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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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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Canning Supplies & Shortages

Folks, canning supplies were in high demand last year to the point we could not get jars or lids in our little corner of southwestern Ontario.  Our main sources are Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, Dollarama (lids only), Walmart and most grocery stores.  This was the first time I wasn't able to find jars but it was an odd year.  Now, I am a high volume home canner who cans year round averaging about 1,000 jars annually.  I have a very good supply of jars but what happens is some of those jars are gifted and while most of them make their way back, I lose a few each year.  Due to current restrictions, I'm down about two cases. 

In Canada, we have three jar mouth sizes:

  • Standard - 70 mm
  • Gem - 78 mm (very popular in our prairies), BTW, this size can be found under brand names like Imperial and Canadian Jewel but the size is always referred to as Gem
  • Widemouth - 86 mm


  • Bernardin, formerly Canadian owned is the best known and trusted brand in Canada.  I have the old Imperial pints and quarts as well as the new metric L, 500 ml, 250 ml etc.  Golden Harvest jars are available.  Back for y2K Home Discovery was available.  And there are numerous older brands still available used.
  • Know your local prices!  Many resale venues are selling jars for well over their price new. 
  • Buy ahead.  Yes you don't need 4 cases of jars right now but if you can't get them later you will be patting yourself on the back.
  • Put the word out.  Networking is key to finding jars and there's always jars available given that each year some folks give up canning.  It's all about asking around and chances are they will give you the jars free for a filled jar of jam or salsa.

Lids: You can have all the jars possible but the barrier will always be the availability of lids.

  • The most popular and heavily promoted lids are the single use metal snap lids.  This is a metal disc that uses a metal band during the canning process.  Both bands and snap lids are available for all three sizes.  The ping tells you it sealed.  Some of the rebel canners are reusing these lids out of necessity.  My concern would be seal failures.
  • Glass inserts - Glass inserts require a rubber ring (Vicroy) and special metal (not the old zinc) bands  to use.  The rubber bands are still easily available.  These reusable lids are a must.  They are available for standard and Gem widths. 
  • Glass shoulder lids - These are considered an antique, fitting the old Corona, Crown, Imperial and similar jars.  I have oodles of them for dry storage.  The rubber rings are available but my opinion is these jars should not be used in a pressure canner.  I'm iffy whether to use them in the steam/WB canner.  However, they are excellent for dry storage.
  • Tattler reusable lids - Tattler's are amazing and I have 10 doz.  These are reusable plastic BPA free discs with rubber rings.  There's a different methods like the glass inserts so a learning curve.  The only problem I have with Tattler's at the moment is they aren't shipping to Canada.  I did find them on but the reviews were not good as apparently the ones being sold aren't the real macoy.  However, if you have someone in the US they could send them to you.  Stock up on the rubber rings because they will be at some point the limiting factor.  You should be able to get 7-10 uses per ring and rings are very inexpensive.
  • prices:  By far, Dollarama is the best price for snap lids, more expensive than last year but still the best price.  Their price has increased to $2.50 per box of lids so at 21 cents is still the best price.  You can order a case lot on line but have to pay for shipping which would increase the overall price to 29 cents per lid.  Still, delivery to your door is not a bad deal. Stay away from for lids at 81 cents per lid.  The next best are Walmart/Uline (26 cents per lid), and Home Hardware, Canadian Tire (33 cents per lid)
  • My opinion: Learn how to use the reusable lids even if you only use them for high acid foods.  If you are a high volume canner, it is the only way to go.  Aim for 10 dozen pllus extra rings.  Hands down, this is your best hedge to being able to home can.  Be sure to stock up on the rubber rings.  Buy a package every time you get a chance.  Stock up on snap lips as you will want to gift some of your goodies.  If you are high volume, 300 lids seems to be the amount most home canners are going for.


  • I use Pomona's pectin.  I stock up when in the US but it is available in Canada at a rather inflated price but it really is the best.  It's non-GMO and shelf stable indefinitely.  I'm getting reports of Certo brand not setting properly but that could be a bad batch.  The biggest problem with the other pectins is availability.  Last year, after June you could not find pectin anywhere.
  • green apples - if you have a source for green apples, you can make your own pectin and this is what I would consider a useful skill to learn.
  • long cook - Many fruit jams can be made using no pectin but rather the long cook method.  Honestly, a very useful skill to learn!  Basically the fruit/sugar mixture is cooked to gel stage (220 degrees F) then bottled. 

Clear Jel:

  • Clear Jel is the only USDA approved thickener for pie fillings.  I buy mine in the US but if you are lucky you can find it on at a greatly inflated price.
  • My opinion: If you are buying Clear Jel for a couple of jars of apple pie filling, don't.  If you want to can stews, gravies, etc. then yes.  There are a few recipes out there using flour for tomato soup rather than Clear Jel.  I've had wonderful results using that.  I typically use Clear Jel for stews, pie fillings and gravies BUT there are other ways to do it. 


  • pressure canner - If you are considering buying a pressure canner, buy All American that does not require a gasket.  Folks have already sounded the alarm at not being able to find a gasket for their pressure canner.  Without a gasket, you cannot pressure can low acid foods but there are old school long boil methods.  These methods are not USDA approved but it's your kitchen, your rules.  And, I am well acquainted with many Amish families who put up all kinds of foods without a pressure canner.  My opinion is the USDA is another arm of government control without rhyme of reason sometimes.
  • steam canner - Now available at a decent price on  This handy device replaces your waterbath canner.  It is about $70 CDN but well worth the price in time, fuel and water savings.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Canning Stock

I honestly don't cook with water if I can help it.  Why?  Water adds liquid but no flavour.  Stocks, juices, whey, milk and so many other liquids add that extra nutrition and flavour so necessary in pandemic cooking.  Meat stocks are one of the most frugal and easiest products to can.  It is the one product that I can never have enough of.

All meat stocks are canned basically the same way.  You need bones, filtered water, onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves.  For best flavour, roast the bones for an hour before making stock.  Always add a little apple cider vinegar to increase the calcium content of your stock.  Apple cider vinegar causes calcium to leach out of the bones increasing the nutrient density of the stock.  I use a pressure cooker to actually make the stock because it is a lot quicker but you can make stock in a stock pot or slow cooker.

When you buy beef or other meats in bulk, you get thinks like soup and neck bones.  Our friend is raising chickens for us so I get necks and feet.  I'm working on freezer clean-outs because we have new meats coming soon.  This is the time of year that I like canning stocks using bones from the freezer. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Questions & Answers

Here and on my Facebook posts, I stress organic, home canned, homemade, in the descriptions.  Why?  The reasons are very simple, what I use will give different result than what you use.  So,


Q. Can I use _____ fill in the blank to make this recipe.

A. If it is similar likely but I can't guarantee that.  I do know the taste will differ.

Q. Can I use refined white sugar instead of organic cane sugar.

A. Yes but you won't get the same flavour profiles.  Refined sugar adds sweetness, organic cane sugar adds flavour and sweetness.

Q. Do I have to follow USDA canning rules?

A. No, your kitchen your rules.  I am Canadian, so USDA has no bearing here nor does any other government agency within your home.  I highly recommend following safe canning guidelines but even I am septal of some of those.  

Q. Why organic?

A. There are certain chemicals I do not want in my foods especially dried foods where the concentration increases.  Organic certification also ensures non-GMO.  

Q. Why homemade?

A. When you make something from scratch, you know exactly what is in it. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Crème brûlée

We are not dessert folks.  Sure we like the occasional sweet treat but it's not something we have on a regular basis by any stretch of the imagination. We started cruising six years ago with Norwegian Cruise Lines and to date have been on six cruises and have several booked in the hopes of getting out of these lockdowns soon!  We had to cancel four booked cruises in 2020 and so far three this year. 

One of the things we love about cruising is the food!  Honestly, Norwegian is top notch for this.  Hubby tried the Crème brûlée that quickly became his favourite.  This delectable dessert means burnt cream.  It's also known as Trinity cream.  Crème brûlée is simply a custard base topped with a hard sugar crust.  So I decided to try my hand at duplicating this dessert.

 Crème brûlée is not difficult to make.  Simply prepare your oven proof bowls and place them in a bain marie.  Prepare the custard and pour into the prepared bowls.  Bake the custard until set.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Top with sugar of choice.  Pop them under the broiler OR use a Crème brûlée torch to melt and brown the sugar.  I used the broiler method but really thing the torch would have given nicer results.

 Crème brûlée will keep nicely in the refrigerator for a couple of days, perfect for preparing ahead for company.  I was very impressed at how easy they were to make.  A lovely taste of Norwegian while waiting for things to open up! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Dandelion Honey

Sourdough bread became the poster child of 2020.  Everyone was baking it and some continue to do so.  Baking bread using wild yeast is definitely something I consider important.  Currently we are under stay-at-home orders.  Grocery stores and certain retail are open for essential items only.  That means you cannot buy clothes, yarn, magazines etc. at these stores but you can order online.  There may come a time that is restricted further as there was talk of stopping home deliveries with this last lockdown extension.  This is why a prepper pantry and learning survival skills are very important.

The poster child of 2021 is dandelion jelly!  Folks are foraging for dandelions and other edible wild flowers to make jelly.  When foraging, it's best to start in your own yard and always get permission if foraging elsewhere.  Don't forage where the plants may have been sprayed with pesticides.

We don't spray our yard so out dandelions are safe for consumption.  Our neighbours likely got a good chuckle out of me harvesting dandelions flowers!  All parts of the dandelion plant are edible.  Many spring salad mixes contain young dandelion leaves. Dandelion flowers can also be used to make a salve that is good for aches and pains as well as soothing itchy skin.

Dandelion honey differs from dandelion jelly.  Dandelion jelly is very pale with just a hint of yellow transparent jelly that gets it's set from pectin.  Dandelion honey has no added pectin.  It is a rich amber very similar to honey in colour and consistency.  It is a vegan substitute for actual honey.   The flowers with greens left on are harvested, cleaned then placed in a stock pot with citrus, covered with water, boiled then mashed.  This mixture sits overnight then is strained.  An appropriate amount of sugar is added based on the volume of the strained liquid (tea).  I used a ratio of 1 c sugar to 1 1/3 c of tea.  The sugar/tea mixture is brought to a low boil then cooked to gel stage.  At this time, it is ready for jarring but before doing so, I added just a hint of an extra flavour note then I jarred and processed. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Rule of Three

     What is the rule of three?  In home decor, the rule of three is used for accessorizing.  Grouping of three candles, three similar items, three pictures or photos are widely used.  Groups of three have a greater eye appeal than larger or smaller groupings.   A good essential oil blend has three notes:  high, mid, low.  However, the rule of three has a wide range of applications.  

In cooking, the rule of three can apply in a few ways:

  1. pantry
  • Where possible each food should be put up in at three possible ways.  For example, potatoes can be preserved by freezing, canning or dehydrating.  The reason for this is, it's acts as insurance.  If you have a longer power outage and lose the frozen potatoes, you still have the backup of canned and dried, possibly fresh.  Not all foods lend themselves well to preserving three ways, but for the most part using this method will safe guard your pantry supplies.
  • Rotating your pantry stores is very important.  Gearing up for the growing season, our meals focus on something from freezer, something home canned and something dry with accenting with fresh.  During the growing season, the emphasis is on fresh in season produce, something from the freezer, and something dried or canned.

      2. cooking

  • Layering of flavours can really take your cooking to the next level with very little effort.  For example, if making a tomato based sauce using fresh tomatoes the two accompanying elements should be canned (paste or sauce) and dried (tomato powder).  Each brings unique flavour notes that blend nicely.  Another good combination is fresh garlic, roasted garlic and garlic powder.  

Monday, May 10, 2021

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I grow several herbs indoors year round.  One of my best producers is sweet basil and honestly, you simply can't have too much basil!  Sweet basil germinates easily and is rather problem free.  New plants can be started simply by putting the cuttings in water.  Properly looked after, you will have all the sweet basil you can use.  Basil can easily be dried, works well as a canning ingredient and basil pesto freezes well. 

Working the rule of three, I kicked up a cold weather, pantry favourite that starts with a base of home canned beef stock and home canned tomato basil sauce.  In this case, the three were: frozen, canned, dry all from the pantry.  Yes there are home canned tomato soup recipes and I do a couple but I find certain sauces lend themselves nicely for soup.   I added ditali pasta, ground beef and few more ingredients but the special ingredient, cream cheese really took this soup to the next level! 

Wow, the cream cheese addition was a huge winner!  This soup was rich and creamy with just a wee hint of tang.  It was a true comfort meal, perfect for a chilly winter day that paired nicely with a loaf of homemade sourdough bread.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Rainbow Stew

In very stressful times, folks turn to cooking out of necessity.  During the 1900's we had homecanning as a means of surviving the Canadian winters.  It made a resurgence during the Great Depression which also introduced a style of cooking known as Depression Era Cooking.  When women went to help the war efforts then remained in the work force, convenience foods like tv dinners and packaged foods made their appearance.  There was a resurgence in home canning with homesteading and survivalism.  That grew during the period leading up to y2K.  Cooking shows coined the term foodie, so anyone who  could cook was inspired by their favourite tv chef.  Now into the 2000's, we have the popularity of food kits and pandemic cooking.  


Once again we are seeing a resurgence in home cooking, canning and food preservation in general.  Many are cooking for the first time because they have to.  Restaurants are closed, take-out is limited and then there's stay-at-home restrictions.  People do not want to spend a lot of time at the grocery stores.  Two trends have emerged as a result: inexpensive food kit availability and most smaller food producers are offering online shopping with reasonable shipping.  This opened the door to people discovering a wide range of ingredients they normally wouldn't find locally and at the same time, they discovered a multitude of ingredients they could get from local food producers.

Earlier this year, I began buying organic produce from a local grower who delivers weekly.  I've dealt with this farmer for ages so when he offered the delivery service, I supported it.  Each week, I place an order based on availability so have been experimenting with a few neat ingredients.  

I made this delightful stew for dinner, quickly named Rainbow Stew because of the bright colours. Unlike most stews, potatoes are not included. It is chock full of nutritious ingredients including purple top turnips, celeriac, corn and rainbow swiss chard. The bay leaf (middle left) was fresh picked from my bay laurel plant! The new to me ingredient in this dish was celeriac.  It's definitely an ingredient I will use again.  Very tasty stew!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Working the Lame

The art of sourdough making is truly that, an art form.  This delightful bread truly is the bread of 2020 when so many couldn't find yeast so decided to try this older method using wild yeast.  The yeast actually comes for the flour used, not the air.  In general, rye flour has the highest yeast content but rye flour is hard to find in smaller communities so most resort to using whole wheat flour.  Unbleached white flour will work but bleached flour will not.  You must use filtered water or non-chlorinated water as well as chlorinated water will kill the yeast.


Traditional sour dough uses a starter, flour, water and salt.  That's it.  That was one of the appeals of this bread for the first part of the pandemic.  However, a good sourdough bread will take 18 to 24 hours or longer before baking.  Once ready for baking, the bread must be slashed.  This allows for a higher rise and expansion of the dough while baking.  A good simple tool to make small cuts are kitchen sheers but if a lamb is better.

The lamb is a handle that holds a straight edge blade.  The straight edge may or may not be replaceable.  I highly recommend one with a replaceable blade.  They aren't expensive, about $12 and replacement blade will likely cost about $3 for a multipack.  The lamb should be sheathed when not in use and kept well out of reach of children.  

This tool is essential for fancier slashes like the spiral or heart as shown.  It takes a lot of practice which hubby doesn't mind given he gets the resulting bread.  Some slashes are rather fancy while others are plain but all add to that lovely artisan look of sourdough breads.  If you need inspiration for creative sourdough slashes, YouTube definitely won't disappoint!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Homemade Squeaky Cheese Curds

Poutine is and Canadian delicacy, very prevalent in Old Montreal.  While there are many, many variations any Canadian will tell you that using squeaky cheese curds is a must.  Only fresh cheese curds are squeaky.  They lose that squeakiness about 8 to 10 hours after being made.  So, I wanted to learn how to make squeaky cheese curds.  The best way I found was to buy a kit from Make Cheese, a Canadian company that is quite good to deal with.   

The poutine cheese kit came with enough rennet, calcium chloride, cheese salt and mesophillic culture to make eight batches of poutine.  A thermometer and cheese cloth was included.  A long bladed knife, large perforated spoon and colander is required.  A French fry cutter is optional but honestly, I tried it but wouldn't use again.  The cheese curds were too small!  Each batch of poutine uses 8L of whole milk with a final yield of about 1.34 kg (about 3 lbs).

The entire process is not difficult but it will take up a good part of a day.  But parts of that is waiting for certain stages while other stages you have to be actively involved (ei. every 6 minutes).  After a couple of batches the process will be a bit smoother.

Pictured is the milk heating, coagulation/cutting stage, curd/cooking stage.  Once the curds are formed, they are drained, they are drained from the whey.  The nutrient rich whey can be used in baking.  The drained curd then undergoes a texturing process by cutting the drained curd into two slabs then stacking and rotating.  This is important for achieving the right texture for making squeaky cheese curds.  

We made a traditional poutine (homecut fries, brown gravy and cheese curds) and a chili poutine (homecut fries, homemade venison chili, and cheese curds).  The layering really makes the poutine too.  Fries, then curds followed by hot toppings and in Montreal the variations are endless.  Honestly, we had if I recall correctly nine different variations while we were there.  Basically if the topping in some way, remotely goes well with cheese, it's fair game.

The bottom two pictures show the traditional and the chili poutine.  The traditional has the gravy over the curds, the chili has it reversed.  Either way is delicious but the sauce over the curds is better!

Many restaurants here offer their version of poutine using shredded cheese.  Technically, that is not poutine even though it is quite delicious.  The best version we found used a shredded three blend cheese and called the dish ugly fries.  The reason for this variation is despite poutine being so popular, finding cheese curds in smaller communities is rather difficult.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

Learning new skills is always a good idea especially when you are a prepper or even just concerned over current events or even just because.  I've been making easy soft cheeses like yogurt, farmers and ricotta for quite some time.  I even tried my hand at making cream cheese that came out very close to store bought.  So I decided that branching out from making simple cheeses might be rather interesting.

The first rule of thumb with cheesemaking is to use the best milk possible.  Unfortunately, all of our milk is pasteurized but after a bit of experimentation, I found a brand that gave rather good results.  If you try cheesemaking, keep that in mind.  One brand may work better for you than another.

Fresh mozzarella cheese is not difficult to make but there are two steps where the process can fail:  at the curd stage and at the stretch stage.   Other necessary ingredients are rennet, citric acid and non-iodized salt.  A thermometer is essential as different stages require different temperatures.  It's important to take that stage to that temperature and no further.  I also found a good pair of heavy vinyl gloves quite useful because forming a ball for stretching involves putting your hands into rather hot whey.

For fresh eating, the mozzarella cheese can be stored in whey and refrigerated for an hour.  For longer storage, rinse in a cold water bath the store for upto 3 days in the refrigerator.  The mozzarella cheese will shred easier after a day and it does freeze nicely for later use.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Fresh Baked Bread

There has been such a focus on sourdough bread throughout 2020.  Understandably so given some could not find yeast anywhere then the flour supply started drying up.  We have not had that problem.  I buy yeast in 1 - 2 lb packages.  It stores well as packaged or if you are concerned, in the freezer.

Bread was one of the first things I learned to bake way back when I was knee high to a grasshopper!  Pictured is the very same bread recipe results I learned then.  It is still a family favourite!

Fresh baked bread is a need and in trying times it is a comfort food.  The aroma of bread baking is such a comfort!  Psychologically, this aroma soothes yet tantalizes.  It's incredibly inexpensive and relativity easy to make.  Even at today's prices, a loaf of bread will cost about 30 cents if that unless you are using more expensive flours that may drive the price up to about 40 cents per loaf.  

Now, here's the beauty of making bread.  We've had a very trying 2020 and 2021 really isn't much better.  Working the dough, kneading the dough, punching the dough, shaping the dough and finally seeing the results of what you did is healing.  It reduces stress and that is a very good thing!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Steak Pizza

Our weather in southwestern Ontario tends to be not as harsh as the rest of Canada but we still see subzero temperatures and a fair amount of snowfall each year.  That does not deter us or many in our region from outdoor grilling.  The grill is typically very close to the back or patio door, within an easy shovelling distance if need be.  Our grill is under a soon to be enclosed roof on the deck making it a three season room.

The weather was unseasonably warm so we grilled rib steaks.  Now, these were quite large steaks at an inch and a half thick as hubby does not like grilling thin steaks.  We buy our beef in bulk so the abattoir does a custom cut for our meat.  He likes his steak rare while I like mine medium rare but on occasion will eat rare.  

The real focus of this meal was the lightly seasoned rib steaks.  We served them with campstyle potatoes and a Caprese salad.  The sweet basil is homegrown mainly hydroponically and in the Aerogarden.  I currently have several basil plants on the go and honestly, you can never have enough basil!  

Campstyle potatoes is a rather simple, versatile dish always made in cast iron usually with potatoes and onions but sometimes mushrooms.  Cast iron gives the perfect caramelization for this dish!

I know many will think this funny but we always have left-over steak.  That's just the nature of the beast.  On the other hand, we love cooking once but getting two or more different meals out of what we cook.  We try very hard to minimize food waste so lef-overs are used within a couple of days or froze for later use.

Left-over steak can be used in so many ways.  One of our favourites is as a sandwich in pita bread.  This time I made sourdough flatbreads for steak pizzas.  These were a bit of a spin on the Margherita pizzas.   Toppings included red onion, sweet basil, fresh tomato, steak and of course lots mozzarella cheese.  The end result was a delicious meal with very little effort.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Full Sourdough Bread

Honestly, I think 2020 was the year of sourdough bread.  Many folks with extra time on their hands turned to baking bread and sourdough was the choice likely because finding yeast was difficult to find.  Within a couple of weeks, stores were sold out of the packets of yeast.  The larger 1 lb and 2 lb packages of yeast I buy were suddenly unavailable at the warehouse stores and online.  Folks who couldn't find yeast turned to sourdough.

Sourdough bread is almost an art form right from the starter with its own lingo like percent hydration, stretch and fold, lame, tang and etc.  Many lump any bread made with a sourdough starter as sourdough even if they added yeast, sugar or other ingredients.  A true sourdough contains only: starter, flour, water, and salt.  There are some very fundamental differences between a yeast bread and a true sourdough bread.

  1. Yeast bread are kneaded to form a smooth dough.  Sourdough is sticky, so it is stretched then folded onto itself every 30 minutes until it holds it shape (about 2-4 hours).
  2. Yeast bread is allowed to rise, punched down, shaped then proofed before baking for a total time of about 4 hours if that.  Sourdough is allowed autolyse (about 30 min) after mixing, then the stretched and folded, before being placed in a banneton and allowed to ferment for at least 12 hours but no more than 24 hours.  The final proof is after the slow bulk ferment that can take a few hours before the dough is ready to bake.
  3. Yeast breads do not require extra moisture when baking so any baking pan or sheet can be used depending on your desired outcome.  Sourdough bread is either baked in a covered Dutch oven or on a baking sheet with a pan of water on the rack below.
  4. Yeast breads start to finish take 3-4 hours.  Sourdough bread takes 24 - 30 hours.



Friday, April 09, 2021

Double Cheeseburger Bread Bowl

Bread bowls are simply a loaf of bread or larger buns that have been hollowed out to form an edible vessel for serving dishes like stews, chowders, chili, dips and so much more.  They are a lovely, rustic way to present these types of dishes.  Sourdough with it's delightful tang and firmer texture is perfect for bread bowls. 

I hollowed out a full boule of sourdough bread for the Double Cheeseburger Bread Bowl.  Then I lightly seasoned extra lean ground been and divided to make two thin patties about 8" diameter.  I baked the patties but they could have been fried.  The first layer consisted of two cheeses, a burger patty, bacon, sauteed mushrooms and onions, spinach and tomato slices.  I repeated that layer to create a second layer carefully tucking everything into the bowl.  Then I put the top back on and wrapped in foil, placed a weight on top and let it rest for 30 minutes.   I removed the foil* and baked at 350°F for 25 minutes.

The end result was a huge tasty double cheeseburger in a unique presentation.  There was enough for 6 healthy servings!  This bread bowl would be ideal for a smaller get together and work equally well on the grill as in the oven.

My Notes:  Overall I was quite pleased with the results but I would *leave the foil on while baking.  From start to finish this meal took about 80 minutes so it's definitely not a quick meal! 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Sourdough Daily Bread

We are incredibly blessed to live in Southwestern Ontario, right in the midst of some of the richest and most productive farmland in Canada.  We are also within a stone's throw of the Great Lakes and several connecting tributaries making locally caught fresh fish available year round.  The area is home to orchards, mushroom farms, cheese factories, flour mills, salt mines, maple syrup bushes, apiarys, and multitude of food producers.  We don't buy meat at a grocery store; we buy a cow from a farmer who takes it to an abattoir for processing.  The vast majority of our food is bought directly from several local farmers or producers.  Essentially, we can acquire most of our food locally grown or produced within a 100 mile radius of our home.  So we have been locavores before it ever became a movement.

Unless you live close to a bakery, the best bread you can get is homemade.  I don't even know the cost of bread in the grocery stores!  However, the most basic homemade bread is made with flour, salt, yeast (or starter) and water so very, very inexpensive even using higher end flours.  Moving up, you might use an egg, milk or milk powder, sugar, honey and any number of seasonings or additives like onion, cheese, raisins and etc. that increase the cost but only by pennies.  Aside of the cost savings, you are getting a more nutritious, higher fiber loaf of bread without preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.  If you make sourdough or sprouted grain breads, you are getting an easier to digest bread.

Our Daily Bread is stone ground organic flour from 1847 Stone Milling, a family run mill outside of Fergus, Ontario.   The McKeown's began by grinding small amounts of flour for their own personal use.  They brought a stone burr flour mill from Austria in 2013 and now produce a variety of high quality flours for their customers.  Their customer service is stellar with fast and friendly shipping! 

Daily Bread is made without fortification, bleaching agents or levelers.  This is their all-purpose flour ground from a blend of hard red wheat and soft red wheat to create a perfectly balanced protein level for everyday baking.  The buttery smooth texture has sweet notes of nougat and subtle notes of Brazil nut.   It can be used in place of unbleached white flour in most recipes.  In fact, I would say all recipes to be honest.  Pie crusts would be a bit darker but also more nutritious if made with Daily Bread flour.

I used Daily Bread flour to make a loaf of sourdough bread.  This flour did not disappoint - such a beautiful flour to work with!  The flour itself is silky smooth.  The dough came together nicely and developed into a smooth dough quickly.  The bread had a nice rise with a bit smaller aeroles than sourdough made with unbleached flour.  Unlike breads made with  regular whole wheat, the texture was quite smooth and lovely!  As you can see, it is a bit darker.  Of note, hubby normally doesn't like a full whole wheat bread but he loved this bread. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Issue With Recipes

Back when I first started blogging, including a recipe was very important.  That has changed.  Why?  Despite a plethora of recipe books, you can never duplicate that recipe unless you have the exact same ingredients, environmental conditions and methods AND even then you might not be able to because everyone has their own little shortcuts, tricks and methods that are not always disclosed in the recipe.

Case in point, I shared a clone recipe with a friend for a particular dish.  One of the items is no longer available and another is no where near what it was 30 years ago when I created the recipe.  So even I could not make that recipe with the ingredients available now.  Another problem is variety of fruit or vegetable used and the fact those from even 20 years ago are not the same as today's varieties.   Adding to that is for many of my recipes I use homemade versions of store bought ingredients like mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and so much more.  Then there are the regional differences like flours and differences from country to country.  From experience, dairy products in our corner of Ontario taste very different than those in Florida.  Adding to that, if you use commercially produced ingredients even something as simple as shortening changes usually in favour of the company making more money.  I do a a lot of soap making.  Back in 1998 one of the favourite ingredients was Crisco.  The formula has changed to the point the SAP values have changed.  The new Crisco formula uses palm oil whereas the old did not.  I don't use Crisco for soap making but that is important to know if you do.  Oh and right now Canada has an issue with butter staying hard at room temperature.  There's theories as to why but nothing confirmed.  So if you want room temperature butter for a dish, you just might be out of luck.All of this adds to the final product.

So at best, we as home cooks must come up with substitutions and tweaking based on personal experience and knowledge.  This is what keeps cooking interesting and sharpens your skills.  Like a willow tree, you have to be strong enough to bend.   Recipes are simply a starting point, they are not carved in stone!  This is what goes into what I made but your dish will not not should it be exactly the same.  I urge everyone to keep a cooking journal and honestly, do not get too attached to any one particular ingredient.  Know that ingredients change or become unavailable.  Be flexible!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough discard is inevitable with maintaining a sourdough starter.  It is never ending but can be controlled or reduced if necessary.  There are a lot of great ways to use up sourdough dough discard.  Basically work it into any recipe using water and flour.  I don't even measure when using in certain recipes but others are a bit more precise.

Sourdough crackers are a perfect way to use up sourdough discard.  This recipe only takes three ingredients, has no rise time and the dough will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.  So you can always have a ball of dough ready for another batch.  It is also very, very versatile in that you can use any seasoning desired on top or simply sprinkle on a little sea salt.  We prefer these sourdough crackers topped with Za'tar seasoning and just a wee sprinkle of sea salt.

The secret to a good soughdough cracker is to roll the dough out to the thickness of a sesame seed.  One half of the dough will be enough to cover a 13" x 18" cookie sheet.  It's best to roll out the dough on a Silpat or parchment paper.  Once rolled, the dough is cut into the desired size.  I like using a pizza cutter for this purpose.  I also use a straight edge but that isn't necessary.  

These crackers are beyond delicious!  Don't let the thinness fool you as they are very filling.  They are a perfect snack tray item that pair nicely with a multitude of other offerings.  I made a quick snack tray using peameal bacon , freezer pickles and smoked chipotle cheese from Stonetown Artisan Cheese.  Delicious!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Sourdough Flatbread

I have two sourdough starters on the go which means about 2 cups of sourdough discard daily when fed normally.  Some folks store their sourdough starter in the refrigerator, feeding when needed.  Others feed on a reduced schedule of every third or fourth day. Sourdough discard can be reduced via micro feeding on days you won't be baking. 

An easy way to use up a bit of sourdough discard is flatbread.  Flatbreads are very versatile, easy to make and freeze well.   Each batch makes 6 nice sized flatbreads and uses a cup of sourdough discard.  These are extremely easy to make because there is no rise or proof time.  There is a 30 minute rest time before the dough is ready to be shaped into balls then rolled out.  The shape does not have to be perfect.  In fact a bit oddly shaped is part of the charm.

I roll one out, brush the top with olive oil the place oiled side down in a hot ungreased cast iron skillet.  It is hot enough to cook the flatbread without smoking.  Then I brush the now top with olive oil.  When dark marks appear on the bottom, I flip and let it cook on that side.  While that is cooking, I prepare the next one.  I remove the finished flatbread to cool in a cloth lined basket.  I continue on in this fashion until all the flatbreads are cooked.  The whole process, dough to flatbread takes about an hour.

We like using flatbreads for quick personal homemade pizzas.  Pictured is my Margherita pizza and hubby's cheese pizza.  I used home canned roasted tomato garlic pizza sauce for both pizzas.  A few days later we took a double batch of flatbreads and the fixing to friends for a pizza party.  Their kids had so much fun topping their own pizzas!


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Sourdough Starter

A sourdough starter is the basis of sourdough breads.  It is not difficult to make but it does require maintenance.  Only two ingredients are required:  flour (unbleached, whole, rye) and non-chlorinated water.  Nothing else should be added!  The vessel used needs to be large enough to allow the starter to double in size without overflowing.  A kitchen scale is highly recommended.

I have two sourdough starters on the go, both in 500 ml mason jars.  To the right in the older Crown mason jar, is my whole wheat starter.   I began with 50 g whole wheat and 50 g water (1:1) plus the weight of the jar (important when feeding).  The next day, I removed all but 25 g and fed with a 1:1 giving a final result of 1:2:2.  By Day 4 the discard can be used for other baking and I switched to a 1:3:3.  When the starter doubles in size 4 - 5 hrs after feeding it is ready to use for sourdough breads.  The discard can be used anytime.  

To the left, is a white flour starter made using sourdough starter I dehydrated circa 1999.  This demonstrates an important part of sourdough making.  Once you get a good starter going, always dehydrate some just in case the starter dies.  That way, you always have a backup source.  I currently have 454 g of the 1999 rejuvenated starter and 386 g of the whole wheat starter dried dehydrated for future use.

The fermentation process for making sourdough starter relies on wild yeast in the flour.  Rye flour has the highest wild yeast content followed by whole wheat.  White flours have the lowest wild yeast content.  You can always start with one flour then slowly shift it over to another if desired.  The liquid that forms on sourdough is the hooch.  It will have an alcohol smell and is a normal part of the process.  Simply stir it back into the starter and continue your feeding schedule.  If your starter develops a vinegar smell (also normal) it means the fermentation is occurring at too low of a temperature.  Feed the starter and move to a warmer location.  Whole wheat starters require higher maintenance.  While some put their starters and discard in the fridge if going on vacation, I don't.  A couple of days away won't hurt the starter and for longer periods of time (cottage, vacation home) I take my starter with me.  Worse case scenario, I can restart a starter from the dehydrated starter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I think 2020 easily wins the title Year of the Sourdough!  Everyone was baking sourdough breads and for good reason.  If you run out of yeast and can't get to the store but have plenty of flour on hand, within a week you can have a nice sourdough starter ready to make a wide variety of sourdough delights!  However, there is another reason to use sourdough.  It is easily digested so for those like myself not tolerating commercial breads, sourdough is very well tolerated.  If you have this problem, another bread line to try if you don't like the tang of sourdough is bread made with sprouted flours.   Of note, sprouted flours should not be used for sourdough but both are very good options.

Most folks think of sourdough artisan breads as rustic boules, often with fancy cut lines and for the most part they are.  The aeroles are large, the crust chewy and there's that unmistakable tang.  Sourdough bread does make a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich!

Keeping a sourdough starter means daily feeding that result in sourdough discard.  It's called discard because it is not active enough for bread baking but that doesn't mean you can't use it.  Some folks toss this discard while others bake other goodies with it.  I have two starters which means I have a lot of sourdough discard!  One of the ways I like to use this discard is sourdough sandwich bread.

This particular recipe uses a sourdough levain.  A levain is made using sourdough discard and other ingredients, then left to ripen for 12 hours prior to making the bread.  Unlike the sourdough artisan breads, this bread has no characteristic tang.  It's soft with small aeroles.  The only difference between the two loaves is one was brushed with butter while still hot and the other not.  I wanted to see which one we liked better.  Definitely brushed with butter was the winner!

I tested the bread by making grilled cheese sandwiches.  Mine was filled with two cheeses, swiss chard, red onions and roast beef.  Hubby's was a Monte Cristo (French toast) filled with two cheeses and roast beef slices.  Both sandwiches were amazing!  Of note, this sandwich bread has a higher longevity of close to a week in comparison to artisan sourdough bread that usually lasts three days maximum.  Any leftover sandwich bread can easily be made into croutons or bread crumbs.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Whole Wheat and White Quick Rise Breads

In March of 2020, everyone had seen the warnings and were starting to experience the onset of never ending lockdowns.  While toilet paper became a huge premium, sold out in many areas, others were turning to baking.  By the end of March, social media was inundated with pictures of home baked breads.  By mid-April the new found bakers realized that flour and yeast had also become a premium commodity.

I have baked most of our breads for so ever long, mainly due to some serious gastrointestinal issues that are related to preservatives in commercial breads, not the gluten.  Pictured are two quick rise breads - white, whole wheat.  This was a bit newer but not entirely new technique to me.  Essentially, the liquid added is quite warm which gives a kick start to the yeast.  I like to proof my breads in the microwave oven.  It's a great proofing box.  The bread is then baked in a dutch oven giving the crust a unique texture.  While these do look like sourdough they aren't because there is no sourdough starter used and the rise is solely dependent on added yeast.  However, for those having issues with commercial breads, the white only has: wheat, yeast, salt and water while the whole wheat has : wheat, yeast, salt, local honey and water.

The rise in both breads was lovely with well formed aveoli.  The crumb was quite lovely as well.  The flavour was delightful.  I always pair local honey with whole wheat to give  bit better rise.  The flavours just meld together so nicely.  Both breads make for amazing grilled cheese sandwiches the next day.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the easiest most versatile foods you can make.  I have two yogurt makers but technically you don't need any special equipment.  You need milk and yogurt starter (either plain yogurt with active culture or yogurt from you last batch).  That's it!

I made yogurt.  The "yog" and tang of the yogurt depends on the set time.  Once the yogurt is made it can be used as is or stir in jam, honey or vanilla for a homemade version of flavoured yogurts.  Now here is where it gets really interesting.  The plain yogurt can be strained for about 2 hours to give you Greek yogurt and whey.  The whey is amazing to cook with.  Greek yogurt also doubles as a sour cream substitute.   If you strain the yogurt for about 5 hours, you get yogurt cheese.  This is very similar to a soft cream cheese perfect for topping bagels.  If you strain the yogurt for 24 hours then press in cheese cloth for 7 days, you get a harder, sharper cream cheese that is very much like store bought cream cheese.  

I usually use 5 cups of whole milk to make basic plain yogurt.  From there I process it as desired to meet our needs.  I use an ancient Salton yogurt maker and new Dash yogurt maker.  The Salton make individual cup while the Dash makes a bulk batch.  If you find a Salton yogurt maker without the cups, 250 ml (1 c) mason jars will work. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Jalapeño Garlic Roast Beef

Our slowcooker is one of the least utilized kitchen appliances second only to the microwave oven.  I much prefer using a stovetop pressure cooker to the slowcooker.  On the other hand, one of our kids uses the slowcooker a few times a week.  A slowcooker is also a very popular kitchen appliance at our vacation home in the south.  It's all about what is available, what fits your needs and what you get used to. 

jalapeño garlic roast beef

In February of 2020, I decided to use the slowcookers a bit more frequently.  My primary use had been soups and stews.  So, I lightly seared a rib roast then put in the slowcooker with stock, sliced jalapeño peppers, garlic cloves  on low for about 7 hours.   When finished, I thinly sliced the roast as it didn't shred nicely.  The flavour was quite lovely though with a nice heat, perfect for serving over rice.  

The meat warmed nicely the following day for buns.  I froze about a 500 ml bag to see how it would freeze.  I am curious as to whether this could be canned.  As far as safety, there isn't an issue but flavour and texture may change. 


A rump or chuck roast would have shredded better.  There was nice heat but was in need of a bit more depth of flavour.  Next time I will add tomato stock or whey to help tenderize the meat.  Other possibilities are onion, bayleaf, Worchestershire sauce or red wine.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Home Canned Venison Chili and Pulled Pork

homecanned chili and pulled pork

Sometimes there's this nagging little feeling that something is not quite right.  In February of 2020, I was in high gear canning, dehydrating and prepping.  February is my normal month for canning meats, stocks, soups and dry beans.  While I don't can a lot of meats or soups, it's nice to have a few jars on hand as convenience foods.    

I made a large batch (16 qt) of venison chili.  Part was for a couple of dinners, part was froze and the remainder canned (4 x 500 ml).  That's the perfect size for chili cheese fries for two!  At the same time, I had the slowcooker going with a small batch of pulled pork for sandwiches and canning.  Both meats were pressure canned in the same load rather than run the canner twice.  This is possible when canning like products in the same size jar so processing times are the same.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

New Sidebar Section: Order Online

Last year changed the way many of us shopped.  We didn't make a lot of changes other than pretty much eliminated shopping in a grocery store.  This was not a huge adjustment for us given that we normally buy directly from growers and food producers.  We buy a few items at the grocery store as needed more so through the winter months.  Our milk and local organic produce are now delivered weekly.  We buy some cheeses, teas, coffee, flours and specialty food items online. 

I added a new sidebar section, Order Online.  Some are places I've dealt with for years and a few newly discovered that provide an excellent online food shopping experience.  I am not affiliated with them nor do I receive any compensation.  All have top quality products with very reasonable shipping as well as free shipping if buying over a certain amount.  Shipping time for all has been quite fast at only a few days.  

Be sure to check that section from time to time for new additions!

An Update and Return to Blogging

My goodness!  There have been quite a few changes since I last blogged in January of 2017. 

I hope everyone is happy and healthy, surviving all the changes 2020 brought us.  A little over a year ago, ours lives went into limbo.  We were just settling back into our routine after being in Florida and looking forward to our return in May.  Unfortunately, that May trip didn't happen.  Like many, I turned to cooking for comfort.  I found several really good resources for online food shopping that I will share with you. 

Stay tuned, stay safe!