Sunday, December 18, 2011

Smoked Pork Chops

In every man's life there comes a time to make a choice. A choice to be great or to blend in with the din. Today, I was presented with just such a moment.

A few days ago I was at Wagner's Orchards to pick up a pastured beef rib roast for Christmas Dinner, while I was there, Harold, being the consummate sales man, talked me into a couple berkshire pork chops - he didn't so much talk as lay a dozen out on the counter for me to look at; that's a salesman!

Here it is Sunday morning and I'm informed that my Mother-in-law will be joining us for dinner, and it so happens that these lovely chops have been beckoning. Now, it's decision time. How do I cook them? They weren't cheap and I want to taste the "berkshire-ness" that they're famous for. I decide, I must smoke them. Pork loves smoke. Plus it gives me a reason to fire up the Big Green Egg.

Here we go...

Look at those bad boys, begging for some salt and a delicate apple wood kiss.

Onto the small Big Green Egg for a quick sear.

Smoking away on the small. Tastiness imminent.

250° dome temp, about 40 minutes, pulled with internal temp of 145° and allowed to rest about 5-10 minutes while I finished running the potatoes through the food mill (that makes good "mashed" potatoes) and getting the roasted carrots on the table.

There they are all finished. Now, I think I've committed a cardinal sin of "food blogging," I didn't take a photo of the plate. Well, I was hungry, had two hungry kids, a hungry wife and a hungry Mother-in-law. Ahwell.

The chops were fantastic, though. They did not blend in with the din.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Milk Kefir Uses

So I was getting a bit bored with just drinking the plain milk kefir with some vanilla in it.  Aaron and I had went out form the WECSA dinner and they had a kefir dip which was a ranch style dip made with milk kefir using cream instead of a lower fat milk.  We got to thinking about other ways to make and eat the milk kefir.  I purchased a yogurt cheese maker for Aaron for Christmas and decided to give it to him early.

We used it to make kefir cheese!  It is smooth and delicious!  I add a bit of flavouring such as  extract, fruit and/or sugar/honey and the kids even like it.  I have not experimented with different recipes much yet but plan on getting creative.

I zipped up approximately 1/4c. frozen raspberries and 1/4c. of frozen strawberries with 1c. kefir milk and 1c. kefir yogurt and a tablespoon or 2 of honey (depending on your sweet preference).   It was fantastic.  We have some frozen blueberries that we had picked fresh this summer that I will whip up in a day or two.

I think if I had made it will 2cups of the yogurt kefir instead of half milk and half yogurt it would have been thicker and smoother.  It was good just the way I made it as well but I will experiment and change it up regularly.     

Then with the left over whey from the yogurt... I bring it to a boil and it separates and once I strain it I have a kefir cheese for on top of salads or in pasta dishes!  I have been using it as a replacement for feta on my greek salads.  The kefir cheese is more crumbly... a texture and taste  is somewhere between feta and ricotta.  The taste is bland until you add a pinch of salt which makes it is quite good.  We are going to try to get enough kefir cheese to make a lasagna with... I think it will be fantastic!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pay It Forward 2011

Earlier this year in January my cousin had posted a pay it forward post stating that I would make the first 5 people who comment on my post something homemade sometime in  2011.  Of course I procrastinated until the very last moment.  I now am scrambling to make something for the 5 people on my list.  I have my cousin, one of my bff's, my Dad's fiance, Aaron's friend (and mine) from work and an old friend on the list.  So far I made a scarf for Aaron's friend Mike... since he lives about an hour away and Aaron will see him Friday, I completed his first (even though we saw him last weekend... I hadn't even started yet!).  I call it the Sanderson Scarf!  :)

 Using a 9mm hook, I used a simple double crochet pattern.  I stitched 20 across and keep track of the rows, but I went until it hung across Aaron's neck and the ends were past his bellybutton.  I added some detail by skipping some stitches.

I have a few ideas for the others on the list; they are all women so they tend to be a bit easier to make for.  I may do a few different things and make some baskets but I have not decided yet.  I wish I had started earlier so I didn't have to rush so much, but it wouldn't be Christmas without a mad dash to get... in this case MAKE... last minute gifts!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Busy Busy!

Holidays are in full swing with lots going on.  We have had 2 Christmas parties already and even cut down our tree last friday!  Due to the hustle and bustle of the season I have gotten a bit off track with blogging.  I have a bit of things to catch up on.

I finally cooked up our teeny tiny egg!  The size of the yolk clearly effects the size of the egg; there was plenty white but the yolk was super tiny and misshapen.   I simply fried it up and could not believe the taste of this little egg!  It was like the flavour of a large egg was packed into this little bundle of deliciousness.  The texture of the egg was a bit different but in a good way.  It was more dense than a regular size egg... it was really quite fantastic!

... and so I enjoyed my little bundle of goodness!
For a family Christmas party we decided to make some salted caramels!   We adapted the recipe from  The recipe we used is:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water

1.  Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter the parchment.

2.  Bring cream, butter, sea salt and vanilla to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.  
3.  Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring just until sugar is dissolved. 
4.  Then boil, without stirring, until mixture just starts to turn color.  Lightly swirl the pan to even out the color as it darkens.  (We allowed ours to boil a bit to fast and the sugar mixture just slightly overcooked.)

5.  When the color is a shade darker than what you want for your caramel you add the cream and butter mixture... be careful as it will bubble up.  

6.  Continue to simmer, stirring often and keep your candy thermometer submerged.  Once you reach your ideal temperature, somewhere between firm and hard ball, (we did 255 degrees) you immediately remove the pot from the heat and pour it into the lined baking pan.

7.  Allow to cool for a few hours until the caramels have set.  Cut into desired size and wrap them in waxed paper with twisted edges.

The caramels turned out great.  The sugar was slightly overcooked but definitely not enough to ruin the caramels.   The colour was nice, it was just reached a bit too fast; you want the sugar mixture to boil but not on high.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Soap recipe

I found a simple recipe for homemade soap... no-weighing even!  We have a scale but this just seemed like an easy, fool proof first recipe to start with.  I have been having a difficult time finding some of the oils and specialty ingredients that many recipes call for.  The recipe I found and plan to use uses simple ingredients found at most grocery stores.

750grams (26.46 oz) coconut oil
700 grams (26.69 oz) olive oil pomace grade
900 grams (31.75 oz) shortening
342 grams (12 oz) lye dissolved in
650 grams (22.93 oz) distilles or deionized water

I will also add some colourant 1-2 teaspoons... possibly tumeric or cinnamon, 118ml (.05 cup) finely ground oatmeal and a fragrant oil of some sort such as lily of the valley or lavender.

The canwax website in canada is great and has most ingredients but they want to charge me almost $20. for shipping.  I am hoping to get a few batches under my belt and then go onto more difficult and elaborate recipes, then I will order more fancy ingredients and place a huge order and get a few batches worth of supplies at a time.  I wanted to make soap and give them away as Christmas gifts but I won't have the time, but I will definitely be making soap for my own families use.  Hopefully sooner rather than later... Christmas holidays are always so busy!

recipe from Soap Maker's Workshop

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My most recent blanket has been completed and turned out pretty nice.  The stitch was clean and simple and I was able to complete the blanket in less than a month.
Stitch I used for the blanket from The Complete Photo Guide To Crochet.
The blanket was for my brother in laws soon to be first born!  The baby shower was this past weekend and I was able to give the blanket along with the rest of the gift!

I also threw together a toque (hat) last night for Megan.  The toque was done is rows, not rounds with double crochet in pink and double crochet-cross stitch for the 2 rows of beige.  I used a 6mm hook but would use a smaller one next time to have a tighter crochet for colder weather, with the 6mm hook this hat will be a tad too drafty for those frigid cold days.  Also, Megan was in bed when I decided to make the toque and I guessed at the size of her head... turns out I was a size off and the toque is a bit big.  I think it is super cute though and love the way it turned out.  The yarn is Bernat Handicrafter and is 100% cotton, ultrasoft.  I may give the toque to my niece or keep it for when Megan next year... I have yet to decide.

Monday, November 28, 2011

French Toast!

Aaron had been bothering me for some time to bake fresh Brioche bread to make french toast with.  This past weekend we had an open house and our realtor had suggested baking bread or cookies to create a pleasant smell throughout the house.  Aaron took this advice and ran with it!  It was the perfect excuse to bake his brioche.  He got the bread recipe from The Bread Bakers Apprentice which we had purchased for his brother a few years back, although I am sure there are many fine brioche recipes online!  The book has 3 versions of the Brioche; poor mans, middle-class and rich mans.  Aaron decided to do the poor mans since the major difference (from what I understand) is the amount of butter added.  The french toast mixture was from Fine Cooking Magazine.  Turns out... Brioche makes the best french toast EVER!!!  This was so tasty and the edges were crispy and sweet and the center was just moist enough... not soggy, but just right!  Aaron served it to me with icing sugar, 100% pure maple syrup and a fanned strawberry!  Bon Appetite! 
Looks Tasty Doesn't It!

Homemade Salsa

I can't believe I forgot to post about our homemade salsa!!  I made it around the time we made the pasta sauce back in September.

Salsa Recipe:
8 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
4 Cubanelle peppers, diced
2 cups white onion, diced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup sweet red peppers, diced
1/2 cup jalapeno pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-5 1/2oz cans tomato paste
2 tbsp. paprika
2 tbsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (add at the end)

Bring all ingredients but parsley to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Add in parsley and Enjoy! You can 
adjust the heat to your taste. 1/2 cup of jalapeno is mild, I removed seeds but left the membrane.

Finished Salsa... Delicious!

I made it while Aaron was at work and Megan had been napping.  I was concerned about the heat so I didn't add many jalapeno peppers; Aaron and I love heat but the kids like to eat salsa so we needed to be careful.  We got the recipe form Aaron's cousin and had tried their batch and really enjoyed it.  I didn't have tomato paste or enough vinegar so Aaron brought some home after work... but with less vinegar (only 1/4c) and no tomato paste it tasted fantastic and could have been eaten then as a FRESH SALSA!  I started cooking the salsa before getting the extra ingredients and just added them once Aaron got home.   My only issue with how it turned out was the vinegar... I should have used a good quality AC vinegar but used no name and adding 3/4c late certainly didn't help, although it didn't cook it long before Aaron got home.  We then canned them up and used the boiling water bath method for preserving (link for how to).

Monday, November 21, 2011

... and so our gardening season ends.

We decided to blanche the kale to bag and freeze and dried the herbs.  For the kale Aaron blanched it in batches for 30 seconds and then cooled them down in cold water, patted them dry and bagged them for freezing.

Frozen portions of kale to be bagged.
As for the herbs, we simply put the oven to 170 and dried them for a few hours.

Rosemary and Sage.

When the herbs were dry we cooled them on the counter and put them into tupperware.  I decided to put in some dry rice at the bottom of the tupperware just incase there is some moisture left.  I don't want the herbs to get moldy if there happened to be a bit of moisture left.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Layer.

There is clearly a new layer out at the coop.  I collected eggs this past Wednesday and found a "mini egg".  The small egg had a nice shape to it but the shell was bumpy and the colour was inconsistent.  There are often some very large, slightly misshapen eggs as well which I assume are from the older layers.  I am excited to crack the tiny egg open and see the size of the yolk (vitellus) and white (albumen) in comparison to an average size egg.    I am not sure if the new layer would be one of my Barred Rocks or one of the Chanteclers since they are all about the same age and both lay brown eggs.  I would like to think it was one of the first from my hens, but there is no real way of knowing unless we actually see them laying.  Pretty cool regardless!
Tiny egg compared to one of the larger eggs.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

WECSA Coop Improvements

 Aaron finally made it to this past weekend to do the improvements at the coop.  He and another member built the ladder roost with a poop drawer. They built the roost and use mesh to keep the birds from getting underneath it.  There is netting that prevents the birds from getting underneath and below the poop deck is storage for food and supplies. I went out later in the evening after the improvements were complete to check on the birds and see if they were using the roost...
New roosts with poop deck.  Underneath there is storage space for food and supplies.
My birds and the Chanteclers were up on the roost with 2 other brown hens and the one sex link.  The rest of the brown hens were... huddled in the corner between the nest boxes and the wall with some in the nest boxes.
Nest boxes, grit feeders on right wall... birds all huddled together unable to get onto the roost.
Here is the straw bale outdoor coop.  There is a hole in the side of the main coop to allow the birds to enter and exit as they please.  The white angled structure is covered with a tarp which is over the hole to prevent the birds from getting snowed in over the winter months.
Once we noticed the birds unable to get onto the high roost we decided to build a ladder so they could climb easier.  The following night 4 more made it onto the roosts; hopefully in time more will find their way up there.

Take a stand!

Lately I have been wondering where our voices have gone.  I understand that not everyone will find something that they have a passion for (the ones who do will lead the way) and many working families do not have time to dedicate fully to a cause.  But what about simply having an opinion!  People do have opinions about issues once informed ( I hope).   Lets use animal cruelty as an example, even more specifically Rhino poaching.  Now if I were to tell you that dogs or cats were near extinction and that their population is so diminished that it likely will not recuperate... what might you say, better yet, what might you do?  The rhino population has in fact declined 90% since 1970 and their population will likely not recover from this decline.  I had no idea this was even occurring until just days ago, where the hell have I been?!  To top it off, just this week the Western Black Rhino was officially declared extinct!  Now, the Rhino's extinction will not directly and immediately impact my day to day life and so maybe I should not be overly concerned with this news... or should I??  The answer is I SHOULD!   If your neighbour was running a meth lab out of his/her basement I bet you would have a voice!  Why does it need to negatively effect people for them to care enough to have a voice!?!

Now, one single person cannot ever be abreast on all the issues that plague our world but lets think about the ones you ARE AWARE OF! (ex: Global warming, war, poverty, etc.)  Supporting an issue does not mean that you must donate money and hours of your time.  Not everyone is in a financial situation where they can give to many or any causes.  Simply sending emails, spreading news and information and vocalizing your support IS STILL SUPPORT!  It does not take long to "fan" a page on facebook, start a conversation about an issue or cause with friends and coworkers or shoot off an email to people of influence.  If everyone in Canada made their voices heard about every issue they had an opinion about think of how much good we could do as a country!  Those with influence could help, those with funds could support and those with a voice would be heard and that is how change happens!  I am not going to start a local campaign to support the Rhinos but I will speak to the issue and spread the word.

I can't resist but to mention backyard chickens here... It is my belief that the majority of people don't mind if a neighbour were to keep backyard hens and that if those who are opposed were to be educated about backyard chickens they too would be supportive.  I believe this whole heartedly!  I can give you a dozen+ news articles from the past few years about backyard chickens.  With all the news coverage I would assume that the majority of people have heard about people wanting to keep chickens.  If everyone within a city/town were to make their voices hear.. whether in support or not, imagine how simple it would to have change!  As of now, it is those who want to keep hens and those who are totally against them that have a voice.  When people read the news articles and say "Oh, thats really a shame they had to get rid of their chickens, who cares if they want to keep a few chickens."  THIS DOES NOT HELP ANYTHING!  People need to stop saying "oh, thats too bad."  with regards to every single issue they read about.  "That's too bad." is what's wrong with society.  If you support a cause... make it known!  With regards to Backyard chickens, if you don't mind them... let your town/city know about it!  Just because you don't plan to have them in your yard doesn't mean you shouldn't have a voice.

I guess what I am trying to get at here is.... when you read your local paper and hear about an issue-form an opinion and have it heard.  When you go to the grocery store and they have a box for canned food donation-throw in a $1 can of beans.  If you go to throw away your clothes-think about those less fortunate and donate them instead!  There are many ways in which we can make a difference.  When you buy food-think about where it came from and what might be in it.  As you try on apparel made from animal skin-remember where they came from.  As you drive by the next construction site for a big box store or new strip mall-remember what used to inhabit that land.  Not all causes need to save the world and not all activism needs to be major.  It starts with one and for every voice that is heard... other minds start turning; its a chain reaction.   Take a stand!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Aaron whipped up our batch of dishwasher detergent yesterday and we ran our first load and it worked wonderfully!  We used a simple formula of 1c Washing soda, 1c borax, 1/2c citric acid, and 1/2c salt.  We are also using vinegar as our rinse agent but you can also use lemon juice.
We did run into one issue when we opened the container today and noticed that it has become one big clump in the bucket.  The citric acid causes the moisture  We did some reading and found a few different solutions.

1.  Adding rice would eliminate the moisture although I don't know that rice is good for dishwashers.
2.  Leaving the mixture out and stir a few times a day for a few days keeping lid on after stirring.
3.  Add citric acid separately to each load.
4.  Put the mixture into ice cube containers and make into blocks, then seal in an air tight container.

We are leaving it out on the counter and stirring it for a few days and will see if that works out for us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Goat Milk Kefir

Liberté 3.25% Goat MilkIf you are a lover of goat cheese you shall fall head over heels with goats milk kefir.  The milk already has the subtle goat cheese flavour but once fermented with the kefir grains it becomes like drinking liquid goat cheese.  I love goat cheese but find the goats milk kefir to be way to overpowering for me.  I tried adding some flavouring but the goat flavour could not be mellowed.  I am going to try pureed mango slices tomorrow; Aaron tried the mango and said it was much more palatable.  We have went back to making it with regular 3.25% milk.  Goat milk is fantastic to drink and very tasty but fermented with the kefir is just not for me.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lots going on over here!

So many things to talk about lately.  I have started (unraveled and restarted) a new blanket for my brother-in-law's baby on the way.

I am doing a simple double linked stitch and adding the 2 stripes.  I was so excited to have found a nice chocolate brown yarn that I grabbed the 5 balls that were left on the shelf and never even bothered to check the dye lot number!  Turns out 3 balls are from 1 dye lot and 2 are from another.  They are a shade different and so I had to rethink the pattern.  With 3 balls of brown I figured I should add some stripes since the Mommy to be said she really liked the last blanket I made which was stripes.  I believe it was a blessing in disguise since I think they will like this blanket much more than the solid brown with a green trim, this pattern is far more FUN!  The other 2 brown yarn balls will make a warm snugglee hat for myself or one of the kids!   

I am looking for some good recipes for my homemade soap.  I have found a nice resource webpage ( and  as well as a Canadian supply store that will ship called Canwax.

We are also slowly trying to eliminate all store bought cleaning and personal products in our home; once we run out of store bought we will be making most things ourselves.  We started with the Laundry soap and are now finding the ingredients to make our own Dishwasher detergent since we have only 2-3 loads worth of the store bought left.  I have yet to decide on whether I want to make deodorant (many use simple rubbing alcohol) instead of buying my regular antiperspirant since it contains aluminum.   Toothpaste, which contains fluoride (many use good old baking soda) is also on the fence.  I have yet to make up my mind as to which is best, homemade or store bought.  I think I will end up using both  homemade and store bought.  Homemade deodorant and toothpaste for regular everyday use.   Store bought toothpaste for use once or twice a week (preventative) and store bought antiperspirant for certain outings and workouts (ex: weddings, volleyball in summertime, etc).

We have also been getting loads of traffic through the house lately.   It has been a bit challenging trying to keep the house in "show ready" condition.  Trying to balance the cleaning, family time and adult time is getting increasingly more difficult.  We are hopeful that the house will sell soon.  The holidays are just around the corner and we would love to be settled into our new home at least before the 12 days of Christmas are upon us.  I am a Christmas fanatic and will not allow moving to interrupt our Christmas celebrations.  We are also trying to see a few other houses.  We still have an offer on the home with 2 acres but want to know our other options just incase there is some issue with home inspection on our current prospective property.

We have also been trying to get out to the chicken coop as often as possible.  We still try to go twice a week.  We brought Owen out there recently and let him collect some eggs.

Owen collecting some farm fresh eggs!
We also have some ideas for improvements and are hoping to get out there and spend some time cleaning and building a new roost.  Aaron wants to build a ladder roost with a poop drawer to aid in cleaning and also is more conducive to the birds hierarchy. We would build the roost and use mesh to keep the birds from getting underneath it, allowing for easy cleaning of the poop drawer.  Since we all plan on keeping the coop running over the winter, the easier the cleaning the better... especially in the dead of winter!

Some other things going on at the coop... the run was extended and there are suppose to be 3 separate areas in which the birds would alternate depending on where we allowed them to go.  They decided they would venture into all the run areas by digging and slipping under the fence.  The birds were not able to get back to the original run and therefore, not able to return to the coop.  Someone propped up the fence to allow them to go from run to run without getting stuck just until there was a solution.

Our birds found a perfect place to dust bathe... together of course!
Under a window below the fence that was suppose to separate 2 run areas.
One of the members came up with a solution and used old wire coat hangers (donated by members) to peg down the fence and so far this has been successful.