August 26, 2007

One Local Summer #9 - Quiche

This week's local meal was a simple veggie quiche made with a hodgepodge of garden veggies and local cheese.

I sauteed some zucchini, red peppers, and a bit of broccoli with a couple of heads of garlic, arranged them over a bed of grated cheese in the pastry shell, poured it over with the egg and milk mixture, and then sprinkled it all with a bit of fresh basil. Yum.

Quiche is such a yummy, comforting meal, and it's a lot easier to make than most people think.

We're leaving for a week of holiday in the morning, so I'll be a no show for OLS next week. I will still be noshing on local delights however, most likely in the form of relaxed, free-for-all meals like the one above, comprised of local breads and cheeses, cucumbers from the garden and some fresh market vegetables (I'm crossing my fingers that the wild blackberries are ready!).

I hope you all have a great week, and I'll see you again in September!

August 21, 2007


You're looking at the first tomato of the season from our garden (yes, I realize it's late August and most of you have been eating tomatoes for months, but let me have my fun!). We've had a few ripe ones from a plant that came from the nursery, but this is the first one started from seed.

This little fella is a Sungold cherry tomato. Danielle convinced me to put them back on my list after I'd removed them in an attempt to rein in my tomato seed binge, and I'm so glad that she did, they're delicious!

I was doing the dance of joy in the garden this afternoon after spotting this baby. I've been trying unsuccessfully for years to grow them, but we've finally got ourselves an eggplant!! In the past they'd always start flowering just in time for the weather to turn cool. I planted the Fairy Tale variety in previous years, but I went with Dusky this time after reading that it produces well in cooler weather. Our climate makes Vancouver a great place to live (it never gets too hot or too cold), but it can also make it difficult to get heat loving plants to produce. Looks like we've solved that problem as far as eggplant is concerned!

Other recent harvests include these lovely Fortex pole beans. I wasn't able to plant a Three Sisters garden this year, so I planted them at the base of my mom's sunflowers, which seem to make a wonderful support for the beans (although I may have a hard time picking the ones at the top of the vine!).

Debbie, you were asking about how to tell when the lemon cukes are ready. This is a photo of one that sat for too long before I picked it. It's a lovely shade of lemon yellow, but unfortunately it was a little dry and the skin was quite tough.

I picked this one at the same time. It's spiney and doesn't look quite as "lemony" as the first one, but it was much juicier and thinner skinned. I think the key is to pick them when they look not quite ready.

What's everyone else harvesting right now?

August 19, 2007

One Local Summer #8 - Portabello Mushroom Ravioli With Lemon Thyme Cream Sauce

A recent trip to the farmer's market resulted in a large bag of baby portabello mushrooms following me home, so for this week's OLS meal the kids and I decided it would be fun to go ahead with last week's plan of making pasta.
A quick internet search turned up this recipe for Wild Mushroom Ravioli, which sounded so delicious that we knew we had to try it.

This meal ended up being a real family affair. My daughter was eager to help me pick the required herbs from the garden, and she even learned how to mince them properly using the chef's knife (my little gourmet in training!). My son was fascinated with the pasta machine, so he was a big help rolling out the pasta dough.

We'd had friends over until 6:00 that night, so we didn't get started until almost, 7:00 and it was nearly 9:00 by the time we ate, but we were having so much fun cooking together that nobody seemed to care. Unfortunately that meant that the sun had already gone down so the light was bad for this photograph, but let me assure you that they tasted incredible despite their pallid appearance. The sauce was mildly sweet due to the onions and a splash of wine, which complemented the meaty mushroom filling nicely.

Everything in the dish was local except for the brandy and the lemon juice - although I've got a lemon that's almost ready, so it won't be long before that's local too!

August 17, 2007

A Green Roof

No, I'm not referring to a house with plants growing on the roof like a Hobbit house (although I would love to have such a thing, I'm a hobbit at heart!).
When we chose the company that we did to build our house, it was due in large part to the fact that their standard package included a steel roof, which is something that we've always wanted. Steel isn't exactly the most "green" material in that it requires a fair amount of energy to be produced, but once it's on there, a steel roof can last for up to 100 years or more, which results in far fewer materials being used over the lifetime of the roof. It also reflects a large percentage of the sun's rays off it's surface, resulting in less heat build up in the house and lower cooling bills. The house plan that we chose has a small curved roof over the doorway which, it turns out, was going to cause some trouble with the installation of the steel, requiring the rental of a special machine to customize it to the roof ($$$), and a different kind of steel roofing that was more "bendy", but unfortunately also very industrial looking. Since the roof is such a focal point of this particular house (it comes down to within 5 feet of the ground at one point), we didn't want something that was going to end up looking ugly and out of place. However, we weren't too keen on using asphalt shingles for any reason other than price, (they would have saved us about $4000 - money we could use since we've already decided to upgrade our windows from vinyl to metal clad wood), and we especially wanted to avoid using them because they're a petroleum based product and don't have a very long life expectancy (especially with wind storms like the ones we had last year). Steel isn't cheap initially, but because you never have to replace it, it ends up costing less in the long run.
So what to do? Go with the more expensive, more durable, but unattractive steel roof, or sacrifice our principles and use the cheaper option even though we know it's an environmental disaster?

Fortunately, while mulling this over and researching our options yesterday, I came across a website for a product called Enviroshakes. They're a Canadian made composite roofing product that looks just like cedar shingles. They're made from 95% recycled materials (recycled tires, plastics, and hemp/flax), have a life expectancy as good as a steel roof, and best of all, they look fantastic! So after talking to our builder and calling for an estimate (the cost should be close to or slightly less than the steel) we decided to go with Enviroshakes for our roof. It's ridiculous how excited I am about these things, but I can't believe that we actually managed to find something so environmentally friendly, durable, and nice to look at!

To learn more about Enviroshakes click here.

August 15, 2007

Mid Month Check-Up

I'm finding my garden posts from last year to be very useful as a gardening journal, so for future reference, here's where things stand in the middle of August.

This incredibly robust pumpkin plant just appeared near the compost bin. We have no idea what variety it is, but it's growing so fast you can almost see it. In the above photo from today, it's about 10 inches across...

...and here it is a week and 1/2 ago (about 3 inches across)! Not only are the pumpkins huge, but the plant is incredibly prolific - there are about a half a dozen on it so far. We might just have to save the seeds from this guy.

I've got one lonely squash on my Romanesco zucchini plant, and it's only about 4 inches long. I do think I see a few more starting though.

The "Orange Banana" plum tomatoes are finally starting to produce, but they're far from ripe at this point.

The lemon cucumbers are almost ready to eat!

And the mini Blue Hubbard is starting to take on that trademark bluish hue.

Here's one of the last blueberries of the season. This one is a "Chandler" - they're huge and very tasty.

Lu, you were asking about dehydrators. Mine is a 15 year old American Harvest, so I don't know if you'd be able to find it anymore, but I like it a lot. The one that my friend lent me is a Nesco, which I think is affiliated with American Harvest. It looks almost exactly the same as mine, but the motor and fan are mounted on the top. It seems to work very well. I've got big plans to build a solar dehydrator one day, once we've got time for such things (*hysterical laughter*).

August 13, 2007


Last week was the week of the apricot around here. There's a market down the hill from us that had organic BC apricots on sale for $1.99/lb (about 50 cents a pound less than the ones at the farmers market), so I bought about 10 pounds and lugged them home for processing.

After fighting back the children (who would have happily eaten every last one given the chance), I made a batch of apricot jam. The apricot itself isn't really one of my favorite fruits, but I adore apricot jam, go figure. I love to spread a crisp rye cracker with a layer of cream cheese, followed by a layer of this lovely amber nectar - it's like cheese cake you can eat with your hands (oh who am I kidding, I'm not above eating cheesecake with my hands).

The rest of them were halved, pitted, and turned inside out on the racks of the food dehydrator that my very generous friend lent me because mine is packed (thanks, Mel!). It's always a little disappointing to see all of that fruit reduced to such a small amount, but I rest easy in the fact that it will go far to improve the flavor (and nutritional value - dried apricots are loaded with iron) of this winter's muesli and granola.

I'm hoping to get some more this week before they disappear for another year. I always buy loads of fruit in the summer for preserving, but often completely forget to take the time to enjoy them at their peak. Does anyone have any great apricot recipes they feel like sharing?

August 12, 2007

One Local Summer #7 - Garden Pasta

I had grand plans of making something really great for OLS this week, but I got busy with other things so we had to make do with a simple meal.

Pasta is my mainstay for a quick dinner, but unfortunately that part of the meal isn't local (I was going to make some pasta - I even got the pasta machine out - but it didn't happen).

I threw some green beans and a handful of broad beans (both from the garden) in with the pasta for the last few minutes, and tossed them with the last of my frozen pesto and some fresh chopped tomatoes (yes, we've finally had a few ripen, but they came from a plant that my mom bought, so it doesn't count - when the ones I started from seed start ripening, then I'll be happy!). Everything was topped off with a liberal sprinkling of organic BC parmesan cheese. A loaf of locally made bread and a salad with homemade dressing finished everything off.

Using non-local pasta feels like a bit of a cop-out, but I'm taking comfort in the fact that all of our meals today were pretty local (possibly even more so than this one). We had our favorite peachy pancakes for breakfast (is anyone else totally excited that it's peach season?!), and a local baguette with garden tomatoes and brie for lunch.

August 09, 2007

Soap Opera

I'm not one to sing the praises of a cleaning product. I don't particularly enjoy doing housework, so as long as it's done that's usually good enough for me. But that all changed recently when I bought a package of Ecover dishwasher powder because the store was out of my usual (locally made, environmentally friendly) brand. I was totally surprised by how well it worked. I've always been pretty happy with how clean my usual brand got the dishes, but my old scratched glassware has never been this shiny.

Dare I say it? I love this stuff! How much of a loser am I?!

So why am I telling you this? Because I wanted you to know that if you were ever tempted to switch to an eco-friendly detergent but didn't because you thought it wouldn't work as well as what you're using now, then this is the one for you.

I will probably go back to my usual brand when this box runs out (you know, that whole "buy local" thing - Ecover is based in California), but I will have fond memories of these days filled with shiny glasses and sparkling flatware.

August 06, 2007

Second Hand News

My hubby and I made a trip to Value Village today to try and find a cheap crockpot. We read somewhere recently that simmering old hardware in one of these for several hours will remove the layers of paint that have accumulated on them over the years (we've started working on our doors).
Of course, they had every appliance under the sun besides a crockpot, but after much arm twisting, I convinced my non-thrifty husband to spend some time looking around. Actually, "non-thrifty" is not an entirely accurate description - he's very thrifty in that he hates to shop, but he also hates sorting through racks of stuff hunting for that perfect thrifted treasure.

Speaking of treasure, shortly after giving up our hunt for a crockpot, I spotted this Krumkake iron sitting on the shelf. I've been wanting one of these for quite some time, but they're always ridiculously expensive, so I was really excited to find this one for $5! The best part is, it's made by Jotul, the same company that made our wood stove and my aebleskiver pan (once I find a company I like, I stick with it!). The pan is used to make crisp little Norwegian cookies that are rolled into cones and either eaten as is, or filled with whipped cream and fruit.

This pretty tablecloth was another find. I'm not sure what's gotten into me, but there's no way I would have bought something this flowery a few years ago. I must be getting soft in my old age.

I always make a point of checking out the cookbook section while I'm there, and I wasn't disappointed. I picked up this gorgeous book, as well as a book of B&B recipes for my mom (she's hoping to turn her lovely heritage home into a B&B sometime next year).
And, believe it or not, my skeptical man even came away with three new (to him) shirts. I wouldn't exactly call him a convert, but maybe next time it won't take so much begging!

August 05, 2007

One Local Summer #6 - Bountiful Broccoli

While watering the garden several days ago, I discovered some gorgeous emerald green heads in among the broccoli plants and knew right away that they would become the focus of this week's local meal.

Little did I know how much of a role they would play. While I was busy making a salad with my share of the spoils, my mom was upstairs whipping up a yummy soup (can I just say how great it is living in a house with another person who loves to cook!).

As an appetizer we had goat cheese with peppercorns, (which is made in one of our favorite places in the world), paired with scrumptious green olive bread from a great local bakery.

The soup was a creamy combination of broccoli and kale, and the salad was a dish of crisp raw broccoli marinated in a garlicy dressing, very similar in flavor to a caesar salad. I never would have thought of preparing broccoli this way, but it was amazing. The recipe for the salad can be found here.

All of the ingredients came from within BC, except for the usual suspects (seasonings and oils).

This post is a little late in coming this week, as we're smack in the middle of the BC Day long weekend, and I've been visiting with my cousin who came over from Victoria so that we could all go to the Celebration of Light, which is an international fireworks competition that's held in Vancouver every summer.

Last night was the finale, and Canada won!

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

August 03, 2007

A Work in Progress

As we head into August, I thought it would be a good time to take a look around the garden and see where everything stands at this point. Here's a list of the things that aren't quite ready, but are well on their way.


Peaches (almost there!)

Red Bartlett Pears



Ground Cherries

Gonzales Cabbage

Hubbard Squash
Beaverlodge Tomatoes
The Beaverlodge tomatoes are an early variety, and are pretty much the only tomatoes that have recognizeable fruit at this point (besides some of the cherry tomato plants). I've been reading with envy about those of you who have tomatoes ripening right now. I don't know if it's due to our relatively cool summer or not, but we're still pretty much at the flowering stage for most of them. I can remember freaking out last year, and I ended up with a pretty good crop, so maybe I just need to relax. I do have big plans for my dozen or so plum tomato plants though, so I can't say that I won't be a little choked if I don't end up getting any fruit!
That reminds me - Jill, if you're reading, my ketchup recipe is packed away and in storage, but I'm pretty sure it came from Blue Ribbon Preserves. I'll have to get the book out of the library because I wasn't thinking ahead when I threw it in a box in April, so I'll try to post the recipe if I'm able to find it.
Anyone else suffering from late tomatoes?

August 01, 2007

The Low Impact Period

I've talked here quite a bit about the things we've done as a family to reduce our impact on the environment, but one thing that I haven't touched on yet is the one thing I've been doing the longest, and the one thing that I think is as important for frugal reasons as environmental ones. This is something you can do on a regular basis (monthly, actually) to eliminate unnecessary waste, and it doesn't require too much effort (and in some cases it's actually easier than the original method).

Yes, that's right, I'm talking about reusable menstrual products. Shall we wait a moment while the male and/or squeamish readers regain their composure? (I'm teasing, I know you're a hearty bunch).

I started using cloth pads almost (ack!) 20 years ago when I was just setting out on my "green" path. Back then they were a little bulky and awkward, and had scratchy velcro closures, but the ones that are out there now are much nicer and more compact (and there's no thigh-chafing velcro!). I've got a set of these super cute ones stashed away for my daughter when the time comes.

Washing them is no big deal. If you've ever used clothed diapers with your kids the system is the same - just keep a small container under the sink with a bit of water and some soap, borax, or oxygen bleach, and line it with a mesh bag for easy removal on laundry day. Be sure to wash them in cold water so the stains don't set. Treat them well and they'll stay looking new for years. My one recommendation would be to get the ones that have some kind of closure to hold them in place - it's really annoying to lose one down the toilet because you're not paying attention.

But what about when it's summer and you want to go swimming? Well, that's where my favorite thing comes in. I used to buy expensive organic cotton tampons for those occasions when a pad wouldn't do (did you know that cotton is the most heavily pesticide sprayed crop, and that when you use conventional tampons you're putting it in the most absorbent part of your body?), but then about 11 years ago I discovered The Keeper. It consists of a latex cup that you wear much like a tampon (similar to those disposable cups they came out with several years ago, but much better). When inserted properly, it creates a seal that keeps it from leaking, and you can go for up to 12 hours between changes.

When it came time to replace my Keeper (they last for about 10 years before the latex starts to degrade), I decided to try out the Diva Cup, which is basically the same idea as the Keeper, but is made of silicone and can be boiled occasionally to sterilize it (the Keeper people are also making a silicone version now called the Moon cup). I sometimes find the Diva Cup a little harder to position than my previous cup (maybe the silicone is a little stiffer than the latex?), but it looks nicer and does a fine job. These things probably sound a little out there if you've never thought of using anything other than the conventional disposable jobbies, but they really aren't. I was stunned to discover while having coffee with a group of friends a few months ago that 4 out of the 5 of us are die-hard users of reusable menstrual cups, and not one of us is named Leaf or Rainbow. ;D

I can honestly say that I would never go back to disposable menstrual products. These are easier to use and more convenient, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars, and just think of all of the pesticides, plastic and paper that won't be used on your behalf.

Lunapads is an excellent source for really nice pads and Diva Cups, and the pads are made right here in Vancouver.


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