Monday, April 27, 2009

Recipe: Pumpkin Braid

So I gave this recipe a try today as something special to go with our pork stew. It's a variation on a Squash Braid recipe I found online. I didn't have any squash on hand so I used canned pumpkin (organic of course) that I had had for a while. I made a few other changes too and I'm quite happy with how it turn out.

You will need:
1 cup canned pumpkin
2.5 tsp of active dry yeast
3 tbsp warm water
1/3 warm milk
1/4 softened butter or margarine
2 eggs
3 tbsps brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2.5 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour

In a small bowl dissolve yeast in 2 tablespoons of warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10mins. Then in a large bowl add the yeast mixture to a mixture of milk, butter, pumpkin, 1 egg, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, molasses, vanilla, 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup spelt, stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well each time. Then knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 5 mins). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl then turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp clothe and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Divide into 6 equal pieces and roll each into a 18 inch long rope. Take 3 ropes, pinch ends together and then braid together. Pinch ends to seal. Do the same with the other 3 ropes. Place braids on a lightly greased pan. Cover and let raise for 20 mins. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In small bowl beat together 1 egg and 1 tbsp of water. Before putting in the oven brush loaves with the egg wash. Bake for about 25 mins or until the braid is crisp and golden. Remove from baking sheet and let cool.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Snapshot Sunday

My very first pair of point shoes now hang in our music/guest room.

The empty bottles from J and his friend at dinner.

Freshly folded laundry (the first of many loads this Sunday)

Our fruit basket piled high with yummy organic fruit.

The homemade popsicles I made today. Pureed strawberry, blueberry and blackberry with some water then frozen. Yum Yum!

See Sarah at The Napping House for more Snapshot Sunday.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recipe: Won Ton Soup

For tonight's dinner I used the left over pot stickers from last night to make Won Ton soup. This is a totally made up recipe by me, I didn't even look at another recipe for reference so it was a little touch and go but it actually turned out great (it actually tastes like Won Ton soup). I had to cook the soup a little longer than I would have liked so the won tons kinda fell apart but the whole soup still tasted awesome. Again these measurements are approximate, so use your best judgment.

You will need:
4 cups of vegetable broth
2-3 cups of water
3 tbsps miso paste
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
4-5 mushrooms, chopped
1 baby bok choy, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 cups of chopped red cabbage
200 grams of tiger prawns
Won Tons (see the recipe below)
1 cup of chopped firm tofu
1/2 tsp of soy sauce
2-3 drops of fish sauce
some garlic powder
some sea salt
some black pepper
some ground coriander

Heat all the liquid and the miso paste in a large soup pot on medium heat. Add onions, garlic and leek and cook until almost tender. Add mushrooms, cabbage, and bok choy. When almost ready to serve (as these will cook quite quickly) add the prawns, tofu and won tons. Season with soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic powder, salt, pepper and coriander. Cook for about 3-5 mins more (until prawns are cooked through) and serve.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recipe: Pot Stickers

We had the most delicious homemade pot stickers for dinner tonight. Although they were time consuming, they were worth it. This is my own recipe (inspired by my good friend, Kyre) so none of measurements are exact.

You will need:
- 1 package of won ton wrappers
- about 400 grams of ground meat (I used turkey)
- 1/4 shredded cabbage
- 1/2 chopped onion
- 1/4 shredded zucchini
- about 5 mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- some grated ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- small handful of cilantro, chopped
- some sesame oil
- some soy sauce
- some fish sauce
- garlic powder
-black pepper
- ground coriander
- red pepper flakes
- yolk of 1 egg, beaten

Heat some canola or olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion, garlic, cabbage, mushroom and zucchini. Cook at medium heat until tender. Add the meat and continue to cook until meat is cooked through. Finally add the ginger, sprouts, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and spices. Allow the mixture to cool then spoon mixture into the won ton wrappers. Use the beaten egg yolk to seal the edges. Tonight we cooked some in hot oil in a wok, kinda fried them and served them with plum sauce. Tomorrow I going to try making won ton soup with the remaining stickers, so I let you know how it works out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Be Prepared

Here on the west coast earthquakes are a very real possibility and they happen more often then you would think. We live on what is called the Ring of Fire, a seismically and volcanically active band along the west coast of North America and continuing around to the far coast of Asia. On the island we have small earthquakes all the time however it is common knowledge that we are very due for a major quake sometime soon. We all are prepared from incidents in our home; we have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, gas detectors, etc. But I'm surprised by how many people are not prepared for a major event.
About 2 months after we moved into our house we put together an earthquake kit. If you live on the west coast I strongly encourage you to take steps to protect your family in the case of a major disaster.

In our kit we included:
-a pair of shoes for everyone in the household (flip flops don't count, you want shoes that you can walk over broken glass with)
- a complete change of clothes (long pants, long sleeve shirt, underwear and a jacket, something that can work for all seasons)
-flashlight (it's best to keep the batteries separate to prevent corrosion)
-candles and matches (these don't need to be waterproof though we have a set of both)
-radio (ours is battery and hand cranked) to keep up to date with rescue efforts
-extra batteries (make sure to have a spare set of all kinds you use i.e. AAA or D)
-first aid kit (make sure this contains heavy duty bandages, gloves and anything you may need for CPR)
-space blankets (these are waterproof and are best of conserving body heat, they look kinda like tin foil and are available in the camping section of most department stores)
-lots of clean water (we have 4 refillable 4L jugs of water, never underestimate the need for water)
-towels (one for every member of your household, they don't have to be full size we use large hand towels, they just need to be big enough to wipe you clean and dry)
-food (non-perishables, high-protein, easy open is best so we have a large sealed container of nuts, 4 cans of pop-top chili, 2 cans of ready to serve chicken soup, 4 cans of tuna, 2 cans of turkey chunks, 2 cans of orange slices, a bottle of powdered meal replacement drink and more)
-signs (these can be made and laminated yourself or purchased at a department store, they will let rescue crews know if your party is in need of immediate help)
-medications (easy to forget yet vital, I have asthma so I have an emergency inhaler but if you are diabetic have insulin, if you have allergies have an epi-pen, anything that you may need in an emergency)
-everything else (this includes utensils for food, diapers for your baby, instructions and locations for turning off the gas to your home, toilet paper, phone numbers and addresses for friends and family members, gloves for moving rubble, etc)

Everything in your kit should be in an individual zip-lock bag, make everything as waterproof as possible. Store all your supplies in a waterproof container then store the container in a location away from buildings and power lines, you want to be able to access the kit easily. Your kit should contain supplies to sustain you and your family for up to 72 hours in the event that help is not immediately available. Your kit will need to be updated once a year, so write dates on your food and water. Even though canned goods don't really expire too quickly, you should still rotate your goods every 12 months.
You also need to prepare for the fact that you may be incapacitated so make sure everyone in your home knows where the kit is and how to use it. It is also a good idea to begin preparations inside your home as well. Store a pair of hard soled shoes under everyone's bed so that if a earthquake hits in the night you aren't caught completely off-guard. Teach your children how to duck and cover and how long to wait before exiting the home. Show them where to go if Mom and Dad aren't out there to meet them (i.e. to a neighbors house or to the school across the street).
Although it isn't fun to think of the worst case scenario, it is your best chance at survival. If you have more concerns and would like to learn more, your local government should have emergency preparedness information. Your local fire department is also a good source of information for building a good kit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some good news and some bad

It was a gorgeous day today, it was so hot and sunny it was almost summer weather. So I decided to take advantage and spend some quality time in the garden (but isn't that what I always do these days :P).
I planted another blueberry plant. They say for best results to plant more than one variety so I now have a Harti blueberry and a Duke blueberry. One produces in the summer and the other in the fall. I also planted some potatoes that I had kept indoors to sprout, they were just little sprouts but I thought they would do better out in the sun. I also planted some garlic cloves that had sprouted in my fridge. I'm hoping they take since my sweetie is really hoping for home-grown garlic. I also planted some Walla Walla onion and some dill. Then, in the greenhouse I planted some Roma tomatoes. I haven't decided if I'm going to keep those in the greenhouse the whole summer or if I'm going to move them outside. Hmmm....
My brother also came by today to help me dig out the other plot. It was quite the job (we found plywood, plastic and garden netting in there) but it looks like it's ready now. The seeds I order for that plot should be here sometime this week. My friend had told me about this seed mix which is corn, beans and squash and I was intrigued so I looked it up online and I had to have it. So that will be going in the new plot.
The bad news is that we found a ton of tent caterpillars in our apple tree. We had to cut them out, there really isn't anything else to do about it. So we lost a fair number of branches from our only apple tree. The other thing that made me sad today is that our clothes line (which was torn down during the wind storms this winter) won't be up and run for quite a while. It was so hot out today I tried to fry some of my clothes out on a little fold out laundry rack. A little disappointing. The other unpleasant thing I noticed today is that I got sunburnt while I was out in the garden yesterday. My whole face and my arms were burnt. Because I'm so fair I burn quite badly and it hurts a lot.
To end on a happy note, I had a yummy dinner with my brother and our friend from across the street. We had BBQ Cajun chicken with focaccia bread and steamed yams and onions with fig goat cheese. So good! And we got eat our dinner outside....ah yes summer is coming!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Snapshot Sunday and a Garden Update

This is a new thing I'm going to try. I got the idea from a friends blog. She takes five pictures, wherever she is, no cleaning or tidying, just "in the moment" type pictures. Kind of a neat way to see into other people's lives a little bit. This week I'm combining it with a garden update.
The garden is coming along, finally. Things are actually starting to take form. Here are some pictures of my wonderful garden. I'm so excited, I can't wait until harvest. You'll notice in the pictures that the soil is very sandy and that's because we had a huge delivery of sand to help break down the clay that we had before.

In this picture we have my wonderful greenhouse (which I love) and in the back there is my great compost bin that my darling built for me. Where you see the tall posts is my 3 rows of English Peas. On the left of that is my lettuce, spinach, onion, chives, carrot (summer and fall), beets, cauliflower, broccoli, radish and tomato.

Here is the other side of the garden. Again you see the peas, then to the right of that is swiss chard, brussel sprouts, beans (climbing and bush), potatoes, garlic, pumpkin, butternut squash, zucchini, cucumber, rhubarb, current, and artichoke. We are also planting some more beans, squash and corn in a bed that is yet to be dug.

Here is our messy yet functional greenhouse. We still have a ton of stuff left from the old owners in the greenhouse. So again we have lettuce and spinach in the middle box on the left, then in the middle from the top, sweet peas, peppermint, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, lavender, sage, chocolate mint, oregano, and jalapeno and cayenne peppers. In the the smaller containers I'm starting my beans, broccoli, cucumber, pumpkin, squash and tomato. We have more going that just didn't make it into the picture, there is sweet pepper, a guava tree and a hanging basket of strawberries. The bin with the tan lit that the peat containers are sitting on is our earthquake kit.

My beautiful pear tree blossomed today, thought I would grab a picture of it.

Here is the awesome Mason Bee house that my sweetie made. We but it under the grape vine to try to protect it from the rain a little. I hope we get lots of bees this year, we need these little workers to make the most of the garden. I've seen some bees around but I don't think they are Mason Bees.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Great Mommy Giveaway

As you know I love Etsy, I'm on there almost everyday. Etsy's Mothering Street Team is having a great giveaway. Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Recipe: Mango Lassi

I love lassi and mango lassi are my favorite kind. A lassi is an Indian yogurt beverage often served with spicy dishes to help your mouth (and stomach) tolerate the spice. This recipe should yield enough for 2 glasses.

2 1/2 cups chopped, peeled mango (very ripe)
1 quart plain yogurt
A small amount of stevia (or 1/4 cup natural sugar)

Puree mango with stevia in a blender till smooth. Add yogurt and blend well. Force through a fine sieve into a pitcher. Serve lassi over ice in tall glasses.

Green Tips: The 3 Rs

Yes I'm talking about Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. I think we all know the basics but do we really use the 3 Rs to their full potential. Here's some ideas to make the most of these simple green ideas.

1. Reduce your waste by purchasing items that come in minimal and/or recyclable packaging. Beware of individual serving packages, they are a waste of material when you can simply make your own individual servings in reusable containers at home.

2. Reduce your waste by buying your fruits and vegetables loose and using re-usable clothe bags at the checkout.

3. Being creative is your best friend when it comes to reusing items. Try reusing chipped glasses and mugs to hold pens or use empty (and clean) cans to store seeds (or you could even use the bulk size cans to grow seeds in).

4. Reuse clothing by donating to thrift stores or clothing drives. Also if you have children it might be worthwhile to join a clothes swap with other local parents.

5. Know what you can recycle to make the most of your curbside pick up and where you can go to receive a refund for recycling. In general, plastic bottles and packaging, aluminum and tin cans, glass bottles and jars, paper and cardboard can all go in your blue box. Plastic bags, electronics, batteries, tetra pak containers and old applicances can often be recycled at other locations. If you are getting rid of old materials spend some time researching the best place to recycle them (there might be some cash in it for you). If you live in Victoria the CRD is the best source for recycling information.

So the next time you are doing some spring cleaning think the 3 Rs and make the most of the materials you have in your home and help the planet too ;)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our Easter Bunny

Last night I got a call from my brother saying asking if I wanted a bunny. I mean it is not unusual to see bunnies in my parents neighbourhood since they live so close to UVic (which is a breeding ground for rabbits). Ian said he saw a tiny tiny baby bunny being attacked by a cat and had rescued it but was being stalked by the cat so he didn't want to release it. I quickly ran out there to help him and ended up bringing the bunny home.
We talked about keeping it and raising it as an outdoor bunny. He was just so small and so cute I didn't want to give it up. But after doing some research online to see what I should do for him, we realized that he was so small that he probably wasn't ready to be without his mother. We dropped him off at the animal hospital where they said because he was a cotton tail he would be taken to a group called Wild Arc to be rehabilitated and released into the wild. Although this was the best option I couldn't help feeling disappointed that I couldn't keep him (on the way to the hospital we decided to name him Walter the bunny). I'm going to call Wild Arc and make sure he is OK next week. I guess he was our own special Easter bunny.
If you have found a orphaned or injured wild animal on Vancouver Island, please contact Wild Arc (or if you would like to donated to this very good cause visit)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Flowers Flowers Flowers

Growing flowers in your own yard is not only aesthetically pleasing but it is also environmentally friendly. I, like many of you, enjoy bring color into my home through a nice vase of flowers. It always brightens my day when I see a nice bouquet of daffodils sitting on my dresser. However, store bought flowers are often very bad for the environment. Cut flowers are often treated with many kinds of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that are known to cause health problems. Additional, many flowers that provide the diversity at floral shops are imported which contributes to the carbon dioxide problem. So the most eco-friendly choice (and not to mention easier on the bank account) is to grow your own flowers.
Although it wasn't very nice weather today my mom, my boy and I planted our flower garden in the front yard. We have a selection of iris, blue bells, heather, roses, lilies, and lilac. I can't wait for them to bloom. We will be planting some seed flowers in the bed in May and then adding some bulbs in the fall. We also seeded the rest of the yard for some grass and along the way discovered some tulips hiding under a bush, which I am thrilled about. We could never grow tulips at my parents house because the deer destroyed them, which made me so sad because tulips have to be one of my favorite flowers. Luckily there are no deer here! I finished my flower gardening by planting some sweet peas in the backyard. We will be bringing some more flowers for the front yard but we won't be planting much more until the exterior of the house is painted (yes! more painting!).
We also decided that we are going to try to make the most of the soil in the backyard and not do raised beds. We are going to use the clay soil we currently have by adding sand and doing a lot of stirring. Hopefully our crops will take and we won't get any flooding (the other day when we had some rain the back part of the yard flooded so much so that we had ducks enjoying the "pond"). I am completely consumed by this gardening thing. I have never done so much gardening before but I love it! I can't wait to reap the rewards.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Saving Luna

This is a beautiful documentary film about an orphaned killer whale who longed to be friends with his human neighbors. Luna got separated from his pod and made his home in Nootka Sound (located on the northern point of Vancouver Island). I found this film to be incredibly touching and incredibly frustrating. This film documents the many different responses of residents, first nations and government to the presences of Luna.

It is a touching film about this lonely whale (that really could be any one of us) that showcases some stunning west coast landscapes and I highly recommend it to anyone. Even if you don't like documentaries this film is too beautiful to miss and you might be surprised by how easily you can relate to this film. To watch a trailer and see some more gorgeous photos of Luna visit
"A life does not have to be human to be great"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Finally SPRING!

We had the most beautiful spring day today. It would appear that spring has arrived on the west coast. It was so warm and sunny, I literally had to peel off layers as the day went on. The picture above is my backyard today, note the blue sky and the nicely mowed lawn.
So since today was my day off at work, I went to the nursery and got everything I needed to do some more gardening. I am so proud, everything looks great.

There are the flowers I planted yesterday, I love the colors and those sit just in front of our patio set. I love pansies. When I was a little girl (maybe 6 or 7) my mothers friend, who is a gardening pro, taught me about flowers. She showed me that all pansies have faces, snap dragons actually snap and fox gloves can be worn on your fingers. She made gardens seem so magically.

Here are some more flowers I planted just today and a pot of strawberries. These ones are living beside the garage. It is one of the sunniest places in the yard. I'm hoping these strawberries do a lot better then last years.

These are brussel sprouts. I wasn't really planning on planting these but they were on sale at the nursery so I had to give it a try. Right now they are in the greenhouse since the yard garden isn't quite ready but I'm move them out there when it is time.

Some herbs! From left to right: in the pot we have mint, then lavender, rosemary, and then oregano. In another container I also planted some thyme.

Here we have spinach and lettuce that I started from seed in the greenhouse. I can't wait until I can eat them. The lettuce is doing really really well, so hopefully it should produce some lush and large leaves.

Here is one of our pear trees. It is just about to blossom. All the trees are budding and they should bloom soon. I'm quite relieved to see them budding, we pruned them a lot this year. The only one that I think won't produce this year would be the grapes.
It was the perfect west coast spring day and I'm so pleased that the garden ball is rolling. I also rearranged the patio so I think we will have a BBQ tonight and enjoy every last minute of the sunlight.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Good Start

Today was the first day of real garden work. We bought plants and are now ready to put them in the ground. I've already got spinach and lettuce coming up in the green house. Tomorrow I will be adding an herb garden in the green house. I mostly planted flowers today. I planted pansies in a box, and I have everything ready for the 3 rose bushes, 2 raspberry bushes, 2 heather plants and 1 rhubarb we bought. We have a bit more work to do on the beds for the vegetables. We haven't decided if we are going to fix the yard as it is for vegetables or if we are going to build boxes. Here's the plan so far (everything will be organic of course).

- Oregano
- Mint
- Basil
- Rosemary
- Chives
- Sage
- Thyme

- Raspberries
- Blueberries
- Blackberries (not that we want them but there are some at the back of the yard so I'll eat the berries)
- Apples
- Pears
- Grapes
- Plums
- Rhubarb

- Peas
- Green beans
- Carrots
- Squash
- Lettuce
- Spinach
- Zucchini
- Sweet peppers
- Pumpkin
- Potatoes (I've read that you can grows these in old garbage cans so we are going to give it a go)
- Onions
- Garlic (I'm on the fence about this one, we will see)
- Tomatoes

- Chillies
- Nasturtium
- Sunflowers
- Chamomile
- Lavender
- Sweet peas

It might seem like a lot but next year will be a smaller batch. It's sort of a test to see what grows best in this soil. It has quite a bit of sand and clay so we aren't sure what plants will take to it. I would be thrilled if we could be almost self-sufficient here. We have a ton of space for a garden and we are going to plant flowers for cutting in the front (the roses, heather, and a lot of bulbs). We already have a great compost bin going (thank you Baby for all that hard work) and I'm looking forward to installing rain barrels and a nice long clothes line. We are also putting up a home for the birds and for the mason bees. So hopefully we will have a wonderfully productive yard by next year!
On a final note, we mowed the lawn today for the first time since we moved in. I must say, it looks SO good. It's not such a jungle out there. Oh, I am so excited for this yard!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cute Bag and Doll Giveaway

The Big Piece of Cake is giving away this adorable bag. You can visit their blog here. The bag is hand embroidered with a bluebird in a redbud tree, the bag measures 11 3/4 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and has a 17 inch strap. It's made from canvas and is lined with lime green linen.


One of my favorite Etsy sellers is having a giveaway. She is giving away an adorable felt doll. You can visit her blog here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Recipe: Monkey Munch

This is one of my favorite recipes and I thought with Easter approaching it might be time for some goodies. This is not healthy by any means but it is snackable and just so good. It is also good for adults and children alike. I do my best to use organic ingredients (I do everything except for the Crispix) with this recipe. It calls for Crispix but you can use most cereals. I've heard of people using shredded wheat or corn puffs but Crispix is my personal favorite. For an additional variation, try almond butter instead of the peanut butter it calls for.

9 cups Crispix/Chex
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter/margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 powdered sugar

Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside. In a saucepan, heat chocolate chips, peanut butter and margarine over low heat, stirring frequently, until melted. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal until evenly coated. Pour into a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add powdered sugar, shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in a resealable container for up to 2 weeks.