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Archive for August, 2010

With a whole big garden of veggies, and a husband who does not like the flavour/texture of most of them, it is always one of my goals to find ways to make veggies more palatable for him.  After all, there are only so many veggies one girl can eat on her own!

I first made a beet green gratin following a recipe I learned in this course from Nourished Kitchen.  (This course was amazing and totally worth taking!)  After a few tries I made a few adaptions and came up with a cheezy, creamy way to serve greens that hubby will eat (although he does tell me that it would be even better if I left out the greens…..sigh….)

I, however, loved it and will definitely make it again!  It’s great with greens from yellow and red beets and easily adaptable to any garden green.

Garden Green Gratin

Begin with a bunch of garden greens (I used the greens from 5 small and medium-sized beets), washed and chopped.

Chop one whole onion finely and saute in a tablespoon or so of butter until softened.  There’s no need to measure here….we’re cooking, not building a bridge.  Add in the greens and some minced garlic (as much as you like, I used two cloves) and season with a little salt and pepper. 

Pour over about a cup of stock (chicken or veggie), put a lid on it, and let it simmer until the greens are nice and tender. 

Mix about a tablespoon of flour with a little milk to make a slurry (a smooth mixture of flour and milk without any lumps).  Pour this into the pan while you stir.  Pour in about a cup of milk.  Stir away while it thickens. 

Then add about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese (I used an old white cheddar) and stir.  If it doesn’t seem thick enough to you at this point, add a little more slurry.  If it’s too thick, add a little milk.  (See…you don’t need those measuring spoons really….) 

Then go out into your garden and pick a handful of fresh herbs (or into your fridge, or use dried if you don’t have fresh) and chop finely.  I used a blend of sage, marjoram, lovage and thyme.  Stir into your gratin and remove the pan from the heat. 

For the topping, mix 1 cup of bread crumbs (I make my own from stale bread – or in more recent times from failed sourdough recipes!) with a few tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese, about 1/4 cup of ground nuts (I used almonds) and enough fat or oil to moisten them (I used coconut oil.) 

Sprinkle the crumbs over the gratin.  (If you didn’t cook your gratin in a cast iron pan you will have to transfer it to an oven-safe dish first.  Just one more reason I love cast iron!) Now stick it into a 350 degree oven until it is golden and bubbly.  It took about 20 minutes in my oven.

 Delicious!

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I cannot believe that the end of summer is upon is!   I noticed last week that some of the leaves were changing colour and the nights seem cooler (although it is currently 30 degrees celsius outside!)

This is a great time for gardeners, when we reap the harvest of what we have sown (and always seem to have endless bounty to share with others, too).

Let’s take a walk….

On the deck we have chamomile flowers

and peppermint leaves, both grown to make into tea. 

The lovage has also grown quite tall.  I was unfamiliar with this herb until I saw it in a gardening book and have to say that I am finding all sort of ways to enjoy its intense celery flavour.

Down in the main garden we have squash!  There are these cute little guys

And then a number of their nice big brothers.   I picked this one yesterday ready to be made into soup.

For the first time ever, thanks to a very long and hot summer, we have peppers!  I can’t wait until these are ready for harvest!

And then there are the tomatoes.  Oh, do we ever have tomatoes!  Even after thinning out several of our plants, we are still going to reap quite the harvest.  (Salsa and tomato sauce, here I come! )  The Tiny Tim and Legend tomatoes are still a beautiful green….

But we do have a few red Beefsteak tomatoes ripening nicely, although I have to say I was disappointed in the flavour of these red gems.  I have heard through other gardeners that their tomatoes have a similar flat flavour this year as well – I wonder if it has something to do with the abnormally hot weather? 

On the other hand, these Blonde Kopfchen tomatoes  are absolutely delicious, and are the perfect size to slip into your mouth as you go walking through the garden…..

And the Mystery Keepers are turning their beautiful shade of green….I am so looking forward to eating these tasty tomatoes when the snow starts to fall.  This is one tomato I would never leave out of the garden. 

Tired of looking at tomatoes?  How about some corn?  I think these little ears are almost ready to be picked!

In the smaller gardens we are still getting a bumper crop of zucchini

and the cucumbers have left the confines of their box and are spreading out over the pathway.  The buzz of bees around these plants is surprisingly loud!

And the basil…oh how I love my basil!  After being worried I wouldn’t have enough, I now have it growing everywhere, and have happily been making pesto, using it like lettuce in sandwiches, and serving it in salads and on pizza.  Another fresh flavour I will look forward to in the winter months when I take the pesto out of the freezer.

The melons behind the basil are unfortunately only the size of my thumb.  I am not too hopeful of a melon harvest this year unless this unseasonably warm weather continues for another month.  But the dill is ready for pickles, the carrots ready for picking, the swiss chard ready for eating, and I have still been picking and eating beans, onions and beets. 

It really is such a blessing to grow your own food and I couldn’t have asked for a more bountiful harvest!

Now I just need to find some creative ways to eat all of this…. anyone have some good cucumber recipes to share?

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The big 3-2!

Ok…so it’s not as big a deal as the big 3-0, or the big 4-0 (coming in 8 years to a blog near you…) but today I turn 32. 

To celebrate blog-style, I am going to tell you 32 random things about me (which you may or may not already know, and you may not even care about, but humour me, I’m the birthday girl, remember?)

Here it goes:

1.  I was born in a city that has a population larger than the entire province I now live in. 

2.  I smile all the time.    (many people have nicknamed me “smilie” throughout the years…)

3.  I am allergic to chocolate. 

4.  When I was in high school I dreamed of starring in musical theatre productions and wanted to learn to dance so badly that I signed up for a beginner’s class – most of my classmates were seven-year-olds.

5.  I used to be a vegan vegetarian (for 10 years!)

6.  I met hubby when an acquaintance at my new church came up to me after choir practice and said “I know your soul mate.”  She was right.

7.  I have a degree in drama in education which makes me a “drama specialist” capable of using dramatic arts as a tool to open the creativity of my students and enrich and extend their learning in all subjects  through art and play.  (or something like that…)

8.  I play the piano.

9.  And the guitar.

10.  And I try to play the tin whistle, but so far my best tune is a rather slow version of “Mairi’s Wedding”

11.  My favourite colour is green.

12.  Ice cream is one of my favourite foods (and I just got an ice-cream maker!)

13.  I am a big fan of Harry Potter.

14.  Almost all of my favourite books were written for children.

15.  I don’t have my driver’s license.

16.  I love to sing and have been known to sing entire musicals from start to finish, a capella.   

17. I have celebrated my birthday with a watermelon with candles in it instead of cake…several times…

18.  I still get mistaken for a teenager (I’m not sure whether to be flattered or insulted…..)

19.  I want to have my own chickens.

20.  I love dogs, and cats and guinea pigs, but I don’t have any pets.

21.  I love books and book stores and libraries.

22.  I love to canoe. 

23.  Hubby proposed to me in a canoe in the middle of a river.

24.  I said yes.  (ok…that was probably obvious but I’m running out of things to write…good thing I’m not turning 50!!)

25.  I have an older brother who I forced to hang out with me all through high school when I became friends with his friends. 

26.  I don’t wear make-up, paint my nails, or do my hair, but I do love to wear skirts and dresses.

27.  This is my 10th year teaching.   I have taught every grade from pre-school to Grade 5 and have enjoyed every one.

28.  This year I am teaching the same class for the third year.  My students are beginning to feel like family…

29.  I love playing games – hubby and I often play board games or cards while we eat dinner. 

30.  I hate sitting still and am always thinking of new projects for myself to do. 

31.  I am easily overwhelmed by all of the projects I create for myself!

32. I have never been good at thinking of profound things to say when the need arises (like finding the perfect thing to say for #32 on your birthday list…) 

Thanks to all of you who stop by and read this blog.  I feel blessed to know you and honoured that you would think my random bits of this and that worth reading.   Thanks for being here! 🙂  If you want to  help me celebrate, how about you tell me one random thing about you?

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Oddysea Quilt Finished!

My charm square quilt is finally finished! 

Of course, I had to make a trip to the fabric store before I could complete it because despite my large stash of fabric I had nothing suitable for the back and binding.  In the end I really love the way the  dark teal sets off all of the other colours.  And the back is a snazzy blue with gold dots (with a really nice sheen.)

I am enjoying free-motion quilting more and more.  It certainly gets easier with each quilt.  Machingers (quilting gloves), a quilting table and a darning foot have all made it so much easier.  Someday I might even work up the nerve to try a real “pattern!”  This time I just created some nice lazy loops all over. 

I realize that these pictures aren’t the best.  If I still had the quilt with me I’d retake them, but this quilt is now for sale at a local store – eek!  I can’t believe that after thinking about it for a couple of years I am now truly selling my sewing (outside of custom orders, that is.)  I hope there are people out there who enjoy buying quilts and pillows as much as I like making them! 🙂

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I am sitting here eating guacamole for breakfast.  Untraditional, I know, but  it was sitting in the fridge, calling my name, and I do love my guacamole.

Especially this recipe.

Before this recipe I thought all guacamole was smooth, pureed-looking stuff made with dried spices and made creamier with the addition of sour-cream and yogurt.

And then I went to a work-related party that changed my perceptions of guacamole forever.

One of my coworkers had made a guacamole that was filled with chunks of fresh tomatoes and avocados, seasoned with cilantro, lime ,and a hint of garlic.   It received rave reviews from everyone and was quickly devoured.

We all asked for the recipe.

It is so easy and so good, that this is now the only way that I make guacamole.   And now I am sharing it with you (don’t you feel lucky?)

Here is what you need to begin:

An avocado (ripe, but not too soft), a lime, fresh cilantro, half a large tomato or a whole small one, and a clove of garlic.

Begin by cutting your avocado in half and removing the pit.

Then slice your avocado lengthwise and widthwise to create a checkerboard-type pattern.  Be careful not to cut through the skin!

Turn your avocado over a bowl and push through the skin (almost as if you were turning it inside-out) to pop out your chopped avocado.

Repeat with the other half.

Use your knife in the bowl to further chop some of the larger pieces.  (you could also scoop your avocado out of its skin and chop as you would anything else, but this way is much neater and faster.)

You will now have lot of yummy avocado chunks in your bowl.  

 Next, take your garlic clove and peel off the skin.  An easy way to do this is to lay your clove on your cutting board and place the side of your knife over top.   Hit the knife with the heel of your hand.  (If you hit too hard you’ll crush the garlic, but that’s not really a problem since you will be chopping it all up anyway so go ahead and work out some of your frustrations – satisfying, isn’t it?)

Now the skin will easily slip off.  Chop the garlic finely and place in the bowl with the avacado.

Mmmm…don’t you just love the smell of freshly-chopped garlic?

Now dice your tomato and throw that into the bowl too.

Do the same with the cilantro.  You can also use scissors and snip it in, but I prefer to chop. 

Now it’s time to fork a lime!  If you have a reamer, you could use that too, but I like using a fork (mostly because it’s fun to say…..what are you doing right now?  Oh…I’m forking a lime!)

Cut your lime in half and hold a half over the bowl.  Insert the fork and twist it back and forth to release all of the juice.

If you really like lime, you can use the whole thing, but it can make your guacamole a little watery so you might want to try half and then see what you think.

Season with salt and pepper.  If you like, you can even use a dash of Worcestershire sauce (I don’t do this, but the original recipe calls for it.)

Mix it all together and you’re ready to eat!

If you want to store this in the fridge for a while before eating, then mix everything together and add the lime juice last and then don’t mix it in.  This will stop the top pieces of avocado from going brown.  Give it a stir when you take it out of the fridge and you’ll be ready to go. 

I used a whole lime in mine two days ago and it was still a beautiful green when I pulled it out of the fridge for breakfast this morning.

If you like things spicy you could try adding some cayenne or chilli flakes, or maybe even a few drops of hot sauce?

And guacamole is not just a breakfast food! (shocking, I know)  I serve it with quesadillas, fajitas, nachos, burritos, or just by itself with tortilla chips or baked pita triangles. 

Enjoy!

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Tree Pillows

I love trees.  And I am always drawn to things that have trees on them – everything from t-shirts to artwork to jewelry, I just can’t get enough!   I don’t actually own any of these beautiful tree things – I just ogle them and imagine how wonderful it would be to have them permanently in my life.  I do have self-restraint when it comes to trees.  (Now if only that self-restraint would come into play when I am at a book store…) 

So when I saw this tutorial for tree pillows, I knew I needed to make some!

And as with all ideas that seem to run away with me, I decided that I really didn’t want to make just one, but a whole series – spring, summer, winter and fall. 

Here is summer and fall:

So much fun!  I really had a great time making these, I didn’t actually follow the tutorial, just created my own thing after seeing the picture of the pillows.   I have put creating spring and winter are on hold for a bit – I am thinking of revamping the whole idea and creating the series  instead as artwork – or a quilt?    As much as I love the pillows, some of the tree is lost in their puffiness.   These pillows do make me smile, though. 

I have been in a pillow-making mood lately because I also finished another pillow cube this week.

And for those of you who were asking, a tutorial is in the works!  You may have to wait a bit for it though, I go back to work full-time on Monday – yikes!

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Hubby and I were away this past week-end visiting family.  It just so happens that the family we were visiting lives in one of the most beautiful provinces in the country (after my own, of course!) 

It was a true vacation, without any opportunities to work or be busy, and I loved being able to just enjoy my surroundings.  It is a beautiful world that we live in, isn’t it?

It was a gorgeous day to be at the beach.  It just isn’t summer to me if I haven’t had the chance to have sand under my feet!

You can’t travel very far on P.E.I. without finding water….

A true maritime picture!

I love that bright red sand.  I can never resist taking my sandals off and splashing around in the water whenever I am near water.  Walking barefoot on the beach (and in the water) is one of my most favourite things in the world!

This is what I call my “PEI Pedicure!”

On our final day we toured around to a number of places, but the highlight for me was definitely visiting the test gardens of a local seed supplier.  They had garden after garden of plants that they were testing for possible sale in next year’s seed catalogue.   I discovered many new things that I want to try in our garden next year (there goes more of our lawn…..) and others that were just fun to look at!

Black-eyed Susans – they always make me smile!

Echinacea is a definite must for my garden next year – so pretty!

I don’t remember what this is, but I think it might be an onion flower? 

I love the colour of this one.

And these look like giant puff-balls to me.  I have some in my garden but sadly the deer never let them grow.

It was so hard to walk through these gardens and not pick things (or pull weeds!  I actually did pull a weed in the veggie garden, I just bent down and picked it out without thinking….)

Don’t you want to just reach out and eat one?  Me too…it took a lot of restraint to leave these be!

The grapes were amazing!

Isn’t this a fun-looking sunflower?

This is a zucchini!  (and I thought mine were monsters!)

Beautiful squash!

Purple beans!  I am thinking these would match nicely with the purple carrots we currently grow.  After all, the world needs more purple food!

A sea of lettuces and cabbages. 

And one very interesting-coloured watermelon!  I think it was called Ruby Red – so tempting to want to pick one and see the inside!

It’s so fun to see such variety in a garden!  It really made me excited to get back to my own garden (and the beans and beets are definitely calling my name this week….)

Hope you are finding time this summer to relax and enjoy what is around you too!

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