Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'tis the season

I love Christmas.

I love decorations, and wrapping gifts, and spending time with friends and family.

I love Christmas baking, and colourful lights, and the smell of a real tree in the living room.

This season has been busy, husband's office had post work drinks and nibbles on the 10th, and I attended a party on the 11th. We also went for drinks at a friends on the 17th while hosting our annual party on the 18th. With a record breaking number of guests (27 plus us) the house was hopping and happening with wine and beer flowing, and conversations flowing throughout the rooms (and the requisite traffic jam in the kitchen).

This week I finished my shopping and wrapped all my gifts. Can't wait until Friday to be heading over to mom and dads for the 24th and 25th.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Baking

In addition to trips to Costco and Superstore (preparing for our upcoming annual party)yesterday I did some Christmas baking (and several loads of laundry).

Shortbread cookies following my grandmothers handwritten recipe

A bar cookie (before slicing) from the Pioneer Woman's website
I made the squares about 1" x 2" and got twice as many as the recipe stated.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Decorations


Garland by the door

Festive Pillows

Misc Decorations

Coffee table Centerpiece

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finished...and not

Here are the two shelves in the basement that I've appropriated for canning storage.From left to right on the top shelf we have:
  • Crab Apple Sauce
  • Crab Apple Jelly
  • Rhubarb Vanilla Jam
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
  • Blu-barb Jam
  • Raspberry Jam
The bottom shelf holds (again, left to right)
  • Rhubarb Chutney
  • Corn Relish
  • Dilly Beans
  • Pickled Jalapeno and Serrano Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Tomatoes (two pre-spiced as per a recipe in my Bernardin Canning book)
I've canned over 5 dozen jars of food this year, all in small batches. I was done, finito, all ready for fall (along with all the freshly frozen veggies in my deep freeze and my carrots and potatoes from the garden - most of the carrots are still there in fact). I've washed all the canning equipment, save the pot since I'm using the water in it to water my houseplants and then dad called to ask me to can him some pickled beets.

I'm too nice.

Skillet Delicious

It definitely doesn't have to be fancy to be delicious. That was the lesson learned after eating this amazing Friday night dinner. Everything in the pan came out of our backyard garden except for the sausage and the the salt and pepper. Plus I'd dug most of it up that after noon so there was no arguing freshness.

It started with the final potato harvest. I'd already dug up 4 of our 11 plants over the last 3 weeks but with all the frost hitting now I wanted to get some progress done on the garden clean up. (That and I was planting garlic bulbs in the front potato patch and needed to harvest the potatoes and do a quick weed and rake first.) The smal bowl of potatoes on the right was used for dinner (with leftovers of course). I washed them well and then diced up the larger pototoes so that all the pieces were the size of the tiny ones.

I'd cooked the sausage (sweet basil italian) about 3/4 of the way through and removed them to a cutting board to slice. Giving the skillet a quick wash and oil I added some oil and the potatoes and cooked them at medium-low for about 20 minutes. Once cooled, I sliced the sausage and added it back to the skillet. I cooked the sausage and potatoe for another 5 or so minutes before adding all the veg, which in this case was one zucchini, the handful of green beans I got (cry), 5 small carrots, 3 mini bell peppers, and two diced serrano peppers. A touch of salt and pepper and another 8ish minutes to cook the veggies through.
I call it Skillet Delicious - because it was

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fresh Eats

I went out and yanked up all my bell peppers and cucumbers this afternoon. While I was at it I grabbed a handful of purple carrots and the last of the dill. These will be for dinner tomorrow along with some fish and a spinach salad.

I also grabbed the three (cry) ripe cherry tomatoes off the plant in the garage. Ty and I shared them - I cut the third one in half. I've killed off virtually all the aphids on it. A couple more days and I'll bring it into the house proper. We'll get those 30 odd tomatoes on it to ripen if it kills me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Busy Busy

Note to self: never buy 40 lbs of food that must be dealt with immediately (or almost immediately) when working 6:00 am start times. Coming home after an 8 hour shift when you're exhausted and having to cook for 2 or 3 hours each day is draining.

First off, it screws up your math skills. For some reason I had convinced myself that I had bought 5 lbs of lean ground beef. When I was carrying it through the store it seemed heavier than that. When I was portioning and wrapping it the blobs seemed bigger than usual. But no, it took me until yesterday (coincidentally my first day off after working 6 in a row) that when beef costs $1.99/lb and you pay $20 that in fact you get 10 lbs of meat, not 5 lbs. No worries though, I can always chop a hunk in half while frozen, but my large batches of chili take 2 lbs as does a meatloaf (which I'm making tonight along with a zucchini potato casserole)

The 10 lb tube of ground beef I bought

In addition to that I had 10 lbs of zucchini that I had received from a coworker in exchange for some jam. Well I insisted on the jam, she was just offering up zucchini. I have zucchini growing in my garden, but I bought and planted the seeds late so while we have enough to eat as a vegetable (though did you know that technically it's a fruit) I didn't have enough to bake with, and I've been dreaming about carrot zucchini muffins and chocolate zucchini loaf since I planted the seeds. We've since eaten one loaf and 8 muffins and I froze the second loaf and 4 muffins. I totally forgot to take pictures of that production however I'll now entertain you with a shot of one of the zucchini along with the jalapenos (pre-pickling) and peaches (pre-canning)

Large Zucchini, Jalapeno Peppers, Peaches

The zucchini in the above picture was grated and I froze two packed 2 cup portions for future baking and will be using the remainder for my casserole tonight. The peaches were canned in a light syrup and I've got about 8 servings for later in the winter (first time trying to can peaches - didn't want to go overboard). The peppers were either sliced into rings or diced and pickled and canned along with the serrano peppers from my garden. I have two half pints of jalapeno slices, 1 of diced jalapenos, 2 of a diced jalapeno/sliced serrano blend, and one 1/2 cup jar or sliced serranos.

I had also bought peas (shelled, blanched, and frozen), green beans (I have enough for one meal in my yard - god this has been the shittiest summer for vegetable growing) and while I blanched and froze the bulk I used the brine from the peppers to jar 2 half pints of dilly beans (dill from the one plant that survived summer of fail) and a bunch of green Roma tomatoes at $.99/lb. I'm ripening them in shoe boxes with bananas (speeds the process) and will quarter and jar those next week. Tomatoes ripened off the vine are nowhere near as good as on the vine of course, but with my plants producing enough for one jar at the moment, beggars couldn't be choosers (and the green tomatoes fit my budget.

Tomato + banana (close box) = ripe and decent 10ish days later

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekend Food Purchases To be Dealt With

5 lb package lean ground beef
  • package into 1 lb portions and freeze
  • upload funny picture of tube of beef to blog
Huge bag of peas
  • shell, blanch, freeze
Jalapeno Peppers (and Serrano Peppers from Garden)
  • wash
  • slice or dice
  • pickle and hot water bath
Zucchini (two extra large ones received in trade for Bluebarb Jam)
  • grate first zucchini
  • make carrot zucchini muffins
  • make two chocolate zucchini loaves
  • grate second zucchini ***totally haven't needed it yet
  • make zucchini fritters to go with dinner
  • blanch, skin, and section
  • can with light syrup and hot water bath
Green Roma Tomatoes
  • stash in cardboard boxes with a banana in each to ripen
  • blanch, peel, halve, and hot water bath
oh dear lord I may never be done.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

me and the man

Circa 2008



making soup soon
still bored

got an invite to a cocktail wedding celebration party

it's in November...sigh

bored now

crappy weather


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some garden shots


Serrano Peppers

Purple Bell Peppers

Green Bell Peppers

Green Beans - come on guys, you're almost there

Cherry Tomatoes - so close to ripe


Monday, September 6, 2010

A Special SYTYCD Canada Performace

This performance is nearer and dearer to my heart than any other. I love Stacey Tookey for expression the emotional journey of one of my closest friends.
zSHARE video - Episode 9 - Part 4.avi.flv

Pizza Pizza Pizza

The husband and I were recently both in the bridal party for the wedding of two dear friends, though in a slight twist, we were both standing up for the groom (I was the best man (woman, whatever). The lovely couple went off to the Bahamas for a honeymoon as now, upon having returned to Calgary came over Saturday evening for beer and pizza.

The pizza prep began Friday evening with a trip to Lina's Italian market for cheese and meat. Holy mother of something, the pizza pepperoni from there is the best I've ever eaten. For pizza I picked up the pepperoni, some prosciutto, a hot pepper, fresh basil, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Then because I was there I also bought dried porcini mushrooms, three different types of dried pasta (cheaper and better than Safeway people), pancetta, and some hazelnut chocolate cookie tart things from the bakery (I have no self control in an Italian market).

I should have made my pizza dough Friday and tossed it in the fridge but Saturday was fine...just a touch stickier to work with.

I use the dough recipe from The Pioneer Woman which is both delicious and easy as hell (virtually no working the dough at all - yay).

Pizza Crust (makes two pizzas)
4 cups flour
1.5 cups water
1 tsp instant dried yeast
1 tsp salt (Pioneer woman says Kosher, mine is a fine sea salt)
1/3 cup olive oil (plus extra)

Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water. Let sit there while you do everything else

In your beloved KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer (or is that just me)with paddle attachment combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (2), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture (that you gave a quick stir to and mix until just combined, and the dough is a sticky mess.

Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside for 1 to 2 hours, or store in the fridge until you need it. I highly recommend making it at least 12 hours in advance otherwise it's still pretty sticky when you try to stretch it out. Just keep it in the bowl (covered with plastic wrap) in the fridge. I've had some in there for 2 days and it really does get yummier with time. That Pioneer Woman knows her stuff.

My pizza sauce is made from scratch and is easy as sin.

Pizza Sauce (Makes enough for two pizzas)
7 normal sized tomatoes on the vine
half a bunch basil
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp-ish olive oil

Peel and seed tomatoes (easiest if you first blanch them) and then rough chop them into 8 or so pieces. They'll cook down, it's not an exact science.

Peel and mince garlic and rough chop the basil.

Add tomatoes, olive oil and garlic to pot. Cook on medium for 10 minutes. Add half the basil, cook another 10-15 minutes. Mash tomatoes down with potato masher, keep cooking. Add rest of basil, cook to desired consistency. Feel free to puree with an immersion blender if you're not into rustic looking chunks (I am).

Okay, pizza time. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Stretch or roll out half the pizza dough into a large rectangle (the size of a cookie sheet) This takes a couple of minutes.

Be patient.

Once dough is laid out on the sheet, apply toppings. For the pizza in the following picture I used sauce, then grated fresh mozzarella, then pepperoni, ripped up prosciutto, grated Parmesan cheese, and then the hot red pepper. Mon's half of the pizza on the right has only mozzarella, cheddar, and parm cheese (she's picky)

For best results bake one at a time on a low rack for 11 minutes each.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lattice Top Peach Raspberry Pie

Raspberry season is dying down right? Or at least it seems to be everywhere but my backyard. After making raspberry jam, raspberry tarts, blueberry and raspberry sauce and just plain eating raspberries I was running low on ideas. The internet of course provides suitable inspiration and I've altered up this following recipe based off of finding on

We served this for dessert last Sunday when my mom and dad came over. Dinner was a grilled splatchcocked Rosemary-Garlic chicken, potatoes from our garden, and green beans from the Farmers Market.

Peach Raspberry Pie
4 cups fresh peaches (peeled, pitted, sliced)
1 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 deep dish pie crusts (recipe of your choice or store bought - I'm not here to judge, and I totally use store bought pie crusts half the time)

Preheat oven to 400.

Place peaches and raspberries in a large bowl. Add sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix gently to blend flavours.

Using a spoon, transfer mixture to pie crust. Now as you can see from the picture I made a totally podunk lattice top for my pie. Feel free to
a) do a better job yourself
b) copy my not quite right but rustic stylings, or
c) top with the other pie crust.

If taking route c) wet the pie edges gently and crimp top and bottom crusts together with a fork. Don't forget to slice a few vents in the top as well.

Bake for 45 minutes, let sit on your counter taunting you all afternoon, and devour with family after applying a small dollop of ice cream to slice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rhubarb Chutney

Did you know that if you harvest rhubarb the plant will regrow (and more than once, I get three growths off my plants - though the stalks get thinner with each) In addition to my plants one of my across the alley neighbors (who has the bigggest rhubarb patch I've ever seen) had offered me free range to harvest her rhubarb. The plot in question is 4 or 5 massive plants that take up a space about 4 foot by 5 foot. Now imagine that regenerating twice over. At least one other neighbor also harvests from her and there's still tons growing back there.

Now I hate to see perfectly good plants go to waste but how much more rhubarb could I deal with? I've already made three types of jam with rhubarb, one pie, and have rhubarb for three more pies frozen in the deep freeze. Chutney came to mind as the perfect solution and I started searching online. I've made this recipe up after looking at three or four different options and verifying the solid to vinegar and sugar ration would be accurate and was off.

Danielle's Rhubarb Chutney

4 cups diced rhubarb
3 cups brown sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups chopped onion (I sliced mine in 1/8" sliced and then cut the sliced into third, short slices really)
1 1/4 cups currants
1 tbsp salt (I use kosher)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4ish tsp cayenne pepper (mine was a generous 1/4 tsp)

Toss all the ingredients into a non reactive pot (stainless steel or enameled cast iron) and don't freak out when it looks like you'll have no stirring room, the mixtures smooshes down pretty quickly once it heats up.

Give the pot a good stir to mix everything together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30ish minutes stirring often.

Pour hot chutney into hot jars. Add lids and screw bands (fingertip tight) and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes (Calgary altitude).

Makes 3 pints.

**Canning instructions here are not fully detailed, if not an experienced canner, refer to general canning safety rules regarding processing times, etc.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crabapple Sauce

The tree in our backyard is a huge and beautiful crab apple. It's about 50 years old and wasn't necessarily trimmed properly for those 50 years, leaving us with branches threatening power lines and blocking sunlight to the garden. Two summers ago however we gave it a pretty solid trimming, and took off one more large limb last summer before it game out of it's winter slumber. The task however left us with a thrillingly healthy tree of epic proportions for last healthy in fact that I threw out over 10 000 crab apples last year after the tree bloomed and bloomed and bloomed. And I made two batches of crab apple jelly then too.

This year has been less sunny and more wet so the tree is simply producing to proportions that we can manage however I still don't want to throw away food unnecessarily. I'll be making jelly again (I created a fantastic sauce for pork roast using last years batch) but wanted to use up more apples. Figuring that crab apples are simply small tart apples I came up with the following sauce, which is simply amazing. We ate one jar with pork chops tonight and I canned the rest in half pint jars.

Crab Apple Sauce
9 cups crab apple pieces (skin left on, blossom ends and cores removed)
water to cover (3ish cups)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 TBSP lemon juice
1 1.2 tsp cinnamon

Bring crab apples and water to a boil. Cook until apples soften then coarsely mash with potato masher. Add sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Cook another 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Use immersion blender to puree into sauce. Continue cooking until desired consistency reached (if not thick enough for your tastes, add another cup or two of diced crab apple).

Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/2" headspace. Remove any air bubbles, wipe lids of jars. Center hot lids onto jars. Apply screwbands until finger tip tight. Place jars in canner ensuring that the water level is at least two inches above jar tops. Process jars for 20 minutes (Calgary altitude). Remove jars and set aside to cool.

Makes 9 half pint jars.

**Canning instructions here are not fully detailed, if not an experienced canner, refer to general canning safety rules regarding processing times, etc.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chicken Stock

The weather has been kind of cool and blah all day today which made it a perfect time to get a batch of chicken stock going on the stove.

My stock is typically made of odds and ends that I've frozen making it essentially a zero cost project. The stock simmering on my stove is made up of 4 chicken carcasses (mostly precooked with a few uncooked bones) and 2 medium freezer bags full of vegetable ends (including carrots, celery, onions, bell pepper, broccoli, and tomato) plus some seasonings. If I were to make this batch from scratch I'd need:

3-4 chicken carcasses
2 onions (quartered)
4 carrots (cut in half)
4-6 large pieces celery (cut in half)
3/4 cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic (cut in half)
4 small bay leaves (or 2 decent sized ones)
1 tbsp peppercorns
salt to taste

Cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 3-4 hours. Strain, cool completely skim off fat layer from top of stock. Portion out into containers for the freezer and make soup.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Old Fashioned Raspberry Jam

It's been a crap year for my garden. There's been a lot of rain, not enough sun, and cooler than usual overall temperatures - all things that tend not to please plants such as tomatoes and green beans. The silver lining however is that our raspberry bushes are producing over triple what we got last year and there is more to come. I've already harvested about 8 cups of raspberries and there's probably another 8 cups to come.

Yesterday morning I went outside, picked a solid 4 cups of perfectly ripe berries and decided that I needed to make jam I did.

From the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving - Old Fashioned Raspberry Jam

4 cups raspberries
4 cups sugar

Place sugar in an ovenproof shallow pan and warm in a 250 oven for 15 minutes (the book tells me that warm sugar dissolves better)

Place berries in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat, mashing berries with a potato masher as they heat. Boil hard for 1 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add sugar, return to a boil and boil until mixture will form a gel.

Ladle into hot jars and process for 10 minutes (plus whatever adjustment is needed for your altitude - it was 20 minutes for me in Calgary)

Makes 4.5 cups

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Easy as Hell Rhubarb Ice Cream

4-ish cups of diced rhubarb
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Dice rhubarb and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar today, because I could). Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. After roasting, toss rhubarby mess into a bowl and chill in fridge. Once chilled stir rhubarb into 2 cups cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar. Freeze according to ice cream maker instruction. Move to freezer-safe container and freeze until firm in freezer (or eat as soft serve).

The resulting ice cream is sweet and tart at the same time and is a gorgeous pink colour however my camera batteries are recharging so no picture until tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Banana Bread

modified from the Pillsbury Best Muffins & Quickbreads cookbook

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3 small-medium mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
*optional* 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom only of 9x 5 or 8x4-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, combine sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat well. Add bananas, milk and vanilla; blend well.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add to banana mixture; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Pour into greased pan.

Bake at 350°F. for 50 to 60 minutes (70 minutes in Calgary) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jam Day 1 - 2010

About a month back it was time for the rhubarb to burst forth and both my yard and my neighborhood are blessed with large quantities. The houses in my area are predominately 50-60 years old (though there are a couple of blocks of homes that date back to the 1910's) or new infills. These older homes often have huge rhubarb plants growing in the alleyways where no one harvests them and they simply go to waste. Not being a fan of waste (especially of something as awesome as rhubarb) I set out on a walking tours of the community, picking stalks as I went. I skipped any houses with backyard gardens as well as any plants that appeared to be tended by the home owners. Coming home it was time to wash, dice, and jam. I made Strawberry Rhubarb jam and Bluebarb jam (from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving) as well as Rhubarb vanilla Jam from Food in Jars. Most of the Bluebarb was put away in the basement by the time I took this picture.

Back to Blogger

So I had a blog over here a few years ago but over time I stopped using it and finally deleted the thing. That was way back before I got married and possibly even before I'd met Ty. These days this blog will pretty much be all cooking, canning, gardening, and random stuff done round our place...hence the new blog name.