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 ( 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!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Foraged Plantain Seed and Red Clover

I went out to Toronto Island on the weekend to relax for the day–how novel!  As I was headed to the beach I noticed all the wild red clover–something I'd been wanting to pick a bit of for tea.  After going on a bit of a walk around the beautiful neighbourhood, I also found some massive plantain spears calling my name.  
 I picked some of both before noticing the wildest, most vivid and colourful sunset  setting over the city.  When i finally came back to the city I felt completely rejuvenated–soothed by the wilderness still existing on the island and feeling blessed by it's gifts–both edible and visual! Nothing quite compares to those feelings!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Radical Home Economics

A great little video about two very down to earth homesteaders in LA

"You just start with one thing that really calls you. And usually in the course of learning how to do that one thing you will be attracted to something that's related to it. Because these things tend to pile on top of each other; they're all linked in some way"

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fermenting and Mould

I forgot about my fermenting veg in the basement and when I picked them up to take the parchment off, I saw this... It had been 5 days. I quickly skimmed off the mould, rinsed the veg with some fresh water, and put it in the fridge to do some research on whether they would be safe to eat...  Of course the internet had lots of conflicting advice, as did my mother. A few thoughts that I've uncovered:
*A little bit of scum on the top is normal, as long as the veg is submerged. Skim it off the top and replace with more salted water (mum, internet)
*Toss everything! Don't risk it! (internet)
*The lactic acid in the brine protects the veg. Skim off the mould and keep eating, as long as the veg are submerged. (Sandor Katz)

The beans looked pretty ok, just that bit of "scum" on the top, I ate them and was fine.  I did completely dump the liquid and leave it in the fridge though. 
The other 2 I haven't decided yet.... I think I will start with the larger jar of pickles, eat one and see if I feel ok.  That black stuff on the small jar makes me nervous....

Moving forward, though, I'm only going to use sea salt (I used pickling salt which made things taste super salty and all this mould business has happened whereas my other ferments are fine) and I'll use a little less salt too (apparently too much salt doesn't allow the lactic acid to do its thing and so keep your veg safe)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Leftover Cooking Liquid

Simple, Logical. Why didn't I ever think of that?
I usually save my steaming liquid for when I make soup though. I rarely boil veggies.  Although potatoes.... Good, new thoughts!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Home-Made Vanilla

I had recently collected three of the perfect sized glass juice bottles to make vanilla extract in from the grocery store. I took three bourbon vanilla beans per bottle and sliced them lengthwise to expose the seeds and placed them into the bottles.  I then filled the bottles with vodka, put the lids on and will leave them be for a few months!  Time taken to make–maybe 10 minutes.  Will it be worth it? Probably!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Drying Mint, Calendula, and Borage Flowers

Last time I headed to my plot, I noticed there were tons of calendula and borage flowers just sitting on top of the compost. I picked them up and hung them to try to add to my teas when I go to blend them later in the year.  

I also pulled a giant mint plant from my plot, hung the leaves to dry, and planted the roots under my tree to start a bit of a mint garden for next year. I had transplanted some other mint roots under my tree and sowed some lemon balm seeds there too. I'll be happy with lots–it's my favourite!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tracking Planting Schedules

Keeping track of timelines are important for replanting and for planning for next year.  Of course, after all that importance I've put on it, I can't seem to find my book!  Ack! Onto random sheets of paper it is! Crossing my fingers that I'll find it again...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Potato Harvest

When your potato stalks start to die, you know it's time to harvest!  I took my makeshift potato bags and tipped them over, throwing the stalks into the compost as "browns" and dig some digging for spuds! Such fun and so easy! The soil wasn't great so there weren't too many but man, am I ever excited to eat them!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Saving Dill Seed

This is why dill spreads so fast.... 1 seed grows into one plant that makes this many seeds!  When the seed pods turn black like this, you can save the seeds before it spreads across your garden.  Or let it spread! There is worse things than a garden full of dill!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fermenting Cucumbers and Beans

With the last of my plots bush beans and the first of the cucumber glut, I decided to try fermenting again.  I pulled some dill weed from my garden, and put in it a hot water washed jar with 1/2 cup of pickling salt and some hot pepper flakes. The cucumbers I put into the jar with the salt, a few peppercorns, and more dill weed.  I filled both jars with tap water, ensuring the vegetables were covered, and then put a piece of parchment paper over top with an elastic to let it breathe a bit, but to keep the bugs out.  Let's see how these go!  The cabbage and garlic scapes are delectable!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bartering for Life Coaching

I've been working with a life coach as a support for a year and a bit, and I recently, hoping to work more intensely with her throughout the summer, arranged a barter for services.  Every other session, I run a private yoga-based movement class for her in her office space and that pays for the one session. This is now the third barter I've set up and I feel so great about it. It's really changed my perspective on service, the cost and value of work, and money in general. Awesome!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Run of Recipes...

So I seem to be cooking a lot this week... Those whole spices really inspired me. I decided to make a nice big warming pot of rice pudding today. After cooking the brown rice as per the cooking instructions, I added a can of Organic coconut milk to the pot as well as a whole cinnamon stick, some whole cloves, a vanilla bean, and a few cardamom pods to simmer down with the milk. I should have though of putting them in right from when I was simmering the rice in water–oh well, next time.
 After it was ready, I topped it with beautiful local cherries and organic maple syrup from Quebec. HO-LY DELICIOUS!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Perfect Omlette

How to make the perfect omelette:
-Make sure you add a bit of milk to the egg and beat it until it is foamy then let it SIT for a minute or two before you cook it so that it stays nice and fluffy.
-Put lots of butter in the pan and push the egg into the centre of the pan with a spatula so that the uncooked egg keeps running to the pan along the edge.
-When it's just about done (no more runny egg around the edges), put whatever ingredients you want on the inside (I did tomato, avocado, mushroom, goat cheese, and basil from the garden).
-Fold it over and let it sit for a minute to finish cooking before serving–DELISH!

Serve that with delicious locally made red pepper and garlic jelly on cream cheese on top of Molly B Gluten's locally made pumpernickel bread and farmers market breakfast sausages with a beautiful cup of tea–golden!  This is how I keep myself centred–a leisurely breakfast of beautiful food on the porch in the morning :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Savour Whole Spices...

Sometimes I just get excited about food and feel the need to share...  I think a big part of reconnecting to your food is taking time to really work with your ingredients.  Although none of the ingredients here were local except the garlic, bay leaf, and carrot, I spent the time nourishing myself–a totally worthwhile endeavour. And should totally happen, wherever your ingredients are from.
I started by dry frying the crushed spices-cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, coriander seed, fenugreek, and peppercorns.
 When the smell seeded almost too much to handle, I cranked the love up to 11 and added fresh garlic and ginger to the mix.
 I then added the bottle of passata, coconut milk, bay leaf, curry leaf, and vegetables (sweet potato, onion, and purple carrot) and let it simmer until the veggies were soft (around 40 mins).
Beauty!  Savour spices in their whole form–it elevates basic ingredients to heavenly heights!