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.

*************************************

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

Projects

Projects!

They can be horrendous.

The garage roof was one of those horrendous projects. It began in late June, and the exterior portion of the project was completed on Sunday, August 26th. And it was a two-day push, those last two days, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, to complete it. Of course, there are a few little things that aren’t done, but that is the way of it with Attila’s projects. He is a person that always leaves a little bit… in the pot when serving food, in a project that he is working on. I think it is one of the reasons he likes to work alone, someone else might want to finish a job completely. Like me, I like to finish jobs completely and forget about them. Blasphemy!

The garage roof project was undertaken by Attila, and it overtook him. In his absence from daily life, I took over and fulfilled all the day-to-day tasks that he usually takes care of, in addition to my own day-to-day tasks. Because they aren’t my tasks, they aren’t setup the way I would do them, so they were challenging. I kept Attila’s routines going, because I knew that he would experience additional stress if I changed things on him. So project support was a long and tedious process for the garage roof project.

The exterior of the garage roof project, although it probably needs wee bits of tweaking to completely finish it off (like painting the caulking), is done to my satisfaction, as well as Attila’s. The new roof, wall, and window, keep the weather out, and it all looks lovely.

The interior, well it is only my concern in that when Attila moves all his materials and tools out of the basement, I will reorganize the basement to make everything stored there accessible to me. No more asking Attila to move heavy objects so that I can fill the flour canister, or fetch a few mason jars and lids. No sir, I’m going to go and get what I need, when I need it!

Not all projects are horrendous.

This past weekend I tackled a project that was not horrendous, was rather enjoyable, but exhausting.

I canned a half bushel of Roma tomatoes. They were available in half bushel boxes at the local grocery store, were grown in Ontario, and were $7.97. The produce from that particular grocery store, the one we usually visit, does not last long. It is cheaper for a reason, and that reason is that it isn’t the freshest produce available on the market. I needed to start canning as soon as possible.

Saturday morning Attila took the time to carry my All American Pressure Canner up from the basement. I spent an hour or so reading the manual again, since I haven’t pressure canned for quite some time. I also researched canning tomatoes, and finally found a good guideline offered by the Ohio State University Extension, called Canning Tomato Products.

I started just after 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning, and was taking the last of the dozen one-litre jars out of the canner just before 10:00 p.m. Saturday evening. I was on my feet the whole day, washing, trimming, dicing, boiling, straining, cooking, sterilizing, bottling, and finally, canning. It was a lot of work, and those jars, filled with lovely tomato puree, lined up on the counter, looked wonderful to me!

Pressure canning commands a lot of respect, mistakes can be dangerous. I took a certificate course in pressure canning before I did it for the first time, so that after months of preparation I felt I was able to proceed safely. It was nerve-wracking, the first few times. This time I found it a lot less intimidating, after preparing by re-reading the manual and reviewing my notes. It went smoothly.

Freezing tomato puree is a lot easier, but that requires a lot of freezer space, which we don’t have. Canned goods can be stored on shelves in the basement.

Another project, a much smaller project, I set for myself, was to begin a binder of Instant Pot recipes that are low-sodium, low-cholesterol, tasty, and easy to prepare from ingredients we keep in the house. It is easy to reduce the sodium and cholesterol in a recipe, but that usually results in a far inferior taste.  My small collection are those recipes that still taste good after reducing the sodium and cholesterol, at least to our low-sodium adjusted palates. I have about six recipes now, taken from online publishers, then altered to make them fit within the sodium and cholesterol limits of my diet. I had to order some page protectors from Amazon, to keep my printed pages in. Uncovered pages have a way of getting splattered.

One recipe I am currently working on is Tuna Noodle Casserole. I have tried several recipes, and none of them offer desirable results. The latest recipe calls for adding milk to the Instant Pot before pressure cooking. Well, it burned, I knew it would. BUT what I didn’t know was how much flavour was added to the dish when the milk caramelized.

I wasn’t in the room watching the Instant Pot when the burn warning first came on. I discovered it later. When I did discover it, I did a Quick Release of the pressure, then lightly scraped out the mixture into an oven proof dish, and transferred it to the oven to finish cooking, which didn’t take long. The taste of the casserole was amazing! I am thinking of trying it again, while watching the Instant Pot constantly for that burn warning, then immediately doing a Quick Release. Then, if the there isn’t too much burning on the bottom, Saute to deglaze the pot, and stir while cooking for several minutes to completely cook the noodles. That is my plan at the moment anyway, working towards getting that flavour!

So those are my little projects.

Attila’s first non-reno project was to pickle some hot red peppers from the garden. He wanted to experiment with making pickled peppers with substantially less salt. The taste test results will be in by next week!

Life is about to evolve here, there are no more high pressure projects on the immediate horizon, and perhaps not on the horizon at all, if we decide the house is fine as it is. It is unlikely the renovation projects will cease altogether, and that after a long break after the garage roof project, we will begin to think about other projects, all of the low-key, at least low-key for us. Things such as building stud walls in the basement, insulating and drywalling; extending the back porch; rewiring most of the upper floor of the house; new siding on the house; a new metal roof on all buildings; none of these things, or others on the long list, is crucial. If they don’t get done, well they don’t, we will survive.

Worldly

Weather

29°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Tuesday 28 August 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 28.8°C
Dew point: 23.2°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: WSW 31 gust 45 km/h
Humidex: 39
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”
Will Durant
1885 – 1981

This one didn’t just speak to me today, it shouted!

August Begins

Well, here it is, August!

August came in with a big thunderstorm and downpour this afternoon.  It was most welcome, and I could almost hear the sighs of relief from the flora and fauna.  The rain started just as Attila arrived home from work, finding me in the garage listening to the rain on the new metal roof, enjoying the dryness of it all.

July was a month where the humidex reached from 30C to 35C almost every day. It looks like August will be more of the same. It isn’t my favourite kind of weather. The humidity is so cloying.

Tonight’s dinner was a quick and easy Instant Pot Tuna Noodle Casserole.  This recipe has grated cheese stirred in after cooking, it was very nice.  Attila loved it.  There isn’t much I love since I am eating such a low sodium diet, nice is as good as it gets.

When I was shopping earlier in the week, I bought a bag of beautiful looking grapefruit.  We have been eating them in the evenings as a snack.  I love grapefruit, and for years I could not have it because it was contraindicated by my medication.  The medication changed and now I can eat grapefruit again.  A small, but welcome, mercy.

Attila’s cell phone is pay as you go, and needed to be topped up.  Since he uses his cell phone a lot more than I use mine, mostly to call me here at home, his minutes disappear a lot more quickly.  Therefore the cheapest 100 minute prepaid plan seemed a viable solution, with a monthly fee which annually adds up to about the same price as the current pay per use.

I felt sorry for the people I dealt with today, sorting out the cell phone account. I asked a few simple questions, but because the call center people are not from Canada, the nuances of our culture are not familiar to them.  The simple questions ended up taking almost three hours to work through, and the unfortunate last fellow I spoke with, I spoke to three different people, was downright discouraged by the end of the call.  He was polite to the end though. We got the job done, in the end, the cell phone works and in a few months I will go back into the account and set up automatic updates.

Cell phones are getting increasingly expensive to operate, the options are narrowing, masked as improvements, which they aren’t.  My cell phone service provider recently sent me a text message informing me that my pay per use plan was no longer available, and that I would be automatically transferred to a much more expensive plan.  I spent an entire morning on the telephone with them as well, and I can’t say they enjoyed my company.  We got the job done.

Where we once spent $200 annually on cell phones, we now spend $300 to $400 annually.  At our income level this is a significant incursion on available funds.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

26°C
Date: 6:00 PM EDT Wednesday 1 August 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 25.8°C
Dew point: 22.1°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: SW 16 km/h
Humidex: 35
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
Henry Van Dyke
1852 – 1933

Being There

Monday, July 16, 2018

It looks like the humidex today will top 40C, stinking hot. I won’t be poking my nose out the door until things cool down. Well, I will venture onto the back porch in the afternoon to close the cabana curtains against the sun, otherwise it will be humidex 50C on the back porch. I feel extremely lucky to have the air source heat pump, otherwise I would be suffering, and unbearable. As it is I am just a little irritated by being housebound due to the extreme heat. Things could be a lot worse, counting my blessings.

After a busy weekend in the kitchen, there is food aplenty in the house. Baked potatoes, sweet and sour meatballs with rice and vegetables, BBQ chicken, vegetable soup, homemade bread. It will be midweek before the Instant Pot will be back in service.

The bathroom is being cleaned today, top to bottom. It is a big job, not a favourite either, but one that, once completed, is very satisfying. There are only five rooms in the house, perhaps another will be tackled!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Another quiet day here at Mist Cottage. Another hot, humid day. I won’t be poking my nose out of the air conditioned atmosphere for any length of time today.

Things are looking very, very brown in our neck of the woods. The grass in the neighbour’s yard has been brown for a few weeks, and I fear it will not recover, although it has in the past after long dry spells. Even our yard is starting to look a little brown. Our yard is does have grass in it, some, but it is mostly things like plantain, wild strawberries, dandelions, red and white clover, bindweed, birdsfoot trefoil (my personal favourite), and many as yet unidentified weeds. Although still green, most of the weeds are beginning to look distressed from the drought; except the birdsfoot trefoil, it is thriving with bright yellow flowers and luxuriant greenery. Attila continues to water the garden every night.

Tonight will be a second night of leftovers for dinner. Last night it was leftover BBQ Chicken, and Vegetable Soup for Attila, leftover Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Rice and Mixed Vegetables for me. Tonight dinner will consist the last of the Vegetable Soup and homemade whole wheat bread. Tomorrow evening it is back to cooking again.

There are still bits and pieces to be done on the back wall of the garage, more studs must be installed. Attila didn’t want to tackle much last night, it was just so hot, and he had been working in it all day, so he decided to paint the new back wall white. Attila likes white, so I suggested he paint the walls of the garage white. It will brighten the back of the garage no end, reflecting any light that enters, and make things like wasps nests easy to detect. I have my fingers crossed that this weekend coming up will see the last of the finicky parts of the back wall construction completed, the new window installed, with security guard, and most of the fiddly bits taken care of. The point where the renovation is no longer a pressing priority, and becomes an ongoing relaxed project, if fast approaching.

It has only rained once since the metal went onto the roof, and it held dry then. It has not rained since, except for a few drops here and there, that evaporated within a few minutes. It has been weeks since we had rain!

The garden needs a real soaker of a rain.

I am not really sure where the time goes these days. You would think, alone here for most of my waking hours, that I would be climbing the walls with boredom and loneliness. That does not seem to be happening. The days fly swiftly, they soar. Attila, off at work, or on his own with his garage renovation and garden, might spend fifteen or twenty minutes talking to me, over the course of the day, weekdays, weekends, the same. Occasionally, Attila and I will have a longer chat, but that has been on hold for the duration of this garage renovation. There are no other face-to-face conversations in my day-to-day world.

I have met some wonderful people online, and have come to appreciate and value their (your) intelligence and compassion. So many have shared their perspectives, hearts, minds… well, thanks, just thanks, for being who you are, and being there.

The humidity dropped this afternoon! Oh sweet relief, it is still hot, but not suffocating.

My Mom is in Las Vegas on vacation with my sister, they get on very well together, and are perfect travel companions. I think they will have a great time!

The Back Section Of The Garage Back Wall

The garage back wall closed in on Sunday.

ng>Worldly Distractions

garage back wall painted white

The garage back wall closed in and painted white on Monday.

Weather

26°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Monday 16 July 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 26.2°C
Dew point: 22.4°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: SSE 14 km/h
Humidex: 36
Visibility: 19 km

29°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Tuesday 17 July 2018
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 29.2°C
Dew point: 12.7°C
Humidity: 36%
Wind: WSW 23 gust 34 km/h
Humidex: 32
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“…Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

Paradise

I am sitting on the back porch. The day is overcast. It is the weekend, a Saturday, and Attila was mandated to work today, so he is at work. I can hear the birds singing. I’ve seen a cardinal couple this morning, they flew across the back neighbour’s yard and into the trees. The rabbits have been to visit. The squirrel has also been here this morning. Robins and grackles are looking for food in the browning grass.

What I am hearing mostly this morning though, is the awful sound of trees being ripped out of the ground. The development at the end of the street has circled the standing houses and is ripping out the beautiful mature trees behind us. The splitting of the trees as they are jerked out of the ground is a horrible, horrible sound. With each screech as a tree is destroyed, I send the pain I hear to people who are doing this to make money. Greed. They don’t need the money, they want the money, big house, big trips, big vehicles, big strutters. I send the pain their way, where it belongs.

It seems as if by the end of the day the cardinals will lose their paradise, and so will we.

This morning I am baking a loaf of whole wheat bread. We have several bags of whole wheat flour, and they are getting on in age. Whole wheat does not store well long term. The wheat I was using was unpleasant, but Attila insisted that I make bread with it and that he liked it and wanted to eat it. I found myself avoiding bread baking because it disgusted me to use the flour. I have talked him into abandoning that flour, what little is left of it. There is another bag of flour which has been stored properly, but for quite some time. Today I opened the bag, and so far, so good. It smelled fresh. Whole wheat flour, when it isn’t fresh, can smell awful. Today’s loaf is 100% whole wheat, it is in the bread machine, on the back porch, and it should be ready for a taste test by lunch time.

We had rain! Well, you might call it rain, but then again, you might say the sky was just a bit teary. There were wet spots visible on the top of the BBQ. There were not enough drops to wet the whole surface. Things are very, very dry. The grass is brown, rain barrels are empty, the garden needs to be watered twice a day. The day is overcast and my fingers are crossed that we get a few hours of showers.

Yesterday Attila picked some of our peas. There are four plants still standing, four out of the dozen or so planted. They are pod peas, meant to be eaten pod and all. A few leftover fresh mushrooms from the refrigerator, the fresh garden peas, a quarter pound of ground beef, frozen mixed vegetables and flavourings, into the Instant Pot and forty minutes later a fantastic soup for dinner. Attila is over the moon with this daily hot meal that he doesn’t have to cook!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

23°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Saturday 14 July 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 23.3°C
Dew point: 18.7°C
Humidity: 75%
Wind:WSW 8 km/h
Humidex: 30
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The chief weapon of sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was too late, how heartless and greedy they were.”
Kurt Vonnegut
1922 – 2007