here and there

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Backyard Gardening and Harvest Time

In the Calgary Herald Thanksgiving weekend edition, there was an article that made me leap with joy, "Harvest Time in your Backyard".   Christina Ryan makes me laugh as she writes about harvest and "acting strange".  Yes, I too snuff my nose at other products at this time of the year than those that  come out of a local garden, especially my garden.. I laughed at my son who after biting one of my garden fresh carrots, eagerly asked his wife to try the carrot and yes, he did get a very strange look!

Every year I plant a small garden with great expectations. Something wonderful about planning, buying news seeds and planting in the spring, then waiting for the garden to come to life.  How exciting was to see the arugula seeds that I bought this winter in New Jersey come to life.  The seeds grew vigorously but the larger they grew the more pungent the smell became. How can I best describe the smell, skunk like !  We certainly do not experience this smell in the packages of baby arugula, although there is a bitterness to the leaves.

Since living in the foothills, every spring I have planted tomatoes with great expectations. Once again only a hand full of sun ripen tomatoes was harvested this fall. Not to mention, a few of my ripen tomatoes in the potted pots on my deck were eaten by my wheaten terrier.  The evenings in Calgary are just too cool to have a bomber crop of tomatoes. 

Calgary growing season is known to be a short one. My winter garden experience did not fair too well,  I eagerly planted an assortment of seeds based on researching this and also remembering my father's success in fall planting of radishes and lettuce in a sandy sunny area.  I planted carrots, peas, beets, spinach, lettuce , only to have sparse growth of beets, carrots, spinach and lettuce.  I remember seeing our husky lying in the garden and also digging in that area, which could have caused this strange germination.  The problem with this planting I found it was that it was difficult to weed before the plants germinated and by then the weeds had taken over. 

Most of my perennials herbs have been thriving well for the last couple of year, the Greek Oregano, Thyme, winter onion, chives, Sage  and French Tarragon.  For some reason my thyme plants did not survive last winter. 

I did preserve the French tarragon in white wine for the Bernaise sauce that my husband like to make for steak. 

The Rosemary and Lavender that thrived in the summer on my patio are now in my Kitchen. 

For some reason, I have not been successful growing Dill Weed in this province. This year, determined to have fresh dill and not have to buy huge bundles of dill, I sprinkled all my packages of left over Dill Weed seeds and still had very scrawny,  stunted  plants. 

However, I did preserve the fresh dill from the farmer's market in butter.  The dill stayed beautifully fresh and green in the butter  for sauces or for simply tossing potatoes or vegetables.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Health Benefits of vegetables


A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... And YES, science now shows carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All of the research shows tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. We now know walnuts help develop more than three (3) dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and many more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet, the body pulls it from the bones, thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Avocadoes, Eggplant and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs.

Today's research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight, and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? It takes exactly nine (9) months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the mobility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries

Oranges , Grapefruits, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like the body's cells.

Today's research shows onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes. A working companion, Garlic, also helps eliminate waste materials and dangerous free radicals from the body.

Spaghetti Squash

One of Fall Harvest delights is Spaghetti Squash! I simply love it plain as a side dish!   First, cut the squash in half and rub with Olive oil.  Place the half of the squash in a pan with a bit of water and cover.  Then microwaved the Squash for 10 minutes on High.. Using a folk, pull the strands of the cooked squash thus resembles spaghetti.  In this case, I did dress up the Spaghetti Squash.  I added shrimp to the mixture, drop a raw egg into the centre and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and baked this in my toaster oven for about 15 minutes or until egg was cooked!   Delicious! And so filling!

Birthday wishes, Appetizers: Ham filled Mushrooms & Bacon Wrapped Prunes

Today is my Godmother's birthday as is my Cousin's.

In  going through some of my recipes I came across a recipe that my aunt had sent me years ago.

Ham filled mushroom caps which I thought would be perfect to do to celebrate their birthdays

Alais my super duber Electrolux stove has locked it's oven door since Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, although it is under warranty, I am still waiting for someone to come and check the controls!

In doing the recipe, I would modify it to use lean  ground pork and some JalapeƱos in the mixture.  As soon as I can I will post a picture of this recipe

I have made the Bacon Wrapped Prunes, but have never soaked the prunes in white wine. What a delightful twist on this recipe.  I know the recipes I received from my Aunt are her favorite recipes and have been tested many times!

The wonderful picture below of my cousin taken last year, shows her resting between Blogs.  Her last blog was Scorpios and Gold Star dessert

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things you may have not known

Some times emails are most interesting . Here is one I received this morning from my Aunt's brother in law, Jack that is worth reading!

You've probably been ignoring this feature

Most aluminum foil boxes have press-in tabs that secure the roll in place, so you don't have worry about it flying out every time you rip off a sheet.

You've been dispensing Tic Tacs the hard way.

You know how when you violently shake a container of Tic Tacs into your palm it seems as though you always end up with zero or seven? Avoid that altogether by letting a mint gently glide into the tiny lid crevice

You haven't been using ketchup cups to their full potential.Instead of grabbing multiple cups of ketchup, simply pull apart at the edges for twice the space.

Chinese takeout containers are actually made to fold out into plates.

The containers actually are meant to unfold into a makeshift plate, which you can easily reassemble into a box for storing leftovers.

Greek yogurt containers are meant to be folded in half.

Chances are you’ve been scooping the toppings with your spoon onto the yogurt.

But, have you realized, the topping holder folds over, so you can pour the toppings DIRECTLY ON TOP?

You've probably been placing toilet seat covers in the wrong direction.
The flap is meant to be placed toward the front. This prevents the agony of sitting down on a toilet seat, only to realize you've dragged the cover down into the bowl.

Soda tabs double as straw holders.

Turn the tab around so that it acts as holder that can stop the straw from raising out of the can as the soda fizzes.

You probably don't realize it, but your pots come with built-in spoon rests.

Soft-drink lids can double as coasters.

Monday, October 7, 2013


Talked to my Aunt yesterday and asked her how her day was going?
To which she replied, "I have a chicken in the oven, need to steam some broccoli and make a small salad.  I have a pan of brownies baked!  David is coming for dinner! "

Her son and daughter in law have moved in a small northern Ontario town but drive in everyday and she has them over for lunch.. or more like a dinner. 
Aunty was certainly in good spirits and says she'll miss this when they both retire in June and are living in their new cottage that they built at the lake.

I got off the phone and envied my cousin and the wonderful meals and times with his Mom! I wondered if he appreciated this time with his mom.
Here is the Brownie recipe she gave to mine at my last visit before she moved out of her house to an apartment.. As she said it is "very good and makes a lot" 
Mix together
6 eggs
3 T  instant coffee
2 T  vanilla
2 1/4 c sugar

Mix together and melt over simmering water
6 oz  chocolate
1 lb butter
1 lb semi sweet chocolate

Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture

Mix together in another bowl
1 c flour
1 tsp Baking powder

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate and egg mixture

Dust with flour
3 cups chopped walnut
12 oz of chocolate chip

Add the dusted chips and nuts to the batter

Pour into prepared cookie sheet
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350

Nostalgic look at a Country Kitchen at Fall Harvest- High Bush Cranberry Jelly

Fall is such a beautiful season full of colors and wonderful smells from the kitchen. The theme for the Canadian Food Project, preserving is full of wonderful memories of a Country Kitchen during the harvest season. 

The Country Kitchen had a strip counter and a sink with a hand pump at the side.  Water was pumped from a cistern for clean up. Drinking water was hauled from a well. The kitchen table was the centre of all the preparation of the food, much like the island of todays’ kitchens.   Preserving of vegetables was a necessity as Northern Rural Manitoba was only fully electrified by the end of the 60th. I do remember the ice house that was in a shaded area in the woods next to the house.  Ice was hauled from the frozen river in the early spring and covered with sawdust.  A wood stove was a source of heat and food preparation. 

Fall was such a busy season with the beginning of a school year for the children and the harvest on the farm. Yes, I remember the threshing machine during harvest on our farm.  The stooks on the fields, the hay racks and the thresher in full gear.  How lunches were brought to the fields for the men, sandwiches made from freshly baked bread, piping hot soup in pots and coffee in mason jars. Large slices of fruit pie finished the meals.  

Harvest time in Saskatchewan

Harvest time on my Uncle Fred's Farm

Lunch time -Uncle John right side, white hat

At the same time the garden was also ready for harvest.  Tomatoes, beans, corn and beets were canned along with a vegetable mixture for soups. Jars of a variety of pickles, dill cucumbers, dill carrots and even dill turnips.  Jars of relishes, Chow Chow, Chili Sauce  (similar to today's Salsa without the hot peppers), Horseradish and Beet Pickles, Bread and Butter pickles, Ice Water Pickles, 14 day pickles, and my favorite Giardinere pickles ( a mixture of cauliflower, red pepper, celery and silver-skin onions).  The variety of pickles depend on how many cucumbers one had from that year's garden.

Nellie's Garden

Favorite recipes of preserving were eagerly shared among the rural folk.  I have found in my mom’s recipes, pieces of paper with hand written recipes from different friends or relatives.

To this list, my mom would also preserve BC fruit when in season, pears, plums, apricots and peaches.  Whole Crabapples with their stems were canned with whole cloves.  My father preferred a bowl of canned fruit to any dessert.  

Jars of jelly and jam also filled her root cellar. Jars of Raspberry Jelly, Crabapple Jelly, Plum Jam and Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam, all from her garden. One of my grandmother favorite recipe for making Rhubarb Jam is found in the Joy Of Cooking CookBook named Spiced Rhubarb Conserve but minus the cinnamon hearts. This recipe is very similar to Chutney with spices but without the onions or garlic. 

The large number of cabbage picked were made into sauerkraut in a large clay crock with a circular rock that fitted the top of the crock.  Leaves for cabbage rolls were also fermented in the same crock.  To this list, one must think of the storage of potatoes, carrots and beets.  

How can one not marvel at this list of accomplishments.  The garden not only had to be dug, but the vegetables washed and readied for canning, along with the washing and the sterilization of all the jars and glass lids. Glass lids with rubber rings were the normal at this time.  Although, this was such a busy time, it was such a happy time as one benefited from that year's crops!

This long list of preserving was along side other tasks such as  preparing meals for the the threshers, along with other farm duties like milking cows.  Yes, not to mention, most farm women had children to care for, along with hauling  threshed grain to the elevator or running to get a broken part for the machinery.

The country kitchen was filled with smells of freshly baked pies and loafs of bread for the Threshers’ meals along with steam from the canning.  Cleaned 2 quart jars and quart jars were lined up to be sterilized with hot boiling water and filled.  Baskets of washed vegetables waited to be preserved along with stalks of fresh dill. Garlic and Onions were spread out on the veranda drying out in the sun.  Some of the garlic will be replanted in the fall for harvest  the next summer.

As a young wife, I did take up preserving with great zest, canning BC fruits, making jellies and jams along with a variety pickles.  

Experimenting with my mom’s recipe as her bountiful garden supplied fresh vegetables for me and others.  I remember making Zucchini Jelly using a jello package, a recipe that was passed around in my circle of friends but had to be kept in a refrigerator as the gelatin in the jello would dry up if not refrigerated. Yes, this did happen to me! 

My relishes which I was so pleased with, where not something my city born husband “relished” and much to my disappointment preferred the green dye Heinz Sweet Relish!

Recently I have began canning but my supplies comes from a local farm’s market where most of the fruit and peppers come from the Osoyoos area in BC and the vegetables from Saskatoon Farm outside of Calgary.   Certainly my supply is more manageable than the bountiful garden of my Mom’s.  Although one of the beauties of living in a rural area is that the over supply from one’s garden is generously shared with others who may not have a bumper crop in something.

High Bush Cranberry Jelly, Tequila Sunset Pepper Jelly and Merlot & Apple Jelly
One of the main changes in preserving in the last decade is in not using paraffin wax as a seal for jellies or jams after the hot mixture is poured into the jars.  Jellies and jams are now preserved in a water bath by boiling the jars  with the jelly or jam for 10 to 15 minutes.

High Bush CranberryJelly, Raspberry Jam and Tequila Sunset Pepper Jelly
Even pickles are recommended to be water bathed.  However, I have stored a lot of my pickles in the refrigerator without processing them in a water bath. Yes, my refrigerator gets very full in the fall.  I do a variety of dill pickles, such as dill carrots, dill beans and dill cucumbers.  The green beans are from my garden as I plant Scarlet Runner Beans. My favorite pickle is an assortment of hot peppers as they vary in color.   So pretty to look at and make a lovely gift. Pickled beets with robust spice like Star Anise is a winter treat with  Roast Beef.

To me making jelly out of High Bush Cranberry represents all the beauty of the fall season and brings a flood of memories in picking and preserving this berry along with memories of my Mom’s country kitchen

This year’s supply of this red berry with a flat pit awaits me in a deep freeze in Northern Manitoba.  My brother picked them before the Black Bears on the farm got to them! 

High Bush Cranberry picked this year in Northern Manitoba

Over ripen berries
A mixture of unripe and ripe berries 

The High Bush Cranberries are best picked before they turn completely red.  High Bush Cranberries that are unripe and before frost contain the most pectin.   The berries are very high in pectin and produce a beautiful red clear jelly.  

Although my father loved these berries canned whole in Quart Jars, I was surprised to see a blog on using these berries for High Bush Cranberry pie because of the small flat pit in the berry.

My mom made the jelly without using any pectin.  It was not uncommon to see bags of cookied berries hanging to strain the juice over night. Take caution not to squeeze the bags to speed the process up as your jelly will not be as clear.


To make jelly without added pectin, cranberries should be picked in the yellow stage when they are just turning red. To prepare juice, place cranberries in a Dutch oven. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until berries are soft. Strain through a jelly bag. Add 1 cup (250 mL) sugar for each 1 cup (250 mL) of juice. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil and boil rapidly until jelly stage is reached. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary. Pour into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch (6 mm) headspace. Wipe jar rims thoroughly. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

The recipe I used and followed is from the package of Certo as was recommended by an elderly woman in my home town.  She suggested that I follow the Sour Cherry recipe found in the Certo dry crystal package. I prefer the dry crystals to the liquid as you get more jars of jelly and I find it less messy to work with.   However, the two products are not interchangeable and recipes are specific to each product.

Cherry Jelly


from the Kraft Kitchen
8 cups stemmed sour cherries
1/2 cup water
4-1/2 cups sugar
1 box Certo Pectin Crystals

make it

CRUSH cherries, one layer at a time (do not pit). Press pulp through a sieve to remove pits. Place pulp in large saucepan; add water. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover. Simmer 10 min., stirring occasionally. Place three layers of damp cheesecloth or jelly bag in large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into cheesecloth. Tie cheesecloth closed; hang and let drip into bowl without squeezing until dripping stops.

MEASURE exactly 3-1/2 cups prepared juice into large saucepan. Add pectin crystals; mix well. Bring to full rolling boil on high heat. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir and skim foam for 5 min.
POUR immediately into warm sterilized jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of rims. Seal while hot with sterilized two-piece lids with new centres. Let stand at room temperature until set.

Improvising and using a large jar to strain the juice.
Since I had been making Tequila Sunset Pepper Jelly and the bottle of Tequila was on the counter, I added a tablespoon to one of the High Bush Cranberry Jelly.  I must say the flavor of adding tequila to the high bush cranberry jelly was awesome and I  would do it again!
Open Bath Canning
After writing this blog, I realized the richness of my experience in growing up in a rural area and that it was up to me to pass this knowledge from my Mom to my children.  If I expect my family to continue this tradition of preserving, I must show them by example.  
I was pleased that my daughter after receiving a bag of sun ripen tomatoes last Friday  canned tomato sauce to be used for soups, spaghetti and casseroles.  Her joy in the finished product assures me that this is just  the beginning.

My daughter's first success in preserving tomatoes