Off To Celebrate with the Girls






Last night my house was a frenzy of activity.  My girlfriend from the Okanagan was here to spend the night before we head off to the West Coast to gather for the Annual Girls’ Weekend. This is my first time going.  My other friend and her guy dropped by as well and we whipped up a delicious impromptu dinner.  At the same time there were food preparations happening for this weekend.  My girlfriend was working on one of her magical chocolate creations for the girls’ weekend dessert and celebration cake, while at the same time we were all pitching in and preparing dinner.  It is so nice to have friends that feel comfortable just dropping by and that on a moments notice can all work together to create something special for all us.

This morning we were up early and while my friend finished up the cake and mixed up some dough to make baguettes, I flipped through my Donna Hay Magazines for inspiration to make an appetizer.  As it turned out I decided to go with something I could make from ingredients I had in the house.  Originally I needed puff pastry but decided that I could make my own pastry.

I ended up finding a recipe for Rustic Mushroom Tart and so with a few minor adjustments I made a pastry from organic spelt and organic unbleached flour, cream cheese, butter, salt , sugar and water.  The Béchamel sauce called for Swiss Cheese but since I didn’t have any of that I used herb cream cheese.  The finished product looks delicious and I can’t wait to share it with ‘the girls.’

One last note before I head out.  The Chanterelles are the ones I picked last week and dehydrated.  I rehydrated them in a marinade I made for the chicken last night.  When we went to clean up after dinner I was going to throw the marinade away but my two girlfriends, both of European descent insisted it would be good for something and they were right.  It rehydrated and flavoured the mushrooms very nicely.

So, with warm clothes, wellingtons, gortex coat, comfy jammies, a big sweater, homemade baguettes, mushroom tart, my coffee and a couple bottles of red wine, off I go.  I will be back Monday to tell all about the weekend at the cabin.  Happy Friday.

Out There With the Squirrels


I have been eying up the hazelnut trees in this area and today I headed out to see what I could gather (legally) for free.  There are several public walkways and paths in this neighbourhood and along one of them there happens to be some hazelnut trees. When I moved one of the things I was most concerned about was that I would have to find new areas to gather and forage.  Hazelnuts were near the top of my list.  As it turns out there was no need for concern.

Late in August I was walking on a path that cut along someone’s fence line.  I noticed the hazelnut tree as I ducked to walk underneath it.  Upon inspection I could see that the tree was loaded with green husks holding hazelnuts. I made a mental note to check on the tree and keep a look out for the owner of the property to be out in his yard so I could ask about them.

The next week as I was walking the same path I noticed a man out in the garden so I called “hello” to him over the fence.  He turned out to be a friendly guy and we got chatting about the goings on in the neighbourhood and what not. I l mentioned that I noticed this large hazelnut tree which seemed to be on the inside of his fence line and before I could ask he offered the nuts to me.  I asked him if he was sure he didn’t mind me harvesting some when they were ready.  He insisted that I take all I wanted and he showed me where the gate latch was and said to feel free to come in anytime and gather or pick however many I wanted.  So, today that is exactly what I did.

In less than  half an hour I had a grocery bag full of nuts.  I didn’t even need to pick any off the tree as the ground was covered with fallen nuts.  Some of them are still green but will soon ripen and turn brown as I lay them out in my house to dry.

I like to use the hazelnuts as decorative fall props on tables and in containers as they dry and ripen.  As the season progresses I begin cracking the nuts getting them ready to use.  I like to take a container and a nut cracker and sit down to a good movie in the evening and crack until I finish the amount I have set out or until my hand hurts, whichever comes first.  This year I will be able to give some to my Dad to crack for me as well.  He is an expert and I love giving him a large bag full to crack.  He keeps what he can eat and then returns the shelled nuts to me.

Initially, I like to soak the nuts overnight and then put them in the dehydrator to dry out again.  I read somewhere that soaking nuts before consumption changes the enzyme composition somehow and makes them easier for humans to digest.  I can’t be sure on that but I tried it and it actually gave the nuts an nice texture.

Another thing I like to do is take the cracked hazelnuts and put them on a roasting pan and roast in the oven until they are slightly brown or in a hot skillet and do the same.  As you roast hazelnuts the skin will come off and the flavour is really enhanced.  Upon removing them from the oven I immediately dump them onto a fresh tea towel and wrap them up.  When they are cool I rub the cloth around on the nuts and this removes any skin left on them.  I like to do this when I am making hazelnut bark or truffles with the nuts.

Some of you may be wondering what I do with all the hazelnuts I gather.  You are probably thinking, “how many hazelnuts can one person eat?”  Well, when you have them on hand it is amazing how often you can use them.  For example, on a daily basis I toast a few and toss them on top of oatmeal in the morning or on a salad at dinner or lunch. Another thing I love to make with them is Rosemary Carmelized Nut Bars.  These bars are decadent enough to bring to a party or serve to guests but easy enough to make just because they are delicious.

Grinding hazelnuts  very finely will give you the equivalent of almond meal or flour.  Have you ever bought a package of that?  It is about eleven dollars for a small bag.  Guess what?  It is free for me to make it myself.  Ground hazelnuts make a perfect crust for Chocolate Tarte as well as an attractive garnish for Frangelico Truffles.

So, this Fall keep an eye out for hazelnut trees and generous owners who are overwhelmed with more nuts than they know what to do with.

Later on I will be posting recipes mentioned in this post.  Stay tuned. Happy Gathering.

What you get by…

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. ”
” Thoreau

     Well, I did it.  If you hadn’t noticed by yesterday’s post I am completely new to blogging  It is something that I have been interested in for a while and finally decided that it was time to dive in.  In today’s post I will introduce myself a little more thoroughly and fill you in on what has led me to blogging.

     As I mentioned yesterday, I am now living in Comox.  I loved the Okanagan but left a job teaching Middle School there for the time being.  I am fortunate enough to be able to go back to the job next year but for now I am in Comox, BC. Family circumstances caused me to make this move and I was optimistic about finding On Call teaching here.  My optimism is fading somewhat and after my initial panic I am acting on the advice and sage wisdom of caring friends and prominent authors and intellects.  The advice can be summed up by the following sentences.  “You either have time or money but not usually both, so while you have time use it to do what you have always wanted to do.  When you are old you will not be wishing for more money but you will want more time so don’t squander it worrying about a temporary lack of employment.”

     So, here I am.  As, stated in my About Me page, I am a teacher among many other roles.  I love the craft of teaching but I also love learning.  One of the things I am known for in my circle of family and friends is being able to create and produce amazing food from good fresh ingredients.  I can whip up a great meal out of anything and since I am somewhat addicted to cookbooks I have no problem finding inspiration.  In this blog I would like to share some of my favourite recipes and cookbooks with you as well as stories that make each meal or recipe special.  

     One of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog was self-centered I will admit.  I have been keen to begin documenting what a year in my life looks like for some time now.  It has become apparent to me that I am a creature of habit as much as I am someone who loves change and creating.  I started noticing that my kids were recognizing rhythms that tied to the seasons.  So, for instance sometime in late February or early March one of them would say, “oh look Mom, the rhubarb is starting to come up. I can’t wait for the first rhubarb pie of the season.”  Or they would watch me light the first fire in early October and say, “oh I can’t wait to cozy up on the couch and have one of our indoor picnics.”  At about the same time I was speaking with a friend whose parents are German born Canadians.  They came to Canada with nothing and through hard work and self-sufficiency created a beautiful life for themselves and their family.  We started talking about everything they do and thought that it might be a good idea to take a year off work and just follow them each day for a year to document and learn about all the things they do that allow them to live a rich and beautiful life on sometimes very limited income.  We never did do that but  as my grown children began calling me and asking about how to make some of their favourite meals, or a loaf of bread or pesto I began rethinking this idea.  What if I could record what I do for my children?  Originally I thought I would write a cookbook for them but it  become apparent that there are so many stories involved in what I do each day that a cookbook would not be a suitable medium.  I wanted to be able to tell them my stories and so a journal seemed more appropriate. As I got more adept at researching while doing my Master Degree I realized that I really liked blogs.  The beauty of the blog is that it is so interactive and has the potential to become a much larger community and body of knowledge than I could ever compile. So, yesterday I decided to take the time I have this year and begin the documentation of a year of living well, closely connected to the earth and the rhythms of each season, beginning with Fall.  

     I look forward to telling my stories, sharing recipes, books, weaving, knitting, felting projects and any other information I find interesting.  I anticipate much sharing, learning and discussion and can’t wait to hear your comments.  Please be patient as I and weave and bob my way through blogsphere and improve the appearance of my site.





Mushroom Picking on the West Coast


Fresh Chanterelle Mushroom Saute

   It is exciting for me to be back on the West Coast after spending the last four years in the Okanagan. I loved the Okanagan but come Fall I  long to be back in the dark, damp rain forest looking for Chanterelles.  The first time I picked Chanterelles I had no idea what to do with them so I pulled out one of my favourite cookbooks, Cooking at My House, by John Bishop.  Sure enough there was a recipe for fresh Chanterelles.  The recipe was preceded by a short vignette that caused me to go out and buy a bottle of Sherry in order to serve the Sautéed Chanterelles exactly as John does. 

     At my house this dish is only served once or twice in the Fall, depending on the mushroom harvest and who is around to share it with.  I make creamy garlic mashed potatoes, John Bishop’s Fresh Chanterelle Mushrooms Sautéed with Thyme and Sherry and serve a generous glass of Sherry on the side.  That’s it.  This is a meal meant to showcase the Chanterelles and nothing else.  

     This year I was able to tag along a very experienced mushroom picker and friend and so finding these illusive fungi was fairly easy.  It also happens to be very good weather for mushrooms this Fall and so I was able to pick enough for our meal, which we shared with our neighbour and dry some for the winter ahead.  As usual, this meal was delicious and the company was also mighty fine.  Image