Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shepards Pie

Shepard's pie is one of the first things I made from scratch.  I've made it so often that I almost forgot to mention it on this blog.  I really does encorporate evrything I believe in...if a meal could represent ones beliefs...

Wikipedia says... 
Cottage pie or shepherd's pie is a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato.  The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791, when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor.

Wikipedia goes on to say that you can use any kind of leftover meat in this dish.  One of our favorites is venison.  My mom and her fella left for Arizona and left us with their meat!  What a score!

Hubbie browned the ground off a few days ago.

That was pefect!  

All I had to do was saute the veggies, add the meat and make the juice. 

I used a full carrot from our garden (stored in moist peat moss), 3 cloves of verona garlic festival garlic, pressed, saute both until soft.  Add meat and a liberal dash of worchestershire sauce.  Prepare 2 packets of beef boullion and add to the mixture.  Heat until flavours mix and the juice gets thicker.  Add a turn of steak spice of your choice and simmer.  When the mixture gets to smelling great...add the peas and corn (or beans) all of which we had frozen while they were in season and stored in ziploc bags in the freezer.

I have to admit to a certain amount of sneakiness here...I hide parsnips in with the mashed potatoes! 

I used several brown potatoes from our garden (stored in buckets in the basement in dry peat).  But I also slipped in 3 hunks of frozen parsnip too.  I boil them right along with the taters and mashed them with milk, a dash of cream and a big helping of butter.  S & P to taste.

I scooped all the venison mixture in a large dish...then smooth out the surface with the spatula. 
I add large dollops of mashed potatoes to the top...and smooth it out too.
I always add a dash of salt to the top of the mashed potatoes and a tsp of butter on top (to make the mashed topping get a bit crispy!)

I love that eating shepard's pie feels like you are eating a bit of history.

What you're really doing is using almost everything out of a garden and adding in someone's free meat

You also have one heck of a great recession-busting, not-made-of-turkey, beat-the-winter-chills celebration dish!  Here's to the home made goodness of gardening all year round!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Making home made donuts...

My hubbie has threatened for some time to make home made donuts...

We both find it funny that Noah the 10 yr old has no idea you can make everything from scratch.

It blows Noah's we like to show him every once in a while how you can do it!

It keeps the kids occupied for some time.  It shows them how to cook for themselves.

It truly is a learning experience to see how much work goes into making things we take for granted in this fast food world.  It's gotten to the point that we have very little patience for waiting anymore.  You can get a full meal presented to you in 30 sec at McDonald's. 

I guess as parents, Ches and I like to show our kids that instantaneous is just not realistic.

So we set out to make donuts...(sorry I got off on a tangent)...we used the bread maker to start the dough.  It proofed for a while.  Owen decided "proofing" meant we stopped making donuts. 
The bread machine then "punches" the dough...basically beating it up a bit and then letting it proof some more.  At that point, Owen was convinced "proofing" meant we were teasing him and there weren't actually going to be any donuts.

We decided to move onto something else...making the filings!  We made a blueberry fill and an apple fill.  The apples were frozen from the ones we picked from our neighbours wee tree.  They are very sweet, so they didn't require too much extra sweetening, just the basics...cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and some brown sugar.  We mashed it all up until it was like a thick apple sauce (and smelled like pie!).

The blueberry filling was good too...we had frozen blueberries bought on Hwy 7 near Madoc.  In case you didn't August...Hwy 7 is THE place to buy your blueberries.  Ches added white sugar and a dash of vanilla.  We simmered it on the stove and mashed it with a fork.

That seemed to tide the kids over until it was time to actually cook the donuts.  We don't have a deep we filled a deep pan on the stove with veg oil and brought it up to temp.  The dough was formed into shapes and left to rise a bit more.  We fried them in the oil for a couple of minutes a side.  Set donuts aside to cool.  After a while you can fill them with one of those icing decorators filled with whatever filling you want.  We coated some with a honey glaze and tossed some in icing sugar mix. 

This was definitely one of the more decadent recipe experiments by far.  Noah remarked that these were the best 6 hours donuts he'd ever had...since that was about how long it took us to get through the whole process...start to finish.  There was no real savings or health benefit in making these donuts at home.  They were pretty tasty...and they lasted a few days after (way longer than the average Tim's donut) without going stale right away.

This was just one fun thing to do with your kids. 

Just make them help clean up the mess of icing sugar after all is said and done.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Steak and Veggie Pie...on the Wild Side

We had a big venison steak feed a few days ago...sadly we cooked waaay too much steak and had a ton of leftovers.  We also had leftover pie crust in the freezer too.

To me, that means just one thing...time for meat pie!

I scrubbed, peeled and chopped some of our garden potatoes and cooked in the microwave for 4 min.  Sliced some onions too, also from the garden.  The wonky carrot in the picture below was also from our garden and here is where I digress...

This wonky carrot was tasty and delicious!  You'll never see its equal in any store.  Going into stores now creeps me out, as everything is so damned uniform.  Each and every thing looks identical from the next.  Like you are actually shopping in the clone aisle instead of the produce aisle.  Aberration in produce stores is akin to disease! 

Ok...I feel better now after that rant.

Back to the recipe!

I also grabbed some garlic which I bought at the Verona Garlic Festival from my friends Cam & Michelle Mather.  I pulled out the leftover venison steak (supplied by my step dad Rob Cory) and chopped it coarsely.  The dough came out of the freezer, thawed, and left until the stew was well under way.

The onions get fried with veg oil, followed shortly by the chopped carrot and nuked potatoes.  Simmer for a bit until it starts to smell good.  Then dump in the chopped venison.

On the side, you'll be boiling a kettle of water to add to the beef broth...
not too much though, we're not making soup here. 
We've since run out of the peas from our garden (they do go fast),
so these are store bought sweet baby peas. 
Once the beef broth powder has completely dissolved in the boiling water, you can go ahead and add it to the pot.  The potatoes add a thickness to the broth after a while so there is no need for flour for thickening.  I don't know what it is about wild game that makes me always want to add beer, but here I've done it again. 

This time it was a large splash of a nice dark lager, Steelback's Tiverton Bear.  Dark beer and wild game combine in the most unexpected way.  I was going to add some worchestershire sauce, but the beer was sweet enough that I didn't have to add anything else.  S & P was about it.

Once the whole mix has simmered together for a can divide it between a couple of small ramekins (or other small, oven-safe dish).  Try not to eat some while you're dividing it!!!  (unless you made extras, in which case good for you!  You were thinking ahead!)

Next step is to roll out the dough and cut out two circles, slightly larger than the ramekin.

Arrange dough circles on the ramekin dish and pierce the top. 
I just used scissors like my mom did on apple pie crusts. 

I whipped up one egg and brushed it over the crust.

Place in an oven at 400 degrees C and bake for 30 min.  Check on them after 20 min though.
A helpful tip I would a baking sheet under these suckers whilst baking them.  If you fill the ramekins too full of stew, they will overflow while bubbling.

I couldn't have been prouder with my first attempt at pot pies.

I was even prouder to take a look at my costs:  Beer from father-in-law, venison from step dad, carrots, onions and potatoes from our garden, garlic from a local provider, and one hellvua home made crusty topper!  Seems like the peas and beef broth were the only thing we had to get from a store. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Down n Dirty with the Carrots

So in a previous post I said all we had going on with the garden at this time of year was broccoli.

This post will prove I was lying....

I totally forgot about the carrots.  Which is what you're supposed to do! 

If you leave a root vegetable in the ground for a few frosts, they turn sweeter.
We discovered this when we grew parnsips in previous years. 
For whatever reason, the parsnips didn't even come up this year!

Carrots are nutritionally awesome.  The website says "The power and goodness of carrots - Carrots have many important vitamins and minerals. They are rich in antioxidants Beta Carotene, Alpha Carotene, Phytochemicals and Glutathione, Calcium and Potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E, which are also considered antioxidants, protecting as well as nourishing the skin. They contain a form of calcium easily absorbed by the body. Finally they also contain Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous. and Sulphur - better than a wonder drug!!"

We asked the boys to come help out with the digging up of the carrots last weekend.

It turned into quite the adventure!

As soon as big brother Noah got digging...Owen was jumping right in. 
He kept yelling, "Get me a shovel!"

Big brother Noah gave Owen instruction on how to properly pull out a carrot without grabbing up only the greens and leaving the rest of the root in the ground.  The sound of surprise in Owen's voice when he produced his first carrot was hilarious.

Turns out we produced some monster carrots this year!

Owen was compulsive...non-stop carrots pulling...

For about 10 minutes...which is a long time for him actually.

Noah kept on working for a few hours, pulling up carrot after carrot.
Each time he thought he had unearthed the biggest carrot of the year...the next one would be even bigger!

This was our total end of season haul.  Orange and purple carrots!
Some of the carrots turned out bigger than my head!!!
Keep in mind that we had already dug up half of the total planting.  We haven't bought store carrots in over two months...

We brushed off the excess dirt and broke the greens off of the top. 

We will keep them this winter in buckets, labelled, filled with moist peat.
Unlike potatoes, root veggies need moisture to stay fresh all winter.

This is something I've only read about.  Its our first year storing food without the use of hydro electricity!

We have a makeshift root cellar in our basement.  The onions kept well down there last year, in wire baskets.  We don't currently have a temperature gauge in the cellar...but that may be something I'll invest in this year.

I'll be doing future posts on root they are my new-found obsession!  Storing food without using electricity is amazing to me.  The concept has been around for ages...but for whatever reason root cellars have fallen out of fashion.  I am to bring new awareness of it.  Anyone who owns their own house can do it!

Keep an eye out for a root cellar tutorial...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beans are not just musical...

I am not fully a vegetarian..but I do love a lot of vegetarian recipes.  I have an open mind when it comes to other concepts and cultures of diets.  I've tried all sorts of foods in my travels.  Many things I would never repeat...but the point is to taste without fear and tread onwards.

I also do no subscribe to any celebrity based diets.

Now that's been said...I want to mention a concept that isn't new...

and is heavily promoted by Sir Paul McCartney.


Ok, vegetarianism isn't a new thing...but this concept talks about trying it out for one day of the week. 

I try to impliment this as frequently as I can.  It's not always possible with a busy schedule and a bunch of hungry boys (Hubbie included)

This week I tried to make my first bean patties.  If you follow my blog, you'll recognize the beans below from my broccoli quiche post.  They are in fact the same beans!  The first attempt at blind baking my crust failed.  I added far too much butter.  The beans could not be reused, because they had essentially been deep fried in grease!  Hubbie soaked them and boiled them one night.  Once cooled, he placed them in the fridge for future use.  I decided to put them to use in the dish below! 

First off I took the beans that had already been soaked and boiled.  I mashed them with a potato masher, but this task would go a lot easier if our food processor was working!

Once the beans were mashed to a granual texture...
I added garlic powder, parmesan cheese, rosemary, S & P to taste. 

I know this is suppose to be meat free...but I did add a beaten egg.  The recipe called for salsa...but I was not in a salsa mood.

Next step is to take the mixture and blend well. 
Using your hands, press the mixture into patty form!

Fry up in hot veg oil and serve!

They aren't pretty, but man did they taste great!!!

I served my patty on a bed of greens and a dollop of lemony mayonnaise.  (I know, again with the egg products!)  I give this a 50/50 for vegetarianism...and a full 100% for taste!

As I said, I do try to make vegetarian dishes for the familly at least once a  week. 

Try it! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Broccoli, Baby

Our garden is all but done for the year. 
Most of the plants are long dead and have been yanked out of the ground.
The only thing still growing and producing (for some reason) is our broccoli!

Broccoli is one of those plants that likes cool weather.  You can plant it early in the season, as the cold evenings will not affect it adversely.

Its almost as though broccoli was made for Canadian weather!

We are having a tough time finding new ways to eat it though.  A side of fresh broccoli is nice...but it gets tired very quick.  How many things can you serve with a side of broccoli?  

Turns out, quite a lot. 

Any followers on my Facebook page will have noticed broccoli show up on some of my frequent meal pics.  But that doesn't mean your broccoli has to be boring!  My Mom makes a GREAT cold salad with broccoli, sunflower seeds, bacon bits and a bunch of other great stuff.  If anyone is interested in the recipe, I can get it for you...just let me know in the comments section of this post.  Sadly, it isn't a dish my kids like.  Live and learn.

I've decided to make a quiche for the first time tonite.  I've never made quiche.  I've also never made a crust from scratch either...well see how this goes...

I made the dough according to the recipe found in "The Joy of Cooking" for deluxe butter flaky pastry dough (pg 862).  I think I added too much butter though.  It just seemed like a ton!  Once the dough is must divide it and refrigerate it for at least 30 min.  The longer the better really.  The directions say 1-2 hours.  When I was working with the dough, I kept having to put it back in the fridge to firm it up.  

I pressed it into the pan, as this was my first time, so I didn't feel confident enough to roll it out and place it in the pan.  Once the dough is pressed thin in the pan, place dry beans in the center, enough to cover the bottom of the pie pan.  This method is called blind baking.  It helps keep the dough from bubbling up in the center or sliding down the side of the pan.  (ps.  you can keep the beans for reuse the next time you make crust from scratch)

I REALLY added too much butter...I suppose it helps to read the directions VERY thoroughly.  Hubbie had a good laugh at my expense...but, in the end, it all worked out.  I grabbed what was left over from the dough and kneeded it with several more tablespoons of flour.  I kneeded it until the dough wouldn't absorb any more flour and the dough was no longer sticky.  (Please do not follow this the actual directions!)

This time I tried the rolling pin and it worked much better for me...


The new crust was blind baked at 400 degrees C for 35 min (you tent some tin foil over it for the first 20 min, then remove for the rest of the time).

Then you add the other ingredients...such as shredded cheddar cheese, fried onions and garlic as well as the steamed broccoli chopped up into chunks.  After you've laid all these ingredients in the bottom of the crust, then you add the egg mixture.  Egg mixture:  3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups dairy (we used 1/2 cream and 1/2 milk), dash of nutmeg and S & P to taste.  Pour egg mixture into crust and bake for 25 min on 375 degrees C.


So I lived AND learned on this recipe.

The quiche turned out great...but what to have as a side???  Hubbie had been out in the garden the whole time I was struggling with crusts.  He grabbed what was left of our beets and was removing the greens when I asked him what should we have as a side?  His reply...beet greens with honey mustard dressing!

As a bonus to this post, here is the recipe for honey mustard dressing a la Chester.

4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey (organic or local)
1 tsp of white vinegar
S & P to taste

Makes enough for two...quick and easy!!!

Hope you guys enjoyed following along as I tried to make crust, hopefully the next time will be LESS EXCITING...haha.

The really nice thing about quiche is you can make it, cook it and freeze it for another day.

ps.  Hubbie was quite impressed I was able to save the dough...not bad for a beginner eh?


Wednesday, October 26, 2011


A puffball is a magical thing to find in the wild.  It erupts out of the ground and hides under tall grasses.  It sneaks in plain sight!  I have seen these in my life but had never known what they were...and almost always I was finding them when they had long since expired.  They had turned black and emitted the poisonous spores in a small puff when you touched them.  

Back in 2005, we saw a young girl running down the street in Verona with the most enormous puffball mushroom I had ever seen!  Hubbie stopped the girl and it must have seen strange that a tall skinny man with long hair and a beard asked her what she was going to do with it.  Her answer seemed perfectly logical to a child...she was going to smash it!  Hubbie offered her money to give it to us instead of smashing...she of course had to run home to ask her mom if that was alright.  We brought it to our Jack and Jill that night and someone in attendance told us we could get $500 at the St Lawrence Market for it!  

4 yr old Noah in 2005 with THE biggest puffball we've ever seen!

We just like to eat them!  A mushroom that large though would take a room full of people to eat.  It turned bad before we could eat even half of it.  We did through it in the swamp behind our old house hoping it would let out spores and make new ones...we never did see if that turned out or not.

This year were are on the hunt for puffballs again.  Its the right time of year for these pearly white beauties. 

Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea) are wonderful wild pickings as there are virtually no poisonous lookalikes.  I will not pick a mushroom (I'm just not schooled enough yet)...but I am confident in my puffball identification to know one when I see one.

They range in size...I've seen little golf-ball sized ones on our lawn.  I've also seen ones the size of basketballs!  They are round-like objects that are weighty.  When cut through, the puffball looks like a button mushroom but without the black parts.  Just bright white flesh throughout.  They smell like a store bought mushroom...but a bit earthier.

For a more in depth look at the puffball on the link below:

I was showing Hubbie the recipe for Puffball Piccata that was posted on The 3 Forager's blog.  I was glad I showed him....he called me at work the next day to tell me he'd found a puffball on the way home! 
What luck!!!

If a puffball is starting to turn yellow...don't bother picking's already past its prime.  Bright white is what you want to look for!

This one was fist it made for a great side dish that night.

Sliced about a centimeter thick...or half an inch for my american readers.  Dust in flour and simmer in a pan or flat grill until golden brown.  These suckers are thirsty, so you'll need a good helping of veg oil.

Add butter and veg stock to the drippings.  (We didn't have any wine though...I wished we did.  The recipe would have been AMAZING!)  We added milkweed capers to the mixture and simmered it down to a nice sauce.  Salty!

For the full recipe, click here on The 3 Foragers link (where we originally got the recipe)

In the end, we had mild italian sausages with a spinach salad and puffball picata for dinner.  Good eyes on Hubbie for spotting the puffball!  We were lucky enough to trade with Local Veronite Joe for some wild grape wine.  A great compliment to this wild meal! 

Noah (shown here at his current age of 10 yrs old) tries the puffball, but it was a little too mushroomy for his tastes.

I, on the other hand, dug right in.  These are definitely a seasonal item.  They only come once a year and you have to get your fill while they are in season.  We've eaten them fried in butter or prepared a la Parmesan with breading and tomato sauce.  The Puffball parmesan tastes a bit like veal to me.  Hubbie thinks I'm crazy. 

Have you ever foraged mushrooms?  Tell me about it in the comments section...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Family Attempts A Fall Foraging Trip

It has been a troublesome few weeks, with Noah getting over his back-to-school cold and Owen contracting a wicked cases of hacking coughs.  I have been trying to get our kids out for a wilderness hike but between illness and poor's been tough. 

I'm still a novice at foraging.  There are only a handful of things I can confidently identify and would bother to grab.  A few months ago, I ordered a few edible plant books in an effort to educate myself a bit more.  A side-line passion of mine is to identify wild flowers in South Frontenac...but foraging wild edibles is a bigger risk that just which kind of dandelion am I looking at. 

I had ordered the book "Identifying Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and not so Wild) Places" by Steve Brill.  It just so happens I knew about Steve Brill from one of my favorite foraging blogs called "The 3 Foragers".  There are a family (not unlike Hubbie and I) with a child that loves the outdoors and the wonderful surprises that nature provides. 

The 3 Foragers posted a video that featured a nature walk hosted by Steve Brill or as he is known "Wildman Steve Brill". 

Steve was reknowned as the "Man who was Arrested for Eating a Dandelion in Central Park"...but there's more to that story if you check out his website (link posted above)

I ordered his book without even putting it together that they were in fact the same man.  Literally days after I watched the video on Forager's blog, I received by very own Steve Brill book!  Coincidence?  I think not!

Hubbie and I packed the kids up for a hike in the backwoods of Desert Lake Family Resort (literally 15 min drive from our house).  We packed a bag of bags for collecting and a couple of useful books (see below).

Can't go wrong with the Audubon!

He started down the nature trail and it wasn't long before we hit the beaver dam.  It's a special place.  At night-time in summer, if you can brave the mosquitos, you can listen to the thundering sounds of a million frogs singing their night song to each other.

We discovered our first specimen!  I grabbed a stalk and stuck it on an old tree while Noah and I got the identifying books.  We thumbed through pages of berries.  The berries were orange-red and round.  That ruled out a lot of options already!  The leaves were oval, toothed and about 2 inches long.  That ruled out everything else.  We still couldn't identify it using edible guide behind it stayed.  I'm not even sure I would have eaten anything that was growing out of a beaver "Beaver Fever" me.   

These were growing right next to the other berries...and I couldn't find them in any of our books either.

Early Canadian writing paper! (aka birch bark)

Owen marches to the beat of his own drum...walking stick and all!

We live in an area with lots of mica.  You find it on the ground now and again.  This piece was the thickest piece I'd seen yet.  Early settlers used this mineral for stove glass due to its ability to withstand high temperatures.  There is an old mica mine in Frontenac Park...worth a hike to see it!

The boys were on a steady search for juniper berries.  It took them off the beaten trail.

AH HA!  Found em!
The juniper bush only sprouts berries on the female trees.

Some valuable father-son time spent in the woods.

Hubbie took this pic as we were coming back from our trek in the woods.  This is the long shot of the beaver dam were started out at.

In the end we came back with Foxtail grass seeds, juniper berries and cedar berries.  The cedar berries were just falling off the trees in bunches, so I grabbed some on the way out and decided to look them up after we got home.

Foxtail grass is found just about ANYWHERE!  At this time of can take the tops and knock them into a bag and collect seeds very easily, provided they are dark.  Turns out the sell a form of this seed at health food stores under the name of millet!  You can add it anywhere you would normally add poppy seeds.  You can grind it up using a grain mill and add a bit to your general baking.  We'll find out and let you know!

We had gone fishing a day or so ago...and while the boys were busy catching rock bass...I was looking for vauable foragables.  I ended up finding some wild grapes right next to our favorite fishing spot in Verona!!!  It was like finding gold!  I grabbed a few grapes and had Noah and Hubbie try it out.  It tasted just like Welch's grape juice!  (be careful of seeds though) I'll be sure to keep an eye on that spot for next year. 

Foraging seems to be an act of patience.  It requires restraint and knowledge.

I look forward to many more trips out with the family...(i thought I spied some massive glasswort and want to go back next year when its sweeter and new...rather than late in the season and woody.)  I will endeavour to read up on stuff this winter.  Next year should be full of foraging surprises...

What have you found in the woods? 

If you've ever foraged before, let me know what's your favorite forest goody?