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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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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Grandbaby




Our new grandbaby made her debute Dec. 23, 2006 at 8:03 pm. She weighed in at 8 lb 6 oz and is absolutely the most perfect little sweetheart you have ever seen!


Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays






Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fun With Cheese!

We are true cheese lovers here so at any given time will have upwards of 20 different cheeses, some of them homemade at any given time. We just enjoy cheeses so much! Most freeze well so end up being a true convenience food and fresh they just make a meal. I really enjoy playing with cheeses especially when cooking.

Cheese Cups

Cheese cups are something I just sort of came up with while looking for a new way to serve salads. I came across the idea for making cheese crisps on the food network. There was a show about low carb that I kind of stumbled upon and really liked the idea of shredding cheese then baking it. So I decided to experiment.

I shredded cheddar cheese then mounded it onto parchment paper and baked it until almost crisp. Now this was really good, a nice type of cheese cracker that I make often. However, I immediately saw the versatility of cheese crackers. What if I formed them into bowls to seve salad in? I thought that would be rather a neat presentation where you could eat both the salad and bowl. So I baked the shredded cheese in rounds and while still warm, I drapped over a juice glass, pressed a bit then let them cool. This was the result and I must say my family loves this presentation!

Cheese Sticks

Cheese sticks just sort of happened and I can't really recall why other than our love for cheese and a bit of kitchen experimenting. I use a ABM pizza dough (recipe follows) then the dough into narrow strips and roll in cheddar cheese and bake. This is a true family favourite!

Pizza Dough

1 1/2 c beer
1 1/2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/8 c white flour
1 1/2 tbsp instant yeast

Add ingredients as per your breadmaker instructions. Set to dough setting. When finished, remove from bread pan and roll out the dough. Cut into strips and roll into shredded cheddar (or cheese of your choice) cheese. Let the dough rise then bake at 350ºF until cheese is bubbling and bread is golden brown.


Cheese on Salad

We eat a lot of salads, usually daily, so coming up with variations can be challenging. For the most part I much prefer fresh cut greens and vegetables from the garden and I do love adding fresh cut herbs as well. But a bit of cheese really makes a salad sparkle. It accents the homemade viniagrette well and just adds that perfect sparkle. I love freshly shredded parmesan cheese for this purpose but often use other cheeses too.

Now If you are wondering the viniagrette is a homemade purple basil, lavender, lemon thyme and organo vinegar combined with a bit of honey, dijon mustard and fresh chopped onions and chives. I make a lot of homemade vinegars from my herb garden and I insist on using fresh herbs whenever possible.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stove & Fridge

My Fridge & Stove

Well, I have to admit this was not quite part of the plan for this blog but I opened my email this morning to two requests as to the appliances I use in my kitchen and another one asking what major appliances I recommended. So this entry is cooking related to address these questions. And before you ask, yes my kitchen is pink! The appliances are all white but not matching brands because I choose appliances based on performance not brand. My kitchen accents are stainless steel and chrome but it has a very country feel. The cabinets are dark walnut something I would like to change perhaps by painting but after living through that once, the idea is just floating right now. The kitchen flooring is scheduled to be replaced just after our holidays in January. I'm sure my husband chose this time since I will be a little more mellow because I do not do change well, especially in my kitchen!

My stove is a Jenn-Air Electric Downdraft Slide-In Range model JES9860AC purchased in 2005. Previous to that I had an Admiral black-glass front range, non-self clean purchased in 1989 that was a real workhorse. The Jenn-Air has a lot of bells and whistles like convenience settings, three oven racks, self-cleaning and downdraft system. I bought two conventional coil cartridges (sold separately) and grill cartridge (sold separately) so basically we bought the shell of a stove then customized. I can mix and match as needed. The grill cartridge is shown in the picture along with a custom made cutting board thanks to one of my kids. I like the look of the stove with the grill cartridge in but during canning season I really need those four burners! If you look closely you will see that one burner is raised by almost an inch. This is a special canning/big pot element originally bought for canning but because I use larger pots on a regular basis I decided to just leave it on the cartridge. The only thing I don't like is there is no storage drawer due to the downdraft system. What I really like is all parts and I mean all parts are easily available for replacement which means if I wanted to go stainless steel it would mean only buying the outer compartments and switching. I think that is a pretty nice option. While this stove might look fancy, it was bought specifically as a workhorse because that is what I demand of kitchen appliances. Performance is always the primary goal!

My fridge is a Whirpool ED2FHGXS Energy Star® rated, white on white side-by-side purchased 2006 about six weeks ago. This refrigerator was a forced purchase since our old side-by-side decided to spew out cold air and not from the door seals. It was a demanding purchase because with the design of my kitchen, the refrigerator would only fit one spot AND my husband was adament he wanted side-by-side with ice in the door. I found one fridge at IKEA on sale that met our requirements but was stainless steel not white. Armed with that information I went online and found two models up from that one but in white. I called our local furniture and appliance dealer, gave them the model and told them to order it so this fridge was bought sight unseen. So far it is performing very nicely!

As far as recommending appliances goes, I really can't for the reason that what works for me might not be a good solution for you. I can recommend small appliances but not major ones. I think one of the most important things we look for in any major appliance is performance followed by energy efficiency. I think my current preference as far as design goes is white on white, sleek with good lines and easy to clean.

So now you've had a glimpse into my kitchen. Perhaps I will add more pictures in the future when I'm not adding pictures of food.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Pork Tourtière (French Canadian Pork Pie)


Pork Tourtière is also known as French Canadian pork pie. My early French Canadian ancestors would have brought a very similar recipe with them in the very early 1600's. This pie was originally made with game something that would have served my ancestors well until their farms were established. Because pigs were important for the survival of farms in Québec, pork was later substituted for game.

Traditionally Pork Tourtière is served as part of the Christmas celebrations, often served upon returning from Midnight Mass. My eighth great grandparents would have not only served this meal Christmas Eve but likelyate it often through the winter months. My second great grandparents (cira. 1808-1872) would have served this dish with turnip and perhaps an apple desert of some type, more than likely applesauce. The pie crust would have been made with lard so for an authentic taste, use lard instead of shortening and the pork would have been ground at home. The pie would have been bake either in a fireplace later a woodstove. It is a simple, unpretentious dish that is true comfort food.


Pork Tourtière
source: Canadian Pork Council, Pork Perfect Pork. 1983. Saskatoon, Canada. Pp. 129.

2 lb ground pork
3 small onions, minced
1/2 c boiling water
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 medium potatoes, cooked and mashed
pastry for a deep double-crust pie

In large saucepan, cook pork, onion, water, garlic, and seasonings over low heat, stirring constantly until meat loses its red color and aout half the liquid has evaporated. Cover and cook 45 min longer. Mix mashed potatoes into cooked meat mixture. Cool. Prepare pastry; roll out half and line pie plate. Fill with cooled meat mixture. Roll out remaining dough and cover pie. Seal and flute edges and slash top crust. Bake in 230ºC (450ºF) oven 10 min. Reduce heat to 180ºC(350ºF) and bake 30 to 40 minutes longer.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

My notes: I steam the potatoes then mash for a nicer texture. This pie freezes well either whole or in one-serving sizes. Freeze on a cookie sheet then vacuum seal when frozen.



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Icing Sugar


I've had a couple of emails requesting clarification. Here we can buy "icing sugar" which is a very fine powdered sugar typically used for making icings, hence the name. It must be a Canadian thing! In other areas it is labelled as powdered sugar which is the same thing. Now if you can't find either, take 2-3 c of granulated sugar and process in a food processor until powdered similar to a fine flour. Sift it then use as needed. Store in an airtight container or vacuum seal for longer storage.

Garden Gnome
© 2006


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Apple Bread, Roasted Chicken, Shortbread Cookies and More

Life has a tendency to get in the way of the best intentions and so it was yesterday. This is precisely why I do not menu plan. So needless to say I did not get as much cooking accomplished yesterday as I had hoped. The house smelled good despite all the necessary delays.

I make a lot of bread and while I use a breadmachine for the dough, very few loaves are ever baked in the breadmachine. I think baking in the oven gives better results while tantalizing the palate.  Apple bread is always a delight but more so this time of year. It brings in all the smells and flavours of the fall harvest. It is a comforting bread that when coupled with yogurt cheese or cream cheese is sure to please. This bread is very easy to make and trust me that's a good thing because it will be gone within minutes of baking!



Apple Bread (ABM but baked in oven)
source: original recipie was from Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway but I just had to tweak it so what follows is my version

1/2 c unsweetened apple juice
1/2 c unsweetened homemade applesauce
3 c unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c cored, peeled and chopped cooking apple (eg. L-star or Northern Spy), in lemon juice water solution until ready to use
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch fresh grated nutmeg (2-3 quick passes on fine grater)
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast

Put all ingredients into breadmachine pan except for apple pieces. Set to dough setting. When dough is ready, remove from pan onto lightly floured board. Carefully distribute apple pieces through dough with your hands. Shape into loaf and place in lightly grease and floured loaf pan or use a silicone loaf pan. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in warm spot until dough is doubled. Remove towel and bake in pre-heated oven at 400ºF for 20 minutes then lower the heat to 350ºF and bake 20 to 30 minutes longer, or until the loaves have a distinctly hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Shortbread cookies are one of our family favourites and I don't mind making them as they take only four ingredients that are always in ample supply in our home give or take my modifications. Do not even attempt to mix the ingredients with anything other than your hands. These are melt in your mouth cookies and should never be overbaked. This is a butter only and don't even try to substitute! You want just a light goldening of the bottoms! They are easy to make, inexpensive and just taste good! It is a true, buttery comfort cookie sure to please and make excellent homemade Christmas gifts. The recipe that follows is the original recipe. You can easily multiply as I do for larger batches. I made 9 dozen today and will repeat that amount tomorrow.


Shortbread Cookies
Source: back of corn starch box, Canadian brand long forgotten due to the age

1/2 c corn starch
1/2 c icing sugar
1 c flour
3/4 c butter

Mix well then form dough into small balls about 1-inch in diameter. Pre-heat oven to 300ºF. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheet then use a floured fork to flatten. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from oven an allow to cool on rack.


Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese sandwiches in our home are never the run of the mill thing, ever! And one thing you will never find in our home is those plastic orange things trying to pass for cheese. My husband wanted comfort food last night so we played with cheeses: asiago, sharp cheddar, mild reserve cheddar and pepper jack. Then we played! But grilled cheese sandwiches have to be made a certain way! This is one of the best ways to discover what kind of melted cheese you like. Now our rule is the cheese is always sliced about 1/4" thick and new combinations are always welcomed. These delectable sandwiches are usually served with home made tomato soup. It's a comfort thing!

Roasted Chicken


Roasted chicken is a pleasure and last night despite the alternate meal the chicken filled the house with a wonderful smell. I roasted the chicken unstuffed on a broiling pan, no rack, no roasting pan and used convection heat. I wanted to see specifically the difference between the regular way I roast chicken and the convection way. I was not disappointed as the chicken came out nicely browned with moist and very tasty meat. I want to try this again stuffing the bird just to see the results. So far what I've seen I like!





Sunday, December 10, 2006

Quiche

At this busy time of year it is nice to have quick to make, homemade meals. Quiche is one such meal especially if you use prepared ahead ingredients from your freezer or canning stores. Recipes for my favourite pie crust and quiche filling follow.

My Favourite Pie Crust

This is my absolute favourite pie crust! I this recipe for anything requiring a pastry crust. It cannot be beat for deep dish recipes. While I prefer to make it fresh most times, I have frozen several for those busy times. There are three ways to freeze: leave in a ball and vacuum seal; roll out and form into sheets, freeze individually then stack divided with wax paper and put into a zipper freezer bag; or roll out, put into tin foil pie plates. I should mention that the original recipe was the one my mom used and I modified it years ago for flakier results. The recipe is enough for a 9 inch two crust pie. Oh and I like to simplify where I can so use an easy almost no clean-up method for rolling out the dough.

Favourite Pie Crust
Source: my mom, modified by me

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup shortening
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
4 - 6 tbsp ice water

Combine flour and salt then cut in shortening and butter. Add 1 tbsp ice water at a time. Mix until all flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl. Divide dough into two balls and shape into a flattened rounds. Place the one round on parchment paper. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll dough two inches larger than inverted pie pan. Remove top piece of parchment. Place inverted pie pan in centre of the dough then slowly flip bottom parchment paper with crust into pie pan. Repeat for a two crust pie inverting onto filled pie or for one crust pie make two pies or freeze the remainder.

Broccoli Quiche

Quiche is simply a comfort food and trust me "real men" do eat quiche. I got the original recipe for this quiche several years ago from a girlfriend who did not include a source. The original recipe called for a purchased frozen pie shell, dried parmesan cheese, regular ground pepper, regular salt, dried oregano, butter, and soft bread crumbs as well as being topped with a ring of tomatoes. Well, I simply could not leave this recipe as is so I used it as a base for my own recipe. The recipe will give enough filling for one deep dish quiche and one small crustless quiche for the low carbers. I should mention that this quiche gets my family's five star rating!

This recipe re-heats nicely in the microwave. It freezes nicely too. Simply let cool but be sure no family members are around for sneaked taste tests! Once cooled freeze either whole or in individual servings on a cookie sheet then vacuum seal.

Broccoli Quiche

1 9" raw pie crust in deep dish pie pan
1 lg onion, chopped and sauteed until just translucent
1 1/4 c sauteed fresh mushrooms (can substitute frozen sauteed or homecanned pieces)
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 - 3/4 tsp powdered pepper
3/4 tsp dried oregano (double if using fresh)
2 c 2% milk
2 c lightly steamed broccoli
12 slices bacon, sliced crosswise and cooked
8 oz package cream cheese
1 c fresh grated parmesan cheese
6 eggs
3/4 c bread crumbs (either fresh or dry)

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Prepare vegetables and let cool. Grate parmesan cheese and set aside. Blend remaining ingredients together. Stir in vegetables and parmesan cheese. Fill pie shell and small baking dish with quiche filling. Bake at 425ºF for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 350ºF and bake until a knife inserted in centre comes out clean.

Notes: The crustless quiche will take less time to bake but can go into the oven at the same time just remove it when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. For a nice variation try substituting steamed asparagus pieces for the broccoli.

Enjoy,

Garden Gnome


Friday, December 08, 2006

Candles, Soaps and a Quick Shrimp Dinner

Not everything cooked in my kitchen is edible so I thought I would share a few pictures of some non-edible things I make that involve cooking. I've included a quick easy shrimp meal for those busy days like today. It was a busy morning followed by "me" time starting off with discovering another draft. Fixing that meant emptying a large bookshelf, pulling the bookshelf out to caulk, then touch-up painting when the caulk was dry. I took the drying to update my personal blog then got back to work. Since the books were stacked on the floor anyway I decided it was as good of time as any to vacuum them good before re-shelving them.

I use a lot of beeswax both solid and sheets bought in bulk from a local beekeeper. I only use unscent, natural beeswax with no artifical colourants. I gives a nice clean burn with a pale amber flame and mild honey scent. While candles in some form comprise a lot of my uses for beeswax, I also use it in soapmaking, toiletries, and decorations. It has a light, pleasant aroma that is just hard to beat. All of these things I make are for our own personal use with some ending up for family and friends.

Hand Dipped Beeswax Candles

I make a lot of beeswax candles with a majority of them rolled sheets either tapers, straights or voltives. Most of my poured beeswax candles are tea lights or voltive but occasionally I use other molds. By far the most rustic of the beeswax candles are hand dipped. I like making them about 6 1/2" long and joined together for hanging. Directly behind the hand dipped candles is a longer pair of rolled beeswax candles. I have multiple pairs of hanging candles in every room of the house and have a store extras on a rod in one closet. Oh I guess before I leave the topic of hanging candles, I usually make them in sessions. I can comfortably make 25 pairs of dipped candles in one session or 50 pairs of rolled candles in a session. Poured candles other than voltives and tealights are generally done in sessions as needed.

Soy Tea Candles

I can't recall when soy wax first came out but it hasn't been that long. Soywax is derived from soybeans I just had to try it and fell in love with the way it handles when making the candles. A very much appreciated characteristic of soy wax is that spills clean up with water. I buy soy wax flakes online. It is a simple melt and pour into the tea light holders or voltive molds. Voltives are done in batches of 10 throughout the day. Tealights are done in batches of 50 because that's easiest..

Molded Soaps

I've been making molded soaps for ages. These are made from scratch using a combination of oils based on they give to the soap, lye and all natural additives like beeswax. These are: combinations opague/transparent, beeswax/honey and transparent. Transparent soap actually starts out as opague but then using a special technique and high content alcohol it becomes transparent. The procedure is not for the faint of heart especially since there is the risk of the alcohol catching fire. I had it happen only once but went onto continue making transparents.

Poured Soaps

Poured soups start with a melt and pour base that can either be made from scratch or purchased. Citrus transparent soap and herbs are nice to use for a rustic look with natural scents. Oatmeal is another nice addition for a soothing soap. Paired with a homemade gift bag, pour soups are lovely for gift giving.

Now as promised here is a quick, easy to made shrimp and pasta dinner. This is especially nice when you want something homemade that tastes like you worked for hours.

Garlic Pasta with Shrimp

The basis of this dish is spaghettini noodles in a butter garlic sauce. I don't measure the ingredients. Use three burners to cook everything at the same time. Cook spaghettini noodles in salted boiling water until el dente. Drain. At the same time, melt about 1/4 c butter and stir in 1 or two garlic clove that have been pressed through a garlic press. Warm garlic until flavour is released into butter but don't let brown. Stir garlic butter mixture into hot noodles. While noodles are cooking, sautee sliced mushrooms in butter then stir in small frozen shrimp and warm through. Top noodles with mushroom and shrimp mixture.

Enjoy!

Garden Gnome