Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Collecting Seeds

At this time of year, plants are starting to go to seed.

I've been collecting seeds for next year's garden and, some of the seeds I'll be using in our cooking.

So far, have collected chive seeds, dill, silver dollar (perennial), cilantro (corriander), shasta daisy (perennial), columbine (perennial), nastursiums (annual), marigolds (annual)

collecting seeds for next year's garden

Thursday, August 25, 2011

CSA Farm - Have I told you how much I enjoy it?

Once a week I pick up my food share at the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm close to home after work.  One of the perks is pick you own flowers and herbs.    I love the time spent in the field picking flowers - the quietness of the farm and the nice breeze.   I pick just enough for a lovely vase for home and another one for the office where I work.   After several days, the arrangement may start too look droopy, so I have been taking the best of what's left and drying (on my indoor laundry clothes line now a drying rack for the summer) for a nice arrangement to enjoy in the winter months.

The night of the food share pick up we usually have left overs of some sort, and maybe a fresh salad or steamed vegetables from the pick up to compliment the meal.    After dinner I go through all the vegetables/herbs and wash, and make up a stock or soup with the radish/turnip/carrot tops, wash up the herbs for drying, and make two lovely flower arrangements from the pick you own flowers.

This weeks pick up included :
radishes and greens (greens already made into soup)
garlic (saving some to plant in my own garden !)
kale (already made into kale chips - for snacks)
carrots and tops (used in the soup with radish greens)
beans (steamed with carrots for dinner - leftover water saved/frozen as vegetable stock for later use)
green pepper
summer squash
green onions
splet flour
Fresh picked flowers
Fresh picked basil and sweet marjoram (some used in soup already - rest is drying or chopped up and frozen for later use)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Scarves - Hand Knit

I've been so busy with working, gardening and preserving and hiking that I haven't had much time for knitting.   Besides, it's been just too hot to hold yarn for sweaters in my lap.  

I did manage though to knit up quickly two scarves for both my mom and sister who share the same birthday month.  I choose colours they both love to wear and tried out the new yarn which is all the craze here in Canada.    One of my favourite yarn shops inspired me to knit up these scarves is Georgetown Yarn & Crafts Shop  (You never have too many scarves.... )

Our Knitters Guild will be starting up soon in September after a summer break and this year I'll be helping out the program co-ordinator.   We always have a show and tell time at our Guild meetings, but  I usually don't have anything to share at our monthly meetings because as soon as I've made something, it's been sent off as gifts for someone.   I do have a couple of projecs in the works (one is actually for me ... a first ! ) and as soon as I have those done they will be posted.   One is the swallowtail shawl (posted on Ravelry - free membership - an amazing site for anyone who loves working with yarn) and a shawl/sweater.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Simple Protein Bars

Need a recipe for a good healthy snack?   I came across this recipe for protein bars from the Heart & Stroke Association.  They are easy to make, low in sodium and sugars, good source of fiber and protein. 

They are very portable, great for kids lunches or to take on hikes.
You can substitue peanut butter for any nut butter or tahini, as well as add other fruits such as dried chopped apricots, pumkin seeds, sesame seeds, other nuts.  Experiment and have fun to what suits your family tastes.

Individually wrap them up and freeze, then they are ready whenever you need/want them.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Art of Using Up

What do you do with the vegetable peelings... ie carrot skins, beet tops, carrot tops, radish or turnip tops, onion skins, or few extra vegetables/beans/rice from a meal - but not enough for another meal ?
What do you do with that bread that has dried out?
What do you do with that chicken/turkey carcus after it's been picked over, or that ham or lamb bone?
What do you do with the drippings from a roast of beef or lamp or chicken ?
What do you do with leftovers ......

Every year hundreds of dollars are wasted with food spoliage or throwing out perfectly good food which could be used in another way in every home.   In our house little goes to waste and every bit of food is put to some use.

We love "left-overs", either for another meal during the week or for "brown bag" lunches.

Vegetable peelings are saved in a bag in the freezer, waiting for making stock.  Dried out bread is either ground up for bread crumbs for use in another recipe, or made into croutons.  The drippings from roasts are also frozen for later use in gravy/soup or any recipe calling for beef / chicken stock.  After the chicken/turkey is cooked up and picked over, every little bit of meat is gathered up and saved/frozen for a casserole later, or added to a soup pot (Simple Stone Soup).   The bones are put in a large pot and boiled for stock.   The same goes with a ham bone.   When I steam vegetables/boil potatoes the leftover steamed water is poured into a container in the freezer (which contains lots of vitamins), and I keep adding to it until full, and then start another container.  Then I always have vegetable stock on hand whenever I need it .

A ham (with bone) can go a long way.  For instance, it can be roasted/simmered and sliced up for one or more meals, depending on the size of your ham, left over pieces can be used in a casserole, soup pot or chopped up and mixed with pickle, chopped celery, green onion or chives, mayonaise for a nice sandwich filling.   The bone can be boiled up for wonderful pea or bean soup.    The possibilities can go on - all you need is some imagination !

One of our favourite simple meals with left over ham is "Ham with Dumplings" - Serves 4-5
2 cups diced cooked ham
2 tbsp chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
3 tbsp margarine or butter
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt (I leave out - ham is salty enough)
2 tbsp chopped green pepper

Saute onion and celery in butter/margarine.  Blend in flour and add milk gradually and cook slowly until thickened.  Season to taste (Ham is salty so I don't add the salt called for)  Add green pepper and ham.  Scrape into a greased casserole dish. 

Mix topping ingredients in order given for dumplings.   Spread soft dough over ham mixture and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

Dumpling ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp shortening
1/3 cup grated cheese
2/3 cup milk

Enjoy !

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Large Garbage Days - One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure...

"Large Garbage Days" in our neighbourhood occurs about once a month during spring/summer and fall.   People are allowed to put out large items that would not normally be collected on regular garbage days.   You are allowed only to put out several items, however everyone puts out as much as they want a day or two before pick up and then go around looking at what others put out.  Often the items you put out are gone before the garbage trucks come by to collect.  Some forage for items that can be resold in their future garage sales, or take to a recycler for cash (ie steel, copper wiring etc).

Hubby is great at foraging on large garbage days !  I give him my "shopping list" and out he goes.  It is absolutely amazing at what people throw out, toss to the end of the curb and no longer want. 

Some of the things hubby has brought home are (some of which still need some fixing up) :  enough wood to heat our home for a whole winter, build our raised veggie garden beds and arbour for a climbing rose bush, pallets (one of which serves as a new "pallet garden" - see my post on pallet garden), a perfectly good Honda lawn mower  (the blade was just installed upside down), various garden treasurers, including a bird bath, window boxes, wicker plant stand, bench, rain barrels (9) now surrounding our house - (which holds most of the rain water we need for watering the vegetable garden), wheel barrow, wicker chair, hanging basket (of what looked like dead flowers - which I brought to life - see picture below), a weather main - with stain glass, bambo bed frame (which now serves as a trellis for my perennial sweet peas), ceramic pots, coffee maker, perfectly good furniture, lamps, and the list goes on !

Here are just a few of the treasures he has brought home - all for free ! 

Wicker chair and hanging basket - brought back to life

Stained glass weather main

bench - back to be repaired - It's now our LBC's (Little Black Cat)
favourite place to lounge - so she can keep an eye on the

wicker bench - just added some decorative pillows

old child's chair - now gracing the perennial beds

wicker plant stand holding
my 25 year old Hoya plant

one of 9 rain barrels storing rain water around our house

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

As My Garden Grows - Part 6

It's mid August now and the days are already starting to get shorter.  Some vegetables are almost done their time (ie peas).  Zucchini is almost done too as the mildew got to it, despite working to keep it at bay.  But, I may get a couple more zucchinis before the plants are done.

Tomatoes were a struggle this year, unlike other years.  With the dry spell we had and trying to keep up with the watering, they seemed to go bad at the bottoms of the fruit.   In talking with other gardeners they are also experiencing the same problem.  We've had more rain the past week so I'm hoping that the problem may have corrected itself.   The cherry tomatoes are doing very well.

I've planted a new crop of radish, spinach and swiss chard - and hope to get another crop before the frost comes.   The beans are beginning and have had two meals of them already.  This year planted purple pole beans and scarlet runners beans.   The purple pole beans are pretty, and they do cook up green ! 

The pallet garden  is filling out nicely with drought resistant plants, and I have already begun making my list of ideas and changes for next year's garden !

This morning's pickings from the garden

Purple pole beans

pallet garden

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"It's Not Easy Being Green"

No matter how you slice it being "green" takes work.   In my view, a few ways of being green are:
  1.  If you want to reduce your water consumption, but successfully grow your own vegetables during hot dry summer months, you need to collect water during the rainy times.  We have several rain barrels surrounding our house to collect rainwater.  The challenge is getting the water out these tanks into the garden. You can fill buckets one at a time and do spot watering - which takes time - and yes you could look at it being great exercise ... but depending on the size of your garden, you could take a couple of hours to water the essentials (ie vegetables) and the odd pot of annuals to give the garden some colour. On the weeks where we didn't get any rain that could be every day.  In the large 200 gal tank we have, we drop a small submersible pump into the tank with a garden hose connected, which is a less strenuous way of watering and much faster.
  2. To eat healthy - Grow your own food.    
  3. Cooking from scratch is the best way to cook, eliminating processed foods, so that you can control the amount of sodium, sugar, preservatives, colourants, etc which is in processed foods.   This also cuts down on the packaging that comes with processed foods.
  4. Air dry your laundry- to save on electricity consumption and reduce your electricity bill, by hanging inside or out.
  5. Our electricity rates vary depending on the time of day.   They call it "time of use" (TOU) billing.  We try to use electricity in the "off peak times" (peak time in my area is right at dinner time), which means planning and being organized.
All of these take time to do. If you work full time outside the home, add commuting time to/from work, it can eat up about 10-12 hrs of your day, which doesn't leave alot of time to look after a garden, and cook/preserve from scratch, and do laundry (which are just the basics), which can consume what time you have left when you're working outside the home.

There is alot to be said in my mother's / grandmother's day, when one parent stayed home, so that most of these things could be done during the day, leaving some evenings and time on weekends free of the "daily chores". My grandmother didn't have the modern day conveniences that we have today. She didn't even have an automatic washing machine - and in the early days of her marriage used a wash board, and later when she had a manual wringer washer she thought she was pretty lucky.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy doing all of these things, however some days it seems I need alot more energy, when I feel I have no energy left.   Being "Green" is a commitment and needs to become a way of life in order for our world to become more sustainable.   I wonder sometimes, in this part of the world, so many have become accustomed to all the modern day conveniences and their lives are so full, how they would manage/survive if they didn't have their automatic dishwashers, washing machines, various electrical appliances which are suppose to make our lives easier.   Alot of people don't even know where our food comes from, how it is grown or have ever been to a farm.   Or would know what to do if we didn't have electricity and couldn't flip a switch, let alone if there was no gas at the pumps.  There is alot to be said in learning the lost basic skills our grandparents had.
ARTIST: Muppets
TITLE: It's Not Easy Being Green
It's not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be

Monday, August 8, 2011

Simple Nappa Cabbage Salad - Recipe

Each week in our CSA pick up there are different vegetables to choose, and we aren't always sure what will be available.   That's the fun part of the CSA, in not knowing what's ready that week and making creative meals around what you bring home and learning to "cook in season".   One o fthe items in our CSA this week was nappa cabbage.  One of our favourite summer salads is the "Nappa Cabbage Salad".  
This is salad has been a big hit at various family functions and pot lucks.  It is easy to make and can be made ahead of time.  It's portable to any function you need to take a dish to -- make all the ingredients ahead of time and assemble just before serving. 

Nappa Cabbage Salad
1 head napa cabbage
1 bunch minced green onions
1/4 cup butter
1 (3 oz) package ramen noodles, broken
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup rice or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/8 cup white sugar

Crush noodles, place them in medium size skillet and lightly brown in butter over med heat.  Add sesame seeds and slivered almonds.  Stir often to prevent burning.  Add seasoning mix from noodle package and let cool.

Finely shred cabbage.  Combine the green onions and cabbage in a large bowl, refrigerate until ready to serve.

Prepare dressing by whisking together the vegetable oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar.

Just before serving, combine noodle mixture and cabbage mixture.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Foraging for Raspberries

Wild raspberries are in season right now.   The other day, my daughter and I went on our first foraging expedition together.   It was fun !   There was an abundance of raspberries and within a little over an hour we'd picked a quart of these tiny little berries.    They were so ripe they were practically falling into our hands.   These little berries are packed with flavour and have now been turned into jam !

Wild Raspberries
Raspberry/Peach Jam Recipe
4 cups raspberries
2 cups peaches (peeled and pitted)
3 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
1 box (49g) Light Certo pectin crystals (uses much less sugar than regular Certo)

Place cleaned raspberries and cut up peaches in large pot.  Add lemon juice. Mash fruit.  Combine Certo light crystals with 1/4 cup of measured sugar.  Add to prepared fruit.

Bring to a boil over hight heat.  Add rest of sugar.  Return to a hard boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir and skim for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit.  Pour into hot sterilized jars to 1/4 inch from rim.  Cover with lids and screw rings on tightly.   Makes 6 half pint jars. (6 x 250mL jars)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Learning to Forage

We're learning to forage!   What is foraging?  Foraging is a skill that has become almost forgotten.  It is the joy of picking, tasting the flavours given to us by nature.    Our society has become disconnected with where our food comes from, but our ancestors knew this skill and used on a daily basis to survive.     

Educate yourself before you go out foraging and be sure to know what you are picking before you pick and eat.   It's very important to know how to identify a particular plant and to know if it's edible as there are many plants that are not edible and can make you sick or worse.  There are many books available on this very topic and I've started to create a small library of my own for reference.   The Library is also a great source of information.

My daughter foraging for raspberries
Reasons to Forage
1)  Provides outdoor exercise and fun !!
2)  Foraged food is free of pesticides, herbicides and genetic modification
3)  Foraged food provides amazing flavours
4)  It's a source of food in survival situations
5)  The food you find is free - which reduces your food costs
6)  It increases your awareness of the plant world
7)  The food is highly concentrated in vitamins and minerals

When foraging, be sure to dress appropriately and bring the right tools, ie scissors, gloves, containers for collecting items, etc.  Wear proper shoes, long pants/shirts to protect yourself from bugs and cuts/scrapes.  Wear a hat so you don't get sun/heat stroke on a sunny day. Bring bug repellent if needed and always remember to bring water so you don't get dehydrated.

What would you do if you went to the grocery store and there was no food on the shelves?  Would you have the skills to sustain yourself?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Black Currant Jam

Our CSA pick up this week included "pick your own" black currants.   It was so peaceful picking the currants the other evening.  No noise of traffic or machinery, just the odd bird chirping.  There was a cool breeze - which kept the bugs away !    It was also "pick your own" flowers too, and I picked enough for a nice arrangements for our kitchen table.


Black Currant Jam Recipe
Black currants - 2 lbs (1.8 kg)
water - 1 1/3 cups (300 mL)
granulated sugar - 8 cups (1.8L)
Liquid pectin - 3 oz (85 g)

If, after washing the currants they are cleanly steammed, you can either pick off the remaining blossom ends (tedious and time consuming) or place currants into a large pot without removing the ends, with the water.  Simmer, stirring occasionally and coarsely mash with a potatoe masher. You will never know the difference.  Simmer for approx 30 mins until skins are very tender.

Stir in sugar until it disolves and mixture comes to a full rolling boil.  Boil hard for 10 minutes.  Stir once or twice.

Add pectin.  Boil hard for 2 minutes.  Fill hot sterlized jars to within 1/4 inch(6mm) of top.  Seal.   Makes about 8 half pints (or 8 x 250 mL jars).

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