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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

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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, July 27, 2006

Roast Beef on Grill

I use my grill as an oven during the summer so anything that is cooked in the oven is fair game for the grill. I posted this method of roasting beef or pork on the grill on a few groups. Several asked for the method so as promised here it is.

Frozen Blade Roast

We buy both beef and pork in bulk so that means we generally have roasts to use throughout the summer. The problem is with the heat and humidity levels there is no point stressing the air conditioning so I came up with this method of cooking roasts on the grill. Roasts are prepared directly from the freezer. I do not thaw! Another note is whenever the grill is going I tend to run it fairly loaded. On this occasion I did a blade roast along with a chuck roast and campstyle potatoes.

Roast with Sauce

The first step is unwrapping the roast and placing it on heavy duty foil. Pour a generous amount of your favourite barbeque sauce. For the blade roast I used Diana Sauce Gourmet Fine Herbs with Lemon but you can use whatever sauce you want. I like using homemade chutneys instead of barbeque sauce especially for pork roasts. Once the sauce is liberally applied your are onto the fun part.


Foil Wrapped

I really recommend using heavy duty foil. The roast will need to be turned several times and even with using heavy duty foil there will be some leakage. Start by making a packet. Place another piece of foil over the roast then seal all the edges, smooching in the seams as you go. Add at least three more layers repeating the process but varying where you have the seals.

On the Grill

Both roasts were cooked on very low direct heat. Indirect heat can be used if you are only cooking one roast. As mentioned the roast needs to be turned several times throughout the cooking process. I like using silicone oven mitts to do this but cloth mitts will work too. The cloth mitts will need to be washed.

Shredded Grilled Roast Beef

The roasts are cooked until there is firmness but still some give. There will be a little leakage and the roasts will smell wonderful! Once the roasts are finished cooking, remove from the grill and allow to cool slightly. At that time the roasts can be shredded or if cooled entirely cut into very thin slices for sandwiches. Either can be vacuum sealed and froze for later use.


Campstyle Potatoes

Campstyle potatoes are one of our favourites. They can be cooked in a foil packet or as I did in a large batch in a foil tray. Cube the potatoes and stir in chopped onions. Drizzle light olive oil over the mixture. Sprinkle with seasoning of your choice. We prefer Montreal Steak Seasoning. Add a pat or two of butter. Seal the package or tray. Cook on indirect heat on the grill until potatoes are soft. If cooking in a foil packet turn a few times during cooking.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Garden Tomato Soup

I intended to make an entry about roasting beef on the grill but I have had a request for my tomato soup recipe so decided to do that entry first. Tomatoes will soon be upon us. I've been picking Tiny Tims, Grape and today picked my first Lemon Boy and Ultra Sweet. For this recipe, I recommend a meaty tomato and a food mill for a smoother soup.

Garden Tomato Soup

This recipe is from Bernardin's Tomatoes Canning & Speciality Recipes. It must be pressure canned. You may safely double the recipe but I would leave the amount of bay leaves the same. For those on sodium restricted diets the salt may be omitted. Instructions are paraphrased and my notes follow.



Garden Tomato Soup

16 c chopped tomatoes (about 8 lb)
3 1/2 c chopped onion
2 1/2 c chopped celery
2 c chopped red pepper
1 c carrots
7 bay leaves
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c lightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp salt

Prepare jars and lids as per BBB instructions. Wash, blanch, core and chop tomatoes. Measure 16 cups. Combine tomatoes, onions, celery, pepper, carrot, bay leaves and garlic in large stainless steel saucepan. Simmer uncovered until soft. Press through a sieve or food mill. Return mixture to saucepan. Add sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Ladle soup into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Use a nonmetallic utensil to remove air bubbles. Wipe rim and place snap lid on jar. Apply screw band and secure until finger tight. Process 20 minutes 10 lbs pressure or adjust pressure for your altitude.
Makes 4-500 ml jars

My notes: This is a nice fresh tasting soup! To re-heat, pour the contents into a saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp butter if desired and a little milk if you want a creamed soup. Otherwise just heat the soup and enjoy.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Fresh Perch

Last week a friend called wanting to know if we wanted some fresh perch. He's catching a lot right now. We've been playing on and in the water too much to fish. So we took him up on his kind offer and gave him a bag of zucchini in return.

Fresh Perch

Fresh perch is a delight! The fish is quite popular in our area as is fishing. I must admit to being rather lazy regarding fishing lately so I best change that. Perch are small fish with a mild delicate flavour that is perfect for pan frying. I've heard so many people say they don't like fish because of the fishy smell. They simply are not eating fresh fish. Fresh fish does not smell fishy!

We had a lovely fish dinner that night. There was enough left over for another two to three meals. I vacuum sealed the rest of the fish using my new Rival VS120 Seal-a-Meal using the pre-made Rival bags. Those bags sure are heavy weight compared to the bagging material from my old vacuum sealer. I wanted to make sure to protect this fish well.


Pan Fried Perch

We dredge the fish in a light fish coating. This is one of the very few times I will eat fish with any kind of coating! The secret to the golden results is using a cast iron fry pan. We have tried using non-stick and stainless steel but the cast iron gives the best results. The fish were fried in peanut oil. Since the fillets are small, they take little time to cook. Care must be taken to not over cook perch or any other fish.

Mushrooms

We love mushrooms! We have them any chance we can. There is a mushroom farm not far from us so quite often I will pick up twenty pounds then can or freeze them. Last week I didn't feel like driving that far so checked closer sources. I found these beauties at the local orchard along with some very nice portabello mushrooms. We like them sliced thick for the mushroom zucchini mix.

Mushroom Zucchini Mix

This dish is one of our favourite quick sides using zucchini. The ingredients are mushroom slices, zucchini, and coarsely chopped onion. It is very good sprinkled with fresh grated parmesan cheese. I also use it as a pasta topping of which I will post about later. If I could figure out a way to preserve this mix, I would but it does not lend itself to freezing or canning.

I cook it one of two ways. If sauteeing, I use a light olive oil and start with the onions first followed by the mushrooms. Then the zucchini is added once the other vegetables are almost finished. This preserves the bright green of the zucchini. Finally a pat of butter is stirred in. I also cook this dish on the grill in a foil packet. Everything is combined in a bowl then tossed with light olive oil. The vegetables are put onto foil along with a pat of butter. The foil packet is sealed then placed on the grill in indirect heat.

We use the grill almost daily in the summer. Whenever it is in use it is always doing double duty. If the grill is cooking that night's dinner, chances are very good it is also cooking a roast or other meat for later use. Sometimes it bakes the bread or the desert as well.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Cherries & Jam Recipe

I was going to write about my mini bulk cooking session but haven't uploaded the pictures yet. Instead I decided to write about cherries! Unfortunately I do not have any cherry trees so I have to buy cherries. By far the best prices are the orchards and U-picks.


Sweet Cherries

Sweet cherries are now available here in Ontario. They sure are beauties this year! Not only are they good for eating, they make a deep, rich coloured jam full of flavour. Steeped in either whiskey or brandy they make a wonder liqueur. They make a tasty snack when dried and are just perfect over ice cream.







Sour Cherries

The local orchard sells sour cherries in 5 kg (11 lb) plastic buckets. The cherries are pitted and ready to use or you can buy them already frozen. I like buying them unfrozen so I can divide into smaller amounts. If I'm really busy with other produce, I will freeze then make jam later but normally I make the jam as soon as I get the bucket. The bucket is never wasted either. I use them in the gardens and greenhouse for several tasks.

Canned Cherries, Sour Cherry Jam, Sweet Cherry Jam

I think the cherries look nice whether canned whole, as pie filling or as jam. Cherries canned whole can be used for syrups, as an ingredient, or thickened for pie filling. They also make wonderful jams to tickle your tongue. Cherry jam is not just for sandwiches either. We seldom use jams of any kind for sandwiches. Cherry jam makes a wonderful cake filling, quick mini tart filling, stirred into plain yogurt and ice cream topping. I like to keep canned whole, pie filling and jams on hand.

I use the recipe included with CERTO liquid pectin for Cherry Jam along with my notes. If you want a recipe using powdered pectin use the Ball Blue Book recipe or the recipe included with your pectin package.

Sweet or Sour Cherry Jam

4 cups prepared cherries
2 pouches CERTO liquid pectin
7 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice (sweet cherry only)

Stem, pit and finely chop or pulse in cherries in food processor. For Sweet Cherry, reduce fruit to 3 3/4 and add 1/4 c lemon juice. In large saucepan stir together prepared fruit, sugar and lemon if using. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in CERTO liquid pectin. Stir and skim for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
Yield: about 6 half-pints

My notes: For a special sweet cherry jam add a little whiskey or brandy.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Zucchini Chips

My zucchini plants are threating to take over the garden. I posted to my garden blogspot blog about the zucchini plants under the entry "Attack of the Zucchini"


Zucchini Plants

I have five zucchini plants. Despite some negative comments regarding zucchini, I love growing them. They perform well with few problems. Yes, some neighbours have reportedly started locking their doors and cars but I think that is just a rumour. The zucchini plants in bed #5 are smaller. The ones in bed#7 as pictured are huge and are producing three to four six to eight inch zucchini daily. I'm not complaining! We eat a lot of zucchini through the growing season. I freeze zucchini for later use. I have a few uses for zucchini this year so keep an eye on this blog to see what I make. Bed #7 is bordered with yellow marigolds. The bed is a 4'x4' planted in the square foot gardening method. The front four squares are planted with cucumber plants.

Zucchini

The zucchini are very nice this year! I discovered zucchini chips on a Yahoo group I read so thought I would try them. They are quite good when seasoned slightly then used with your favourite chip dip. I like them as is with no dip. I must say they are good with herbed dip too. Zucchini chips are a healthy alternative to potato chips as they aren't deep fried. For those concerned with sodium content, use a low sodium or herbed seasoning that doesn't contain salt. Whatever seasoning you use, keep it light as the flavour will intensify when the chips are dried. I don't make a lot of these chips, perhaps the equivalent of five gourmet size bags of regular potato chips. They are a big hit with everyone!

Mandolin

By far, the quickest way to prepare the zucchini for chips is a mandolin. It gave nice, uniform thickness slices with very little effort perfect for drying. All the pieces of the mandolin are dishwasher safe so that's an added bonus. A mandolin will also make quick work of julienne style zucchini sticks for stir fries. You can use a food processor if you choose. The problem is you will have to cut the zucchini at least in half giving half moon shaped chips. That is still ok depending on your desires. What is most important when drying foods is to get a uniform thickness. This aids in drying and helps to ensure most of the vegetables are dried in the same amount of time.



Zucchini Slices

I loaded the zucchini slices onto two drying trays. The trays were sprayed lightly with olive oil first and the slices were sprinkled lightly with seasoning salt before drying. The oil prevents any sticking to the trays once dried. The seasoning salt is optional. They were dried in my oven set to the drying setting at 125 F and convection fan on. Despite a higher moisture content, the zucchini dried relatively fast without any problems.

This is my first year using only my oven for dehydrating since my trusted dehydrator gave up the ghost. My oven has a "drying" setting that works along with the convection setting. I'm still figuring out the best way to utilize both settings. Dehydrating has never been a huge part of my home preserving. I do a fair amount of beef jerky and a few fruits but little in the way of vegetables. So far I haven't tried beef jerky using my oven yet but will shortly. We really need a cooler period as the temperatures have been in the mid nineties for the past few days!

Zucchini Chips

Once the zucchini chips are dried, they are removed from the trays then ready for vacuum sealing. I like to use a large plastic container to collect the chips as they dry. When the container is full, I pour into a vaccum bag then seal. Vacuum sealing keeps out moisture and keep the chips crisp. The chips could be sealed in zip loc bags with as much air removed as possible.

Vacuum Sealed Zucchini Chips

This method left a cushion of air to protect the chips. I vacuum seal a lot of foods including the foods I dry. This protects the dried foods from humidity. I used my new Rival Seal-a-Meal VS120 to soft vacuum seal the zucchini chips. I just bought this vacuum sealer so am figuring it out. My other vacuum sealer is a DCI. It works well but doesn't seal mason jars. I specifically bought this foodsaver so I could finally start vacuum sealing mason jars. I store a lot of dried foods in mason jars because they are rodent proof.

Quick Lunch

While the chips were drying I took the opportunity to make a quick lunch using left-over steak and potatoes. The extra zucchini slices that didn't fit on my drying trays were tossed into the fry pan along with the steak and potatoes. They coooked fast and gave a nice addition to the quick lunch. Sauteed zucchini of any kind is always a favourite here.

A very kind friend gave us a huge bag of fresh caught perch. This is a real treat! I gave him zucchini in return. Tonight's dinner was pan fried perch and our favourite zucchini saute mix. I'll post about that tomorrow.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Freezer Pickles

Cucumbers are just beginning here although my vines don't have any yet. I make a small batch of freezer pickles each year. These are a bread and butter style of pickle.

Freezer Pickles

The recipe is rather easy. The pickles have an excellent flavour without the work of canning. The result is a tasty, crisp pickle. Unlike other pickle recipes "no" cooking is necessary. The recipe can be halved or doubled if desired. I like to freeze in the 14 oz (414 ml) zip loc containers. This is a nice size that tends to get used up within a meal or two. To use, simply defrost the container in the fridge and serve. Here's the recipe. I've included a note at the end of the recipe since I prefer to do the pickles that way.

Freezer Pickles

7 c pickling cucumbers
2 c diced onions
2 c green peppers
1 tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp celery salt
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 1/2 c white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp tumeric
3 1/2 c white sugar
1/2 tsp alumn

Slice cucumbers into containers*. Mix together the rest of ingredients. Pour over cucumbers. Let sit for 3 hours. Freeze.

* Note: My preferred method is to mix everything in a large plastic bowl. Do not use metal. After the waiting period, I stir well then divide into the freezer containers. I find this is a lot easier.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Freezing Peas From My Garden

As anyone who has read this blog or my gardening blog knows, I garden in raised beds using the square foot garden and companion planting methods. I tend to plant a lot of heritage varieties but also plant some hybrids. Some of what I grow is preserved to be enjoyed during our long winter months. I've been picking and preserving peas for a few days.

Peas & Beans

Beans and peas are grown in bed #3. I am elated at my pea yield this year! This has been the first time I've really had success growing peas. Other years they would grow just enough to tease then given almost nothing. This year I changed a couple of methods and varieties so I'm in the peas! In my opinion they are very nice looking peas, if I don't say so myself. I'm growing a few varieties as explained in my gardening blog, Garden Gnome Wanderings

Little Marvel Peas

Little Marvel Peas are a heritage variety pea. The pods are about 3" long, almost round and tightly packed with 7-8 very tender and very sweet peas. This is a very good freezing variety. The peas are a very nice size too! After the peas have been shelled, I'm getting about a quart a day. So now the next question is how to preserve these lovely little green pearls? Personally I refuse to either can or dry peas! I find I get the best results freezing peas.

Freezing Peas:
Shell the peas and wash. This is the time consuming part but not really difficult. Once the peas are shelled, put a pot of water on to boil. Once the pot is boiling add the peas and blanch 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Pack into container of choice. I prefer zip loc bags so I can use as needed. Label and freeze.