Monday, September 30, 2013

Yoga Class Reasons

Here are the reasons I think I need to start going out to yoga classes again, instead of mostly doing my home practice:

1.  It is really, really hard to do pretty much any yoga pose with a one year old hanging off your knee & saying "Mamamamamamamama!"

That's mostly it really.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Still on the Preserving Train! This Time: Walnut Pesto & Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Although the weather has started to vary (yay, never knowing if you need rainboots or a jacket when you leave the house for the day!), I'm still getting tons of stuff out of the veggie patch in the garden.

I've been trying to use up as much as I can, but there's always something that outgrows your efforts.  This year, for me, it has been the basil and the cherry tomatoes.

As a result, this weekend, in an attempt to preserve some of the bounty I oven dried some of the cherry tomatoes, and made some walnut pesto with the basil.

To make your own basil walnut pesto, you will need:
2 cups packed basil
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil (start with 1/3 cup, and add more as needed)
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
1-4 peeled cloves of garlic (depending on how garlicky you want it)

Start by putting 1/3 cup of olive, and all the other ingredients in a blender.  Blend until well combined.  If you need more oil, feel free to drizzle it in.

If you aren't using your pesto right away, as I was not, you can pour your pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze it.  Once it is set, pop out the cubes and put them in a freezer bag.  Then, you can just grab cubes of pesto as needed!

To make your own oven dried tomatoes all you need are some tomatoes (plum tomatoes usually work best, but my cherry tomatoes went pretty well), salt, vinegar, olive oil, and if you like, some herbs for extra flavouring.

Preheat your oven to 200F.  Put a cooling rack on a baking sheet.  Cut your tomatoes in half (if using plum or other large tomatoes, some may need to be cut into quarters).  Sprinkle them with salt, and put them in the oven.  Keep the door slightly ajar (I used a wooden spoon to keep mine open), so that the moisture can escape.  
Depending on size, the tomatoes should take 3-6 hours.  They are done when they are leathery and a deep red (which means that you'll need to check on them periodically).
When they are done, and cool enough to handle, put them in a bowl and sprinkle them with a little bit of vinegar, and toss to coat. 
If not using right away, put them in a clean, sterilized jar, and cover with olive oil.  If you are using herbs, add them in as well (I put rosemary in mine).  The longer you leave them in the jar, the longer the herbs flavour will infuse through the oil and tomatoes.  Mine is now in the fridge for extra safekeeping.

Have you been setting aside anything for winter?  Got any recommendations on how to use up the tomatoes I still have coming in?  I'm starting to run out of ideas!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tex Mex Black Bean & Sweet Potato Noms

Tonight's dinner was delicious!  It was also 100% an experiment, based on what we had in the fridge and cupboards.  Sometimes, the best dinners are the throw what you have in a pan and hope for the best experiments.

As the title of this post suggests, I did a Tex-Mex flavoured black bean and sweet potato. . . skillet? stir-fry? I'm not certain of the correct terminology, but here's what I did.

Figure out which carb you would like to serve the black bean-sweet potato mixture over.  We had ours over some rice, but it would also easily lend itself to being served in tacos or wrapped up in tortillas.

After that, you will need:
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tin black beans
a handful of cherry tomatoes (I used around 15 or so), quartered
1/4-1/2 sweet pepper (any colour), diced
1-2 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
Tex-Mex seasoning (I sprinkled in my own mixture of chili powder, thyme, cumin and garlic powder)
Any extra veggies you'd like to throw in (as we were eating, I started thinking that a 1/4-1/2 cup of corn kernels would have been a good addition)
Tex-Mex-y items to garnish (I only had sour cream & hot sauce on hand, but avocado, diced green onions, and shredded cheese would all work well)

If you've decided on rice, get it started on the stove, since this comes together pretty quickly.

In a large frying pan or skillet, heat some oil on medium heat and add your onion.
While your onion softens, stab your sweet potatoes all over and microwave for 3-5 minutes, until they're mostly, but not all the way cooked.
As the sweet potatoes are microwaving, drain and rinse your black beans, and then add them to the onions.
Let everything cook a minute or two and add your tomatoes.
Once your sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and dice them, and throw them in the pan.
Add the sweet pepper, and any other optional veggies.
Add your Tex-Mex seasoning, give it a stir, let cook a minute or two, and then add a half cup of water and your tomato sauce/ketchup.
Then, just continue to cook until the liquid has cooked down into a saucy consistency.

Serve over your carbohydrate of choice, garnish with your condiment selection and enjoy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Jelly Time! (with a garden update)

Now that the internet flashback is over, on to the actual post:

The long weekend is almost over, and I've been doing things!  Jelly things!
Today, I made both grape jelly:

And savory garlic jelly:

I have made garlic jelly before, but this time I did not add the sweet pepper pieces.
I have never made grape jelly before, but it was pretty easy.  Especially since I got lazy and used unsweetened store-bought juice instead of making my own.
So, now I have six jars of grape jelly (plus a bowl of extra jelly in the fridge) and two new jars of garlic jelly.  I should have gotten three garlic jelly jars, but I think I let it boil a little bit too long and there wasn't quite enough for three jars.

I've also been harvesting a lot of produce from the garden recently.

It turns out that the golden cherry tomatoes were mislabeled regular cherry tomatoes.  They are still quite tasty, and the plant is huge!
The Black Krim tomatoes are incredibly delicious.  They are so flavorful, and I'm really glad I decided to give them a try.  The only downside is that when it rains a few days in a row, they tend to crack fairly easily.  I've lost a few of them this way.
As you can see in the photo above, I've also gotten some cayenne peppers, and I got my first sweet pepper today!  It was also really tasty, and is going on my list of plants to try again next year.

Not in the photo are the handfuls of herbs and lettuce that I've been able to get almost daily.  The basil and oregano have especially been loving the recent weather.

Finally, and sadly, I'm announcing the demise of one of my blueberry plants.  Either a squirrel or a cat dug it up, and it did not survive being replanted.   I'm sure this is not the last garden face-off I will lose against local critters.

Has anyone else been canning or enjoying their garden results recently?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Baby Vs. Toddler

Friends of ours recently had a baby of their own (Eeee! Squishy new little baby!).
This has led me to do some reflecting on the differences between new little squishy babes and older babes/toddlers.  Some things are definitely easier, and others are definitely harder.

Some examples:
New babies eat approximately every two to three hours, around the clock
One year old babies are capable of sleeping through the night with minimal wakings

New babies are pretty easy to feed - boob or bottle and done.  Admittedly, it is every two to three hours, and there can be spit up, but that's generally easily wiped up.
Older babies need actual food - not that much of it ends up in their mouths.  However, you do get to see what different foods look like on your floor, mushed into the table, and smeared through another person's hair.

Most new babies are able to fall asleep pretty much anywhere.
Older babies are too aware of the world to just fall asleep at the drop of the hat.  There's generally a bit of a fight, or a lot of fussing until they pass out if they don't believe that it is bed time.

New babies mostly communicate through crying.
Older babies can actually communicate in simple terms.  You can teach them sign language, they can say simple words, and if all else fails, point and grunt.

New babies only cry if they have a genuine need, like hunger, being tired, or being in need of a fresh diaper.
Older babies cry for a variety of reasons, including wanting to wear two different pair of shoes at the same time, having a broken cracker and a wide variety of other items that only make sense if you are younger than four years old.

The lovely 'new baby' smell.
Freshly bathed older babies smell just fine.  Other times . . . they can definitely be a new kind of stinky.

New babies can't control their little bodies.  There is a lot of adorable flailing.
Older babies can control their bodies for the most part.  This means that things in your home will get messier, and possibly broken.

New babies can't control their little bodies.  This means they sometimes startle or hit themselves with their flailing - most often in the middle of the night.
Older babies can control their bodies for the most part.  They love to use their bodies to be helpful!  Wiping things with a cloth, carrying things for you, or even sweeping with a small broom are *fun* for them.

New babies can't move around on their own.  You can put them down on a blanket, take a moment to use the washroom and have them still be in the same place when you return.
Older babies definitely move.  Once they start rolling, it is all over.  When they start walking? Well, you won't be able to pee in peace for a long time.

In short, babies are wonderful and frustrating, no matter their age.