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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.]

Popular Posts

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.