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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, June 28, 2007

Moving Day

Today's moving day! Our phone service will be going off soon here so I won't be online until the phone service is installed at the new house sometime tomorrow. I hope to be back online this weekend. We are pretty much packed and ready to go. The serviceman came out to take the washer off its pedestal and lock the drum and to take the doors off the fridge last night.

Watch for pictures on my new kitchen along with the changes we make to it in the very near future. Of course, I can't wait to get cooking again so will be sharing that with you as well.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Baked Salmon Steaks

As the move date draws closer and more things are packed I feel less like cooking so am turning to easier, quick to prepare meals. Baked salmon steaks fit that criteria last night. The meal used up two of the remaining four potatoes, two salmon steaks (freezer), peaches & cream corn (freezer) and my last lemon (refrigerator).

Baked Salmon Steak

Salmon steaks are one of our favourite either grilled or baked. Salmon is high in Omega-3 fatty acids making it one of the good foods to eat. Left-overs can be made into a filling for sandwiches and wraps. It can be baked or grilled from frozen in about 20 minutes and in less time if using fresh.

Salmon has a nice, rich flavour that goes nicely with rosemary, butter, lemon, thyme and chives. I insist on both butter and lemon when either grilling or baking salmon then use the desired herbs to compliment the side dishes. I like keeping the sides simple so as to not overpower the flavour of the salmon.

Baked Salmon Steaks

1 salmon steak per person
herbed butter
juice on half lemon
lemon slices

Place the salmon steaks in a baking dish or 2-piece broiling pan*. Brush with the herbed butter. Sprinkle generously with lemon juice and place one slice of lemon on top. Bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes or until the fish feels just firm to the touch. Do not over bake. Remove from baking dish and serve as is with a wedge of fresh lemon.

* If using a broiling pan, put a little water in the bottom tray to prevent smoking.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Grilled Chicken with Herbs De Provence

We are moving in nine days and I know I won't be cooking the day of the move! Unfortunately I have not cleared as much food as I would have liked to but that's ok. Over the weekend a cooler full of food from the side-by-side freezer made its way to one of our kids at my husband's insistence. Despite my supervision he managed to get a couple of packets of roasted garlic into the cooler as well! She's quite pleased at this generosity as I don't part with roasted garlic very often especially that roasted on the grill.

We love grilled chicken so I'm always experimenting with different ways to prepare it. Tonight I marinated it in Herbs de Provence from the Jet Set Spice Co. Chef Steven Popp, the resident Chef instructor for the Jet Set Spice Co. is a master of combining flavours with wine with a focus on balance and harmony. While their products can be ordered online, I usually splurge and buy mine at the various ribfests we attend. I paired his herb blend with a VQA Ontario 2006 Riesling Dry from Pelee Island Winery for the marinade. This wine is a perfect complement to appetizers, seafood, cheeses and light meals.

Grilled Chicken with Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence is a blend of herbs originating in Provence, southern France. It is usually a dry blend but could be made fresh. The blend I used consisted of marjoram, savoury, thyme, basil, lavender, rosemary, sage, fennel seed, garlic and onion. Herbs de Provence can be used in marinades for grilled chicken as I used it or as a rub for roast lamb or pork. This blend can be sprinkled on pizza, in potato soup or on fresh summer vegetables for a boost of flavour.

There are several recipes online for grilled chicken using an Herb de Provence marinade. I used the marinade recipe on the package of the herb blend from Jet Set Spice Co because I had everything on hand and didn't want a complicated recipe since packing has now moved to the kitchen. After making the marinade and the chicken was in the refridgerator, I realized I had the amounts of Riesling and olive oil reversed but the end result was wonderful so that's the way I will make it again. The recipe is as I made it. I served the chicken with sweet potatoes and nibblet corn, both from the freezer.

Grilled Chicken with Herbs de Provence

3 tbsp Herbs De Provence blend
100 ml Riesling
50 ml olive oil
2 lb fresh chicken breasts, skin and bone attached*

Place the chicken in a zipper style bag or vacuum canister. Mix the marinade then pour over the chicken. Seal the bag or vacuum seal the canister. If using the bag method, let marinate for 6 hours. Timing can be reduced if using a vacuum canister to about two hours. Remove from marinade and grill until juices are clear.

*Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be substituted but be careful to not over grill

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Strawberry Delight

We had a send off dinner for one of our kids and his fiance other who are getting married in late July. This is a big move as the wedding will take place is Wisconsin where they will reside. I wanted a nice meal while keeping to my plan of using foods from my current stock. We grilled sirloin strip steaks (video, pictures and method) cut from a sirloin strip roast from the freezer. Sides included nibblet corn (freezer), steamed carrots (fresh) and foil wrapped seasoned potatoes (fresh).

Strawberry Delight

Strawberry Delight (my term) is a desert that appears at pot luck dinners or church socials. One reason for its popularity at these types of events is how simple this desert is to put together. It has a nice creamy, mousse-like texture. I think the recipe originally appeared in women's magazines or on the back of the CoolWhip label.

Any flavour of gelatin can be used so that gives a greater flexibility. Garnish with fruit of the same flavour and perhaps a sprig of mint for a nice presentation. Another way to present this is in wine glasses filled half-way then set in a manner so the gelatin solidifies on an angle. Then top with gelatin/CoolWhip mixture, allow to set and garnish with fruit and sprig of mint. Have fun with this!

Strawberry Delight

2 packages JELL-O Light
2 c boiling water
2 c cold water
2 - 3 c CoolWhip
garnish: fruit of your choice, sprig of mint

Prepare JELL-O per package. Allow to set to almost firm. Spoon into a mixing bowl. Spoon in CoolWhip. Whip until nicely blended. Pour into serving bowl and refrigerate until firm. Garnish and serve.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Grilled Country Ribs and Berries

We cook as much as possible on the indoor and outdoor grills year round but when the weather turns warm the preference is for the outdoor grill. Continuing with my goal of using two things from the freezer and two things from the canning rack for each evening meal, I looked in the freezer. Grilled country ribs sounded like a plan. This meal would use up one package of country ribs from the freezer, cheese, potatoes and the ingredients to make desert. The chives, strawberries and herbs were from the garden so even though I fell a little short in my goal, I still used up a few things.

Grilled Country Ribs

Who can resist grilled country ribs? They are moist and tender with a wonderful flavour just perfect for grilling. There are so many ways to prepare the ribs for grilling too. I normally buy these in a family package of eight huge ribs then vacuum seal them into packages of two for four meals. As meat goes they are fairly frugal being low cost per meal and easy to prepare. These are such huge, meaty ribs I plan on one per person even though I know we seldom finish one each. Left-overs are great sliced on crustry rolls with Asiago cheese the following day or sliced for pork fried rice. These country ribs were marinated then grilled. Sides were baked potatoes with sour cream and chives and baked asparagus.

Grilled Country Rib Marinade

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp organic brown sugar
1 tsp fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tsp fresh thyme* (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Place 2 large country ribs in a FoodSaver canister. Whisk the marinade ingredients together and pour over the ribs. Vacuum seal and place in refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours. [If you do not have a vacuum sealer, place the ribs into a zipper style freezer bag. Pour the marinade over then seal and refrigerate for about 6 hours.]

To grill, remove the country ribs from the marinade. Place on a hot grill turning only when the meat releases easily. Use tongs to turn so you don't puncture the meat.

*Lemon thyme gives a nice flavour to this marinade.

Berries & Cream

What happens when something goes wrong with a dish you are preparing? Sometimes that happens despite the best of intentions. It all started out just fine with a nice white cake (recipe in archives) poured into lightly oiled silicone muffin tins. In my mind, I wanted cupcakes topped with fresh whipped cream, blackberries and strawberries then garnished with a bit of chocolate syrup and a mint leaf. My first problem came when the cupcakes would not release from the silicone muffin tins. I let them cool completely without any luck. I even popped them into the fridge to see if that would help. Finally I resided myself to the fact the nice cupcakes I had envisioned would be pieces instead. Then I made what was supposed to be the chocolate syrup. That was problem number two. I'm still trying to figure out what I did wrong with the syrup as I've made it before without a problem yet it was more of a lump! So in order to save the desert, I topped the cupcake pieces with fresh whipped cream and the berries. I figured with that combination I couldn't go wrong. It wasn't the same as I had envisioned but it worked well and tasted pretty good too.

Monday, June 11, 2007

French Fry Dip and Salmon Kabobs

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, one meant to be spent outdoors on the water instead of inside. We originally intended to spend it on the boat but as things go, plans were changed. The day was still fun fill and involved water.

French Fries

On the continuing theme of using up food from the freezer, I made French fries for lunch. There was nothing really special about the fries themselves. They were McCain's crinkle cuts something I keep a couple of bags on hand for the times I want to make fries without the work of homemade French fries. I deep fry them in a T-Fal FryExpert on the fry setting in vegetable oil. Once fried I put them into a large bowl and lightly salt ready for serving.

A Canadian tradition is putting regular white vinegar on French fries. All the fry trucks have both white and malt vinegar so we simply expect this. Imagine our surprise when we cross the border to find out our American counterparts do not enjoy vinegar on their fries! Tsk! Tsk! The next favourite topping and truly Canadian is poutine, a wonderful mixture of gravy and cheese curds. Followed by that is ketchup. However there is another dip we like and as best as I can tell this may have originated in the Maritimes. The dip is very easy to make.

French Fry Mustard Dip

1 c Miracle Whip
1 - 2 tsp prepared mustard

Stir in enough mustard to the Miracle Whip to make a creamy, colour of butter dip. [Miracle Whip does work best for this dip but you could substitute mayonnaise.] Place into individual dipping bowls or pour into a squeeze bottle for easy serving.

Salmon Kabobs

I mentioned that our plans were changed. Friends invited us to lounge around their pool and a barbeque. Well that involved good friends, water and food so how could we possibly go wrong?

I cannot take credit for any of the food served but it was wonderful. Salmon is not something I would have thought of doing as a kabob yet these were wonderful. The kabobs themselves were very simple consisting of marinated salmon along with red and green pepper slices. The salmon was nicely grilled with lots of nice flavour and not dry. This will be one thing I will experiment with and post back with the results.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

It's Strawberry Season!

It's strawberry season for my June bearers. Aside of the herbs, rhubarb and a couple of rogue red lettuce plants, the strawberries will be my final harvest for this garden. As the moving date draws closer I'm saddened at leaving my beloved garden behind but the anticipation of discovering the new gardens as well as creating a new vegetable garden is building.

Garden Fresh Strawberries

My current stawberry patch is a 4' x 8' raised bed and stuffed full of strawberry plants. The strawberries are June bearers but I don't recall the variety. They are very proliferic so I will be taking a few of these plants to start a new strawberry patch at our new house. These plants obviously do not understand the concept of order in the garden but their bright juicy berries smile impishly. They spill over the sides of the bed and root themselves along the paths. They are in cahoots with the other plants that have not read the book on square foot gardening!

When strawberries are in season my number one favourite way to enjoy them is fresh picked and still kissed by the sun. There are ways to preserve that taste for the rest of the year. The most common way is strawberry jam. Jam can be either canned or freezer but I prefer canned. However, strawberry vinegar and drying strawberries also work well along with freezing strawberries (not pictured).

Strawberry Jam

2 quarts strawberries
1 pk powdered pectin
1/4 c lemon juice
7 c sugar

Hull and wash the berries then crush. Combine with pectin and lemon juice in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two piece lids. Process 10 minutes in boiling water canner.
Yield 8 half-pints

Strawberry Vinegar
2 c strawberries
4 c white wine vinegar

Crush the berries. Place into a mason jar. Pour the vinegar over and let sit at least 3 weeks. Strain before using.

Drying Strawberries
- ideal for topping cereal or ice cream

Wash and hull the berries. Slice to about 1/4- inch slices. Pretreat if desired. Dry at 130º until pliable.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Swiss Potato & Mushroom Pie and Butterscotch Fluff

Update: Just a little over a month after we move, we are having our Anniversary celebration. The guest list is between 50 and 60 people. The only things certain are the location, date and the meal will include a pig roast (whole pig), corn on the cob and my potato salad. We were going to have the sides and deserts catered but family input resulted in "it would be nice" suggestions. Details are currently being worked out so watch for that in future posts.

My cooking priority for the next month will be pantry and freezer cooking with the upcoming move. I'm trying to use two items from the canning rack/pantry and two items from the freezer for each dinner meal. I'm paring down things in the fridge as well but some of these will have to be replaced. Last night's meal used up: from pantry - 1 pint bread crumbs, 1 box butterscotch pudding mix; from freezer - pork chops, Cool Whip; from fridge - Swiss cheese, 4 eggs, and salad greens.

Swiss Potato & Mushroom Pie

This is another recipe from the Foodland Ontario Gazette, 2007 put out by Foodland Ontario. Visit their website for other great seasonal recipes. As soon as I saw this recipe I knew it would likely be a keeper. The only ingredient that wouldn't sit well with my husband was the sweet red pepper so I substituted fresh chives. I also substituted fresh thyme for the dried. Foodland Ontario suggests leaving the skin on the potatoes to save time and add fiber as well as colour. It could be served with a salad for a meatless meal or as a brunch addition. I served it with breaded pork chops, tossed salad with butterscotch fluff for desert.

Swiss Potato & Mushroom Pie
source: Foodland Ontario Gazette, 2007; modified by Garden Gnome

4 unpeeled medium potatoes, [cooked and cooled - omitted]
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c fresh chives, chopped
1/4 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1/2 c shredded Swiss cheese
1 egg
2 tbsp milk

Slice the potatoes thinly to yield about 4-1/2 cups. Arrange half of the potatoes in the bottom of a lightly greased 9" x 9" baking dish (or 9-in pie pan for wedges), slightly overlapping. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large fry pan. Stir in onion, garlic and mushrooms then cook until the liquid is completely evapourated. Stir in half the chives, Parmesan cheese and thyme. Remove from heat. Spread the mushroom mixture over the potato layer then top with half of the Swiss cheese. Arrange the remaining potatoes over the mushrooms. Beat the egg with milk and pour evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle with remaining Swiss cheese and chives. Bake at 350ºF for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and the centre is hot. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into wedges or squares.
Serves 4 - 6

Butterscotch Fluff

Butterscotch Fluff is a quick no-bake desert made from convenience products. It is rich and creamy, sure to please and oh so easy to make. For quite some time it appeared at just about every pot luck event we went too which is where I got the recipe. It's something I make only upon request which doesn't happen very often.

Butterscotch Fluff

1 box instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 c milk
2 c graham cracker crumbs
2-3 tbsp melted butter
2 c Cool Whip whipped topping
garish with graham cracker crumbs or chocolate curls

Whip pudding mix and milk together then set in the fridge. Place the graham cracker crumbs into pie dish. Melt butter and pour over graham cracker crumbs. Mix with fork then press into place. Let cool in the fridge. Stir the Cool Whip into the pudding leaving it slightly streaky. Pour this mixture into the cooled shell and return to the fridge until ready to serve. Garnish as desired.
Serves 8