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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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Monday, July 30, 2007

Baked Pollock, Freezer Pickles & Starting Party Planning

With the move, settling in and renovating in time for our party on August 6, I have been relying on the grill and simpler meals. Yesterday I made a batch of freezer pickles for the party. I'll post more about the party preparations this week as we fine tune the menu. Watch for tomorrow's post as I finally found yellow corn! As taste tester extraordinaire, a few ears will be sampled tonight with beer battered pickerel. The rest are being either canned as corn relish or froze depending on how busy I get. I'm also making a batch of sweet pickle relish so watch for that recipe as well.

In my spare time, I will be: painting, caulking, organizing and killing gigantic spiders and other critters that would rather be indoors ;) Oh, I should tell you about our resident skunk too. That will have to wait as produce is ready to be preserved.

Freezer Pickles

Freezer pickles are my standard, dependable, no fail bread & butter style of pickle. It is as easy as mixing the ingredients together, letting them sit then pack into one or more freezer containers. I keep several of these containers in the freezer. I think it is best to use smaller, fresh grown pickling cucumbers for this recipe.

I made a larger batch and froze them in a 1660 ml (7 cup) freezer container. They will go nicely as an accompaniment for the party menu. I'll thaw them the night before in the refrigerator ready for the following day.


Baked Pollock

Meals as mentioned have been rather on the simple side. Last night I baked pollock for a quick, easy meal.

Ingredients:

680 g thawed pollock fillets
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 tsp lemon pepper (salt free)
1 tsp lime pepper (salt free)
extra light olive oil
1 tbsp melted butter

Place the thawed fillets on a double broiling pan that has been brushed with extra light olive oil. If desired to prevent the juices from burning place a cup of water in the lower pan. Lightly brush olive oil over the fillets. Sprinkle with lemon pepper. Place two lemon slices and one lime slice on each fillet straggling as needed. Sprinkle with lime pepper. Bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes or until fillets feel firm to touch and lightly golden brown. Brush with melted butter.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dishwasher Installed & Grilled Pork Chops

The kitchen remodel is a little behind but we are still hoping to have it ready by August 6. We have made arrangements for the pig roaster as well as the pig.

Bosch SHE44C02UC

Saturday my husband and son-in-law installed our new dishwasher (1). It is a Bosch! Why we chose this model and details of the installation are on my homemaking blog. After much debate we installed it in the same location as the old dishwasher instead of where the built-in oven was (2). We plan to convert the built-in oven area into either open shelves or drawers. So far the drawer idea is winning.

The only painted wall in the kitchen surrounds the patio above the wood wainscotting. A shadow effect taking advantage of almost one foot thick walls was created using a darker paint (3) for the patio and windowsill. Arrangements have been made for the countertop measurements so hopefully I will be able to report on that soon.


Grilled Pork Chops

Thick-cut boneless pork chops are delightful grilled. The chops should be one inch thick and boneless although the same method will work with bone-in pork chops. The trick to grilling these like all meats is to not overcook. Plan on one pork chop per person then do a couple extra to be sliced for sandwiches or stir fried rice.

We grilled six thick-cut boneless pork chops. It was a toss up as to using a rub or a sauce. Since we had bought Rusty's Ribs Original BBQ Sauce judged to be the World's best sauce at the Sarnia Ribfest the decision was fairly easy. This is a rich, full bodied sauce with a nice balance of sweet, tang and heat. The sauce is available online here or you can email them at sauces@ibm.net

Method: Place the chops on a hot grill. Turn when meat moves if pushed slightly. Use tongs when turning to prevent puncturing the meat. This keeps the juices inside the meat where you want them. We brush on the barbeque sauce after the first turn but only if it is not a high sugar content sauce. The higher the sugar content the greater the chance of charring instead of carmelization. Turn the meat once after brushing with sauce so both sides are evenly coated. Remove from the grill when sauce is lightly carmelized.

Serve with grilled or steamed corn on the cob and grilled potatoes.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Sarnia, Ontario Ribfest


Sarnia, Ontario Ribfest
July 12-15, 2007

We are very fortunate to live in an area where there are many food related summer activities. These range from maple syrup and berry festivals and socials to full fledged food fests. A few years ago we started making the ribfest circuit with Burlington, Ontario being the first. We were hooked! The sights, sounds and food had us wanting more.

We have a game plan when we go to ribfests. We divide ourselves so each is responsible for one item usually with four to five getting a rack of ribs ($20 each), one getting corn on the cob ($3 per cob) and one getting drinks (varies depending on whether alcoholic or not). Remember the focus is on the ribs not the extras but the entertainment, atmosphere and enjoying family together is what really counts. Afterwards we wander stopping to pick-up our favourite barbeque sauces or stopping at other booths for spices more often than not licking a huge ice cream cone.

Sarnia is the Ontario point between Ontario, Canada and Michigan, USA, at the southern point of Lake Huron. It connects to the USA via the Bluewater Bridge. The weather was on the warmish side but since it was evening when we arrived it was rather pleasant with a coolish breeze off the lake. The mouthwatering smells filled the air as we neared the ribfest. This was a smallish ribfest with 8 teams competing.

The ribs we enjoyed the most were from Smokin' Joe's Ribs operated by Sarnian Terry Slowka. These were lip smacking ribs leaving that after "I need more of these" taste! They were awarded people choice awards for this ribfest. It's nice to see a Canadian ribber win this accolade. The Ontario Ribfest schedule follows if you are interested. Perhaps I will see you there!


2007 Ontario Ribfest Schedule

Sarnia July 12-15th
Niagara Falls June 15-17
Timmins June 30-July 1
Markham July 6-8
Toronto (Etobicoke) June 20-July 2
Mississauga July 20-22
London Aug 2-6
St. Catharines Aug 3-6
Scarborough Aug 3-7
Brockville Aug 10-12
Guelph Aug 24-26
Burlington Aug 31-Sept 3
Oshawa Sept 7-9

Enjoy!

Garden Gnome
©2007


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kitchen Update, Grilled Chicken and Camp Style Potatoes

Recipes, pictures and method follow the kitchen update!

It took us little time to choose a complimentary paint colour to match the abundance of wood and our navy blue leather couch set in the family room. We also have a large fieldstone fireplace with gas fireplace insert so the colour had to tie that in as well. The kitchen opens into the family room with a breakfast bar separating the two. The bottom third of both rooms is tongue and groove wood as are both ceilings finished in a medium dark mahogany. The kitchen cabinets and all trim is the same medium dark mahogany. The wood finish is warm so we decided on cool overtones for the paint that would be replacing the wallpaper.

Paint & Countertop Colours

Our daughter helped me choose the colour and I couldn't be happier. She picked several samples to show me as I was shopping in another section of Home Depot. This chip sample appealed to me immediately. The scan is not the best but this will give you an idea. The only painted wall in the kitchen has a patio door and little area. It along with the family room walls have been painted in Country Mist. The kitchen window, patio door and family room window are about one foot deep and framed in wood. I painted the depth with Tide Pools to create a shadow box effect. The kitchen window and patio door have an additional trimming towards the outside. I am going to paint this trim in Marina Isle. The same three colours will be repeated in the guest bathroom off the family room but I haven't decided how yet.

At the same time, my daughter picked out several countertop samples. We have been contemplating these. My son took one look and pulled one sample that works wonderfully with the paint chip and cabinets. The back splash is tentatively to be tiled in a aqua glass tile that is in between Country Mist and Tide Pools. My kitchen will no longer be pink so watch for an updated look for my blog to reflect that once life slows down a bit.

Grilled Chicken Medallions

Chicken medallions are ideal for grilling. They can be bought pre-made or you can make them yourself using boneless, skinless chicken. Form them into a round, wrap with bacon and secure with a toothpick. The bacon adds flavour and keeps the chicken moist so seasoning is not needed. If desired add the seasoning of your choice but do so lightly. My suggestions for seasoning of chicken medallions is Old Bay Seasoning or a simple seasoning salt but herb combinations would work as well so experiment until you get one you like.

Prior to grilling the medallions will be about four inches in diameter. They shrink in diameter but plump up. Don't let the size fool you as these are quite filling. Grill the medallions on a medium hot until the juices from the chicken run clear and the bacon is cooked to medium with crispy spots on the edges.


Camp Style Potatoes

I served camp style potatoes with the chicken medallions. These potatoes are a family favourite from our camping days easily adapted to the home grill. This is more of a method of cooking the potatoes that can easily be adapted for more servings. Use a no salt seasoning for a low sodium side dish.

Camp Style Potatoes

4 - 6 large potatoes
1/2 Spanish or Vidalia onion
dash onion garlic seasoning
dash Montreal Steak seasoning (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp butter
foil pan (optional)
tin foil

Wash potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Chop potatoes. Continue in one of the two following methods:
(1) Drizzle olive oil into foil pan. Mix the vegetables and pour into foil pan. Sprinkle with seasoning. Cut butter into 1/4 tsp chunks. Put butter over the vegetables. Seal the foil pan tightly with tin foil. Continue with grilling instructions.
(2) Lay a sheet of tin foil about 18-24 inches long on the counter. Drizzle olive oil in the centre, keeping it away from all edges. Pour the vegetables into the centre, season and add butter. Pull the two short ends of the foil together and fold several times to form a tight seam but not enough to push the vegetables out of the newly formed short ends. Repeat the folds for both of the new short ends forming a tightly sealed foil packet.

To grill: Place the potato packet on the grill on indirect heat. Grill for approximately 35 minutes. Use caution when opening the packet to prevent steam burns.

Grilled Herbed Chicken

Grilled chicken is one of our summer favourites. Instead of marinating the boneless, skinless chicken breasts before grilling I use a mixture of butter and Herbs de Provence to brush on the chicken as it grilled. This reduced the prep time yet resulted in a moist, flavourful piece of chicken. I served the chicken with steamed spinach and Calrose rice cooked in homecanned chicken stock in the rice cooker. Calrose rice is a medium grain rice that cooks up nicely without being sticky. This meal is low sodium and low fat even if you are like me who likes just a little unsalted butter to enhance the flavour of most cooked vegetables and rice. Butter has 3 - 4 grams of fat per teaspoon depending on the brand so stay at one teaspoon or less.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pantry, First Steaks & Apple Maple Glazed Pork Chops

We have now been in our house for two weeks. There have been a lot of changes in that period both inside and outside. Our upcoming anniversary party on August 6 is forcing more work and less play to get the house in shape for a lot of visitors (more on that shortly). With the very generous help of our kids the outside and garage came around rather quickly but there is more outside work to do before the party. Inside is getting organized but there is a lot of cleaning to do and we are painting the family room as well as renovating the kitchen. Meals have been rather simple but tonight I felt like making something a little more complex so scroll down for the picture and recipe for Apple Maple Glazed Pork Chops.

Pantry

I have a walk-in pantry so I'm am elated! The previous owner left behind an ancient freezer that we quickly decided to replace for both safety and energy efficiency reasons. The new freezer is the larger of the two freezers. The canning shelf is smaller so that will need to be changed. As you can see there are still boxes of food that need to be unpacked. I'm thinking a large corner unit would work to organize all the food. Our old microwave stand is now home to some of my cookbooks and canning equipment along with the larger jugs of vinegars and oils.

The pantry itself is about 10' x 10' (guestimation). It is partially finished so next spring or sooner we will re-do this room. In front of the freezers there is a rectangular rust mark where the old freezer actually molded into the sheet flooring. Other than that the flooring is in great condition. We will be focusing on the walls, shelving and ceiling. This room has a lot of food storage potential so I'm still pretty happy!


Rib Steak

Last night we grilled rib steaks as the first grilled steaks in this house. This was a simple no muss meal. Normally we do not use a barbeque sauce on steaks however the Diana Sauce whispered to my husband aka King of the Grill (shh, I just let him think that) so the steaks were cooked medium rare then the sauce was added. Sauteed mushrooms and vidalia onions served as a side. We ate our simple meal in the sunporch while watching the setting sun over the water.

Thick cut boneless pork chops are one of our favourites so I have several ways of preparing them. Tonight I decided to do a quick browning of the pork chops, place them in a baking pan then pour apple maple jam over and cover then bake. The result is a wonderfully flavoured boneless pork chop. Serve with a baked potato and vegetable mixture.

Apple Maple Glazed Pork Chops

2 boneless pork chops, 1 1/2" thick
extra virgin olive oil
250 ml (1 c) apple maple jam
1/2 c water

Brown the pork chops in hot extra virgin olive oil. Remove from pan. Place into a baking dish and top with the jam. Pour the water in the bottom. Cover and bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes until the meat juices run clear. Remove from oven. Spoon glaze over the pork chops and serve.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stove, Grill, First Cooking & Tuna Salad

This is a mish mash post consisting of an update on our stove and grill, the first couple of meals and my tuna salad. Readers are interested as to how we are settling in, our kitchen renovations and many are looking for tried and true recipes. I will be adding labels to the earlier posts to help with the searching for those interested. Recipes and pictures along with chit chat as we renovate the kitchen will be appearing on a fairly regular basis now things are semi-back-to-normal.

I actually cooked on the ancient stovetop here. Two burners were working so I made pasta with homemade meat sauce from the freezer then topped with sauteed mushrooms. It was a simple meal that wasn't too taxing on the electrical problem. Recall that when we moved here there were electrical problems causing the microwave not to work properly, ancient built-ins and the gas grill connection unsafe to use. The crockpots and campstove were buried under so much stuff that I still haven't found the campstove!

It took a good couple of days to rewire and get the cabinet ready for our stove. The stove finally went in yesterday so I was pretty pleased. The downdraft is not connected yet but everything else works. Near the top of the backsplash there is a black dot that is the wiring from the old fume hook. The backsplash and countertop will look rather funny for the next week as we move the sink (almost touching the stove) to where we want it.

Oktoberfest Sausage

There was a natural gas hook-up for the grill however it was not secured properly and ended at the elbow (bend at the top painted black). This meant we had to secure the natural gas line itself then provide the connections from the elbow to the grill. Thanks to a family member the grill was up and running a week after we moved. If you want to see how we made the corrections please vist my homemaking blog where information will be posted.

You would think our first grilled meal here would have been steaks along with the ice wine bought special to celebrate our new home. No, it ended up being ocktoberfest sausages. The weather was warming significantly with rising humidity levels so octoberfest sausages made for our first bulk cooking session here. We grilled up a large batch for dinner served with sauteed mushrooms, onions and honey mustard on grilled buns then froze the rest for later quick meals. We sat by the water eating our simple meal on the water felt wonderful. It was homecooked!

The temperatures have soared here yesterday with it hitting 95ºF with extremely high humidity levels and smog warnings. It was not a day for cooking or grilling so I used a package of the pre-cooked seasoned ground beef I've talked about in previous posts to make a taco salad. This is an easy, quick to make, ideal summertime recipe. The winds shifted in the evening blowing in cooler air so I put a pot of pasta on for tuna salad for the tonight's dinner.

Tuna Salad

I make a lot of pasta salads during the summer. Most invole a pasta, vegetables and homemade viniagrette. Tuna salad is different as this is an old family favourite from our newlywed days. It is a wonderfully quick to make and cool to eat salad for those hot summer days. It can be made ahead for those busy hot days. It travels well for lunches too.

Tuna Salad

shell maccaroni
light olive oil
salt
--
1 tin tuna fish packed in water
radishes, quartered then sliced
cucumber, peeled and quarters
green onions, chopped
Miracle Whip
salt to taste

This is more of a method. Bring water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add a dash of oil and good pinch of salt. Stir in the pasta. Cook until el dente. Remove from heat, strain and cool. Place into large mixing bowl.

Prepare the vegetables. Open the tuna and drain then flake. Mix the tuna and vegetables into the pasta. Spoon Miracle Whip a couple of tablespoon at a time, mix. Continue until you get a creamy salad consistency. Sprinkle with salt then mix well. Spoon into a serving dish. Chill at least one hour before serving. Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Present My New Kitchen


New Kitchen
Before Renovations

Ladies and gentlemen, here is our new kitchen. As you can see it was renovated at sometime with fairly nice cabinets, higher end built-ins in their time, ceramic flooring and a breakfast bar. The kitchen is on the lower level with patio doors opening onto the gardens on the waterfront so the view is absolutely gorgeous! Looking at the photo you will notice one arrow and several numbers. The arrow indicates the ground grade. The kitchen is below grade and has one foot deep walls making it very energy efficient in terms of heating and cooling. Although I saw this as a selling feature because I do a lot of cooking and canning, other potential buyers did not like the kitchen placement which worked out rather nicely for us. So when I look out the kitchen window, the bottom sill is at ground level that then slopes to a lower level where the patio doors are. For pictures of the gardens and surrounding area, check out my gardening blog from time to time as those help to explain why this property is worth the effort.

The numbers represent problems and things we have to do in the kitchen.
  1. freezer door of the fridge - This door hits the countertop of the breakfast bar preventing a reasonable opening spance. We are debating how to deal with this.
  2. built-in stovetop - This is being removed tonight and will be replaced with our JennAir slide-in. The downdraft system is presenting a bit of a problem but we think we can go through the above grade wall that isn't so thick. We'll see.
  3. range hood - There was a a range hood here but my husband removed it last night. It was nasty! A range hood won't be necessary with the downdraft.
  4. corner sink - The sink is in the corner and if you look carefully the one corner is about 3" from the stovetop. The sink will be moved under the window.
  5. dishwasher - The dishwasher does need replacing, period. At one time it was top of the line but due to neglect no longer works and is not worth fixing. A new Bosch (?) will take it's place but moved closer to where the oven (6) now is.
  6. built-in oven - Again at one time this was an expensive built-in but because of neglect I would not put food in it. The inside looks like it has never been cleaned! It does partially work. Removing the oven will free up about 3 feet for more counter space. We are working on re-designing the microwave compartment to maximize this area.
  7. electric plugs - This plug testes as hot/neutral reversed creating brown-out conditions. We are checking, correcting and replacing all plugs and switches throughout the house. So far the two problems we've found are hot/neutral reversed and open ground. If you need to do this check out my homemaking blog where pictures and what we did to correct the problem will be posted shortly. This is a new plug, corrected and working properly. All the plugs and switches in the kitchen have been corrected and replaced. A CFL light replaced the incandescent pot light.
  8. backdrop - This is just history! It will be replaced once we move the cabinets and get the appliances in place when we replace the countertop.
  9. countertop - It's history!
  10. cabinets - Unfortunately they too have been neglected. I'm going to clean them good and refinish in wood tones.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Moving Update


I haven't been doing much in the way of cooking since just befor the move last Thursday. The kitchen here despite being nicely renovated has a fair amount of work to do to fit our appliances. What is really slowing our progress of even unpacking is the state of cleanliness. Even though the kitchen and even other areas of the house look clean they are thilthy! I have yet to open a cabinet to not find roden droppings either. The built-ins (dishwasher, oven, stovetop) are a disaster! They looked fine so I made the assumption they worked fine. We found out the dishwasher did not but the stovetop and oven reported worked. Well they both do work except the oven is likely a fire hazard given I doubt it was ever cleaned! The stovetop is in better condition but not by much. So that leaves me the microwave and crockpots except we noticed a significant brown-out problem with the electricity. The gas connection for the grill was so wobbly my husband didn't want to hook up the gas for fear of a problem. A family member is hooking up the gas dryer and grill tomorrow night and helping install my stove so I will be back into cooking mode. The freezer component of the side-by-side cannot be opened wide enough to get the ice bucket out because it hits the counter of the breakfast island. We are still figuring out a solution to this problem and since we only have 6 spare ceramic tiles to match the floor we have to be very frugal as to how we do this.

The previous owner left a chest freezer behind that we deemed a problem as it doesn't have grounded plug and creates a huge power draw when the compressor turns on. So a new, energy efficient freezer arrives tomorrow (more details to follow). We still have to buy the dishwasher. We decided on a Bosch providing it will fit where we need it to go. The sink is currently installed in the corner so that will be moved as well. I'll be going into greater detail of how we fix the kitchen problems on my homemaking blog complete with before and after pictures.

The brown-outs are being caused by electrical plugs with hot and neutral wires reversed. Today I tested all of the plugs marking each one that had a problem. We are replacing every plug and switch in the house so are working from room to room. Today my husband all the kitchen plugs and switches as well as two other problem switches. That little bit has already reduced the number of brown-outs perhaps enough to use the crockpots.

Our first meal cooked here was chicken wraps because I knew the chicken could be done on the stovetop. When moving it is best for whomever organizes the freezer to repack it at the new location. It's frustrating when you know you have something in the freezer and can't find it because of the move. The chicken was in the small chest freezer that was moved filled. I also warmed up some homemade stew from the freezer that really tasted good after eating out so much. That gave my husband just the incentive he needed to get my kitchen upto speed!I've finally went to the farmer's market yesterday so we have a lot of produce for fresh salads and sandwiches. I promise the cooking and recipes will be coming shortly. Raspberries are in season now so watch for some of those recipes shortly.

So on the cooking front there is little to report but we are making headway on the kitchen.

Thanks to all who sent best wishes for our move,


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Canada Day 2007


Happy Canada Day