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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Homemade Cream of Roasted Garlic Mushroom Soup

Carrying on with the focus on soups for National Soup Month, I am making a few of our family favourites.   There is honestly nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of hot soup on a cold winter's day.  It's been cold and grey here with freezing rain adding a chilly dampness to the air, perfect soup weather. 

The beauty of making soup is its simplicity.  You don't need special equipment, fancy ingredients or even a lot of time.  I recommend using a pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time of long simmer soups but you don't need too.  There are actual soup cookers (blender with heating element) and blenders (blade friction) that make soup as well.  Soup cookers tend to have bad reviews and the blenders are pricey.  Soups can also be made in the slow cooker.  A blender or stick blender is useful if you want to make smooth soups.  I personally use a food strainer to make purée soup bases. However, the only real equipment you need to make delicious homemade soups is a large pot and stirring spoon. 

homemade cream of roasted garlic mushroom soup
You don't even need a recipe to make delicious homemade soups.  All you need is a bit of creativity combined with basic know-how.  Essentially you need: a meat, fish or vegetable stock; vegetables; seasonings (salt, pepper, bayleaf, etc.) and miscellaneous (pasta, rice, barley, beans, milk or cream).  Ingredients can be fresh, frozen, from the pantry or a combination of the three.  There is no real need to measure either.  I generally start with an idea for a soup and evolve from there.

This is the time of year I focus on reducing pantry and freezer supplies in preparation for the new growing season.  My homemade soups this month have something from the pantry (stock, vegetables) and something from the freezer (meat, vegetables, miscellaneous).  Local mushrooms are available year round making them the perfect ingredient in many of my dishes.  Their mild, creamy flavour never disappoints!  I made a delicious cream of roasted garlic mushroom soup, a slight spin on our traditional homemade cream of mushroom soup.

Note:  Roasted garlic freezes nicely so I roast several bulbs then freeze in 15 ml (1 tbsp) portions for use later.

Cream of Roasted Garlic Mushroom Soup
recipe by:  Garden Gnome

1 kg white mushrooms
1 large sweet onion
30 ml roasted garlic
1 L mushroom stock
1 bayleaf
15 ml olive oil
60 ml butter
750 ml whole milk 3.25% M.F.
250 ml half & half 10% M.F
30 ml organic white flour
salt/pepper to taste

Wash and slice mushrooms.  Chop onion.  Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot.  Stir in onions and mushrooms.  Cook on medium low heat until mushrooms are cooked through, stirring often.  Stir in the mushroom stock and bayleaf.  Increase heat.  Bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat.  Stir in milk and half & half.  Bring to a simmer.  Put the flour in a small ramekin.  Sprinkle a dash of salt and two dashes of pepper on top.  Mix with a fork.  Add enough water or milk to make a smooth slurry.  Slowly pour the slurry into the soup stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Serve.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

National Soup Month

Waving hi and Happy New Year!

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere it is easy to see why January is National Soup Month.  The cold, blustery, snowy winter days are perfect soup days!  Soup is much more than comfort food.  It is one of the most frugal dishes you can make.  When made from scratch soup is a mere pennies per serving, considerably less expensive and healthier than commercially canned version, and an ultimate budget stretcher.   They are a lot easier to make than the food industry would have you believe.  The best part about homemade soups is you can easily tailor them to your tastes.

Chicken Noodle Soup
As our time in the sunny south drew to a close, my craving for homemade soups grew.  We left there a week ago Saturday making the trip north, not making a good of time as we wanted.  We were delayed due to a system going through Georgia and somehow during the last few days there, I picked up a bit of a stomach bug.  We arrived home Sunday.  I went immediately into winter mode!

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup is a winter staple.  It really is just what the doctor ordered for cold and flu season.   Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup is a quicker way to make the longer cook version.  Both versions are delicious, easy to make, soups. 

Ontario, Canada is currently experiencing a hydro crisis with rates soaring.  Gosh, when I started this blog over 10 years ago, our hydro rates were one the lowest in Canada but those days are long gone.  I am so glad we switched to natural gas for cooking when we moved here.  If you live in Ontario or anywhere where hydro is expensive, I highly recommend using a pressure cooker for making soups and stews.  This is one of the most cost effective tools you can use in the kitchen especially when trying to conserve cooking fuel especially hydro.  Many long simmer soups and stews can be made in a pressure cooker in about 40 minutes. 


Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Final Wind Down to Superbowl 50 (2016)

In less than five hours the house will be filled with guests.  The week has been a whirlwind of preparations and yet surprisingly calm.  As with most of our entertaining, I relied on the tried and true dishes then added in a couple new dishes that hopefully will become favourites.  Yesterday, I made the pulled pork in the oven so the house smelled delicious during the long, slow cooking.  Today is more of assembling the dishes for serving although I still have the dips, vinaigrette, popcorn and cornmeal muffins.  It is going to be a busy morning but the final preparations for our Superbowl 50 Party should go smoothly!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Superbowl Menu Planning

My husband and I have been having a lazy Sunday, enjoying coffee and chatting about next weekends plans, pleased we don't have to go out in the rain.  Yes rain!  Here in beautiful southwestern Ontario, we are experiencing rain (heavy at times) and rather mild temperatures (highs in mid 40˚F) for this time of year.  We are lucky in that we were away for most of the cold weather but still folks in southwestern Ontario can't complain.  We have only shoveled once, haven't had to use the snowblower and the temperatures haven't been bad.  All in all, it has been a mild winter here.

Superbowl Sunday 2016 (February 7) is a week away!  We sent the invitation out last week so now have a good idea of the numbers.  It looks like we will be hosting our Superbowl Party for sixteen.  That means it is time to do the menu planning for this event.  Unlike many, menu planning does not nor has it ever played a large role in our day to day living however, it is a very useful tool I rely on for certain activities like camping and entertaining.

On the menu:
  
Snacks

  • crudites with avocado/herb dips*
  • cheese tray with crackers*
  • nachos with cheese sauce/salsa/sour cream/pickled jalapeno peppers*
  • cashews
  • potato chips
  • seasoned popcorn* 
  • [bacon wrapped jalapeno peppers*]
Dinner
  • pulled pork sandwiches* with garnishes (romaine lettuce, shredded cheese, red cabbage slaw*, dill pickles*, pickled red onion*) 
  • spring mix salad* with vinaigrette*
  • chili with corn muffins*
Dessert
  •  banana cake* with cream cheese frosting*
  •  peanut butter cookies* 
* homemade, needs prep ahead

A few menu items like the pickled jalapeno peppers, dill pickles and salsa are homemade pantry staples.  This afternoon I will firm up the recipes I will be using then base my grocery list on that.  I bought a pork loin for the pulled pork with part of it reserved for peameal bacon.  The bacon wrapped jalapeno peppers are in brackets as they are dependent on the availability of the fresh peppers.  Next, I will create a priority for the prep.  For example, cookies and crackers can be made 2 to 3 days prior to the event, pull pork 1 to 2 days before the event, corn muffins the day before and dips the day of.  I'm experimenting with the seasoned popcorn so will make a few trials before deciding on one or two for the party.