Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the Menu

I am basking in one week off of work right now, and am spending a lot of time reading and just plain relaxing! However, we do have to eat, and I am having some fun flexing my culinary muscles and not baking sweets for a change! Here is tonight's menu:

Whole Wheat Oat and Honey Bread:

and Tuscan Bean Soup, with red chard (or kale, depending on availability), and rosemary:

I'm telling you, the house smells fantastic! This is only my second time working with dried beans, and I have to say I am hooked! For some reason, I always pictured cooking with dried beans as this insanely labour-intensive process that was a total waste of time. But now that I know that it is actually very easy and (so!) cheap, I am an official convert! Not to mention the fact that by cooking with the dried variety, you are avoiding the horrible BPA lining on most tins (except Eden Organics, whom I love for not using any BPA in their bean products). This is for sure a healthy, frugal, and environmentally sound way of cooking. Beans are full of antioxidants, and are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. This soup is divine, nice and spicy and tomatoey, with a lovely crunch from the kale/red chard. It has rosemary and bay leaves, and uses no stock, only water, making it low in sodium, and allowing the natural flavors of the vegetables and spices to come through. The recipe is from the Rebar cookbook, which is a delightful vegetarian restaurant located in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I have only eaten at the restaurant once, and it was amazing, and the book is equally so. We have tried several recipes from it, and they just get better and better. The focaccia is to die for.  I highly recommend it for learning unique and delicious vegetarian recipes. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and are enjoying this quiet time afterwards!


** just as a side note, I am not paid to endorse anything on this blog, I am simply sharing my opinions on some of my favorite things, such as cookbooks :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis The Season

I will be away from this space for the next few days on a bit of a holiday, nestled up North.  I shall return next week, probably Tuesday, with new pictures, recipes, and much more. Hope you are all enjoying your holiday season. Remember to relax and take in each moment, and enjoy this time of year with loved ones! We far too often focus on material things, and this is a time to just be with the people you care about, enjoying lots of good food, laughs, and memories. Have a beautiful holiday, we will talk soon!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Pierogi Anyone?

Well, it has been a crazy past couple of weeks with lots of cooking and baking happening in our home!  One of the most exciting things we made were pierogies! We have made pasta by hand before,but this was a whole new ball game, and so satisfying. We own a Kitchenaid mixer, and we borrowed the pasta attachment from D's parents. The process was actually quite simple, just time consuming. But the recipe was HUGE! It said it made 6 dozen filled pierogies, but it actually made almost 12 dozen. Needless to say, we are set for pierogies in the freezer for quite some time. Well, maybe not, because they are so darn good, that we ate almost 3 dozen in 2 days when they were fresh!

We filled them with a mixture of roasted yam, leek, and smoked gouda from a local organic cheese farm. It was interesting, as the recipe said that the cheese added almost a bacon like flavor to the mixture, and being a vegetarian, I wasn't so keen on having bacon flavoring in my pierogies, but it added a whole new dimension to the flavors, and didn't taste meat-like at all, just nice and smoky.  We were very tired at the end of our pierogi marathon, but it was well worth the effort, as now we have a quick and esy meal in the freezer, and we know exactly what is in them. Our main problem with store bought varieties is that the dough contains eggs, which we are very particular about the kind we eat. Our eggs are vegetarian fed, organic, free range eggs from a farm just a few hours from our home. We know that the chickens are ethically treated, and have happy lives scratching in the dirt and wandering around outside. We also try to eat organic whenever possible, so now that we have made our own pierogi, we have control over the ingredients, which is a great feeling indeed. Have a great Monday!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

On My Mind...

Joining in with Rhonda Jean again today for another On My Mind Post.

My sweet little man is spending the night at the vet clinic tonight on IV fluids due to a recent bout of vomiting and inability to keep anything down. We had a bit of a scare when his bloodwork showed he was in liver failure (he's 2 years old), but we were relieved when it turned out that the machine had just malfunctioned. A second blood sample showed he is in perfect health. We will hopefully be bringing him home tomorrow sometime. Tonight lots of snuggles with his lonely brother are in store! 

PS- a side note, we do not normally don our cats in sweaters. He had a reaction to a recent vaccine which produced a lump that he was scratching at incessantly so he had to wear the sweater for about a week until he left it alone. He will never be vaccinated again due to this reaction, so we had to take some pictures of him wearing the sweater as he (hopefully) will never have to wear it again! Just thought I would add this so you don't think I am a crazy cat lady who dresses her cat!

xo Brenna

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Yarn Along (2)

I loved joining in last week with Ginny at Small Things and getting to read so many new blogs, so I will continue on with the (new) tradition!

This picture represents my knitting and my reading, and also shows the fact that my knitting has almost completely overtaken my reading! With Christmas looming and gifts still to finish, I have not made much progress with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but I am loving the little snippets I am sneaking in here and there! Now as far as the knitting goes, I am progressing nicely! This is another scarf, but this one is for my sister, who is a bit of a fashionista. She loves pink, but I wanted this scarf to make a bold but not too girly statement. She is after all, in her twenties, and no longer a little girl (although she will always be my little sister :). I made it extra wide and long, so she can wrap it around herself any which way she pleases. The wool is super chunky to begin with, and I doubled it up to get the pattern effect with the pink and white. I think it is gorgeous, and I hope she will feel the same way! My mom's scarf is still unfinished, but coming along beautifully. I will share a picture of the finished product at a later date. Thank you for stopping by, have a lovely Wednesday, hopefully full of knitting, reading, drinking tea, and enjoying this wonderful time of year!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Precautionary

Here in our city we have a local farmer's market that runs annually from mid April to the end of October. During those months we get about 90% of our produce from 3 or 4 of the certified organic farmers that sell there weekly. We also buy local made chocolates, pot scrubbers, and some baked goods as well as the occasional cat treat. Another item we buy almost exclusively from the market is honey. The past 2 years we bought our honey from a local elderly gentleman who had his apiary just a few kilometers from our home. He was quite a character and you could always count on an amusing conversation while you picked out your honey that had been sealed into funky glass jars. Unfortunately this wonderful man passed away this year before the market started up and apparently had no family interested in taking over the business. So the little honey stall was no more. I was most upset by this. But luckily for us, there is another apiary that sells their honey at our beloved market, and we soon got to know these people just as well. We bought a few small jars of honey throughout the market year from them, and at the very last market of the season bought a large one litre jar of the delectable sweet to hopefully carry us through until spring. Now I love honey. I put in my tea, use it in baking, and just enjoy a little teaspoon to eat from now and then. And since discovering the horrors of Genetically Modified Foods and developed a hatred for all things corn, I use in place of corn syrup for certain recipes, namely butter tarts for Christmas baking.

Well, I recently made a double batch of said tarts, putting a significant dent in our honey supply. But to my great surprise, the farmer's market recently announced they would be holding an indoor "mini market" today. We decided to check it our this morning to see what was available, secretly hoping for honey. I was in luck. The same stand that I had perused the shiny jars all summer long was smack dab in the middle of the market. But no familiar face behind the table, it was two young women I had never seen before. So I beelined (oh I know, bad) to the table and picked out another one litre jar of my favorite, clover. I greeted the girl, and said I would like to take one jar, and went for my wallet. Out of the corner of my eye I see her tear off a little plastic bag, preparing to place my beloved plastic free jar into this bag. Now I am accustomed to immediately refuse plastic bags in any large grocery store (I only use reusable, cloth bags for both my produce and larger groceries), but I was thrown off by this at a farmer's market. These people are supposed to be my comrades in this battle against plastic. But apparently she didn't get the memo. This is how the rest panned out:
Me: "Oh no, I don't need a bag"
Her:"Oh, it's precautionary"
Me: "What?"
Her: " We provide bags as a precaution, in case it spills"
Me: "Oh, no that's fine, I brought my own cloth bag" (pointing at wonderful partner holding up said bag with confused look on his face)
Her: "Well, in my experience, if any honey drips out of the bag, it will take two or three washes to get it out, so we provide bags." She continues to place my jar in the bag.
Me: "Well, I REALLY don't want a plastic bag."
Partner: "We've bought honey from you guys many times before, and we have never been offered a bag, and never needed one. The jars are sealed."
Her: "But they're precautionary."
Me:"Yes, we still don't want one.We'll take the chance."
Her: "Fine". Gives me look like I am completely crazy for risking getting honey all over bag, myself, and anything else we might come in contact with. 

I was infuriated! Farmer's markets are supposed to be environmentally friendly, and a place where I can find others who are sympathetic with my green views. I basically had to rip the honey out of her hand in order for me not to have yet another plastic bag shoved down my throat.  I really feel like we are alone in this plight sometimes, and that is why I love going to these markets. They are refreshingly waste free, and I never get the "look" when I bring my cloth bags. It is very rare for a local farmer to offer me a bag, it is expected that you bring your own. And I love that! I don't know if these girls working at the table are family members, or hired help, but I almost feel like complaining to the apiary owner in the spring about this ridiculous policy they suddenly have. I have never had a single drop of honey drip out of any of their jars, because they are sealed! And it wasn't just the bag itself, it was her attitude, and how she was not going to accept my refusal without an argument. She clearly has no idea the environmental impact that plastic bags have on our Earth, and has no sense of unnecessary waste. Ugh. Mother Nature is down one today. I shudder to think how many jars of honey wrapped in horrible plastic were sold today. What do you think? How do you try and reduce your plastic waste? Do you come across people trying to force you into getting bags? I'd like to get some of your views on this, and any advice on how to deal with people like her in a calm and dignified manner, while hopefully avoiding "the look". Thank you in advance!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Is On My Mind

Today I am joining in with Rhonda at Down To Earth for her Friday photo ritual. It is still Thursday here, but Rhonda is in Australia, so I will be making this my Thursday ritual. I truly admire Rhonda's blog and use it as a regular reference for green cleaning, home cooking, and just great advice and encouragement as I attempt to get into a routine and "green" way of life. She is also such a wonderful voice for homemakers, which I really think is wonderful, and I am so happy that such an intelligent and well spoken woman has decided to speak out and in favor of those women who are lucky and smart enough to be able to stay at home.

Well enough gushing, lets get to the photo!

Orange Cardamom Cookies

These cookies are absolutely to die for. I baked them to be used as a "decoy cookie" to hopefully distract certain members of the household from the Christmas baking (not naming any names). Ok, I admit that I require some distraction now and then.... :).  Well they are divine, and oh so light and refreshing, with a hint of spiciness that is pure heaven. I adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies book. Originally the recipe is meant to make madeleines. Well I do not own a madeleine tin, and pretty much 100% of them are coated in Teflon, which I avoid like the plague, so I improvised and free formed them. They turned out fantastic! 

Orange Cardamom Cookies
For the batter:
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup white sugar
2 large free range eggs

Melt butter over low heat. Remove from element, and add vanilla extract and honey. Let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. Stir together sugar and eggs in a separate bowl, and fold in flour mixture until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 325 F. Spoon heaping teaspoons of batter onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving about 1 inch of space between cookies for spreading. Bake for 10-11 mins, until set and slightly golden. Let cool on wire rack.

For the Glaze:
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp fresh orange juice

Mix together all ingredients and dollop on cookies when cool. 



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Soul Food

Tonight we attended a local jazz concert hosted by some amazing Canadian musicians, and I feel as though my soul has been nourished. It was so wonderful being able to let the music sink into me and take me off to a place far away with no worries, cares, or concerns. Just music. The theme of the concert was "Jazzy Nutcracker" and they did a full rendition of Tchaikovsky's score, but jazzified. It was incredible. They ended with Bach, and I left the auditorium swooning. It is so refreshing to see musicians who are truly talented and doing what they love to do. There is no pretentiousness, no preoccupation with looks or outfits, or fancy performances. It is pure, honest, music. A lot of our current famous performers are nothing more than that. Performers. They are not musicians, in my opinion. I just thought it was wonderful to hear them play, and was so excited to hear that the majority of them were from Vancouver, which is very close to our home. I thought I would share my euphoria here tonight, and will be back tomorrow for another post. Thank you to all who posted comments and stopped by recently, I really appreciate it!



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Yarn Along

I thought I would participate with Ginny at Small Things for her Yarn Along weekly post, and share with you my two favorite hobbies, reading and knitting!

I am knitting a 100% alpaca wool scarf for my mom for Christmas (eek, so much more to go!). I chose this particular wool because it contains no dyes and is hypoallergenic for my mom's super sensitive skin. Plus it is about as soft as butter and oh so luxurious, without being too extravagant. I am knitting it in a simple stockinette stitch with a very small border along the edges to keep it from curling. Elegant and classic, just like mom :).

I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover. I love the idea of being entirely self sufficient, and this is her real life story of attempting to accomplish that, or at least know where all of her food is coming from. I am not that far into the book quite yet, but so far I am liking it very much.

Thank you for stopping by for a visit! Wishing you a very happy Wednesday!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Winter has arrived in our dear city, and although the humans in our house are more than thrilled, our furry counterparts are even more so! We took them out for a little romp in the front yard and they loved watching the little flakes bounce and puff out in front of their paws as they wandered about.

But after a few minutes in the deep snow, paws got cold, and they made their way to drier land.

Winter is one of our favorite seasons here, and we are hoping there is more snow in our horizon so we truly can have a white Christmas! On that note, I leave you with a little snapshot of our front yard. Hope you are having a great start to your week!



Friday, December 3, 2010

The Lowdown on Trees

Well, winter has arrived, and I could not be more excited! We are in full blown Christmas mode here, and I am loving every moment!

 Last Sunday we went trekking out to our local tree farm and traipsed through the snow to find the perfect tree for our living room. It was wonderful being in the fresh air and so much more fun picking out a slightly imperfect and unique tree as opposed to the generic clones you see tied up in front of grocery stores. Getting a tree at your local tree farm is the greenest way to go, as it has the smallest carbon footprint due to the fact that it is not imported from another city and/or country. Most grocery stores import their trees, and although I did notice last year that a lot of them had advertised that they carried Canadian trees exclusively, I can still pretty much guarantee they did not get them from a local farm.

The other option for your decorating needs is to go fake. But not so fast my friends. Despite the fact that they are advertised as being the "green" way to go (no pun intended), artificial trees are made up of some scary things, such as PCV, which is a potential source of hazardous lead, and most are imported from China. Not exactly eco-friendly. Although they do last a lifetime, so does their environmental impact. Plus, who can beat hand picking your very own tree and cutting it down with your own two hands (no chainsaw needed)?

                                 Sorry, I forgot to get a picture before we started decorating!

Trees that are freshly cut also have the added benefit of smelling heavenly as well as lasting much longer than their imported counterparts. Plus we also had several varieties to chose from, from Douglas Fir to Blue Spruce. No such variety at the grocery store. I also love the fact that we are able to support a local family business. We paid them in their living room after we had taken our pick from what is basically their back yard. Could you get any more personal than that? Now if only I could finish up the MANY knitted gifts that are looming over my head! Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Shelf of Organic Goodness

Well, it has been a long time since I last posted. I am trying to get into more of a routine with this blog, and now that winter has arrived and will be here for quite some time, I am hoping to have some more spare time!

I learned how to can from my wonderful partner's mother. She taught us both last summer, and I don't think I will ever be able to stop! This summer I did 28 jars of peaches, 17 apricots, 23 pears, strawberry jam, and too many freezer jam varieties to name! Plus I have pumpkin pie pear butter, pear sauce, cranberry sauce, and plum butter left over from last year. Now our kitchen is not tiny, and I did have a little shelf that was partially dedicated to storing these jars, but it was just not up to the job of holding all that I had this year. The few small shelves it had were sagging (literally..eek!) with the weight of the jars. So I ended up storing almost all of my pears on top of my cupboards above the fridge where they would fit. Not exactly easily accessible, and I hated hiding away all of that hard work where I couldn't admire it and remember back to the warm (actually sweltering) times spent in the kitchen preparing this wonderful organic, local fruit to be enjoyed during the dead of winter!

                                                                        le sigh...

But I also could not justify the money and environmental impact that a brand new shelf would require. So I just sat back and accepted my little shelf. Until...

                                                      awful picture, but I am so excited!

A shelving miracle! Well, not really. You see, my partner's parents decided to build themselves a deck this summer. Which required wood. Which then created scrap wood that had no use. Until now! While mentioning my lack of shelf space and my desire for a new one in conversation, they mentioned this scrap wood, which they needed to find a use for. (Got to love fellow environmentalists who don't just want to throw anything seemingly useless into a landfill). Enter a handy uncle who has the skill to turn scrap wood into something amazing, and voila! I had a shelf, custom made and environmentally sound! It was delivered this past weekend, and I immediately set to filling it! Oh the joy of organization! The shelf is amazing, simply put. Sturdy, nice and deep, and fit ALL of my jars, old and new, plus ALL of our cookbooks, and still had room for more! My kitchen just feels that much more homey now, and whenever I look outside at the blowing snow and hear the howling wind, all I have to do is turn around and see the shelf carrying all of the sunny summer goodness that canning somehow preserves in shiny glass jars, and I smile.


Hope you are all enjoying your week!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Freezing Beans

Last week, we picked up some lovely organic purple beans from our local farmers market. I figured since we had so many, that I would freeze them in batches perfect for making bean soup throughout the winter. Although somewhat time consuming, it was really worth the effort because I got 6 batches out of them, which will be thoroughly enjoyed this coming winter.

The first step was to rinse and pick through the beans to get rid of any dried out or rotten ones.

I then cut off their ends and chopped them into bite sized pieces.

 After they were all cut up, I blanched them in boiling water for 2 minutes.

Then I drained them,

And placed them in individual servings in the freezer! Voila!

I hope to do this with the excess of broccoli we also have, same process of blanching, and having lovely local organic produce bursting from the freezer :). Hope you are having a lovely weekend.