make wonderful gifts to family and friends or as a hostess gift and you get a great sense of accomplishment when you make your own preserves.

After making pies, I had enough strawberries and rhubarb to make jam.   The taste of homemade jam far surpasses anything you can buy in the grocery store.  I used the recipe inside the certo box.   This year I tried the certo that requires only half the sugar of regular jam.   It is not as sweet and is 33% less calories as the original certo.   In my opinion a better tasting jam.

Fresh picked strawberries

Homemade Jam

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