Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yarn Along { Log Cabin }

Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?

I'm still knitting away at the noro log cabin blanket that a bunch of the girls from our knitting group decided to do together. (We're pretty relaxed about our pace on this, as we're all going at different speeds.)

I, for example, have just finished square number 5, yet one girl is almost finished her second blanket. She's speedy, and motivated by anxiety inducing toddlers. (what is it about toddlers that do that to us?)

I'll be going on a road trip soon, back home to visit family in Kansas. I need to stock up on more Noro before I go, and maybe i'll catch up with her a little bit.

And, why yes! That is colourway number 319 pictured above! The wool I love so much that I had nightmares about losing it.

I picked up the Soupmakers Kitchen a couple of weeks ago while doing some grocery shopping at sam's club in Niagara Falls NY, of all places. (We make a trip at least once a month. The price difference in gas and milk alone make the trip worth it.)
I flipped through the book quickly and was instantly drawn to one traditional soup that looked amazing.
(Please note. I could live on soup alone if I had to; Or if my family would even allow it. They usually start to get bitter about 4 days in...)
As I turned the pages, I realized that almost all of the recipes looked amazing, and all of them use traditional, old country type methods for the broths, and even the noodles. There isn't one mention of a bouillon cube. And the book is loaded with valuable tips on making different stocks and noodles.
And all the different broths and ingredients (and their appropriate cooking times) mentioned can be used for an unlimited number of soups that you can make up on whim without the use of any of the recipes at all.

My favorite part is that it doesn't read like a trendy food channel chef wrote it, but rather, someone's Grandma, who values real food and tradition. (and even the photographs of the food being prepared don't feature typical "hand model" hands, but the experienced, wise hands of an older woman. I love this.)

As much as I'm enjoying summer and all it has to offer, I'm eager for autumn; when I can cozy up in a sweater (maybe hand knit?), open the windows and smell the crisp and falling leaves, and try a few of these soup recipes out!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

{ A Peek Inside Heirloom Tomatoes }

Because all of these things are not like the other...

Each one has a completely unique flavour from the next, and make regular, boring, waxy grocery store GMO tomatoes taste like, well...boring, tasteless tomatoes!
It's such a pity that we can't find these on the grocery store shelves. It makes me wonder what other varieties of other fruits and vegetables many people and especially children will never know or taste. 

 I'm sorry I can't show you a bigger, better beefsteak. We have many, but we ate them all. 

And then we ate this one too.

All it took was a few bites before the Mr. forgave me for turning most of our yard into a garden. That, and you know, not having to mow...
 I promise i'll post an update with a better beefsteak once I pick the huge ones that are still on the vine and just starting to ripen.

This brandywine is rather misshapen too, which is one of the hilarious perks of heirloom veggies. They aren't uniform, they all have their own personality. They refuse to conform! And even the underdogs have their own hidden talents and tricks. 

And all the other tomatoes out there know and respect that.

Even their insides are different. Very different. 

Beefsteak (Do not be fooled. There's no beef involved here, folks. If you listen closely though, you might here the occasional moo because he's got a good sense of humour.) 

Your beef burger might as well be just plain naked without him.

Brandywine. A trusty, delicious and hearty, loyal and dependable friend who's always there, no matter how many times you forget to water her soil or feed her snacks like coffee grounds and eggshells. 

Pink Ox Heart (again, no beef. But pretty shape, and a great paste tomato.)

 He can be a bit of a wiener and not want to ripen without the most perfect of conditions, and the slugs will pick on him first before attempting the other tomatoes. But if you start to tell him who's boss and to put on his big boy pants, he'll start to stand up for himself.

Black Russian 
Where do I start with this one? This is the guy who couldn't decide if he was a cherry tomato or a regular tomato. He's small, but not small enough to just pop in your mouth or eat on salads. But he certainly isn't large. you need about 4 slices to cover a standard sandwich.
 It's like he said "well, put a fork in me, i'm done growing now-Because heck, ladies i'm tasty! So deal with it". 

And we do.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin I think God designed these to be eaten like an apple, with black pepper and balsamic vinegar, of course. 

And to think, there are so many more out there. The thought is overwhelming.

If you can find one, I urge you to visit a farmers' market, and go see what real food tastes like. Sample some heirloom fruits and veggies today.  Surprise your taste buds. They might, after all make life long bosom buddies.

P.S to the "anonymous" lady who messaged me earlier this week, and told me to "stop talking about tomatoes already" and said some naughty, and not very creative words, 

this post is dedicated to you. 

Monday, August 19, 2013


Our weekend was spent almost entirely in the kitchen.
First a Saturday kitchen overhaul with the help of my practical thinking Mom, and an annoyed Reuben (who just really wanted to play a board game) and a chocolate chip bribed Lotte who spent most of the time colouring at (on) the kitchen table.
She also occasionally sampled her crayons when we weren't looking.

While Mark and Zeke participated in their wheelchair basketball team's fundraiser, the rest of us unloaded cupboards, piled dishes and cans in laundry baskets, filled canisters and spice jars until we were yawning.

I invited my mom over for breakfast that day, and told her my plans for rearranging the kitchen (because things just weren't working out the way that they were) and she dove in and ended up staying until 7 pm helping me.
She came to two conclusions that day...

1. I have way too many interests. (Duh. Where does she think I get that from?)
2. Drinks, spices and condiments are my downfall . (Again, duh, Mom. I'm your kid.)

Sunday afternoon was spent actually using my newly arranged kitchen (which I thoroughly enjoyed. I can tell we will be good friends) in making and bottling Crab Apple Red Pepper Jelly, Spiced Tomato Chutney, finishing up my plethora of Sauerkraut, and finally, finishing this morning with bottling our Kombucha. Phew.

There were Bacon Tomato sandwiches to keep us happy and to keep extra cooking to a minimum, and a new (free!) lawn swing to take fun, short breaks on. I plan on spending a lot more time out on that swing, once I tackle this last box of crab apples!
or as Mark enjoys calling them, Crub-Upples. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

✻ Friday Food Fair ✻ {Chinese Dumplings}

Once upon a time when I was quite young, my parents were shopping in an Asian market. They ran into a very friendly Cantonese couple who explained how to make some foods that my parents were curious about-and then invited our family over to watch and learn how to make dumplings.
At least this is how I *think* we met them. I need to check and verify that-we were always meeting new people at the time and the majority of them were I could be confused.

Regardless, by some happening, we were invited to this couple's home for dumplings. 
The woman's mother lived with them as well, so when we arrived, they had quite an assembly line going to make these dumplings. 
One person would roll the dough, one person would fill, and the next person would pinch the dumplings shut and drop them into boiling water.

I don't know exactly how many dumplings were made that night, but I know my sister and I left with our tiny tummies bursting. I think that was also the night that I declared my life long love for chinkiang vinegar, a delicious, dark, thick and malty vinegar, which is what they had used as the dipping sauce.

They sent us home with the recipe and they've been a family favorite ever since.
They're easier than ever to make now that we can buy the wrappers at the asian market, already rolled and cut. But sometimes it's fun to make the dough completely from scratch, and I think that they do taste better. It's up to you whether or not you want to buy or make the wrappers.

The real fun in these is that you can make these filled with just about whatever you want. Play around and experiment! I've even had these with tofu or textured vegetable protein instead of meat and they were delicious.

Here is the traditional recipe though-you can leave out anything you don't like or don't have.

For the filling, you will need...

1/2 lb ground pork (while pork is traditional, you could use ground shrimp, turkey etc)
1/4 a head of large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of thinly sliced dried chinese mushrooms

-soak these in hot water about 20 minutes before starting and drain
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce or fish sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn starch

For the Dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
approximately 3/4 cup just-boiled water

Mix the filling until very well blended and then set aside.

Put the flour into a large bowl, and add the water in small amounts at a time, while mixing with a fork or chop stick.
You want the dough to be a little bit sticky when you're done.
Next, roll the dough into 1.5 inch logs (like a play-dough snake) and cut into discs. You can dust your work surface with a little bit of flour if you have a hard time with the dough sticking.

Next, take the discs and roll them into flat circles. Try to keep the edges thin, but the middle slightly thicker. They'll hold up better when cooking this way.
At this point, if you're making a lot, or making these ahead for a later meal, you might want to line a platter or baking sheet with some parchment paper and sprinkle with some corn starch to keep them from sticking to the tray as they sit.

You can put a whole tray into the freezer and once frozen, drop into a resealable bag and freeze until you want to use them. If you do this, cook them from frozen state, do not thaw.
I usually roll out about 5 wrappers at a time, fill them and then do 5 more.
Keep your extra dough covered with some plastic wrap so that it doesn't dry out as you work.

Once your wrapper is rolled, drop about a round teaspoon's worth of filling in the centre.
Fold up your wrapper into a half moon/semi-circle, and pinch shut. Then make some simple pleats/folds and pinch again to ensure it doesn't fall open during boiling.

Bring some salted water to a boil (not a super hard boil, but a low boil) and drop your dumplings in one at a time, giving each one a couple of seconds before dropping the next. This will keep them from sticking to eachother. At first they will sink, but will start to float to the top when they're almost done.
Boil for about 4 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a lightly oiled platter or plate. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice. My favorite is chinkiang vinegar, but other sauces like a homemade peanut/rice vinegar/sriracha sauce work really well too.

P.S. I've read about the origin of the Chinese dumpling and have found a multitude of stories claiming to be the original.  There are even dumpling festivals to celebrate some of the history. The stories vary widely as far as details go, but all come down to, basically, "somebody was hungry, and a hero invented these simple and nutritious little dumplings as a way to feed the masses quickly." (sometimes an army, sometimes a whole province of poor farmers...) In our case, a large extended family with a lot of kids. Works for me!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

When the Kettle Drum Player Stole My Noro

I had a terrible dream last night that I went to see a rather disappointing musical called "Wake up, Sally".
The cast seemed completely unaware that the performance was embarrassingly awful and the play included house pets that didn't want to be included.
But all was not lost, for I could still knit while I watched this catastrophic event unfold.

My act of knitting, however, was met with looks of disgust from people around me and in a panic of guilt I decided to tuck my knitting away.
My bag slipped though and to my absolute horror, somehow my whole ball of yarn, project, and two sets of circular needles rolled right into the orchestra pit.
I anxiously waited for three more excruciatingly painful hours before I could get my knitting back.

After the show I went down to get my mess, and it was gone! So I quickly went to the lost and found desk, where smirky bell hop (remember, I was dreaming) handed me two carefully coiled sets of circulars, ..put into a makeshift cardboard sleeves.
Something or someone had taken the needles out of my project, and had kept it and the rest of my precious Noro Kureyon wool! And it was colourway no. 319 to be exact-a colour that had to be brought from Florida by a friend who vacationed there..because its no longer available here!

I asked  Mr. Bell Hop where my knitting and the rest of my wool had gone.... and he spat:

"I don't know. BUT, you should know, kettle drum players like Noro too!"

I pouted the whole way home and wondered how I'd get some more Noro in that colour again without having to make a special trip to Florida. Or worst yet, how I could convince the Mr. to drive to Florida, for wool.

The End

Monday, August 12, 2013

Weekend Snippets

We had a rushed Saturday full of errands and grocery shopping, but our reward came Sunday, when we drove out to to see friends who live in the country.
Where we sat outside while the kids played.

Where we (or I) picked 60 lbs of crab apples from a tree that was so loaded that her branches were dragging on the ground.
The boys shot the worm eaten crab apples off into the field with their sling shots.

The girl rolled around under the tree on the grass as I picked, and tired herself out.

And then we sat outside some more, surrounded by quiet and sunshine
and did nothing at all. 


Friday, August 9, 2013

{This Moment}

 A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Normally I would do Friday food Fair today-but alas, I've spent every spare moment this week researching and hunting down math curriculum. And I hate math.

So trust me, this was harder on me than it was on you. We ate sad, tasteless, overly convenient foods this week and are still weeping about it.

Friday food fair will return next week!

Friday, August 2, 2013

✻ Friday Food Fair ✻ {Jeon}

 From trusty (or not always so trusty) Wikipedia...
Jeon (also spelled jun or chon), buchimgaejijimgae, or jijim refer to many pancake-like dishes in Korean cuisine. It has been also called jeonyueo or jeonyuhwa, especially in Korean royal court cuisine. Sometimes, jeonya (hangul: 저냐) is used as an abbreviated term for the two.Jeon is made with various ingredients such as sliced meatspoultryseafood, and vegetables depending on the style and mixed with flour batter or coated with egg batter and then pan-fried with oil.

My Mom may be a bit shocked when she sees that i'm about to write about pancakes. And not only just write about them, but declare my love for them.

When I was little, I loathed pancakes, or anything smothered in maple syrup for that matter.
Breakfast type food at dinner time was bad enough, but pancakes? These were by far the worst offense. 

And I certainly don't mean to imply that I actually liked them for breakfast, but pancakes, at supper, reduced me to tears, and for lack of a better word, anger.

There were times that I thought about how far they would fly if I were to throw them. That, and how much trouble I might actually get into if I were to do it. I never actually did come anywhere near throwing them, but I did fantasize. 

The thought of pouring sugary goo all over what was supposed my supper made me sick to my stomach, and I would rather starve than be forced to eat this "meal". I didn't have much a sweet tooth to begin with, and to me, pancakes fell into the dessert category. I could barely classify them as real food. 

And then, one day, far into the future, I met these. 

Yes, these are pancakes, but there need be no fun ruining, gag-inducing syrup involved. In fact, they aren't sweet at all!
They're basically a skillet fried batter, with savory ingredients that I can actually enjoy. And topped with a little bit of
kimchi and sriracha, I actually look forward to them. 

Take that, Mrs. Buttersworth.

Jeon (Korean Pancakes)

2 Cups flour
2 eggs, beaten well
1 tsp salt
1/2  tsp sugar
1 1/3 cups water
2 tbsp fish sauce. (optional-you can use water or even soy sauce in place of this)
Oil for frying
Shredded veggies. 

I like daikon radish, carrots, zucchini and scallion, and sometimes even shrimp! You can get creative with these, and the amount that you decide to put in is really up to you. Once the veggies are grated though, try to squeeze out a little bit of the moisture with a paper towel before using them. You can use bigger chunks or strips, but they might need some pre-cooking if you want them to be tender.

Mix all the ingredients together except the veggies until the consistency is even and without lumps, then throw in the vegetables.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of oil.

Pour the batter in and make about a 5 inch pancake. You can make larger, but they might get hard to flip/keep together. These will also pour slightly runnier than breakfast pancakes.
Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown, then flip it over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Cut into wedges, and serve with Kimchi or a spicy dipping sauce.