Friday, 31 August 2007

Simple Supper

The guys are at the movie store picking up a movie for us and we are having nacho night. There is fresh salsa made with tomatoes and green onions from the garden and juice from part of a lime. The rest of the lime is being used for juice in the guacamole and the last bit of the lime will go quite nicely in the well-deserved and much needed G&T, yes, it has been one of those days. I even decided to pass on the movie Perfume ( see, I can pass on an Alan movie) and hold off until a day when I don't feel the need for a light and funny movie. Hubby is bringing home something to cheer us up.

The One with the Recipes

As summer is winding down, I find myself once again perusing through my cookbooks for new recipes, as well as enjoying old favourites. And nothing is as tasty as...

Homemade granola!
There are lots of recipes out there but here is what I do:
Mix together
4 cups of rolled oats (not the quick oats)
some cinnamon and
shredded coconut and
almonds that I have cut up. You can add any nuts you like though.
In my measuring cup, I stir together
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Add to oat mixture and stir together well.
Cook at 300 F for 30 minutes, giving it a stir every so often. Let cool then put in a container. You can add some dried fruit or raisins if you like. I always mean to double my recipe because it can easily be gone in a day or two!

Next is a new recipe I recently tried:

That, my friends, is a homemade pita. I am very proud of it because although it is not pretty, it is very, very tasty! The hummus I'm not so proud of as it is only so-so. Still a work in progress I guess, so I'll just share my pita recipe. You need:

2 1/4 tsp rapid rising active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 cups flour (I did 1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup unbleached all purpose)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Combine yeast, sugar and water and stir until well dissolved. Add the flour and salt, followed by the olive oil and then the remaining lukewarm water. Mix well. You can add water or flour as necessary to make a moist but firm dough.

Knead it until smooth and elastic - about 5 - 10 minutes. Then divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Flatten it out with your hand, then roll into about a 6 mm thick circle. Place on baking sheet, cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel and put aside in a warm location until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 500 F. Place baking sheet on lower rack for 2 minutes. Quickly transfer the baking sheet to the top rack for 2 minutes.

That's it! I was a little bit surprised that they were actually cooked in this short amount of time but they were. You can brush them with olive oil if you like, and serve them warm.

This next recipe is a soup that my whole family enjoyed (and I liked that it was very quick and easy!) It really is soup, but the macaroni absorbed a lot of the liquid so it looks like more of a stew.

Here is the really simple recipe:
First, saute in olive oil
dried basil, oregano, and thyme. (the recipe called for onions but I didn't have any so I left it out - much to the joy of my husband and son)
After about 2 minutes, add some chopped zucchini.
Pour in some tomato juice - I used a 750 mL bottle and boil. After it boils, add 1 cup uncooked macaroni. Stir often as they will want to stick! Once they are cooked, stir in some beans. I used a bean blend with chickpeas for my chickpea loving son. Once it's warm, it's ready! If it is too thick for your liking, you can add some water.

I've also been experimenting with some recipes from the Vegan Lunch Box cook book. I'm not going to give out her recipes though, as she is a stay at home, home schooling mom and I'd like people to support her and buy her book. The first recipe I tried was her potato salad. I have to admit, my picture does not do this recipe justice. It's really good.

Over the years, I have been frightened off from potato salad by the large chunks of (nasty smelling) hard-boiled eggs. Even my non-vegan husband liked this recipe but he said he did miss the pickles (although that could easily be added)

I've also made her Sneaky Momma's Black Bean Soup which was also really good. I don't have a picture but it basically looked like pureed black beans with some beans added in after. The sneaky part is that it was hiding zucchini, red pepper and tomato. It was a pretty thick soup, but instead of adding water, we served it on brown rice. Yum, yum!!

Little movie

I'm reading my blogs this morning and thought you might like to see this short animation...

Heather especially should like it as it has an environmental theme!

More peaches

I know, I know Samantha, I am supposed to be resting, but ripe peaches wait for no one.
(peach syrup)
Especially in fruit fly season, if the fruit is ripe you just have to get it preserved, otherwise your kitchen and back porch get filled with the nasty little things. This is a simple fruit fly trap that works like a charm. You make a funnel shape of paper and put it in a mason jar that has a bit of fruit in the bottom. We have two of these and they have trapped hundreds of the wee beasties. Not very animal friendly of me you say? Wha ha ha ha ha, that's the sound of me laughing evilly as I twirl my mustache and watch the nasty fruit flies die.
We all seem to be fighting a cold and so to start our morning off right we had oatmeal, with peaches and flax seed.
On Wednesday we had our weekly homelearner get-together, as I was locking up to go I said good-bye to this sad face.
(please don't leave me all alone while you go and have fun at the beach, take me, take me, I love to swim, oh pulleaze take me, look how sad and cute I look, how can you resist me?)

And you can't see him very well in this blurry pic but this guy is quite fond of our walnut trees. Yesterday I came around the corner of the house and he startled me as he was running along the side wall of the house, pressed flat up against it with a nut in his mouth. He stopped on our water line to eat it while we watched. Later E and I were reading The Boys Book in the shade of the walnut tree and we saw him climb up the metal clothesline pole (?), go along the clothesline in tightrope walking style, then hop to the plum tree and swing up to the walnut tree in the manner of a gymnast. He hangs out on the roof of the boys tree house looking for ripe nuts that are out of their husks.

Cold Water Wash for your Cukes

This may sound crazy, but I actually wash cucumbers in the washing machine. This year marks the tenth anniversary since I was taught to can by a sweet friend (who has been canning for more years than I've been alive! So you could say she's very experienced at this.) It was my canning teacher who told me about using the washing machine to wash the cukes before canning them. I thought she was joking, of course. I mean, wouldn't the cukes end up as mush in the machine??? Not so, as she showed me. Of course you don't wash the cukes with laundry detergent or soap and you only wash them on the delicate cycle using COLD water. I also put a towel into the bottom of the machine before putting in the cukes.
Here you see 35lbs. of machine washed cukes awaiting the next step on their way to becoming dill pickles. Upon returning the cukes to the kitchen, I put them into my kitchen sink and give them a rinse and check for any further dirt on them (each cuke gets a thorough inspection) before I nip a small bit off each end of every cuke (this helps the brine penetrate the cucumber). I must admit that in all my years of using the washing machine to pre-wash the cucumbers, this is the first year I ended up with some cukes severed. I'm not sure why this happened, but I had only 6 cucumbers damaged which means I'm not deterred from using this method again. It saves a lot of time. Especially the year I bought 75lbs. of cukes to pickle in one day. It took most of the day to can 65 quart jars of dill pickles - but it would've been longer if I hadn't used the machine to pre-wash the dirt and bloom ends off the cukes first.
Ah, the final results of a few hours of work. My 35lbs. of cucumbers became 28 quarts and 1 pint jar of dill pickles. This is about half the amount I need to get my family through the year, but it's a good start!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Peaches and knitting

This peach streusel cake is delicious. I was given the recipe years ago by someone I met through La Leche League. She brought a plum streusel cake to a potluck and I have since found that it's great whatever fruit you put on it.

Here's the recipe for an 8 x 8 inch square pan - double it for a 9 x 13 inch

quarter cup oil (not olive, something lightly flavoured)
half cup sweetener (maybe turbinado sugar or Sucanat or maple syrup, but please not regular sugar)
2 tablespoons soyflour mixed with quarter cup water (this is a vegan egg substitute)
one and a half cups flour (wholewheat or other whole grain - I used kamut )
2 teaspoons baking powder
half cup soymilk (or other kind of milk)
2 cups halved prune plums or sliced peaches or pitted cherries
quarter cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix batter ingredients together, pour into baking pan. You don't want your mixture too runny because it has to hold up the fruit. Top with fruit of your choice, sprinkle with the topping. Bake 35 - 45 minutes at 350 F.

This is what I made with the rest of the Bamboozle. Just enough was left over from making the Fetching fingerless mitts. Took me a couple of hours this afternoon while listening to Tick Tock, a Dean Koontz novel on tape.

Good Books

Tuesday we went to the library and for the first time all summer, we were able to load up on books because we knew we would be home for awhile. I have had to suffer much teasing from our librarian for not fulfilling my duty of keeping their circulation up. ;-)
W picked up The Big Book of Boy Stuff and really enjoyed it. It is filled with all kinds of interesting, fun and silly information. His brother and I kept stealing it whenever he put it down for a minute so that we could read it too. He finished last night so it looks like I will get a turn now. Last night W showed me a page at the end of the book on video games. We had a good laugh at this bit, "These games are created by little men sitting in little cubicles inside of big office buildings. The goal of these men is to rob you of your imagination and your money. If they can get you addicted to a joystick, they will. Once you are the slave of the TV screen or computer monitor, the little men are happy." While I know that is not a really popular view with most people, it tickles, and pleases, me immensely. At any rate, it seems to be a hilariously entertaining book and W recommends it highly.

Awhile ago I had asked our library to purchase the book Benji Beansprout Doesn't Eat Meat and we also picked that up. E enjoyed reading it to me and W also enjoyed it. E has been working his way through Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. He did a lot of reading while we were driving last week and he finished it on Tuesday. He is quite pleased with himself and has said that it is even better than Danny the Champion of the World, his favourite until now. Every once in a while we would hear, "This is a really good book" or "Guess what page I'm on now" or "I only have 43 pages left now". He thought he might take a break and read something a bit easier for a while but I notice that he has already started Chamber of Secrets. Oh, how I look forward to quiet Winter afternoons of tea and reading.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

11th Hour trailer (Leo DiCaprio climate change documentary)

Yet another contest

Gawsh, this must be the time of year for contests - or maybe I'm just hearing about them now that I'm reading the "right" blogs!

Deceptively packaged is having a contest but you have to work a little. Write a 6 word story and leave it in the comments by September 7th. Win yarn. Get over there soon!

Good Things

Can you guess why the arrival of this package yesterday had me dancing with delight???
Feast your eyes on the beautiful fabrics that I won from Dinah's blog giveaway... (oh, you should check out her site because in addition to being a fun read, she's giving away more fabric).
The goodness arriving in my mailbox continued with these two books I ordered (thanks to my mil for the birthday $ ;o)

Both of these books are written by very talented women who also have a presence online. I highly recommend that you check out MaryJane Butters and Amy Karol for some inspiration.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Pillow fighting....and finished socks

I feel like I am being a blog hog today, this being my fourth post 'n' all! However, the kids wanted me to post pictures of their pillow fight this morning in the tent.

And I wanted to post a picture of my Patronus socks - finished and on the feet. Next, I need to start some socks for my dad with the Cascade Fixation I bought the other day...[rolls eyes]...a woman's work is NEVER done!

Garden Update

The garden was busy while we were gone.
E is very happy with his watermelons.
Beans, beans and more beans.
A very industrious eggplant plant.
The squash decided that it wanted to outdo the beans and so is growing up the bean poles as fast as it can. Showoff!

The peach tree is loaded. Fresh peaches, peach smoothie, peach fruit freeze, peach platz, peach butter for winter waffles.....
As you can see by the pic of the peach butter my rock backsplash is still not done. I guess since it appears that Mike Holmes will not be showing up in all his tank-topped glory to finish our kitchen (another dream dashed, sniff, sniff), I will have to spend a little more time at home and get to it.
One of the pumpkins is almost ready.And of course zuchinni. Zuchinni soup, zuchinni Italian pie, zuchinni smoothie....just kidding.

And, since I made two of the zucchini pies last night I don't have to cook dinner tonight. Lovely!

Another contest

Here's another contest you might like to enter. This lady makes beautiful sock knitting bags and she has THREE to give away. Make sure you tell her that Nicola at fourfriendsandablog sent you.

I won!

I'm so excited. I won the photo contest over at Vegan Pal 2! Click here to see what I won. Yay!

Total eclipse

As planned, we set up our tent in the backyard last night, complete with airbeds and sleeping bags, so we could be ready for moon-watching.

We went to "bag" (well, you can't say we went to bed) shortly after ten, though that's early for all of us and we weren't really tired or sleepy. When I say "we", I mean K, S and me. Husband and oldest son drove east for about 7.5 hours yesterday, just to do a day's work, and I don't know whether they'll get back tonight or tomorrow. All I know is they are actually in another time zone - one hour ahead - Rocky Mountain time!!!

It took us some time to go to sleep. I was hoping I'd set the alarm on my watch correctly, because I didn't want to miss the eclipse. I had set the alarm for 2.45am but woke up about 2.20 and took a look outside the tent. The eclipse was already in progress so I woke the boys and told them to come outside.

S was slow to wake up. He came outside, dashed into the house to use the bathroom, took a look at the moon, and went back to sleep!

K and I sat on folding chairs, watching as the earth's shadow gradually obscured the moon.

It was one of those experiences that makes you realise how tiny you are, that you're sitting on this massive rock in the middle of a vast emptiness...shiver...

Thankfully, it wasn't too cold and I was able to watch the moon completely disappear before going back to my sleeping bag.

I didn't go back to sleep for ages. At about 4.30, I peeked outside again and noticed that the moon had reappeared.

I find that when sleeping in a tent, I am usually too cold or too hot. I eventually put on a hoody and was finally able to go to sleep. I woke at about 8am, too hot because the sun was on the tent!!

It occurred to me that in another week or so, this will be "reportable activity" for K and S. We are enrolled once again with Self Design and we will be reporting such educational events to our Learning Consultant each week. September is looming and I have to formulate their Learning Plans for the coming year. We've already had a conversation about this, but need to spend more time discussing what the boys would like to do and get it down on paper. I love that we can plan what the children WANT to learn and not be told by the school what they HAVE to learn.

My teenager is just registered as an independent homeschooler this year, which is appropriate as he IS an independent learner. He knows what he wants to learn and he goes ahead and does it. His computer knowledge is far beyond mine now and long gone are the days when he would accept me trying to "teach" him something.

There's no place like home.....

Now that I blathered on about Fort Steele for so long I will see if I can fit the rest of our trip into one post so as not to totally bore you guys. Hubby and W wanted to go mountain biking in Fernie. Fernie is beautiful so I thought that E and I would hang out at the Rotary park, check out the thrift stores and maybe have a treat (coffee for me and ice cream for him). On the drive there I started noticing cattle trucks driving past us heading towards Cranbrook or Vancouver. There seemed to be so many that I started counting and when I got to around 30 I stopped. Truck after truck filled with cows and covered in cow crap. It was disgusting, really, and I think it even bothered S who does eat meat. I'm not sure where the trucks were all coming from, I would guess around Lethbridge area, but this was only during about one hour of one day that we were on a section of road where they were heading opposite us. I know that the number of cows North Americans eat is incredibly high but to actually see this visual reminder of it was really disturbing. It kind of bummed me out for the day and the boys got to listen to another little rant about fast food places and the typical lousy North American diet.

Once we got to town, S dropped us off in front of the thrift only to find that it was closed. Bummer! Anyway, they had a great time mountain biking, E liked his ice cream and I got to sit at a main street cafe, knit, drink coffee and look down at a street filled with lovely old buildings. On the way out of town we saw a young moose munching away.
We were camping at Wasa Lake in part because we love the bike path, done by the Lion's club, that goes around the whole lake.
And since we were so close and because we always do, we had to head to Lussier hot springs. These are a natural hotsprings alongside a river. We headed towards Nelson to our next campspot but had electrical troubles in Creston. Our trailer battery was on its last legs so our fridge wasn't working. We didn't want to buy a new one because we had some at home that someone had given us. When we stopped to get some groceries we discovered that our lights on the trailer weren't working so had to try to sort that out. Since Nicola and Samantha are fans of Yarn Harlot I decided to take some pics for them.
(These are my Oregon camping socks, called so because I bought the yarn at a shop near Florence Oregon for only $4.50 and discovered/remembered then that Oregon has no sale tax, since I rarely buy new I hadn't noticed and so decided I should take advantge of this and buy myself one of the few things I do buy new...underwear. )
I don't know if you can see it but that is the Columbia brewery in the background. I guess there are worse places to be stuck than by a brewery heh?
After an hour or so of S trying to fix things in the Lordco parking lot (with the minimal tools that he had along) we stopped at an RV place and, with their multimeter, were able to tell that what was wrong. (note to selves- bring multimeter along next time) Back on the road we stopped at Crawford Bay to see the Harry Potter type brooms at North Woven Brooms, we were able to watch the lady making one. We also chatted with the blacksmith for awhile as W is quite interested in blacksmithing. We took a ride on the ferry, this ride is known as the longest free ferry ride in the world, is it true? Who knows, but it sounds cool and you know that I like free stuff. :-) Had a great time at Kokanee Creek, there was biking, beaching, knitting, salmon-spawning watching, hiking, more hot-springing and then we headed to Nelson. I love Nelson. The first time I went there was to camp for the weekend of my 23rd birthday. There is just something about it there...the lake, the mountains, the smell of patchouli wafting through the air, the old houses and buildings....I'm not sure what it is but I quite like it. One of the things I love best about Nelson is that I can go into any restaurant and order almost anything on the menu, there are tons of vegetarians there. I almost wonder if vegetarians are the majority. My favourite spot is the Kootenay Co-op. They sell all kinds of goodies and loads of stuff in bulk. Nicola, they even sell Earth Balance and Veganaise in bulk, so you can just take your containers in and fill up. I got some bulk chamomile shampoo while I was there and of course I had to get some Dr. Bronners Lavender Hemp pure-castile soap, they even had that in bulk. Why don't we have a place like that here? After spending the whole morning and part of the afternoon in Nelson on Saturday we decided to head home through the Slocan Valley. We went to New Denver because we hadn't been there in ages and I wanted to see if I could find the Grubs garden - grubbed in by Self-designers, so that I could leave a note for another Self-design mom, but I couldn't see it anywhere. We dropped our trailer off at Rosebery provincial park and then headed to the ghost town of Sandon.(note to selves - you do not like Sandon, do not go there again. um, self...pretty sure you made that same note last time you were there about 12 years ago, if you are going to make notes to yourself you better at least pay attention and listen to them. Aaaargh)

By this time W felt like he had a cold coming on so we headed back to the campground and relaxed. We tend to find that after day 9 of camping we are all ready to go home. We got packed up early the next morning and headed out towards Nakusp planning to take the road home through to Lumby even though it is not a pleasant road with a big truck and trailer. Just before Nakusp something starting going wrong with the truck and by Nakusp it was gasping and stalling. Not good. Nakusp on a raining, cloudy Sunday morning is not a place you want to have vehicle troubles. While I sat there nervously thinking that we would either meet our deaths by stalling on the road to Lumby with no room to pull over or have to spend another night camping, S tinkered around a bit and decided it was the grungy air filter that was the trouble, it seemed to run well without it, so the plan was to drive without it to Revelstoke in the hopes that there would be something open there to sell us one (silly us). We wanted to stay on the straighter road to Revelstoke instead of the windy road to Lumby just in case we stalled again. While we waited at the ferry I took the boys to use the bathroom (what is it with public toilets? People, the let it mellow thing does not apply in public toilets, flush for pity sake, flush. I am going to avoid public toilets for at least a month...9 days worth of them is enough), E found a twoonie on the way back up to the truck and so he felt that meant our luck was changing. The ferry arrived and it was looking like we would not get on, in fact, the bar right closed in front of us but then the ferry guys decided we would fit on. We drove on a bit doubtfully, me thinking it would not be fun to have to back up off the ferry and up the entrance ramp in reverse with a truck in turmoil. They squeaked us on and had to get the van in front of us to pull up further so that they could shut the back ramp. It was a close one. We stopped in Revelstoke and had lunch at a great little cafe called the Nomad Food Co., the same one we had had dinner at 9 days earlier at the start of our trip. Revelstoke did not have the part we needed so we drove home chugging, lurching and gasping, all the while cursing the guys in the service department who had done a service on the truck three weeks earlier. About a mile from home we chugged, gasped and stalled again but managed to make it. It is good to be home.