Thursday, September 30, 2010

Michaelmas

Yesterday was Michaelmas, or the feast of St. Michael the archangel. I wanted to post this yesterday, but I had a few wine making glitches last night and was wiping peach juice off my ceiling instead.

I wanted to incorporate a few Michaelmas customs into our day. I started with making bannock for breakfast using this Navajo Fry Bread recipe. I've never made or eaten much bannock in the past so I wasn't sure what to expect. Hubby described them as "sort of like a pancake, just less tasty". Maybe I need to try a different recipe.


Later on, Monkey colored a St. Michael colouring page from Waltzing Matilda and then he colored the table and chair too.


Traditional eating blackberries is a Michaelmas custom, but they are way too expensive to buy up here. Instead I bought concord grapes and we ate those instead. I also used them to make concord grape jam.

And for dinner, I had grande plans to roast a goose, but I roasted a rabbit instead. Maybe next year... Overall we had a fun Michaelmas. Do you celebrate Michaelmas?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Still Canning Prune Plums

For some reason I keep bringing home prune plums. Yesterday I bought another 8lb case. I've put up prune plums as plums in honey, plums in port, plum jam and savory plum sauce. I needed new inspiration and luckily the book that I suggested to the library came in: Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry.


There are a few interesting plum recipes in this book:

Cardamom plum jam p. 116
Blood plum and apple jam in rosewater p. 117
Plums for pies and cobblers p. 119
Chinese plum sauce p. 120

They all looked really tasty, but I decided to try the plums for pies and cobblers. I've never eaten a plum pie before but it reminds me of this nursery rhyme:

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Eating a Christmas Pie
He put in his thumb
And pulled out a plum
And said
"Oh, what a good boy am I!"


Fresh out of the canner, plums for pies and cobblers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mushroom Walk

I'd like to learn more about foraging for edible wild food because I think that it's a useful skill to have. Not only can it provide you with nutritious and free food, but it connects you to the environment and the rhythm of the seasons. It's also a valuable skill to pass on to your family members and children.

I've read a few books on foraging only to come away from them feeling discouraged. Even if the plants depicted in the books exist out here in the North I have doubts that I would actually be able to find them. And if I did find them, I don't think I would eat them in fear that I didn't correctly identify them.

There are a few plants that I do forage from: saskatoons bushes, huckleberries, and wild blueberries. I could also pick dandelion leaves... but I don't. Clearly, I have much to learn about foraging.

This past Saturday I got the chance to learn some foraging skills. Foraging for mushrooms. Our town university's biology club organized a mushroom walk. Two professors led a group around the university and the surrounding forest and identified different mushrooms.

The only edible mushrooms we found were growing right on the university grounds.


Puffball mushroom Calvatia gigantea

These mushrooms are only edible when immature (white inside). When the spores start turning green the mushroom is no longer edible. I remember stomping on these mushrooms as a kid and seeing puffs of green spurt out.


Edible.


Turning green, probably shouldn't eat it.


Shaggy Mane Coprinus comatus

Shaggy manes are good to eat until they start turning brown or going inky.

All the other mushrooms we found were not edible. It was interesting to see that the professors weren't able to identify quite a few the mushrooms and simply called them LBMs (little brown mushrooms) and warned us that we should not eat a mushroom unless we are 110% confident that we know it's edible.


I forget the name of this one.


And this one.


Bear's tooth mushroom Hericium coralloides. I've read online that bear's tooth is edible.

The walk was a great learning experience. I learned that I would need to go on a least 100 of these walks to be somewhat confident with identified mushrooms! At least it's a start.

Weekly Menu

The days are getting shorer. It's cold and rainy. The trees are yellow, red, orange and green... well the coniferous ones are green at least. Fall is here. Goodbye summer, lovely summer...

Day 1: Morrocan carrot soup and homemade bread.
Day 2: Chickpea curry served over basmati rice. Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen p. 249.
Day 3: Lapin au vin served over homemade pasta.
Day 4: Beef and bean burritos served with salsa and sour cream. *Freeze extras for lunches.
Day 5: Vegetable deep dish pizzas.
Day 6: Pulled pork on homemade buns.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Swap Shed

At our municipal dump we have a swap shed. Usually, it's a spot for items that are not thrift store worthy but not quite trash. We brought our old barely functional dryer there and today I dropped off a mirror with a chip in the corner. Normally I don't look around in the shed. It's dirty, smelly and crowded with old furniture, TVs and other odds and ends. But the last two trips I made, I picked up the courage to walk in and scan the area. I looked into a box and found a Lamaze Spike the Dinosaur. It was filthy, so I carefully grabbed it by the tail and brought it home where it was tossed into the washing machine. Other than dirt the toy was in near perfect condition and Sweetpea loves it.


And today I when I walked in I saw a huge pile of canning jars! I sifted trough them and came home with 65 beautiful canning jars. Some of the jars are older and have designs I've never seen before. You never know what you might find at the swap shed. I've learned that It doesn't hurt to check it out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Fruit Truck... I Must Stop Going There!

I just wanted to stop by and see what there was (or so I told myself) and I came home with 30 lbs of peaches. I don't like buying peaches because they are the 2nd worst for pesticide load according to Environmental Working Group's The Full List: 49 Fruits and Veggies. On the other hand, I despise food waste. I bought the peaches because they were the "rejects" and were going for really cheap. Most of them were bruised or going fuzzy (or both). Moldy food is gross and not usually safe to eat. Generally moldy peaches should be tossed out. But... I generously removed the moldy areas and, to be on the safe side, didn't used them for canning or freezing, instead I threw them into my primary fermentor to be made into peach wine. I'm sure those Campden tablets will kill anything in there. The better looking peaches were frozen for making smoothies or desserts.

So here I go again, trying out something new (peach wine). My poor Hubby! What will he say when he finds out? We've already got apple wine on the go and apple cider at the brewery. If everything turns out we'll be drunks for sure! That, or I'll have a lot of giveaways in the near future.


Maybe if I try looking innocent like this Hubby will think my peach wine was a great idea :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Last Crate of Apples

I have one more crate of tart apples sitting in my entrance. It was giving to me after making and storing 120L of apple juice. I've been ignoring the crate because I don't know what to do with them. My shelf is already full of apple juice, applesauce, apple jelly, and apple butter from the left over apples earlier this month.


What to do? Feel free to submit an idea. The poster with the best idea will win the crate of apples! No? Well, it was worth a try. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Saving Seeds

My attempt at growing vegetables this summer ended in a miserable fail. I have no one to blame but myself. I failed to shield the tender plants from the late frost and then failed to water them when the weather got hot. Out of my vegetable garden I got one large zucchini and one pathetic pickling cucumber. I had a bunch of peas but forgot to pick them and they dried out. My dill got infested with aphids and the basil didn't grow. How embarrassing!


On a positive note, my perennial gardens did well. Just the other day I went out to collect flower seeds for the upcoming spring. I collected poppy seeds, cup and saucer (Cobaea) seeds and diantus seeds. Seed saving is frugality and self-sufficiency in action! It would be neat to save seeds from herbs and vegetables too...if only I could grow them... I'm not giving up though, this coming January I plan to register with Seeds of Diversity and get involved in their seed exchange program. Here's hoping for a plentiful harvest next year.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Search Continues

While the chance of finding Rachael and Jonathan alive is slim, the search does continue. This weekend family and friends will be going to the Cirque peak area to remember these wonderful individuals. Although we cannot make the journey to be with them, they will be in our thoughts and prayers throughout the day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Loving and Praying: Rachael and Jonathan and their Families

The search and rescue efforts have be scaled back. It is now 11 days since they were supposed to return and no sign of them has been found. According to the news the chance of their survival is "very very low". Thousands of questions have been racing through my mind over the last week. How? What happened? Why? Oh Lord... why?!

It hurts immensely. The pain that is felt by their families must be unfathomable. We pray that God envelopes, preserves, protects and embraces them in His love.

Please do not cease your prayers for Rachael, Jonathan and their families.


We love you 

Per Aspera Ad Astra

Per aspera ad asta.
Through the thorns to the stars.

To me it means reaching towards heaven even though "the gate is narrow and the way is hard" Matthew 7:14. It means learning to trust and love God in the midst of life's pains and adversities. And it means opening my heart to Him and being drowned by His love.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside My Window... it's 5 degrees Celsius, sunny and the sky is clear.

I am thinking... of Rachael, Jonathan and their families... still no news.

I am thankful for... the opportunity to stay home with my children.

From the kitchen... Yesterday I finished canning 40 lbs of pears. I still have a tub of bruised apples to make into apple sauce or apple butter and I'd like to try making some grape jelly.

I am wearing... my PJs. It's been a slow morning.

I am creating... plans for the next couple months: activities, feast days and crafts.

I am going... to vacuum my house this morning. I can't procrastinate any longer or the dust balls will mutate into monsters and take over.

I am reading... The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition but I'm supposed to be reading The Inheritance of Loss for our upcoming book club meeting.

I am hoping... praying, hoping, praying that they find Rachael and Jonathan.

I am hearing... Sanctus Real - I'm Not Alright on youtube.

Around the house... things are disorganized and it's driven me nuts. I need to bring some stuff to the second hand store and get things in order around here.

One of my favorite things... buttered toast and a slice of cheese :)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: my FIL's birthday, Monkey's first class of gymnastics and cleaning up the yard.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Prayer Request: Missing Hikers

I've started this blog post a few times and not finished it in the hopes of hearing some good news...

My friend Rachael and her boyfriend Jonathan went hiking on labour day long weekend and didn't return when they were expected. There has been active search and rescue efforts for the last week but no clues of their whereabouts have been found.



Last Sunday a large group of people stayed after church to pray the rosary for Rachael, Jonathan and their families. It was beautiful and much needed. Hubby and I have also been praying a novena asking St. Jude to intercede in this desperate case. My heart aches for Rachael, Jonathan and their families. Please keep them in your prayers.

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry! Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer. Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God’s heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips but with your heart.”--St. Pio

Feast Day: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian SymbolsToday is the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which originates from Rome at the end of the seventh century. The early Christians realized the important of the cross because it represented Jesus' work and sacrifice, but at that time the cross was not commonly used to symbolize Christianity like it does today. Instead other symbols were used like the orant or fish. Devotion to the cross in Christian life grew over time. The cross was used as a way of praying, the sign of the cross or tracing the cross on a forehead, and was seen in the homes of Christians. It is said that the wood of the Cross was recovered around 355 A.D. by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, and since then the practice of venerating the cross has increased.

To celebrated the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross we attended morning mass. Monkey was surprisingly behaved which meant I was able to both listen and participate in the mass, imagine that! I had plans of a coloring page and cross cookies but Monkey was somewhat destructive today. So I took away the chewed up marker and opted of gingersnap cookies instead.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

 John 3:16-17

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekly Menu

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Cooking, baking, canning, dehydrating. I keep things interesting by challenging myself to try new things or created without depending on a recipe. There are so many things that I want to try and make... pate a choux, souffle, creme brulee, to name a few. Sigh... Anyways, here's my weekly menu:

Day 1: Creme of broccoli soup and homemade bread.
Day 2: Curried lentil stew with homemade pitas (?) and salad.
Day 3Rabbit alla Caciatora Barese on homemade pasta.
Day 4: Vegetable quesadillas, salsa, sour cream and rum ice cream.
Day 5: Eating out for FIL's b-day :)
Day 6: Roast beef with Dijon caper sauce, twice baked potatoes, wilted cabbage salad (Recipes from the Root Cellar p. 46).

Storing Apple Juice

What to do with 120 L of apple juice? Fresh apple juice is best 24 hours after being pressed. That meant I had 24 hours to deal with 120 L of apple juice.

The next morning (last Wednesday), 12 hours later, the eight pails of juice were sitting under my carport. Sweetpea had her immunizations at 9:00 am. I also had to return the apple grinder and press, buy sugar and can 20 lbs of perfectly ripe pears. Read: Recipe for disaster.

The immunizations went well. Monkey only tried to climb the partitioning wall at the clinic twice. Dropping off the grinder and press went smoothly until I realized Hubby forgot to put the press barrel in the car - oops!

After a quick call to Hubby we decided to bring 15 gallons (56 L) of the juice to the brewery to be made into apple cider. My next stop was Costco to buy sugar for the brewery. When I took Sweetpea out of the car I notice the explosive poop. Good thing I packed all those diapers and wipes but no spare clothes... I bought the sugar without browsing the book section (a significant feat for me) and went to Superstore for some canning jars.

I returned home for the apple juice and then drove it to the brewery. At the brewery I decided to complicate things further by getting the equipment to brew apple wine in my basement. I've never brewed anything before... at least not on purpose anyways. The apple wine took care of another 5 gallons (19 L) of our apple juice.

That left me with 45 L of apple juice which I canned into 11 quart jars.

So there you have it, 120 L of apple juice stored!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Making Apple Juice

We picked apples almost every day last week. Our garage was full of boxes and bags of apples and the whole place smelled of apple. Initially we thought there was about 300lbs of apples, but I think it was closer to 500lbs.


On Tuesday we picked up the apple grinder and juice press. We've never done this before so it was definitely a learning experience. The grinder apparatus looks like a torture machine. The blades are really sharp and there are no safety guards (Monkey was banned from the vicinity).


The first time we filled the grinder it didn't work. Lesson #1: If there are too many apples in the grinder the blades won't spin.


So we dumped the apples out.


And tried again, but the blades still got stuck. Lesson #2: Don't get the machine belt wet when rinsing off before use.


Once the grinder finally started grinding, the mash was collected in a tub below.


When there was enough mash it was then dumped into the apples press.


And pressed into delicious apple juice.


The grinding and pressing went on for four hours and was hard work.


We ended up with eight four-gallon pails of juice. That's 32 gallons (121 L) of apple juice!


Oh yes, and we did this all on Hubby's birthday - Happy Birthday Handsome!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weekly Menu

My parents are gone on a three week road trip in search for sunshine. They plan on driving down through the Western states until then find sun and warmth...I heard them say something about Arizona.

With my parents gone I predict we'll see a lot of my younger sister and brother. Only a few days ago my brother asked me "what's the plan when mom and dad go on their trip?". I was confused for a second then I understood what he was really asking "who is going to make me dinner when mom and dad are gone?". My brother is 18... Well little bro here's our menu for the week ;)

Day 1: Chicken enchiladas, Mexican rice and refried beans. Chocolate Ice Cream.
Day 2: Cauliflower sauce with garlic, oil and chili pepper (Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking p.172) over penne with sauteed swiss chard and oven baked squash.
Day 3: Cabbage rolls and boiled red potatoes with sour cream.
Day 4: Rabbit Armando, boiled potatoes and baked squash.
Day 5: Risotto and garden salad.
Day 6: Baked green lasagna with meat sauce (Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking p.215-216)

My brother.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rhythm

Rhythm. When our days and weeks have rhythm family life is less chaotic and more enjoyable. It's September and I've taken my calendar off the fridge. It's sitting in front of me. I want our weeks to have rhythm and I'm thinking of ways to create rhythm in our home. I'm not interested in micro-managing the minutes of each day, that wouldn't work for us. I want our rhythm to be flexible, but I want to have something each day that will give it a distinctive... beat. I'm starting to plan beats to the different days of the week. Hopefully, it'll make a good rhythm...

[Mondays] 
Kitchen ♪ Menu ♪ Groceries ♪ Baking ♪ Food ♪ Cook ♪ Preserve ♪

[Tuesdays] 
Church ♪ Library ♪ Laundry ♪

[Wednesdays] 
Art ♪ Explore ♪ Create ♪ Plan ♪

[Thursdays] 
Church ♪ Home ♪ Clean ♪ Wash ♪ Organize ♪ Laundry ♪

[Friday] 
Friends ♪ Play ♪ Meet ♪

[Saturday] 
Farmers' Market ♪ Gymnastics ♪ Errands ♪ Laundry ♪

[Sunday] 
Church ♪ Family ♪ Rest ♪


Friday, September 3, 2010

Vermicomposting

There's a booth at our farmers' market where the worm ladies hang out. I have never paid much attention to them in the past. I always thought that people who keep worms were strange. I still have memories of my friend's mom who kept worms in her coffee table. We avoided that table... actually we avoided that whole room. I never understood the value of keeping worms, until lately of course.

I kept coming across the idea of keeping worms to eat kitchen compostables. I read about it in Composting For Dummies and various other gardening and eco-environmental books. It's called vermicomposting and I think it's a neat idea, especially in the dead of winter when the compost bin is under 5 feet of snow. Vermicomposting involves using worms to convert organic waste (see worm diet) into an amazing organic fertilizer call worm castings (aka worm poop).

Until last Saturday, the idea of vermicomposting was just that... another idea. Then I saw the worm ladies and the coffee tins of baby worms on their table. I talked with the ladies and found myself walking away with a tin of baby worms. The tin sat on my kitchen counter for 4 days. I couldn't put it off any longer... I had to make them a house.

The ladies instructed me to get a short (about 12") Rubbermaid storage tote, like this one:



And drill some holes in the bottom for drainage.


Tear some newspaper into strips, put them in water and squeeze them so they're damp but not sopping.


Add peat moss (about 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount of paper) and a handful or two of dirt and mix together.


Say hello to the worms and put them in the box.



The box lid can be placed under the box to catch any drainage. Now, since my worms are still babies I was told not to give them too much food. I'll start giving them Hubby's coffee grinds and some ground up apple cores in the next couple days. 

Uh oh... does this make me a worm lady?