July 31, 2011

We're going camping!

Sorry, last year's picture.
See you on Wednesday!

Beach night #2


We ditched work in favour of the beach last night.  Well we would have if they had called and asked me to work...basically the same thing.  We hit up Hofstede's on our way to the lake, because they'll be closed for the long weekend and we're going camping on Monday!  So we grabbed our stuff just before they closed.  Heather came up early with us and we flew up past all the beaches full of Vancouver-ites to the last remaining somewhat-local beach, Maple Bay.  Cultus Lake used to be a local's hangout, now it's only local on Monday-Thursday when the drive is to far for anyone else to do midweek.  I guess in a few years we'll be driving to Chilliwack Lake, but that seems pointless because it's 20km farther.

Butter was itching for a swim when he saw all the kids in the water, but I kept my foot firmly planted, no way I was getting sat on by a wet dog.  Dinner was great (though I couldn't taste any of it, my cold is rearing it's ugly summer head) cold cut buns, corn salad, coleslaw and watermelon.  The time flew by as we chatted about our family's upcoming extremely busy month.  Three of us moving in one month! Shenanigans!  The badminton rackets made an appearance (they always do) and a certain dog couldn't keep out of the water.
Natasha came in her uniform (she works at the lake) and talked to us for a little while and we saw her hard at work making a group of rowdy people dump out their liquor.  She's so little! I'd be so scared to do that! She doesn't take shit from no one.  The sun was going down as we left, another successful summer's night.

July 29, 2011

July 29

We breathed fresh air at Hick's Lake, felt cold water on our knees at the beach.  Sticky ice cream cones dripped down sticky fingers in Harrison and fresh cheese wafted from the goat farm kitchen.  Hot cars stifled and hotter bbqs blazed. We made a fruitless quest for citronella candles (are there seriously no mosquitos in August?)  Warm summer's evening bike rides and cool coffees on moderate patios.  Three episodes of the Big Bang Theory, the funniest show on tv. Summer at it's best.

Favourite Friday: the Dog & the Cat

Newest picture of both of them.
Two of my favourite animals live right here, with us.  Shane's cat predates me, he was a gift two years before I started dating Shane.  He's a siamese cat, very dark with blue blue eyes.  These eyes however, turn red in the dark to his evil true self.  He's not the nicest cat you've ever met, in fact for a few years he was an inside cat, but with the problems mounting it was decided he would be an outdoor cat.  He loves it! He's a learned hunter, constantly bringing us gifts of dead rodents missing half their bodies leaving them under the windows or outside the door for us to see.  His one saving grace while he lived indoors was his knack for hunting spiders which I thoroughly appreciated.  The cat's name is Cyrus, the same name as the family dog from when I saw young, born around the same time.
Very old picture, Butter was still a puppy.
The cat is an alarm clock, he learns a schedule and expects you to adhere to it.  Shane used to feed him on his way to work at 430am and on Shane's days off the cat comes to the window outside our bedroom (right at 430!) and claws at the window making as much noise as possible.  Since his removal from the house he has become a much nicer cat who loves attention (inside he didn't want to be touched.) He's become known as Mr. Noodle for his worm like tendencies once in your arms.  He purrs like there is no tomorrow but is terrified of the dog.
Butter and his best friend Cyrus the Dog. (Butter is always wearing a bandana.)
Butter is our golden retriever.  He's almost two years old.  Butter is named so because of a joke Shane and I had running that if we ever got a dog that would be his name.  We almost named him Charlie, but Butter is a much more fitting name.  He is an insanely happy dog, very loyal and quite well behaved, around us anyway.  We got him November 1 2009 as a fat little monkey, content with sleeping and chewing.  His love of chewing has never left, he's chewed on drywall, slowly destroying the whole wall before.  He now has a squeaky tennis ball (thanks mom!) that's he's picked the green off of, that he carries with him everywhere.  The first thing he picks up in the morning (always ready to play) and the last thing he puts down at night.
My favourite picture of Butter.
Butter is not very gentle with Cyrus, he'll chew on him like he's a puppy, thus the reason the cat won't stick around while the dog is out.  The two of them give us much happiness.  There is nothing like coming home to someone who is really happy to see you.  Wanting attention, tails wagging they'll follow you around until you acknowledge them and satisfy their craving.  It kills a lot of stress when you can just play on the floor and totally be absorbed in throwing that ball or chasing that tail.  Our lives just wouldn't be the same without our dog and cat, that's why they are my favourite!

July 28, 2011

What a beautiful place to lie under the trees, shadows and light flcikering and falling as the leaves rustle.  We spent the afternoon up at the beach equipped with a checkered picnic blanket, magazines and a pot full of apricot and blueberry grunt, from the one and only Rustic Fruit Desserts.  We ate the entire dish and not once did I stop to think I should take a picture.  No, instead my mind furiously processed everything it was expierencing, dark caramel and sweet summer fruit with a flaky biscuit crust.  Yum!

But big news! We're moving! Our new place is a huge score.  It is a totally above ground HOUSE.  We've never lived in a house and rarely lived in anything above ground.  This place has windows galore and a kitchen with a full size fridge! We're very excited about the move, 18 days and counting!

July 27, 2011

My Kootsac Bags!

I got my reusable bulk bags in the mail today!  I purchased them on etsy, from an artist here in BC.  I would have been interested in these bags a long time ago, those plastic bags for bulk at the store have always irked me, they are way too big and so wasteful (did you ever notice how the organic section bags are smaller? Use those when you buy bulk, save plastic!).  I always repurpose each bag at least once, sometimes more depending how dirty they get, but that never justifies countless bags ending up in the land fill. I wanted a way to bring my many bulk items home from the store without using a plastic bag.  Insert these awesome, extremely lightweight, reusable nylon bags.  I finally put my money where my mouth was and ordered them.  They come in different colours and sizes and they weigh so little they're only pennies on the scale.  I'm finally doing my part for the environment, keeping a few of the 10 billion plastic bags Canadians throw in the landfill every year (it's true!) from ending up garbaged and shopping in the bulk section, packaging free!

I can't wait until I see everyone using these at the store!  Reusable shopping bag pioneers had to start somewhere and now look, everyone is doing it (thank god!) Bringing your own bags is a very necessary and EASY way to help the environment.  Come one people! Jump on the train!  Save your planet! Okay enough for sounding too much like a hippy.  For those with germaphobic tendencies, these bags were created to be washed between every use, these are used where people buy food so clean bags are important.  You can find bags like these in several spots around the internet, but for my BC (and Canadian) friends consider buying from here.  Morgen is local, as in BC made and for those out of province it's Canadian, so show some support.

I bought two-three bags sets, one in purple and one in turquoise.  The smallest bag is big enough for some spices or a couple handfuls of dried fruit.  The second size would easily fit a good amount of flour or a large amount of chocolate.  The largest size is quite big, you could fill it with produce, like apples, onions or lemons or a vast amount of dried beans or something equally as interesting!

Apricot Cherry Jam

So I made another recipe today; Apricot Cherry Jam why aren't you a recipe already? Seriously? Has no one ever made this and bothered to write it down?  Well not to fear, you may now run google searches and (hopefully) find this recipe. Awesome!  I'm glad to report I'm not totally stupid when it comes to jam making, this recipe is both simple and safe.  It also happens to taste AMAZING! If you need to taste it before you believe me come on over and try it. (Just bring some bread!)

I started by chopping the apricots and pitting the cherries, simple enough work, although slightly messy.  Be sure to chop both the fruits up small, or you'll end up using a wand blender to break up the fruit like I did.  You need to add the juice of one lemon to make the jam shelf stable, the zest of the lemon is optional but it totally makes the jam pop!  I used 1050 grams of sugar because I can NEVER put in the recommended amount, something about the total number just makes me cringe.  My taste in jam is on the less sweet side, but add too little sugar and it won't set.  1050 grams is 5 and 1/4 cups of sugar, you could add up to 6 cups, but happily I've discovered for you it's not necessary.  The last few degrees leading up to 220 F are excruciatingly long, but watch carefully or you'll miss it.  Be sure to use the freezer test to make sure it's cooked enough for your liking.  I took my jam off at 118 F, it was enough.

Apricot & Cherry Jam


Makes 6 - 1 cup jars

Ingredients:
4.5 cups chopped and pitted apricots
3 cups pitted and chopped cherries
Juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbsp minimum
zest of 1 lemon
1050 grams, 5 1/4 cups of sugar

Directions:
Chop fruit into small pieces and place in a large sauce pot, the mixture will boil up a lot.  Add the lemon juice and zest to the pot along with sugar.  Bring pot to a boil, stirring the mixture often to keep the sugar from burning.  Boil the jam for quite some time until the temperature reaches 220 F or the freezer test works.  Ladle the cooked jam into sterilized jars and boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.

July 26, 2011

My Favourite Meal

This plate is my new favourite meal.  We are huge fans of fresh beans in this house and we just so happened to get a box of them as a gift a few days ago.  Quickly blanched and then fried in a bit of oil, salt and peppered is my favourite  way to eat them, but I thought we'd make more of a meal the other night.  This might constitute the perfect lunch, or dinner for me.  It's quick (it only takes 10 minutes to make), vegetarian, gluten free and very filling.  Beans, eggs and parmesan, it doesn't need much of a recipe, but incase your lacking in confidence here is your ticket.

Beans, Eggs and Parmesan


Makes a meal for one.


Ingredients:
1 handful of fresh beans, trimmed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp thyme vinegar (or balsamic)
1 farm fresh egg
shredded parmesan

Directions:
Fill a frying pan with water and bring to a boil.  Throw the trimmed beans into the water and blanch for 30 seconds.  Drain the water from the pan and place back on the heat. Add olive oil and dry the beans for a few minutes, but do not overcook.  Salt and pepper the beans and move to a plate.

In the same hot frying pan crack an egg.  Salt and pepper the egg and cook to your liking (a runny yolk taste wonderful.)  Put the egg on top of the beans and shred the parmesan all over the top.  Devour immediately.

July 25, 2011

Peach and Honey Jelly


It all started with a big jar of honey from Shane's Opa Siegfried.  It's not actually his Opa, but his Opa's brother, but that point is irrelevant.  While we were in Germany visiting family we were given a huge pot of it to bring home.  We lugged that jar of homemade Austrian honey for 4 weeks in our backpacks before we finally cracked it open at home.  It's a very dark honey, that tastes a lot like the woods to me.  Being that it's such a big jar and that I already opened it, I had to find a way to use it where I could still really appreciate it's flavour.  Peach jelly seemed like a logical and appropriate place.

I scoured the internet for recipes to no avail, but since I'm so stubborn I decided to make up my own.  The results were perfect. It tastes like peach, it tastes like honey and the two compliment each other beautifully.

Peach and Honey Jelly


Makes 4 - 1 cup jars


Ingredients:
3 lbs peaches
3/4 cup water
juice of one lemon
1 cup of honey
600 g white sugar
tiny pat of butter
1 pkg liquid certo pectin

Process:
Chop the peaches up into medium sized chunks. Place the peaches with skins and pits in a pot with water and boil for about 15 minutes, until the peaches are very soft.  Crush some of the fruit in the pot with a wooden spoon.  Line a strainer with two layers of cheesecloth and pour fruit and juice on top.  Leave the peaches to drain for at least a few hours, until the liquid has extracted.  Measure out the liquid, you need two cups. (Add water up to 1/4 cup to supplement.)

Stir the juice of one lemon, honey, sugar, little bit of butter and the fruit juice into a sauce pot large enough to accommodate the boiling liquid.  The butter is supposed to keep the foam at bay.  Bring to a full boil and continue to boil stirring frequently until the mixture reaches 220F.  Here I used the freezer test, placing a small plate in the freezer and once chilled dabbing some jelly and returning it to the freezer.  If the mixture jells it is done.  Mine wasn't jelling enough for me, so I added a package of liquid pectin and now it is perfect.

Pour the jelly quickly into sterilized jars, preserves with honey set up quite quickly, so you don't want to wait.   Process in a water-bath for 5 minutes.  Voila!

July 24, 2011

Summer Dinner

We had Shane's friend M over for dinner last night.  She happens to cook for a living so we knew we had to knock dinner out of the park.  We set up the patio set, brought the tomato plants from Mom's where they had been growing on the side of her house. Put out the wine glasses and made a feast.  We ate very well.  I made a grilled flatbread (or bbqed pizza, however you want to look at it) with local garlic and butter spread on the bottom, pureed eggplant with salt and lemon, our rosemary sprinkled on and an awesome strong parmesan cheese melted on top.  It was my favourite dish of the evening.

Shane made and I rolled some fresh fettucini noodles.  We ate it with local bacon, fresh shucked peas, tonnes of garlic and soft fresh goats cheese.  Finally we had an apricot raspberry cobbler with the lemon-thyme ice cream I made a few days prior.

On my 21 before 21 list (must post soon) I wrote 'try 5 cocktails', in an effort to push my boundaries a little.  Beer or wine is usually fine for me.  A summer sangria fit the bill perfectly!  The wine I used in this sangria was a dry white, as described in the recipe.  Our criteria at the liquor store was very simple, dry white and 100% BC produced.  We found something amazing, White Bear Wine, produced in the Okanagan Valley.  The reason it's amazing is because it, not only supports ecosystem conservation, as it states on the bottle, but donates 15% of it's sales to Marine and Rainforest Conservation, to saving the spirit bears!  How awesome is that?!

Dry white wine? Check
100% BC made? Check
Supports BC's environment? Bonus
Saving the spirit bears? Double bonus!

And it tastes great!  We made a great find and to top it all off (could it get any better?!) It's one of the cheapest wines on the shelf, around $14.

Anyway back to the recipe.

Summer Sangria


This recipe is heavy on summer.  It uses rosemary from the garden and strawberries you've got on your counter. It requires some forethought, but it is definitely worth it.  


I didn't adapt the recipe at all from here.  As I've expressed I'm a total drink noob, but Adrianna did a great job, so no improvement was necessary!



One more note, the recipe asks for triple sec, but that's just a offshoot of Conitreau so use whatever you've got.



Syrup:
1 cup diced strawberries
1 Tbsp agave (or sugar if you need to)
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp water
2 sprigs of rosemary

Sangria:
1 750-mL bottle dry white wine
1/4 cup triple sec
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 peach, sliced into 12 pieces
1 orange, cut into 6 crosswise
1 lime, cut into 6 crosswise

Directions:
Combine the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat simmer away for 5-7 minutes, until the strawberries break down and you can easily squish them.  Strain the ingredients through a sieve, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible.  You need at least two tablespoons.

In a pitcher (glass is prettier) combine the wine, triple sec and all the fruit, along with the syrup.  Bang up the fruit a little.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 4 hours or chill for 2.  Serve with ice, or if your freezer is as small as mine serve it without ice.  Enjoy!

Canning 2011 - Round 1

I did my first load of canning a few days ago.  I decided this year I really wanted to focus on playing the jams and jellies, they are the most fun.  I spent the afternoon in the kitchen doing batch after batch and loving every second of it.

I started with a classic, triple berry jam.  I happened to have all three berries fresh in my kitchen, yes an anomaly for most kitchens but with the weather the Fraser Valley has been having, well until we got home, everything was late.  The rain and cold kept the berries at bay, in fact the raspberries we u-picked could have used a day in the sun.  The raspberries we picked from a friend however were perfect.  The triple berry jam was strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and turned out fantastic!  I didn't use pectin but instead followed the Jumbleberry Jam from Well Preserved, which boils the jam until it's set.  Yes saving money!

The rest of the canning consisted of:
Earl Grey Peach Jam - Cetro package recipe for peach jam, in half with three earl grey tea bags steeped in it for one hour.
Raspberry Jam - Silly me forgot to strain some of the seeds out, so they are a little (lot) excessive.
Strawberry Balsamic Thyme Jam - I used the Serious Eats recipe and preserved into 125mL jars, perfect for crackers and cheese, which is exactly what I intend!
Raspberry Peach Jam - My favourite combination by far. I think I used the Certo recipe from their website, but I can't be totally sure.  Bad me.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam - I made this jam from David Lebovitz's recipe.  It turned out good, but my least favourite of the bunch.  Not because it's bad, but because I don't care for strawberry rhubarb (Shane loves it.)
Raspberry Champagne Jelly - I had a crazy idea to make this jelly but no recipe to make it work!  I ended up raspberry jelly recipe from the Certo package (liquid pectin I believe) and dumping in a 200mL bottle of Martini (the Italian sparkling wine), so technically not champagne but stfu.  The results were amazing, it's a favourite for sure.

What are your canning plans this season?

July 23

We made a garden.  And it was a lot of work, as I'm sure anyone whos made one knows.  We started around 1130 at T&G's house, where they have an abundant backyard waiting for us.  G and I went to the garden store picking up our starters, seeds and compost.  The boys went to the hardware store to pick up lumber.  After hours of tilling and weeding we finally produced something beautiful.  Our very own raised beds!

The soil that we dug up had been garden soil until about 3 years ago while the previous owner lived there.  To each bed we added 5lbs of mushroom compost which we mixed in well.  We left at 5, with all three beds filled with seeds or starts, now we wait and see!






July 22, 2011

Garden Update - July 22

Somewhere in the end of March, ah yes, here, I showed you what we did to the garden before we left for three months.  Well when we came back this is what it looked like:

This is a very tame picture.  The entire backyard is thriving and needs some serious work.  The apple tree is so loaded down some of it's branches are touching the ground.
 This is the side yard.  I didn't plant the daisies here, but they migrated.  The weed tree was a stump, maybe a food and a half high, now it's the tallest thing in there (next to the daisies.) You really should take a look back at the post I made in March and peek at the mint, this stuff spreads like weeds!
 Beautiful mini roses, a gorgeous shade of pink.
 The wildflowers in the front bed did welcome us home as I had wished.  The colours threw us back into the Alps of Switzerland immideatly, how amazing!
 The herbs are huge! They really thrived in all the rain we've been getting in.
 I really wish I liked these lilies more, because they're out now, in massive bouquets.

I love my klompen.

Favourite Friday: My Camera Case


It's our first Friday back from Europe, what better way to celebrate than starting a new feature here.  I'll try my best at remembering to feature every Friday my favourite things.

This week to start it off I thought I'd bring attention to my camera case.  Shane bought this Case Logic as a gift for my past birthday.  It's a pretty sweet case, it's got a suspension system inside to keep the lens safe and padded pockets on all four sides.  It has two pockets that hold lenses and the bottom is both hard and waterproof, incase you set it down on a wet table I suppose.  The case has officially been everywhere with us, I mean everywhere.  Anywhere I go he goes as well.  My only complaint is the shoulder strap is rather uncomfortable over long periods of time, but this isn't an issue for the average user, when the length of time you wear it is appropriate, not all day long as one might in Europe.  It's not an inexpensive case, but definitely a worthwhile investment.


What do you think? Do you have a favourite piece of camera related equipment?

July 19, 2011

July 19

We're baaa-ack!  And ready for some regularly inconsistent posting.  When we got back to our house last night the first thing I noticed was the garden.  It was HUGE.  I planted packets of wildflowers, before we left, everywhere there had been a void and with all the rain the Fraser Valley has seen since we left the gardens were thriving.  The apple tree is so heavy it's apples touch the ground.

Along with all the flowers the herbs were in full force, massive chives and rosemary shooting for the sky.  The enormous lemon thyme bush had pretty pink flowers covering it.  We took the blossoms off right away, we would like the plant to keep producing.  Today I used some of those flowers to make a thyme vinegar.

This is what you do.  Wash you flowers, (if you've sprayed them with something unsuitable for consumption-shame on you) if you let them grow wild and free and your not scared of a little extra protein throw them in a glass jar about 1/2-2/3 full.  Fill the jar with white wine vinegar (or if you are feeling cheap just white vinegar will do.)  As you can see I didn't fill mine, I ran out of vinegar.  Leave the mixture to sit for at least 24 hours, I'd do 2 weeks, it gets better with time.  I'd consume it within 8 months.

What do you do with it you ask?  Use it anywhere you'd like! In salads, on rice or in your hollandaise (!)