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Posts Tagged ‘food’

Lately I’ve been really focused on skills that have been lost over generations or simply not passed down from our parents and grandparents. I don’t know if it’s due to the younger generations not caring, a general waning interest in those types of skills or a lack of time when convenience is just easier to satisfy the needs of ourselves and our families.

That being said, I’ve been happily learning and honing those skills for my own enjoyment and fulfillment. Call it taking care of my family or call it preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Either way, I’m fairly confident that in the event of a food shortage or other similar emergency, I feel like I’d be able to provide and help my husband and I not die (the bar is low folks). Unless we’re talking full-fledged apocalypse where people are killing each other for a tomato, well, I’d probably have problems and a tomato would be the least of them. But I digress.

Back to me and my epic skillz. 🙂

I started a list (of course) of skills I wanted to learn and I’m happy to say I’ve been making great progress. I’ve plsit the list into four categors of “learning”: Things I already kow, things I’m currently learning (In Progress), Things I want to learn, and Things I don’t need (yet). I reserve the right to change my mind on that last one if, you know, zombies and all.

Know In Progress Want to learn Don’t need (yet)
Learn to make dried herbs x
Learn to make freezer jam x
Learn to rotate your crops x
Learn to bake bread x
Learn how to weed properly x
Start your seeds indoors x
Learn to garden x
Learn to cook from scratch and in season x
Learn to knit x
Learn how to forage for wild edibles x
Learn to store food x
Grow an indoor fruit tree x
Know first aid and CPR x
Learn a fiber arts skills such as rug hooking, spinning, weaving or felting x
Learn how to make lip balm x
Learn how to prune x
Learn to can – pressure x
Learn to can – water bath x
Learn to crochet x
Learn to grow and store medicinal herbs x
Learn to make butter x
Learn to make candles x
Learn to make cheese x
Learn to make dried fruit x
Learn to make dried vegetables x
Learn to make home medecine ointments and salves x
Learn to make vinegar x
Learn to make yogurt x
Learn to save seeds x
Learn to sew basic stitches x
Make bar soap x
Make dish soap x
Make laundry soap x
Plant a fruit or nut tree x
Learn to fish x
Learn to hunt x
Learn how to start a fire x
Learn to purify water in different ways x

That being said, these are some the tasks I have been tackling this year to hone said skills:

  • Expended my garden to 4 beds (16 square feet each), for spring, summer and fall crops. I’m still not saving seeds yet but I will eventually. I do start my seeds in doors and transplant once risk of frost is past (in my area zone 6b).
  • I grew mint and chamomile to dry herbs (with a dehydrator) for tea. This has been great – love my very own tea blend. 🙂
  • I grew lavender and made sachets (second year in a row now).
  • I bought fruit at our local farm and made freezer jams (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and peach). So excited to have a freezer full of jam for the winter.
  • I bought local pickling cucumbers and made refrigerator and freezer pickles: dill, sweet, bread & butter. Delicious. And we’ll have some for months!
  • For the first time, I planted garlic (last fall) and harvested and cured them. They turned out great and we had the first clove in dinner yesterday – holy moly – tasty!! We have 13 bulbs total to savor over the coming months.

Some pics:

Garlic harvest

Garlic harvest (TV remote for size comparison)

Lavender harvest

Lavender harvest

Lavender sachets

Lavender sachets

Drying chamomile

Drying chamomile

Pickle batch

One batch of pickles

Freezer jam - strawberry

Strawberry freezer jam

Peach freezer jam

Peach freezer jam

Freezer jam

Freezer drawer of jams and pesto

I’m also planning on tackling these tasks in the upcoming months:

  • Make basil pesto (once I harvest the basil in my garden)
  • Make apple chutney (and freeze), apple sauce (and freeze), possibly make apple pie filling (and freeze) – to take advantage of the apple harvest in our neck of the woods
  • I’m planting cabbage as a fall crop and will make sauerkraut (my first go at fermenting!)
  • I’ll be making vegetable chips in my dehydrator, possibly some dried fruit too for some healthy snacks

Once the food season passes, I’m going to work on other skills that are more indoorsy. 🙂 Good times.

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I’ve updated my Life List and now that we’ve decided what our trip will be for 2017 (Italia, here we come!), that helped identify which Life List items I’ll be crossing off the list this year – see below:

  • Travel to Italy
  • See the Sistine Chapel (Rome, Italy)
  • See the Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
  • Tour Tuscany (planning on San Gimignano, Siena)
  • Train ride in Europe (we’re planning on taking a train between Rome and Florence)
  • Have gelato in Italy
  • Enjoy pasta and wine in Italy
  • Eat pizza in Naples (planning a day trip from Rome to Pompeii, Naples, Mt Vesuvius)

And the non-travel related items to tackle in 2017 are:

  • Grow a fruit tree
  • Picnic in a vineyard
  • Have a proper English tea
  • Make a craft for every season/holiday for 1 year
  • Cook a whole fish
  • Have a home emergency kit
  • Learn 5 homestead skills (in progress – will continue)
  • Read 30 books
  • Cook 30 new recipes
  • Watch 50 movies

Not too shabby 🙂 I better get moving!

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This year we had family down for Thanksgiving. Since it was only a couple of days, we made the most of our time together. The fam (sister and her two daughters, plus my brother and his wife) arrived Saturday in time for Thanksgiving lunch. My sister-in-law, her husband and their two kids who live nearby also arrived for lunch. We were 11 in all: 7 adults and 4 kiddos. I had my first kiddy table (and none of the kids are mine lol).

I cooked everything the day before (except the turkey). I started the turkey at 5am so it would be ready for lunchtime. I changed up the menu this year:

  • Ciabatta buns, butter
  • Wild mushroom medley (cremini, button, shitake mushrooms with shallots, garlic, parsley, sherry vinegar, olive oil)
  • Roasted red onions (olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme)
  • Red and yellow baby potatoes with butter, thyme, salt and pepper
  • Maple-glazed carrots and rutabaga (glaze: maple syrup, butter, brown sugar)
  • Green beans with gremolata (lemon zest, salt, pepper, shallots, garlic, pine nuts)
  • Turkey (stuffed with lemons, thyme, salt & pepper)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Sweet gherkins
  • Pickled beets
  • Greek salad provided by sister-in-law/husband (thanks!)
  • Dessert: Lemon meringue pie, Apple pie, Cinnamon coffee cake
  • Wine: Thirty Bench 2010 Benchmark

Pics of the kiddy table and grown-up table:

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After lunch, we headed out to enjoy the fall colours and hiked from Webster Falls to Tews Falls and back in Hamilton (Ontario). The scenery was just beautiful. I was able to capture some great pics of fall foliage.

Gorgeous tree in the parking lot:

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Webster Falls:

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We got to enjoy all the colours of the fall rainbow including greens and yellows:

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Oranges:

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Reds:

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Even all of them together:

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Kiddos horsing around 🙂

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Lone red leaf

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The sun created a cool effect on this one at Tews Falls:

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Captured a couple at the top of the falls:

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Pretty trees:

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Surrounding area back at Websters Falls, reminds me of an English garden:

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Under a weeping willow:

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Sunday, we headed to Stonehaven Farm for farm goodies, picked our pumpkins and played in the hay maze. Uncle Mark and I played tag with the kids in the hay maze – fun! When we got home, we had leftover turkey and fixings for lunch then started decorating our pumpkins. We chose to do sugar skulls this year for a change – they turned out pretty good:

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Having fun at the pumpkin patch:

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I made my first rabbit for supper today and it turned out pretty good! Fresh rabbit was on sale at our grocer store so I took the opportunity to knock this item off my Life List. 🙂 The butcher cut the rabbit into 8 pieces (thankfully) and I found a recipe online for Lapin à la moutarde (Rabbit with mustard). I got out my Le Creuset dutch oven and went to town.

Here are the 8 pieces and a bowl of Dijon mustard. The recipe said to season the rabbit with salt and pepper, then to smear them with the Dijon. Anytime I can smear something is a good thing.

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Here they are again – smeared!  I like to use a silicone brush for my smearing activities.

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Searing the pieces.

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I seared them in two batches then moved them to a platter while I cooked the onions in wine. Then, added the pieces back to the pot along with  a bouquet garni (rosemary and sage).

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I roasted some parsnips in the oven and also added cremini mushrooms to the pot for the last 15 minutes of cooking. And then, dinner was served!

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Quite tasty! The house smelled amazing. The rabbit was great and the sauce was very yummy.

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For the past couple of years, Chris and I have been learning about food and the importance of eating healthy, organic and/or food that was grown locally. It hadn’t really hit home until I started reading the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingslover. Barbara tells the story of how their family moved to a farm in Virginia and decided to grown their own food, raise their own livestock and support the local farming community. She also explained some of the issues with the food industry which really opened our eyes to real problems with the way things currently are.

As a result of learning about these issues and the consequences that come with them, Chris and I have decided to be much more proactive about where our food comes from. Some of our biggest concerns include:

  • Some of the food that you see in your supermarket’s produce section has travelled thousands of kilometers to get there. They’ve been treated with chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics to make them hearty enough for long distance travel, usually at the cost of taste and nutrients. Along with that are the transportation emissions produced to get food across the country to your table. (What for?? So you can have a pineapple in January? It’s just not worth it.)
  • Making and transporting the chemicals requires more energy and produces more greenhouse gases.
  • Growing livestock for food in some large production facilities are cause for concern. Things like stacks of cages crammed full of chickens with nowhere to go, sitting in their own feces – because that many chickens in such close quarters have to poop somewhere. Feeding livestock certain foods to fatten them up that their species were never meant to eat in the first place. Feeding them grain because it costs less but requires so much energy to produce.

What we want to do going forward:

  • Support local farms by buying local. The food is fresher, tastes better, contains fewer/no chemicals, generates fewer transportation emissions and supports the local economy.
  • Grow some of our own food. I’m already planning for next spring’s garden and will start learning how to preserve food to have local produce through the winter months (freezing, canning, drying).
  • Buy organic where possible.
  • Buy closest to home: For us, that’s Ontario. If that’s not possible, buy as close to home as possible; at a minimum, buy Canadian.

We know there will be some items that are just not available locally, like coffee. For those we’ll commit to educating ourselves and choosing a source that has ethical practices.

We had our first grocery trip this morning and we did pretty well! Most of the produce we purchased was from Ontario, the rest was Canadian. All local, some organic. We bought strawberries, pears, lettuce, red peppers, butternut squash, acorn squash, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes and basil.

Other items we purchased were also either from Ontario or Quebec: Yogurt, cheese, organic chicken, organic pork.

Some items that were difficult to find any Canadian source for were: beans/legumes and quinoa. We’ll have to do some research for those. 🙂

And the cool thing? We ended up spending the same amount as our usual weekly grocery trip.

We feel good about our choices and are excited about doing the right thing. The right thing for us, for our health, for our local farms and for our local economy. It’s a win-win all around.

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I made this for supper last night and the house smelled so good while it was roasting. I really like fennel when it’s been roasted – the anise flavour mellows.  Honestly, I love anything that’s been roasted…it’s so darn good. This recipe has fennel, potatoes, carrots and onions. The pork is slathered in Dijon, thyme leaves, garlic and salt & pepper then popped into the oven with the veggies.

This recipe can be found here from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook.

Delicious and super easy – the hard part is waiting for it to cook and waiting for the meat to rest. Torture! 🙂

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Baked goods for breakfast are OK, right, because they have eggs in them? 🙂

This recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa “Foolproof” cookbook and can be found here.

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