Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Snack Cake

Well who knew there was such a thing as a "mix in the pan snack cake"? I didn't.. And you don't have to grease and flour the pan you say? Come on now..surely you're pulling my leg. But it's true, there is such a thing, here on earth, not in never never land.

I use my Betty Crocker's New Cookbook all the time but always skip over the cake section. I'm not a very good cake baker, actually not much of a baker at all. I bake bread, cookies, biscuits and every once in awhile just when the sour cream is about to expire I bake a sour cream coffee cake.

I don't know what happened today, maybe it was the gray, rainy and cold day... But I had a hankering for cake. Looked through my cookbook, decided that Betty would not, could not let me down when I read the "Double Chocolate Snack Cake" recipe, that required no milk or butter of which I have none, and went for it.

Here is Betty's recipe:

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar or granulated sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar if desired and yes, it's very much desired in my case.

1. Heat over to 350F.

2. Mix dry ingredients except for the chocolate chips and powdered sugar with a fork in an ungreased square pan 8X8X2. Stir in the wet ingredients until well incorporated. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the batter.

3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool pan on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Devine...I let it cool slightly, did not sprinkle the powdered sugar, yet...I just could not wait.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baking soda and vinegar

The super duo.

I've written about using baking soda as shampoo and with the addition of vinegar as a green cleaner in my home already. But since then I've used it for many other little jobs. I now use baking soda and vinegar exclusively for cleaning. I add vinegar and baking soda to the toilet bowl and let it bubble away for about 20 minutes, then wipe, no more bleach. I sanitize my cutting board with straight vinegar, even after I cup meat on it. I sprinkle baking powder on the carpet as a deodorizer.
And now I use baking soda as my under arm deodorant. I was looking for a natural deodorant alternative but everything I saw was quite complicated until I happened upon this website
I use 1 part baking soda to 4 parts corn starch. Put the mixture into a container, I used a salt shaker and shake well.

After my shower I sprinkle a little on my hand and gently rub it under my arm. It feels wonderful and works extremely well. Even after a day of gardening in the hot sun...
This of course save a lot of money but even more important than money is the effect it has on our environment...Very little. It's a safe, green option.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Sunday morning breakfast, love it...

I'm so lucky to be a 5 minute walk from my church. Actually I consider it a church annex. The "big church" is about a 10 minute drive from my house and has Sunday masses, it also holds confessions, the priests have their offices and home there and the Catholic school is also at the same location. But, there are two small churches in outlying areas, one has just one mass on Sunday at 11:30am and the church down the road from me has just one mass on Saturday evenings at 4:30pm, which is the mass I attend most of the times. So back to breakfast..going to Saturday night mass frees up my Sunday mornings to enjoy with big mugs of coffee and big delicious breakfasts.

Yesterday I made banana pancakes with homemade blackberry syrup and sausages and it was much more delicious than what the picture shows. I'm not a very good photographer but then photography holds 0 interest for me. I have a 4 year old digital camera that I spent 100.00 on and until it breaks that's probably what I'll continue using..

Banana pancakes.

Beat one egg in a large bowl until fluffy. To the fluffy egg add 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of veggie oil, 3 teaspoons of baking powder and a dash of salt and a dash of nutmeg, mix until just smooth. . Don't over mix. Add one peeled and chopped banana to the batter. I use nutmeg only when I make banana pancakes.

Heat a griddle or skillet on a medium high heat, add some oil to coat the skillet, spoon the pancake mixture into the skillet, about 1/3 cup per pancake. The oil should sizzle around the pancake edges. Flip the pancake with a spatula when little holes appear. Keep warm in a slightly heated oven until all the pancakes are cooked. Serve with butter and your favorite syrup.

You need lots of coffee, the newspaper or better still your family to laugh and eat with around the breakfast table.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Ending the week

Well Friday has arrived, and none too soon. My husband has gone up North to the Dease Lake area hunting for moose and well..when the cat is away the mouse will play. Which for me means sushi for dinner tonight with my son and daughter in law.

I'll be making another batch of dog food but this time with pork. I minced a pork roast in my food processor and then followed the dog food recipe I posted here. I purchased three pork roasts for $12.50, which makes this dog food very inexpensive. My dog has never been food driven, he likes his food and treats but it never really excites him, except for raw beef bones and this homemade dog food. Well worth the effort.

I also started a batch of ginger beer, again from the Down to Earth blog I read on a daily basis.
I'll let you know how it turns out and fingers crossed there will be no explosions..

And tomorrow I'll be going to the Powell River Fall Fair, a real down home country fair with lots of food, crafts and local produce for sale, should be fun.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chiodini and Chantrelle mushrooms

I'm not a very good forager but I hope to become one. This time of year brings with it a bounty of mushrooms..if you know what to look for. Every fall my mom and dad head out mushroom hunting for a particular type of mushroom called chiodini. In fact my mom quite often will knock on someone's door to ask for permission to pick them from their yard. Funny looks from alot of people but now she has a set route and everyone knows her.

The below picture is courtesy of

These are not my favorite because they are a tad slimy but the flavour is fantastic.

My neighbour forages for chantrelles and he very kindly gave me some. They are delicious and I'm so lucky to have such a great neighbour. The have a very distinctive look so they are very easy to recognize but until I go out with very experienced pickers, like my neighbour, I'll not pick any on my own. Again I wanted to take a picture of the dinner I made using the chantrelles but, well...I ate before I had a chance.

Here they are in all their glory before I cooked them up.


My mom is a sewing wiz, she sewed and mended my clothes when I was just a little gal. She then went on to professional alterations which included leather work, she was in high demand.

Then I grew up and my mom still did my mending, and my husbands and my kids...the jeans anyways because my old machine could not sew through the denim, well that's I used to tell her...I would do the buttons, socks, hems and basically anything that I could mend by hand.

Well it's my son blew out the knees on his work jeans and he is house poor so he asked if I could help. I told him "best you run to the store and buy a pair just in case..I never did the jean patch thing"...

He called me to say he found a good pair of work pants for $29.00, good thing because his old jeans went from this:

To this:

They will do for work but I keep my day job.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On my own

My husband went hunting yesterday and left me to my own devices. I love being on my own to putter around the house doing a little of this and a little of that. And more importantly eat the things I love, like Swiss chard, brown rice, roasted eggplant and tomatoes. I don't know why but when my husband is home I feel compelled to cook the things he really likes and not as many of the things I like so when he's not around and get to cook what I want when I want.

He left quickly yesterday because of some miscommunication between the hunting party so the hen house did not cleaned as planned. I was up very early this morning, took the dog for a quick walk then back home for a cup of coffee while I made some oatmeal in milk for my chickens, did I mention that I love my chickens...they get spoiled. While they ate their oatmeal I cleaned out the hen house. It's not very difficult and it takes no time at all because their house gets cleaned every week...I know, I know..I love my chickens???

Well my reward? Two fresh poached eggs on home made bread.

What a great way to start the day!!!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Sotto Aceti

Sotto aceti (under acid) are a very popular anti-pasto in Italy. Sotto aceti are made up of mixed veggetables, peppers, zucchini, eggplant in vinegar. The combinations are endless or very often soto aceti consist of just one vegetable. The tastes can differ as well, the veggies can be spicy, mild, sweet, with or without spices but salt is mandatory.

I like my giardiniera very simple and without sliced peppers. I don't really like the consistency of the pickled red or green pepper. I like whole peppers so I put those in, I also like cauliflower, green beans, carrots, celery and pearl onions and I don't like it sweet. So I made my own. A jar of Bick's hot mixed pickled veggies is about $4.50 and for about $8.00 I made 8 jars, quite a savings.

For the first time I'm also making pickled green beans, afterall what's a Bloody Caesar without pickled green beans or asparagus. Forget the celery.

Super Delicious Bloody Caesar recipe:

Wipe the rim of a large glass with a cut lime, dip the rim in celery salt. Fill the glass with ice, lots of ice is key. Add an ounce of vodka (or more) totally up to you, fill the glass with Clamato juice, add a few drops of Tabasco and Worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste, stir with a pickled green bean, and enjoy. I wish I had a glass to show you but well...all I have at this point is a picture of the empty glass I use.

I'm busy with all sorts of canning and pickling but I do other things besides cook and drink Caesars...I'm also patching a pair of my son's work jeans, stitching some new kitcheny things for the shop and upcycling an old pair of jeans into a purse...stay tuned.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Food mill

I had it in my brain that I did not want to peel the tomatoes I froze, they peel easily enough but it takes time so I decided to can my tomatoes.

However that was after I froze a whole bunch of them...

I decided that a food mill would work great. Just plop the defrosted tomatoes into the food mill, give it a couple of turns and I would get the pulp without the skin.

I looked high and low but a food mill was nowhere to be found in my little town. I was quite sure I could find one in Vancouver but it would have to wait. I was not going to spend money and time of ferries just for a food mill but I travel to Vancouver every once in awhile for work so I enlisted my mom's help. Both my dad and my mom would look in some local garage sales and buy one if found.
I was in Vancouver the day before and guess what my mom found..a food mill. Her food mill. It has a bit of history as well. She got the food mill from her friend who brought it over from Italy many years ago. Her friend decided to move back to Italy and that's when my mom got it. I remember putting beans through it to make soup for my dad and it made the best mashed potatoes, my mom thinks it's about 50 years old, I wonder if my electric food processor will be around in 50 years, I doubt it.

Well now I have it..I sure hope I can do it justice..
That's not rust, just the signs of a well used kitchen utensil.
Add Image
Only one blade but it worked well all these years on so many different foods that one will just have to do.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peter picked a peck of peppers

Look at them all..Now what to do? Pickle, dry, jelly??? A little bit of all I think.

I will definitely grow these again, very easy. I started them indoors from seed in early March and transplanted them into the greenhouse in mid May. A couple of things I won't do use peat pellets, they dry out to fast or peat pots, they don't break down fast enough. Before transplanting at broke the bottom off the pot but the roots had a tough time breaking through the sides. This goes for all my starters not just for the peppers.

To dry them I used a needle and some cotton twine. I poked the needle through the stem at the base and then hung them in my cantina. They should dry in about 4 weeks and then I can crush or grind them into a powder. Can't wait...

The rest I'll use to make jalapeno jelly. It's really good as a topping on creackers and cream cheese and the I'll pickle some when I make some pickeled veggies.

Stay tuned more canning and pickeling to come!!!

Off to Vancouver again tomorrow for two days, can't wait to see what bargains I'll find at my favorite fabric store, Dress Sew on Hastings.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Hard to believe that just a few months ago I was ready to throw them all out. I was having such a hard time controlling the pests, mostly flea beetles, but the plants made a comeback.

What to do with all my little eggplants? Peperonata of course.

In Italy, peperonata is very popular and every region has it's own version. This is how my mom taught me....

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large eggplant - for me that was 3 of my little guys.

4 green peppers chopped - I grew the ones you see in the picture above but they were pretty small added 2 large yellow peppers.

1 onion chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 cups chopped tomatoes - I peeled and seeded my own tomatoes

Dried peperoncini flakes or in my case 1 Jalopeno - I grew my own and boy was it hot..

Salt and pepper to taste.

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes, add the tomatoes, and cook for about 5 minutes, then add all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes stirring occasionally. If the peperonata is runny just simmer a little longer with the lid off.

I serve this as a side dish, or on top of rice, or tossed with pasta. It freezes very well to. My dad loves to add a tablespoon or two in his chicken soup, it's very delicious.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Homemade dog food

I have some favorite blogs I read on a daily basis which educate, inspire and motivate me on my journey towards a simpler life. My favorite blog is Down to Earth. Rhonda is a wonderful writer and her blog is full of recipes, how to's and inspiring posts. Once such post is about homemade dog food and homemade dog biscuits.

I few days ago I made the dog food and wow does he like it, or should I say , loves it. It's very simple to make with very basic ingredients. The meat I used was very old left over beef.

Several years ago I purchased a quarter side of beef. I was very disappointed with the flavour and it took me some time to get through most of it. Of that quarter I had 1 1/2 kilos left over which I chopped in my food processor as a substitute for the minced beef the recipe calls for.

Going forward I'm not sure where I'll get the beef. I called a local feed store and they don't carry raw animal grade beef and store bought beef will make it too expensive. Soooo...this might be a once in a lifetime treat for my dog.

I made the dog biscuits some time ago but my dog did not like them very much, he ate them but he was not very excited about them. The liquid I used was most likely not beefy enough so I'll be making them again this weekend but with a much more concentrated beef broth. Hopefully he will like them this time around. I will keep you posted.

Have a great weekend everyone.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hazelnuts, AKA Filberts

Well, well, well...I beat the bears, squirrels, chipmunks, and crows to the nuts.

I've never picked hazelnuts before and information I found on the web...after I picked them...says "do not pick them green" and wait until they drop from the tree. Hah!!! As you can see there are some green ones in the mix but for the most part they are "hazel" and they were dropping from the tree, when I gave the tree a push...I hope I didn't pick them too early.

Now, I leave them to dry for about 4 weeks. I can then crack and roast the nuts to store in the freezer. Or I can just leave them and crack and eat them as we wish. The nut will stay fresh in the shell for quite some time. It's the air that spoils the nut.

I'm dreaming of a hazelnut torte!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Winter garden

I started some cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli seedlings back in late July for winter harvesting but in the midst of a heat wave, my seedling perished.

I tried again in mid August but this time in 4 inch pots which were a better choice for the unexpected heat we had.

This weekend the seedlings were transplanted into the greenhouse. The windows are closed, the doors are meshed to allow for air circulation but will keep the bugs out..I hope.

You will notice little tomatoes on the ground, I'm going to leave them, hopefully I will have some volunteer tomato plants next year.

Further to my winter garden plan, is to move the radicchio into the greenhouse, once the tomatoes, eggplant and pepper plants are removed. Then I will allow garden access to the chickens who will, I hope, scratch out the weeds, eat some bugs, and fertilize the soil. All while giving us eggs, they are really amazing creatures.

And of course the chickens were really good at keeping my grandson busy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce)

I canned some tomatoes yesterday in litre jars because I used all my small jars. I processed enough tomatoes to can 3 large jars but had about 1/2 jar of tomatoes leftover. The freezer is full, I was hungry so, homemade whole wheat pasta, which I had in the freezer, with fresh tomato sauce, was on the lunch menu, so very delicious.

Sugo di pomodoro.

2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh Roma tomatoes.
1 clove of garlic, chopped
olive oil

Saute the garlic in the olive oil on low heat for a few minutes, do not walk away, the garlic will burn.

Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and simmer without the lid for about 10 minutes, you want some of the liquid to evaporate.

When your pasta is almost ready add some basil to the sauce, I just tear it with my fingers but for my lunch I added a frozen basil cube I made a week or so ago.

Put the sauce into your drained pasta and again saute over a low heat, you want the pasta to finish cooking in the pot so it picks up some of the sauce as it finishes cooking.

Top with fresh parmigiano and there you go, a low fat, delicious fast lunch, or dinner.

Peeling a tomato

I've been busy this weekend making salsa, canning tomatoes and getting my veggie garden ready for winter.

I made zesty tomato salsa, last year which was so delicious that I decided to make it again. A huge problem for me last time was peeling tomatoes, they would just get all mushed up and I ended up with tomato sauce which I put in the freezer. Not a big deal but I wanted salsa not tomato sauce. Anyway I finally figured out the secret, which most of you will know, but for me it was a real eureka not crowd the pot, sheesh so simple but if you don't know well you just don't know.

So this is how I peeled my tomatoes which I used for my zesty tomato salsa and for the first time ever, chopped canned tomatoes.

Grab your tomato and score the bottom with an X.

Drop your tomatoes in boiling water, do not overcrowd the pot, just enough for a single layer, cover and bring to a boil for 30 seconds, no more.

Then into an icebath and then into a colander.

The peel will curl up from the X or the skin may crack, just grab it and pull. It will come off very easily.

Chop the top off and gently squeeze the tomato of it's seeds and extra water. Be careful, the seeds will squeeze out from the top, bottom or sides. I think I'll be finding tomato seeds for a long time...

And then use your tomatoes in your favorite canning recipe.

In addition to all these tomatoes, I still have 5 plants outside that I need to get to...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Zesty zucchini relish

Although I did not grow any zucchinis this year a landscaping business just down the road did. They just put excess veggies and fruit by their front gate for anyone to take. Very neighbourly indeed. I love walking by to see what they might have.

So with three large zucchini I decided to make some Zesty Zucchini Relish from my Ball Complete Book Home Preserving.

I started by chopping the zucchini, peppers and onions in my food processor. Adding salt and letting the whole thing soak for 12 hours.

Rinse well with cold water and squeeze as much water as possible out of the mixture. I put the whole thing in a colander, topped it with a large plate, and then topped the plate with several large cans. The weight of the cans drained the excess water very easily.

Then into a large pot with the vinegar, salt and spices. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

Ladel into jars and then into the water canner.

This relish is very good on hamburgers but it's also really delicious on top of cream cheese and crackers.

If you want this recipe please let me know and I'll be happy to email it to you.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

No computer

My computer is in the shop getting an upgrade so I'll be without for a day or two. In the meantime I'm getting ready for to do some canning, zesty zucchini relish and tomato salsa, pictures to follow soon.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

In the shop...well not really

This cute kitchen towel was for my shop but the colors ran so into my linen drawer it will go.

And with a new grandchild scheduled to debut in January 2010 I best get busy on a new quilt for him/her...the shop will just have to wait.

50 mile diet

In a previous post I talked about my participation in the Powell River 50 Mile Diet. It was really difficult to stick to the challenge with grand kids, visitors and a wedding reception but I tried and I'm still trying.

Veggies, milk, some cheese, eggs and chicken have not been a problem but some of the other foodstuff has. Some good news in the meat department I just found a local farmer who might have some pork and beef for sale, it won't be for some time, but that's ok. After all, I truly believe the 50 mile challenge which ends on Sep. 27 is meant to bring attention to the many benefits of local eating but we should never stop eating locally, it really has to become part of our everyday life.

Some things I have not been able to give up are butter, sugar, salt and pepper and other spices, coffee, tea, beans, flour and other grains. However I bake my own bread, cookies and desserts, and cook dried beans rather than buying canned, so although not local, cooking from scratch is a much better alternative to buying processed foods.

For dinner tonight??? Chili.
Local ingredients: tomatoes, onion, celery, jalapeno and green pepper.
Not so local: ground beef, dried beans, salt, pepper, oil and chili powder.

Now take a look at these plums, there are many more on the tree, and these still need to ripen a little but I like them a little on the hard side, they are so good. I'll pick the rest in the next few days and make some plum chutney as well as freeze some for baking. And just a few little apples. I'll pick some more for applesauce but most of them have bugs in them, yuck!!! Still they won't be wasted, I'll pack them into a box and off to the pig farmer they will go.