Posts Tagged 'slow food'

Garden Review – Best and Worst Gardening Decisions

The garden is officially done. We’ve brought in all the veggies and our pantry and freezer is packed. It’s funny how finishing a project makes you reflect on how you could have done things differently. Here are the best and worst gardening decisions we made this year.

Best decisions we made this season

– Nasturtiums. Call me old-fashioned, but these are my new favourite plant. They grow quickly from seed so there’s no need to start them early inside. There are dozens of varieties – vines, small flowers, large ones, and many different colours. They bloom all spring, summer and fall. The best thing about nasturtiums is that they keep away the pests. We have two grape vines but for some reason I only planted nasturtiums under one of the vines. The one without nasturtiums got eaten by aphids, the other vine looked great all season.

– Sunflowers. So easy and so much fun for the kids. I put them everywhere and they all grew tall and magnificent. I will plant sunflowers in our back alley next year so that I can cut the blooms and have them peek over the fence.

– Growing our cucumbers vertically. I attached the cucumber vines to a trellis this year. This saved us a great deal of space as we only needed a bed that was a foot and a half deep by five feet wide. The cucumbers grew upward and had no problems producing.

– Growing loads of tomatoes. I know that we overdid the tomatoes. And I know that I have been complaining about how long it takes to make salsa. But seriously, nothing really compares to homemade salsa and tomato sauce. The effort was so worth it.

Worst decisions we made this season

– Having no faith in the raspberries. Why, oh why did we not cut back the raspberry bush in the spring? Some plants just go crazy. The raspberries quickly got overgrown and drooped over the lawn. I’ve already cut the stalks to about two feet tall so we’re ready for the spring.

– Forgetting about the annuals. I did it again; I get so focused on the veggies that I neglect the annuals. We had some annuals, but I never get too excited about flowers. Shame on me because I know that they are good for luring bees and butterflies.

– Growing the variety of tomato called ‘hundreds and thousands’. Sure, they taste great. But because they are the size of a small berry, you can’t do anything else with them except eat them fresh. This might sound great for the first couple of weeks. But we seriously have hundreds and thousands of tiny tomatoes sitting on our counter top and we’re sooooo tired of them.

– We had the bright idea of planting all our tomatoes in pots so that we could reserve the veggie bed for root vegetables. Unfortunately, the pots didn’t have drainage holes in the bottom. With all the rain in July, I spent a great deal of time protecting the tomato plants from getting too much water. Such a foolish mistake.


Strawberry Days

Banana 'helping' pick strawberries

I just want to say that I have had the yummiest week! The girls and I went strawberry picking on Tuesday to ELKS Farm. It is so close to Edmonton (just north of St. Albert), the owners were kind and the farm was very child-friendly. The Bear and Banana snacked their way through the rows of strawberries while I picked. We purchased $25 worth of strawberries – a price that I have no problem paying since the girls ate up so many berries.

Then it was jam-making time. We had enough strawberries to do three batches. I did a conventional strawberry jam and one that combined the raspberries from our backyard with the strawberries. Then we got creative by adding mint from our garden with lemon zest and pepper. The recipe is listed below.

If this is slow parenting, I’m in my element. The farm was beautiful and it was so great to get out of the city. We even caught a frog among the strawberry bushes. The girls were exposed to that all-important element of slow food – know where your food comes from. And there is so much satisfaction in creating from scratch. As I gobbled up warm leftover jam on homemade bread last night (one of the many reasons I will never be skinny!), I was moved by the fact that I was eating something completely pure, local and all of my creation. And the taste, well, it is indescribable.

Strawberry Jam with Mint, Pepper and Lemon Zest

2 pounds sliced strawberries (approximately 6 cups sliced)
lemon zest from one lemon
2/3 cup lemon juice (I squeezed juice from the lemon and then topped it up)
1 box (57 grams) of pectin
4 3/4 cups sugar
8 large mint leaves, hand shredded (or about ¼ cup shredded leaves)
2 tsp ground pepper

1. Prepare canning jars. Directions are here.
2. Bring strawberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, and pectin to a boil in thick-bottomed pot until pectin is dissolved.
3. Add sugar and stir constantly. Jam should get to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard for 1 minute.
4. Skim off foam.
5. Add mint and pepper
6. Ladle into jars and secure seals and rings. Place jars back into water bath and boil for 10 minutes. Take jam from water bath without tilting (use canning tongs) and let rest for 24 hours.

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp

The Bear chopping rhubarb for the crisp.

We went to the downtown farmer’s market today and I watched people walking around with giant sticks of rhubarb. Yup, it’s rhubarb season. This ‘weed’ is probably the easiest plant to grow in an edible garden. And our little patch has given us some lovely, tender, red sticks for making yummy things like rhubarb strawberry crisp.

Here’s the recipe we used. It’s from the book, Animal Vegetable Miracle – one of my favourite books for getting in touch with the world of slow food and eating seasonly. I really like that the recipie uses honey as a sweetener. (Although I admit that I doubled the crust because, well, who doesn’t like lots of ‘crisp’ in a crisp?)

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp

3 cups strawberries, halved
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1⁄2 cup honey

Mix together thoroughly and place in an 8”x8” ungreased pan

1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄2 cup rolled oats
1⁄2 cup brown sugar (or a bit more, to taste)
3⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp allspice
1/3 cup butter

Mix until crumbly, sprinkle over fruit mixture and bake at 350° for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden.

Thinking About Food at AMoment2Think

I had the lovely opportunity to write a guest post for AMoment2Think‘s ‘Tuesdays 2 Think’ series. This series of blog posts is intended to tackle subjects outside of ‘the parenting you’. At first I struggled with a topic but then considered how much food has changed my family since we began the project to consciously slow down. So, that’s what I wrote about – slow food.

AMoment2Think is a great parenting blog by a fellow Albertan. Go check it out.

Roasted Cauliflower and Bacon Soup

I had to share this recipe since both the Bear and Banana gobbled it up tonight. It’s hard to find dinners that we will all [happily] eat, so this one is definitely a winner. It’s also an inexpensive and hardy meal. Finally, it didn’t take all that long to prepare.

1 small head of cauliflower
1 large onion
2-3 potatoes
4-6 strips bacon (optional for the vegetarians!)
1 litre stock (vegetable or chicken)
olive oil
salt and pepper (to taste)

– Pre-heat oven to 450˚F. Chop up cauliflower and onion. Coat pieces in olive oil, put on cookie sheet and roast in oven.

While the cauliflower and onion is roasting…

– Peel and chop the potatoes. Put pieces in a pot of water and boil on stove until cooked and tender.
– Cook the bacon until crispy in a frying pan and place pieces on a paper towel when cooked (to soak up the grease).

When the cauliflower and onion is cooked (about 15-20 minutes), pop them into a blender and puree. Add stock to thin out the mixture. Put mixture into soup pot on stove.

– Add cooked potatoes to blender with stock and puree. Add the potato mixture to the soup.
– Chop bacon and add to soup. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add stock to create your desired consistency.

Serve with warm rolls or garlic bread. Yum.

Maple Cranberry Granola

The ingredients for homemade granola can be picked up for a couple of dollars from the bulk section of the supermarket. And the taste of homemade granola is so much yummier! We’ve stopped buying other breakfast cereals in favour of granola. Even one-year-old Banana eats it!

This recipe is not rocket science. Every ingredient can be increased or decreased according to taste or what you have in the cupboard. We’ve experimented with pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, ground ginger and dried apple. However, this basic recipe is the tried and true favourite. I make it in large quantities – some goes into a canister for the breakfast table and the rest is stored in a well-sealed bag in the pantry.

2 cups large flake oats (not instant!)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup coconut
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp salted butter (melted)
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

– Pre-heat oven to 400 ˚F.
– In large bowl, mix together the oats, seeds, almonds, coconut and cinnamon.
– In separate bowl, add together the melted butter, brown sugar and syrup. Pour over the dry ingredients. Stir together until the oat mixture is lightly coated with the syrup mixture.
– Spread granola onto a large cookie sheet. You may need two cookie sheets to avoid having it spread too thickly.
– Put in oven for ten minutes. Remove and stir after 10 minutes so that it can be roasted evenly. Put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

When it is done, let it cool on the cookie sheet. Add the cranberries to the cooled granola and put in a well-sealed canister or bag. The granola should be eaten within two to three weeks.

Enjoy with milk or yogurt!

Complicating Pumpkin Pie (or Working Mothers – Part 2)

Pumpkin Patch in Nanaimo, British Columbia

This Thanksgiving weekend we find ourselves on the west coast visiting my wonderful sister and niece. While we are making memories and digitally capturing smiles coated with sea salt, we are also on a journey of endurance. The adults are grasping for time to reconnect even though our brains are fuzzy from sleep deprivation and a pre-occupation with fulfilling the role of guest or hostess. Children’s routines and rules are slightly different and everyone struggles to compromise. It is a ‘holiday’ of tried patience.

Within this mess, my sister and I decided that we were going to make real pumpkin pie. We’re not talking about pumpkin pie filling from the store. Oh no, we went out and actually plucked a pumpkin from a vine to begin our creation. It is a complicated project for such an already complicated weekend. So, why do it?

I believe that parents need to reach for an identity beyond parenting. In light of my recent decision to not return to my job, I am now involved in a search to redefine myself. Even though I may spend most of my time with the Bear and Banana, I am also reaching for that alter ego. As long as the world puts such a high onus on identity in terms of career, then parents (especially mothers) will need to constantly consider their re-invention.

Which brings me back to the pumpkin pie. My sister and I are complicating Thanksgiving dessert for the sake of an experience that reminds us that we are sisters who love to cook and eat. The weekend is not just about the kids and us mothering them. We are willing to complicate things in order to touch on identities other than ‘mother.’

Aside from the obvious slow food element of baking a pumpkin pie from scratch, I believe that slow parenting involves those touchstones with an identity other than mother or father. The mantra of ‘just leave the kids alone’ is not only good for the children, it’s vital for the parents too.

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