Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making Money

A great article about how to make money when you're living a self-sustaining lifestyle–even in an urban setting.  Frugally Sustainable is such a great website:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mycological Society of Toronto

I found a Mycological Society of Toronto?!  This exists?!  This is why I love this city...
Now I know if I ever want to invest in mushroom knowledge (who wouldn't?  How fantastic) I know where to go.

Friday, November 15, 2013

All of the Pesto!

Derick was cleaning out his garden before the first frost hit for him and he had CRAPLOADS of basil.  I bought a bunch off him for $2 and had a pesto-making fiesta. First I washed it all and took it off it's stems.  
 I threw it in a blender with some fresh grated parmesan cheese, fresh ground pepper, sunflower seeds (could use pine nuts or walnuts or pecans), and lots of good olive oil.
Blend away and cover immediately with a layer of olive oil so that the pesto doesn't oxidize. It still tastes delicious when it does but it's not the prettiest...  (think guacamole gone brown)
I've frozen three and one is in the fridge for immediate cooking deliciousness :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Clearing Out My Allotment

I took some time and cleared out my allotment a few weeks ago.  Pulling potatoes is the most theraputic!  I also think it would be the greatest for kids to help with–digging holes and planting seed potatoes in the spring and summer, constantly piling up soil around the potatoes during the year, and digging them up when they're ready!  What fun! I also cut some of the proliferating calendula blooms for tea as well as a few pattypan squash
 As I was clearing out my plot I pulled some dandelion root to dry for tea, as well as some more plantain spears to dry for grain.
Lastly I found some mint roots hiding out underground, which I pulled and will plant under my tree to add to my mint/lemon balm/peppermint forest :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wild Foragers Society

I found these guys on Facebook and am hoping to join them in a forage soon!
Nothing quite like learning about new wild edibles....

Monday, November 4, 2013

Self-Care Hiatus Update and Plum Crumble

In continuing my work, I have decided that the only way I can keep this up sustainably is in occasional posts. I have burnt out for the second time in a year and it doesn't make sense to destroy myself over this.  To share stories of mindfulness and sustainability, I need to ensure I am living a mindful and sustainable life first. Otherwise, what am I sharing?
To illustrate my thought, here's a deliciously simple crumble I worked on a few weeks ago with gorgeous Ontario plums:
1/8th the plums and mix them with some sugar and lemon juice in a pie dish
Crumble softened butter with organic oats, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl
Top the plums with the crumble and bake on 350C until you see fruit gurgling out the sides (I think around 40mins)
 This is what happens when you rush to try to plate and photograph a beautiful dessert.
Mindfulness. I'm slowing down. Thanks universe.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Slef-Care Hiatus

This is difficult for me to do but I need to give myself a self-care hiatus on my daily posts.  I have being doing the work, reading, and preserving but the time needed to post about it is too much for me at the moment.  There is a lot of family stuff happening for me right now and something has to give.  A lot of my mindfulness work this year has been about taking care, learning patience for myself, not saying should.  And so I am letting myself say it's ok to take a break on a self-decided project. And yet there are so there are so many alarms going off in my head about how I won't continue, how I'm a bad person for stopping, even momentarily, and any others you could probably think of.  But I need to take care.  I'm sorry to everyone but I'm thinking I will be on a month hiatus from the project. See you all soon.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bean and Squash Seed Saving

So I know this isn't really the way you're supposed to do it, but I had picked some overgrown beans from my community plot the other day and they didn't taste very good so I shelled them and left them to dry. Who knows if they'll grow next year but I figure, it's worth trying! I have some tendergreen and some royal burgundy. I don't really have a mesh type thing so I'll just turn them every once in a while.  It's how I dried my chamomile flowers and it worked pretty well.  I also saved some seeds from my overgrown pattypan squash and am drying them in the same way.  Again, big experiment! But one worth doing when the alternative is the compost bin! Crossing my fingers!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Saved Red Clover Seed

Beautiful red clover flowers saved after being dried in my kitchen.
 I picked one of the stems at night and didn't realize that it had already dried out.  Luckily, I discovered how clover goes to seed!  Each of those beautiful little red petals dries out and turns into a seed pod!
In the way that I'm assuming grains need to be processed, I pulled off all the little petals (seed pods?), crushed them between my fingers and lightly blew into the bowl to let the light stuff blow away.  The seeds look like little kale seeds.  So cool! I'm going to plant this wonderful perennial to harvest next year and for many years to come!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What to Do with Stems from Greens

I made a delicious recipe one day and it's my new favourite for getting rid of stems from kale, chard, spinach etc. Don't throw them away!!  People throw them out, did you know? It's crazy! Don't waste perfectly good food!
Steam the stems until partway cooked.
Blend fresh tomatoes into a sauce or use a can/bottle of passata.
Blend the two together in a casserole dish, top with cornmeal (my gluten free version) or breadcrumbs and grate cheese on top.
Bake until cheese in melty delicious and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fresh Bean Salad Recipe

A surprise! The tastiest bean salad I ever remember making!

I BBQ'd 2 ears of Ontario corn and a half of my overgrown pattypan squash, brushed with oil
I steamed approx. 3/4 cup of my own green beans in a shallow layer of water in a covered pan
In the same water I steamed approx. 3/4 cup of Ontario romano beans in water until tender (approx. 5 mins)
As that was all cooking, I diced a small white onion from Derick.
Into the bean steaming water I added
Lemon juice (approx. 2 tbsp)
Sunflower oil (approx. 4 tbsp)
Crushed whole coriander seed (approx. 2 tsp)
Minced fresh ginger (approx. 2 tbsp)
Minced fresh garlic (approx. 2 tbsp)
A pinch of cayenne Pepper
Paprika (approx. 1 tsp)

Monday, September 9, 2013

k2 Milling and Sourdough Digestibility

I met a wonderful miller at Feast of Fields, Mark from k2 Milling
We chatted a bit about digestibility of grains (I have been mostly gluten free for about 6 years) and I learned something I had no idea about–apparently thr fermentation process involved in sourdough baking actually pre-digests the gluten proteins and makes it more easily digestible to some people like me. Fascinating!  Now this of course presupposed it is done the proper way (no added yeasts) which, of course, takes time and which, of course, is not done often any more because of aforementioned time... Yet another possible indicator of why there is so much gluten intolerance in the world these days!  We have been eating pre-digested (sourdough) gluten for so much longer than not!  Our bodies haven't caught up yet. Our hybridized wheat, our sugar and salt addictions, our overprocessing of flours–goodness, no wonder we are all getting so sick!  Progress, right?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Feast of Fields and Brassica Sprouts

I went to Feast of Fields today (www.feastoffields.org) as a volunteer with the Guelph Organic Conference. What a wonderful event!! I ate ALL of the most beautiful, bountiful, local, fresh food, phew!
A few thoughts over the next few days...
I spoke to one of the Sprouts for Life vendors (www.sproutsforlife.ca) and asked him about the problems I seemed to keep having with my brassica (radish, kale, etc) sprouts: they always go mouldy! His response: Wash them more often!  They don't like heat AT ALL so wash them to cool them down about 4 times daily. New things to try...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saving Lettuce Seeds

My lettuce bolted a while back (started going to seed). It grows up quite tall and the leaves get VERY bitter.
 As the little flowers open up and make themselves into little dandelion looking fluffs, you can harvest the seed by pulling the white fluff away from the plant–there's little seeds attached to each! So nifty!
Part of my bounty for next year!

Friday, September 6, 2013


OH MY GOSH THIS GREW FROM A SEED. This guy is perfectly situated to say hello to everyone that comes in my front gate.  And just finished opening today. I love it!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hugelkultur Beds

As promised, Hugelkultur beds!
Crazy looking permaculture beauty! No irrigation needed after 2 years... AT ALL, extra "land", using up old wood... What's not to love? Next time I'm at his farm I've got to take some photos. It really is quite impressive

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Produce Box Delivery

My wonderful friend Derick has been farming his parents land for the first time.  He's managed to build some crazy hugelkultur beds (more on that in another post) and has a crazy variety of produce growing. I noticed last week that he's been supplying some friends with boxes once a week when he comes down to Toronto and I've gotten myself on that list! Wahoo!  Here's my first beautiful, bountiful box: beets, carrots, chards/kale, a massive leek, soooooo many heirloom tomatoes, 2 baby eggplants, some cucumbers, onions, basil, a bag of mixed salad greens, radishes, and a mixed bag of tomatillo, okra (yes okra in Ontario!), and ground cherries.  Half the tomatoes, a bunch of basil and all the onions are already gone too–I made a huge batch of tomato sauce before remembering to take a photo. I feel so blessed!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Next Year Planting Thoughts

I'm starting to think about next years planting and my perspective seems to have changed a bit.  I'm looking at what I have available and not looking to change that by thinking I need to grow very specific things.
I will keep growing lots of greens as I eat a lot of them, they basically grow themselves, they are shade tolerant (which I'm realizing I have more of than I thought) and they are just so much more delicious fresh!
I also love tomatoes so will figure out how to make them not all die on me in early spring frosts, as well as how to get them more sun in their sprouting stages.

But, what I'm realizing is there is some stuff that is just so inexpensive to buy giant and fresh from a farmers market that it's almost not worth all the work I do to try and grow them myself (read: onions... But bunching onions are great!) I think I'm realizing that I'm interested in growing a more wild garden–one with harder to find ingredients that maybe don't look like food (so then people won't steal it and squirrels won't eat it!) I suppose this is a permaculture thing. Lowest maintenance! Perennials! I'm understanding I have a passion for gardening but it's not my life's work.  So it needs to be a part of my life but perhaps in a different looking way. And frankly, if I grow the expensive stuff (read wild) that takes care of itself and has few diseases (it's wild, it's got it's stuff pretty well sorted out) I can just purchase bushels of tomatoes for $12 and drown in the bounty that others can offer! And frankly, supplementing with a lot of mineral rich cultivated perennials and foraging for others that I can't buy in the store just sounds like good logic, no?  Kassandra from 6 months ago, do you agree?  Probably not...

In any case, this is my new list to start building on for next year:
Along the Fence
Milkweed–for pickling!  also butterflies!
Echinacea–for tea!
Wild rose–for tea!  and prettiness!

Under Tree
Wild Ginger–just, yum?!
Gooseberry–for the easiest custards and jam!
Currant–ditto above!

Elderberry–to make cordial, tea, and liquer!

Man, who would have thought I'd come to thinking like this in just a few months!  I until now just wanted the usual–beans, cucs, lettuces, herbs. Phew! Fascinating!

Monday, September 2, 2013

In The Weeds TV

I'm excited for this show! Forbes is a wonderful wild foods supplier in Ontario who comes to Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers Market weekly. Can't wait to learn more!  Foraging really feels like it transports me to a magical time in the past when I probably didn't know what a banana was because I lived in Canada...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Canning Tomatoes

My mum went out to St. Jacobs for a mini holiday with my dad and I asked her to pick me up a half bushel of tomatoes...  Beauty!!
I decided to can some of them whole for sauce/chili/soup in the winter. Here's the recipe I was following: http://www.canadianliving.com/food/cooking_school/step_by_step_canned_tomatoes.php
I started by washing the jars with soap and water. I put them in a cold oven to sterilize, for 20 minutes once the oven had heated up.
I took the skin off the tomatoes by putting them in boiling water for a minute or so. Some split, some didn't, and I found that the ones that didn't were easy to split by running the back of the knife over a small part of the tomato. The heat seemed to make the split bigger and make it easier to peel. I took the tomatoes out of the boiling water and dropped them into cold water a few at a time to peel and core. I then filled a jar with them and added a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. 
I covered the jars and left them to boil for 35 minutes.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tomato Season!

Yup it's tomato season. I have a glut of basil in my garden (mmmm) and got a basket of tomatoes from my grandfathers garden today (mmm). What did I do?  Easiest recipe ever!
Cut up tomato, mini bocconcini, ripped up basil, a pinch of salt, fresh cracked pepper, extra virgin olive oil.  YUM!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Apple Butter–Part 3!

In finally getting to can the apple butter, I washed some small jars, heated up my big canning pot about 1/4 full with water, boiled my jars for 10 minutes, then put them aside on a cutting board (using the super fun jar lifter) to fill hem with goodness!  
I had reheated my apple butter in a pan to not shock the glass into breaking (cold butter+hot jar=danger) and boiled my lids in a small jar for 10 minutes. I grabbed the funnel that came with my canning kit to spoon the butter into the sterilized jars and poked it with the back of the nifty little headspace measuring device to release any air bubbles that might come to the surface when processing.  I made sure each jar had 1/4 inch of headspace to the rim, wiped the rim down of any butter that may have caught the rim, and used the nifty magnet stick to put a sterilized lid onto each jar.  I lightly screwed on a ring to each jar and processed them in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Out they came and voila!! Deliciousness canned!
The beautiful final product!!
Kind of unbelievable that that many apples made this little apple butter.....  Granted, one jar did break in the hot water bath :(, I gave some butter to my mum before processing, and I ate a bit of apple sauce when it was sauce but STILL.  Super concentrated apple sweetness! And the spices make it taste like pie!!!  A new favourite!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Apple Butter–Step 2

Step 2–Apple BUTTER from the apple sauce!
So my apple sauce looked a bit like this after cooking and I needed to get out all the peel before simmering further.  Apple skin has it's own pectin so apple butter doesn't need it–pretty nifty! But skins, not so tasty when everything else is mush....
I don't have a "food mill" (still not quite sure what that is...) but some makeshift ladle mushing action in a sieve worked pretty efficiently.
I simmered it down with "some" sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger.  My recipes work by dumping and tasting....  Who measures?! Putting the stove on medium heat made the apples bubble like mad and shoot burning hot apple sauce at me...  It wasn't nice....  I eventually figured out how to lift the lid like a shield and stir with a LONG HANDLED SPOON.  In the recipe I found it said kids were great to do the constant stirring. I see how things used to be. Apple butter must have been punishment for not doing their chores! In any case, I didn't stir consistantly, just every once in a while and I didn't have anything stick.  Frankly I simmered in batches, turning the stove of occasionally when I had to go run an errand/have singing practice. I finished cooking it down when if I scooped up a spoonful and tilted the spoon, it didn't drop for a moment.  I'm letting it cool overnight to put in the fridge in the morning to can tomorrow!  Baby steps!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Apple Butter–Part 1

After my Not Far From the Tree apple pick, I haven't had a big chunk of time to make apple butter so I have to do it in steps!! I found this recipe which I'm going to follow in the way that I follow most recipes... Not very well, haha
Today was step one–apple sauce
I washed my apples in the sink with some apple cider vinegar. What a beautiful sight!
It's been a few days since I picked and it's been pretty humid so this has started happening...  Needless to say I spend some time cutting out all the mush and worms and cores.
I cooked the whole pot of these down with 3 mason jars of water until it looked like apple sauce–voila! Free apple sauce! Step 2 to come...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Powdery Mildew

So this happened to my squash plants....  Apparently its a very common problem caused by too much moisture and lack of sun to dry off the leaves. It is some sort of fungus and can be treated with various fungicides. Not sure what I'll do... But the best solution is, of course, prevention. SO next year I'm going to move the squash at my house to where there's more sun and CERTAINLY not in my other plot where I'm pretty sure it spread from another persons plot to mine!  Spores fly!  Poop!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Building Up a Food Pantry, Bit by Bit

I love this sight..  New jars of saved dill seed, calendula petals, borage flowers and leaves, radish seeds, and mint... I have a shelf in my bedroom growing and making me feel somehow safe.... Somehow right.... Fascinating

Sunday, August 25, 2013

"I see the time coming where people fill their stomachs and are starving"

Rudolf Steiner was a smart man.
Pfennings farm sounds like a fantastic place too!  Who knew they have been at this since 1965!  I just see it everywhere without thinking to look into who Pfennings are. A wonderful little clip.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cooking My Potatoes!

Olive oil, salt and pepper.  350 degree toaster oven. 30 minutes. That's all they need..... SO TASTY!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vanilla Extract Part 2

I picked up some Mexican vanilla beans at this great little Organic bulk food store near my house called The Nuthouse and decided to make a 2nd batch of vanilla to see if I could taste the difference.  It's such a wonderfully quick process... Also, here's a comparison shot between where the beans started and where they're headed!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Steamed Greens Dinner

I made a delicious and super simple dinner tonight. I picked some beautiful big kale and chard from my garden and washed it well.
 I steamed the stems first for a minute, then added the greens for another 30 seconds. I transferred it to a bowl, poured a bit of dressing on it (tahini, sesame, ginger, lemon juice) and some fresh sesame seeds.  I then ate it with 2 "dipping sauces"–siracha sauce and tahini!  A beautiful fresh easy meal :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Not Far From The Tree

There is an amazing organization here in the city which gleans a large amount of the available fruit, berries, nuts, and sap from trees and bushes in the city–Not Far From The Tree. They are volunteer run except for a handful of key staff and have an awesome concept: volunteers come and pick after homeowners let NFFTT know their trees are ripe, 1/3 of the fruit picked goes to the homeowner, 1/3 is split amongst the volunteers, and 1/3 is given to the food bank.  
I went the other day to pick apples and was shocked!  One tree gave us 113 POUNDS of fruit!  And that wasn't even all of it!  I took home a good 25 pounds of apples since the homeowner didn't want any.  Hoping to make apple butter, perhaps a crumble or two, and maybe some chutney… So fun!  And free except for 2 hours of my time… Incredible the bounty that's available in the city!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Garden Update

After cutting off the pea tops and leaving the roots in the ground, I've had new peas growing!
This is my favourite part of curcubita plants! (cucs/squash)
Little baby peppers!
2 kinds of Cherry Tomatoes!

 Acorn Squash Sprouting for the winter!
Just some lovely mindfulness for today :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saved Bean and Pea Seeds

I think bean seed saving is one of the easiest seed savings to do–though arugula and bok choy and kale are equally easy!  For the peas: I left a few pods to dry on the plant after they stopped fruiting. 
For the beans:  I cut off the top of the plant, leaving the root in the ground (to leave the nitrogen nodules) and hung the plant to dry.
When the skin had cured, I peeled it off and voila!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pattypan Squash

So this happened to my squash....  I didn't have time to go to my community plot and they turned this big!  Oops!  You technically should be able to eat the skin of summer squash but I just ended up peeling these and dicing them up–to eat with hummus and to put in a pilaf. Delicious!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Edible Wild Food

I've been perusing this awesome reference website the last little while and I recommend a read.  Change your perspective on your foodscape–eat some "weeds!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Plantain Seed Grain

My roommate Alex Baczynsky has been foraging tea around the city and hosting the Red Tent Tea Party in Trinity Bellwoods Park each Sunday evening (www.facebook.com/RedTentTeaParty) This past Sunday she made plantain tea from my garden and I saved the seed spears to dry.
 Along with my island forages (much more impressive than the tiny plantain from my yard) I;m going to dry out the seed and try cooking it like quinoa–apparently it's a close relative! FREE GRAIN?!  Yes please!