Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hamburger...the Never ending Story

I love an odd cookbook.
I have so many of them...

It's like a fixation really.

I managed to pare the collection down when we moved into 
our current home.
I was not going to be the one with 100 boxes of cookbooks.
No way.

One of the books I knew I'd be keeping is shown below...


Published in 1960...this cookbook holds no less than 38 pages of meatball recipes alone!
Meatloaves, burgers, casseroles, soups and sauces.
One of the things I love about this book is that there are specific recipes for up to 100 people.
Not all cookbooks do that, incidentally.

So the other night I figured I would thumb through it and
find a meatball recipe.
I had some ground beef leftover and couldn't really figure 
what to make with it.

I stumbled across Danish Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes.

2 lbs hamburger
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients and form into 1 1/2 in balls.
Roll the meatballs in 2/3 cup flour seasoned with 1/4 salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper.
Brown on all sides in 1/4 cup cooking oil.
Add 1 cup beef stock and 1 bay leaf.
Cover and simmer for 30 mins.
Remove meatballs and set aside.
Blend in 3 tbsp flour and brown. 
Stir in 1 1/2 cup bouillon.
Cook, stirring constantly, until medium thick.
Serve meatballs and gravy with mashed potatoes harvested from our garden.

The end result was a warm yummy dish.
The nutmeg made a beautifully different gravy.
I served this dish with a side of green and yellow beans 
and peas frozen from our garden harvest.

This meal was perfect after a day of yard work on a cold afternoon.
It certainly balanced out the sight of our pond frozen!

We don't eat a ton of red meat...but when we do, we do enjoy the comfort and flavour.
When you buy local meat, you can be sure of the quality.
(Compared to those factory facilities who sell to grocery stores)
Plus, this is a great way to make your grocery dollars go farther!

Stay tuned for more ways to prepare hamburger...for those aficionados of hamburger everywhere.

Friday, November 22, 2013

All Natural Holiday Decorations

So this year the holiday spirit has hit me a little early.
Not sure if this condition is due to my interest in Pinterest...

Or my shock at the unbelievable balls on Michael's for their pricing.
Not only that, but everything I liked was for interior use only.


I live in the country.

I am surrounded by inspiration...and craft supplies!

We had a great day with little wind and the air was seasonably cool but comfortable.
I decided to get trimmers in hand and get crafting!!!

I have seen so many lovely pins on Pinterest.
Birch bark, pine cones, twine, twigs and tons of greenery.
It got me all inspired!

All I had to do was pull together the necessary pieces.

We salvaged some galvanized metal maple sap collecting buckets from my 
In Laws dump site years ago (we were lending a hand and cleaning it up)
We use plastic ones now for sap the metal ones are for planting and decorating only.

I grabbed some red dogwood from the edges of the yard close to the swamp.

The front yard has a white pine tree with lower limbs hanging.
I helped them out by lessening their load.
The nearby spruce got a trim too.

Lastly I snagged some dead sumac branches and spray painted them gold.
(I had that leftover from Owen's Halloween costume) 

I planted a rock from the herb garden at the bottom 
of each bucket and then started stuffing it with
all of the gathered materials.

Added some sparkly gold ribbon from my Mother in Law's stash,
 propped them up on an old step ladder we inherited...
and BAM!
Instant, free to me, almost all natural, outdoor, seasonally festive decorations!!!

I saved myself about $75.00
and screw you Michael's!!!

I could not be stopped...
I moved inside!

The above simple centerpiece was formed with
stuff I already had!
The glass Susan, the red plate and the white candle
were all somewhere in the house.
I placed some spruce twigs on the glass Susan.
(Keeps the mess off of the tablecloth too)
Then I balanced the candle and plate on the greenery.
Toss around some scented pine cones from my Mother In Law's bin.
BAM!  Centerpiece for virtually free!

The above swag was what started it all.
I gathered some spruce limbs and tied them with hemp yarn from a previous project.
I grabbed the glue gun and started situating
the pine cones and plastic poinsettias from the bin.
I added some sprigs of sparkly golden
ribbons for flare!
BAM!  Wall decor covered for free!!!

I already had the slender glass vessel full of dogwood year round.
All I had to do, in this case, was add sprigs of greenery from the yard and
a bouquet of plastic poinsettias and white flowers for the Mother In Law bin.
BAM!  Repurposed decoration for virtually nothing!!!

Stay tuned for more free, natural and virtually free decorations
for the festive and seasonal in your home!

What have you been making?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Tale of Two Chilies...

Ah fall...

The time of year we celebrate cooler days, shorter days, woolen mittens,
cozy sweaters, thick socks, falling leaves, apple cider, everything cinnamon...
and hearty-warm-stick-to-your-ribs cookin!


I have 2 very different recipes for you, my readers...

Beef Chili

Browned ground beef, diced tomatoes x 2 cans, chopped onions, pressed garlic, 
sliced mushrooms, corn, kidney beans x 1 can, 2 tbsp chili powder, dash of beer

Throw everything in pot and simmer for a few hrs.
Serve with johnny cake or cornbread, spoon on a bun or over a hot dog!
(Even great on fries!)

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Browned ground turkey, diced tomatoes x 2 cans, chopped carrots from the garden, 
chick peas x 1 can, chopped onions, corn from the garden, 3 tbsp chili powder, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp turmeric

Throw everything in a slow cooker, set the temp for high and cook for 4-6 hrs.
Serve with dinner rolls or bread sticks for yummy dipping!
Although this version of chili may weird some folks out...
It really is worth a try.
I've made it with turkey as well as chicken and they both turn out lovely.

If you are looking for warm meal this fall...try one of these chili recipes!
Healthy, filling and really easy on the budget!!!

We have been taking chili outside for a bonfire in the backyard lately.
You gotta get these activities in while the weather is permitting.
One just had a few of those excellent moon nights where
the moon is so casts shadows!

What are you doing this fall?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Books!

New to the bookshelf!

I was at a Christmas craft sale and happened to spy a box of books.

The sign on the box read 3 for $1...
how can you beat that?!?!

I sorted through the box to find a couple of treats.

Firstly I found a book called "Vegetables from a Country Garden" by Anstace and Larry Esmonde-White.
This book excited me because these folks are gardening in Kemptville, Ontario.
I get excited when I find a book that illustrates gardening in my region.
You come across so many gardening books, but if they are offering advise from another region than you're in...than the advise given isn't worth a lot to you.

While the knowledge and methods may work for their region, 
it isn't going to work for you.
Keep that in mind when you are thumbing through gardening books.

I was so excited to read this book.
That was, until I saw one sad picture that made me reconsider the whole book.
It shows the lovely Anstace with gloves and mask, hosing down her garden with pesticides.
While I admit, there are a lot of good suggestions in this book, that one photo made
me reconsider using this book at all.
How can you trust the other pieces of advise, knowing that she sprays her garden?

That brings me to the glory of the second book!

I have been wanting to get a hold of a copy of this book for some time now.
"Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte.

This book discusses companion planting.
There are a ton of reasons why you would want to know more about companion planting!
Certain plants grow better when planted next to each other.
Certain plants keep pests away from their neighbouring plants.
It also discusses what plants do not like other plants.
Some plants have nutritional requirements that differ from others,
so planting them next to those other plants would result in a less-than-bumper crop.

I must admit, I had heard about an old Native practice called "The Three Sisters".
It involves planting corn first, then beans and the squash at the bottom.
I never truly understood the rationale behind the practice though.
(I thought it was all about saving space, honestly)
Just a quick reading of this book quickly explained most of it!
The beans provide protection for the corn from raccoons,
the squash keep weeds down and keep moisture in the ground for the corn.
The corn provides shade for the squash and a natural structure for the beans to climb.
Some plants, like dill or sunflowers, can keep pests away from your crops too!

You can bet that by the end of winter, "Carrots Love Tomatoes" will be dog eared, scribbled upon and probably be almost falling apart!

I would love to maximize my yield!
To improve the quality and quantity of my harvest sounds ideal!
So I believe I will be adding this book to the permanent resource shelf.

Now as for the former book...I'm still on the fence.
While I love reading about gardening in my area...I don't believe I should have to gas my food.

Stay tuned for more "novel" insights...sorry couldn't help it.

What resource books have your discovered lately?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

This years pumpkins went far...

We went all out this year with pumpkins.

Fortunate as we seem to be...we came into a bunch of pumpkins.

So this year's haul of pumpkin products feels like gold even more!

Let's start with the initial process...


You wash the outside of the pumpkin and pat dry.
Using a large knife, slice the pumpkin in half.
Scoop out the stringy bits and separate the seeds into a colander.
Cut the remaining hunks of pumpkin into smaller pieces.
Set pumpkin pieces in a roasting pan, skin side out.
Add a bunch of water to the pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 60 mins.
Take pieces out and place in a big mixing bowl until they cool.
Scoop out the flesh into containers.
Blend in food processor if desired...mainly for texture.
Repeat until the entire veggie is reduced to pumpkin skin resting nicely in your compost bucket.

The seeds can be roasted...

Toss seeds in oil or cut a few pieces of butter and spread around a pan of seeds and some cracked salt.
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 mins or until brown and crispy.

The flesh can be used in so many delicious ways!

Here is what we managed to make out of a few jack o lanterns still kicking around...

Pumpkin spice muffins freeze really well and can be reheated in under 30 sec in a microwave.
It is a seriously economical recipe, as long as you already have the spices in the pantry.

Creamy Spicy Pumpkin Soup was an afterthought.
I was spooning the flesh out into containers for freezing.
The inevitable happened...I had a half full container.
So soup it was!
This soup recipe is has a spicy kick due to the curry and cayenne.
I had a tablespoon of cream cheese left over so I added it!
The spicy and creamy were perfect compliments.
I garnished the soup with roasted pumpkin seeds...crunchy!

For even more yummy recipes, head on over to my friend Sam of the lovely Ravels & Tangles blog!
She's seriously obsessed with'll see...
Pumpkin smoothie, pumpkin earle grey latte and pumpkin mac n cheese!!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2 Mexi Options for a Meat Free Monday

Every now and again I like to offer up options for people who are trying to curb their meat intake.

I have previously done posts about Meatfree Mondays, 
an initiative spearheaded by Sir Paul McCartney and his daughters.
If you are looking for the nutritional info on beans (or beans and rice together) - check out this link to my previous post.

Here is another in that series of posts:

Meat Free Burritos

I have posted this recipe before - but its so good, I'm posting it again.

I make a bean and rice dish that was inspired by something husband and I loved in Costa Rica.
Basically its black beans cooked in a little oil with lemon juice, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, coriander, onions and S&P to taste.
Add in rice (I use a mixture of wild and brown rices) and simmer a bit more.

I add the beans and rice mixture to the wraps and top with spinach, tomatoes, 
sweet bell peppers, shredded cheese and plain Greek yogurt.
(Previously I have shown eating these with ranch dressing - but the Greek yogurt is awesome too)

What you get is a delicious, healthy and filling meal!

Pretty cheap too, if you happen to grow yer own veggies!
Beans and rice keep forever (in the proper conditions) so they really are a great investment for your grocery dollar, whether they be canned or dried.

I use the same bean and rice mixture in another dish...

Vegetarian Nachos

I take the same beans and rice mixture and scoop them into the center of a dinner plate.
Surround the scoops with nachos chips (shown here is Tostitos Cantina chips)
I sprinkled the last of my Roma tomatoes, chopped, and some sweet bell peppers, chopped.
Homemade salsa gets spooned around too.
Grated cheese (marble cheddar and hot pepper brick cheeses) on top of the whole mess and bake at 400 degrees C until cheese is melty!

I've been able to find these chips for quite a good deal, so the overall price on these nachos is still way below pub or restaurant rates.


What have you been making meat-free these days?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Yard Update: The property is taking shape!

This update now feels like its way past due.
We felt the effects of a wind storm recently and now the yard looks different that what is pictured below.

That's still shows you the progress we've made this year.

Our firepit now sports some pretty nifty benches made by Ches my husband.
They seemed quite resistant to being cut up into fire wood
(Ches nicknamed this stuff Ironwood...)
so he threw some cinder blocks under them and BAM...

Our elevator/escalator repair friends gave us these amazing wooden boxes last year.
They transported escalator parts to a job site last year and thought we could use
them for burning.
I thought them ideal for holding kindling!
The wire boxes were once used for rabbits by a family friend.
Now they are waiting to find their true purpose in our yard.

The image below is the piles of wood waiting to cure (dry).

We stole dried leaves from the campground again (like last fall).
This year we added them to the area where we are expanding the garden.
Hoping to kill off as much grass as possible before tilling.

The part where you spread the leaves around is more like play that work.

The entire are you see above is the area we are adding to the existing garden.
Sometimes I think we are crazy...

This is a great view of the length of the & old parts together.
If you look can see me trying to get leaves out of my pants.

We took a part a rock garden that only seemed to grow poison ivy.
The rocks we took away, we reformed into an Inukshuk.

Another area that had been previously ignored got some attention this year.

The side of the house got the remaining rocks as a border around a bunch of newly acquired hostas.
As we start to look around our property...we start to notice how there is a lot of stuff we got from campers at the campground across the street.
How fortunate we are to have such good friends.
How lucky it is that they live on when we look around.
The hostas came from a former camper that pulled out this year.
They will be missed for sure.

We had some stellar fall days for a while there!
The sun always shining...the breeze always gentle.

Our property is starting to take shape now after our second year here.
Its nice to take your time...often I find a yard takes its own shape...I'm just there to document the changes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wild Horseradish...another new discovery from the yard!!!

For those of you who follow me on Facebook...
you might remember an image I posted a while back.

We identified it as Wild Horseradish (Amoracia lapathifolia)...
mostly because it strongly resembled the cultivated horseradish 
we bought a few weeks before...sigh.
We also did the necessary reading and research...just to confirm our suspicions.
We noticed the similarity in leaf shape right away.
Who could forget those long elegant leaves?
I knew they had to belong to something.

We dug up the roots when the leaves dried up and went brown.

We dug and seemed to go on forever.

I was finally able to get the top halves of a few roots...
sadly leaving the bottom half of the roots behind.
I scrubbed them gently and revealed a root like any other, 
appearance wise, but the aroma was unmistakable.

I peeled them with an ordinary vegetable peeler.
Maybe its getting too close to Halloween...
but they looked like bones to me.

Don't stand above the bowl when grating your horseradish...
It has a similar effect on your eyes as onions.

I jarred some for future seafood feasts and roast beef bonanzas.
All it took was a simple syrup of vinegar and sugar with a dash of salt.

For those of you who like horseradish...I think this will knock yer socks off!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Purple Carrots...

Gardens can reflect the person who tends it.

Ours has a tendency to surprise people.

We always pick a few things that start a conversation.
Things we've never grown before or things that are a little less ordinary.

freshly picked carrots purple and orange

Take carrots for example.

You can grow a regular orange carrot...but the fun comes when you grow different colours of carrots!

Gently scrubbed purple carrot
I see Farmboy sells special carrots at a premium price in purple, red and yellow.
Silly can grow fancy carrots for a lot less...

Few people know the carrot's natural state is white.
The root of Queen Anne's Lace 
(Daucus carota aka Wild Carrot, bishop's lace, bird's nest) 
is white and if its growing anywhere 
near your carrot will your cultivated carrots be white.
Cross pollination is fun! 

purple carrots peeled and sliced

We love to experiment in the garden.
If you grow something new, you get to experiment in the kitchen!

We discovered you can grow purple beans, but if you try to cook them, they turn back to green!
We found out that if you cook a purple carrot, it will turn the water blue.

I read that you shouldn't peel a coloured carrot, lest you peel all the different colour away.
You should wear rubber gloves when peeling purple carrots...
as the colour stains your hands much THE LESSON THAT BEETS TAUGHT ME.
As you can see from the image above...
the colour runs pretty much through a good chunk of the flesh of this vegetable.

It also looks SPECTACULAR on a tray of veggie sticks.

What do you grow just for the novelty?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Backyard Discoveries: Wood Sorrel & Black Haw

I love foraging.

One of the many reasons why I love foraging so much is the feeling of discovery!

You walk by the same bush or plant everyday...
then one day you find out it is edible and it actually tastes GREAT!

This year we have identified 2 new plants.
Wood Sorrel and Black Haw.

Wood Sorell

My little man Owen tried the Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), loved the lemony taste, then became the local wood sorrel guy...picking lots and sharing it with everyone from family to classmates to bus drivers.

The other find was Black Haw.
This plant was a bit trickier.
I had to do lots of reading and waiting for the berries to ripen to be sure we had made a proper identification. 

Unripened Black Haw on tree

The tree itself doesn't look like much.
We found one with some berries on it close to Owen's Hobbit hole.
I put chicken wire around the base until we could figure out what it was exactly.

As the cooler weather came along, the greenish berries turned redish (as shown above)
After a while the berries would turn blackish blue.
If you didn't pick them soon enough (or the birds didn't get them), they would wither on the tree and fall (shown below).

After we had successfully identified this wee tree (the one by the Hobbit hole was only 3 feet tall),
we were struck by how many other Black Haw trees we had way in the back!
Some of those trees were over 12 feet tall!!!
Luckily for my husband (who is already tall, but not THAT tall), the tree trunk was thin and bendy enough he could pull down a branch and pick it from the ground.

The raw berries are not what I would call a "good trail nibble".
They have a skin and a seed, once you get rid of both, there is not a lot left.
The seed reminded me of a watermelon seed, long, oval, flat and brown.

"Wildman" Steve Brill discusses them in his book "Identifying & Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and not so wild) Places"

Black Haw berries with stems attached

Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium) is also known as sweet haw, blackhaw or stag bush.
It's in the Viburnum family...also in the family are high bush cranberries.
Black Haw is described as having a date-like texture.
So, to us, that meant only one thing...

Black Haw berries, all washed up and sorted

We picked and cleaned 6 cups of berries.
For your reference, that produced about 2 1/2 cups of filling.
I searched Google for recipes and was stuck on one called "Ooey Gooey Date Squares".

We followed all the steps as listed, but I added 1/4 cup more brown sugar
and a dash more lemon juice than stated in the recipe.

Part way through the "boiling down process" I started to get anxious.
What if this turns out to taste like crap?
What if I wasted all of these ingredients for nothing?
What if nobody eats it?
I started to panic...

That's what cooking is all about.
You experiment with a new ingredient or a new recipe.
You push your own boundaries...your own comfort zone.
Once I reminded myself of that simple fact...I began to relax.

We lost our square baking dish years ago, so in this case, we substituted a pie dish.
I pressed in the base with my hands, trying to make sure it was nice and even throughout.
Husband poured in the Black Haw filling and I smoothed it around.
I sprinkled the topping afterwards and baked as per the instructions.

Once the baking was done, the Black Haw filling wasn't quite firm enough.
When I poked the top, the filling was more like pudding than filling.
We placed it in the fridge for a day or so to give the filling a chance to solidify.

The finished product with a sprig of mint!

This recipe was great!  I'm not one for date squares, but the taste of the Black Haw
was so different!
The flavour was light and almost perfumed in a floral sort of way.
The texture was somewhere between date square filling and blueberry pie filling.

I was most surprised that Owen liked the squares...
He's already asking for more...
and is disappointed that we won't make another batch until next fall.
Because we were trying a new recipe, we didn't want to go overboard with the picking.
We wanted to try it out without picking the trees bare.
Leave some for the wildlife!

Another reason we didn't pick a ton of berries, was because we had no idea how to store the Black Haw.  
If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!!!
I suppose we could have frozen the filling but what about canning?

WARNING:  Black Haw contains salicin, a chemical relative of aspirin. Those who are allergic to that substance should not use Black Haw.

What have you foraged lately?
Anyone have a favorite fall wild edible?