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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, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Deluxe Sugar Cookies

The last week of October is traditionally the week I try out different cookie recipes. This gives me time to decide what ones I want to make for Christmas. It's a nice change from the heavy canning season. My family looks forward to the taste testing and giving their in put as to their new choices that will join out family favourites for the year. I decided to try a fancy version of sugar cookies after dinner.

Deluxe Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are versatile as they can be cut into any shape, decorated for any occasion or left simple with just a sprinkle of granulated sugar or left completely plain. Children love these cookies to fine tune their cookie making skills. Plain sugar cookies are perfect with a steaming cup of green tea like I served to my husband tonight. He's feeling quite under the weather with a nasty cold. Hot tea and homemade cookies is just what he needed for a bedtime snack.

Deluxe Sugar Cookies
source: Betty Crocker Cookbook (date unknown), Pp. 149, modified by Garden Gnome

1 c butter, softened
1 ½ c icing sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp clear pure vanilla extract
2 ½ c unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
granulated organic sugar (optional)

Combine butter, icing sugar,egg and vanilla in KitchenAid stand mixer bowl. Mix until creamed on setting 3. Blend flour, baking soda and cream of tartar together in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the dried ingredients while mixing on setting 3 until well mixed. Remove dough from the mixing bowl. Shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Heat oven to 375ºF (convection 350ºF). Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 3/16 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired. Place on baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until a light brown on the edges.
Yield: About 4 doze 3 inch cookies.

My Notes: I modified this recipe to use the KitchenAid stand mixer. I also modified the ingredients. The dough is very soft so does need to be refrigerated before using. When rolling out the dough and cutting, try not to handle too much as handling will soften the dough. I found the dough a little tempermental when rolling but going slow helped. The next time, I will chill the rolling pin as well.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Home Canned Cranberry Sauce & Pantry Pasta

Saturday morning I decided to complete two small canning projects before the kids and grandbaby arrived. The first project involved using the pressure canner did not go according to plan so I was not impressed! After much frustration I moved onto the second project, cranberry sauce using a boiling water bath (BWB) canner. Dinner was a simple pasta casserole made with home canned foods.

Cranberry Sauce

I don't can a lot of cranberries since I usually make fresh cranberry sauce from scratch as needed. However, we have a half of pig on the way so I need to free up some freezer space. A few jars of cranberry sauce in the pantry The small bag gave a yield of three 250 ml jars just perfect to accompany one or two meals.

Cranberry Sauce

1 pk fresh whole cranberries
1 c sugar
1 c water

Mix ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until berries pop. Ladle cranberry mixture into 250 ml jars. Wipe rim and adjust caps. Process in boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner. Allow to cool. Check the seal. Label and store.

Pantry Pasta

If you've read this blog you will know I do a lot of home canning. I share pictures of the food I can as well as the recipes and methods. One common question is "What do you use for?" so I like sharing the different ways I use some of my home canned foods.

This casserole used home canned ground beef with onions and roasted vegetable sauce. If you do not home can, both of these can be frozen for use as quick starters for meals. The casserole turned out rich and creamy, perfect for a cool and grey day. I served it with tossed salad and hot dinner rolls.

Pantry Pasta
note: click on the links for recipes and method

1 - 500 ml jar home canned ground beef with onions
2 - 500 ml jars roasted vegetable sauce
½ c extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ c mozzarella cheese, shredded
⅓ c Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 - 375 g package broad egg noodles
2 c sauteed mushrooms

Bring water to a boil, salt and add noodles. Cook until noodles are el dente. Saute mushrooms. Drain noodles. Pour noodles into large mixing bowl. Stir in vegetable sauce, ground beer, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. Spread evenly into a large casserole pan. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Spread a layer of sauteed mushroom over the top. Bake at 350ºF until warmed through.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sweet Potatoes & French Bread Revisited

Alona, of the US Potato Board's new blog, The Potato Underground wrote me a lovely email after visiting my blog. She invited me to try out some of their recipes and share them with my readers. Well now, potatoes have to be one of our most favourite vegetables so how can I refuse an offer like that. I will be adding a link to their blog in my side bar. Please check back for some of their recipes and my report on them in future.

I love stopping at the farmer's market any time of the year but during the fall there is always an abundance. The one I frequent is a small, family owned market. They grow most of the produce themselves. They also have a nice freezer section and local crafts. Yesterday I stopped there and gosh did I ever get some good deals: 3 lb stuffer mushrooms, 1 lb portabellos, 2 huge sweet potatoes (2.75 lb & just shy of 4 lb), 2 large rutabagas, 20 lb large cooking onions, medium cabbage, 1.75 lb bananas and 9 kg (20 lb) bag of bird seed all for $23.37.

Sweet Potatoes

Many people use the terms yams and sweet potatoes interchangeably. In fact, the sweet potatoes were labelled as yams at the farmers market. However, yams and sweet potatoes are two different, unrelated vegetables. Yams are tubers of the tropical vine Dioscorea batatas. They have brown or black skin that resembles the bark of a tree with off-white, purple or red flesh. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are yellow or orange tubers that have elongated ends tapering to a point. The yellow skinned sweet potato has a pale yellow flesh that is not as sweet with a dry, crumbly texture. The orange skinned variety is often called a yam. It has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin. The flesh is a vivid orange with a sweet flavour and moist texture. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and vitamins A, C and B6.

The sweet potatoes were enormous! I couldn't resist so bought two. One was 2.75 lb and the other just shy of 4 lbs. I decided to can some of the sweet potatoes, have some for dinner, perhaps keep enough out for sweet potato pie and freeze the rest. The canning method follows the stock canning method.

Canned Sweet Potatoes & Chicken Stock

Homemade stocks are incredibly easy to make and inexpensive. Their taste is well worth the effort! There are no preservatives, MSG or extra salt, just a nice, rich meat flavour. Stocks are made using the bones and broths are made using the meat. They can be defatted or left as is. Either can be canned for a convenient, ready to use pantry item or frozen so be sure to make lots and keep on hand. Think beyond chicken stock as well. Other stocks to have on hand include fish, beef, turkey, pork ,mushroom, vegetable and game (venison, etc). Save the bones until you have enough to make a big batch of stock. This batch of chicken stock was from the left-overs and bones of the chicken I canned the day before. I ended up with 5 - 1 L (quarts)* jars of partially defatted stock.

Note: I put the Canadian measurement first followed in brackets the American measurement for canning instructions.

Canning Stocks
Make your favourite stock or use my basic chicken stock recipe. Ladle the hot stock into hot 500 ml (pint) or 1 L (quart) jars leaving ½ - inch headspace. Wipe the rims and adjust two piece lids. Process 500 ml (pint) 20 minutes, 1 L (quart) 25 minutes at 10 lb pressure.

Canning Sweet Potato

Wash sweet potatoes. Cut into 1 - inch strips and peel. Cut across the strips to form 1 - inch chunks. Place the sweet potatoes into a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Pack the hot sweet potatoes into wide mouth 500 ml (pint) jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Cover with boiling water leaving 1 - inch headspace. Add 1/4 tsp salt if desired. Wipe rims. Adjust two piece lids. Process 65 minutes at 10 lb pressure.

French Bread

I've been fine tuning the French Bread recipe using the KitchenAid® stand mixer. I find a longer knead time produces better results as you can see from this batch of bread. This is a recipe I've used several times in the breadmaker then modified to use the stand mixer. I have to tell you the results with the stand mixer are far superior to dough made in the breadmaker.


I bought two of the family sized packages of chicken thighs on sale at Meijer's. Last night we grilled the other package of ten thighs. The intention was using some for dinner and the rest deboned then sliced for freezing. The thighs were grilled then glazed with Dianna Sauce during the last 15 minutes. They were served with steamed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes and French bread. It wasn't an exactly low carb meal but it was low fat. Both potatoes were lightly seasoned with a little butter and sea salt allowing their natural flavours to shine. It sure was quite a tasty meal!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beef Noodle Soup

As the weather gets gradually cooler, the soup pot becomes more enticing. I decided to make a pot of beef noodle soup yesterday. Most of the soups I make start with a vague idea of what I want then choose ingredients to get that result. The ingredients are always based on what I have on hand in the pantry and freezers. I used home canned carrots and beans to make this hearty soup.

Beef Noodle Soup

There is something comforting about any soup with noodles. Beef noodle soup is rich and flavourful, filling for the tummy and soothing for the soul. Pair with a hearty homemade bread and side salad for a wonderful cold weather dinner. This soup is very versatile so add what you have on hand then sit back and enjoy!

Beef Noodle Soup

1 large soup bone
2 lb stew beef
1 unpeeled onion
1 carrot
2 stocks celery
1 bay leaf
olive oil

2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp Montreal Steak spice
1 - 500 ml (2 c) jar carrot coins
1 - 500 ml (2 c) green beans
2 c nibblet corn
1 chopped onion
¼ c tomato paste

Cut carrot and celery into thirds. Cut onion in half. Place soup bone, bay leaf, onion, celery and carrot in medium size stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer until meat is tender. Remove bone. Pour stock through a strainer and return to stock pot. Top with water so stock pot is a little over half full. Cut meat from bone and return both meat and bone to the stock pot. Brown stew beef in a little olive oil. Cut meat into bite size pieces then add to the stock pot. Bring the meat and stock to a low boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove soup bone. Add remaining ingredients except for noodles. Bring to a boil. Add noodles. Continue cooking until noodles are cooked.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Home Canned Chicken

Home canned meats, poultry and fish are convenient products to have in a well stocked pantry. I don't purposely buy large amounts of meat to can nor do I can a lot of meat in comparison to some home canners. Rather canning meat is a spur of the moment opportunity that presents itself. Sunday we stopped at a Meijer's when we were in the US. Chicken thighs were on sale for 79 cents a pound so I picked up two family packages each containing ten pieces. The packages had been froze so were not suitable for refreezing. I decided to let them thaw in the fridge, use one package for a meal and pre-cooking and use the other package to can the meat and make stock.

Home Canned Chicken

Home canned chicken is ideal for making chicken salad and mixing with mayonnaise for sandwiches but it can be used for so much more. I like using the smaller 250 ml wide mouth jars for canning chicken. It's the perfect size for many uses. The yield from ten chicken thighs was seven lovely looking jars of canned chicken. The total cost of the canned chicken was $4.21 so cost per 250 jar is 60 cents.

I roasted the bones then added them to the remaining cooking liquid along with onion, carrot and celery for stock. I'll be defatting the stock so it won't be ready for canning until tomorrow. My basic chicken stock recipe can be found here. Factoring in the stock that should yield about 7 - 500 ml jars the overall cost for both products will be quite inexpensive.

Canning Chicken

Boil chicken until it is about ⅔ done. Remove the skin and cut meat from the bone. Cut the meat into smaller pieces. Pack the hot chicken into hot jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Add ¼ tsp salt per 250 ml jar (optional). Ladle the hot cooking liquid over the chicken leaving 1 - inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims. Adjust two piece lids. Process 1 hour and 15 minutes for 250 or 500 ml jars at 10 pounds pressure.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Home Canned Kidney Beans & Lima Beans

Even though I cook the majority of our meals from scratch I do like having homemade convenience foods in the pantry. Home canned beans are one of those convenience foods. I decided to can kidney and lima beans today. In an earlier entry I mentioned canning kidney beans but did not give the method. The first question is why would you can beans when they are so inexpensive in the stores. Consider that a bag of beans will cost me about $1 and give me about 16 - 500 ml jars at a cost of 6 cents per jar. Economically this is considerably cheaper than store bought canned beans bought on sale at 79 cents per can.

Home Canned Kidney and Lima Beans

Dried beans are extremely easy to can but you do need to pressure can. Dried beans can be canned anytime throughout the year as long as you have a supply of dried beans. These are convenient to have on the pantry shelf ready to use. Economically it is best to can a full canner load. There are several methods of canning beans including the USDA recommended method. I used a different processing method based on a long soak followed by slow heat then processing. The jars look quite nice!

I ended up with 17 - 500 ml jars of kidney beans, eight were red kidney beans and the remainder were dark red kidney beans. I only had enough lima beans for 3 - 500 ml jars but we don't use a lot of lima beans so that should be fine for now. While on first glance this looks like a lot of kidney beans consider that 3 to 4 jars go into a batch of chili so I really only have enough kidney beans for four large batches of chili meaning I will be canning kidney beans again the first part of the new year.

Canning Dried Beans
kidney, lima, navy, etc.

Soak beans overnight or 12 hours. Drain. Fill sterilized 500 ml jars about 2/3 full with the soaked beans. Pour water over the beans leaving 1 - inch headspace. Wipe the rim and adjust two piece caps. Place the jars in the pressure canner and put the lid on. Heat on medium heat for 30 minutes. Increase temperature to high and vent canner according to your manufacturer's recommendations. Pressure can 75 minutes at 10 lb pressure for 500 ml (pint) jars. Turn off heat. When canner has depressurized, remove jars and allow to cool. Check for seals then label and store.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pumpkin Pureé & Pumpkin Loaf

Pumpkins are botanically a fruit but are used as a vegetable for culinary purposes. They are a member of the squash family. Did you know that pumpkins are good for your health? They have no cholesterol*, have a very low sodium content and a high water content. pumpkins are high in beta carotene which helps reduce certain types of cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease. At only 80 cal per cup of pumpkin pureé combined with the health benefits, pumpkin is a good food choice. Pumpkin can be served as a vegetable (steamed, boiled, baked) or used to make delectible baked goods.

Pumpkin Loaf

Pumpkin loaf has a rich, aromatic flavour that is sure to please. It is a quick bread with a nice texture perfect for any occasion. The loaf freezes nicely so be sure to make extra. In a previous entry, I gave the method for canning pumpkin chunks. These can be warmed to serve as a vegetable but if you want to make pumpkin pie, you will need to pureé the pumpkin. Fresh pumpkin pureé is easy to make. It freezes nicely so be sure to make a lot.

Pumpkin Pureé

Wash the pumpkin. Remove the top and clean out the seeds. Cut the pumpkin in half then into 1 - inch strips. Peel each strip. Cut strips into 1 - inch pieces. Place the pieces in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Boil until the pieces are soft. Remove from heat and drain. Pureé the pumpkin pieces in small batches using a blender on the pureé. Allow to cool. Place into freezer containers in 1 cup and 2 cup amounts. Freeze. To use, thaw and stir then use in your favourite pumpkin recipes.

Pumpkin Loaf

1 c brown sugar
½ c grapeseed oil
1 ⅔ c pureed pumpkin
2 eggs
2 ½ c unbleached flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. Beat together sugar, oil, pumpkin and eggs. Put dry ingredients in Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and mix on speed 2. Pour in pumpkin mixture and mix on speed 2 until well blended. Spoon the batter into a large greased loaf pan. Bake at 350ºF for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly and remove from pan.

* While pumpkin itself does not contain cholesterol, many pumpkin recipes are high in cholesterol because of their egg content.


Garden Gnome

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tortilla Soup

Our son and future daughter-in-law offered to cook one of her family favourites for dinner last night. Well, how could I refuse an offer like that?

Tortilla Soup

I have been hearing a lot about this soup so was interested to see the ingredients and taste the end result. The soup came together very quickly with the help of a store bought rotisserie chicken and pre-seasoned boxed rice. The soup is rich with a nice texture and flavour. It does have a nice punch of heat to it as well. I was warned ahead of time the soup was spicy. I didn't find it too spicy but my husband did. I will be tinkering with the recipe (see my notes below) to make use of my home canned foods and tone down the heat a little. Otherwise this soup is a real keeper!

I have not seen ROTEL tomatoes here in our neck of the woods of Ontario but can easily buy them in the US. These are diced tomatoes with green chilies and spices so I'm going to try to develop a recipe for canning these at home. One more home canned tomato product is always a good thing!

Tortilla Soup
source - DS & future DIL

900 ml chicken broth
900 ml beef broth
1 whole rotisserie chicken (store bought)
2 - 10 oz cans ROTEL tomatoes
1 c tomato sauce
2-3 limes, juice only
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 box Uncle Ben's Spanish rice
12 oz Mexicorn
1 can green chilies
2 tbsp garlic
1 Spanish onion, chopped
½ pint whipping cream

shredded Monterey Jack cheese
crushed Doritos
sour cream

Cook rice per instructions on box. Cut the chicken from the bones and cube. Chop onion, garlic and cilantro. Combine all ingredients but the cheese, Doritos and sour cream in a stock pot. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer about 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle shredded cheese and Doritos on top. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream.

My Notes: This quick, easy to make soup is quite tasty with a good punch of heat as is. It can be modified to use homemade broths, tomato sauce, rice and pre-cooked chicken. I think a bit of parsley would be a nice touch and perhaps use Maggi instead of Worcestershire sauce. A nice aged sharp cheddar would go nicely to top this soup.


Garden Gnome

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Home Canned Pumpkin & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins are everywhere this time of year! They are one of the final crops signalling the end to a successful harvest. The pie pumpkins are quite inexpensive here at 99 cents each. I picked up three, two to put up and one for pumpkin pie to start with. I'll pick up more this week. You just can't have too much of a good thing!

Canned Pumpkin & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Canned pumpkin can be used for pies, an ingredient or as a vegetable so is a versatile food item in the pantry. Home canned pumpkin must be prepared in cubes, not mashed. A detailed explanation for this requirement can be found here. Pumpkin must be pressure canned as it is a low acid food. Two pie pumpkins gave a yield of seven 500 ml (pint) jars with about 4 c left-over that will be used for some type of baked good. The deep orange pieces look rather pretty in the jars!

Don't throw those pumpkin seeds out! Roasted pumpkins seeds are a nice snack and oh so easy to make. After roasting leave as is or sprinkle with desired seasoning to taste. I sprinkled a little Old Bay Seasoning on this batch.

Canned Pumpkin

Choose smaller pumpkins for better flavour. Wash the outside of the pumpkin. Remove top and seeds. Reserve seeds for roasting. Cut the pumpkin half then into 1 - inch strips. Peel. Cut strips into 1 - inch cubes. Place the pumpkin in a large stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, pack pumpkin loosely into hot, sterilized jars* leaving 1 - inch headspace. Do not mush down. Ladle cooking water over the pumpkin leaving 1 - inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim. Adjust two piece lids. Process at 10 lb press 55 minutes for 500 ml jars (pints). When processing is complete, remove jars and allow to cool. Check seals then store.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Separate the pumpkin seeds from their strings. Wash the seeds. Spread seeds on a tea towel and pat dry. Transfer onto a baking sheet. Pour about 1 tbsp olive oil over the seeds. Mix. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the seeds and mix. Bake at 300ºF until golden brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from oven and sprinkle on seasoning of choice to taste. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day & Canning Ground Beef with Onions

Note: ground beef recipe follows my entry for Blog Action Day.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today over fifteen thousand blogs with twelve million readers will be blogging on one topic - The Environment. Each of my blogs are participating, each from a different perspective so be sure to read them all.

Deciding on a environmental topic that related to cooking was more difficult than first expected. There are so many directions I could have went because food and our food supply are inherently intertwined with the environment. I decided to focus on home canning.

Home canning in jars is a relatively new in preserving history beginning in 1795 using a heat process invented by Nicholas Appert in France. In 1858 John L. Mason invented the mason jar that became a popular amongst both urban and rural families for canning. Family traditions of canning continued but fell out of favour as commercially prepared products became available. Home freezers almost spelled the end of home canning because it was more convenient to freeze. However, some religious groups and farm wives continued the tradition. Over the years many families continued to home can to varying degrees to preserve extra produce from home gardens, take advantage of in season produce and to preserve wild game and fish.

In recent years there has been a resurgence in home canning. During the y2K scare and easily accessible information on the internet, home canning became a very desirable way to ensure personal food supplies. What started as a hobby for some escalated to self-sufficiency. There has been a growing concern with the safety of our food supply. There is a growing distrust in the big companies to provide safe foods coupled with rising food costs. More and more people are growing their own food or buying organic, chemical and preservative free foods. If the forums are any indication, this trend for canning these foods will continue to grow. So you ask, what does canning have to do with the environment?


This is one wall in my pantry. More about my pantry can be found here. The first thing you notice about my pantry is the numerous filled canning jars. These are reused each year as are the rings. Each filled jar represents a commercial can that in some areas can be recycled but even then there is controversy as to whether the recycling effort is effective. Reducing the number of cans we use is sound environmentally friendly practice. Some of my jars are at least 30 years old and still in use for canning. Older zinc lid jars are used for storing dried foods, saving them from the landfill.

As you can see, I have two newer model energy efficient freezers. The problem with freezing is the ongoing cost as long as that food is frozen. The second problem with freezing is you are dependent on electricity. Disruption in the electrical supply can result in the total loss of your stored foods. With rising electricity costs, freezing no longer the most environmentally friendly way to store food. We should be using less electricity, not more. Home canning uses energy for processing but not for storage. The jars can easily be opened without a can opener and used as is in the event of a power outage as well without reheating.

A good portion of the produce I can is home grown organic, free of pesticides and herbicides. All are environmentally friendly practices. Peeling, stems and etc. from prepared fruits and vegetables are composted to be used in the garden the following year. This ultimate form of recycling leaves a minimal impact on the environment. Produce I buy is generally picked in large quantities in one trip minimizing the number of trips needed and a well stocked pantry means fewer trips to the grocery store. Both decrease traveling, gas use and carbon emissions.

Environmentally, canning makes good sense!

Canned Ground Beef

There are many reasons for canning your own meats. One of the most common is to have a supply of meat that is not reliant on electricity. A second reason is to have a convenient, pre-cooked meat ready to use.

Canned Ground Beef
(2.24 kg, yield 5 - 500 ml jars)

For best results use lean freshly ground beef. Place the ground beef in a large stock pot and break up. Add 1 medium chopped onion. Add enough water to cover, breaking the meat up further. Bring to a boil. Continue boiling until cooked. Strain using a colander. Spoon the meat mixture into sterilized, hot jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Add 1/4 tsp salt per 500 ml jar if desired. Pour boiling water over the meat leaving 1 - inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and top until there is 1- inch headspace. Wipe rim. Adjust two piece lids. Process at 10 lb pressure 75 minutes for 500 ml (pint) jars or 90 minutes for 1 L (quart) jars.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Raw Honey

One of the first things I do when trying a new recipe is to adjust the sweetener. If a recipe calls for granulated sugar, it is replaced with either organic sugar in a lesser amount if possible or honey. One of the reasons for this is reducing heavily processed foods where possible. The other reason is flavour. White granulated sugar adds only sweetness, no flavour and is heavily refined. Honey is by far my favourite sweetener for cooking or baking. Not only does it add flavour but also health benefits.

Raw Honey

I buy my raw honey from a local beekeeper several times a year. Local honey is important because there is less chance of developing an allergy to it. The best time to buy honey is in the summer and fall months when it is freshest. The colour of the honey will range of a pale amber to a deep golden amber depending on what flowers the bees collected the nectar from. The darker the honey the stronger the flavour. If buying honey in the stores, look for 100% pure.

Honey is about 25% sweeter than sugar because it has a higher fructose content. It is easier to digest than white sugar. To substitute 1 c white sugar use 2/3 c honey. Not only do you get more flavour but you save calories as well. Honey adds moisture that gives a nice texture to baked goods. When baking with honey reduce the oven temperature by 15ºC (25ºF).

Store honey in air tight containers to prevent the honey from absorbing moisture from the air in a cool, dry place. I like to vacuum seal in 500 ml mason jars for storage. Honey will keep almost indefinitely but will crystallize during storage. This does not harm the honey as it a natural property. If this happens, simply warm the container in hot water for 15 minutes. Do not microwave as this will alter the flavour. Store bought liquid honey is pasteurized to prevent crystallization whereas raw honey is not so it will crystallize sooner.

Raw honey is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal as well as having anti-tumour and anti-oxident properties. As a food, honey provides a lot of health benefits. Honey's antiseptic properties have been used for wound healing for centuries. The darker the honey the better it is for burn healing. Honey can be used in homemade skin treatments like facials.

Warning: Honey or honey- containing products should not be fed to infants under the age of one. Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores and toxin that can cause infant botulism. Honey is safe for those over the age of one year.

With all the benefits honey has to offer, this is one staple that should be on your shelves!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Productive End to the Tomato Season

The end of the tomato season came early this year. For me, that meant processing three hampers (5/8 bushel each) of paste tomatoes over an almost three day period. The tomatoes were smaller and needed to be peeled and seeded for three of the foods I prepared for processing. Other vegetables had to be prepared as well so there was a lot of chopping going on.

Tomatoes & Tomato Products

The three hampers (1) looked a little daunting knowing there would be a lot of peeling involved. The first of the tomatoes to be process was made into a little over 12 quarts of homemade spaghetti sauce with meat. Like many of our family favourites there is no actual recipe. I learned to make it from my mother-in-law and over the years have perfected it. I've never written down an actual recipe. The spaghetti sauce was supposed to be canned but my husband wanted it for dinner, something that happens fairly often. After dinner, we let the sauce cool then froze it. I managed to get three products canned (3) so it was still a productive canning session. I canned up six 500 ml jars of roasted tomato soup (4), nine 500 ml of chili sauce (5) and fifteen 500 ml jars of salsa (6). Enough salsa and chili sauce made its way to the refrigerator for fresh eating. The remaining tomatoes were also used fresh.

Old Fashioned Chili Sauce is a rich, aromatic sauce with a sweet tang that fills your house with such a wonderful smell when it is cooking. Contrary to it's name there are no chili pods in this recipe. I wouldn't be surprised if the origin is Canadian. All the women I knew canned their own version so there are many recipes and some are better than others. I've collected several versions over the years. It is best to use a meaty tomato for any chili sauce. While it is a good accompaniment for beef and can be used as an ingredient in other recipes, our favourite way to eat it is to spoon on top of mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Baked Peameal Bacon & Peameal Bacon Casserole

Peameal bacon is one of our favourite cured meats. I learned to make it using pork loin a few years ago. It is an inexpensive, low fat meat ideal for most meals and because it cooks quickly when sliced makes for a quick meal as well. Once cured the peameal bacon can be sliced and fried or left as is and baked. It can also be frozen. The instructions for curing peameal bacon can be found in an earlier entry here.

Peameal Bacon Roast

Last Saturday I pulled a peameal bacon unsliced roast from the freezer for brunch. Peameal bacon can be cut into thick slices or left as a roast for baking. Since the roast was frozen the easiest solution was to bake unsliced. The nice thing about baking peameal bacon is no additional fat is needed. I simply pour a half cup of water into the baking pan, place the roast in and bake at 350ºF without even thawing. Timing will depend on the size of the roast. This roast almost filled a 9" x 9" baking pan. It took about 50 minutes to cook. The roast was then sliced into thick slices for serving.

I really want to stress the low fat aspect of this meat. Unlike regular bacon, peameal bacon has very little fat. When baked, no added fat is needed either. It is a filling meat so you eat less as well. Peameal bacon is higher in sodium content than other meats but given the smaller servings I think it still is a frugal, healthy choice for meat.

Peameal Bacon Casserole

Peameal bacon can be used as an ingredient for other dishes. There was enough peameal bacon left over from the roast for an impromptu casserole. The casserole was based on the way I make scalloped potatoes but with a little cheese added. Potatoes are currently selling for $7.99 for 50 lbs so I'm working my way through the first bag. As far as a budget stretching, inexpensive meal this casserole can't be beat. The most expensive ingredient is the cheese and that could easily be omitted. I used mozzarella cheese but a sharp, extra old cheese likely would have been a better choice. A nice dash of fresh chopped chives would have looked quite nice as well for a garnish. I had thought I would have left-overs for the following day's lunch but apparently my husband and son thought it made a good late night snack!

Peameal Bacon Casserole

8 potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
2 c milk, scalded
½ spanish onion, chopped
2 - 3 c peameal bacon cut into bite sized pieces
1 c unbleached flour
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
olive oil

Wash and peel the potatoes. Slice thinly with a mandolin then soak in salt water to prevent browning. Pour a small amount of olive oil onto the bottom of a casserole pan. Brush to spread. Dice the peameal bacon and layer on the bottom of the casserole pan in a single layer.
Spread a thin layer of cheese topped with a sprinkling of flour, chopped onions, salt and pepper with about 3 small pats of butter. Continue layering in this fashion until the casserole pan is filled with the final layer being cheese. Heat the milk until scalded. Pour the hot milk into the casserole pan. Bake uncovered at 350ºF oven until the potatoes are cooked and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

My notes: This would make a complete and frugal meal with the addition of a thin layer of corn niblets and a tossed salad.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

The Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated the second Monday of October. The timing is a direct reflection of our shorter growing season, hence an earlier harvest. Unlike the American Thanksgiving that focuses on pilgrims, the Canadian Thanksgiving focuses on a successful harvest. The Thanksgiving table is set with the bounties of the harvest such as squash, potatoes, pumpkins and apples. The table virtually becomes a groaning board with the weight of the food.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Honey Oatmeal Bread

Breadmaking as mentioned in previous entries is a great way to stretch you budget. Utenzi commented on the French Bread entry that he made bread but did not notice any big money savings since yeast was expensive. While savings are still possible using smaller packages of flours and yeast the true savings come from buying the ingredients in bulk. Sam's Club and Costco's sells 2 one pound packages of yeast for $2.99. I pour yeast into a 250 ml mason jar, vacuum seal to use as needed and freeze the remaining yeast. No Name® all purpose flour goes on sale for $4.99 for a 10 kg (22 lb) bag of flour. Add a box of salt and bag of sugar ($1.99) and you have the makings for very cheap bread. With just this you can make sourdough, French and basic white breads. Add milk or eggs and you have inexpensive white breads. At some point you will want to experiment and this is where you can save more money by making multi-grain, whole wheat and specialty breads at home. I prefer using organic sugar, sea salt, local honey, unbleached flour and butter when breadmaking. Again, all these ingredients can be bought in bulk.

Honey Oatmeal Bread

This is the time of year where summer is wanning to a close an end. The smells of autumn fill the air beckoning more robust breads to complement soups and stews taking advantage of the harvest bounty. You can't go wrong with oatmeal bread. The flavour and denser texture is perfect for soups and stews plus it is heart healthy, a win-win!

Honey Oatmeal Bread
source: KitchenAid®, modified by me

1 ½ c water
½ c local honey*
⅓ c unsalted butter
5 ½- 6 ½ c unbleached flour
1 c quick cooking oats
2 tsp sea salt
2 pk instant yeast
2 eggs, lightly wisked

1 egg white
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp oatmeal

Combine water, honey and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until the mixture is very warm (hot enough to put your hand on the pot without burning). Place 5 c of the flour, salt and yeast in the mixer bowl. Attach spiral dough hook, mix on speed 2 for about 30 seconds. Continuing on speed 2 gradually add the warm honey mixture to the flour mixture and mix about 1 minute then add the eggs mixing for about another minute. Continue on speed 2 adding just enough flour ½ cup at a time until the dough cleans the sides. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes. Remove the dough hook. Cover the mixer bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until dough doubles. Punch down the down and divided into half. Shape into smooth rounds, buns or loaves. Cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Let rise until doubled. Beat egg white and water together. Brush the tops of loaves. Sprinkle with oatmeal. Bake at 375ºF (350ºF convection) for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Yield: 2 loaves

My Notes: This is a nicely textured with just a hint of sweetness bread. It is a perfect breakfast bread but would also work nicely for ham sandwiches. This bread toast nicely.

* I use local honey wherever possible. There is a less chance for allergic reactions by using local honey and it is fresher. The flowers the bees collect pollen from will determine the flavour of the honey so be sure to get local honey throughout the season.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Early Thanksgiving Weekend Fun

Friday we packed up and headed down to our daughter's for an early Thanksgiving get together. The Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated the second Monday of October but we had plans so suggested an earlier family get together.* I brought barbequed pulled pork for Friday's meal. It was the last of the pork shoulder roasts I bought on sale so thought it would go over well since all the kids would be home and it would save her cooking. We also brought the turkey for Saturday's dinner. The turkey was in the oven just before 10 am, the traditional way I roast turkeys. We decided on a side trip to the orchard and grocery shopping before others arrived.


The trip to Chudleigh's r in Milton, Ontario was uneventful yet provided a lot of photo opportunities. The orchard is set in a very beautiful and hilly region outside of the Greater Toronto Area. There is a U-pick, petting zoo, store with already picked and much more as well as a wonderful snack bar with seating set under apple trees. We decided against picking our own for this trip because were were pressed for time. We selected our purchases then settled down on comfortable Adirondack wooden chairs while the guys went to the snack bar. A scarecrow with a skunk puppet entertained the little ones while we people watched and enjoyed the wonderful apple smells wafting around us. The guys brought back lovely roast beef buns, chili (for me), a cheese bun and apple cider. Grandbaby had a healthy appetite for all. Desert was their famous apple blossoms.

Apple Blossom

This was my daughter's apple blossom since the guys already started devouring theirs before I could get the camera ready. Grandbaby really smacked her lips on this delight and I can't blame her. Chudleigh's famous apple blossoms are made with Northern Spy apples. The dough is cut then wrapped up around the the spiced apple pieces. Crumbs are sprinkled on then the desert is baked. Optional is topping with whipped cream forming a wonderful little desert bundle. This week I will be experimenting to duplicate the desert so watch for that. Northern Spies will be ready here this weekend.


We headed home Sunday with the plans of making a few stops along the way for produce. We found a nice farm market on Wellington Road south of Woodlawn just before Hespler that goes to Hwy 401 so we stopped. On the outside it was quaint and homey looking as was their store but the prices were outrageous! Pumpkins were going for $4 plus while home canned jams were priced at $5.50. Geesh, I could make a little extra money if I were to sell my home canned goods. What really got me was the price for butter tarts at 6 for $7.25! Needless to say I didn't buy a lot there but did get some fresh basil that will be very much appreciated.

Food Purchases

Overall, my food purchases were very minimal. It wasn't really a food shopping trip but I can never resist picking up a few odds and ends. I brought home:

  • fresh basil
  • Wealthy apples (baking & cooking)
  • fresh garlic
  • The Orange Crate: Gourmet Popcorn, Holiday Hot Chocolate mix
  • Gourmet Village: cheddar onion dip mix, lemon dill dip mix, mulling spice
* As it turns out they will be home that weekend anyway so we will be having another family get together this coming weekend.