It has been an exciting culinary year! We have enjoyed a lot of delicious foods, visited several amazing restaurants and made a lot wonderful foodie finds. And yes, unlike some, I will continue to use the word foodie because it's a fun word that describes us as a family, in a good way.
The few months have been a bit challenging as far as writing blog posts. Over the past year, I have made three major life changing decisions. Although I don't regret doing so, I am still adapting to those changes. We extended our time spent at our vacation home which had an impact on the posts as well, especially during the last five weeks before Christmas. I will be making a few changes in the New Year so you can expect to see an increase in posts. As always the focus will be on home cooking.
Thank-you for being a part of my blogging family over the last year. May you and yours be blessed in 2014. Wishing you a Happy New Year...
For Your Information
- [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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Tuesday, December 31, 2013
It has been an exciting culinary year! We have enjoyed a lot of delicious foods, visited several amazing restaurants and made a lot wonderful foodie finds. And yes, unlike some, I will continue to use the word foodie because it's a fun word that describes us as a family, in a good way.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Saturday, December 21, 2013
The holiday season means entertaining for many which ultimately means serving some type of food. Appetizers are my go to for entertaining! They are perfect for those events where a full meal is not planned. It takes very little time or effort to make appetizers that look fancy, taste delicious and are made with only a few ingredients.
Method: Cut the package of bacon across the short end in the middle. Wrap each half slice of bacon around a scallop, secure with a toothpick and place on sided baking sheet. Bake at 177°C/350°F until scallops are opaque, about 45 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven keeping it level to avoid spilling the liquid. Remove the bacon wrapped scallops. Drain. Serve warm.
Bacon wrapped scallops should be served warm. Surprising they do warm up rather well if there are any left overs or if you would like to take them cooked ahead! If taking bacon wrapped scallops to a gathering, a short distance is best. Place in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and wrap lightly with a T-towel. You can also do all the prep work at home then take them ready to cook. If you choose this method, be sure to ask the host ahead of time. Taking the bacon wrapped scallops prepared but uncooked is not suitable for shorter duration gatherings due to timing.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
The holidays are filled with a plethora of culinary delights. Unfortunately, all of these tempting delights can be problematic for those on restricted diets, those with food allergies or intolerances or those simply trying to maintain their weight. The average person gains one pound over the holiday season although some sources report the average gain is more like 5 to 8 pounds. In order to lose one pound, a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories is needed. The good news is, it doesn't matter what you eat be it all carbs or all fat the only requirement to lose weight is a calorie deficit. If you require 1,550 cal for basic life functions and daily activities per day but you are eating 1,800 calories you will gain weight. If you are eating 1,450 calories you will lose weight. The calorie deficit does not need to come from reduced caloric intake though. Add exercise or increased physical activity and you can eat the required 1.550 cal AND still lose weight because you are creating a calorie deficit through exercise. One of the easiest ways to help prevent that holiday weight gain is portion control and the second is to be cognizant of the ingredients. This is especially important if you are on a sodium reduced diet or have food allergies or intolerances.
Eggnog is often spiked with rum. One ounce of rum will add about 100 calories per drink. In general, those restricting calories are advised to omit the alcohol however, as long as you are eating your daily requirement for weight maintenance or creating a calorie deficit for weight loss, it really doesn't matter if you add the rum providing you budget your calories to do so.
A 6 oz mug of commercially made whole milk eggnog is about 270 calories. It is higher in sodium, lower in potassium, has no Vitamin D and double in carbohydrates. Commercially made eggnog also contains yellow dyes #5 and #6 as well as corn syrup and carrageenan (thickener). There are concerns with the aforementioned, all of which cause health problems. Chances are very good at holiday gatherings, the eggnog will be commercially made. Since commercially made eggnog is higher in calories, lower in nutritional value and contains at least three ingredients that can cause health problems, it may be one of those holiday treats you decide to not indulge in. Homemade eggnog is high in nutrition and taste, with none of the problems of commercially made eggnog. However, homemade eggnog can be problematic for those who are lactose intolerant.
A few days ago I came across a dairy free coconut eggnog recipe that would suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or for those following the Paleo diet. Coconut milk is substituted for whole milk. While coconut milk is a great substitute for either purpose, it is not suitable for those restricting calories. Coconut milk has 93 calories in 2 ounces or 279 calories in 6 ounces without the calories of the egg yolks and sweetener which would put a 6 oz mug of this eggnog in the 420 calorie range. Coconut milk is however, very low in sodium content (9 mg/2 oz) and carbohydrates (2 g/2 oz).
Of the three options, avoid the commercially made eggnog if at all possible. Be sure to add a sprinkling of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick. Cinnamon adds flavour while increasing sugar metabolism which aids in weight loss because sugar is burned rather than converted to fat in the body. Cinnamon is also beneficial for circulatory problems. Nutmeg improves concentration, increases circulation and lowers cholesterol. Eggnog is a delicious holiday tradition that you can still indulge in without the guilt even if you are restricting calories.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
The holiday season is one of the best times of the year to get a bit of culinary inspiration. The stores are filled with foods that aren't available any other time of the year. Folks get creative in the kitchen! Magazines are filled with holiday recipes and even store flyers have tips and recipes. Sometimes the inspiration comes from within. That happened to me recently as soon as I saw a new (one I had not seen before) product at the grocery store.
I was pleased with the Christmas Crispies that came about simply through a vision. It really was one of those "I'll bet that would make a tasty square!" as soon as I saw the peppermint marshmallows. The only change I would make is make the base a bit shallower. I think it would be easier to omit the baking pan entirely in favour of forming the base free hand the way I usually make rice krispie squares. I'm sure the Christmas Crispies will be a holiday keeper!
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Several years ago, I discovered clear glass Christmas bulbs that can be used for personalized baubles. The first year I used a favourite picture of each of the kids printed on acetate for a very special Christmas keepsake bauble. Each year I have used the clear baubles to create decorated baubles for gift giving and adding to our collection. The clear glass baubles can be decorated in so many ways!
The clear plastic baubles could be filled with: loose leaf tea, fruit and tea blends, candies, trail mix, dried fruit mix and so much more. I recommend filling only half full and use light weight ingredients for the filling. The bulk food store (eg. Bulk Barn) is an excellent source for fillings suitable for the baubles. Depending on the recipient, you could also add a small toy if desired. The limitation will be the size of the opening of the bauble which is about an inch. Other than that, just let your imagination create a special unique gift for those on your gift giving list. I hope you enjoy making these Christmas baubles!
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
If you have ever did a bit of shopping in the quaint little shops in tourist villages, you likely have seen the creative efforts of enterprising folk. These little packets of goodies have their origins in holiday bake sales and craft shows. Some of these are so cute, they have gone into commercial production. These include the little bags of snowman poop (mini marshmallows), bear droppings (chocolate covered raisins), doughnut seeds (Cheerios) and similar. They generally have a cute little saying which just adds to their appeal. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine posted a similar idea for growing candy canes on Facebook. I don't know where she got the idea but I thought it was cute enough to pass along this little piece of Christmas magic!
I used organic granulated cane sugar because that is what I use but regular granulated sugar could be substituted. I used SweetNature candy canes made using 100% natural flavours from natural food sources and stripes created from natural colouring found in vegetable juice (likely beet). While these candy canes are a little more expensive they have no artificial flavour or colours and they are free of major allergens so I feel a bit better giving them to our grandkids.
I thought this was really a cute way to create a bit of Christmas magic for the little ones. I'm sure our grandkids will be filled with anticipation waiting for their candy cane seeds to grow! It might just be the perfect spot for that Elf on the Shelf to rest while the little ones open presents...
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
A few days ago, I mentioned I would be focusing on holiday related topics for the remainder of December. Gift giving is a big component during the holiday season and what better way to bring a smile to a loved one's face than with a gift from the kitchen. These gifts need not be complicated or expensive but rather they are a gift from the heart :)
So it is with cookies in a jar! In November of 2009, I shared a very easy white chocolate chip cookies in a jar recipe, perfect for holiday gift giving. The complete instructions can be found in that post. A jar of the white chocolate chip cookies in a jar was gifted to one of our kids who still has it on display in their china cabinet! It brings a smile every time I see it.
Any cookie recipe can be used for a cookie in a jar gift. Just follow the basic instructions for the white chocolate chip cookies in a jar. In general, drop cookie recipes with nuts, baking chips, or other chunky ingredients work best for the layering effect.
Cookies are not exactly health food but you can substitute healthier ingredients if desired. Use organic granulated cane sugar rather than plain granulated white sugar. You can substitute any sugar with a sugar replacement like Truvia (natural) or Splenda (artificial). If you use Truvia, the conversion is ½ c Truvia equals 1 c sugar. If you use Splenda, it is a 1 to 1 substitution. Use organic, unbleached flour or substitute organic spelt flour. The healthier ingredients will increase the cost of each jar slightly but not enough to make them cost prohibitive. On average, a cookie in a jar gift will cost about $2 in ingredients. Healthier ingredients will add about 50¢ or less per jar. You can save on the cost of the ingredients by buying them at a bulk food store.
The decorative mason jar lids are available year round at Canadian Tire and Home Hardware or online from Bernardin. Bernardin also sells plastic storage lids for mason jars in standard and widemouth sizes, also available year round. The one litre mason jars are available year round from the same sources as well as Walmart Canada, and many grocery store chains. They can often be found on sites like Kijji, or at yard sales and thrift shops. Older mason jars with glass lids are also suitable for this application giving a retro touch sure to please. I do not recommend using older mason jars with glass inserts (eg. Gem jars) as these jars are more valuable for home canning use. Vacuum sealing of the cookies in a jar is optional but a nice touch to keep the mix fresher longer for the recipient.
If you need a few last minute gifts, then cookies in a jar may be just for you!
Sunday, December 08, 2013
The holiday season is a time for gatherings, large and small. Quite often they involve bringing a dish. Immediately logistics come into play such as ease of traveling as some dished travel better than others. At the same time the setting must be considered as well which will dictate the type of dish you can bring. My husband was going to a holiday football game with 30 other football fans. He
wanted to bring something for the tailgate party before the game. Since most of the offerings for the tailgate party would be snack type, we made a large batch of meatballs. Meatballs are one of my larger gathering stand-by dishes. Depending on the setting, I make and serve them in the slow cooker or in a large foil baking pan in the oven. A larger batch can be made using the foil baking pan. This method is great for those gatherings where using a slow cooking is not possible or for larger gatherings where the meatballs can be kept hot in the oven until ready to serve.
I started with 10 lb of lean ground beef in two batches for easier mixing. I sprinkled a little garlic pepper over the meat then mixed well. Actually, my husband did the mixing so this was a team effort! I poured a bit of cold milk over the meat to serve as the binder for the meatballs. Milk allows the meatballs to keep their shape during cooking resulting in firm yet tender meatballs. My husband formed the meatballs by hand then we fried them using four non-stick skillets. The cream interior skillets are ceramic non-stick while the darker interior ones are T-fal. The browned meatballs were transferred to the foil baking pan to finish cooking in the oven as each pan was ready. I poured Sweet Baby Ray's barbeque sauce over each addition of meatballs. I started the meatballs at 120°C/250°F to keep warm until all the meatballs were added to the pan then I made the final addition of barbeque sauce, about a cup of water and increased the temperature to 177°C/350°F. Had I been cooking the meatballs in the slow cooker, I would have omitted adding the water.
I always make beef or venison meatballs using only meat, milk and either garlic pepper or Montreal steak seasoning. I keep the seasoning light so the meatballs can be used with any desired sauce, homemade or otherwise. These meatballs can be home canned in sauce if desired and they freeze nicely. I like keeping a few pounds of cooked meatballs in the freezer for a quick entertainment dish or using a few for dinner.
If you need a simple, easy dish that is sure to please make up a batch of meatballs. Add a bottle of barbeque sauce of your choice and some toothpicks for a tasty appetizer perfect for holiday entertaining! Don't forget to make extra for a quick meal start during the busy holiday season.
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Our little grandkids love apple butter! Apple butter is one of those culinary delights that can be difficult to find in the grocery stores and if you do, it is likely filled with sugar, artificial flavours and colours or preservatives. However, all natural apple butter can be found at farmer's markets as well as specialty food shops. Apple butter is extremely easy to make!
Once the applesauce is made rather than leave as is, it can easily be made into apple butter or apple leather. Both are excellent for gift giving! To make apple butter, pour the prepared applesauce into a large Dutch oven. Cover partially then let bake at 120°C/250°F, stirring occasionally until reduced by about half. The butter with be thick with a nice caramelization and mounds on the spoon. Once it has reached the desired thickness, the apple butter can be ladled into hot jars and processed in a boiling water bath canner as per applesauce.
Our grandkids will be elated to find a jar of apple butter for each of them under Grandma and Papa's Christmas tree! Shhh...we won't tell them about the other jars of apple butter stored safely in Grandma's pantry :)
Friday, December 06, 2013
As promised, today is the first post of a series of posts featuring foodie related topics for the holidays. Every parent has been there where their adorable little munchkin tells them at the last minute they need a treat for their class party the next morning. It's nice to have an easy, no muss recipe to fall back on for just such times. When I think of an easy, no muss recipe it usually means something I can put together quite quickly with few ingredients yet tasty results.
The recipe is quite flexible as far as quantity. I made 24 (some not pictured) so needed 24 each tiny pretzels, ROLO candies, and pecan halves. I only use about half a 240 g (8.5 oz) bag of rolo caramels! These treats are so easy to make and so tasty. That earns them a spot on my quick, tried and true recipes.
Rolo Pretzel Delight
source: The Hersheys Company, Celebrate with Hershey , 2013
ROLO chewy caramels in milk chocolate
Heat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Place one pretzel for each pretzel treat desired on the prepared sheet. Top each pretzel with one unwrapped ROLO chewy caramel in milk chocolate. Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until caramel piece begins to soften*, but not melt. Remove from the oven. Top each softened ROLO with pecan half. Cool completely**.
*I kept a very close eye on the caramels that really don't change drastically as they soften. I removed from the oven just at the 3 minute mark.
**The treats stay sticky on the bottom so need to cool completely for serving. I let them cool on the parchment paper that was carefully transferred from the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Once the treats were fully cooled, I placed them on a serving plate.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
My gosh! Where does the time go? Here it is December 4 with time quickly ticking away to Christmas Day and New Year's. Folks are busy shopping, entertaining and socializing. I'm going to do a bit of a shift here for the rest of December to focus on some of the food related topics of interest for the holidays. These topics include: gifts from the kitchen, holiday entertaining, holiday recipes and so much more. I've compiled a list of our favourite Christmas cookies, sure to become your favourites as well. They are perfect for gift giving, holiday entertaining or filling Santa's plate. There are several recipes in the archives for appetizers suitable for holiday entertaining as well. I plan to add a few healthy or healthier alternatives for those who are currently watching their weight or hoping to avoid that seasonal weight gain. Just wait until you read about one simple, yet effect method I use! A couple of the gifts from the kitchen involve a crafty touch. Stay tuned for the holiday fun starting Friday...
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
As mentioned in yesterday's post, I have been doing a bit more dehydrating this year. Dehydrating is an easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables for long periods of time. Apples can be dehydrated anytime throughout the year. I prefer to dry them when in season. Apples were just starting shortly before we left on the first leg of our winter vacation in early October. That gave me just enough time to run a batch of applesauce as well as dry apple slices.
Apples need only be washed well, cored, sliced then dipped in an ascorbic acid solution to prevent browning before drying. I dried the apple slices at 135°F/57°C until they were leathery feeling. Once dried, I vacuum sealed the apple slices in mason jars for storage. Each mason jar held a dehydrator load of 6 trays. I will have to dry more as two jars is not enough to last through the winter!
Saturday, November 23, 2013
This past busy processing season, I did a bit more dehydrating than I normally do using my Nesco dehydrator. Dehydrating is a very easy and inexpensive way to stock your pantry with little effort. Not only that, dried foods take up less space in the pantry than the same amount of food home canned or frozen. Like home canned foods, there is no further cost for storage. Unlike home canned and frozen foods, dried foods are light weight, easily transported if need be. Dehydrating foods need not be restriction to in season crops either as it is an excellent way to take advantage of produce sales anytime of the year.
Dried foods are best vacuum sealed to prevent loss due to insects or moisture. I like vacuum sealing dried foods in mason jars because the glass also protects against loss due to rodents. An alternative method I have used is to vacuum seal dry foods in the plastic bagging material then place the packets in rodent-proof containers.
I use either a standard mouth vacuum sealer adapter (pictured) or a wide mouth adapter (not pictured) depending on the style of mason jar I'm using. I also reuse the metal snap lids that were originally used for home canning. These lids cannot be reused for home canning but they are still usable for vacuum sealing providing they are not damaged. I label home canned foods directly on the lid using a Sharpie marker. I do not remove any writing on used lids until after they have been vacuum sealed. Normally, the lids seal without a problem although occasionally I need to use the two lid method to get a good seal. For some reason, one of the lids did not want to seal. I was using older Bernardin jars so the shoulder could have been the problem. At any rate, I resorted to another trick for vacuum sealing lids by placing the filled jar with lid in a vacuum sealer canister.
As mentioned, I like using a Sharpie marker for labeling just about anything in the pantry or freezers. It can be used on just about any surface although may not clean off porous surfaces well. It can also leave ghost marks on some plastics. The marker comes off easily from metal, glass and some plastics with rubbing alcohol.
Tomato powder is a must have in any pantry! It can be used to make tomato paste or sauce, add extra flavour to soups, stews and meatloaf, or sprinkled on salad or other vegetables as a seasoning. Commercially prepared tomato powder is available but it is expensive at as much as $1.10 per ounce or more. It is not a product that I can find locally, so for me as well as many, tomato powder is a product that would have to be ordered online or by mail order. Homemade tomato powder can be as inexpensive as only the power it takes to run the dehydrator (my case) or the price of about 30 large paste tomatoes. Even buying the tomatoes and making your own tomato powder will still realize a savings. I used paste tomatoes because that is what I had. Any tomato can be used to make tomato powder although I highly recommend using organic tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes make a wonderful tomato powder if you find a good deal on them. Mixing tomato varieties works well too making this an ideal way to use up excess tomatoes from the garden.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
I am constantly looking for as well as developing new, safe home canning recipes. This fall I added home canned picante sauce to my ever growing list of must make recipes. Picante means hot but the recipe I used was mildly pungent and stimulating. The results were delicious! I will do a bit of tweaking for the next batch but overall, I am quite pleased with the sauce. This one is a keeper!
source: Bernardin Ltd., Tomatoes Canning & Speciality Recipes (2000), Pp. 64
7 c coarsely chopped tomatoes
1½ c coarsely chopped Spanish onion
½ c finely chopped jalapeño pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c malt vinegar
1 can (5½ oz) tomato paste
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tsp cumin
Prepare vegetables. Leave ingredients as is for picante sauce or purée mixture if making enchilada sauce. Place all ingredients except coriander and cumin into large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently for 45 minutes. Stir in the coriander and cumin. Continue boiling for 15 minutes for picante sauce or 30 minutes for enchilada sauce. Ladle sauce into hot 250 ml (half pint) jars. Wipe rims and cap with metal snap lids, Tattler reusable canning lids or glass inserts as per instructions for type of lid used. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Remove from canner. Tighten bands fully if using Tattler lids or glass inserts. Allow to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove bands and test for seal. Wash jars and label for storage.
Yield: about 8 - 250 ml (half pint jars), 7 enchilada sauce
Sunday, November 10, 2013
I am a high volume home canner with over 30 years of experience. In addition to the two piece metal snap lids, I also use reusable canning lids (eg. glass inserts, glass lids, Tattler, and 4ever Recap). I ordered one dozen standard and one dozen wide-mouth size of the 4ever Recap lids. The 4ever Recap lids came in at 10¢ less per lid than the Tattlers and
promised the lids with gaskets (treated properly) would last forever.
As a high volume canner, I knew that savings would make a difference. I contacted 4 Ward Industries immediately upon
receiving my 4ever Recap lids who did not resolve my problem or address my concerns.
I started testing the 4ever Recap lids in April of 2013, wrote about sealing problems with the 4ever Recap lids the same month, and wrote a review of the 4ever Recap lids in May. I left the remainder of the jars using 4ever Recap lids in the pantry which is both cool and dark. During the midst of the busiest of my canning while putting newly canned foods in the pantry I noticed a jar of stock with a 4ever Recap lid that looked strange. Upon closer inspection I discovered the lid had actually popped up and the contents obviously spoiled. I immediately checked through all my jars of stored food, no easy task given the volume. Every jar with a 4ever Recap lid had come unsealed. I have to tell you, I was beyond furious!
Yesterday, a reader who wished to remain anonymous left the following comment on the 4ever Recap review post:
You may be interested in knowing that after finding out that their "superior silicone' rings will not stay sealed longer then 3 weeks, 4Ever Recap is now selling nitrile rings. Now if you have a superior product, why would you exact copy your competitors tried & true (which you claim to be inferior) product? Also interesting, if you type 4Ever Recap Trademark into your search engine you will find that the company is actually owned by Kang Investments LLC. You form your own opinions on that one!I decided to do some investigation:
According to their website, 4 Ward Industries LLC in Anna, Ohio "is the company that brings" you 4ever Recap owned by Jackie Ward (President). Brandon Ward, her husband, is Director of Marketing and Sales. The website 4everrecap.com is a GoDaddy domain with the registrant set as private and their IP 22.214.171.124 points to InternetNamesForBusinesses.com in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I could find no real information on 4 Ward Industries LLC other than what is on their website which is rather odd. Of note, Anna is a village of under 1,600 people and the Village of Anna Businesses does not list 4 Ward Industries as a business in Anna, Ohio but City Squares listed 4ever Recap (not 4 Ward Industries) at 114 West North Street in Anna. It's interesting that Google Street View shows nothing that appears to be a building for manufacturing the lids but perhaps it is a small enough operation to fit in a large shed. The 4ever Recap trademark is definitely owned by Kang Investments LLC (also not listed in the Village of Anna Businesses) in Anna, Ohio, filed by Matthew H. Swyers who appears to be a trademark lawyer for The Trademark Company in Vienna, Virginia. The address given for Kang Investments is 12800 Wengler Rd. which appears on Google Street View as two rather impressive homes on a dirt road across the road from an empty field. . My conclusion is that 4 Ward Industries is not who they say they are and may possibly be portraying themselves in a deceptive manner. I don't feel they are actually manufacturing the lids themselves as their website indicates 'the company that brings you' not manufacturers of 4ever Recap lids. It is unclear where these lids are made and may or may not be BPA-free. At any rate there is evidence that 4 Ward Industries is simply selling someone else's product that mimics Tattler.
According to their website, 4ever Recap is offering silicone (red) and nitrile (black) gaskets. If the silicone gaskets were superior in the first place, inquiring minds would like to know why they are suddenly offering nitrile gaskets? Nitrile is an oil-resistant synthetic rubber that has recently been used in the manufacturing of medical gloves as a less expensive alternative to latex gloves. It is also used in applications such as gaskets where oil resistance is necessary. Clearly, there have been seal problems with the 4ever Recap both immediately and during storage which is why 4ever Recap is again copying Tattler by offering nitrile gaskets BUT they are still offering silicone gaskets despite the gasket seating defects which would lead to seal failures and the problem in general with the seal failures using silicone. My conclusion is both Jackie and Bruce are aware of the high level of seal failures AND have relayed that to whom ever is manufacturing the lids. Rather than correct the problem, an alternative gasket is being offered. Clearly, an alternative nitrile gasket would not be offered if there weren't known seal problems with the silicone gasket! Based on the numerous complaints over seal failures using the 4ever Recap lids and the multitude of canning sites and forums recommending against their use, I would not be surprised to see a class action lawsuit in the near future!
The bottom line:
Regardless of the confusion over who actually manufactures the 4ever Recap reusable lids, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that they are not manufactured at the location implied by the Wards. There is a question on the feasibility of a business built on a non-sustainable business plan selling a product designed to last forever meaning they are only interested in first time buyers not maintaining existing customers. There is reasonable evidence to speculate that these lids may not manufactured in the USA which brings their safety into question. There clearly is a recognized problem with the silicone gaskets that leads to a higher rate of initial seal failures as well as increased seal failures during storage. Of note, all negative comments regarding the 4ever Recap lids have been removed from their Facebook page, something they do blame Facebook for but I have my doubts. It's their page so they have the power to remove any comments as they see fit. I fully believe they have removed the negative comments to prevent perspective buyers from seeing them which could influence them not to buy the faulty lids.
On a personal level, I was not happy with the correspondence from Jackie who failed to resolve my problem or address my initial concerns over the gasket seating. Despite several emails, she did not answer my concerns at all! She blamed seal failures on being a new user of 4ever Recap lids even though they are used exactly the same way glass inserts and Tattler reusable lids are used, both of which I have been using on a regular basis for a few years. Every single jar with a 4ever Recap lid in storage had lost the seal by September. While this is longer than the 3 week in storage failure some are reporting, it is still unacceptable. I currently have a little over 12 dozen jars in storage using Tattler and glass inserts. Some of those jars have been in storage over a year. To date the only seal failures I have experienced during storage has been using the 4ever Recap lids. I definitely will not be using these shoddy reusable canning lids! I am not willing to waste my time, effort, cooking fuel and food using what is clearly a substandard, defective product! I do not recommend these lids!
Saturday, November 09, 2013
The Earl of Sandwich was clearly on to something with his culinary invention that remains a dietary staple today. Basically a sandwich is a filling between two pieces of bread, quite often including some type of meat. Commercially prepared, thin and evenly sliced lunch meats are only as far away as the nearest grocery store. Packages often go on sale or are regularly priced at very low prices to encourage consumers to buy them. This type of lunch meat is not without fault. Sure, you are getting it for a very low price but like most commercially processed foods, lunch meat is laden with preservatives, food additives and sodium. One slice of roast beef lunch meat contains as much as 300 mg of sodium in comparison to 6 oz of home cooked roast beef that contains 92 mg of sodium. A sandwich made using two slices of roast beef lunch meat contains 600 mg of sodium in just the lunch meat without adding in the sodium content of the bread, condiments or extras. In perspective, those two pieces of roast beef lunch meat contain almost 30% of the sodium RDA set by Health Canada. Clearly, if you are on a sodium restricted diet lunch meat is not a food that you should consume on a regular basis. However, the problem with commercially prepared lunch meats is more than just sodium. Sodium nitrate, a known carcinogen, is used as a preservative in commercially prepared lunch meats. Expectant mothers are advised not to consume lunch or deli meats due to risk of Listeria to the feotus. Commercially processed lunch meats may also contain a number of food additives including high fructose corn syrup. All that aside, I have to admit not liking commercially prepared lunch meats and never have. My work-around is simply making homemade versions of lunch meats using whole cuts of meat, home cured meats and cooked meat loafs, all thinly sliced.
In general, I find leaner roasts work best for lunch meat slices. I generally do not add a lot of seasoning other than garlic pepper, onion and Worchestershire sauce although sometimes I add tomato stock. Once the roast is fully cooked, I let it cool then refrigerate until cold. The cold meat is easier to slice thinly.
This method of freezing and storing lends itself nicely to thinly sliced turkey breast, meat loaf, home cured summer sausage, home made pastrami, and wild game. I have found the price per pound of the home made lunch meats to be generally less expensive than commercially prepared lunch meat. The quality of the product is significantly higher though with lower sodium content, no preservatives or additives, and it tastes better. Prep time for freezing the meat is minimal at only slicing and vacuuming time. Overall, homemade lunch meats are a healthier, cost effective alternative to commercially prepared lunch meat!
Thursday, November 07, 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Winter squash is always a bargain in season! It's high in nutritious and taste but low in calories and price. Just before we left for Florida, one of the kids brought me two large, home grown butternut squash, a type of winter squash. Winter squash keeps nicely in a cold, dark location but I decided to freeze the squash instead. Part of the reasoning was for later convenience but the main reason was not leaving any food that may spoil while we were away.
I uses a chef's knife to cut the butternut squash in half starting at the top on one side then slowly working towards the base of the squash. Once I reached the base, I continued cutting up the other side. The seeds are found inside the round base of the squash. I scooped out the seeds and set aside to be cleaned then air dried for next year's garden. Of note, saving seeds from produce even store bought is one way to accumulate free seeds for the garden.
This method really is a no mess, no fuss method for cooking squash. It lends itself nicely for cooking larger winter squash or larger quantities however, I often use this method to cook acorn squash. When cooking acorn squash, I add a little butter and salt in the cavity. I didn't add butter or salt for this batch of butternut squash so it would be more versatile for later use.
Winter squash will be plentiful and low cost for another month so I plan to freeze a bit more. It can also be dehydrated and canned. When dehydrating the squash is shredded then steamed lightly before dehydrating. It can then be hydrated much the same as you would instant potatoes or the dried flakes can be added as an ingredient in dishes for extra flavour. Winter squash cannot be safely canned as a purée because it is too thick for proper heat penetration during process. It can be safely canned in chunks processed in a pressure canner. Be sure to put up plenty of this budget stretching, versatile and delicious vegetable!
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Shortly before leaving on the first leg of our fall vacation, I was busy canning, freezing and dehydrating. Despite having a large, walk-in pantry (formerly a bedroom), I still need to use the space frugally. All foods in the pantry are rotated including home canned foods. This requires an organized approach to storage but it ends up saving both time and money in the long run.
I really dislike the new packaging which consists of lids and rings on the jars that are in a half case then shrink wrapped. I understand that this method of packaging reduces the amount of cardboard used and that the plastic wrap is less expensive for the manufacturer but it is less than ideal for the home canner. As a high volume home canner, I use the cardboard cases for storage of both filled and empty jars. The new packaging offers no protection to the tops of the jars even when stacked and the cardboard portion is not as sturdy as the old cases. As far as the new packaging being eco-friendly, although less cardboard is used, the original plastic cannot be recycled so ends up in the landfill.
Sunday, November 03, 2013
We are incredibly blessed to own a vacation home in sunny Florida where we try to spend three months a year over three trips. This past year we also bought a co-op in Aruba, so in essence we have three fully equipped kitchens. We are very much firm believers of eating healthy, home cooked meals even when on vacation. The only difference in our eating style on vacation is we tend to eat out more. While discovering new restaurants and revisiting our favourites is a wonderful culinary experience that we truly enjoy, we also enjoy home cooked meals.
Our vacation home kitchen is fairly similar in size to our home kitchen with a similar layout except the vacation home kitchen is open to the small family room. It is an eat-in kitchen. The patio doors lead to the lanai where we often enjoy morning coffee and meals. The cabinets are standard white, nothing fancy. The counter tops are basic formica but the backsplash is ceramic tile. There is a bit less actual counter workspace than our home kitchen, not significantly less but enough to be noticeable. The appliances are Whirlpool with the stove being electric and the next step down from the natural gas Whirlpool Gold range at home. The sink is a heavy plastic double sink with food disposal. We replaced the original taps with the set pictured last spring. The floor is a textured sheet flooring in a tile pattern.
Our vacation home kitchen is light, bright, quite functional and easy to maintain. It has the distinct disadvantage of being what you see is what you get. That is the entire storage available for food, kitchen appliances and kitchenware. There is no extra storage space in the rest of the home to store extra kitchen equipment or food although larger pots and pans could be stored in the golf cart shed. In all honesty, longer stays require being a bit more creative but we will never be living there full time and we will likely continue to rent our vacation home out from time to time so the kitchen more than meets both needs.
Our vacation home while considerably smaller than our home still requires interior maintenance, repairs and updating. This is fairly consistent with any vacation home or cottage. As mentioned we have already replaced the faucet set as the old one sprung a leak that continued to get worse despite repairs. We are planning a few upgrades to increase the value of our vacation home while adding more durable, lower maintenance materials that will withstand the intended purpose of our vacation home. We are planning on replacing existing carpeting with laminate flooring or ceramic tile next spring. Ceramic tile is likely our best choice so we would end up tiling the entire house at that time.
Now when I note we are at our vacation home or show a meal prepared there, you will have an idea of what the kitchen there looks like. Our vacation home kitchen is equipped with the basics - blender, slow cooker, toaster, coffee maker (mainly for tenants), Keurig (our use only), can opener and hot air popcorn maker. I took the stainless steel Lagostina pot and pan set we recently replaced from home to the vacation home so we are set that way. So, it is fairly well equipped suitable for any of the cooking and baking we will be doing there. We also have an outdoor grill that just as at home gets a lot of use. Tenants at most will be there a total of 3 months but that is very rare. So far, we have had tenants stay a month or two, most commonly one month. Next week I will share some of our foodie highlights during this portion of our fall vacation.
Saturday, November 02, 2013
We arrived home last Wednesday night after spending three weeks at our vacation home in sunny Florida. We spend three months each year at our vacation home spread over three separate trips, usually flying. Flying is inexpensive and gets us there the same day unlike driving that ends up taking us two days with an overnight stop-over. That means I am very restricted as to what food I can bring from home to our vacation home since liquids are restricted to 3 oz or less only in the quantity that will fit in a one quart zipper bag, one bag per traveler. Thank goodness, I am not a make-up person! We have also found that certain powders like Morton's Tender Quick will result in extra screening at the airport security checkpoints. Now, as funny as that one was, and it was funny as the very friendly screening had never met someone who cured meats which led to an interesting conversation, I quickly decided in future to either mail these types of items to our vacation home or bring them with me when we drive. We can bring dried foods as long as they fit in our backpack, more dried foods if driving but it isn't feasible to try bringing meats or fish by either mode of travel.
I brought a few jars of home canned foods with us for a taste of home. It is surprising how much I've had to modify my cooking style at our vacation home simply because I don't have a lot of the ingredients, especially the home canned foods I am so accustomed to using. I brought salsa, Old Fashioned chili sauce, zesty bread & butter pickles, Mom's pizza sauce, picante sauce, roasted tomato garlic sauce, beef stock, pork & beans, whole kernel corn, black cherry jam, Italian garden sauce with mushrooms (not pictured) and low sugar chocolate raspberry sauce (not pictured). In hindsight, I should have brought another case of home canned foods so I may even mail more down before our return to our vacation home this year.
Eating at our vacation home is quite different than at home but I am finding that the more we are there, the more cooking from scratch we do. The biggest problem we face is not being able to store much in the way of food with the exception of the fall trips as food can be left in the cabinets and refrigerator. However, we rent the house out mid-January through mid-April, so all food that can not be safely stored in our homeowner's closet has to be cleared out. We also leave the house tenant ready after our spring stay just in case. Basically, we are restricted to storing a large Rubbermaid tote of food, mainly dried and commercially canned foods that will not be affected with the closet at room temperature. I don't store any home canned foods in the homeowner's closet.
Driving to our vacation home and back has a lot of benefits even though it takes longer. We are able to bring a taste of home with us and take back some of the new foods we discover while there as well as along the way. We also get the opportunity to do a bit of sight seeing along the way. Of course, there are a lot of foodie stops! Stay tuned for the foodie highlights of this leg of our fall stay at our vacation home...
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
I was elated to discover three peach trees and a pear tree on our property when we bought our new house in September 2011. I did a bit of research on caring for the trees then anxiously awaited the following spring. Unfortunately, March of 2012 saw an unseasonable two weeks of summer-like weather with temperatures in the 80's (F). This unseasonably hot weather caused the premature blooming of fruit trees in our area that immediately succumbed to the sudden hard frost followed by a cold, rainy remaining spring. We ended up losing two of the peach trees, one which we suspected was close to being dead when we moved in. The remaining peach tree and pear tree gave a yield of a couple of shopping bags worth of fruit, if that.
This spring was cold to the point we were still wearing winter jackets a couple of days before leaving for our vacation home in Florida in May. I figured it would be another year of low yield, small fruit. Wrong! The peach and pear trees flourished.
The peach tree was so overladen with fruit the branches bent to the ground! The fruit was numerous but small and quite tasty. The pear tree was also laden but the fruit was quite large. Clearly we need to do some heavy pruning next spring. I am beyond excited! We are in the process of completely renovating our backyard. The end result will see the majority of the backyard under decking leaving me just enough room for two 10' long square foot gardens for a total of 80 square feet growing space. The peach and pear trees will be incorporated into the deck plans. So, the spring of 2014 will see the start of utilizing a lot of small space gardening skills I've developed and mastered over the years.
We gave a box of pears to a friend and another to a neighbour. I canned pear quarters, two batches of 8 for a total of 16 - 500 ml jars. The first batch was hot packed in a light syrup (pictured), the second raw packed in a light syrup (not pictured). Both batches were processed in a boiling water bath canner. The pears look lovely jarred up ready to be enjoyed during the winter months!
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Over the past few posts, I've shared some of the foodie highlights we enjoyed during our road trip/camping adventure in August. If you recall, we left beautiful southern Ontario traveling through Michigan before crossing back into Ontario where the Chi-Cheemaun ferry took us to the mainland where we camped in the Grey Bruce area before returning home. We were away for six amazingly delightful days!
Camping especially rustic camping brings a few cooking challenges but trust me, if you 'really' want to you can still prepare a gourmet meal without the use of electricity or fancy kitchen gadgets. I recommend using break proof dishes and sturdy pots and pans while keeping in mind that less is more so make what you bring do double duty. Even the coffee pot can do double duty to heat up sauces. Clean-up will involve hand washing dishes outdoors unless camping in an RV. If cooking over an open fire, soot can build up on the outside of pots and pans but it usually comes off easily with normal washing. In most cases, rustic camping means you will be dealing with wild life who would like nothing better to enjoy a free meal at your expense. The best course of action to deter wild life from frequenting your campsite is to keep it squeaky clean, garbage free and free of food or left over food including little bits of left over food that gets into the dishwater. All food should be kept in secured coolers and covered plastic totes that are stored in a vehicle overnight.
Solway's is well worth the stop! Their local produce selection is good and they have a nice selection of other foods like cheeses, eggs and specialty foods (eg. jams, jellies, maple syrup) as well as handmade sausages. They are well known in the area for their delicious baked goods. Oh my, the homemade pies were divine! The grandkids really enjoyed this stop, helping us pick out all the best goodies. We made our purchases including zucchini for freezing, green beans for canning and four large coils of sausage. Little Master A was in seventh heaven walking out with a banana in each hand stopping briefly for Grandma to take a picture of him in front of the John Deer tractors. Meanwhile Little Miss C carefully carried the small box of cream topped tarts. After enjoying the tarts in the parking lot we were on our way...