Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Artichoke Pesto Pasta...

One of the wonderful things you can do with the pesto recipe I included in my herb post is make it!

I crave pesto every now and again.  This time I wanted to change it up a little bit and all it took was one can of whole artichoke hearts!  Pesto itself is already cheap and if you can find a can of artichokes for a decent price, this meal will go a long way.

Artichokes are amazing things that I'm told can grow in Canada.  You have to take them indoors in the winters though which can provide a problem.  Its a lot of work for the average gardener.  We planted artichokes last year, but tended to forget about them.  They didn't get a lot of attention, but we left them outdoors in the ground and placed buckets over top of them until its warmer.  Fingers crossed, they will survive.  Artichokes take 2-3 years before you can harvest the "fruits"  wqhich are actually their flower blossums.  You can let them go to flower and they are a beautiful additional to your flower garden.  Who could resist picking them though????

According to Cam Mather's book The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook "artichokes are an excellent source of the B vitamins, including Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), B5, B6,  and Folate (B9).  They are also high in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.

Basically, they are healthy and wholesome!!!

I added a whole can of artichokes (halved and then quartered) and sauteed them in the pesto for about 10min on med-high heat.  The artichokes took on the flavour of the oil and the garlic pretty quickly.

Its not the most colourful meal, but its packed with flavour and nutritional goodness.

So all you need to make this dish is to prepare the pasta to your taste and add the heated artichoke mixture to the warm, drained noodles.  Toss and serve!

All it took for the sauce was a couple of heaping tablespoons of prepared pesto and a 1 can of whole artichokes, quartered.  It was like the ultimate in fast food!

(I made it again this week with cheese tortellini and it was even more AWESOME!!!)

See my previous post on herbs for the easy pesto recipe you can make and store!

What's your go-to-easy-to-make recipe?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

These are the Herbs I know...

Herbs are a delicious way to add something special to a meal.

Its hard though...some people don't know enough about herbs to feel confident using them in their cooking.

Here is a post on the herbs I tend to use the most.


Dill is a surprising spice.  I always see it mentioned with fresh fish in shore lunch menus.  Dill is so much more than just pickling and fish spices.  (Although both of those are fine places for Dill)  I add Dill to things that I want to have a smooth buttery flavour.  I add it to egg salad mixture or omelettes.  Its dreamy.  You can sprinkle it on popcorn for a low sodium treat.  Baked potatoes are good with Dill too.


I just discovereed this herb.  I never really knew what the flavour was supposed to be.  When you smell the fresh stuff its easy to tell.  My Hubbie says it smells like Italian cooking.  I add it to tomato-based soups and in baking for a savoury smell.  I recently added it to cormeal breakfast muffins with excellent results!  Thyme is an excellent source of vitamin K and iron.  In herbal medicine, Thyme is used to treat menstrual symptoms and for body aches and pains. Its also my friend's beautiful daughter's name.


I'm learning to appreciate cilantro...the fresh green leaves of the coriander plant (they go so well with fresh tomatoes that I swear they are having a love affair in my mouth!)  But for me, the whole reason to grow this plant is for the lemony seeds called Coriander.  When you put this dried seed in a grinder, it makes a slightly crunchy, lemony, citrusy flavour in your meals.  I especially use it in homemade hummus.  I eat it most days with vegetable sticks or nan bread.  A feel good choice compared to chips and dip.


Chives are one of the wonderful things that grow in our garden and we had nothing to do with it!  We found it growing in our main garden patch and transplanted it into our bed beside the bbq.  Nothing beats a warm baked potato with butter sprinkled with freshly cut chives from you doorstep.  Easy gardening at its finest.  If you need extra incentive to use chives...know that you can use them almost anywhere you would normally like a flavour of onion. 


For me, Rosemary is synonmous with pork.  My mom used to cook this juicy pork tenderloin crusted with a rosemary garlic rub that was awesome!  Recently I discovered its uses in balsamic vinegrettes, on roasted root vegetables, and in roasted chickens.  They also kick eggs on their ass.  Don't be discouraged by the pine needle smell.  Cooking releases some of the awesome power of rosemary.  Use the essential oil for Rosemary and calm yourself.  The fresh leaves also aid in digestion.


Mint is for drinks and desserts!  Any herb you can fine by me!  Seems like if you have fresh mint and add it to your cooking, you are immediately a gourmet.  We fell in love with Moroccan Mint tea, introduced by our friends from Montreal.  It's just green tea with fresh mint and 5 tbsps of white sugar...brought to a boil and served piping hot.  SO GOOD!  It's the tea that got our 10 yr old Noah to start drinking herbal teas.  You can also add a new dimension to desserts by adding a candied mint sprig to a frozen treat.  You can also make daquiris and add a sprig there too.  It could all be growing in a pot at your front door.  Really, Mint would be the one herb I think everyone should have growing somewhere.  The fresh leaves aid in digestion, soothe colic, and relieve flatulence!  Harvest before the plant flowers and you recieve maximum mint flavour


Is the only herb I know that freshens your breathe while you chew it!  I add parsley to almost everything if I have it on hand.  Its a plant that can grow all spring, summer and fall if properly cared for.  Top salads, stick in sandwiches, season entrees with it.  Add it everywhere for a fresh splash of green.  It has vitamin K, C, A, iron, and calcium.  Parsley also helps in digestion.  Growing it close to sensitive things in your garden can also keep away garden pests.


Is a gardener's must!  The smell of it raw or cooking is devine.  It makes your kitchen smell like a gourmet restaurant without even trying.  To me, it smells like everything I love about cooking in the country.  Its simple.  We've even come across purple basil and lemon basil.  Like with all Bsil, you must catch the tender leaves before the whole plant goes to flower.  Once it flowers, the whole plant gets matter what flavour you originally bought.  Turns out, Basil is also good for you!  High in vitmain K, iron, calcium, vitamin A and C, manganese, magnesium, and potassium.  Eat your pesto...its good for you too!  Try serving on crackers or fresh bread and top with chopped tomatoes for a garlicky snack.

Speaking of's a grest recipe we use for jarring pesto sauce for the winter.  We use basil and parsley from our garden.  We never have great luck with garlic, so we bought some from the Verona Garlic festival.  We use either pine nuts or walnuts.  Both are acceptible nuts, each bringing their own flavour to the sauce.  Parmesan cheese is a key ingredient. 

2 qt fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups of olive oil
2 oz pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
6 cloves garlic
1 1/ tsp salt
5 oz grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 oz romano cheese (or more parmesan)

Put basil, oil, nuts, garlic and salt in a blender.  Blend until chunky.  Transfer to a bowl and add cheese.  Mix together.  Pour over warm pasta noodles and serve.

If you are storing the sauce to eat later...add to jars leaving 1/4 in space before the lid.   Seal immediately.  If you are really a die-hard you can do the whole double boiling thing to seal the jars too.  Our method has worked in a cupboard, root cellar or freezer!

I love jarring food because you can store it in a cupboard and as long as it doesn't get too warm and it has a good seal, it will last for years.  No electricity required!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Apple Crisp....winter warmth...

I have to admit that I love making apple crisp in the winter time.

The smell of it permiates throughout the house.

It sends me through a time warp of past memories.

Just the simple smell of crisp is uplifting.

Its the reason we work so hard in the fall preparing large freezer bags full of sliced and peeled apples.  Enough to fill half a chest freezer!  The apples were a combination of ones we had picked from my mother-in-laws house 15min from here and the rest were from our neighbour's tree.  Its so close we don't have to leave our property to pick them!  (but we do get permission first!)

Its so simple (and way too easy) to make a crisp at the drop of a hat with the apples already peeled and sliced, all you have to do is thaw out the amount you want.

Once thawed (or in the above picture semi-thawed) you can arrange them in a baking dish.

The topping is so simple a child could make illustrated by my 4 year old son Owen.
Although if Owen were in charge of ingredients, it would be an all-sugar topping.

So Mum takes charge of ingredients...and Owen is in charge of "smashing" the topping.

Start with the dry ingredients:

1/2 cup of white flour
1/4 cup of quick oats
1/2 cup of brown sugar packed
1/4 cup of white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more if you like)
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Blend thoroughly.  Add 8 tbsp of butter or margerine.  Cut in the butter with pastry knives or a device like Owen is using.  Its so easy you can do it in front of the tv!!!

The picture above features the pre-oven version. 

Sprinkle the crumb-like topping evenly over the top of your sliced apples.  Some cookbooks I've read say to knock the pan a few times to settle the crumbs.  I gently shakes my baking dish from side to side. 
It's up to you.  Whatever floats your boat...

And here's the finished product!  You bake this beauty at 375 degrees F for 55min.

Your house will smell yummy and your tastebuds will love this winter warmer!


  • Add rhubarb chunks in with the apples and switch the brown sugar for white sugar for a sweet, tart flavour.
  • Add frozen raspberries or strawberries for a taste of summer.
  • Add cubed cheddar on top of the topping for a savoury twist ("Apple pie without the cheese is like a hug without the squeeze!" a direct quote from my cousins)
  • Add a swirl of maple syrup on top of the topping for a sweet and naturally Canadian taste.
  • Add chunks of caramels (you can buy them at The Bulk Barn) on top of the topping for a decadent dessert.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Year in Review...

So it's now 2012 and I am already itching to get into the garden again.  Winters are always tough on the gardener...

Its my plan to get more out of this winter by brushing up on my foraging knowledge...

What are your New Year's Resolutions?

End of the year...
 I wanted to take this opportunity to go over some of the highlights from my case you missed some of my favorite posts.  Its been a great year!  77 posts after I first started this blog, I'm thrilled to see the community of gardeners, foragers and cooking afficianados that have gathered together.

I've seen folks post wonderful pictures of their gardens, their storing methods and general pride in what they's grown with their own two hands.

I've posted 31 posts about recipes.  Each recipe I make, I strive to include at least 2 items from our garden, foods I've foraged in the wild or ingredients that has been grown locally.  I've found some wonderful bloggers out there and I'm proud to say I've "borrowed" some of their recipes too.

I hope to inspire people to grow more, buy locally and eating foods from the wild whereever they can.

As for the highlights:

-This past year we found morel mushrooms for the first time! 
-I took the family on our first group foraging trip.
-We discovered a few things growing in our garden that we didn't plant! (like canteloupe and coriander)
-We also found out that some of the weeds we had been pulling out of our garden were actually edible!
-I did several business spotlights on people who operate locally...people who promote eating locally or living gently on the earth.
-We received gifted railway ties to finish off the garden borders.
-I created some beautiful garden art from scratch!
I showed how to make some wonderful fall decorations using found items.
-In July, I experimented with some recipes from the RAW food diet.
-Some of the foraged items we tried this year were: cattails, puffballs, wild leeks, wild black raspberries, dandelions, milkweed blossums, morel mushrooms, purslane, foxtail grass and wild grapes.
-I highlighted at least 3 books about gardening or foraging.
-Some of the vegetables we grew this year were:  red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, broccoli, brown potatoes, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, watermelons, peppers fooled ya, red peppers, green peppers, yellow hot peppers, yellow zucchinis, green zucchinis, eggplants, green, yellow and purple beans, peas, carrots, purple carrots, lettuce, radishes, beets, butternut squash, pumpkins, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb.
-Herbs we grew:  oregano, dill, basil, coriander/cilantro, garlic chives, regular chives, lemon basil and citronella.
-Foods we picked:  apples and blueberries. 

Start of the season...

Here's to more great posts, more foraging, more recipes, more spotlights on great businesses and loads more surprises!

Keep an eye out for this year's first contest!!!

Thanks again for reading and tell all of your friends...tee hee..