Kitchen Magic

I have always loved the kitchen. I love everything about the kitchen, acquiring food to put in it, preserving food, storing food, preparing food, baking, cleaning, organizing, the list goes on. I’ve always been this way, ever since I can remember. My Aunt had a picture of me, at age about five, sweeping the kitchen floor at our farm, and the caption reads, “Mother’s little helper”. That about sums it up, I liked my mother’s kitchen, I liked doing things with and for my mother in the kitchen, it was my favourite room in the house. It was a farm kitchen, and my mother always was a good cook, who liked to cook, and to preserve the produce we had fresh from our farm. I grew up thinking that canning, jam and jelly making, baking, freezing, and all kinds of other kitchen and food related activities, were normal, and fun.

In addition to Mom’s kitchen, the was Granny’s kitchen. That wondrous place where the wood stove represented wonderful meals. There wonderful things happened when we brought home fresh picked wild fruit, choke cherries, raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and high bush cranberries. My Granny and Grandpa had a magnificent garden, so there was always fresh vegetables during the growing season. My Grandpa loved to fish, as we all did, so there was fresh fish to fry in farm fresh butter. And the highlight of the culinary delights at Granny and Grandpa’s house was the homemade maple syrup, which they made every spring from the trees on their property. Oh the pure joy of a small bowl of maple syrup with homemade bread and fresh butter!  Heavenly.

Kitchens are magic.

It wasn’t surprising that I pursued my first degree in Food and Nutrition. The chemistry (and politics of food) behind the workings of the kitchen opened up another realm of information, and more magic.

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Has it really been a week since I last posted! Time is flying by. This is not surprising, as it is autumn, and harvest season.

The Instant Pot is still in daily use. I haven’t used the range or the oven for anything but food preservation ever since the Instant Pot came into the house. Last night I made up a new recipe that Attila loved. It was basically a hamburger gravy cooked in the instant pot with fresh green beans from the garden, and a chopped onion. I thickened it after it was cooked, on saute, then served it over small new potatoes. It was lovely. Tonight it will be chicken, although I won’t know what recipe I am going to make until five minutes before I begin meal preparation. A shout out to Teri, thanks for sending me a yahoo link to a great many Instant Pot recipes, I will have fun there.

I put filtered my apple cider this past week, removing the mash from the liquid.  It is now in the final step, which can take many weeks, as the apple cider slowly turns to vinegar.  I have had to remove a wee bit of mold from the top, but from what I read online, this is not something to be concerned about.  The blackberry mash and water are still in the first phase of the process, slowly turning into cider.  I wonder if cider is right word to use with this, blackberry cider.  Hmm.

Since Monday I have canned 14 litres of tomatoes. The tomatoes are from our garden, and were frozen whole as soon as they reached their peak of ripeness. It has been quite a job, thawing them, boiling them down, putting them through the food mill, boiling them down again, then pressure canning them. I love my All American pressure canner! The last five litres are just now cooling on the kitchen counter. Tomorrow I will test their seals, then pack them into the box with the rest of the canned garden tomatoes, and put them into storage in the basement. When I consider that the current price for organic canned tomatoes, in a glass jar, is $8.99 per 680ml, well, we couldn’t afford to eat this quality of food if we hadn’t grown and preserved it ourselves. To buy the equivalent amount of canned organic tomatoes in jars that I canned from our garden, would have cost $185, and generated 20 empty glass jars to be recycled. As it was this year, the garden tomato plants cost less than $10, with free fertilizer from the compost bins. What we saved in dollars was made up for with time, sweat equity. Attila gardened, I canned. Of course, there is the added bonus of the powder I make from the dehydrated skins and seeds from all of these tomatoes, it is very tasty, and I don’t see such a product available in any of the grocery stores I frequent.

Attila renovate and gardens, I administer and preserve food, and in this way we keep our heads above water. Attila is on board with this approach, he has always been on board with this approach, even when he was set on moving out on his own, he was on board with this approach. It isn’t glamorous, newsworthy, unusual, or noteworthy, it is just how we do things, as individuals and as housemates.

mason jar, with coffee filter on top to separate liquid from mash.

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: This is the setup I devised for filtering the apple skins and cores out of the apple cider. First I placed a sterilized wide mouth mason jar on the counter. Then I placed a stainless steel wide-mouthed funnel in the far. Then I placed a coffee filter in the wide-mouthed funnel. Then I place the sterilized jar ring in the coffee filter, to prevent the filter from falling through the funnel. Once this setup was complete, I poured the liquid from my apple cider jar into the coffee filter, so that it passed through the filter and into the mason jar below.

sieve of apple mash draining on coffee filter

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: After pouring as much liquid as possible from the apple cider jar into the mason jar, the mash was placed in a sieve, which in turn was placed on the coffee filter, to allow the remaining liquid to drain from the mash.

bakset of frozen tomatoes

This is half of the frozen tomatoes from our garden.

The frozen tomatoes were place in a 16 quart stock pot over a low heat, to thaw and simmer.

Stock pot containing tomato sauce, with reflection of Maggie's legs.

The tomatoes were simmered in the stockpot, put through the food mill, then returned to the stock pot to simmer. And here you have, as a little extra bonus, a stealth picture of me taking the picture. Mrs. Tomato Head.

canning jars in a pressure canner

And here are the jars of canned tomatoes, ready and waiting to be canned in the pressure canner, then onto the counter, where they will cool for 24 hours, before testing the seals and storing them away.

groceries with total cost of 95 cents, includes 3 frozen turkeys, socks, green peppers, red peppers cilantro and two packages of English Muffins.

Another little bonus shot. Attila watches points when we shop. He loves numbers, and his passion for numbers is put to good use with points. This was our grocery haul this week, total cost, cashing in points, 95 cents.

Worldly

Weather

16°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 27 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 15.5°C
Dew point: 8.9°C
Humidity: 65%
Wind: S 14 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

OK, here is the thing! When I went to bed last night the temperature in the house was 22C. The heat is not turned on. Last night I forgot to close the windows, and the temperature outside went down to 10C overnight. Yikes!

And you know what? When I woke up this morning, the temperature in the house was still 21C! It only went down 1C degree! The attic insulation is doing an amazing job. Who knew! Well, I sorta knew, but I didn’t realize it would be this good.

Quote

“A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.”
Daniel Webster
1782 – 1852

Zucchini Surprise

Attila continues to chip away at the garage project.  Last weekend he finished closing in and trimming the back exterior, and the interior back wall.  He continues to move building materials into the garage from the basement.  The push is over, now slowly but surely the garage project is progressing.

Do plants smile?  I think they might, you can see them if you watch carefully enough. We had a thunderstorm and heavy rain yesterday afternoon, the garden was glad.  The few remaining Scarlet Runner Bean plants are beginning to produce beans, we have had two meals with fresh beans.  The tomato plants are prolific.  Attila planted, at my request, mostly small tomatoes, Amish, and two varieties that are of unknown varieties.  There is one round tomato plant, Pink Girl.  The fruit is not particularly sweet, but is very tasty, and perfect for toasted tomato sandwiches.  The hot peppers are yielding quite a crop, those are for Attila, I don’t eat them.  The Pole Squash, a heritage variety we ordered online, are barely surviving, one actually died, and I anticipate no fruit from those plants.  The Blue Hubbard Squash is beginning to take over the yard, and wants to trespass on the neighbour’s yard, requiring constant diligence to set the runners back on our property.  The Zucchini, well, there is a beautiful large fruit on it, and, well, it isn’t a Zucchini, it is a pumpkin!   How did that happen, no idea, I must have mislabeled some seeds.

Today is a perfect day.  Sunny, warm but not hot, not terribly humid.  Just lovely!

I am preparing a new dish in the Instant Pot for dinner, making it up as I go along.  Ground beef (and rosemary, always rosemary with beef or red meat), cabbage, and tomato are the base of it, I’ll be adding water, rice, and a few herbs, we will see how it goes.  A sort of cabbage roll casserole.  I am writing it down as I go along, so if we like it, I can replicate it.

There are companies with a solid, reliable right hand that takes your money, who have a thousand left hands that know next to nothing about each other, or how to provide customer service.  These past few weeks I’ve been on the telephone battling it out with perfectly nice but systemically hobbled customer service people.  Every time I think I have it sorted, another unexplained charge shows up, and after much ado, I receive an apology, and the charge is removed.  No wonder people end up with ridiculously high bills, you have to watch these companies like a hawk, and be prepared to spend a LOT of time getting errors straightened out!  Cell phone service providers = misery!

Attila just arrived home for the weekend.  The weather is as perfect as one could wish for on a summer’s day.  Dinner, courtesy of the Instant Pot, is just a “press the start button” away.  All is well, in the here and now, and it does not get any better than that.

Worldly

Weather

25°C
Date: 3:00 PM EDT Friday 10 August 2018
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 25.0°C
Dew point: 11.3°C
Humidity: 42%
Wind: NNE 12 km/h
Humidex: 27
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Derive happiness in oneself from a good day’s work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.”
Henri Matisse
1869 – 1954

Hula Hoe

A while back Kate (hey Kate!) described the hoe she uses to weed her beautiful flower garden. It looked like a great hoe, and I had never seen anything like it before. Well, I finally got around to looking for something similar. I finally found one that seems the same, a Hula Hoe, called by many other names.

My reason for pursuing this now is that the garden is almost overwhelmed with weeds. Attila is the gardener here. He has been working on the garage roof project since late June. It is a huge project, and he has been working on it almost every waking hour that he has not been at work. At the same time we experienced a very dry four or five weeks, almost a drought, which was hard on the garden. Attila took time off from his roof project to water his garden. There just wasn’t any time left for weeding.

I have arthritic knees, there will be no kneeling to work on the garden for me. I also have back and shoulder issues, less serious, but serious enough that bending down to weed causes enough pain to require medication. I was not going to be weeding the garden. I have suggested many times that raised beds would allow me to participate in gardening, but Attila has not liked the idea. The upshot is that the garden has not been weeded since mid-June.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

There are some very big weeds in the garden, and mats of smaller weeds.

What to do!

This morning I decided to try to find the hoe that Kate described, and as soon as I found it, out we went to purchase it. This evening, after the sun had sunk below the horizon, I ventured into the garden with my new hoe. I weeded about two-thirds of the garden, without breaking a sweat, and only bending down a few times. This hoe is a miracle tool! Well, it is for an old gal like me who can’t get down on the ground to tend the plants.

This hoe is a game changer here at Mist Cottage. There are still quite a few home renovation projects to be tackled, all of them will be tackled by Attila. This Hula Hoe will allow me to gently tackle some of the landscaping, some of the gardening. And I will enjoy it!

August 5, 2018

Another stinker of a day, too hot to do anything out-of-doors, except find shade and try to keep breathing.

I took my morning coffee out onto the back porch where, although the air was very humid, it was quite pleasant. I sat for an hour or so, watching the birds, the clouds, and the movement of shadows as the sun lumbered into the sky.

Eventually Attila awoke, made his morning coffee and came out onto the porch too. After revelling for a few hours, in the luxury of sitting around, we decided to work on the garden. Attila didn’t favour my chances of lasting very long, and how right he was. After about thirty minutes I was unable to continue, and feeling a bit frantic, so I decided to head into the coolness of Mist Cottage. I had to cold cloths to cool my body down. The garden looks a little better, and I recovered relatively quickly, within 15 minutes I felt comfortable again. Without the air-conditioned escape, I would not have cooled down until the heat wave subsides. Note to self, no air conditioning, no vigorous activity during heat waves.

Attila spent the rest of his day finishing off the back wall studs in the garage, building shelves between the studs, and painting the back wall. One step closer to completion. Blocking between the rafters, trim around the new window, and odd bits of flashing and trim on the roof, and more painting, still need to be completed. I think though, that after this weekend, if a day of decent weather presents itself on a weekend, activities other than working on the garage roof can be prioritized.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

HEAT WARNING
27°C
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 5 August 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 26.6°C
Dew point: 20.9°C
Humidity: 70%
Wind: S 18 km/h
Humidex: 35
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“True humor is fun – it does not put down, kid, or mock. It makes people feel wonderful, not separate, different, and cut off. True humor has beneath it the understanding that we are all in this together.”
Hugh Prather

This And That

What a beautiful day it is here today! A perfect day for this and that!

Attila has decided to replace the back wall of the garage, since it is no longer a load bearing wall, and it is heavily damaged by water, mildew and mould. Out it will come, and new fresh lumber will be framed to make a new, sweet smelling wall. It needs to be done. Projects can lead to other project, as this one is doing. I am enthusiastic about making the garage a pleasant place to spend time!

The garden needs some attention, and it is perfect day to do it! We will be spending the day out of doors, enjoying the warm sunny day, with reasonable temperatures and relatively low humidity.

The Hoya was growing some very, very long stems, four feet in length. Time to prune it, and put cuttings in water in the window to root. Also, additional soil needs to be added. The Hoya was gifted to me more than 15 years ago, when we lived in the city.

The Spicy Orange Chicken dish was a big hit again for dinner last night. The Instant Pot is my friend. It has made preparing a daily hot meal a simple, and interesting task. Now that I am solely responsible for cooking five days a week, this is a wonderful development.

Most of my Instant Pot cooking involves rice. We have been eating a lot of rice. I am noticing that my body is responding positively to this altered dietary regime. My body likes rice, and it isn’t just my tastebuds.

My next area of exploration with the Instant Pot will be fish. Both Attila and I really like fish, so I am inspired to learn how to cook one pot meals centred around fish. I don’t notice many Instant Pot recipes online that focus on fish, there are many focused on beef, pork, and chicken. I will enjoy ferreting out or creating great-to-us recipes to add fish to our Instant Pot dinner options.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

18°C
Date:8:00 AM EDT Saturday 7 July 2018
Condition:
Sunny
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 17.8°C
Dew point: 11.5°C
Humidity: 66%
Wind: NW 7 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“There is an applause superior to that of the multitudes: one’s own.”
Elizabeth Elton Smith

Something that seems to be largely overlooked in the Age Of Selfie.

Summer Cold

The only outing I had last week was to have a mammogram at the hospital. Two days later, a sudden onset of cold symptoms began, that was Sunday afternoon. All week the cough, sore throat, headache, and more recently a runny nose as well, have been annoying. During the night last night, annoying became painful. Swallowing was downright painful, painful enough to awaken me. I sucked on lozenges for a long time, and finally fell asleep again. This morning the throat is less painful, but the voice is almost gone, only a rasping gasping simile of words emerge. And it hurts, to talk, to cough. Still, no fever.

I had a few plans for today, but instead I’ll be sitting in my favourite chair, or out on the porch, wrapped warmly, sipping lemon and honey.

The heat wave is over, it is 16C this morning. The garden has perked right up, due to yesterday’s heavy rain.

The tomatoes, peppers, squash, onions, oregano, rhubarb, borage, onions and garlic are all doing well after the big refresh yesterday.

The Scarlet Runner Beans, Climbing Snap Peas, and Climbing Pod Peas are all doing well, beginning to grope their way towards the fence. The rabbits haven’t been able to get into the fenced in area of the yard to decimate them. Something did eat the emergent leaves from three of the Scarlet Runner Beans, leaving just stumps of stems behind. My guess is squirrels! I think they should make mesh plant cages, about a foot high, completely enclosed with mesh, similar to the tomato cage idea, to keep the nibblers away from vulnerable new plants. I might devise something of my own at some point.

The blooms on the Crabapple Tree, and the Lungwort, are spent. They are now in full leaf. At the moment we have Columbine, two varieties of Wild Geranium, and Irises blooming. Soon the Yellow Day Lillies will bloom soon, not quite yet.

I would like to get a hanging plant to live just outside the kitchen window. Something that flowers all season. Remembering to water plants is one of my weaknesses, I have good intentions, the plants do not thrive on good intentions. Recently I found a package of two clay waterers, that allow that attachment of a plastic coke bottle full of water to trickle slowly into the soil. I tried this with the Chrysanthemum purchased last winter, and it is thriving! When I went back to the dollar store to look for more, they were sold out. Luckily, Attila found a package of them, that had been removed from the shelf and placed in a cart with a cardboard box over it. He grabbed it, and now there are three of these unused handy little devices, and one of them is slated for a hanging basket outside the kitchen window.

Sometimes I wander aimlessly around the internet, looking at a wide variety of things that I find of passing interest. I watched a video about a fellow who was renting a condo in downtown Vancouver for $3500 a month, emphasizing how cheaply he was living. I doubt that half of the population of Canada could afford that kind of cheap lifestyle.

To affirm that I was looking at a situation that does not represent the majority of Canadians, I looked for some statistics. Then I checked out the median income for Canadians, closest I found was 2015, $80,940 annual family income, before taxes and deductions.. I find the median income more interesting than the average, because it less skewed by the very rich, and the very poor. My personal poverty is much less significant using the median income figures.

Half of the 2015 population had a family income below $80,940. My income falls at the very bottom of the bottom half… Attila’s income is much higher than mine at the moment, so although we have not managed to escape the 25th percentile, it means that living together I fare much better than I would on my own, and so does Attila for a variety of reasons. If we are living together when Attila retires, we will sink close to the bottom of the scale. We know this.

I always find it ironic when younger people target “boomers” as having it all, when that is only true for a certain percentage of the boomers. That would be another statistic to look up, but not today. I ignore the young who think that because I am old my tiny pension makes me wealthy, by definition. I also ignore the judgemental, often condescending, types, of any age, who feel I just didn’t work hard enough… go back to your ignorance-is-bliss bubbles. These are all people I do not want to spend time with. If fate brings them outside their bubbles, I don’t want to be around to hear them whining. No one knows what the future holds.

I found the video of the Millennial guy paying $3500 a month rent interesting, and actually watched it right through to the end. He takes his source of high income for granted, feels it is “normal”, feeling his parent’s generation had it better than he does. Just one affluent family’s experience, valid as an experience, not representative of the population though. Sometimes I wonder if that is how the majority of the population of the rest of the world sees us, as the society of affluence and ease seen in the images portraying the higher income people in the country. Possibly.

I could not afford a parking space, let alone a dwelling of any kind, in Vancouver, or Toronto, or any of the larger cities in Canada; no matter how much I might want to live there, it isn’t in the cards.

So back to bouncing around looking at videos about the different ways people live in Canada. Variety is the spice of life, and that we have in Canada.

I am feeling like crap today! I’ve been lucky that I do not experience this degree of illness very often. I’m drinking lots of fluids, and taking it easy today, postponing any of the projects I was thinking about. Not a hardship, I love sitting on the back porch with a cup of tea, my book, my computer, with my feet up, watching the robins watching me. I feel very lucky today, recuperating in a place I love.

Hawkweed June 2018 DSCF2157 Hawkweed in the back yard. Attila mowed the lawn a few days ago, but at my request he left two round sections long, where the Hawkweed grows. The Hawkweed is blooming!! After it goes to seed, then those patches can be mowed. The Hawkweed blooms are not big or showy, I love their long stems, and enjoy the delicate yellow flowers dotting the yard!

Wild geranium dolumbine june 2018 Here are the oh so subtle Wild Geraniums. Small and delicate and very beautiful, they grow close to where I sit on the back porch. There are two varieties, the tall with darker coloured blooms, and leaves that are purple in the centre and green at the edges. The shorter variety has larger blooms, does not grow as tall as the other, and have leaves that are a solid green colour. To the left of the wild geranium is a purple Columbine. Attila transplanted it here this spring, it was growing in the footpath by the back porch, having invited itself there.

Clay plant waterer mum DSCF2147 The Chrysanthemum from early spring, an indoor plant, and the clay watering device that keeps it watered while it sits in the heat on the back porch. The devices I have are cheaper than these ones at Amazon, but they work well.

DSCF2150 It is just me and my companions, the Robins, staring into the distance, enjoying the day.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

16°C
Date: 5:00 AM EDT Friday 1 June 2018
Condition: Not observed
Pressure: 100.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 16.2°C
Dew point: 15.6°C
Humidity: 96%
Wind: SSW 8 km/h

Quote

“Always be a little kinder than necessary.”
James M. Barrie
1860 – 1937