Monday, September 20, 2021

garden update

 If you have been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for another garden update post, this is for you, bestie.  <3

Since my only other garden post this year at the beginning of July, the tomatos grew nicely.  This area is all cherry tomato plants, and then we have one roma tomato plant in a pot.  We have been very lucky and had a ton of cherry tomatos this year!  Probably our best tomato crop ever.

The potatos did ok..... I sort of expected more.  I think we need to add more dirt to this bed next year and make it deeper.  I forgot to weigh the tater haul, but we probably made our money back in what we paid for the bag of organic seed potatots that we planted.

Potatos above, potato plants before the kids ripped them up below.

The Mister planted some sweet peas for me.  When I was a kid my mom always planted a ton of these in our backyard, and when I was in grades 3 and 4 she would cut little bouquets for me to take to my teachers.  I'm sure that made me look like a sucky kid, but whatever!  Sweet peas make me think of my mom.

Here's what we harvested that day.  Lets see, what else  - the rhubarb went hard early in the season and then dramatically died off.  I know rhubarb is an early harvest, but our evil plant usually keeps giving and giving much longer than this year. I'm sure the heat and smoke did it no favors.  The blueberry plant only ever produced a couple of handfuls of berries, but it is new, so maybe that was to be expected.  The kale did not grow.  The zucchini did not grow.  We do have some pepper plants in a planter box with small peppers on them, maybe as long as your thumb?  I wanted to give them more time to grow, but it's getting cold at night, so we might pick them soon.  The lettuce bolted early.  We did get 2 small cucumbers that were pretty tasty.  The herbs were pretty stunted.  I'm sure it's mostly due to the terrible heat and fires we had this summer, but I think we will have to add some new dirt and fertilizer next year to try to boost things.  Maybe this winter I will become obsessed with garden tik toks to fill my time.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021

cookbook cleanup 27 - Fraiche Food


It makes me uncomfortable to write about cookbooks I don't like.  I can't even imagine how hard it is, how much work, goes into writing a cookbook.  These things take years and a lot of effort.  And really, who am I to judge?  So I'm going to be quick.  Backstory - I ordered this book last summer on a day when I was feeling very down and very very sorry for myself, and for some reason I thought this would make me feel better; snap me out of my funk and cure all my problems.  It did not.  But!  That isn't the books fault.  I'm just not the target audience for this book.  I'm not sure who is, but it isn't me.  This book has a very strong chilling with your girls and getting cocktails at the popular BC chain restaurants vibe.  This book is white, in that so many of the photos seem overexposed and light that it hurt my eyes to look at them, and they made the book seem bland to me.  The food seems fine, but there wasn't much I was interested in trying.  I made a couple of things - some cookies, banana bread.  They were fine.    

So this book has moved on and off my shelf and  I hope it finds a home where it can be appreciated. 

Cookbook Cleanup results so far - Back on the bookshelf - 14  Donated -13

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

spotted signs - Riverside Park

 Under the pier, August 2021

Friday, September 10, 2021

how to cook dumplings

 When we lived in Calgary, we would occasionally go to a restaurant in Chinatown that had THE BEST dumplings.  They were tender on top and super crisp on the bottom and were served with a few sauces, and they were just the best thing to eat for any occasion.

For years I've been cooking dumplings at home and while they are always good, I could never get them to come out with the same soft on top and crisp on the bottom texture that I remembered from the Calgary dumplings so many years ago.

Recently I was watching Ye Ole Tickey-Toks and  BOOM!  Right there was a video on how to make the perfect dumplings; the dumplings of my dreams.

Go visit Eastswithvan on Tik Tok to see her video, but the basic instruction is - don't mess around with them in the pan.  

I always just dumped them in the pan with some oil, and then tossed and moved them around a bunch before I threw in some water for steaming.  Wrong wrong wrong.  Get them in the pan and then leave them alone!  Who knew.  Probably lots of people, but not me.

Here's what I learned - 

Put a bit of oil in the non stick pan.  Heat it over medium heat.  Put your dumplings in the pan, flat bottom side down.  Fan them, very close to each other, in a circle.  Cook, not touching the dumplings, but maybe rotating the pan on the burner if you have a stupid stove where the burners heat unevenly, like we do.  Cook them for 5 minutes, making sure they don't get too brown.  Add "some" water, and cover and steam for 5 more minutes.  Remove the lid and if there is still water in the pan, keep cooking, again making sure the bottoms aren't getting too brown, until nearly all the water has evaporated.  

Remember to watch your heat, you don't want your dumplings getting too brown and crisp too quickly.

Now this part I'm still working on as I've only done this twice!  You mix some more water and a spoon (?) of flour.  Whisk together and pour around the dumplings.  Then you cook THIS another 5 minutes until the slurry and the dumplings are nice and browned and crisp on the bottom.  Try, if you can, to loosen the edges with a spatula and then flip the whole thing over onto a plate so the bottom is now the top.  Like this.


They could have been a little browner, but I was nervous.

The second time I made them I did get them a bit browner but my flipping game was NOT on point and they didn't come out in one layer.  But they still tasted delicious.

I put out the Saigon dipping sauce, some chile garlic sauce, and soy sauce as choices for dipping sauces, and then I tried to make a dipping sauce but it didn't taste very good.

ALSO, between Dumplings 1 and Dumplings 2 I bought a bottle of red vinegar (not red wine vinegar) for dipping and oh boy.  So good.

Go check out Eatswithvan for the BEST way to cook dumplings.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Saturday, September 04, 2021

sweet and sour pork

There is no parenting task that brings me less joy than cooking for my kids.

They are terrible, miserable little beasts that dislike pretty much everything I cook.  
Sometimes the complaining starts in the kitchen when they come in to see what I'm making.  
Sometimes it's when the plates hit the tables that the faces and the "What is THAT"  "I'm not eating it!" start.
Occasionally they will have a few bites, tell me how good it is, and then when I'm relaxed and smiling they do a 180 and declare they don't really like it after all, it's pretty gross.
I wasn't sure how this one would go over since there is no reasoning behind what they like and/or dislike but - they liked it!  And honestly I would have thought they were even more insane than usual if they hadn't like this.  So good.
I made 1 1/2 times the sauce since I like things saucy.  This is a good, easy dish to make that hopefully everyone in your house will enjoy.

Friday, August 27, 2021

favorites lately

 The 2 best books I have read so far this year are The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

The Mister picked up the Hunger Games prequel when it came out last year, and I wasn't very interested in reading it.  I read the Hunger Games books when they came out and I enjoyed them, but I never kept them to reread.  I decided to read this one so I could add it to the donate pile, but I LOVED IT.  My memory of the other Hunger Games books is pretty hazy, but I don't think you have to know them by heart to enjoy this book.  It is long, and if it were up to me there were some sections I would have trimmed, but it's so good.  The ending!!!!!!  Gah!

I added The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo to my wishlish after I finished Daisy Jones and The Six.  Heck, I added all her books to my wishlist.  I got totally pulled into this book and cried so hard I nearly threw up.  And if that isn't a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.



The only podcast I'm currently listening to is Keep It.  I started listening from the beginning a while back so I think I'm still in 2019.  But I like it.


I don't know why I took this picture before I recycled these bottles, but here's some sprays/oils I used up late Spring/early Summer.



I am still on my iced coffee kick, and still continuing to not drink (I will shyly shout out that I have been sober for over 7 years now.  Seven!  Go me!)  so this summer I have tried some different cold coffee drinks and some alternatives to alcohol or pop.  Here's some bad photos of a few drink I've tried this summer, plus the beer cozy that I bought The Mister for Christmas - 


I haven't been watching much TV but here's a few shows I watched that I really liked - 

What are your recent favorites?

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

tomato tart from the past

 This tart first showed up on my blawg in 2006 (!!!!!!!!) but my mom was making it for years before that.

 We make it with store bought dough so it's super simple; just saute some onion and garlic until soft and starting to brown, spread over the dough, leaving a border, and top with sliced tomatos and whatever kind of cheese you like - we usually use mozza and feta.  Sometimes we stir basil and/or oregano into the onions and garlic.  Adding some fresh or sauteed spinach would be amazing!

It's a quick easy meal that is best when you can get your hands on some beautiful tomatos.  

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

growing avocado plants

 I remember my mom would often try to grow an avocado plant from a seed by stabbing toothpicks into an avocado seed and sitting it in water.  She tried and tried but could never get one to sprout. 

I recall trying a few times over the years as well, and just like her, had no luck.

Last year during the hours I would spend numbing myself by staring at videos on my phone I saw a different technique that involved peeling the outer layer off the avocado pit, then wrapping it in a damp paper towel, sealing it in a plastic bag and leaving it on a sunny window ledge.

Like this - Grow an avocado plant from seed

I suddenly remembered the videos a month or so ago, conveniently after buying a bag of avocados at The Boys request, and told The Mister about, who was like "Cool."

So we tried it.  First off, peeling avocado pits is difficult!  And if you have weak little fingers and nails like I do, it hurts.  Soak the pit in water for a day or so first, it might help.

The wrap the pit in a damp paper towel, put it in a baggie or plastic container with a lid, and put it somewhere sunny.  The sun hits our place at an angle and so we don't really have any super sunny window ledges, and so maybe that's why it took longer, but I would guess our pits sat around for close to a month before they split and sprouted.  But they did!  And since we don't have any super cool jars or vases like all the avocado growers on Tik Tok do, The Mister fashioned some little holders for them from plastic bottles.

 This is 3 of our 4 pits and they seem to be doing well so far.  My fingers are crossed that they will keep growing and I'll have an excuse to buy some funky bottles for them.  

Update!  No funky bottles, but The Mister picked up some mason jars from the dollar store.  They look super cute - look how tall that first one is getting!

Friday, August 13, 2021

its easy to make fruit sauces, and cheesecake

 Tis the season for lovely fresh fruit.  A super time of the year.  We are still steering clear of people and places, so no trips to farmers markets or farm stands for us this summer.  

I picked up some blueberries and peaches from Gourmet Greens for us to eat au natural, in smoothies, whatever.  

When the blueberries started to get soft, I turned the rest of them into a blueberry compote by washing them, putting them in a pot with a splash of water, some sugar, a dash of salt and a splash of vanilla.  Once the compote came to a simmer I turned down the heat so it would bubble gently, and let it cook for about 30 minutes, until it was thick and delicious.

I served them with some little no bake cheesecakes - I made the base with crushed digestive biscuits and melted butter, and then used this recipe for the filling.  Easy and delicious!

The rest got used up on toast, mixed in to yogurt, I even threw some into a smoothie.  I love blueberry season.  We planted a blueberry bush in the yard this Spring; it gave us a handful of blueberries before the heat and smoke started to damage it.  If it survives the winter, I am going to plant more.

I also bought a case of peaches,  Heaven!  It seemed like such an extravagant thing to do but they are so delicious.  The Mister is getting concerned that we won't get through them all and will lose some to spoilage, but I won't let that happen.  And to prove it to him I made a peach sauce.

For this one I peeled and sliced up some peaches and added them to a saucepan with some butter and brown sugar and a pinch of salt.  Let it simmer for a few minutes and it's ready to go.  If you wanted to, you could add a splash of alcohol - like some whiskey!  That would be good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

cookbook cleanup number 26 - Cravings 2 by Chrissy Teigen

 Cravings 2 came out a few years ago and I bought it for myself since I enjoyed her first book so much.  We have cooked a ton out of this one - baked eggs in ham cups, french toast cups,   banana bread, Thai fishcakes and peanut butter blondiesseafood stew and skillet flatbread - the flatbreads we have made many times.  

Here's what we tried - 

Patty Melts - I had to leave out the bacon since I didn't have any.  They were delicious and pretty easy.

Grilled Pork Bahn Mi sandwiches with quick pickles - amazing.  Loved loved loved.

Popovers.  So easy and loved these too.

Cheesy Breakfast Hash, with added sausage.

We also made the Red Chicken Curry which was SO good, and the Sweet Soy Glazed Pork Chops but with chicken instead.  Still good!

I like this book and everything I've made, so it's a keeper for me.

Cookbook Cleanup results so far - Back on the bookshelf - 14  Donated -12

Saturday, August 07, 2021

interesting things at the grocery store

 I stopped by FreshCo last week; this store emerged from the renovation of the Sahali Safeway location last year.  They are more no-frills than some other grocery stores but they carry a very good selection of International foods, which is fun.  I stopped in to pick up some milk and came out with - 

KD Flavour Boosts - I saw these online somewhere and I really thought it was a joke.  It's not!  The store had 3 flavours - Butter Chicken, Cotton Candy and Jalapeno.  The display said there are also  ghost pepper, poutine and buffalo wing flavours.

The kids were excited about the cotton candy one, but when I offered to make them mac and cheese with it on the weekend, they both screamed no at me.  We haven't tried either yet.

Cheetos Flamin' Hot Mac n Cheese.  I bought this more as a joke for The Mister, as neither kid likes spicy food.

Cheetos Mac N Cheese - this one's for the children, as they both like Cheetos.  They tried it.  The Boy thought it was fine.  The Girl did not like it at all.  I had to finish the leftovers for lunch a few days later.  It was fine, but a terrifying color.  It made me think of something I'd seen on Tik Tok about the vaccine - if you eat processed foods (and truly, who does not?) you don't need to worry about what's in the vaccine.  This would be one of those foods.  That color is not found in nature.

I bought this hot honey from Fresh Street Market and I was underwhelmed by it at first - you have to be a bit heavy handed with it to get the jerk flavors, but when you do - delicious!

I have long wanted to try green papaya salad but haven't had the chance yet.  I picked this up from Costco a couple of days ago.  It's not quite what I wanted but looks good.  How can you go wrong with mango and veggies?