Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pinterest Inspirations!

If you have not been on pinterest... you must check it out.  It can be time consuming and frustrating sorting through all sorts of blogs and websites to find good craft ideas, food recipe, decorating ideas and so much more.  Here is the description of pinterest from the site itself:

"Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

Essentially, you brows through "pins" of others, follow other pinners and pin you find yourself online.  It is basically like having access to every members online bookmarks organized by category and organizing your own.  There are categories such as DIY and crafts, gardening, humour, Home Decor, Food and Drink and many more.  So basically it is a site full of links which others have found interesting all organized by category. You get to create your own boards and pin things you find interesting from either other pinners or anywhere online. 

I have found all sorts of ideas and info about crafts for me and the kids, sewing and crocheting, gardening, decorating, recipes and more.  It is easy to get caught up in all the info and never actually do any of the ideas you pin.  Here are a few pins I have actually done lately:

Pin: Easy Chocolate Fondant from

Pin:  Breaded Zucchini Sticks from 
 I took some liberties here.  I used zucchini sticks as well as some dill pickle spears.  I didn't use pizza seasoning... simply some salt and pepper.  I used a garlic dip mix I purchased from Gourmet Village while in Niagara on the Lake.  I also went with a fattier version since I shallow fried them in a mix of coconut and vegetable oil.

 Pin: Homemade Fruit Snacks from
I also took some liberties here.  I used 2 fruit cups rather than 1/2c fruit juice and 1/2c applesauce.  I blended them and strained them to get the 1/2c juice and 1/2c sauce.  I also used raspberries alone rather than a berry mix simply because I didn't have a mix.  They turned out well.

 Pin: Homemade cornstarch Paint from
  Pin:  Mess-Free Finger Painting from  
I combined the cornstarch paint with the mess-free finger painting since the homemade paint uses food colouring which can stain clothes among other things.   Perfect Harmony!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Food for Thought.

I am not a fancy cook, I simply love to eat. I often try to make what I perceive as "healthy" food. There are so many fad diets and no one seems to be able to agree as to what is healthy for us. Not only do we have this to decipher, we now have to try to understand the issues surrounding sustainable meat and factory farming such as GMO's, food safety (According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 325,000 people are hospitalized for food related illnesses and 5,200 die each year. Only a small percentage of those illnesses and deaths are a result of known pathogens.), hormoneslivestock farming pollution and pesticides... to name only a few.  The average consumer does not have the time to read up and understand all the issues that surround our food supply.

As far as I am concerned, food should be whole and fresh.  By whole, I mean unprocessed, or at least processed minimally.  Fresh organic produce and meat is always best.  When buying minimally processed foods such as canned and dried foods, I read ingredient labels.  A good rule to follow is if there is more than 1 ingredient that you don't/wouldn't keep in your pantry, don't buy it.  It can be very difficult to resist the temptation of convenience.  Unlike most people, I do not see any major issue with sugar and fat; moderation is the key here.  I indulge in a chocolate bar or bag of chips on a monthly basis, but not weekly.  I also will buy hot dogs and kraft dinner for the kids, but these are not things they have regularly.

When buying seeds to plant in our garden we choose organic heirloom seeds which are seeds that were grown during early periods in human history; many of which are seeds from plants that grew wild.  They are open pollinators which means you can harvest seeds yourself year after year and sustain your garden. Most common non-heirloom seeds which give us the fruits and vegetables we see at the grocery store have been propagated over the centuries through grafts and cuttings.

Now a days many plants have been genetically engineered and they are typically dosed with pesticides at least twice per growing season.  People will say "I wash my produce before I eat it."  Frustration!  They don't seem to understand that these chemicals are absorbed through the plants skin.  Imagine taking pesticides and rubbing them on your children's skin at least twice as they grow, once as infants and again around puberty.  Be sure to apply it right after a good local rain and do not wash it off until the next rainfall.  This is what is done to our fruits and vegetables which we feed ourselves and our children EVERY DAY!  Here is a good link with a list of produce with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue (simply what was not washed away or absorbed by the plant).  The highest levels are the foods that you should foot the bill for organic.  Then think of giving you child large doses of hormones and antibiotics regularly throughout their lives... this is what is done to the animals which supply us with our meat, milk products and eggs which we feed our families EVERY DAY!  Small traces of these chemicals are in all of the animal products we consume which means that we are getting small doses of these chemicals every time we eat them.

So, the age old question of "what is healthy food?" is only getting more and more difficult to answer with more complications being thrown in the mix regularly.  My hope is that one day people will get back to producing the majority of their own food and what we can't supply to ourselves we will trade and exchange with our neighbours within our community.

One can dream.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kelly's Baby Blanket

I finished another baby blanket for my dear friend who is having her first baby this spring. For this blanket I purchased a yarn I had never used before.  It was 3 balls (120yards) Bernat Pipsqueak: Funny Bunny Print which is a bulky, fuzzy polyester yarn that can be a bit difficult to work with.  Kelly is decorating the baby's nursery in an ocean theme so I thought this yarn would go well with the room.  When I started working with the yarn I wasn't sure if I would have the patience to complete an entire blanket with the yarn.

Here I'm about 1/2 ball of yarn in (~10 rows).

Although, I ended up finding a great rhythm.  Since it was a bit difficult to see where the next stitch was, I was able to feel the next stitch and yarn through without any issues.  This was a great project since I ended up being able to do the blanket without really looking while I crocheted.  I simply felt the stitches and it worked out well.  I love the way the blanket turned out.  It is super fuzzy; perfect for a new baby.  I did a simple double crochet using my 5.50MM hook and chained 108 stitches.  The blanket looks great and I could not be happier with how it turned out.   My only complaint is that the yarn had a few breaks in it that had been tied within the ball.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rosemary Sage Sugar Scrub

Winter really takes a toll on my skin. My skin tends to dry out easily. If I don't guzzle back 10-12 glasses of water each day my skin is dry and chapped. I finally decided to whip up a sugar scrub for the first time. I had seen many recipes for homemade sugar scrubs but decided to create my own with what I happened to have on hand. In the fall we dried out some rosemary and sage from the garden so it seemed to be the perfect thing to use to achieve a nice herbal earthy scent. Sugar is a natural exfoliant, does not clog pores, helps eliminates blemishes and helps restore  skins oil balance.  My choice for an oil was simple. Coconut oil is an effective skin moisturizer, delaying wrinkles and sagging as well as helping to treat various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema. Coconut oil also helps in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases due to its antioxidant properties. I also used a bit of olive oil, which is an excellent skin exfoliant, to loosen the mixture. This scrub makes my hands look and feel smooth and soft. I made a small batch to use at the kitchen sink for my hands but I think I may just whip up a large batch for in the shower for an all over body scrub... I have to imagine it would be amazing for a deep scrub on the feet, knees, elbows and any other rough areas you may have and then as a soft rub for all over!

Crushing and adding herbs then EVOO.
Rosemary Sage Sugar Scrub (small batch):
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of finely crushed dry rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon of finely crushed dry sage
- 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Simply mix ingredients in a bowl until you have a paste.  Add extra olive oil until you reach your desired consistency.

Simply wet hands in warm water (never hot as this takes away the natural oils on your skin) and scoop out a teaspoon worth and scrub.  Rinse then pat dry with a towel.  You don't want to rub them dry as this will take away the oils from your hands.  It will leave your hands feeling slightly oily which will last about 2-3 minutes and then it absorbs leaving you hands feeling silky smooth.  Since there are no chemicals to cause the oils to wash away they actually remain on your skin.   How wonderful!!

Homemade Fruit Soda

I have been playing around with soda recipes lately.  Some recipes have come from a soda book I borrowed from our local library but some I have just thrown together.  One recipe from the soda book is a Pomegranate Elixer.  Pomegranate as with blueberries are packed with antioxidants which help your body neutralize free radicals, which have been implicated in the growth of cancerous cells and in cell aging.  So needless to say, they are great for your body.  The recipe called for 1 tablesoon of agave syrup or simple syrup, but I decided to opt out of adding extra sugar since the fruit would provide enough to satisfy my palate.

Pomegranate Blueberry juice Recipe:
- 1 cup fresh blueberry juice (I simply mashed some blueberries until somewhat smooth)
- 1 cup pomegranate juice (purchsed POM-unsweetened) 

Makes enough for 3 servings.

Method for elixer:
- 2/3 cup Pomegranate Blueberry juice
- 2/3 cup seltzer

I may be tempted to boil down the Pomegranate Blueberry juice to help concentrate it to allow the drink to be more fizzy.  It could also have benefited form a small squirt of lemon juice to brighten it a bit... if you add the sugar, likely no lemon juice would be needed.

Strawberry Vanilla Fizz.
Since this Pomegranate Blueberry Elixer was so tasty I decided to try it out with some strawberries.  So with some blended strawberries and a drop of vanilla extract I added about 1/2 cup of the strawberry Vanilla puree to 1/2 cup of seltzer and it was beautiful... and oh so very refreshing.

I have to say I am totally loving my SodaStream.  What a good call by me!  I simply love being able to make healthy sodas to drink... not having to recycle a bunch of cans or to be fighting back against the ever growing Soda Pop Epidemic.  I highly recommend any family who find themselves drinking more than a pop a week to consider purchasing their own sodastream... it's good for the wallet, health and environment.  You simply cannot beat it.

Salted Caramel Egg Cream!

I have a good life.  My kids rock, they put a smile on my face almost every second of the day.  I have a nice house, although it’s going to be better soon.  I have a beautiful wife, who has made great sacrifices to stay home and raise our kids.  I have a good job and I’m paid well.  It’s great, truly.  But something has been missing, and I wasn’t even aware;  enter The Egg Cream.

I’d never been aware that such a thing existed until my brother was going on about them the other day.  An egg cream is an old time soda shoppe concoction that contains neither eggs nor cream.  But is rather seltzer and a syrup made with whole milk.  My kids drink whole milk, Sarah got a SodaStream for Christmas so we have seltzer.  I need to make this.

Sarah had checked out a book from the library called Soda Making by Andreew Schloss, and it so happened to have a few recipes for egg creams… I was drawn, as if by some ethereal force, to the Salted Caramel Egg Cream.  I made the syrup and stuck it outside to cool (it was -3°C), waited, waited, ugh, too much waiting.  Mixed up the Egg Cream concoction; what was in the glass was fizzy liquid caramel.  Damn good.  Really, damn good.  I never knew what I was missing, but I’ve filled the egg cream shaped void that I didn’t know I had.

My photo skills do not do this justice.
Here’s the recipe so your life can be more complete as well:

*Caramel Syrup
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup milk 
- 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel

Combine sugar and water in saucepan.  
Cook over medium-high heat until mixture turns pale amber.
While sugar is caramelizing, heat milk to a simmer in another saucepan or in microwave.
When sugar mixture is pale amber, stir in the milk.  (stand back, as the mixture will spit and spatter, sugar will immediately crystalize and milk will bubble and steam)  
Once foaming subsides, stir until caramel becomes smooth again.  
Remove from heat and stir in fleur de sel.

*will keep in fridge for up to 2 days (will thicken), must be warmed until liquid before using to make soda.

To Mix with Seltzer:
- 1/2 cup caramel syrup
- 1 cup seltzer
- 1/2 cup crushed ice (optional)


Friday, February 10, 2012

Pickled Orbs of Deliciousness!

When one tend chickens (or helps tend in our case, thanks to the town of Amherstburg) one finds himself with eggs; those wonderful orbs of goodness that reward your efforts feeding and scooping poop.  They're nutritious, tasty and oh so versatile.  Oh, and best of all, they can be pickled.

I've always liked pickled eggs.  Sarah on the other hand, does not.  She's only ever had grocery store pickled eggs.  Hmm... that needed to change.

We found ourselves with what could be described as a "glut" of eggs in the fridge.  Seven or eight dozen. They add up when tending 34 chickens with only one other person helping out for a few weeks.  We gave some away and decided three dozen is a good number to pickle, so we set three dozen aside for a few weeks to age; older eggs are easier to peel when hard boiled.

A colleague of mine had, on occasion, brought into work,  a jar of eggs he had pickled.  They are by far the best I've eaten, so I hit him up for the recipe.  We then looked for a jar big enough to hold three dozen hard boiled and peeled eggs.  A bulk jar of Olives should do the trick.  As it turns out, it fit two dozen exactly... so, an extra dozen for egg salad.

We then proceeded to mix up the recipe, and set our globes of goodness to pickle in the fridge for two week.  Because I'm the impatient sort, and I was hungry, I cracked open the jar  two days shy of two weeks.

BOOM!!! Beautiful Orbs of Deliciousness served with some pickled herring.
The beauty of a pickled egg, slightly red from the hot sauce, slightly spicy, vinegary, eggy goodness.  I love them.  These are the best I've eaten.  Oh, Sarah is a convert too.  She loves pickled eggs, at least these ones.  Resistance is futile.

Recipe and Method 

Based on this one taken from Michigan Tech Alumni Association (the yoopers know a thing or two about pickled eggs).  I changed some things (Frank's Red Hot), and modified the quantities for 2 doz.


  • 3 Dozen Hard Boiled Eggs
  • 2 cups White Vinegar
  • 16 ounces Sliced Jalapenos and Juice (canned is easiest)
  • 1 cup Water
  • 12 oz MacIlheney Tobasco sauce


Boil the water, vinegar, and jalepenos for about 20min and then add the tobasco sauce to it. Layer the eggs and the peppers in the big GLASS jar (the size restaurants get their pickles etc.. in) and then pour the liquid over the top, filling any extra space with 50/50 water/vinegar. Top off and let stew for 2-3 weeks - any longer and they start to get rubbery. Warning, these are VERY VERY HOT and need lots of cheap beer to wash them down.


The gateway food for vegans and vegetarians.  Just as (some people want you to believe that) marijuana is a gateway drug to things like cocaine, heroin and the like, bacon is the gateway to pork chops, steak and all things meaty.   You might not agree with the bit about pot, but there is no refuting the fact that if you get someone to have bacon, there's no looking back.  It's wonderful stuff.

I (Aaron) don't have many vices, but bacon certainly could qualify.  How do you get to know your vice better?  Well, you go Jesse Pinkman on it, and make it.  Bacon is as addictive as meth, without the paranoia (I figure).

How do you make bacon?  It's simple.  First, get a copy of Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn.  Follow the recipe.  It's way easy.

Cure the bacon by rubbing belly with Polcyn's "General" cure to (5% of the belly's weight in cure).

Let it sit a week or so (this time I let it go 10 days).

Smoke it.  Apple wood, about four hours at 180ºF until the meat is 150ºF (remove skin when cool enough to handle - use skin for stock, soup, broth, etc).  Let it rest a day. 




Oh, the bacon-y goodness.  It's truly FAR better than store bought.  This gives you the option of leaving out the Sodium Nitrite - but that's like drinking orange juice without pulp, you could, but why would you want to?

An evening at the coop co-op.

For the first time since we became members of the co-op we ran out of eggs.  We had given some away to friends and family and made a few dozen pickled eggs for Aaron (recipe post to follow).  We were out of eggs for about 24 hours.  I went out for our evening at the coop.  Recently, one of the Chantecler birds hurt her leg and had to be removed to heal and is still not back at the coop but the other 33 birds were ready for my visit!

I brought a bunch of snacks out to the coop for the birds and collected 23 eggs... not bad for middle of February!  The chickens, as usual, went crazy for the snacks.  After patting my 4 BR's, I went to town cleaning the "poop tray" in the coop and cleaning out the nest boxes.  While out at the coop, I always find myself almost in a dreamy dream land.  It feels so natural to get out and tend to a flock of chickens.  There is something so freeing about being in the county and getting back to the good life of growing and raising your own food.
Tail Feathers... Beautiful!
Chow Time.

This spring we plan on getting some new birds for our backyard flock but are having some trouble getting the breeds we want.  There aren't many hatcheries in Canada that deliver rare and unusual breeds.  I really wanted an assortment of breeds but most places have a minimum of 4 birds per breed.  In the perfect world I would love one of each of the following hens: Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Columbian Wyandotte, Delaware, Cochin (white, blue and silver laced), Dark Brahm, Chantecler (Buff, white, partridge), Ameraucana and a Cuckoo Maran.  Likely I will only have 4 birds from 2-3 different breeds.  We did get a flyer in the mail yesterday from a store right in our small town that sells livestock supplies as well as will be ordering poultry in the spring... AmherstSupply!  I am not sure how we haven't found them in past but we are sure glad we have... better late than never.  We have inquired about what breeds but they don't even know yet and will let us know when they know.  They will also likely have ducks, geese and turkeys as well which is great!  We used to have to drive out further into the county (30min) but now it is right in our town!  They likely won't be getting any rare breeds of chickens but if they have any of our desired breeds we will likely buy from them since they are local and we try to support the local businesses as much as possible.

Yummy Slaw!

I am a lover of coleslaw!  Now, I am not the biggest fan of those creamy dressing you find, but as for a nice vinaigrette... I simply cannot pass them up!  Cabbage be it cooked or raw, is delicious!  I could eat cabbage rolls and coleslaw daily.  I have a favourite coleslaw recipe that I think I have posted before with parmesan cheese and chick peas but I have recently been enjoying a mediterranean style slaw.  I simply chop up some slaw with a variety of vegetables such as carrots, red onion, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc and toss in some sliced olives and crumbled feta with any greek/mediterranean dressing and VOILA!  I used a bottled greek dressing since it is all natural ingredients and sold by a local gyro place, 3Gyros.  Whipping up a greek dressing takes little effort: simply add some EVOO, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and some s+p... but the 3Gyros dressing is all natural and super delicious so I simply cannot resist the convenience.
So simple, yet so delicious!!!

A winter slump, yet there is light on the horizon!

In our attempt to eat fresh healthy food, the winter is truly our arch enemy.  Our local grocery stores have little to nothing local.  Our community does not hold any type of farmers market to supply in season local food to local consumers.  Aside from some Leamington hot house tomatoes, there isn't much around for the average consumer here in Essex County.  Our children are very young and need to have as much fruits and vegetables as possible, so skipping these items during the winter is out of the question.  Aaron and I could live on such foods as squash, cabbage, root vegetables, kale and collards for an entire winter, but our children are another story.  To be able to provide them with a good balance of fruits and vegetables, we need to purchase the grapes from Peru and strawberries from California... there is no other option.  We have frozen local berries from the summer and I add them to yogurt and smoothies for the kids, but they still love to bite into a (I use the term loosely) "fresh" strawberry!

Regardless, spring in simply around the corner... and Aaron and I are super excited to get our new home and begin building our garden.  For the spring we will likely use the 2 raised beds they have currently on the side yard.  Once we have the garden and chicken coop planned out we will begin their construction.  We also have future plans to get a few turkeys, some ducks, rabbits, bees and possible a few sheep for yarn... and meat after some time.  My Mom believes that my Aunt has an old family spinning wheel which I would love to have a crack at... then when I make a scarf... it will truly be HOMEMADE!  

For the small garden beds currently at the new house, we will be planting seeds here and move them with us in April and plant.  We won't have too much for our spring and early summer garden... but we should be able to have the main garden ready for some early-mid summer planting for a decent fall yield.  We have a whole bunch of other cleanup to do around the yard at the new house... not to mention getting unpacked and settled in.  Still... I can't wait!!