Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kitchen Cure 2009 | Update #1

I'm still doing the AT Kitchen Cure, although I keep kind of jumping around instead of doing it in the order they are. Whatever, I'm almost done and thought I'd start updating you on my progress. Because you care. In case you forgot. I would probably be further along if I did something other than watch Battlestar Galactica on the couch with Craig every day. Details.

Look how much happier my freezer is! I put a few things in mason jars so that they can sit happier in the freezer door. As in, they don't fall out on me. Also I finally got around to buying a shelf. Oh, and I ground all my bread crusts into crumbs and put them in the bread crumb jar. They take up less space that way.

The top of my fridge had been collecting items that live on very high shelves. Clearly these items need to be in reach so I found other homes for them and put different things on the very high shelves. Hopefully these things don't end up on top of the fridge...

This is my corner cupboard. As famously (or infamously) seen on The Kitchn. I got rid of a bunch of things I didn't really use, and stacked things in a way that I have high hopes of working better.

More to come soon! Can you wait?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Links | Pressure Canning

(this is my mom explaining pressure canning to my cousin)

I've always been slightly afraid of pressure canners. Because they can explode. I know this because when I was a teenager my mom asked me to watch the pressure canner for a bit. And because I was a teenager I didn't actually watch it at all. And it blew the top off.


(I wasn't really paying attention)

However much like my fear of sturgeons, it was time to put my fear of pressure canning behind me. Because there's only so much soup that will fit in my freezer. So I borrowed my mom's canner for a bit and guess what? So far no explosions. Finger's crossed.

(Because I was totally distracted by my nephew. Hi Baby!)

Pressure canning is pretty cool because it allows you to can things with less acid, like beans and soup. I however am no expert at this, so I will refer you over to my parent's food blog where my mom wrote a great article about pressure canning. Because she is the expert. Click Here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ginger Pear Crostatas

This is a yummy and not too sweet dessert. It's especially good with vanilla ice cream :) This recipe makes four little crostatas which are perfect for 2-4 people (depending on how big of pieces you want?). I like to freeze them before baking so that I always have a treat waiting to be baked up for snuggly movie nights.

Pecan Pastry Dough
2/3 cup pecans
3.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up
4 tablespoons sugar
2 egg
2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
4 tablespoons ice water
Extra flour (for sprinkling)

4 pears, peeled, quartered and diced
1/2 cup candied ginger, minced
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons raw sugar

1) Toast the pecans lightly in a dry skillet until fragrant. Chop finely or grind in the blender.
2) Combine pecans, flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl or food processor.
3) Cut in butter and sugar until mixture resembles crumbs.
4) Add eggs, vinegar and water, mix until the dough makes a ball.
5) Combine filling ingredients in a separate bowl.
6) Split dough into four balls. Roll each out into a circle with the dough about a 1/2 cm thick. If you break the pastry just squish it back together, it's very forgiving.
7) Put a quarter of the filling on the center of each pastry circle and fold the edges of the dough up to hold it in.
8) If you are freezing some, freeze them at this stage on a cookie sheet, then when solidly frozen, store in a zip lock.
9) Paint the top of the pastry crust with whole milk, then sprinkle with sugar.
10) Bake at 400 until the pastry is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Book Review | Supernatural Cooking

I love this book and it's on my to buy list. She's given me hope that I can make amazing food without compromising taste and texture while using great natural ingredients.

Here's the website.

Here's a blurb by

"Can this woman make quinoa sexy?" -
"...In Super Natural Cooking, Swanson not only goes a long way toward helping "whole" foods shed their stale, hippie stigma but also makes a strong case for putting natural foods at the center of an emerging, modern, global cuisine. Her seductive recipes, like lime-bathed peanut salad and an updated (almost guilt-free) take on the classic Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie, reach out to cooks who want to eat smart but still do it in style. Without preaching, Swanson playfully shows readers five simple steps -- including building a natural pantry, embracing grains, and cooking with an eye on color and super-foods -- that should form the foundation of healthy habits. The result is enough to make any closet Cheetos muncher think we're lucky to be living in times when food that is good for you can actually taste good too."

The five sections of the book mentioned above are all started by a great resource on how to use the ingredients, for example she goes through all the natural sweeteners available and explains what they are, what they taste like, what they go well with, how they will react in recipes. It's fantastic.

Heidi Swanson started off as a photographer and it's obvious by how gorgeous this book is. It makes you hungry when you look through it.

Happily, Heidi also has a great food blog which I follow called 101 Cookbooks. Her recipes here are also very healthy and yummy looking. I've tried her maple sryup scones, and they were fantastic, as well as the cherry choconut ice cream.

Go check it out, see if you get urges to buy strange food. I now have whole wheat pastry flour, millet and maple sryup in my everyday cooking and it's all her fault.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recipes | Chicken Noodle Soup

This is my Mennonite Gramma's Chicken Noodle Soup and it is pretty much liquid gold. It bears no resemblance to the sad stuff you get in a can. It's the only thing I love when I'm sick and I swear I feel better just inhaling the steam. It's the most comforting food I know. This is also one of the only recipes I have that I don't mess with. My mom does. And her soup is excellent. But it's not my Gramma's. There's just something about this soup...

1 whole chicken

10-12 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 pieces star anise

1 small onion, minced
3-4 sprigs parsley


3/4 cup broad egg noodles

1) Cook the chicken down into broth, I describe in more detail here. You need the strained broth with the meat shredded into it. You could use store bought broth and chicken pieces, but it won't be nearly as good.

2) Put peppercorns, bay leaf and star anise into a spice ball or cheesecloth. Add the spices, onion and parsley to the broth.

3) Simmer for 1-2 hours. Salt to taste. Taste and see if you need to add a bit of water, depending on how concentrated your broth became.

4) Boil noodles separately. I made homemade egg noodles for this, it's pretty easy and makes the soup even more amazing.

5) To serve, put some noodles in the bottom of each bowl, then pour the soup over top.

Best eaten with warm cheesy biscuits. Mmmmm.

I'm so glad that I make my own now, when I was stealing from my mom I would have to ration it, so that I would always have some when I was sick. Feels good to have 9 more jars in my pantry where this one came from!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts | Earth Day

It was Earth Day yesterday and we went to release some sturgeon. I'm not so secretly afraid of sturgeons (as they can grow to be 20 feet long and look like prehistoric monsters...because they are) but they are actually quite cute as babies, like most animals.

I hope you remembered Earth Day and took some time to think about how you live your life. Our planet is on the verge of collapse with our current way of life. I know a lot of people don't like to think about it, it's overwhelming and it's depressing and we hope someone else will fix it.

Here's something to think about. You are everyone else's "someone else". You have the same responsibility as the other 6 billion of us, and it's going to take all of us trying to change to make a difference. And no, you can't make 6 billion people change how they think. But you can change. And that's a start.

So think a bit about your lifestyle, think about what could be improved. Strive to live simply and lightly on this planet. Don't just drift along through life, make an effort to do what you know to be right. Your children and grandchildren will thank you, and your life will be richer for it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Recipes | Chewy Chocolate Cookies

These are guaranteed to cure your chocolate cravings! I used half white half WW pastry flour and they turned out great.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2/3 cups cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1) Cream wet ingredients, mix in dry.
2) Make 1 inch balls, give them lots of space on the cookie sheet, they really spread.
3) Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes
4) Let cool slightly before removing for cookie sheet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Kitchen | Sandwiches are beautiful...

I've been eating a lot more sandwiches these days. Since I started making my own bread that is. I used to be very "meh" about sandwiches but something about my bread and the nice quality cheese and some real butter...apparently it wasn't the sandwiches that were to fault, it was the ingredients. So now I wander around singing Raffi songs about them.

I have convinced Craig that sandwiches don't need meat. This one has some yummy cucumbers, some peppercorn gouda, some almost tomatoey tomatoes (oh summer, come and bring me my veggies!) and of course butter and mayo.

Perfect for a picnic on the lawn.

By which I mean we just sat on the ground and ate our sandwiches, because it was too sunny to sit inside.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tips | Chicken Feet and other Broth Adventures

I love to have broth on hand at all times. It's great for making soup, but also wonderful to have to cook rice in, add to stir fry sauce, mash into veggies. Broth is a great way to add some subtle flavour to all my cooking. Vegetable broth and chicken broth are my favourites, and today we are going to talk about chicken. Because seriously? I still have a freezer full of them.

I've posted this link before, but it's a great read on how to get the most out of meat based broths: Broth is Beautiful by Sally Fallon.

Here are some quick brothy tips:

- You can make broth using a whole frozen chicken. Just put the frozen chicken into a large pot and cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer. When it's finished you have to pull the chicken out (in many pieces by this point), strain the broth and seperate the meat from the carcass. Either throw the meat back in for soup or use it seperatly.

- You can also make broth with a roasted chicken, including the pre-cooked roitisery style ones. This is really easy it you have one of those big stock pots with the couldendar that fits inside. First remove the meat, if you want to have it in the soup put it in the bottom of the pot, then put the carcass in the colendar and set it in the pot. Fill with water and simmer. When you are finished you can just pull the colendar out, carcass and all and you're done. Easy Peasy.

- Cook your chicken broth for at least 8 hours, this allows the gelatin and goodness to fully come out of the bones. I simmer it overnight. Some people like slow cookers for this.

- Add a small slosh of vinegar, this allows the calcium to be more fully extracted. It doesn't affect the taste.

- If you are making broth to cook with, it's nice to add some veggies while you are cooking. Onions, carrots, celery and parsley are traditional. Just strain them out when you are done because they will be fully dead. I don't do this for soup however, I'll share my soup recipe with you all tomorrow.

- Always skim the impurities off the top and/or strain through cheesecloth. No yuckies in my broth, thanks!

- If you are able to get the neck and feet, throw them in too. The feet add a lot of gelatiny goodness to the broth.

What? Chicken feet?

That's right, I went there.

See I had already read Broth is Beautiful before we did up the chickens last weekend. While I was not totally convinced that chicken feet should count as food (because...ew!), it just seemed like a waste to throw them out. I mean there they were, in all their chicken feety I decided to give it a try. I convinced Barb to join in my with the experiment although our mothers both remain unconvinced.

So if you are feeling brave, and can get some chicken feet (ask your butcher apparently...) here's what you do with them.

- First they get a pedicure. Wash them with a salt rub to get the gross off. Then cut off the toenails. Barb found that kitchen shears were best for this although a knife workds. Not toenail clippers, in case that crossed your mind.

- Then in small batches, one at a time even, blanch the feet in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then when you pull them out quickly peel the skin off. It's pretty easy.

- Either make chicken foot soup...or stewed chicken feet...or just throw two per chicken in with your carcass to make broth and strain them out with the bones later. I did the latter. Because I am chicken.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Kitchen | Mozza Love

I guess technically this was my parent's kitchen. I have been wanting to make cheese ever since reading Animal Vegetable Miracle last year. My parents caught the bug too and ordered a starter kit that they got just before Easter. We decided to try 30 Minute Mozzarella for our first experiment because it looked pretty easy. Mom took the photos, so you get to see me at work :P.

First you have to warm the milk and add citric acid, and then later the rennet. This is me looking for curds. I am not finding any because Mom decided to wing it (cheese making is apparently more science than art form) and we found that no, citric acid is not equivilant to lemon juice.

We then cooled the milk, reheated it and added a lot more lemon juice (after I looked up the conversions) and a bit more rennet. And we got curds!

Then I pressed the whey out.

We microwaved the curds for a few seconds at a time, pressing out the whey and kneading the very hot curds in between. We added salt after the second heating.

This is Dad trying to stretch a bit like taffy, but we never quite got there.

Kneading the curds is for people with hands of steel. Or gloves. I had neither.

When the curds had become a fairly glossy cheeseness we rolled them into little mozza balls. Very yummy!

These were a lot of fun, but to me didn't taste as good as the mozza in the store. There is another recipe that has a culture added that would probably match what my tastebuds were looking for.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kitchen Cure 2009 | Meet My Kitchen

So this is the starting point for my Kitchen Cure. (Barb and Kait are both signed up and you still can too!). Skip this post if you don't care what's in my cupboards. Otherwise it will be fun, like watching Cribs...kind of....


Here's the problems. My kitchen? She is small. There is not a lot of storage and what there is is mostly too high to reach without a stool. Some is too high to reach without a chair. (thus the things stacked on the fridge, because I can reach them). The cupboards are too weak to hold up canning and there are no plug-ins that are on a wall and by a counter (Thus the appliances on the floor). That's a bucket of flour beside the garbage.

Cold Storage:

My fridge is messy...because I need to clean it. My freezer is messy because it is not working for me! My big freezer lives in my living room (sexy) to keep it from the bear. It's organized fine, it's just sad as an endtable.

Upper Cupboards:

The first one is over the fridge. And I can't reach it. The second is over the stove. I can reach the front of it. The third is over the sink. I just rearranged it and I like it. The last is my only full sized cupboard. I have no idea what's on the top shelf because again, I can't reach it.

Lower Cupboards:

These are scary. SCARY. But you can see that.


Nice Drawer
Nice Drawer
Nice Drawer
DRAWER OF DEEEEATH (where plastic bags live)

Bonus Round:

I have a row of Ikea canisters on my counter (as well as some vintage tin ones on top of the fridge). I have canning on the bottom of all my bookcases. 6 of them. I have a pantry in my bathroom. Because there is a little ledge. It is open to my kitchen and easier to reach than my stupid cupboards.

I also have a canner and some other things stored in the bedroom closet. The only closet.

Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thoughts | On being a meat eater.

(If you are a vegetarian...maybe ignore the photos...I did my best not to get gory but I don't know what you feelings will be...sadly this means there are no pictures of Craig today)

When people don't know me very well they sometimes assume I'm a vegetarian. Apparently with the obsessive healthy and local and organic vibe I give off I just "seem like the type". I am not the type. My parents are farmers and I do eat meat. I just care more about where it comes from. I have a real problem with squeamish meat eaters. The ones who love their beef every dinner but can't face up to the fact that it came from an animal. I truely believe that if you are going to eat meat you need to be honest and respectful about it. You took something's life to feed you. That's the simple truth of it.

(me, scalding a chicken...makes them pluckable)

So, part of what I've been changing in our food aquiring practices is to do my best to not buy any meat of uncertain origin. I like to know where the animals come from. Were they raised ethically? Were they killed quickly and cleanly? Were they processed safely? Just because I eat animals doesn't mean I don't care about them. They are living creatures and I want them to be treated decently. Plus they make better food that way. For me this is made a lot easier by having parents who raise beef. I always have good homegrown, grass finished beef and they know where to get me other nice things such as lamb and sausage.

(Dad explaing where to chop to Blair)

My Easter Story begins about a month ago when my mom called me up and let me know that their neighbours, who do eggs, had about 30 chickens that they needed rid of. 30 chickens. For free. One catch. These chickens would still be fully alive. Yes yes, we would have to slaughter and process the birds ourselves. Eeeee.

(Plucking away)

Now, I was a farm girl when I was little. One time when I was about five, my dad was killing chickens. You know the saying, like a chicken with it's head cut off? Fully true. I thought is was hilarious (I know I know, but if you had been there...) I laughed so hard that I fell over. And a dead chicken ran me over. Covered in chicken blood.

That is my only memory of how chickens become food. So it's not like I was a hardened farm girl going into this.

(Barb, plucking)

It was my parent's mentoring myself, my husband, my cousin and her husband as we dealt with what turned out to be 40 chickens. Dad and the boys beheaded them, Barb and I did the majority of the plucking and the boys did most of the gutting. Mom has a bad back and was a baby watching soup maker. It was not fun, mostly, I mean I don't get to hang out with Barb enough and there were ceratinly some entertaining moments, mostly though it was hard work. And very very smelly. There is nothing like that smell. I could not even think of eating chicken until I got out of that environment.

(Chicken broth cooking away)

But we did it. We feel little more hardcore than we did before and we have a freezer full of chickens that will soon become delicious soup and chicken pot pies. We got to experience first hand where our meat came from and have a whole new perspective on the chickens in the supermarket.

Kitchen Cure 2009 | It begins.

I decided (about 5 minutes ago) that I would sign up for Apartment Therapy's Kitchen Cure this year. It's kind of a big group Spring Cleaning/Reorganization deal. I may be moving soon but I may be staying here so I had been putting things off in the hopes of knowing soon. But The Cure starts today and my kitchen is sick.

I will post later this week with this week's assignment and photos, but in the meantime if you are interested in joining me in this endevour, here's the Kitchen Cure website and here's the sign-up link, and here's the blog running it (The Kitchn is a favourite daily read for me!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Kitchen | Easter Weekend

(That would be me, my Dad, and my cousin Barb. And a couple not so lively chickens)

Hope you guys had a great Easter Weekend! It's a four day weekend up here (but in my world I got two and a half...better than average) and we went to my parent's farm in Creston. It was a very foodie weekend and it will take a few posts to catch you up but there was cheese making, pasta making, lamb and ribs and seafood eating but most notably there were 40 chickens who met their demise.

My friends said "But isn't Easter more for the baby chicks?". Um yes well that would certainly be cuter...but less good for soup. Anyway I'll post more tomorrow, but tonight I am just happy to be home and clean and off my feet. G'night!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Links | One Block Diet

I just found a very amusing blog to share with you all. Apparently Sunset Magazine decided to utilize their one block in California on which their offices are located to grow food. They seem to have many amusing foodie adventures and then have seasonal feasts. They have teams working in different areas such as chickens and bees and olives. Yes they have bees. The blog articles are written by various Sunset employees and a great fun. And you can read it here.

Maybe I can convince the pool to take over the rec centre grounds? Don't think they'd go for bees somehow...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thoughts | Budgeting for Food

(I would like to start by saying that my title is misleading. I don't actually budget in the traditional sense. I more just keep a general eye on the bank account. It works.)

A few years ago I was hanging out with some girlfriends and we got on the topic of how much we spend a month on food. I guessed $400. It was a vague and rather low guess (think it turned out that it was more like $500 when I counted it up). They were shocked. One of them said that she never spent more than $150 a month on food. (These were two person families, and if you are costs more here.) To this day I am not sure what she ate. Rice? Ground beef? Ichiban? Kraft Dinner? It boggles the mind. So my first point is this: before you start worrying about spending too much on food, take a look at your priorities.

In In Defense of Food Micheal Pollen says that in most developed countries people spend about 25% of their income on food. In the states? 9%. I have no idea what the Canadian stats are as we don't seem to have a book on it. Which country has the highest obesity rate? Diabetes? Heart Disease? Yes you can spend almost nothing on food. But at what cost?

Buying good food will do more for you quality of life than any other thing you budget for. If you eat well you will be happy (from the yummy food) and you will be healthier. You will get sick less. You will be skinnier. You will have more energy. You will have the potential to live longer. It's nice to have a big house (or so I hear) and new clothes and all, but I really don't see the bang for your buck there. Some people have trouble with the idea of spending money on something that you just eat and then it's gone. IT IS NOT GONE! It is a part of you and making your body run properly (or improperly). Food should be a priority in your life.

That said, do I save money now that I cook more from scratch. Yes. And then I invest that money back into food. I think it's fair to say that if my paychecks are coming in decently I don't pay all that much less a month than I used to. I just looked it up for you in fact, last month was $394 (and I must admit that the savings are mostly due to my family giving me meat and flour). I just spend it differently. The money I save by cooking from scratch goes into organic produce and milk products. It goes into fair trade chocolate and coffee. It goes into honey and maple syrup. It goes into free range chickens and eggs. I try my best to spend my food dollars on nutrisious food that will make me healthier and support ethical food producers.

Now that I've told you how I don't save the money I's a couple thoughts on how to pinch all you can from your food that you can put it back in. Also I do fully realize that some people have very tight budgets these days and want to be able to get the most they can out of it.

- Get a deep freeze (wait...that costs money? It's worth it). With a freezer you can get wonderful things like a side of beef from a local farmer for cheaper (and just better) than you would buying it a couple pounds at a time in the store.

- Garden. Seriously seeds cost a few cents. And then you water them which costs a bit more. And then you get amazingly happy local organic produce. Container garden if you have no room.

- Preserve food when it is season. I bought flats of fruit this summer and we are still eating some of it. My mom and I canned a ton of soup and sauces mainly from the garden. This costs a fraction of buying canned food and is sooo much better. Especially as we make really great soup. Also pickles and jam and all sorts of niceness.

- Get to know the food people in your area. Find out who sells free range eggs. Find out who has non-sprayed peach trees. Buying from the source is usually cheaper, and is far more trustworthy. I mean, if they sell you bad know where they live.

- Buy things in bulk when they keep well and you use them regularly. Like flour and honey in my world.

- Buy things like beans and rice in their most basic dry form. Do the work yourself.

- Be thrifty. Don't throw things out until there is nothing left. Make broth with your bones, make bread crumbs with stale crusts, make soup with your limp veggies. Suck all the life out of your food before you let it go.

- Try not to let things go to waste. This was a big one for me. Have one night a week where you have to cook with whatever needs used up in the fridge. Keep the oldest things at the front of your fridge or cupboard and the newer things behind.

- I will throw out menu planning at you, even though in my case it's not that helpful. I mean it's helpful for my life and organization, but I don't actually tend to save money this way. I am more likely to buy strange things that don't normally live in my cupboards when I menu plan. It's good fun, but not a money saver. Many people are not like me however, and find it a great way to save.

So how about you guys? What are your money saving food tips? Is food a priority in your budget?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TV | 100 Mile Challenge

Did any of you tune into the first episode of 100 Mile Challenge on Food TV last Sunday? I happened to be watching food tv (as is so often the case) and caught it by accident. And I was happily intrigued. It is hosted by the authors of 100 Mile Diet and follows six families in Mission BC who eat food from within 100 miles for 100 days. If you are interested you can watch the first episode here.

I am always amused by this as we don't actually use miles. But 100 kilometers isn't as much territory I guess.

Anyway, I will be tuning in to the next 5 episodes in this miniseries and am very excited to have a local food show on, especially one that is in my general location. It is tragic to keep reading local seasonal blog that are all about the winter citrus. I miss lemons.

Moving on, the show have a blog which is fairly interesting as it highlights some Canadian food producers and seasonal recipes. They also have a local food map thing, which is not all that helpful as it is waaaay less than comprehensive. I am sure that there are more than three food producers in my area. In fact I have met more than three. Still it's a good idea, and I am fully in support of any and all local eating initiatives.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Kitchen | Frozen Yogurt

Mmmm, it's a warm springy day in the Kootenays today, and I am soaking it all up. We went to church, had yummy veggie burgers for lunch, watched a documentary on Chile while I worked on binding my quilt and there is bread rising.

We recently got an ice cream maker and I'm very happy to see that you can just throw a container of yogurt into it and mix it up. Healthy? Check. Easy? Check. Yummy? Check.

What more can you ask for? (we used balkan style strawberry yogurt)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Local | Jerseyland Organics

If you live in BC (and maybe other places, I don't know) you should check out Jerseyland Organics. They are a family owned and operated dairy farm out in Grand Forks. And their cheese is heaven.

They make great yogurt. It's non homogenized and doesn't have anything but milk and cultures (other than the flavours of course). The cream on the top is fun and mixes in nice. It has a great creamy flavour with just enough tang to be a yummy yogurt.

They have a bunch of different cheeses, my favourites so far are the Gouda with Carraway and Gouda with Peppercorn. Excellent sandwich cheese.

By their webpage (and excellent products) it seems that they care a lot about their cows and about delivering quality food. I want to stop in and see the dairy next time I'm out that direction!