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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.
  • [March 19, 2020] - Effective Mar 17, this blog will no longer accept advertising. The reason is very simple. If I like a product, I will promote it without compensation. If I don't like a product, I will have no problem saying so.
  • [March 17, 2020] - A return to blogging! Stay tuned for new tips, resources and all things food related.
  • [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! [Update: 4ever Recap appears to be out of business.]

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Home Canned Pears

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. 
our pear tree laden with pearsThis 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.

home canned pears
We ended up with almost three bushels (about 150 lb) of pears which is really a nice yield for our first real pear harvest.  I expect the yield to be lower in 2014 as a result of the pruning but it should still be good, weather permitting.  Our pears are organically grown without the use of any pesticides.  Aside of the frost, the only problem we have had is the ripe pears attracting yellow jackets.  Since the pear tree is close to the pool, we were extra careful to clean-up any wind blown fruit.  This is good gardening practice anyway to deter pests and disease.  Other than that, our pear tree needs little in the way of maintenance but as this year showed, it has a big reward.

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

Solway's Farm Market Just North of Wiarton, Ontario

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!

Indian Head Cove at Bruce Peninsula National Park
The Grey Bruce area is one of the most beautiful Ontario landscapes that you can visit.  It honestly is gorgeous eye candy!  This is Indian Head Cove at Bruce Peninsula National Park.  We hiked from our campsite to Head of Trails then took Georgian Bay trail to the Grotto.  The picture was taken from atop the grotto looking south.  This spot is a popular stop for day hikers.  It's a pleasant swimming spot even though the water is rather cold.  Many bring snacks or even a light lunch to enjoy while taking in the breathtaking view.  You can hike up the Bruce Trail along Indian Head Cove, definitely a very rugged hike.  From our location where the picture was taken, we hiked over Boulder Beach thentook the Marr Lake trail back towards the campground.

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 Farm Market outside of Wiarton, Ontario
The stretch of Highway 6 between Tobermory and Highway 21 is dotted with small towns, road side stands and farm markets.  Solway's Farm Market is located just north of Wiarton on Highway 6, on the left hand side (west) heading north.  Although the building is large, it is set back from the road so quite easy to miss.  There are a couple of signs announcing the market ahead but they too are easy to miss.  This is typical of the foodie stops along this route so we flew right on by then had to do a U-turn and back track.

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...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Popcorn at the Campsite

Just as eating at home or our vacation home, the vast majority of meals at the campsite were homemade from scratch, much the same as they were when we were camping with our kids so many years ago.  Even the majority of snacks our kids enjoyed while camping were homemade or simply fruit.  Homemade trail mix was one of their favourites as was popcorn.  The year we camped in tents, I bought Jiffy-pop for one of the kids' snacks.  They loved popcorn, a regular snack at home, usually made in an air popper.  With no hydro, I reasoned that Jiffy-pop would be a good substitute.  It was and the kids loved watching the foil lid puff up!  The following year we bought a tent trailer so popcorn was made in the trailer or in a popcorn popper over the fire.  I never did go back to buying Jiffy-pop but the kids still remember that little bit of magic.

jiffy pop on the Coleman stove
The kids have a Coleman stove that uses naptha (white gas) fuel under pressure.  The fuel is poured into the red canister.  Once the cap (towards top of canister) is tightened, the canister is pressurized by pumping the pressurizer (near bottom of canister).  The burner is turned on then gas lit with a match.  The burner burns with a high orange flame that gradually lowers, tightening towards the centre turning a hot blue flame for cooking.

The kids fired up the Coleman and while a pot of coffee was brewing for the adults, the Jiffy-pop cooked on the other burner.  The grandkids waited patiently in anticipation.  True to form, within minutes the magical puffed up lid appeared giving the sign the popcorn was almost ready to serve.  

jiffy pop ready to enjoy
The is a lot of steam under the foil once the popcorn is popped so the kids carefully opened it, revealing the hot, tender popcorn ready to be enjoyed.   The grandkids climbed up on their camp chairs, happily munching on popcorn while chatting about that day's adventurers.  As the day drew to a close, sitting around a roaring fire was a pleasant ending. 

These days, I make popcorn at home using an electric Whirly popcorn popper.  The grandkids love watching the popcorn pop large, tender morsels that aren't tough or dried out as air poppers can cause.  We are planning on getting back into camping so popcorn will be a staple snack when camping.  I'll go back to using a popcorn popper over the campfire when camping.  Still this brought back pleasant memories of our very first camping trips!

Friday, October 25, 2013

BeaverTails in Tobermory, Ontario

During our road trip/camping adventure in August, where we camped at Cypress Lake campground in the Bruce Peninsula National Par, we made our traditional trip into Tobermory.  This quaint little harbour village is simply delightful to stroll about on a beautiful summer afternoon.  This was our first time visiting with the grandkids so the village to on an extra sparkling charm as seen through the eyes of little ones!

Beavertails in Tobermory, Ontario
When our kids were young, one of our stops in Tobermory was BeaverTails, located on the north side of Little Tub Harbour, beside the Blue Heron Cruises Ticket booth.  They have been specializing in unique whole wheat pastries stretched to the shape of beaver tails then float fried in canola or soy oil.  These delectable pastries are served piping hot, topped with butter and a choice of other toppings.

We slowly walked down the hill from the Sweet Shop to Little Tub Harbour enjoying the unexpected warm weather.    We wandered around the harbour, marveling at the crystal clear water dotted with ducks between the boats.  The kids headed up up the hill to pick-up a part for their tent so Grandma and Papa with the two little ones continued walking.  All of a sudden, Little Miss C (age 6) sniffled "I don't want to eat a beaver" which sent Master A (age 4) into immediate distress.  So here we are with two crying grandkids heading towards BeaverTails.  Trying to calm them without ruining the surprise, we quickly made our way closer to BeaverTails when Little Miss C spotted...

Beavertails sandwich board
...the BeaverTails sandwich board outside.  Now, she is a quick little one who is an advanced reader for her age.  She spun around to console her brother with a "Don't worry A, they aren't real beavers!"  I don't think he believed her but we showed him the sign.  Through the tears a small smile appeared.

Beavertails are a delicious Canadian pastry than can be made at home.  It is more the method of cooking that gets the delicious results.  The prepared dough is quickly dredged through the hot oil on each side then fried until cooked through.  BeaverTails cooks each beavertail as ordered so they are always fresh and piping hot.  Each beavertail is about 10 - inches long, just the perfect size for sharing.

a delightfully delicious beavertail
We ordered a cinnamon and sugar (pictured) and a triple trip with chocolate, peanut butter and reese's pieces (not pictured) beaver tail.  Grandma and Little Miss A, standing on tippy toes, watched the beavertails being cooked while Papa and Master C found a bench to sit and people watch while enjoying the beavertails.  Any tears were long forgotten as the grandkids eyes grew big at the sight of the beavertails.  I have the cutest picture of Master C giving the high thumbs up sign, a gesture he uses for foods he really likes.  Talk about cute!  Their parents arrived back just in time to finish off the beavertails. 

Beavertails are a must have when in Tobermory!  If you are in the area, be sure to stop by BeaverTails to enjoy a delicious, piping hot treat while taking in all the sights and sounds of this quaint little harbour village.  I'm sure you will love them as much as we do.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kitchen Quick Tips - Storing Kitchen Tools

kitchen quick tips
Keep a crock for storing commonly used kitchen tools on by the stove or easily assessable in a nearby cupboard.  This is simple, easy, low cost and convenient organization that works!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Sweet Shop in Tobermory, Ontario

My gosh!  Here it is more than half way through October and I'm slacking a blogging.  This morning I just realized I hadn't finished sharing the rest of our road trip/camping adventure in August.  If you recall, we left Ontario, traveled through Michigan then crossed back into Ontario making our way to the Tobermory area where we camped for four days before making our way home.  The trip was amazing, bringing back a lot of memories of camping there when our kids were young.

the sweet shop in Tobermory, Ontario
We camped at Cypress Lakes annually when our kids were young.  The campground itself is very rustic with no hydro, pump water at various intervals for porting to your campsite and outhouses.  Once a trip we would take the kids into Tobermory.  Aside of the main purpose of the trip being replenishing groceries and laundry, it was always a day of discovery.  Tobermory is a wonderful little port village!  One of the biggest thrills for our kids was The Sweet Shop located at 18 Bay St S in Tobermory.

The Sweet Shop is a must stop for every kid and every adult who is a kid at heart!  This little gem still produces fine confections like gourmet fudges and brittles the old fashioned way.  Let me tell you the Canadian maple fudge is divine!  They have a nice ice parlour cream selection with enticing flavours like moose tracks, moon mist and crouching tiger.  Other types of candies not made on the premises are also available.  I was very tempted by the bacon flavoured candy but resisted.

This was a special trip for us.  We had the opportunity to see all the wonder and amazement in our grandkids eyes as soon as they walked through the doors.  Their eyes got bigger and bigger as they waited in anticipation for their ice cream cones, just like their parents' eyes did when they were young.  What wonderful memories.  Do be sure to stop at The Sweet Shop if you are in Tobermory!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kitchen Quick Tips - Bean and Seed Sprout Yield

kitchen quick tips

In general, 1½ tbsp of beans or seeds will give a yield of 1 quart of sprouts. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Thankgiving!

Today is our Canadian Thanksgiving, always celebrated on the second Monday of October.  Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals.  This is a time when Canadians across our great nation give thanks for food, friends, families and everything good in our lives.  A common image seen this time of year is the cornucopia (Horn of Plenty), a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece.  The cornucopia is filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, ears of corn and apples.

The traditional Canadian Thanksgiving Day feast differs from the American version.  Four foods traditional to both feasts aside of the turkey are stuffing, sweet potatoes, bread and pumpkin pie but there are differences.  Canadian stuffing (in the bird) not dressing (outside the bird).  Sweet potatoes are traditionally served baked or mashed in the Canadian feast, rather than casserole style.  They are not combined with sugar, spices, butter or topped with marshmallows.  Corn bread is traditionally the Thanksgiving bread for American Thanksgiving feasts but is rarely served at a Canadian Thanksgiving feast.  The Canadian choice is a wheat based dinner roll.  The Canadian pumpkin pie is spicy, infused with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger unlike the American version that is a custardy, sweet pie made with eggs, butter, milk and pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.

My husband and I give thanks that we are blessed with a beautiful family both immediate and extended.  Today, we give extra thanks for the safe arrival of our youngest grandchild, just after 5:30 this morning.  Believe me, this Grandma and Papa are walking on sunshine today!  Today, we give thanks for the many wonderful friends in our lives.  We also give thanks to the abundance of healthy food, a safe food supply and our local farmers and food producers in beautiful Ontario, Canada!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Where are the Canning Police When You Need Them? aka Darwinism At It's Finest

If you have been following this blog you will know I do a lot of home canning and that I share the safe methods for home canning.  All home canned foods must be properly processed for safe storage.  Low acid foods (eg. meats, fish, stews, soups, vegetables) must be processed in a pressure canner.  High acid foods (eg. jams, jellies, pickles, fruits) must be processed in a boiling water bath canner.  There are no ifs, ands or buts!   Older methods that your grandparents or parents used may no longer be safe to ensure a proper canned food that is shelf stable.  Oven canning aka open kettle canning or inverting the jars is no longer considered safe as neither method kills off existing bacteria or mold spores, nor do they denature any botulin toxin that may be present.

<rant> Yesterday, a post came down on one of the forums I follow to check out a blog where the author actually told her readers how to oven can tomatoes and that vegetables should be put into a boiling water bath.  Now this is just wrong on so many levels!  Not only is she giving dangerous advice that could cause someone to get quite sick or worse she is opening herself up to one or more lawsuits should someone follower her advice.  I don't care whether her mother, her aunt, her friends or anyone else used oven canning for thousands of years, it is still bad advice.  She erroneously claims the FDA is too strict on their home canning guidelines.  Hello!  Even as a Canadian home canner, I know it is the USDA not the FDA who has done the research and is the leading home canning expert.  Even if she oven canned tomatoes and cold vegetables in a boiling water bath herself she certainly should not be telling others to do so.  It is akin to giving a child an unlocked gun to play with!  Not only could she ultimately be responsible for someone's death she can and should be held liable!  Several from the forum left comments to indicate her advice could end causing illness or worse but she deleted them all which is entirely up to her.  I just hope we don't read in the news about illness or death caused by improper canning following this person's advice!  Honestly, she is practicing Darwinism at its finest!</rant>

The USDA has done a tremendous amount of research on home canning.  They do not approve or disprove anything but rather make recommendations based on the results of their research.  They may not recommend using a certain ingredient (eg. corn starch) or canning a certain food (eg. broccoli) because the resulting quality is less than acceptable.  They may not recommend canning a certain food (eg. thickened stew, pureed pumpkin) because it presents a safety issue as the heat cannot penetrate to the centre of the jar to ensure a safe product.  The problem is, the USDA does not disclose whether their recommendation is based on safety or quality. 

The best course of action is to follow all USDA recommendations with respect to food safety in home canning.  After all, the goal is to put a safe product on the table for you and your family.  That does not mean you cannot use older recipes or tweak flavours as long as it does not interfere with the safety of the final product.  For example, substitute white wine vinegar for white vinegar in a recipe to get a mellower flavour.  This is a perfectly acceptable substitution as long as the white wine vinegar you use is 5% acetic acid by volume.  In general, the exception being pickled products, salt is optional when home canning.  You don't need to add salt to something like green beans.  You can but you don't have to as this is a taste issue not a food safety issue.  Older recipes can be converted to be processed using current safe canning guidelines providing they are similar to recipes recommended by the USDA or tested recipes in the Ball Blue Book and Bernardin's Complete Guide to Food Preservation.  Keep the ratio of vinegar to low acid vegetables or when making a pickling brine the same if processing in a water bath canner.  Have fun canning and stocking your pantry but always, always, always put food safety first!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Fire Prevention Week

I recently acquired my husband's iPhone when he upgraded to a new iPhone so immediately started customizing with all kinds of fun apps including one called Scanner911.  This app is a scanner for police, fire and emergency.  It just happens to pick up our local fire and emergency so I've been listening to it quite a bit as one of our good friends is the assistant fire chief.  Honestly, within a two day span there were at least five calls to house fires originating in the kitchen!  That is quite scary if you ask me.
In all our years cooking in various kitchens both inside and outside, we have had one small kitchen fire that was totally my fault.  Surprisingly, it wasn't cooking food but rather a flash fire when making transparent soap.  The process involved adding 95% ethanol which easily ignited by a spark from the mixer.  Luckily, I do have rather extensive WHMIS  and laboratory experience so knew immediately what to do.  The lid was on the pot in the blink of an eye without a second thought so there was no damage other than to my ego as I should have known better.   A few years ago, a neighbour fell asleep with a pot on the stove which ignited causing extensive damage and they had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation.  It happened on a cold winter night.  Since the damage was extensive, they had to find emergency accommodations.

Kitchen fires can happen in the blink of an eye.  The sad thing is they are quite preventable.  This is Fire Prevention Week and this year's focus is preventing kitchen fires.  If you click the link under the picture it will take you to the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services site where you can find lots of great tips for preventing kitchen fires.  Please take a moment to check it out...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Kitchen Quick Tips - Reusable Grocery Bags

kitchen quick tips
With more stores charging for plastic bags (mandatory in all Ontario stores), you can save 5¢ each time you use a reusable grocery bag which can really add up over the course of a year.  Be sure to wash your reusable grocery bags to keep them fresh and germ free.