The language of friendship is not words but meanings. Henry David Thoreau

 

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     Today I thought I would talk about friends and food and how empty my life would be without both.  I like to think that friends and food add texture to a person’s life. Without friends one might live inside their head and become way too self-indulged or wander aimlessly through life without anyone to steady them when they flounder. 

 When with a friend who is gentle and calm there is an aura of safety and security that envelops the space. This is the friend you can always count on to calm you down or illuminate just how good your life really is. Certain foods can create that feeling as well, like last night’s butterscotch pudding or a dreamy crème anglais.

     Then there are those friends that you love but may be ‘course’ or’ rough around the edges.’  You know, they tell a story and decorate it with a few choice words, a bit of slang and throw in some exaggeration for good measure.  Not always the person you think of first to invite to your gourmet dinner club but essential to your life just the same.   These friends create entertainment, shock, horror and humor wherever they go.  I can liken these friends to food that is crunchy and fun, like Peanut Brittle or Caramel Corn. These foods are salacious but regrettable once the sugar hangover sets in.

At this time of year I notice bounty all around me.  The vegetable gardens and orchards are teaming with squash, pumpkins, apples and pears.  The chickens and turkeys are butchered and ready for roasting and the pantry is stocked with honey, molasses, sugar, flour, butter and eggs. This weekend, Canadian Thanksgiving is the perfect time for me to cozy up and get cooking. 

We intend have a bonfire to burn the brush pile that has built up from the branch cleanup over the past year. We will roast a few hotdogs, sip some mulled wine and indulge in Caramel Apples. After a leisurely afternoon wandering the forest paths and playing along the ocean shoreline we will settle down to a table of thanksgiving. 

We will dine on turkey grown on a friend’s farm, vegetables from the garden and local farm market, dessert lovingly prepared by my Mom, (that famous pastry again for our pumpkin pie) and a cup of tea brewed from leaves bought at my friends’ tea shop.  The table will be brimming with a variety of dishes and the chairs filled with family and friends gathered together to share in the abundance. Although none of my siblings and only one of my children will be with us, we will nevertheless pause to acknowledge how thankful we are to have wealth in family, friendships and food.

A special toast goes to my brother Bill, the storyteller and cowboy extraordinaire. He is sadly missed.

 To  Regan, my oldest daughter whose sense of humor and contagious smile will be shared with her beau and good friends way up in Prince George this Thanksgiving.  I look forward to being with her next month.

And finally, to my son Guy whose quiet presence and quick wit I look forward to next week when I go to visit him in Michigan.  We will have our Thanksgiving and share it with his roommates who are far from home just as he is.

Happy Thanksgiving!

    

Neuroplasticity Unplugged

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Ohhhhh my brain hurts.  Actually it doesn’t hurt but I think I can safely say my brain made some serious new highways along those axons and dendrites.  I’m sure there were several misfires off the ends of my axon terminals during the many hours I spent trying to figure out how to categorize recipes and create a custom menu for a blogroll on my blog site.  Geesh!  I now have a very real example to use with my students that demonstrates that our brains really can change their connections and behaviour in response to new information, i.e. neuroplasticity. Today I am living proof that old brains can  be rewired when we learn a new skill.

I started checking websites, utube videos and tutorials as well as consulting hard copy guides for plug-ins this morning. My goal was to install a plug in on my blog page that would automatically categorize recipes for me.  In addition,  I wanted a template installed that would take ordinary text recipes and format them into a printable recipe page or card.  By 2:00pm I was frustrated.  I attempted to install a plug-in that I thought would be suitable but to no avail.  I could not make the thing work.  After a quick break I got back to it and by 2:30pm I felt slightly triumphant.  Not because I figured out how to use the plug-in but rather because I figured out that I had wasted several hours trying to install an item that will not work with the blog host I am using.  What a twit!

Remember that “let me just try it” method I was using?  Ya well, I never said it was efficient but it did eventually work. What I mean is it worked to help me discover that what I was attempting to do would not work. Not being a quitter, (my mother did not respect quitters) I tackled the Dashboard again after dinner.  Strangely enough, what I had been attempting before dinner and was getting stumped with seemed like a breeze as I worked on it after dinner.  Funny what a little nutrition will do for a brain, not to mention those new neural highways I formed.  I guess I could use the analogy, that earlier in this process I was creating gravel roads but after going over them many times and repeating the same steps, correcting and adjusting where necessary, the roads finally became paved.

So it is with much pleasure and relief that I now have a Recipe page that has a drop down menu and categories as well as a Blog Roll that takes visitors to blogs or websites that I like to follow or visit.  I have posted a couple of recipes as well and I will continue to do so over the next few days. My next technical project to tackle is how to link a mention of a recipe in a blog post to a recipe that will show up in the Recipe tab.  Here we go with the road construction again!  Wish me luck!

You can get a quick five minute lesson by going to youtube and typing in neuroplasticity.  Watch the video by nlosin.

 

Creating New Neural Pathways. Ouch!

 

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One of My Student’s Model of a Dendrite

Well today I decided that I would figure out how to categorize and list recipes so that they were not only part of a blog post would also be listed in a recipe tab on the side of my page.  Four hours later and way too much reading and poking around and downloading and trying to follow 22 pages of directions with computer code language and I am done.  

I finally resorted to my own methods, ie push this key, click that tab, scroll down here and keep it up until you figure it out.  I guess I am a hands on learner.  I use the “just let me try it” method and see where it gets me.  If I don’t get where I want, I try something else, again and again and again until I start using course language or call in an expert.

What this method did for me today was allow me to ‘sort of’ figure out the Category Widget, heavy on the ‘sort of.’ So, with that being said, I am going to see if I can post some recipes and get them to fit under the categories listed on the right hand side of my blog page.  We will see how it goes.  

What I actually wanted to do was install a program that would automatically format my recipes into a card or recipe format and have a print option.  I found that, downloaded it and now I don’t know what to do, so off I go with my “let me try that ” method again.  Wish me luck.

Regan the Hunter

Regan the Hunter

Her 1st Moose

I just had to post this picture of my daughter with her ‘first moose.’  When she texted me this picture I have to admit I had mixed feelings.  On one hand I wanted to be proud of her but on the other, I wondered how she could possibly shoot an animal. When I shared these feelings with my youngest daughter she had an interesting reply.  She said that in essence because I eat meat, fish and poultry I do kill animals.  I contribute to their death by consuming them, I just depersonalize the process.  Really?  I knew that.  I mean here I am Miss Master in Ecoliteracy: Food Security and Sustainability and I am questioning my daughter’s food ethics.  I had to work through this.

Now that I think of it, perhaps Regan is able to hunt because she is vey aware of the ethics of food.  I have always been unhappy with the industrial food model and we have discussed it at length.  My kids grew up on a city lot but we always kept a few laying hens so we could have eggs from chickens that we knew had been able to scratch and peck in the yard and were fed organic, all vegetable laying pellets and our kitchen compost.  We even bathed our chickens and fed them hot leftover oatmeal sometimes. They loved it. When the chickens got old and were not very good layers anymore I would give them to a friend who was a chicken farmer and he would let them roam with his hens and die of old age.  I used to tell the kids ” the girls were off to the retirement farm.’

A dilemma I faced in raising chickens was what to do with the roosters?  Because we lived in the city, it was against the bylaws to keep roosters.  The kids wanted to raise chicks and so we would inevitably get more roosters out of a hatch than we did hens.  At first, I would just give them away but as time went on I guess I thought more about what I was doing when I would buy chickens already butchered in a bag from a farmer and wonder why I was doing it when I could be eating my own roosters.  Again, I was disconnecting in order to protect my sensibilities.

Eventually, I decided that I would be able to have our roosters butchered at an abattoir as long as I brought them in a box, and returned later to pick them up all bagged and looking like I had just bought them. So, that is what I did with the roosters but I didn’t tell the kids until after we had consumed them.  That was also me being dishonest with myself.

As the kids got older and joined 4-H they eventually learned all about animal husbandry and about raising animals for food.  One of the categories in 4-H is showing a ‘market lamb,’ which means that not only is the lamb judged in the ring but also after it has been butchered.  Yikes.  That was a tough one for me but it didn’t seem to bother the kids much.

When my son got to be a teenager he decided to use the money he had raised cleaning chicken barns to purchase a cow.  He really wanted to raise a cow and breed it so that he could sell the calf to raise more funds and purchase another animal.  He always wanted to be a farmer and so he was getting serious about gaining experience.  We agreed to the cow, which he boarded up the road at an old farm.  The owner was amazing to my son and  gave him such a deal keeping his cow on a beautiful piece of land where it was able to eat grass along with his herd and be fed their own hay through the winter.  We visited the cow often and as the year progressed we got excited about the arrival of a calf in the spring.  But alas, the joke was on us.  Being inexperienced in the ways of pregnant cows, it took a visit from the vet to help us realize that our cow was not ‘very overdue,’ she simply was not pregnant. We realized this meant that she must be fat.

Upon this news my son decided that she would need to be butchered so that he could buy a Hereford calf and that he was not going to be in the business of selling calves.  He decided that it would be far more suitable for him to raise a calf all year, butcher it in the late Fall and have the meat presold.  That is exactly what he did and I was his best customer.  I would buy a side and then a friend and my parents would split the other side.  I can’t remember how many times he did that but when I no longer had the meat in the freezer I sure missed it.

Finally, my children grew up fishing.  Their father is an avid fisherman.  From the time they could walk, they would willingly leave their snug little beds to go with him down the inlet in the boat, through the early morning fog for the chance to catch a salmon.  Again, I had my contradictions when it came to fishing.  I loved the scenery, the boat ride and even the thrill of a ‘hit’ along with the exhilaration of reeling it in. But then when the fish would be flopping around the boat I couldn’t bear to “bonk” it on the head to kill it.  I still turn away and don’t look while someone else does the bonking.  Once it is dead it doesn’t bother me to gut it and cook it up.  What is that all about?

My children’s 4-H experience and my son’s foray into farming, as well as our fishing expeditions contributed to our education in ethical eating.  Some might say that we were not eating ethically because we were not vegetarian but let’s leave that discussion for another time.

I began by wondering how my daughter could have shot a moose.  Now that I reflect on her upbringing and how she saw us getting our food it is no wonder she has chosen this route.  She will be eating the meat of the animal she spent many days in the pouring rain and cold looking for.  She will know that it ate the way wild animals should, roaming the wild bogs and forests, eating what moose are meant to eat in nature. She will know that the meat was processed in the most natural way possible without dyes for changing its color or saline solution for puffing it up to look plumper and bigger. It will be wrapped in waxed brown paper and not packaged in Styrofoam.

I have decided that looking at my daughter posing so proudly with her moose makes me proud as well.  She is comfortable and clear about her food ethics. I think it is me who is struggling with my contradictions and there is a lesson for me in her experience!

On that note, I think I will make some Moose Stew tonight just to show my support for her choices.  See the Recipe tab for the recipe.

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Fast Food Anyone?

image-5.jpg   A Great Day to Travel Home    Life seems so fast now.  It is an interesting concept that time seems to go by faster or slower depending on what we are doing or have to get done?  Remember when you were a kid and summer holidays rolled around?  It felt like you had a year of days off.  There seemed to be no end to the lazy mornings, berry picking, swimming, riding your bike, playing with friends and watching stars at night.  Ironic to think that my mother, who at that same time would have been raising 4 children, working full -time, growing a garden, keeping house while trying to squeeze in some socializing with friends and relatives would not have felt the same sense of endless time.  Have you every wondered why that is?

There have been many books written about time. The Greeks used different words to denote different meanings for time.  In particular they use the word chromos when discussing time in terms of duration of time as the revolving of the earth and the position of the sun denote.  For example, a person might use the term “high noon,” meaning that the sun was directly overhead, half way on its journey across the sky.

On the other hand Greek use the word kairos when they want to describe individual or personal time.  For example, “it is the perfect time” or a “we had a fabulous time” speaks more to the idea that an individual can attach meaning to specific ‘times’ in their day and life which have nothing to do with the universal meaning of time passing, as in duration.  Perhaps I was thinking in terms of kairos when I was young and my mother was thinking in terms of chromos.

     Today much of our lives, especially in North America, might be considered mainly in what the Greeks refer to as chromos. Just consider what daily life looks like in 2013.  A person gets up early, to get a quick run or workout in at the gym before hurrying home to jump in the shower and throw on some clothes to head out to work. On the way to work they might drive- through a convenience coffee shop to get a to-go coffee and breakfast.  They quickly drive in the rush hour traffic to work where they settle in to check their emails and get last minute lesson, presentations or preparations done for the workday.  Coffee break is often a prepackaged, convenience snack that can be eaten with the hands at a desk or while standing and lunch is often take-out, order in or sometimes, brown bag.  They rush to get through their workload for the day so they can step out early to pick up the kids and begin the after school rush to drop them off at sports practice; music or dance lessons and squeeze in some errands in between pick-ups and drop-offs.  Often the circuit of extra-curricular activities and meetings runs right through dinnertime so on the way home they stop for take-out dinner or rush home to throw something together that is fast and convenient.

When everyone is settled at home and getting to bed, a quick load of laundry thrown in the washer and dryer, the dishwasher is turned on and everyone settles in to get some shut eye so they are ready to begin the cycle again the next day.  I am exhausted just writing this.
Sadly, I fell into this pattern while raising my kids.  There was however one difference in my experience of ‘time.’  I just couldn’t do the fast food thing very often.  It did not make sense to me to fill my family’s bodies with ‘edible substances’ that we often referred to as ‘mystery meat’ or ‘petroleum products,’ just to save time.  In fact it occurred to me that I could probably come up with something that was real food, nutritious and delicious in short order just by having the right ingredients on hand and being organized.

My children are grown now and they don’t live with me.  Funny though, I still find myself living in terms of chromos fairly often, trying to squeeze the ‘to do list’ in plus any extras I think of during the day.  Before I know it, my stomach is growling, the light is fading and I have not started anything for dinner.  Last night was one such night.

We had been away for the weekend and upon our return later in the day the weather was so magnificent that we couldn’t bear to go inside and waste the last of the day’s sunlight.  After a walk to the beach to watch the kite-boarders we found ourselves in the kitchen hungry with nothing prepared or planned.  Aha, the moment that take-out sushi or pizza would be nice.

Alas, habits die hard and I just could not succumb to the temptation to go ‘fast’ knowing the let down and ‘hangover ‘ I would have after consuming empty calories that would leave me still feeling hungry and furthermore, guilty for having wasted the opportunity to prepare and share a good meal with my beau, if only I had been thoughtful and creative.

So, with intention and fervor began the ‘chopfest’ of every vegetable we had in the fridge and pantry.  We chopped carrots, onions, garlic, beets, beet tops, peppers and a little salami for good measure.  In a matter of minutes we had the makings of a good meal. Add to that a little fine quality olive oil, some heat, a few herbs and spices, vegetable stock from the freezer and about ½ an hour and there we had it,  rich, and nutritious, delicious vegetable soup.  A dollop of sour cream would have topped it off just nicely but since we did not have that in the fridge we opted for a creamy blob of herb cream cheese.

It doesn’t get any better than that for ‘fast food.’  No guilt, upset stomach, bloating or headache from unknown substances, just a full tummy and a sense of pure satisfaction for thinking in terms of kairos at mealtime rather than chromos.  We chose to think of time in terms of creating and experiencing personal meaning rather than just the passage of a certain part of the day.  I think the Greeks may have had things figured out a long time ago. 

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Are You Wealthy?

Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.

EPICURUS

WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?

Lately, I have been dipping my feet in the world of philosophy.  The quote at the beginning of today’s post by Epicurus, the Greek who believed life was about doing what brings you pleasure intrigued me. It reminded me of a recent discussion on CBC Radio.

The radio program was about wealth and its various meanings.  One such meaning in the discussion was that a person was considered wealthy based on the number and quality of relationships one had in his/her life.  Sadly, I often think of myself as struggling, not poor but not wealthy either.  By that standard I had to admit to myself I was rather wealthy.

How often do we worry about not having enough money, enough fashionable clothes or shoes, the most up to date furniture, technology or handbag?  Really?  Imagine what a discussion in Epicurus’s garden would sound like if one were to show up and voice his concern about not having abundance because of a lack of ‘things.’

Occasionally I can really get down about my relationship with food and the fact that my love affair with it causes me to feel guilty about not having a super-model figure.  When I remove the influence of popular culture and really think about how my passion for all things food enhances my relationships with others, I feel foolish. How can looking like a fashion model be more important than true wealth and abundance as I would choose to define it?

Lately I have been thinking about wealth and abundance and what it means to me.  I am working out how I define wealth.  I think a combination of relationships and enjoyment would be how I would like to define wealth.  That being the case I am wealthy because my relationships allow me to experience joy and abundance.

I have been blessed with friends and family and I enjoy spending time with them, especially through cooking and celebrating the goodness and abundance of food.  I also have a strong relationship with nature and the experience of gathering mushrooms and nuts, tapping a tree for maple syrup or growing a garden, connects me to the earth and secures a strong bond and relationship.

I like to think that I have a good relationship with my son. He is my middle child with an older and younger sister.  Add to that a strong mother and a very strong grandmother and he could really find himself overpowered by women.  This however is not the case.  He has managed to assert his masculinity by being rugged, athletic, outdoorsy and sometimes downright chauvinistic. What makes him so unique and charming is that he has a real Renaissance man quality about him.  I like to think that he inherited some of this from his mother.

We both love athletic endeavors, spending time at the lake, farms, walks in the forest, drives on a country road, many genres of music, gathering food from nature, fishing and sometimes just being quiet.  But, even without all these common interests we could still feel wealth and abundance with each other based on our relationship to food.

My son is far away at university now and when he returns home for the summer we are still not in the same town. This does not seem to matter when it comes to us sharing a personal story about growing food, getting it straight from nature or creating and/or sharing a favorite recipe.  One of the best stories I have is when he returned home in the spring and must have wanted to create some comfort and familiarity for himself again after a long school year.

I was 8 hours away tucked in my bed and he texted me to ask how to make bread. I thought it was rather late to be asking such a question as it takes time to mix, knead and let the dough rise before baking.  No matter though, I shared a recipe I often used through texting.  I doubted he would try it but sure enough about an hour later I got a text with a picture attached, and it simply said, “does this look right?”  There was a picture of a mound of kneaded bread dough sitting on the counter.  It looked great.  At this point I think it was about 11:00pm.  I replied, “yes,” it looked great but it would need to rise before baking.  At that point I fell asleep only to be awakened about two hours later by another text.  Another picture and the comment,  “turned out all right.”  Viola, there was a picture of a more than all right loaf of bread sitting on the cooling rack on the counter.

Since then we have shared numerous pictures of food, gardens, and fish he has caught and even game he has hunted.  I love it that I have a son who appreciates food, not just consuming it but also actually knowing a lot about it.  My relationship with him definitely adds abundance and enjoyment to my life.

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

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Photos from Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries.

Today I am thinking about my children and missing them.  Sometimes when I am missing my kids I like to think about how they remind me of myself and yet are each there own unique selves. I am trying to arrange a visit to all three of my children in the near future and so today I began with a FaceTime call to my oldest daughter.  She is about a 12 hour drive away from me and I have not seen her since July.

I have always loved to bake.  As a child my busy Mom took the time to show me a thing or two about baking.  I remember her Sunbeam Mixer and how she showed me the basic Cookie Method and Cake Method to follow out of the cookbook that came with the purchase of a mixer.  I felt so grown up when I could use it alone without any assistance.  I also remember being shown how to use the potato peeler properly and how to stuff a mason jar full of peaches or pears in preparation for canning.  I worked along side my Mom while she canned, kneaded bread and made lasagna.  At first she would allow me to be her helper, sprinkling flour on the counter or screwing the lids on jars of fruit about to be processed.  Eventually I was allowed to go solo.

My mom was a bit of a neat and tidy sergeant so in order that I could graduate and use the kitchen alone I had to follow her one golden rule, “a good cook always does her dishes.”  These were the days before dishwashers so I had to have all the dishes washed, dried and put away as well as all the counters washed and the floors swept.  I have never forgotten that rule and I think I may have used it a time or two on my own children.

My oldest daughter is like me in many ways.  She loves to socialize and be busy.  She is an avid snowboarder, wake-boarder and gym member.  She takes part in X-fit classes on a regular basis, hikes, hunts, is captain of her hockey team and runs on and off.  She is a going concern.  She also like to to eat well, most of the time.  I am not so social as I once was but I still enjoy moving my body and fuelling it with delicious, good food.

When she was young she was a competitive swimmer, an avid snowskier and waterskier.  She loved to join as many things as I would allow and she never felt too busy.  I think she probably comes by that trait fairly honestly.  She also loved her food.  When she was little she would come home for lunch from school and at first she like dishes such as chicken noodle soup and macaroni and cheese, but as I got better and more adventurous with cooking so did her palette.  Soon she was requesting, risotto, polenta, gnocchi and spaetzle for lunch.  At 7 years old she had the taste buds of an international traveller.  I used to love standing at the stove stirring a creamy pan of risotto or standing at the counter meticulously rolling snakes to cut into perfect little gnocchi.  I don’t make these comforting dishes very often anymore.  I wonder why?  Perhaps the process comforted me while the product comforted my daughter.  I think when I go to visit her we should cook these dishes together.

Lately, Regan has taken to being a follower of Clean Eating and Gwyneth Paltrow, It’s All Good.   Two of her favourite ingredients are quinoa and chickpeas.  I thought I would use this opportunity to share two of my favourite recipes using these two ingredients.

Quinoa Cakes with Yogurt, Lemon, Dill Dressing

Serves 4

Dressing

3/4 cup Balkan Style Plain Yogurt

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1Tsp. dried dill

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  Set aside.

Quinoa Cakes

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 eggs

5 Tsp. flour

1/2 cup gluten free cornflake crumbs

1/4 diced red pepper

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 Tbsp. olive oil ( for frying)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until well combined.  Using hands, form patties and place in a medium high heated frying pan, coated with olive oil. Cook both sides until well browned. Remove from pan and place on serving tray.  Serve with dressing on the side.

Chickpea, Feta and Coriander Salad

This is a recipe I have adapted from Tessa Kiros’ book, Falling Cloudberries. I love this cookbook.  The ingredients are the same but I do not cook the onion, garlic and pepper flakes, I simply mix everything together and let it sit for about an hour before I am going to serve it.  This salad keeps well overnight in the fridge as well.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

14 oz. can chickpeas

1 cup olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1 or 2 red chillies, finely chopped

1 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

4 spring onions, green part only, chopped

1/2 cup coriander (cilantro)

1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

juice of 1 lemon

Drain and rinse the chickpeas.  Place in a bowl and add all other ingredients except the feta cheese .  Stir until well blended. Add the feta and toss.  Let stand at room temperature for about an hour or place in the fridge overnight.

I like to serve this with chicken that has been roasted in a thick tomato sauce and a great baguette or crusty bread for soaking up the olive oil and sauce.

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An Unproductive Day?

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     Today I planned on making tomorrow night’s dinner as well as tonight’s.  I also planned on learning more about blogging and widgets, gathering hazelnuts and walnuts, baking something special, making salted caramel popcorn, doing some banking and picking up a few groceries.  Things have not gone as smoothly as planned.

     I have not started either of the dinners, tomorrow’s or tonight’s.  I have learned a little bit about blogging but still do not have the widget thing down.  I keep getting lost in other sites about interesting widgets, but not the ones I am supposed to be learning about.  I did gather nuts but haven’t baked anything.  I just ran to the bank and grocery store as well as the drugstore. Actually, when I compare my list of what I wanted to do and what I have done it is not really that different.

     Why do I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything then?  Do you ever feel that way?  Now that I think about it I actually did a lot more than was on my list.  I went to the gym at 6:30am, dropped my car off for service at 8am, had coffee on the beach at 8:15am, talked to my Dad on the phone, made a Dr appointment, called the medical insurance company and called Apple (again) to see when my cell phone replacement will be here.  It has only been 8 days!  Geesh. I also chopped some wood and walked to the mailbox to check the mail.

     I guess what is really bugging me is that I still have a couple things on my list and I thought I would be done by now.  Honestly, it is amazing that we can work and still manage our phone calls, emails and appointments.  Hmmm.  Maybe it is a blessing that I don’t have a cellphone right now.

     Anyway, what I really want to share today is the Salted Caramel Popcorn recipe and photos.  I am not big on Caramel Corn but honestly, this is soooo good.  My parents are coming for dinner tomorrow night and I really want to give some to my Dad as a gift.  He loves caramel corn and I am sure my Mom could satisfy her sweet tooth with it as well.  

      I started off by popping the popcorn last night.  I use a plain old paper bag and organic popcorn kernels that I get at Nature’s Fare.  I put 1/2 cup in a lunch bag size bag and hit the popcorn setting on the microwave.  It works perfect.  If I do happen to have some unpopped kernels I just put them back in the bag and and pop them with the next batch.  

     I found the recipe at Crunchy Creamy Sweet . It was interesting that after the caramel is poured over the popcorn it gets put in the paper bag and microwaved.  This method really works.  All the popcorn gets nicely coated with the caramel and then it is not necessary to bake it in the oven.  

     I tweaked the recipe slightly by melting Callebeaut dark chocolate and then drizzling it over the caramel coated popcorn.  I also added pecans, hazelnuts, almonds and cashews.   Mmmmmmmm. Delic!  Perhaps today was rather productive.

 

A Fall Storm

 

 

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     Well it seems the sun has gone on a vacation around here this last week.  Occasionally, we are getting an hour or so of sun but rain seems to be the consistent weather pattern lately.  On Sunday night we had so much rain and wind that it changed the landscape overnight.

     We were huddled inside next to the fire listening to the rain pelt down on the skylight and the wind howl steadily through the trees and against the windows.  We tried to watch a documentary film but the power eventually went out after several flickers and flashes of lights.  There we sat by the fire with headlamps, reading and knitting.  It made me think that life might have been simpler when there wasn’t electricity.  Simple.  The sun goes down, it gets dark and you go to bed.  No staying up into the wee hours of the morning to be productive and get done what you can’t  during the day.  Darkness signified it was time to go to sleep. 

     The headlamp thing soon wore off and we headed to bed.  The wind blew all night and in the morning we went out to survey what sort of damage may have been done.  The neighbor’s tree blew down, a willow, and landed on the fence near the carriage house.  The other neighbor had a maple tree crack in half and it was lying across the driveway blocking it. Everyone pitched in and did their part and as of just a few minutes ago the trees are bucked up for firewood and removed. 

     I lost interest in the fallen trees fairly quickly but I did think about what else may have fallen with the strong wind and rain.  Things like apples and pears from our own trees and the neighbor’s trees.  As I surveyed the fence line there were several large apples on the ground and in the hedgerow.  Naturally, I picked them up.  As well, the wind was very helpful in blowing down hundreds of more hazelnuts.  So today I found a way to use the apples I found.  I thought I would share the recipe as it is simple and very delicious.

     The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Tessa Kiros. The book is titled, Falling Cloudberries, a world of family recipes. This book is a collection of recipes and stories from the many lands and cultures Tessa and her family have lived in.  Her mother is Finnish and her father was Greek Cypriat but she grew up in South Africa.  This is one of the recipes she collected from South Africa.  Her friend’s mother would make this sometimes when Tessa came to their house.  She notes that the recipe has probably changed over time as she transferred the recipe from one notebook to another.  As with many recipes, they tend to evolve over time.  I changed the recipe slightly myself and because it turned out well I will probably stick with my own adaptation of the recipe. 

 

Apple Cake with Toffee Topping

Serves 8-10

 

Bottom Layer

4 large Gravenstein apples

55g brown sugar

½ tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. cinnamon

Peel, core and slice the apples.  Place in a large pot with sugar and spices.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often.  When the apples are tender remove from the heat and cool. 

 

Cake Batter

100g softened butter

200g white sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

200g cake flour or all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

60ml milk

Cream the butter and vanilla until pale and creamy.

 

Topping

20g butter

115g  brown sugar

125ml heavy cream

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Grease and flour a deep 9 ½ inch springform tin. 

Cover the bottom of the pan with the cooked apple mixture making sure there are no gaps showing the bottom of the tin. 

 

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy.  Add the eggs, beating well after each.  Sift and beat in the flour and baking powder, alternating with the milk until the batter is soft and fluffy. Scrape out the batter over the apples and smooth to cover.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and make the topping.

 

Put the butter in a pot to melt.  Add the brown sugar and stir until sugar is somewhat dissolved.  Add the cream a drop at a time at first and then gradually pouring.  Lower the heat and cook for two minutes more once the cream is added. 

 

Using a fork, make holes in the top of the cake.  Pour the caramel topping slowly over the entire cake allowing it to seep into the cake.  When the cake is cooled a little more  remove spring form ring and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or a big dollop of whipped cream. 

 

 

 

 

Early Fall Bounty

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I am back from a weekend with the girls.  It was fun to meet new people and share stories.  We had lots of laughs, a little dancing and too much food.  There was also a fair bit of pampering, in the form of pedicures and massages.  It was the perfect weekend for a girls retreat because it was pouring rain and stormy all weekend.  That did not stop a couple of us from jumping in the lake  or getting out for a walk though.

While most of the girls were getting spa services I slipped on my gumboots and gortex coat and escaped to the woods.  I couldn’t help myself because when I went for a walk I spotted some Chanterelles on the driveway.  I took a friend who had never been mushroom picking and we had a fabulous time hunting under the ferns, Oregon Grape and stepping over logs and moss.  The rain forest is so magical and the variety of mushrooms and fungi growing at this time of year is astounding.  I am sure there are many other edible mushrooms but I stick to the buttery Chanterelles.  We each came home soaked to the bone but smiling with a bag of Chanterelles in hand.  I dried them today.

Another thing I love to do at this time of year is head out to the garden, in this case my friend’s garden, and see what there is that needs to be harvested and used.  Some things like leeks, carrots, beets and kale are fine through most of the winter here but other vegetables such as tomatoes really need to be picked.  There are also a few late zucchinis to be used as well as peppers and Swiss Chard.

I thought I would share a  recipe with you today for one of the ways I preserved tomatoes this year.  Usually I can tomatoes and freeze some whole.  I ran across an idea in a library book this year and thought I would give it a try.  I was really pleased with the results.

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     Roasted Tomato Sauce

1. Take ripe tomotoes and slice them in half horizontally.  Scoop out any liquid and seeds into a bowl and then set the tomato scooped side up on a cookies sheet covered with parchment paper.

2. Peel and chop some garlic and sprinkle over the tomatoes.

3. Do the same with some fresh basil.

4. Drizzle some olive oil over the tomatoes and put them in the oven at 350 to roast.

5. When the tomatoes are roasted and turning slightly dark brown and starting to soften remove from the oven.

6. Dump the tomatoes and any oil, garlic and basil on the sheet into the bowl of scooped out seeds.

7. Mix gently with a spoon.

8. Place mixture in freezer bags or containers and freeze

Whenever you require tomato sauce take a bag or two out of the freezer and enjoy the rich taste of roasted tomatoes.

Continue until you fill the tray.

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