September 29, 2006


I bought myself a new toy this week with birthday money that my in-laws had given me months ago - I got a great deal on a Food Saver vacuum sealer that I couldn't pass up. I've been debating the merits of these things for years now and finally made the decision to do it.

I don't like the thought of all the plastic involved with this process, but the upside is that you are able to wash and reuse the bags as many times as you like. The fruit that I'd frozen just a couple of months ago was already badly freezer burned, so I'm hoping this will help prolong the freshness of my precious stores. My big plan is to get the jar sealer attachment, which allows you to seal things in Mason jars using regular canning lids. This will prevent bug infestations in the pantry, and I'm thinking I can just freeze loose berries, peas, beans, etc., in sealed jars instead of buying more bags.

Here are some of my raspberries, pesto cubes, and blueberries all tucked in and ready for winter.

September 27, 2006

Cookbook Spotlight - The Rebar

My husband and I met almost 13 years ago while going to school at the University of Victoria. Well, not really - we're actually from the same hometown, but we didn't really know each other there, despite having several of the same friends. He even lived right behind one of my very best school chums.

But I digress. Victoria is a gorgeous little city located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island (no, the city of Vancouver isn't actually on that island - confusing, I know). It's an amazing place - very British and quaint but with that bracing west coast ruggedness. My favorite place to eat while living there was a place called The Rebar, one of the very best vegetarian restaurants there is.

So what does this have to do with "C" and our relationship? We went there on one of our very first dates, and he intentionally ordered a dish with tofu in it. I knew at that moment that this was a guy that had potential (he even reads for fun - jackpot!).

Fast forward about 10 years, and I was understandably delighted when they put out a cookbook of some of their best recipes. A few of my favorites include the Raspberry Oat Bars, the Squash and Smoked Cheddar Tart, and the Rustic Bread Salad.

This is a salad like no other. Piled high with huge garlicky croutons, chopped tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, bocconcini cheese, and the best basil vinaigrette I've ever tasted, it's one of our favorite summer meals.

If you ever find yourself in Victoria, be sure to check it out!

September 26, 2006

Sun Flowers?

These lovely yellow blooms are as sunny as our weather has been lately.

September 25, 2006

Roasted squash with all the fixins'

I harvested these lovely Delicata squashes from the garden today in order to make a yummy sounding dish that my good friend Catriona came up with recently.

To prepare the squash, I halved and seeded them, and then brushed them with a little olive oil. After a sprinkling of salt and pepper, I roasted them (cut side down) in my countertop convection oven until they were soft when poked with a knife (I use the convection regularly when I'm cooking something small rather than heating up the big oven).

While they were baking, I caramelized some onions slowly in a cast iron frying pan with a bit more olive oil and salt. I used two whole onions tonight but that wasn't nearly enough for the four of us, so I'll do at least one per person next time.

When everything was ready, I placed a generous amount of goat cheese on top of the squash (I buy a delicious one that's been rolled in fine herbs), piled on the caramelized onions, and topped everything off with a dollop of homemade pesto.

To round out the meal, we paired it with a nice loaf of green olive bread - it was so incredibly delicious that we were wishing we'd used larger squashes.

Thanks for sharing your great idea, Catriona!

To see some other delicious and healthy dishes, check out Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day roundup on Tuesday nights.

September 24, 2006

Tomato Daze

I'm still dealing with tomatoes as they continue to ripen in dribs and drabs in our cool autumn weather. It's supposed to be sunny and warm for the next week or so, and I'm hoping that the lack of rain will allow the rest of them to finish up.

This morning I started drying what's left of the Juliet cherry tomatoes (which look like baby romas). As of tonight they seem more or less much done; I guess their smaller size makes them faster to dehydrate.

I also took a stab at making ketchup today. I don't particularly like the stuff but my son does. Since the organic variety costs an arm and a leg and is trucked from halfway across the continent, I thought it might be a good thing to try. We haven't used it on anything yet, but it seems to taste like the real thing.

I'm continuing to revise my planting priorities for next year. I've already decided that I need to make room for more basil, and today I realized that I need to plant far more roma tomatoes than I did this year, with maybe only a few varieties for fresh eating. Most things that I want to make seem to call for the meatier romas, and I just don't have enough out there (and the ones I do have are still pretty green). I've made some sauces (salsa and ketchup), and will have some dried, but I hardly have any cans of just tomatoes. I use a lot of canned tomatoes, so this is something that will have to change.
I'm hoping to have at least a few left over that don't ripen though. My mom recently found her recipe for green tomato mincemeat (which I love), so I'll be needing some for that!

September 23, 2006

Market Share

Today was the second to last market day of the year, so I've started hoarding for winter. It's becoming painfully obvious that the days of fresh, readily available local produce are coming to a close, and I found it hard to resist taking more than I probably needed.
Saturday market trips are always fun, as it's a time for me to hang out with my mom, doing what we both love best (she's as much of a gardening freak and foodie as I am). The kids are really only keen to go if the woman from Bad Girl Chocolates is there on that particular day so they can buy a handful of classic caramels to savour while we shop (5 for $1), but unfortunately she isn't there every week. There are a few things that will distract them momentarily, like tasting every single cheese sample (even though they could probably identify them blindfolded), and visiting the nice organic grower who gives them free pieces of fruit, but for the most part they think it's torture. Today they decided that their grandmother is part snail because she takes so long to do the circuit, this is in spite of the fact that, at 56, she runs for an hour every day and is almost never seen sitting down. But surround the woman with gorgeous vegetables and various other edible delights and she'll actually focus on what's around her - it's kind of spooky.
So far my stockpile consists of 3 kilograms of honey, numerous squashes, potatoes, grapes, some apples (although they likely won't last through the week), and a couple of large bags of basil (I started to worry that I wasn't going to have enough pesto to last the winter). Next week I'm thinking of getting a five pound bag of garlic, and twenty pounds or more of apples (for sauce, etc.).
I couldn't resist also getting several Calliope eggplants. They're too cute for words, and they'll be perfect for my favorite eggplant dish.

September 22, 2006

Tag, you're it!

Phelan tagged me with this book meme yesterday. I've never done one before, so here goes:

1. One book that changed your life - hardest question first.

Inventing the Future by David Suzuki. Read this as a teen. It was one of the first books that I ever read about environmental issues and it helped solidify a bunch of feelings that I already had.

2. One book that you've read more than once.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Read it several times as a kid, and then recently to my kids - one of my favorites! I don't usually re-read books, maybe because it would take time away from reading something new!

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, just because her books are so darn fun and would help the time pass quickly.

4. One book that made you laugh.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. One of my favorite books of all time (could also count as the book that made me cry).

5. One book that made you cry.

Night by Elie Wiesel. A powerful memoir of a young Jewish boy's experience at the hands of the Nazis.

6. One book that you wish you had written.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - brilliant.

7. One book you wish had never been written.

I don't know, anything that inspires hatred in people. Mein Kampf, maybe?

8. One book that you are reading at the moment.

The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler.

9. One book that you've been meaning to read.

Anything by Jane Austen (I know, I know! I've been scolded numerous times for being so negligent!).

10. Tag five others that you'd like to do this meme.

Carla, Paula, Thicketdweller, Tigergirl, and Steph

If you're reading this and feel like responding, consider yourself tagged (let me know in the comments so I can take a peek at your list!).

September 21, 2006

Creamy Orzo

This fall weather really seems to make my family crave comfort foods, and I can't imagine anything more comforting than a steaming dish of creamy pasta. This recipe for orzo (a rice-shaped pasta) really fits the bill and is my kids' current favorite meal.

I love it because I can whip it together in about 20-30 minutes, and it's made with things that I usually have readily at hand. It makes a last minute supper feel like something special rather than an afterthought.
The amount of cream may sound like a lot, but this recipe makes quite a large amount of pasta, and usually sees us through one filling dinner, with enough left over for lunch the next day. I've tried substituting milk for some of the cream, but it's just not the same.

Creamy Orzo (Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis)

1 pound orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (I usually just use a couple of tablespoons of chopped onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, juices drained
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a heavy large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cream and peas. Add the orzo and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the Parmesan to the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Stir the pasta mixture until the sauce coats the pasta thickly, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to maintain a creamy consistency. Season the orzo with salt and pepper, and serve.

Okay, now I'm hungry.

September 20, 2006


I finally made a big patch of pesto with the last of the basil from the garden, and froze it in ice cube trays for winter use (I then tap them out and store them in freezer bags). This is my favorite way of preserving pesto, as it retains it's fresh, summery flavour, and the small size of the cubes (1-2 tablespoons depending on the tray) makes it easy to thaw only what you need.
So where to use this lovely green sauce? Pasta is the obvious option, but we also really love it on homemade pizza, spread on sandwiches, scrambled with eggs, or stirred into tomato soup. It's one of those things that can make almost anything taste better.

September 19, 2006

September's Sights

Please excuse the poor quality of today's photos. It was so overcast when I took these, that I barely had enough light to get them without a flash (and I hate using the flash!).
Here's what's happening around the garden these days.
The calendula's still looking lovely. I'm hoping to get some seeds off of the more mature flower heads in the next week or so (if it ever dries out a bit!).

I was very excited to find this fat cluster of blackberries hidden under a branch! They were very big and very tasty. Despite only having been planted this year, I've gotten a suprising number of berries off of this plant.

This Jersey Wakefield cabbage looks just about ready to eat. The heads aren't quite as cone shaped as I thought they would be, but they look pretty good.

And finally, here are my crazy children out doing their rain dance when the heavens opened up at bedtime last night. The sound of rain pounding against the windows always sends them running out the door!

Pajamas and rubber boots - they obviously inherited their mother's keen fashion sense!

September 18, 2006

Calendula Salve

I made a batch of calendula salve recently with some of the flowers from my garden. It's a wonderful thing to have around the house, helps to heal cuts, sun and windburn, eczema, fungal infections, and many other types of owies.

The flowers look so pretty that I hate to do it...

...but in goes enough olive oil to just cover the flowers. Let this sit in a warm and/or sunny spot for a week or two.

Strain the flowers out of the oil.

Add 1 part of grated beeswax for every 4 parts of oil. Warm the oil and wax over medium low heat in an empty can set into a saucepan of water (I pinched the edge of the can to make a pouring spout, see earlier photo).

When the wax has melted, pour the mixture into a clean container, and voila - you're "savvy"!

September 17, 2006

Fall has officially arrived!

Is there any surer sign that it's fall than the return of these two things?
It was rainy, cool, and very autumny out there today. I'm still busy preserving summer's bounty, but summer is definitely over.
I have a sudden urge to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book.

September 16, 2006

Oven Baked Pear (or Apple) Butter

I was out at my aunt's place on Tuesday following my grandmother's funeral, and she was kind enough to load me up with pears from her tree before I left for home. I'd been wanting to make some of our favorite pear/apple butter while the fruit was readily available, and today I finally managed to get that done.

I often make this recipe using apples instead of pears (and sometimes I use a combination). As similar as they are, I think I'm partial to the flavour of the pear.

A Swiss peeler like this one makes the job of peeling all those pears a lot less of a pain.

Oven Baked Pear Butter:
  • 8 cups pears, peeled and coursely chopped
  • 1 cup apple cider (unfiltered apple juice)
  • 2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (use slightly less if using freshly ground)
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
Combine the pears and the apple juice in a 9 X 13 pan. Bake (covered) at 400 degrees for an hour (stir once halfway through).
After the hour, remove from the oven and puree the pears and liquid in a food processor (transferring the puree into a large bowl). Stir in the brown sugar and spices and return to the baking pan. Reduce oven to 350 degrees and cook for another hour (uncovered), stirring every 20 minutes.
Ladle the butter into sterile jars (I get about 3 or 4 eight ounce jars) and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.
The recipe can easily be doubled, but this is the amount that fits comfortably into a 9 X 13 pan.

For a delicious and comforting cold weather drink, try stirring a bit of the butter into a mug of warm milk (yum).


September 15, 2006


I've given you the complete rundown on the cats, but have never done a formal introduction of the lovely Miss P.
Princess came to us in January of 2005 from a nearby animal shelter. At only 6 weeks old she was dumped on their doorstep in the middle of the night, literally sick as a dog (vomiting and bleeding from both ends). When they took her to be put down the next morning, the vet offered to give her 3 days of free care to see if she'd pull through. Thankfully, it turned out that she had the worst case of worms they'd ever seen, and not one of the more deadly things they'd assumed, and she recovered beautifully.
She lived with a wonderful foster family for a few weeks while she was healing (and while they screened the long list of potential adoptees). When she was 9 weeks old we were lucky enough to be chosen to bring her home (click here to learn more about her name and to see a baby picture). As you can see in the above photo, she adores her daddy and loves nothing more than to sit in his lap, (she doesn't seem to realize that she's not a cat).

Being a pound puppy, we're not exactly sure what breed(s) she is, but we're pretty sure based on the photos that we've seen here (upper left corner) and elsewhere that she's an English Shepherd. Her temperament matches the descriptions as well. (Any experts on the breed care to weigh in on this?).

Because of her red hair and long socks, I wanted to call her Pippi, after my childhood hero. As you'll read in the first link, that didn't work out (she already answered to Princess, and Bee couldn't understand why anyone would ever want to change her name when she already had such a great one!), but I still sometimes call her Pippi Puppy, which has lately been shortened to "P" Pup.

She is one of the sweetest, most loving dogs I've ever known. Her puppyhood was a bit of a challenge because she was a total spaz and didn't have much interest in doing what we wanted her to do (though she did sleep through the night right from the start), but she has calmed down nicely and has even learned some manners. She still gets overly excited when anyone comes over to visit (who doesn't?), but you couldn't ask for a more loving companion. She adores her kids and will run to their side at the first sign of upset, giving as many cuddles and kisses as it takes to make things better.

Princess' favorite activity is swimming, and unfortunately that means that she will lay down in any body of water that happens to be handy, often the muddiest, boggiest mud puddle she can find, and usually right as we're ending a walk and about to get in the car. Her love of water makes her an amazing lifeguard, however, and she watches the kids tirelessly from shore, swimming out to tow them back in if she thinks they've gone too far on their floaties.

She's become such a part of our family that we can't imagine life without her.

Click here to see a picture of her with her best friend, Baxter.

To see some more cute puppy pics, check out Sweetnicks' Weekend Dog Blogging on Sunday nights for a roundup of other bloggers' canine companions.

September 14, 2006

Here Comes the Rain Again

We're going to be at a concert tonight, so I'm doing a midday post.

Well, I think the fall weather has officially arrived. It started pouring last night and has been raining ever since - my silly coastal kids were so happy that they were running around outside in their pajamas and raincoats while I was frantically gathering up the onions and laundry.

So what to do when you're trapped inside? Catch up on the canning that you haven't been doing! I made and canned a batch of salsa with the ripe tomatoes I picked this morning. It was my first ever attempt at canned salsa, and while I altered the recipe quite a bit to suit my taste, I'm still not sure it's exactly right. I guess I'll have to wait and see how it is with chips.

I canned the rest of the tomatoes too, but I only ended up with 3 quarts. There are lots more out there that are getting close though, so I guess I'll be canning some more in the coming days.

September 13, 2006

Corn Harvest

We haven't got a lot of space in our tiny little garden, but I couldn't resist planting a dozen corn plants.

I put in a Three Sisters plot this year (click on the link for more info, but in a nutshell it's a native American method of interplanting corn, beans and squash), and while not all of the corn plants did as well as this, we have at least a couple of ears each.

It's not exactly the bumper crop I'd like to be producing, but it's a real treat to have sweet, juicy corn fresh from the garden!

September 12, 2006

A Cure for Onions

I harvested my onions recently and am pleasantly surprised by how well they turned out. I experimented with growing them from seed this year, which I'd never done before, and I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical while I was transplanting those piddly little green shoots that they would ever amount to anything, but they actually did!
Here they are curing in the sun. The Walla Walla's I'll have to use pretty soon...

...but these red storage onions will perk up our fall and winter meals.

Speaking of experiments, I'm also trying a fall planting of potatoes. Last month I was faced with a large empty bed and a bag of sprouted organic potatoes and I thought, what the heck? So far, so good - they're about 8-10 inches tall and look happy, I'm just a bit worried that the coming rains might do them in.

I'll keep you posted.

September 11, 2006

Local Lovelies - Cheese

By now most of us have heard the benefits of buying local - it gives business to small farmers which boosts the local economy; it prevents the needless use of oil required to ship things from halfway around the world that we could have gotten in our own backyard. But sometimes the reasons are purely selfish, if you're lucky enough to stumble across someone who has the magical ability to turn something as humble as milk into something to die for.
I love the name of this cheese - Island Bries (think "breeze") made by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.
Very clever (and very delicious).

...or the Garlic (or any one of the other versions they've got). There are many other favorite cheeses that didn't survive long enough to have their photo taken.This is one of the delightful Saltspring Island Cheeses. I can't decide if my favorite is the Peppercorn... This marinated feta with garlic, sundried tomato, rosemary and peppercorns is positively scrumptious.

I think the best thing about buying things locally is that they're unique, something to look forward to when they're not readily available. It makes you long for the flavours of home when you can't be there.
What local specialty do you pine for when you're away from home?

September 10, 2006

Things to do with Zucchini

Late summer usually means an overabundance of summer squash for gardeners - namely, zucchini. I am no exception, especially when they get to be the size of this beauty. So, what to do with your bounty? I've got a few suggestions.

The first is to saute it with a little olive oil and garlic and add it to a quiche. I had a little pie crust leftover from making a blueberry pie and decided to make one for dinner the other night. I think a lot of people are intimidated by quiche, but it's actually one of the easiest things you can make (especially if you've already got the crust on hand). In addition to the zucchini, I added some sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and artichoke hearts. It was as yummy as it was pretty.

I think our favorite thing to do with zucchini is to bake it into a cake. A Chocolate Zucchini cake to be exact. This one is a combination of several different recipes that I've seen over the years, and we think it tastes pretty good. It gets even more moist a day or two after baking, so be sure to savour it.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake:

1/2 cup butter or non-hydrogenated margarine
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (I usually use whole wheat pastry flour - either 100% or a combination)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini, packed
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (put 1/4 - 1/2 cup in the batter if desired)
1 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Cream the first 5 ingredients together until well mixed. Pile the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and spices in the bowl. Pour the buttermilk in and mix just until incorporated. Stir in the zucchini and walnuts (if putting any in the batter). Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and remaining walnuts over the top. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
Cook cake completely in the pan.

I've made both of these things this week and still have about a third of that huge zucchini left. I think I'll prepare it for dinner tomorrow in one of the simplest and most satisfying ways - sauteed in olive oil with garlic, and topped off with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and a little grated parmesano reggiano.

Enjoy the zucchini glut while you can!

Check out Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays for lots of great healthy recipe ideas.

September 09, 2006

Saltspring Island - Roadside Attractions

I thought I'd post just a few more pictures from our trip, if you can bear it.
One of my favorite things about Salt Spring and the other islands is the abundance of roadside farmstands. There is such a level of trust here that these stands are run on the honour system, with the cashbox and merchandise sitting out in the open with the expectation that people will only take what they pay for.
I aspire to having a cute little farmstand of my own one day.

Most of them sell some combination of eggs, vegetables, and cut flowers.

Many of the picnic tables at the campground are decorated nicely with these gorgeous bouquets.

This is the farm stand at the entrance to Ruckle Park. It had the largest selection of any of the stands we've seen...

...with cut flowers and herbs, an array of fruit and vegetables, seeds collected from the farm's garden, and freshly baked cookies. It sure helps keep the campers happy!

The kids were intrigued with this one so we had to stop and look inside - it held miniature blackberry pies and little knitted "pixie" caps (it made me think of Steph and her wee Pixie).
There are several cute little churches on the island as well.

Hubby's cousin was married in this one (their family has had a cabin on the island for several generations).

A final parting shot of our seaside holiday of 2006.


Related Posts with Thumbnails