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Archive for May, 2010

In the Works

I came home from work on Friday with the stomach flu (I know, yuck) so needless to say not a lot of sewing or cooking or gardening happened this week-end.  I’ve actually being going a little crazy with all of the things that didn’t get done (including end-of-year progress reports for my students – yikes!) it is hard for me to be still and rest, even when I am sick. 

My mind never rests though, so I thought I would share with you a few tidbits of upcoming posts as well as link you to some great posts I have read recently.  Hopefully I will be back on my feet again soon (I’m at the point where I can look at food again – I just can’t eat it!)

A few projects in the works:

A few weeks ago I tried to make my great-grandmother’s recipe for pineapple cheesecake.  When I cut it, it looked like this:

I bought all the ingredients to try again in the hopes of making a more solid version.  I do have to say that despite the soupy consistency hubby enjoyed eating the whole thing! 🙂

I have decided to make some of these for my students as end of year gifts.  They are crayons made out of old crayons melted in a star-shaped mold.  When I was young my cousin gave me a multi-coloured crayon stick with my name on it and I loved it so much that I still have it!  I thought I would make a few for each of them, write their names on them with a silver pen, and include a doodle book.  It’s not quite as exciting as the monsters I made for them at Christmas but I think this art-loving group will enjoy them.   

A few links:

I have seen this course talked about on several of the blogs I read and it sounds amazing!   I am currently trying to talk myself out of taking it as even with the discounts offered by some sites, it is still a lot to spend, but every time I turn around another of my favourite blogs is talking about how wonderful it is going to be and I get hooked all over again…. 

This morning I read this great article from Fake Plastic Fish on how to store fruits and veggies without using plastic.  I  have seriously reduced the number of plastic bags we use in our house – cheese, bread and lettuce are still a problem for me, as well as freezing. 

I am looking forward to Mending Week at Making More with Less.  It’s not that mending is such a fun thing to do, it’s just that it needs to get done so I’m excited that someone has decided to turn a chore into a fun event!  And there is a lot of mending waiting for me in my sewing room at the moment so this is perfect timing….

Anything else interesting happening in the blog world?  Feel free to post it in the comments.  Have a great week-end! 

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Sometime, during all the giveaway madness, a friend asked me to do a post on rhubarb recipes.  Rhubarb was something I never liked as a child, but with my new interest in cooking locally with seasonal ingredients, and with a large bunch of rhubarb given to me  by a friend, I had a lot of fun experimenting with rhubarb recipes last year and found out that I love it!  I actually froze a lot of it and have been enjoying it all winter.  As my plants are not quite ready for harvesting, I used up the last of my frozen rhubarb this week so I could take photos of some of my favourite recipes.  It was a hardship, let me tell you, to cook up these scrumptious recipes for blog photos, and then to have to enjoy them all week long, but it was a sacrifice I knew I had to make – oh the things we do for our “art!”   🙂  

  Here are three, healthy as I can make them, recipes for rhubarb goodness.  At the bottom of the post I have also included links to some other resources for rhubarb recipes.  If you have favourite recipes, or know of any great rhubarb sites, please share them in the comments!

Honey-Sweetened Stewed Rhubarb

This is super yummy mixed with some plain yogurt, served on ice cream, or just as is with a little whipped cream.  I like mine slightly sour, if you like things sweeter you might want to add a little more honey.    All measurements are approximate, feel free to play with them until it tastes good to you!

  • About 3 cups of chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water (about half that if cooking from frozen)
  • the zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger (fresh would be good too)

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is nice and soft.  Serve warm or cold. 

Whole Wheat Rhubarb Muffins

These muffins are an adaptation of a recipe I found in a local newspaper.  They are moist and sweet with little bursts of sour rhubarb throughout. 

  • 1/2 cup honey
  •  1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed mixed with 2 Tbsp. of water
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb chopped into small pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin tins.  Combine honey and butter in a large bowl.  Add yogurt, egg and flax-seed and mix well.  In a smaller bowl combine flour, soda and cinnamon.  Stir flour mixture into honey mixture until just mixed.  Fold in rhubarb.  Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 25 – 20 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack.  

Apple Rhubarb Crisp

I love apple crisp and the addition of rhubarb to the recipe is a nice treat.  If you like you can freeze the crisp after cooking and reheat in the oven another day when you are craving a homemade dessert (or when you unexpectedly have company over!)    Other fruits can be mixed in along with the apples for variety – I have added both cranberries and strawberries with great success. 

  •  3 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or demerara or turbinado) 
  • 1/2 cup cold butter

Combine the rhubarb, apples, egg, honey, and spices and pour into a greased 8 x 8 pan.  Combine the flour and sugar and cut in the butter until it resembles crumbs and sprinkle over the fruit.  Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 minutes until bubbly. 

Links to other rhubarb recipes:

Rhubarb tarts were posted on Smitten Kitchen recently, along with links to a host of other rhubarb treats.

Foodland Ontario’s  rhubarb recipes.   Although I haven’t tried any of their rhubarb recipes, I must say that the Foodland Ontario recipes for Coronation Grapes have been top-notch!

The Rhubarb Compendium has a whole host of recipes, many outside of the “rhubarb is for dessert” box. 

Rhubarb recipes in Canadian Living.

Enjoy!

PS  The friend who asked me to write this has a wonderful blog of her own.  If you have little ones at home hop on over for some creative inspiration

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An Apron for a Chef

There has been a lot of sewing going on around here, but as it is all birthday gifts, I’ll have to wait to post it (I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.)  However, I think it is pretty safe to post my Dad’s gift, as I know he doesn’t read the blog. 

My father loves to cook.  In another life (if I believed in other lives) he could have been a chef.  No cookbooks for him, he just knows what flavours work well together, throws them in a pot and voila! a gourmet meal.  He cooks like I do, with wild abandon, leaving dishes and pots and utensils in his wake.  And if things are really going well – he sings.   I love to hear my father in the kitchen.

A good chef needs a good apron.  My Dad’s has been worn to pieces, so for his birthday I made him a new one.  Nothing fancy, just a sturdy blue twill with long ties so he can cross it over his back and tie it at the front, the way he likes it. 

I didn’t have a pattern for this one, I just took an apron I already owned (a really nice one I had been given at a cooking party last year), folded it in half, placed it on the fold of the fabric and traced it.  I cut it out with a 1-inch seam allowance all around.  Then it was simply a matter of turning under all the edges and making and sewing on the ties.  The top even has an extra piece of fabric sewn on the back so that all the tie ends are neat and tucked in.  I’m really happy with the way it turned out and hope the chef likes it! 🙂

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We have been blessed this long week-end with some of the most beautiful May weather I have ever known.  If I didn’t know better I would seriously think I had slept through spring and ended up in summer.  Absolutely glorious!

Our indoor plants are outside today beginning the hardening off process.  I put them out yesterday too and they got a little wind-whipped – oops.  They seem to have perked right back up overnight, though so hopefully no harm done. 

Hubby put up all the deer fencing yesterday so tonight I will be planting a number of seeds into our now-protected gardens.

Here is what is growing so far:

Rhubarb – we transplanted this from my in-laws garden just a week or two ago so we won’t have a harvest this spring. 

Raspberries  – Heritage variety.  apparently you cut these down to nothing in the fall and then they come up again every year, ending the problem with out-of-control raspberry bushes.

Strawberries.  This is our first year growing them.  Jamie Oliver grows his in hanging baskets so I thought we’d give that a try too!

These are yellow beets.  I’ll plant my red ones today.

Onions and garlic.  There was Kale here too but hubby accidently “weeded” them. 

So beautiful and green….

These potted herbs spent the winter indoors and are now ready to move outside again.  Sage, parsley, marjoram, rosemary and stevia.  The parsley didn’t fare so well indoors and I lost the mint to aphids a few weeks ago, but the rest made it through the winter ok and it was great to have fresh herbs for cooking throughout the winter!

A new pot of parsley.  I grow most of my herbs on the deck, away from the deer and close to the kitchen.

We also planted onions in pots this year.  When we visited King’s Landing we discovered pots of onions in many of the houses and thought it was a great idea. 

What’s growing in your gardens?  Are you having unseasonably warm weather too?

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Recipe: Honey Wholewheat Bread     Source: Victory Economy Bulletin No. 3  Date: 1940s – World War II

One of the reasons that I was so excited to find my great-grandmother’s recipes was that I was sure they would be a good source of real, wholesome, good-for-you foods.  The Handy Reliable was written well before most food “products” were created, and although some of the recipes are out of reach of the modern cook, many of these 1892 dishes have helped to build my real food, low/no sugar repertoire.  I was surprised to discover that white sugar existed in 1892 (when did we start creating this refined stuff anyway?) and so have returned to searching through the stash for recipes that contain none of the white stuff.

Enter in World War II.  A time when sugar rationing meant that cooks had to find “new” ways to sweeten their dishes.  Unfortunately some of this was accomplished with corn syrup, but many of the recipes use other, more natural ingredients such as honey, maple syrup, and dates.  I was excited to discover a whole stack of  “Victory Bulletins” put out by the Lakeside Milling Company of Toronto, Ontario.  Last night I created the first of these recipes. 

I discovered that Campbell’s flour was a pastry flour, so I substituted whole wheat pastry flour in the amount indicated.  Everything else I kept exactly the same. (Really….I didn’t change a thing…I’m not sure what’s wrong with me…..maybe I’m coming down with something….)

This was pretty easy to put together.  Basically, you have three bowls.

In bowl one – 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup whole wheat flour (and no, I didn’t sift the flour, so I guess that’s two changes, maybe everything is alright with the world after all….)

In bowl two, 1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates (the recipe says to wash these, I have never washed my dates, have you?  Maybe the recipe was originally made with fresh dates?) , 3/4 cup boiling water and 1 tsp. baking soda.

Does your knife look like this when you chop dates?  Any hints on reducing the stick as you cut?

Bowl three (the biggest bowl) contains 1 egg, well beaten, 1/2 cup honey, and 1 tsp vanilla. 

Take turns combing bowl one and bowl two into bowl three, beating after each addition (Hmmm..that sounds a little bit like the instructions that came with our canning shelf – insert Bolt A into Slot B and secure with Nut C.  Maybe I should retitle this post “Honey Wholewheat Bread – Some Assembly Required!)  When everything is all mixed together, fold in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1 tbsp. melted butter.

Pour into a greased loaf pan. 

Bake at 350 for an hour.  I reduced the temperature to 325 halfway through cooking as the top was getting a little too brown.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

I really enjoyed this bread.  It is quite different from any quick bread I have ever made before in that the sweetness comes from the dates, and not the bread itself.  It really is a nice balance and I will definitely be making this  again.  I do not yet know if it is a hit with the “menfolk” as the recipe boasts as hubby has not yet tried any. I’ll have to let you know his verdict in a future post. 

 It would probably be good with butter or jam or any kind of topping but I loved it just as it is!

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And the winner is…..

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came over to visit my blog and enter the giveaway.  I loved reading all of your comments and wish I had a hundred Ruby Lou dolls to give away to one hundred such wonderful homes.   Seriously, if you are a sewer and you didn’t win, check out the pattern, the dolls are really fun to make.  

As for the fat quarters, you all have such wonderful ideas as to what to make with them!  I know my grandmother would be happy to see her fabric used in any of those wonderful projects. 

So now it is time to reach my hand into bags stuffed with names and pull out the winners!  (Yes, I really did write everyone’s name on slips of scrap paper…there is just something magical about the rustle of the papers that the random number generator can’t quite match….)  So….rustle rustle……the winner of Ruby Lou is…….

Michele!   I hope your friend’s niece enjoys Ruby Lou as much as I do! 🙂

And now for the winner of the fabric…..rustle rustle…….and the winner is……

Grace Wong!  I’d love to see a picture of that sundress when you’re done.

I’ll be sending you both an email today so I can get your addresses. 

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

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Click here for my May giveaway!

I am so excited to (finally) be able to share with you my top-secret quilt!

It is the Sandcastle Quilt and Baby Beach Ball from Sew Fun patterns. 

Like all of the Sew Fun patterns it was super-easy to follow and filled with little hints and tips to make your project the best it can be.  I always learn something when I test these patterns – I love the way the circles are made on the beach ball, it made it super easy to get a nice round shape!

This was my second attempt at free-motion quilting and I think I am getting the hang of it.  Although I still think I have a lot to learn, I am really pleased with the way it turned out.

I did a kind of meandering design on the sand part of the quilt and then tried to do “waves” on the blue parts. 

I had fun using up some scraps to make the back too!

If you look closely here at the bottom you will see that I am having trouble with the fabric bunching towards the binding.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong – I took it out and did it again and had the same thing happen.  I think I would have to take out the quilting (eek!) and do it again in order to get it to sit right.  I almost did it too, almost took out all that stitching…and then I came to my senses.  (The perfectionism has to end somewhere, right?)   I am sure some little one will love the quilt despite these few lumps.  Hopefully I can get this figured out for the next one!

Overall I am in love with the beachy design and the bright fabrics.  As always, I highly recommend all of the Sew Fun patterns – they really are what the name says they are!  🙂    I can’t wait to surprise a lucky mama with this one at the next baby shower! 

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Giveaway Day!

It’s giveaway day!  Today I am hosting two giveaways!

Giveaway One: Ruby Lou Doll

Although I love my Ruby Lou Doll, I don’t have any little girls to share her with (and she was so fun to make, I want to try sewing another one) so I thought this might be a good way to find her a new home!  If you are a sewer this is a doll pattern worth buying.  Check it out!  She even has a reversible skirt.

Giveaway Two:  Fat Quarter Bundle

A rainbow assortment of fat quarters from my grandmother’s fabrics.  These are all cotton, quilting-weight fabrics.  

How to enter:

1.  To enter the giveaway for Ruby Lou, leave me a comment telling me about where she would go if you won her (I have to be sure she is going to a good home!)  🙂

2.  To enter the fabric giveaway leave me a comment about what you would do with the fabric if you won.  (Maybe it will give me some ideas for the rest of my grandmother’s fabric!) 

For both giveaways:

If you already subscribe to my blog, let me know and you will get a second entry (no need to leave a separate comment, I am doing this the old-fashioned way).

If you are a regular commenter on my blog, you automatically get an extra entry (no need to let me know, I know who you are!)  🙂

The giveaway will close at midnight (AST) on the 20th and I will announce the winner on Friday morning.  Good luck!  Don’t forget to check out all the other blogs participating in Giveaway Day!

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Tonnes of Tomatoes!

We planted our tomato plants in June last year.  Although we had started them indoors, they were still just little wee things when we planted them out – the perfect size for a slug’s dinner and we lost many of them to the little critters within a week.

Check out this year’s tomato plants (and we still have two weeks until planting time!)

I love this time of year!  It’s so exciting to watch things grow!

The plants in the back with the yellowing leaves are Blonde Kopfchin, a new variety for us,  and they were root-bound already (poor things!) so hubby transplanted them into larger pots today.  We are also growing Mystery Keepers (of course!) and this year we are trying Legend, as well as the more traditional Beefsteak and Tiny Tim.    

If all goes well I will have to do a blog series on tomato recipes in a few months! 🙂

Be sure to come visit tomorrow as I will be participating in Sew, Mama, Sew’s giveaway day! 

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I would be lost without a menu plan.  I have become so used to making one that the few times I have gone to the grocery store without one I wandered around having no idea what to buy!    So every week I plan out the meals we will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, make a list of the baking I will do, and then create the grocery list based on what we need.  I take advantage of sale items whenever I can by planning the menu around those items, as well as what is in the freezer or what is local and in season. 

To make this easier I have always kept a list of the different meals I have cooked and what cookbook they can be found in.  When I try new recipes they only get recorded if both of us enjoy them and would eat them again.   Then when it comes time to make the menu, I just scan the list and slot in the meals.  After I have planned the main meals I try to plan lunches around leftovers or similar ingredients to make the most of what we buy at the store. 

This has worked well for me for several years, but my loose-leaf list of menu items has become too long to easily scan, the holes have ripped away so it keeps falling out of the binder, and as I have moved to cooking with local and seasonal produce, many of the meals listed have become obsolete in my cooking repertoire.

Enter…..the menu planning book!  In its humble beginnings it looked like this:

Just a simple book from the dollar store with sticky-note tabs separating the different sections.  But things are more fun to use when they are dressed up a bit, so I decided to give my book a little makeover:

It has three main sections.  Spring/Summer is for meals based around frozen produce from last year’s garden that may be in the freezer, as well as items that pop up in the garden or markets early in the year (like fiddleheads – yum!).  The Fall/Winter section makes the most of garden produce, as well as good winter keepers such as potatoes, carrots, apples, squash, etc.  Anything that can be made all year round fits in the all-season section.  I did consider creating one section for each season, but this seemed too limiting to me.  I also included baking sections for each seasonal section, as many quick-bread, muffin and dessert recipes I make are based around seasonal produce as well. 

Filling each page is easy – I just list the name of the meal and then follow it with the title of the cookbook where it can be found (or the colour of binder for printed recipes) and the page number.  

For very little money this has made my menu planning easy, peasy! 

Here’s a quick tutorial on how I prettied-up my menu planner.

You need: a notebook, a piece of scrapbook  paper, Mod Podge and a foam brush. 

If you want to divide your book into sections you will also need some self-stick tabs.  Write the titles on each of the tabs and stick them onto the appropriate pages.

Then measure the length and width (minus the spiral binding) of your front cover.

Turn your paper over so the back is facing up.  Using a ruler, measure out the length of your notebook and then make a mark a few millimeters smaller (you want your paper slightly smaller than the cover so that the edges will not get ruffled with use.)

You do not need paper with guidelines, this piece just happened to have them. 

Do the same with the width measurement, again making it slightly smaller.

Use these marks as guidelines to cut your paper using a paper-cutter.  If you don’t have a paper-cutter (I don’t!) and your paper is not gridded like mine, use your ruler to draw out the shape of the rectangle before you cut to keep your lines straight. 

Lay your cut out paper on top of your notebook and trim if necessary.  I clipped my corners a bit too. 

Cover the back of your rectangle with Mod Podge, being sure to spread the glue right across the edges. 

Stick your paper firmly on top of your book, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go.

For extra durability you can also spread another layer of Mod Podge on top.  Be sure to place  a piece of paper under the cover when you do this so you don’t accidently get glue on your book pages!

Place a label on the front of your book and you’re done!

Now you can plan your menus in style! 🙂

Ok, so literally a day after I post this my beautiful paper cover fell off of my book!  I think perhaps it was because the paper I used was thick, like card stock?  I’ve done this technique a bunch of times with other books and regular paper and never had a problem.   Anyway, I needed another way to attach my paper, so here is option number two:

You need clear contact paper, your notebook, and your pretty paper.  Cut the contact paper larger than your notebook and carefully lay it over the paper and notebook.

Smooth it out with your fingers then flip open the cover.

Cut a rectangle out at each corner.

Fold over your edges and press firmly.

Done!

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