Sunday, December 29, 2013

Well if that isn't the yummiest bread ever.

am a very literal person. I tend to be left brained. Now that said...this is how my first bread making in the Breville started. I carefully read the ingredients, amounts and the directions. I started by adding the ingredients one by one in the order listed. Exactly as they say. I got to the flour and dumped it into the container. It was quite a moment. The flour hit the liquid and floury liquid splashed up and all over the inside of the breadmaker. You see, I hadn't removed the bread pan from the inside of the machine. The goopy water ran down the inside all over the elements etc. I had to detail the Breadmaker. "But it didn't say to remove the pan before throwing in ingredients. What!!??" Now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.....
The new Breville Breadmaker is a hit. I made a little loaf and it is delicious! As soft as a purchased loaf and the right density. The reason this makes me so happy is that Allan buys bread. That soft 100% whole wheat bread from the supermarket that is full of a bunch of things I don't like to eat. So I don't want him eating them either. He found the organic bread just too hard and seedy. We each made a piece of toast today from the bread, and we both feel it is the best toast we've ever had. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas...Erin and Allan style

So here's the thing. I have a store. It gets busy in December. I get behind in everything, even though every single year I promise to have it all done by the end of November next year. This year just to throw a whole new twist into it, I've caught a cold. What!? 
Usually decorating the tree takes about 6-8 hours. Allan did it this year. We always put up an artificial tree. Allan could not resist the lure of a free tree on December 24th. 

And look closely, you can see the decoration. I was calling the tree a giant smudge stick.

I asked him when he was going to cut it free from the rope. "That will just make it impossible to get out and get needles everywhere." That is my man!

This is last years tree. You really have to look close, but you can see the subtle difference in our decorating style. 

My David Winter Cottages.

Emma LOVING the burlap my mom wrapped gifts in. She is so clever. Everything can go into the compost bin rather than the garbage.

Kinda cool vintage sign. I am going to alter this a bit for next year, but it is nicer that this picture shows.

This warmed my heart. A dear family member seemed to be as OCD as me!!

I hope you had as wonderful a Christmas as we did. Ten of us eating at my little house, our funny tree which got more attention than mine ever did, and the house smelled like evergreen. Younger people playing a game I was completely unfamiliar with. And an abundance of butter on EVERYTHING.
Merry Christmas everyone. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's here!!! Bread Maker...we will flash it up this weekend.

It sure is pretty isn't it. I have not decided which recipe to try first, but this weekend I am going to bake bread. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Finally....a Bread Maker on the way to my house.

I have done a ton of research on Bread Makers. I knew I would use one a lot. My cousin, who lives in Inuvik, bought one of these Breville BBM800XL's and raves about it, so the decision was made.

In addition to growing as much of my food as I can, I am making everything I can from scratch. I started making bread as a teenager, so it's not that I can't bake bread, I just find that between the garden and the store, my time is a bit stretched, so the decision to get a bread maker was easy. It took almost a year to finally make a decision on make and model.

Here is a link to the best price I found on my Breville Bread Maker. And the shipping was free!!!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Crazy time of year in retail......but god it's a hoot.

Forgive me for the lack of posts at this time of year. I have a store and it just gets a bit crazy now. You can see a teeny bit of the store behind me in this picture. I will post when I can and I'll be back in full force in a few weeks. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Cymbidium is in fine form this year

My Orchid un-named burgundy absolutely amazing. It has sent out five HUGE flower spikes this year. I put off a transplant until it is done. Last year I put a branch into the cedar and holly bouquets I made for the store. It looked wonderful. This years will be even better. 

This orchid was a gift from my husband years ago. It is indestructable and flowers on cue. Thank you Allan. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Just in case it snows....lots of clips for the hoop house

I cannot believe that I forgot my camera at the store again. I think I am going to have to buy another. I take so many store and garden pictures, it's hard to remember to be moving it back and forth. So today you have to put up with phone camera pictures.

They are calling for snow in the next week, so I need to get the hoop house tightened up. It is a bit floppy right now. Today it is 10 degrees on the island, so it will be a pleasure.

It was a pleasure. 11 degrees. The plastic feels nicely supported now with an abundant use of office supplies. Did a bit of pruning and puttering. A day well wasted.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hoop House, or Polytunnel, is up and running.

                 Polytunnel / Hoop House of my dreams

forgot my camera at the store. Yes, again. I was looking for a hoop house picture similar to mine to show you. I stumbled on this picture. It is just so much bigger, better and fuller than mine, I had to use it. I really need a bigger back yard. 

I completely forgot that I have Mache seeds in the fridge. I am going to sprinkle some among the lettuce seeds in the hoop house.

The hoop house took a piece of greenhouse plastic 16x11'. After cutting up the plastic for the hoop house I found that I had a leftover piece that is 8x16'. I've read that you can get tape for this plastic so 
I only need another piece that is three feet (by 16' wide) I think it was $1.75 a foot? Yayyy!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pink Gooseberry Pyrex. My ultimate find.

This, my friends, is Pink Gooseberry Pyrex. My latest treasures. They nest together, were really popular in the 50's and 60's and were used to store food in. Then we all found Tupperware. Of course now everyone is switching back to glass again. 

Annnnnnd, we've come full circle. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Is a Vitamix worth the money? Darn right!!!

Allan and I love our Vitamix. We use it at least once a day and call it the best money we ever spent. Here are a few of the things we do with it. 

Smoothies: Allan loves making breakfast smoothies. So far all fruit based. Next on my list is a green smoothie. I wish our smoothie prep area looked like this.

Almond milk: I make a litre of almond milk per week. The Vitamix will pay for itself quickly just using it for my almond milk. 

Guacamole: The recipe in the little booklet with the Vitamix is the best guacamole I have ever tasted. 

PiƱa Colada's and other crushed ice drinks: In my mind the Vitamix paid for itself before we left Hawaii, what with the drinks and guacamole. My old Kitchenaid Blender couldn't make this super smooth blended ice no matter how long you left it...the Vitamix does it in about ten seconds.

Tahihi: I eat a lot of Halvah. OMG it is so good. My favorite is marbled with chocolate. When I buy halvah, it says 'made with sugar or honey'. Trying to avoid GMOs, I don't trust the sugar. So I bought ten pounds of organic sesame seeds. Bring it on!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Turning a Poly Tunnel failure into a win!!

The freak 10 degree temperature today on Vancouver Island, drove me straight to the yard. I kept looking at the PVC poles looking a bit like a four poster bed and just pondering. I suddenly had this idea. I had planned on perfecting winter gardening then putting a large Poly Tunnel over two raised beds. Ta Da. We have the PVC, they just aren't long enough. Connectors my friend...connectors.

But back to the low polytunnel...I get carried away. We found the RIGHT PVC flexible tubing. It definitely works better. Tomorrow we are going to attach the keel and put on the plastic. Today I sprinkled lettuce between the rows of kale and spread some frost cloth on them. It was very windy, so while it just looks like I layed the cloth down nice and easy actually took a lot of fussing, 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's supposed to get really cold this week, so I bundled up the Rosemary.

Rosemary wrapped in frost cloth. 

Peas still flowering.

Nasturtiums still flowering. 

I found two limes on the greenhouse floor. They are full grown. Will they turn green off the tree?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Brown Sugar Ontario.

I was born in Ontario and my Dad used to make this fudge when I was little. This picture brings back such memories. I haven't made it yet, but I will !

Dad's Brown Sugar Fudge

What you need:
2 cups Golden Yellow Sugar
1 cup Granulated White Sugar
1 cup milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup peanuts, salted or unsalted (optional) **they say optional, but they don't mean it. Go salted.

How to prepare:
1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Stir together the sugar, milk, and butter over medium heat until it reaches a boil. Continue to cook the sugar mixture until it reaches the soft ball stage, when it reads 235°F on a candy thermometer. You can also tell if the mixture has reached the soft ball stage if you drop a bit of the sugar mixture into cold water and it forms into a soft ball
3. Once it has reached the soft ball stage, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
4. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it thickens and becomes creamy in texture, then stir in the peanuts (if using).
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Let cool completely before cutting into squares. They will be a bit crumbly, so don’t worry. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

***Recipe adapted from Redpath Sugar's recipe.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fuchsias are in full bloom.

I would say climate change is a given. It is November and the fuchsias are in full bloom. I really cannot say more than that. Except, how beautiful is this?

And just a fun picture of my leaf composting facility.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Just showing off.....citrus flowers in the greenhouse.

I really wish that you could smell this. I keep thinking that the lemon and lime trees are done and will drop blooms and make fruit....and they just keep flowering more and more. I really LOVE my greenhouse.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fall Rye spread as a cover crop.

Spread fall rye in the parts of the garden with nothing that will overwinter. It is a wonderful 'food for the garden'.  This nasturtium has begun growing and blooming again. The strawberries are also in bloom. Autumn crocus have begun sending up their late spring shoots. It is a very strange year.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

First Poly Tunnel attempt......a failure

We started the day really excited about putting our first Poly Tunnel or Hoop House together. Everything was going smashingly, until we tried to bend the PVC into arches. It was REALLY difficult. We were using PVC plumbing connectors.We are using 3/4" PVC which is about an inch across in total. We were bending two 8 foot long pieces to meet in the middle to the connector. It would be a tall hoop, but kinda cool I thought. When we got it just about there the connector snapped. It is about 9 degrees celcius today, could that be it?

Can any of you brilliant gardeners enlighten us?

                Look it's Beamer the gardening cat!!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Spices are beautiful. Garam Masala Blend and the recipe for this dish.

Spices are so beautiful I just wanted to share this with you. Isn't it beautiful. Allan wanted to make Garam Masala based chicken. It called for a few spices that we didn't have. I went to my 'go to' for spices, Sidney's Natural Food store. They have everything in bulk. I like to buy small amounts of spices and use them fresh. They had everything and here is a picture of the mixture of spices. 

Chicken Tikka Masala

2 tsp. garam masala 
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander seed
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. cayenne pepper (we found it a titch hot, so I'll reduce this amount next time)
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup low sodium chicken stock (we used vegetable)
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken 
breasts or thigh, cut into ¾-inch cubes
Salt to taste
3 Tbsp plain yogurt or whipping cream
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish (optional)

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Heat oil in large, deep skillet set over medium, medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until tender and light golden, about 5 minutes. Mix in spice mixture, tomato paste, ginger and garlic. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. 

Mix in diced tomatoes and stock, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Season the chicken with salt, and then stir into the sauce. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 12 minutes. Stir in yogurt or cream and heat through 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed, and then serve. If desired, garnish servings of the chicken with cilantro sprigs.

**Steamed basmati rice is the perfect side dish for the saucy chicken. To make about 3 cups of cooked rice, place 1¼ cups white basmati rice in small to medium pot and add 1¾ cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to its lowest setting, cover and cook, undisturbed, 15 to 18 minutes, or until rice is tender. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Even in Seattle I find one of these.

On a recent trip to Seattle, we were strolling around the Fremont area. I found, yes, tractors. Allan couldn't resist the photo opp.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

November Gardening!!

We had a huge storm on Friday night. Wind, rain and more wind. I went out to survey my domain today and found little in the way of wind damage. The lemon and lime tree are blooming like crazy in the greenhouse and I see small little fruits forming. Joy! 
I checked on the Borlotti Beans. They didn't suffer too badly from the rain, but I cut them all off {yes this is all of them} and brought them in to dry. I picked my Jonagold apples. Aren't they a sight. They are less than two inches across. I'm going to eat them anyway!!
I wandered, puttered and admired. It is a freak sunny day about 10 degrees so I was loving it. 
I'm very glad that we got the manure pile covered before the torrential rain. 
I've just sat down to have a wonderful nespresso with some Camino organic hot chocolate in it. Oh yummmmmmm.

I planted a bunch of these over sized Snowdrops. I put them between the blueberries in the blueberry walk. I love them. Any excuse to plant snowdrops...the ultimate spring flower. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Meyer Lemon flowers!!

Since moving the lemon and lime into the greenhouse, they have exploded into flower. That is the lime behind the lemon and the Avocado below it. It smells amazing in there. However, the bees are gone so I have to hand pollinate. I love pollinating but that end of the greenhouse is a titch crowded with trees so it's hard to reach the back. It is so satisfying being a part of nature and creating fruit!! And it's local. Now....I wonder if there's any chance that avocado with ever bear fruit?

Considering I thought I was going to lose this tree this summer, it is amazing to see this.