Monday, September 26, 2011

Get your FALL on...

Autumn is here.

The days are shorter and the nights are cooler (and bug free!).  I LOVE the colours of fall and the smell of wood stoves.  I especially love hiking in the fall. 

Last fall was a tough time for us, as I was unemployed for almost 8 months at that point.  I had lots of energy and not much else.  Owen and I enjoyed the fall weather a lot.  We walked on many trails in our area.  The best hiking day was when we came home with loads of stuff for decorating for autumn.

When you tour around with a pre-schooler, you
d better come prepared...I usually brought a small crocheted bag to carry all of the treasures Owen could find...and there were LOTS.  Pinecones, rocks and acorns are some of his favorites to collect.

Luckily these are things that all work wonderfully as decorations (except the rocks...they just get put into our rock wall around the garden).  I arranged some pinecones and oak leaves around a cranberry candle we already had.  We also already had the tablecloth in a nice fall colour.  Lazy susans go a long way to make your collection of random stuff look more deliberate.  If you have a large glass bowl or container, you can use that too.

Outside, I used more oak leaves in pretty fall colours, some twine, some more pinecones and a few acorns.  All I needed was the twine and a gluegun!  Voila!

Above is a closeup on the acorns and pinecones.

And don't forget Owen's favorite fall activity...THE LEAVES!

What's your favorite thing about Autumn?

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Lifetime Supply of Coriander...

Weeks ago I posted that I had discovered a wonderful surprise...a huge tree of cilantro we never expected.  It sprung from a plant we had placed there 2 years ago!  Its nice to have the cilantro for fresh summer salads.  It pairs so perfectly with fresh tomatoes.  This season was hot and sadly it went to flower pretty quickly. 

Actually that's not such a bad thing...

Cilantro flowers are my most favorite thing...because once the flowers fall, the little green balls form...

Then they turn ligjht brown!  They are now called coriander.  Once the plants and seeds are quite dried, gently pull the tree right out of the ground and insert into a plastic bag, seeds end goes in first.

When you are sitting watching the clouds go by on a mild fall day, or inside watching a great movie on the can separate these dried seed balls off and store them for a loooooooong time.  We filled a small pepper grinder with coriander 2 years ago (the last time we grew the herb).  We are still working our way through it and its one of my most favorite herbs.  You grind the seeds much like you do with peppercorns. 

The result is a wonderfully lemony flavour!  I use it as a flavour enhancer to a lot of simple dishes like home made hummus, a salad topping, a pick me up for roasted potatoes.  Just about anything you could put lemon juice on...try coriander instead.  Don't get me wrong, I love lemon juice in a dish...but sometimes I like the texture the cracked coriander seeds bring to a meal too.  (If you're interested...its like a calorie-free way to boost the flavour of your dish, but without the added sweetness, moisture content or acidity)

Wikipedia says of coriander, "Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. A study found both the leaves and seed to contain antioxidants, but the leaves were found to have a stronger effect."  It goes to to state that cilantro leaves contains Vitamin A and C, small amounts of protein and fiber.   Both the spice and the herb have been used widely all over the world throughout history.  Traces of the plant itself were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen.

PS.  Coriander also travels well.  It survived better than the lemon I tried to bring home from Ottawa in my suitcase! 


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Swiss Chard Burritos...

Here was a meal we threw together in minutes.  It was hearty, healthy and a big hit with almost everyone in our household.  (Only Owen wasn't a fan, mostly because he doesn't like his food to touch.  Such are the tastebuds of a 4 yr old.)  We had leftover wild and brown rice to eat up.  We are drowning in tomatoes.  We had leftover corn from the dozen ear we ate a day or so prior.  Add ground beef and voila!  Burritos!!   

Beef is browned and added to the pre-cooked rice, tomatoes, corn and seasonings

Flat torillas are always a great thing to have on hadn for such occasions.  You can buy the package when its cheaper and keep in the freezer.  Then microwave them still in the plastic bag to keep them moist and pliable.  Stale tortilla wraps aren't good for wrapping, as they have a tendancy to break apart.  Keep those old torillas for making your own chips!  (in that case, cut to desired shape, brush with oil, any flavour or plain will do, and bake at 450 until crisp!)

I fried up some swiss chard and onions for Ches and those are the two things the kids are most likely to complain about.  I like to put the cheese on first and let the chard do the melting...mmm.  We had no lettuce in the house and our lettuce crop has since gone to seed and dried up.  I am still in the habit of always making sure we have a green thing on our plates.  Swiss Chard fits the bill!  Its VERY green and VERY healthy for you.  It is also quite a hearty plant, keeping firm in hot or cold weather.  I'm learning to love it.

Here is the completed wrap.  Burritos are great if you are trying to integrate other "exotic" foods into your diet.  Burritos are a fun way to eat up leftovers without them looking like leftovers.  Burritos are also messy, so you can have fun trying to have the cleanest plate by the end of the meal...or just laughing at other people trying to eat them all tidy like. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pasta Fasta...for all your cherry tomatoes...

So you've decided to grow tomatoes. 

Perhaps, you aren't a big fan of tomatoes...but its a place to start.  You pick out the cutest little cherry tomato plant at your local green house.  You water it and nurture it all summer long.  By late summer, you are drowning in the little suckers.  You're wondering if you could stand to eat another cherry tomato.  They do take over.  They vine around everything else you've planted.  There's not much you can do to store them either, long term.  So what do you do with the zillions of ripe cherry tomatoes? 

Here's a great recipe from me to you.  It has a taste so fresh and simple, you'll think it came straight from a high end restaurant!  Impress your friends and write this one down...

PS.  I topped mine with any leftover shredded mozzarella as well...

The flavours are all fresh and summery.  They aren't complicated or pretentious. 
Served on top of whole wheat pasta, it's a dish you can feel good about.

The key is to make it in the morning (or if you are game, you can even do it up the night before).  It really does make all the difference, as I've craved this recipe so much I tried to make it up all in the same night....and the result is not as fantastic.  Still tasty, but definitely worth the wait if you can get the flavours blending ahead of time.  I've made this dish ahead before and taken it to friends long as they don't mind you cooking pasta while you visit.  It marinates really well in a car on a hot summer day and makes you hungry while you drive!

Do you have any favorite recipes for your cherry tomatoes?  Let me know, I'm always on the lookout for great cherry tomato recipes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Storing your garden goodies...Late summer edition

I find this to be a very busy time of year.

The garden is bursting with goodness and I'm either not home enough to make meals at home or too busy to actually be in the garden.  Sigh.  Unfortunately this is the WORST time of gardening season to be so busy!  There is so much of everything ripening that it seems like a huge waste to le it all go bad.

We are currently swamped in tomatoes and apples we've been given by my mother-in-law.  What to do with 7 baskets of tomatoes and a milk crate full of apples?  Well, this post is all about what we DID do with them!  Below is my wonderful husband.  He's carrying our hard work from Saturday (after we checked out the Verona Garlic Festival).  We knuckled down and peeled until our fingers hurt. 

What we ended up with was the following:  4 large freezer bags of chopped apples (ready for plopping into a pie shell or under a crisp topping), 2 large freezer bags of tomatoes, washed, rinsed and scored (so the skins with come right off of them when we make soup this winter), 3 containers of tomato sauce.  All ready for the freezer and will provide fresh summer goodness all winter long.  YUM!

The best was the apple sauce we made from scratch!  Sounds impressive, but once you find out how easy apple sauce is to'll never want to buy store bought again!  (That's kinda the point, after all)

Take a whole buncha apples, you can use almost any type or apple.  Although I do know some apple purists who swear you can only use certain types.  A quick Google search will tell you to "Make sure you use a good cooking apple like Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Fuji, Jonathan, Mcintosh, or Gravenstein."  I'm sure there is a reason why, but I only use what I have, so whatever Nana grows is what we use.  You don't have to be picky about the quantity of apples, because you can adjust the taste as you go!

You chop and peel the apples and unless you have a herd of pygmies working for you, you may want to use this trick.  Have a bowl of cold water and lemon juice handy.  Place the peeled and sliced apples in the lemon water until you are ready to use them.  That way the apples will not brown prematurely!

Place the apples (not the lemon water) into a pot.  Heat slowly and the moisture from the apples will steam out of the pot, leaving nothing but warm sweet applesauce.  Hubbie likes to get fancy by adding some brown sugar, allspice and cinnamon.  Basically its like apple pie fill when we make it.

Then we place it in jars.  We steamed the jars to keep the insides sealed until we're ready to eat it.  Leaving a 1/2 an inch from the top of the lid, just in case we decide to freeze the jars we aren't going to eat right away.  This is a perfect way to keep the fall taste of fresh apples all winter long, and its also a great way to make home made foods in advance for school lunches.

Delicious, nutritious, home made, low carbon foot print apple sauce!

What are you planning to make from scratch for your kids lunches? 

Maybe a better question would be, what changes are you going
to make regarding your kids lunches?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Verona Garlic Festival

Each year on Labour Day Weekend, Verona hosts a Garlic Festival.  I've always wanted to go.  It's hard to convince the kids that this will be more fun than sitting at home.  They aren't completely sold on the idea.  Just wait til you get there, I try to convince them.

When we got there it looked almost like any other Saturday at the Farmer's Market.  Except it was BIGGER!  Holy cow it was bustling.  The summer weather makes it possible to have way more vendors showing off a lot more stuff.  The colder weather forces the vendors to brave snowy days and set up their booths indoors. 

We survey the layout...Ches and the boys decided to take a spin on the train they had set up for kids (pulled by a small tractor no less).  

The usual vendors were out and set up but there were a bunch of new stalls featuring all things garlic.

The Lion's Club hosted a roast beef luncheon.  Check out the beast they're carving!  Usually these meals proceeds go towards a local charity or special cause.  I'm always happy to support.

Here are some more shots of the usual vendors in fine form.  They even started adding furniture to the line up!  Tie-dyed clothing lady is there every week without fail.

This time of year makes my eye move towards the knits.  The warm soft wooly piles of crochet heaven.

The endless tables of fall colours and vegetables.  They are so artfully and tasefully arranged, evoking images of healthy, honest, "country living".

Mini golf is a great, no energy way for the kids to occupy themselves too.  I mean how much garlic can you look at when you're 10 yrs old? 

Betsey 'B' honey had a small display of the honey comb hideout.  Was it ever cool to look inside!!!

The special events held at the fairgrounds include the recycling and waste center...may not look like much...but its HUGE!  It means that all the waste generated by the show gets disposed of correctly!  Pretty cool thing to show the community.

Garlic displays ranged from small and simple, to big and elaborate!  I loved this dark stained cabinet with the tin punch out of a garlic shape on the door...I think this display was of garlic spreads and such...

Plates of kinds og garlic I've never heard of...samples of spreads, jams, preserves...all garlic based.

There were people dying to educate you about the wonderful world of garlic.

Some vendors had their vehicles logo'd with could tell these people lived for GARLIC!

The shall's displays made me hungry and salivate for all the recipes I could think of that used garlic!

I also saw something that I never expected to see at a Garlic Festival....


My son Owen the Vampire...face painting by K's Klubhouse