Friday, March 22, 2013

Winter in all its Glory

This winter has been beautiful in our back-country location.
Most days looked like the image below.

Recently, the snow was gently falling in medium-sized flakes...
There was no wind and the air was pleasantly chilly but not frigid.
I wanted to share something with my readers that my husband and I have been really enjoying this winter.
It's a drink made for days just like this!

Wintergreen Woods Loose Leaf Tea

Pictured above is our new glass teapot, diffuser and bubble cups.

The drink itself might not look like much...but it is an experience in subtly.

We just adore this tea, given to us by my lovely friend Samantha Phillips.
Straight from the loose leaf tea guys at David's Tea in Kingston,
this variety is called Wintergreen Woods.

The ingredients are as follows:
  • Wintergreen leaves
  • Cedar greens
  • White Pine needles
  • Red Sumac berries
If winter had a flavour...this tea would be it!
It is subtle, refreshing and slightly sweet.

My husband is now obsessed with recreating this tea from foraged ingredients.
(I would almost feel badly about that, but David's Tea discontinued this variety!)

Just about everything can be found in our backyard...with the exception of wintergreen leaves...
It is my goal to have this tea replicated, foraged, dried and stored by next winter.
(fingers crossed)

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), also known as Eastern Teaberry, is a great forage in the winter.
Both the berries and leaves are edible...but the berries can be harmful in quantities for young children.
The leaves make a wonderful trail nibble.
Wintergreen leaves have been used as a substitute for tea during depressions or hardtimes when tea was scarce.
Wintergreen leaves carry medicinal qualities, such as the relief of pain and inflammation (as in gout and arthitis).
Native Americans are said to have brewed a tea from the leaves to alleviate rheumatic symptoms, headache, fever, sore throat and various aches and pains.
Oil of wintergreen has been used for many things, such as flavouring toothpaste.
(for a serious list of its many many uses, check out the link below)

Not to mention the great section in the book "Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places" by Master Forager "Wildman" Steve Brill

In short, wintergreen is soothing & tasty,
but this tea takes the flavour to a whole new level.
The cedar, pine & sumac add light notes of what I can only describe as a taste of winter in Canada.
Perfect for relaxing with the ones you love on a quiet winter's afternoon.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What is your standard cooking bible?

Let's get to know our blogger, shall we?

Seriously, I've been getting asked questions on my facebook group and page.
I thought I would answer some of them publicly.
Hope it helps shed some light on me as well as knowledge to you.

I have been asked which standard cookbooks I typically use for everyday items.

To be perfectly honest, up until recetly, I sucked at cooking and didn't enjoy it.
I thought that someone like me just scored when I married a trained cook.
What they don't tell you, is that someone who does something for a living is NOT going to want to do it when they come home from work.... 
The fact that I don't enjoy preparing food collides with the realization that one must prepare food if one wants to survive and be healthy.

Since I had no interest in learning to cook in my youth, I floundered with my health and suffered for years because of it.  Too much processed food and fast food options caused numerous trips to the emerg with random ailments related to too much refined sugar and not enough fruit and vegetables in my diet.

In terms of cooking for my family, I believe that as long as its home made, I can make a more nutritous, balanced diet while controlling the ingredients and preservatives that enter our systems.

Since my cooking education was pretty much starting from the beginning...I thought I better have
a guide on how to do the most basic things in cooking and baking.
In my husband's extensive cookbook collection, I found my salvation.

I could not live without the following cooking manual:

I say cooking manual because this isn't just a collection of recipes.
The above book is a collected work of the most basic recipes and techniques for a multitude of cultures and cuisines.

The go-to recipes I use in this text are the following:
-apple crisp
-basic rolled biscuits
-any kind of meat I haven't cooked before...this book talks about how to prepare most cuts of meat in a variety of ways
-pancakes from scratch

My husband is more familiar with the cook book text book from his college days:

This tome intimidates I prefer to stick with something more published for the masses.

My sister swears by the Fanny Farmer cookbook from our childhood.

Everyone has their standard...or if really should invest in one.
Hit a local bookstore and search the cookbook section.
Ask a relative.
See if the book has recipes with which you are accustomed.

While I find that the internet is fantastic for searching for new recipes with old ingredients,
but there is something to be said for the old stand-by you reach for when you need something familiar.

For example, we made ribs the other night
(which is something I never used to make, but its quickly becoming a family favorite)
and needed a side dish.
Page 17 of the Joy of Cooking illustrates ideas for whole menus.
I found a section on what goes great with BBQ...and I found hushpuppies.

The Joy Of Cooking usually has a short blurb before the actual nitty-gritty of the recipe.
This one was no exception:

As found in The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer:


Fishermen used to fry this savory corn batter in the same lard as the catfish.  (which was funny when, upon smelling the hushpuppies in the frying pan, my husband thought I was making fish).  Legend has it that they threw some to the clamorous dogs with the admonition "Hush, puppy". 

mix together in a bowl:
1 2/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper *
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 red pepper*

whisk together in another bowl:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk**
1/2 grated onions***
*i used a bit more than a tsp of mixed red, white, green and black peppercorns
** i used  milk, but would probably try cream next time
*** i used chopped onions

  • add to the cornmeal mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  • heat 1 in of veg oil or shortening in a skillet
  • use a tablespoon to measure out and gently drop the batter in the oil
  • adjust the heat so that each side becomes golden brown and crispy in approx 60 sec
  • use a slotted spoon to flip them over and repeat on opposite side
  • transfer to baking sheet lined with paper towl and keep warm in a 200 degree C oven
  • repeat with remaining batter

Serve warm - Goes great with BBQ!

BBQ Ribs with Green beans and Hushpuppies

These babies ended up tasting like a deep fried corn bread biscuit.
Great dipped in the home made BBQ sauce, but
Definitely different, but I'm not so sure how often I'd be serving these up
for health reasons.

What is YOUR standard cooking bible?
(and what do you use it for mostly?)