Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In celebration...2 Years and Counting...

In celebration of this blog officially turning 2 years old...

I thought I would have another contest!

So here goes:

You get your pick of the following books shipped directly to you!

Sorry, you can't look inside of the above pic...that's's fault.
However, if you really want this book, I'll make sure it will be autographed by Mr Brill himself!
You may remember my post on Steve Brill and his amazing foraging awesomeness...

My original post:

I've said it before, so I'll say it again...The Mathers are great!
If you want an introductory book about gardening in eastern Ontario that covers just about everything you'd want to know...this is the book you want!

Previous post on this great book:

Another great grab from The Mathers is the informative book shown below:
(also available for this contest)

This book is great even if you've only dreamed of being self sufficient...but a great guide if you have real intentions of becoming so.  Chock full of Mather humour!!!

Again, you can't look inside this one either.
However if you'd discover a sweet sweet book about growing from a child's perspective.
A sure favorite of my son Owen.  (his review "9 thumbs up")

My original post on Peggy's book:

Rebecca Lerner is a fantastic gal who amazes me with every post on her blog.
She resides in Seatlle and writes about all sorts of foraging.
(she won me over with her post about making MEAD...oh yeah, she rocks!)
I have yet to mention her in an offical post, sadly. (will rectify that in 2013 for sure!)

Here is her blog:

Any of these books would be a great addition to your library,
or a fantastic holiday gift for the gardener/forager in your life!
There is also a selection for the wee gardener in training...

All you have to do is tell me a story...and which book you want.

Yup, that's it!

A short story (let's keep it under 500 words) that answers the question "who is your guru?"

Who inspires you to grow more or experiment in the outdoors? 
Who have you learned the most from in your life?

Let's make Nov 15th be the deadline, so the prizes get shipped well before that holiday is upon us!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pizza! 3 ways to make it for the whole family....

So, like most people, we LOVE pizza.

What I don't like, is not knowing what is really going into my pizza.

I also don't like the price...
and the fact that we live in the country and can't get more than 1 company to deliver to us!

So I decided to pull out the ol' bread maker and stop whining.
(You can still make this recipe without the bread maker...but its more manual work)

With the bread maker, it really was easier than I would have expected!

Here is the dough recipe:

3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp water (80 degrees F, 27 degrees C)
2 tbsp veg oil
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast)

I can't stress enough how important it is to follow the directions exactly!
When you use a bread machine, you have to add the ingredients in exactly the manner they tell you.

step 1.  add water, veg oil to bread pan
step 2. add flour, sugar, salt to pan.  Tap ingredients to settle.  Level ingredients and push flour mixture to the corners of the pan. 
step 3.  Make a "well" in the center of the dry ingredients and add yeast.
step 4.  lock pan into bread machine, close cover and set timer to "dough".


The bread machine now does the work of mixing and punching the dough.

I decided to double the above recipe and make a few kinds of pizzas to show you the variety of flavours you can acheive by making your own pizza!

Of course there is the traditional cheese, sauce and pepperoni pizza.
I make this one for all of us, but mainly wee Master Owen.
Owen is 5 yrs old and adventurous doesn't describe his taste buds.

This one is by far the easiest.  Brush on sauce, add pepperoni slices, top with
shredded mozzerella cheese and bake for 15 mins.  Voila!

Noah is 11 yrs old and is starting to expand his taste buds these days.
He is much more receptive to a slice of spinach and feta pizza than Owen.

For this one you have to make the stuff in 2 stages.
Fry onions and garlic in a bit of oil.
Add huge fists of spinach and simmer until wilted.
Artfully place the whole mess on a pizza dough already brushed with sauce.
Crumble feta on top and add some shredded mozzerella cheese if you wish.

If you skip the cheese, this qualifies as vegetarian or good for Meatfree Mondays.
Bake for 15mins and enjoy!

Stemming from my years in Toronto, I grew to love non-traditional pizzas.
There was a fantastic place in Kensington Market that served all kinds.
Gluten-free, dairy-free and definitely not taste-free!

In honour of those days, I made a potato, carmelized onion and rosemary pizza.
(I also had loads of rosemary still outside and needed to do something with it...)

If you skip the cheese, this also qualifies as vegetarian or good for Meatfree Mondays.
This recipe called for the dough to be grilled...which in hindsite I should have done.
This one still turned out fine, but I can see it should have been crispier.

Wash and pat dry some potatoes.
Pierce and nuke for 1-2 mins.
Slice into 5mm slices and set aside.
Carmelize onions in some oil.
Brush dough with oil and fry for 2 mins on one side.  Then flip and add potatoes & onions.
Top with fresh rosemary and parmesan cheese.  S & P to taste.
(recipe called for fontina cheese, but either cheese works well)

Grill in oil on a flat grill and serve!

There are 3 excellent recipes for pizza made in your home, but the list can go on and on.
The main ingredients for the dough don't cost a lot if you space them out over several grocery trips.  Best part is, once you have the seems to last for a long time.  (even the yeast lasts if kept in the fridge)

Stock up and have homemade pizzas all winter long...
without worrying if the pizza guy will make it to your door in the snow!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Take a hike....2012

One fall afternoon...

The air was just right.  The breeze was calling me.

The trees beckoned.

A small bird watched as the thoughts came to me...its time to explore the backyard!

First, start by selecting the appropriate trekking clothing.
Long pants, a must.
Sturdy hiking shoes...that is something that is a personal preference.
I like low riding shoes as I like my ankles to have loads of moving room.
Some folks like the ones that allow the support for those ankles.
If you go for the high top hiking shoes, make sure you were them around a bit to break them in BEFORE you trek.  It will help in the long run, I promise.

I also like to don a long sleeved shirt and a vest of some sort.
Wear shorter sleeves if you dare.
I discovered that we have burrs of several types in our property.
(One type as shown above)

Don't pick your best stuff as they will more than likely get wrecked somehow.

I was enjoying the relatively warm balmy weather of September
when I wrote this don't be asking me why the leaves haven't changed yet...
Most of our leaves have changed colour and allowed the wind to blow them from
their lofty homes up in the tree tops.

Our backyard beyond the firepit is very over-grown and wonderful.

It sparks my imagination in ways that haven't been tickled since childhood.
The days of tree forts and expeditions into the wild.

I'm more cautious now and respectful of nature.

It still gets my imagination going...just in new ways now.

I found plants on my property that need identifying!

There was this one above that stood about 1/2 a foot tall.
It had a tubular stem, grass-like clusters of leaves starting at the base
and a tall collection of orange berries on top.

Some wild plant that looked like cilantro.
The flowers on this one was beautiful!

A tall cluster of dried something!

(By the way, I also wear gloves...just in case something I touch
might cause a reaction...we have scads of poison ivy on our property
as well as some poison sumac here and there)

Not sure if this will be white like poison sumac or if the berries will turn blue like
these other plants on our property.
It also seemed late for either of those things...

The berries were close to the ground stemming from a plant
pictured above.
(You can also see some of the baby oaks on our property
in that pic...wondering what kind of oak we have...)

I also found some of the above pictured
pretty purple wild flowers.

I'm not much one for flowers but I appreciate when nature sprinkles them

I had almost forgotten how the flowers leave us in the fall, only to
have nature give us sheets of purple asters everywhere I look.

Grab a pair of sturdy shoes and get outside for a hike.
Explore your own property.
Inspect the hidden corners you never think about.

Nature has surprises waiting for you...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Winemaking with your own grapes!

One of the best feelings is getting a recipe from someone.

I especially like getting the recipes that have been handed down for generations.

We were given a recipe for wine...and when we moved into a house with concord grapes well established...we could hardly resist.

Everything starting coming together, like the universe wanted us to make our own vino!

Test any of these out...if you dare!

The grapes were picked and mashed.
The boys apparently had a hilarious time mashing with feet in plastic bags.
Camera was AWOL at the time...

We borrowed some carboys...

Ches is some sort of engineering genius...
Tupperware, black electric tape and showerhead hose.

The two weeks we had to wait were almost too much.
The suspense was killing us...

On the two week annisersary, we used the dishwasher on a cycle with
white vinegar just to sanitize the operation.

Another high-tech contraption.
Restaurant grade strainer (borrowed) and
a camping cooler (washed out in the bathtub)

Pouring into the coolers to strain repeatedly turned out to be
a lot more work than we intended...but you can't turn back at this point!

A corker in action...also borrowed.
The bottles and corks were purchased in Kingston at Cask & Keg at Bayridge & Princess.
The guy was so impressed we didn't use a kit that he threw in the corks for free...
Then wished us luck!

We started running out of bottles (I only bought 30),
so we started using just about any glass container not nailed down.

I started calling it Desert Lake Hooch.

It's been a few weeks since bottling and we've enjoyed a bottle here and there.
It's especially nice when you're sitting next to the fireplace on a cool night.

If I were to comment on what it takes like...
I'd have to say it tastes more like a hard fruit juice than it does wine.
Some bottles are sweeter than others.  Some bottle blew their corks sitting in our basement.
It really does prove to be need head room between your liquids and your cork.

The funny part was when one shot out in the basement, hit the ceiling...right under my head while I was sleeping.
It sounded like a shot gun...which actually didn't surprise's duck hunting season in my area.

We will definitely be reading up on wine making and growing wine making grapes.
Hopefully we will have a better idea of what we're doing by next spring...
That is...if we don't spend the winter drinking our wine...and forgetting to research...

Has anyone made their own wine? 

I'd love to hear about your lessons learned and stories!