September 25, 2012

Nommy Cottage Cheese Muffins

Solly's is a bakery/deli that we used to frequent when we lived in Vancouver (I still pop in whenever I get the chance). They make unbelievably delicious bagels and knishes, and the chocolate babka loaf is to. die. for. 

One of our favourite Solly's specialties is also one of the simplest. Their cottage cheese muffins are light, hearty, and so satisfying; I suspect that's why they're often sold out by the time I get there. Whenever I've been forced to come home empty handed, I would try to soothe my disappointment by searching the internet for a similar recipe. Sadly, none of them seemed quite right, and were either low-carb (flourless) lumps, or were filled with unwanted embellishments.

I continued to do my research (meaning I consumed many, many muffins; such a hardship), did some tinkering, and after several years and many failed attempts, I think I've got it!!

The muffins are packed with protein, thanks to the eggs and cheeses, so they're a great way to start the day, and are the perfect snack food for hungry teens. Whenever I make them, my kids eat at least two in a sitting, and one of my son's friends polished off four in one go.

Several of the other versions called for sour cream as the liquid, but I've gone with buttermilk here. I think it helps keep them airy, and also brings the fat content down somewhat (I'm not a fan of low fat cooking, but why go overboard the other way if you don't have to?).

Cottage Cheese Muffins:

1/2  cup butter, melted
1     cup cottage cheese
1/2  cup buttermilk
3     large eggs, beaten
1     cup grated cheddar (I prefer old)
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4  finely ground cornmeal
1/2  teaspoon salt
3     tablespoons sugar
1     tablespoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan (including the top).

Melt butter, and set aside to cool slightly. Combine next four ingredients in large mixing bowl. Stir in butter.

Sift dry ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to cheese/egg mixture. Stir just until combined (the batter will be quite thick). Distribute evenly between 12 standard muffin cups.

Bake until golden, 25 - 30 minutes.

Let the muffins sit in the pan for about 3 minutes (the steam will help them release from the pan).

I find these taste best when they're warm, not smoking hot from the oven, so let them cool for several minutes before serving. They can be warmed slightly in the oven (or microwave) the next day to freshen them up.

The resulting muffins are light and buttery, with just a hint of cornmeal crunch and sweetness. That said, they're definitely savoury, and would be perfect alongside a bowl of soup (though they're special enough to eat all on their own, which is what we usually do).

If you've had the Solly's version, I'd love to hear what you think. Whether they're an exact replica or not, these are definitely worth baking.

I hope you'll give them a try!

July 30, 2012


Okay, so another whole month without a post. I really suck at this. Here are some photos of July's happenings:

 I spotted these humongous mushrooms growing in the trees a few feet from my deck at the beginning of the month. After doing some research and talking to a knowledgeable friend, we figured out that they were King Boletes (related to porcinis), and are considered to be one of the best tasting mushrooms out there. Sadly, by the time we figured that out, they were already being devoured by insects. 

I left them to deposit their spores where they were, so hopefully there will be a repeat performance. 

 Miss Shadow seems to have gone wild with the warmer weather, and only returns home at night for cuddles and treats.

I found this bizarre, shell-less egg under one of my Ameraucanas a few weeks ago. Thankfully, they seem to have gone back to normal.

Speaking of hens, one of ours has started getting up extra early and crowing while the rooster is still asleep. (No, I'm not crazy, and yes, I'm sure she's a she). My daughter and I both woke up to the strange crowing several mornings in a row, and then I finally caught her doing it. The funny thing is, Dolly (a Delaware) was very obviously the head honcho before our rooster matured, and now it seems she's tired of playing second fiddle and is gunning for his position.

This shed is our latest building project. Its main purpose is extra storage, but I'm thinking it'll make a really nice goat shed when the time comes (wink, wink).

 We've been spending lots of time a the beach with, you guessed it, friends (photo credit to my daughter).

 We tried paddle boarding for the first time recently. I would show you a photo of me, but they're all blurry (probably because my husband was shaking with laughter at my attempts to stay upright).

Most of the bedding plants that I started from seed are doing well (although the heliotrope didn't work, for some reason). Will definitely do this again next year - so much cheaper!

Our kids have been asking for a swing for ages, and we finally found the perfect spot.

It's hidden among the trees in the most peaceful of settings...

...with a view of the house and property that makes it perfect for spying.

I was thrilled to harvest an armload of garlic yesterday from last fall's plantingAll that chicken manure and compost must have done something to improve our soil, because they're considerably larger than our first attempt.

It's a good thing the garlic has done well; the weather has been so cold and wet that everything else has suffered greatly this year. I've had multiple plantings of basil, lettuce, beans, and squash eaten to the ground by the gangs of slugs that have taken over the garden (it's downright biblical). My potato plants are withering before they've even flowered, and my tomatoes are showing signs of blight. It's hard to watch all that hard work amount to nothing.

If you've got any slug assassination tips for me, I'd love to hear 'em!

June 29, 2012

June Update

It's been a long, wet month, but things have actually progressed quite well in the garden, despite the lack of sunshine. The good thing about the cool spring is that the new additions to the orchard have had a chance to get established before the heat of summer sets in (see, I haven't let the rain totally kill my optimism!). 

One of my biggest successes so far this year has been saving my Gala apple tree. Remember how I decided to screw its broken limb back on, rather than cutting it off? Well, I'm very happy to report that it worked! Here it is now, flush with new growth!

This is a photo of the veggie garden from a week or so ago. The asparagus bed is on the left, then potatoes, garlic (with a few of last year's leeks in the foreground), and the tomato tunnel on the right. The tomatoes have since been uncovered as they were getting too tall and were pushing against the plastic.

Under the row cover are my peppers and eggplant, which just couldn't wait to be set out into the garden. I see I've got a few mini-peppers out there, so they seem to be dealing with the lower temperatures just fine. The three sisters bed in the foreground is looking slug chewed and sad. In fact, the little buggers ate both of my cucumber plants right to the ground, so I've had to go buy replacements. The squash has bounced back a bit after a couple of days of sun, though, and some are even getting ready to flower.

The lettuce is doing relatively well... are the peas.

We've got an abundance of gooseberries (though the chickens love to jump and snatch them off the  bushes, so we'll see what we end up with).

The apple tree that was given to us by a friend not only survived transplanting, but is fruiting in earnest.

Strawberries and rhubarb - yum, yum!

Here are a few shots from around the rest of the yard:

Ruby's favourite place to nap - on the deck in one of my refurbished wicker chairs.

Lucky likes to keep me company while I weed (they're one thing that seem to relish this weather!).

Fingers crossed that the sun will make an appearance this long weekend. Happy Canada Day!

June 07, 2012

Biding Time

We seem to be smack in the middle of a stretch of typical "June-uary" weather, and my poor eggplant and pepper plants can do nothing but stare longingly out the window, wishing for the arrival of the warm weather so they can join their friends out in the garden. Some have even started flowering in anticipation.

I accidentally left my poor seedlings outside overnight last month, but thankfully it didn't seem to do them any harm, and they're all growing nice and big, and are eager to produce.

The tomatoes have been outside under the tunnel for a few weeks now, and are looking happy. Despite already having more plants than I really need, I couldn't resist picking up a few more at the organic market when I was in town last week. But really, what chicken farmer could resist a variety called "Egg Yolk"? I also grabbed one each of Moskovich, Black Zebra, Pink Tie-Dye, Estiva, and Northern Lights. It's a sickness, I know this.

Come on, sun, we're ready when you are!

June 06, 2012

The Good Life

I stumbled across this delightful BBC show from the 1970's on Netflix last fall, and thought some of you might also enjoy it. The Good Life (also called Good Neighbours) follows the trials and tribulations of a couple who decide to turn their suburban London lot into a self-sufficient farmstead. The characters are charming, and their antics, hysterical.

(From the BBC website): On his 40th birthday to be precise, Tom Good decides that he's had enough of the rat race and that he and wife Barbara will become self-sufficient. The pair convert their garden into a farm, get in the pigs and chickens, grow their own crops, and on one memorable occasion, try to dye their own wool with nettles. Tom and Barbara would just be lone loons were it not for their neighbours, the henpecked Jerry Leadbetter and wife Margot, a social climber who cannot bear chickens wandering the back garden. The Good Life attacked the middle class and the 'alternative' lifestyle at once, showing Margot's snobbishness as blindness, and Tom's fanatical self-sufficiency as going too far.

It doesn't seem to be on the Canadian Netflix site anymore, but may still be on the American one. I have included a link where you can watch it online for free (at least the first two seasons); otherwise, you can stream it on Amazon.

Watch The Good Life - S01E01 - Plough Your Own Furrow.avi in Comedy  |  View More Free Videos Online at

June 01, 2012

Stella & Ruby

I had grand plans for a post about the foodie tour I did in Vancouver last week (so good!), but in the next 36 hours, I have to clean and cook for a dinner party with exchange students from Quebec, cook and decorate for my son's 13th birthday party (as of tomorrow, both of my babies will be teenagers - ack!!),  and dance the night away at the kids' "school" dance tonight, so that other post will just have to wait. Instead, I'll leave you for the weekend with this photo of my beauties, Stella (left; Jersey Giant) and Ruby (right; Buff Orpington).

These guys are from our first batch of chicks, and as a result, they still haven't gotten used to the idea that they no longer live in the house, and spend most of their time hanging around on the deck hoping I'll accidentally leave the door open a crack so they can dart inside and eat crumbs off the kitchen floor (even the chickens are aware of my adeptness at cleaning - *ahem*).

It's hard to tell from this perspective, but Stella lives up to her breed's giant reputation, and rivals the rooster with her beefiness. She's a mass of the softest beetle-black feathers, and is a total sweetheart, clucking away at my feet until I either pick her up or stop to give her belly rubs.

Ruby's pretty and she knows it, and rules the flock from her position high atop the pecking order.

Okay, got to run. Have a great weekend!

May 30, 2012

My Mind's In the Gutter

I guess that should come as no real surprise following last week's post, but this time I actually have gutters on my mind, not deformed produce.

Ever since we built the coop, we've been planning to install gutters on it in order to harvest rainwater for the vegetable garden (which lies directly behind it), but with a never ending to-do list, and a reluctance to spend money unless absolutely necessary, it has taken us almost 3 years to finally get around to it.

The Montana clematis is doing a fine job of covering the coop and run in sweet-smelling pink blossoms.

It seems that this is another good example of how sometimes putting off a project pays off, because my mom and step-dad ended up replacing the gutters on their house last fall, and were able to save us two coop-sized lengths and assorted downspouts. Which means this project meets my two favourite criteria: recycled, and free.

We still have to cap off the front ends, but the gutters are already hard at work, filling the barrels with late spring rain.

May 28, 2012

Today's Post Is Brought To You By The Letter "S"

Just a few quick photos from my day in the garden yesterday.

The strawberry patch is suddenly bursting with flowers and fruit. Now as long as I can keep the robins in check, it looks like we'll have a bumper crop.

The wild salmonberry bush on the edge of my garden is also loaded with berries. I usually leave these for the wild birds, but if there's an abundance, I might just have to experiment with a batch of salmonberry jam.

I startled this mother wolf spider while weeding the pea patch. She was pretty speedy despite having to run with her nest (the white ball) in tow.

My kids are both off on a year-end camping trip, so I'm headed for the garden. I hope you're enjoying your day!

May 27, 2012

Cookbook Binge

One of my favourite things about our new community is the annual book sale, which benefits our tiny local library. It's makes for a great morning, sifting through the gymnasium full of books, chatting with neighbours about your respective finds, and hauling home an armload of new treasures (for a mere 50 cents to $2 per book).

As usual, my first stop was the cookbook table, and I literally came away with an armload:

I've borrowed Mad Hungry from the library countless times, so that was the first thing I snapped up.

The Girls Who Dish is a collection of recipes from female Vancouver chefs. My recipe for grilled eggplant comes from one of their later books.

I love Martha Stewart's recipes, but probably never would have picked up this copy of Entertaining if I hadn't just learned that it's the "favourite cookbook of all time" of my favourite Canadian chef, Chuck Hughes. It seemed like such an unlikely pairing that I had to check it out.

I really enjoyed reading Julie & Julia, and am hoping Cleaving will be just as entertaining.

The other books are packed with information and luscious sounding food, by authors I know I like. Maya Angelou isn't exactly known for her skills in the kitchen, but the recipes in her book are the epitome of comfort food.

The only problem now is that I have lots of work to get done, and way too many distractions...

May 23, 2012

I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

I posted a silly link on my Facebook page yesterday (the "naughtiest vegetables on earth"), and thought it would be fun to see if others had any strange or unusual things to share.  So, here's the deal: I'll post the weirdest things that have come out of my garden, and in exchange, I'm hoping you'll be willing to share a photo (or description) of some oddity of yours. Do you have a parsnip with a dirty mind? A spud that looks like your great aunt Norma? A beet as big as your head? I'd love to hear about it! Either add a link to your blog post on the subject in the comments here, link to your picture on Flickr, or post directly onto my Facebook page

I posted a photo of this "buttato" a few years ago, but it's so adorable that it's worth a second glance.

This dirty carrot appeared in my garden in 2010. As my daughter said, it makes you wonder what those carrots are getting up to when no one's looking! Unfortunately, we didn't end up with a bumper crop of baby carrots as a result of the extra appendage.

I've held up my end of the bargain, now it's your turn. Don't have anything at the moment? Feel free to pop back and share anything that rears its ugly head over the course of the summer.

May 10, 2012

Getting My Goat

I'm in need of some good, solid advice, and am hoping my goat-keeping friends out there might be able to help. I've been pining for goats for years, and the urge is starting to overwhelm me. I would be happy enough just to have them as pets (in lieu of the second dog and/or cat my kids have been begging for), but would really love to produce our own milk and cheese one day. Pets with benefits, you might say.


So my question is, when did you know it was time? Do you have any regrets? Do they require a lot of expensive veterinary care (my husband's main concern)? Can you recommend any indispensable resources (books? websites?)? What's your favourite breed? 

I'm really interested in Kinder goats, but haven't been able to find a breeder in our area. I've actually got my eye on an adorable baby boy (which would come in handy eventually), but hubby's concerned that a goat will tie us down way more than our chickens already do. 



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