Friday, July 29, 2011

The Summer Song

"Trees swayin' in the summer breeze
Showin' off their silver leaves
As we walked by

Soft kisses on a summer's day
Laughing all our cares away
Just you and I

Sweet sleepy warmth of summer nights
Gazing at the distant lights
In the starry sky"

Maybe I'm being a worry wort, but something is telling me to live up this summer and really enjoy these last few months of being a family of 3. Travelling, while still cumbersome, is made a little easier by not having to stop every hour or so, pull over and feed a baby. Honey Bear is at an age where we can find common ground and get pleasure and enjoyment from a certain activity, like hiking or visiting parks. Plus, with the right snacks, you can do almost anything!

Here's what we've been up to:

With fossils over 300 million years old.





When not touring our local treasures, we've been busy in the garden and hard at work at canning and preserving the summer harvest for sale and for our pantry. Next up is to process 27 pints of handpicked sour cherries. Can't wait!

In the meantime, check out this fantastic meal we made!

How's your summer shaping up?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eat Your Greens!

Greens Galore
I'm loving the challenge of using up the greens in our CSA package and frankly, it's never that difficult when the produce is this fresh, tasty and versatile. In addition to our half share we picked up on Saturday, we nabbed some more rainbow swiss chard and a heritage variety of kale. For last night's supper, the rainbow chard made a great side to a homemade spice rubbed and barbequed local pork chop. I used Adventures in Dinner's tip of some chicken stock and kept it on the savoury side with a dash of hot pepper flakes, some spring garlic and sliced red onion. The rice was pilaf"ed" with extra veggies and loads of garden fresh herbs, like lemon thyme, parsley and regular thyme (Honey Bear actually ate it!) and the spinach salad was dressed with some of our own garden fresh strawberries, walnuts and some local feta and tossed with a poppyseed dressing.

It was incredible.

The kale was used in this Italian Wedding Soup recipe, which turned out to be a gigantic hot mess. I can't figure out how I messed this up so badly. It was visually terrible and the broth lacked flavour. Foodies out there, tell me something: the meatballs are cooked in the soup after the addition of kale, and the raw meat clouds up the broth. Two eggs are added at the end, which act as a clarifier (I assume. It wasn't an egg drop soup consistancy), but the eggs got all muddled up in the kale, so I couldn't remove it and keep the soup clear without losing my kale. What went wrong here? It tasted alright, just wasn't the most anticipated dinner I've ever cooked.

On the bright side, check this out:

Homebrewed Hooch!
Our strawberry wine is doing its thing! A couple years ago, we tried elderberry sherry, which was a disaster. The sap from the berries destroyed some of our equipment and the temperature was obviously off, as it never went past 5% alcohol, but hovered at a 20 sugar count. Yuck. We disposed of it, despite our thoughts of cutting it with vodka as a cocktail.

Our strawberry wine was headed in the same direction. I had originally asked Jeff to write a guest post about his methods and when the wine was sinking fast, we decide best not to share our recipe for failure. In a last ditch effort to salvage the wine, we pitched the yeast again and crossed our fingers.

Well.

Last night it was moved over into a smaller carboy and the sugar and alcohol levels were rechecked. It went from a 5% alcohol with 12 sugar count to a 10% alcohol to a 2 sugar count. PERFECT! It may get drier as it ages, which would be great. It was proclaimed delicious and a huge hit and I'm delighted for a big batch of homebrew for under $10. What to brew next?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Afternoon Tea

Sunflower Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Preserves
AdventuresinDinner has totally inspired me not to let food die in my fridge and despite my best intentions to make a peant-free spread that Honey Bear would like, my poor Sunflower Butter was wasting away at the bake of the fridge, but crafty mama's know that sometimes, you need some ingenuity to get that food eaten and this did the trick. Also made for a lovely afternoon treat.

Sunflower Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from this Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint recipe at My Recipes

2 cups all purpose "white" flour (closer to a whole wheat)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sunflower butter
1/4 cup margarine
2 cups eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Jam

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Combine sugars, margarine in a large bowl or stand mixer and stir until whipped. Add eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla and gradually add in dry ingredients.
3. With oiled hands, roll out little balls of cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and indent middle with your thumb. Refigerate for one hour.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes and allow to fully cool before adding about 1/2 tsp of jam. (I got impatient and added the jam, leaving a jammy pool under the cookie. Really is best to follow directions sometimes!)

Putting Strawberry Vanilla Jam to Good Use!


Enjoy!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Harvest Supper

Summer Harvest Supper


It has only dawned on me now: I divide my plate like my toddler's. Clearly I haven't learned anything from cooking shows on TV and layering food properly. So, presentation aside, it was all super delicious. The first vegetables are coming in from our CSA and we are loving the bounty of chard, beet tops, pak choi, new potatoes, broccoli, napa cabbage, spring garlic and rapini. I love all these options and the varities of meals you can prepare. We had the tail end of an Atlantic salmon squirrled away in the freezer and it made the perfect addition to all these beautiful vegetables. Incidentally, I realized it also made for a super healthy prenatal meal with all the oils from the fish and those dark leafy greens. If I keep it up, maybe it'll make for a healthy, intelligent baby?

Here is my favourite way to do up swiss chard or beet tops:

1 lb beet tops or swiss chard
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic or bulb of spring garlic, minced
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar or honey
salt and pepper to taste
*optional: diced tomato and/or bacon (if using bacon, sautee first to render fat and once crispy, remove and return to finished dish. Proceed to sautee onion and garlic in bacon fat.)

1. De-stem and soak your tops. Drain well and put through a salad spinner.
2. In 1/2 tbsp olive oil and over medium heat, sautee half a sliced onion and some garlic (or spring garlic, in our case).
3. Once caramalized, throw in your tops. I didn't bother cutting them into bite sized pieces. Put a lid on it until tops have wilted enough and there's room to stir your mixture.
4. Reduce heat and continue cooking with lid on until all the tops have wilted. If using a diced tomato, now's the time to add it. You'd like it to stew a bit with the mixture.
5. Remove lid and season with vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust. Serve hot.

The broccoli is simply steamed and the new potatoes scrubbed and boiled. The salmon steaks were seasoned and seared before finishing in the oven at 300 degrees and this sauce brought the whole dish together:

Creamy Dill Sauce
Creamy Dill Sauce
Serves: 3

2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp yogurt
2 tbsp fresh dill
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp grainy mustard
salt and pepper

Mix together and serve over fish. It was so delicious and it was a shame Honey Bear took a few bites before asking for porridge. Still, she watched us eating it and loving it and I'm hoping before long, she'll clue into the sheer joy of eating locally grown and lovingly prepared foods. One can hope, right?!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcake

Delicious, Local Dessert

So 30 lbs of strawberries later (not counting the strawberries coming in from my own patch) and I've done almost every preserve imaginable, including a batch of strawberry wine and some strawberry liqueur. I've had a lot of energy the last few weeks, which is handy, because as the third trimester is a little over a month away, I know the return of that soul-crushing fatigue will soon be upon me and I won't have the time or energy to preserve like I used to. But for now, more than 10 lbs of berries are frozen and squirreled away for the winter and now it's time for full on gorging of these suckers.

As usual, Darlene King at Harrowsmith Country Life has a recipe that is begging to be tried. If you aren't a Harrowsmith subscriber yet, give it a whirl. It's the only magazine I've never thrown out and still refer to past issues. This one comes from June 2010's issue.

Shortcakes with Rhubarb Compote and Fresh Strawberries
Darlene King, Harrowsmith Country Life, June 2010

Flour and Butter Combined
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (don't do what I did. I love Speerville, but their whole "white" flour must not contain enough gluten or something. They're always a little flat and too grainy for a delicate shortcake like this)
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup butter (I kept mine chilled)
3/4 cup whipping cream (35% cream)

1. Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Sift dry ingredients together and with the paddle attachment or with a pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.
3. Stir in all but 1 tbsp of the cream until just combined and move to a well floured surface. Knead until just combined and pat out into 1/2 inch. Cut out 6x3" biscuits (I wouldn't recommend using a screw band from a mason jar, but I was rushed for time and it seemed 3 inch"ish")


All Lathered Up and Ready to Bake
4. Lather the shortcakes in the whipping cream and bake for 15 minutes or so.

Voila! The baked cakes.


Rhubarb Compote

5. I had some preserved rhubarb in syrup kicking around, hidden in the fridge, so I simmered it for 10 minutes or so, but if you have some frozen rhubarb still hanging out in your freezer, try 2 cups of rhubarb with 1 1/2 cups of sugar for a rhubarb stew.

Completing the Dish

6. Add some freshly whipped cream, your stewed rhubarb and some freshly sliced berries between your sliced shortcake. I added a mint chiffonade, mostly because I kept the flavours pretty classic and thought the mint would add a citrus brightness. It worked and was really tasty. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

One more reason I love the Farmer's Market

Due to rainy weather, I took a time out from selling at the market to enjoy being a customer. I'm constantly reminded just how much I love our Farmer's Markets when you come home with a haul like this:

L-R: Our CSA order, new potatoes, all manners of freshly baked breads, a Quebec Oka, Dutch Gouda, a flat of strawberries, some Korean, Filipino and Indian, varieties of sausage, shnitzel, ground and a roast of beef.

Oh. Baby.

Not to mention all the friends and neighbours you bump into and catch up with. Definitely not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Strawberry-Palooza


We learned one very important lesson during our 100 Mile (winter) Challenge - we needed more fruit! This year, I'm determined to can and freeze like a crazy woman so if we do undertake another challenge, we'll have some variety. U-Picks are great places to stock up and although it was a rotten year for strawberries, I was pumped to find a place that offered great prices and had availability. So, we went to town:

Not the most flattering shot...
Hardcore Picker

We picked and picked and picked. Well, mostly I did. Honey Bear did a lot of eating, collecting straw and stepping all over the berries while Jeff did a little picking, but mostly eating. I'm thankful they didn't weigh us before we picked.

Honey Bear scoping out the pickings

After about an hour of picking, we ended up with 14 + lbs of strawberries. Most are destined for my preserves shop, but a good chunk of them are getting frozen or turned into strawberry wine. While it's a lot of work now, the pay off will be worth it in the dead of winter.

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