Friday, October 12, 2012

This moment...Bonnechere River


Linking up with SouleMama today for a moment to remember, in her words;
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Inspirational Classroom Poster

When Miss Night of Miss Night's Marbles posted a phenomenal list of what she does in her classroom, I was moved to help her make it into something that could be shared with other caring professionals.  This is the final product, in 3 forms, for any and all to pin, copy, print, share, hang, and most of all, follow in any space that is shared with children.  If you are a teacher, or know a teacher, please pass this on!

If you want to see how this poster came about, visit Miss Night here for her original post, and here for her reaction to what I created using wordle.com.  The sequence of events was a win-win for us all and I sincerely thank Miss Night for sharing her beautiful sentiments with us.  Children in classrooms everywhere will benefit if we all act a little more like Miss Night.   



Friday, September 28, 2012

This moment...on the swing

Linking up with SouleMama today for a moment to remember, in her words;
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CSA Week Thirteen


 We're nearing the end of our weekly share, and though many crops did not survive and others did not produce as much as last year, we still have quite a lovely basket again this week.  We will be enjoying sweet corn, "Snowy Frost" acorn squash, one dozen eggs, red potatoes (love those teeny ones!), "Candy Cane" beets, heirloom tomatoes including cherry & peach varieties, an onion, a bulb of garlic, a cucumber, and a summer squash.  I can't wait to roast that acorn squash.
I love these candy cane beets!  They look so rough and plain from the outside, but when you cut into them, you are rewarded with a dazzling beauty each and every time.  Last year, there were enough of these beets in our weekly baskets that we decided to pickle some.  They were so gorgeous in the jars for the first few days, but then the brine slowly darkened to a lovely purple colour so the stipes were no longer visible.  We're currently eating the last jar from the pantry.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Roasting & Freezing Roma Tomatoes


Every year, we preserve a bounty of fresh tomatoes that we get by the bushel from a local farm.  Years ago, we started with one bushel, the following year we did two or three bushels.  This year, we're up to eight bushels. We've made the decision to try to be self sufficient with tomatoes for the entire year.  
 We use tomatoes in a lot of our vegetarian go-to meals including pasta, homemade pizza, soup, rice, cabbage rolls, Mexican wraps, casseroles.  All these meals include lovely home-preserved tomatoes that I feel good about feeding to my family. We preserve our tomatoes two different ways; canning and freezing.  Let me know if you'd like to see a post on how we can our tomatoes.  Here's a run down of how we like to prepare a roasted Roma sauce for the freezer...

The first and most important step: find the most adorable helper you can and put her work!
After purchasing (or growing) the best romas you can find and washing them, you need to remove the core from the stem end of each tomato.  I use a really sharp pointed knife for this job.
Then I slice each tomato in half and toss them into a large roasting pan.  I generously sprinkle with salt & pepper and a big drizzle of good quality olive oil.  Tomatoes can handle a lot of seasoning, so I really have at it!  I also add a small handful of torn basil leaves, some roughly crushed garlic, and an onion cut into wedges to some of the trays of tomatoes.  I like to use these foil trays because they hold more than any of my roasting pans and I don't have to worry about the hard to clean edges.  At the end of the season, we recycle the trays and begin with fresh ones the next year.
 Here is a tray ready to go into the oven.
 Now it's time to roast the tomatoes in a hot oven until the liquid starts to thicken and the edges of the tomatoes caramelize.  This adds a depth of flavour that is outta this world.  There will be a lot of steam as all the excess liquid evaporates.  I roasted these in a 450degree oven (on convection) for about an hour. 
Here's how they looked when I took them out to cool:   

See how the juice is no longer clear and the tomatoes are beautifully charred at the edges?  That's what we're going for with this whole process.
 The next step is optional, but I like the consistency of crushed tomatoes, so I transfer the caramelized tomato mixture to a large bowl and let it cool completely. You could certainly use or freeze the tomatoes just like this too.
Using an immersion blender, I blend the tomatoes just until there are no big chunks left.
Then I get my trusty freezer bags and label them with a Sharpie.
I fill each bag with a couple of cups of cooled tomato sauce.  Using a canning funnel helps me to keep the sauce in the bags instead of all over the bags.  I squeeze as much air out of the bags before sealing them, and then pop them into the freezer to be used all throughout the year.
Sweet tomato satisfaction. 
You can see pictures from our past tomato adventures here and here.
One of my favourite recipes using these tomatoes is here.
I wonder if we should do another bushel next weekend...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CSA Week Eleven


 This week we get to eat sweet corn, red potatoes, spaghetti squash, salad greens, summer squash, carrots, cherry tomatoes & vine tomatoes, garlic, green beans, a dozen fresh eggs, an onion, and a white cucumber.

 This is the first white cucumber I've ever seen.  I can't wait to try it!  Farmer Liz loves planting heirloom varieties of vegetables that most of us have never even heard of before.  That is another reason to join a CSA...you get to try new tastes, textures, and colours that add a real variety to weekly meals.  Sadly, many of Liz's plantings did not survive this summer's drought.  In true farmer form, she is not giving up!  Farmers Liz & John have already made plans to run irrigation lines out to the back fields.  For now, we will keep enjoying what did manage to survive and be all the more grateful knowing what a challenging growing year it's been. 
My plan for this week's veggies includes a potato salad  with green beans dressed with balsamic, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan & lemon.  Yummy!  I'm also going to make zucchini muffins for back-to-school mornings.   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Camping with Baby, almost Toddler

We've just returned from our first of what will be many camping trips with Little One and I can officially say: camping with Baby E was wonderful!  My heart brimmed with joy as I saw how much she loved it and now I can't wait to get out and do it again.

  E is nearly a year old, so we decided to ease into camping with her by having a simple 2 night stay in an Algonquin Park campground.  Since becoming canoe campers many years ago, we didn't think we'd ever return to car camping, but it was actually a pleasant change of pace and made for a very easy first camping trip as a family.  It helped that we had one of the very best sites on Rock Lake.  It was waterfront with lots of privacy and our own sandy beach.  Rock Lake Campground was surprisingly quiet and we really enjoyed our stay there.  We also camped with E's Auntie & Uncle, which provided more hands, more, laps and lots more laughs!  We wanted to extend our stay for 2 or 3 more nights...but the rainy forecast changed our minds.
Here's what really worked for us and may help you if you decide to take a little one out camping with you:

Have the right clothing.
Dress your child for the weather and activities they will be doing.  Have lots of layers available and good quality rain & wind gear.  Bring well-fitted running shoes, sandals and possibly rain boots.  Have thermal clothing and a warm hat to wear at night since it can be cool & damp even in the summer.  You want your child to be comfortable no matter what or else no one will be!

Pack lots of food.
Make sure you have easily transportable healthy snacks that can be munched on while doing other things like canoeing, playing in the sand/dirt, watching the ducks etc.  Our little E is an excellent eater, but without her regular place at a table, she didn't have much interest in meals.  We fared ok though because we had lots of healthy finger foods that she could eat while sitting on a blanket or one of the various laps around camp.  I will probably try to bring her portable dining chair next time as this would have made mealtimes more recognizable to E and I am sure she would have comfortably eaten whole meals this way.

 Maintain a sleep routine.
Our first night was rough because we ate dinner later than usual and skipped the bath part of our bedtime routine.  Baby E had a hard time settling for sleep and then woke several times through the night.  Not fun.  At least I was able to nurse E so that she didn't wake everyone else up too.  The second day, we made sure to offer naps at their regular times and then recreated our bedtime routine, having a shower instead of a bath and adding a calm walk to and from the showers.  E went down more easily and slept through the entire night!  Yay!  We now use white noise for sleeping at home, so finding a way to include this will certainly be something we'll look into for next time.

Don't over plan.
We definitely camped at a different pace this time around, but it was still enjoyable because the baby was happy.  We balanced time away from our site with stretches of play time on our site.  Our paddling was done in shorter bursts since E is still getting used to being in the boat.  We planned easier hikes and took them when we knew E could use a snooze in her stroller or the ring sling.  (as an aside, the BOB Sport Utility Stroller can go almost ANYWHERE.  I highly recommend!)  We made sure that little one had her needs met and wasn't forced to keep up with a super active schedule.  We may not have done all that we would have done before we were parents, but the joy we felt seeing the world of camping through our little girl's eyes more than made up for it!

Don't pack too many toys.
I brought a very few of E's favourite small toys and only brought them out a few times.  Instead of playing with toys, E amused herself with lots of other stuff instead like:
the sand, dirt, and water
the pine cones, rocks, and sticks
the canoe paddles, camp dishes, and dog leashes
sitting on a blanket eating snacks off the canoe paddle
our water bottles were a favourite to play with and drink from

Camping was a sensory exploration adventure for our little girl!
I guess it's also important to note that we have never bombarded E with too many toys.  She has learned to focus on a few things at a time because I have always been mindful of the number and type of items that surround E in her play.  This has been helpful in so many ways, and my choices were reaffirmed on this camping trip when something as simple as rolling a found golf ball down a little hill provided hours of enjoyment.
 Everyone parents their own way and camps their own way, but if you camped before you became a parent and you're feeling apprehensive about heading out now that have a little one in tow, my advice is to just go!  I was nervous about a great many things during the planning of this trip, but all of my fears were unfounded and nothing can compare to the joy I felt seeing my daughter enjoy her time out there. 

Happy baby=happy family.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

CSA Week Ten


 This week we will be enjoying salad greens, summer squash, zucchini, onion, rainbow chard, green pepper, cabbage, garlic, oyster mushrooms, cucumber, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and one dozen fresh eggs.  Wow.  How deliciously delightful.  


 Baby E came over to see this week's produce up close.  She loves visiting the farm and saying hi to all the animals.  This week, she & I stayed home because we lost track of time at the beach and it was nearly E's bedtime when hubby went to get our veggies!  We'll have to head over earlier next week so we don't miss out on our visit.





Those beautifully hued tomatoes inspired me to make pasta salad for lunch.
Here is the beautiful medley of veggies that I chopped for our pasta salad.

...and here is the tiny hand that entered my viewfinder while I was taking the photos!

 ...here is the curious furry face that also popped into my view behind the lens.

 ...here is when I decided that it's wonderful to have a one year old who loves eating farm fresh food.

...and here is the moment before the bowl got tipped over and half of the veggies ended up in sweet Baby E's lap!  You can see it happening can't you?  
I was behind the camera & la-dee-da, before I knew it, FLIP!
We all had a good laugh about it, even E thought it was pretty funny.

Oh well, at least the rest of the vegetables went into this rice pasta salad along with feta, olive oil, & balsamic vinegar...and now I have more darling pictures to add to my ever growing collection!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

CSA Week Nine

Week nine brings us red potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, a huge vegetable marrow, spinach, beets & their tops, basil, sweet corn,  baby cucumbers, garlic, onion and a dozen fresh eggs. 
Our farmers are taking advantage of the long awaited rain and have decided to plant a variety of short season produce in the hopes of having a more bountiful harvest over the coming weeks.  I am still impressed that they have been able to get as much as they have from the sun baked fields, but I know they wish they had more to give us. In truth, the crop has been smaller than in years past, but that is the risk we willingly take as CSA members.  I am even more appreciative for this beautiful food knowing how hard it is to produce.  Many CSA operations in our area have been cancelled.  We're so lucky to still be receiving weekly baskets like this.

 We spent the other evening putting up 4 dozen cobs of corn from another nearby farm, so it's nice to now have this corn to feast on straightaway.

 This basil will be delicious in some homemade tomato sauce!

 Baby cucumbers good for eating as is, in salads, or to make tzatziki sauce with Greek yogurt.

These cucumbers & garlic remind me it's time to make pickles!  I had better put in an order for a half bushel of #2 cukes...they're the small ones.  Delish!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Vegan Cabbage Rolls

I made these for the very first time last week & they were a surprise hit in my house.  Hubby and Baby E couldn't get enough of them.  I decided to make a second batch this week and I have enjoyed them heated up for a quick and filling lunch.  The rice with the lentils make this a complete protein-packed meal.

Vegan Cabbage Rolls
adapted from the Green Door Restaurant Cookbook 
(a must visit in Ottawa! Click here.)

To prepare the cabbage...
 Remove the core from a head of cabbage & carefully peel each leaf away from the head making a tidy stack of leaves as you go

Once you get to the innermost part of the cabbage, cut it into four wedges and proceed with the blanching

Blanch the cabbage by placing the stack of leaves and wedges into a large pot half filled with boiling water and covered with a lid (it is not necessary for all of the leaves to be submerged; the steam will do the job for you) for 3-4 minutes until the leaves start to become translucent

Remove the cabbage leaves and put them into a sink of ice water...this time they need to be fully submerged

Once the cabbage has completely cooled, remove it from the water and drain it.  Chop the wedges and add them to the filling.
 
For the filling...
 In a medium bowl mix:
2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup green lentils
1/2 cup olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
a handful of chopped fresh parsley
a pinch of dried oregano
a pinch of thyme

Now the fun part!
Place a spoonful of filling (2-3 tbsp) into a cabbage leaf and roll it up folding in the sides as you go.  Place seam-side down in a dutch oven that is safe to use on the stove top.  Keep going until all your leaves are rolled.

Cover the rolls with a mixture of tomato sauce and water so that they are fully covered.  Place a fire proof plate on top of the rolls to keep them weighted down.  Place the lid on the dutch oven and heat the sauce over medium heat until bubbling.  Turn down heat to low and continue to simmer until the rice and lentils are tender (about 40-50 minutes).  You can take the lid off and continue to simmer for a few minutes at the end to allow the sauce to thicken.  Yum. 

There, now doesn't that look pretty?
Ready to go into the oven...
Enjoy!