Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some of These Things are Just Like the Others

Look who caught my eye in Toronto. While stopping in Toronto for a few days with Ike.......we just HAD to stop by China Town. It is one of my must do things every time I go there. This trip we had a small shopping list from Grama to complete before we could leave. The shopping is very hard work for Ike and there was a little bit of complaining........ but not too much. It was a few hours of it was good exercise too:) While in the shop we needed to stop in for Grama, I chanced upon this cute little teapot. Since I had not purchased much on this trip....I didn't feel the least bit guilty indulging in this small purchase. When I saw it I thought it might suit these little mugs I found earlier in the year in a thrift shop. Hmmmmm..... I think I may feel a collection coming on.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fun at Grampa's Cabin

Fishing is always a big part of Ike's visits back east. Since Gramps camp is on a lake it was only natural that a few fishing excursions needed to be had. Ike was a very busy fisherman on this trip. He caught 7 small mouth bass casting off shore (biggest was 4 lbs) on a little day trip to Crystal Lake near the US boarder. It was a fun little trip as it involved a little canoeing through pretty marsh pathways to get to the lake. (Well it was all fun aside from the tick mom acquired on that trip, but did not find until returning home) Honestly......if you find a tick on you and you scream.....and you scream......wouldn't you expect help to come????? I would advise against screaming for help at my parents house......because I can assure you.....NO ONE WILL COME. Another fishing trip up at camp yielded 6 Pike at an unnamed lake. Ike has since named it Lucky Log Lake as every single fish we caught was caught while trolling past a deadhead log. I had hoped that these Pike would be magically transformed into mom's famous Fish Balls....but no such luck....maybe next trip:( The photo above (with Ike's eyes closed...oops) was from a little after dinner fishing trip on the lake using the down rigger. That lake trout might have been on the line for a long time....who knows??? We didn't notice it until we gave up and hauled up the weight.........and surprise surprise....there was a lake trout:)
Another one of the things Ike enjoys most about the camp is the friendly squirrels and chipmunks that come looking for snacks. They are so accustomed to being fed that they will climb onto your knee and take a peanut from you. Ike thought it was great fun to hold onto the peanut and lift it and the clinging chipmunk up into the air. It took a little bit of explaining to make him understand that this type of behavior might lead to the chipmunks scratching people to get their nut. Fortunately this kind of shenanigan has stopped. It was amusing to see a chipmunk stuff three unshelled peanuts into it's cheeks before taking off to hide or eat his treasures. This day we left out a little dessert for them and they seemed to like it.
.................................And so did some other forest creatures. This fellow was a little annoyed that he couldn't pick up the entire piece. He was hoping for a less flaky crust, I think.
And is a photo that I have meant to take for years now. This is the sauna of the neighbour next door at camp. Isn't it just the cutest? Well, I've always thought so! The day at camp always ends with a sauna or at least a good washing up in Grampa's every morning the water tank in the sauna is filled, and every evening at 4 pm the fire for the sauna is lit. Sparkling clean for a good nights sleep!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MMMarshmallow Cookies

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is certainly one that I was interested in right from the start! Making homemade marshmallow has been on my to do list for some time now and I was was happy that this challenge was going to be responsible for getting it done. Although the option was there to use store bought marshmallow....for me the challenge was mostly about the marshmallow! So here it is and I hope you take the time to give it try if it interests you as it was not that much work....especially it you make the dough the day ahead of assembling the cookies. And homemade marshmallow.....YUM! For me the recipe made more like 70 cookies but not knowing how much marshmallow the recipe would make, I only baked up 24 cookie bases leaving the remaining 48ish cookies as dough in the fridge. If the heat doesn't kill me, I may bake up the rest tomorrow. Today, I made the extra marshmallows up on a layer of icing sugar to keep for hot chocolate....assuming it cools down. Just need to dip them into their chocolate coating now. So far.......they are delicious! To see more delicious cookies by the daring bakers go here. Update: The coating would simply not set up unless refrigerated....possibly due to the crazy hot weather we are having.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

We're Back!

We are safely back from our little adventure away from home now. It has been a bit strange this first day back....getting back into a Prince George Routine. The weather here at home has been hot and the forecast is for it to remain hot for the next week at least. I will not complain about the hot weather since we so rarely seem to get it. I have yet to set out into the neighbourhood to see how the berry crops have faired with all the hot weather....maybe tomorrow. Here are a few photos from up at Grama and Grampa's camp.
Above is a piece of stained glass that I had made quite a few years back for one of the neighbours up at camp. This piece made it's way back to our camp after the fellow I'd made it for passed away and his daughters offered it back to my dad. It now sits in the window of dad's workshop so it is appreciated almost daily I think;) It was pretty dirty so I gave it a good washing, but I didn't bother to wash the time.

One of the things that I had promised to do with Ike while up at the camp....was to take him sailing. My boat has been stored in the boat shed without use for as long as Ike has been around. I never really liked to sail on this lake with it as it is quite a small lake and the changing wind directions can be annoying. Surprisingly......on this trip the weather was perfect for a sail! I imagined that it would be much colder on the water than it was. I even made a little rain poncho for Ike out a garbage bag thinking that the wind would be cold for him.......but it wasn't at all.....and I even had to take my rain jacket off.....too hot. We had a great time on the water and on the second day I let Ike skip. Although I'm sure he had no real understanding of how wind direction affected his path............Ike felt he fully understood what was up and had his own ideas about what manouvers he planned to try. He did very well when he was looking forward.......not so much when he was looking backwards though. If you zoom in to the picture you can see where we used a carabiner to replace a missing traveler block for the main sheet to run through. Turns out the missing piece was in the sail bag after all. Well, at least it's not missing now! Maybe when Ike is older, we'll try the spinnaker out.

The breeze seemed to be on shore both days which made coming in a bit of a challenge.....especially on the second day when the wind picked up and the thunder was coming closer. With the thunder and lightening so close....I'd already been eyeing up a dock on the other side of the lake to wait it out. But I made it in and we had the most delicious Bannock Joe's for supper! Because camping really is all about the food isn't it?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Momma Needs a Pizza Oven

My little vacation is coming to a close soon. Ike and I just returned from a week at Grama and Grampa's Camp (or cottage or cabin or whatever you call it....we call them camps in this neck of the woods). It had been about 5 years since I had last been there although I had been getting the updates from Ike concerning the work going on there, so I had an idea of the changes. Ike has been consulting with Grampa giving him suggestions and ideas for what might be done next. And over the past two summers, Ike has helped out with little projects there with Grampa. I was happy to get a chance, this year, to finally see all that had been accomplished. There has been a little expansion, the addition of a bathroom, a raised water tank for indoor water, the addition of a back deck, and a kitchen renovation. Grampa is a carpenter by trade so I think he really enjoys all the putzing around that goes on there and it does seem to be a bottomless pit of little jobs you could do. Well.....I'm pretty sure this trip out we discovered another job to add to Grampa's Honey Do list.
Even before we got to camp, we had been talking about making bannock (something from my to do list) and we had decided that we would make a pizza there. It's always fun to make things in the wood stove! Well this time we made our pizza dough in town and brought it up ready to go and kept it in the fridge until we were ready for it. It turns out the neighbours at the camp next door have a new outdoor pizza oven and we were hankering to try it out. They kindly offered us the opportunity to use it....and we are certainly glad that they did.

It was just the most fabulous thing! Everyone should have one! Why don't I have one? Mom has decided that she now needs one and I think that this revelation took her a little by surprise. Everyone thought that the pizza was the best they had ever had. It delivered a crisp bottom, golden brown, smokey and delicious pizza that would be perhaps impossible....recreate any other way. It was that good!

So now the research is on to see what needs to be done to have one ready for next summer. A spot has been chosen and the ground has been leveled.......It's only a matter or time now. You should get one too! You really should!!!

We even checked the temperature of the hearth (made of fire brick) before sliding in the was a whopping 620 C. After pushing coals to the back or the oven and washing the hearth surface with a wet cloth we were ready for some serious pizza baking. That pizza was done to perfection in 8 minutes. A second pizza took 2 minutes the oven cooled slightly. Grama is now sold on the virtues of the pizza oven and is making a lovely list of all the yummy things we might try to make once she has her own. Let me know if you have any requests and I'll pass it on. Ciao!

Monday, July 20, 2009

My First Treadle Project

After some work getting the treadle machine stitching properly.........we didn't figure out that that the needles are set with the eye threaded from left to right rather than front to back until we found a manual on the internet..........I decided I needed a small project to try out the machine for myself. I had always wanted to try out this pattern. 1)because it's cute as a button and 2)because it's quite simple and quick. If you'd like to try one too go and check out the patten instructions over here. I used up some of my scrap fabric, managed to scrounge up some poly stuffing at my moms and mom also had some cotton pearl thread.......and to top it off two buttons from the button drawer in grama's treadly machine. I will pull the thread a little more tighlty on the next one to make the petals more pronounced. I may just pull out the thread and redo it come to think of it!

Friday, July 17, 2009

From Grama's Farm

With holidaying in Yellowstone over Ike and I are now in Thunder Bay visiting with Grama and Grampa. I did still have some swaps on the go to finish up with and these things can be a bit of a challenge when you are away form home. My last swap needed a sewing machine for a small sewing project and with my usual source of a machine (Auntie Pat) away........I had to come up with another alternative. Above is a photo of the machine I ended up using for this swap. It was nice to spend some time with this machine which has a lot of sentimental value in our family. This was Grama K's 1911 model 127 Singer Treadle machine. It sat in the window of the dining room and then up in a spare bedroom when it was eventually replaced with an electric model. The poor electric model never stood a chance in competing with the performance of this treadle machine though. I remember Grama still preferred to use the treadle. It would sew through matter what. On the down has no zigzag, and no reverse....but if a nice straight stitch is all you need it is more than adequate. I had always loved this machine as a kid....I mean what kid wouldn't be in love with the wildly exotic paint job and the cool mechanics of the machine. All those neat little cabinet drawers filled with all kinds of treasures and each one with a story to tell. Left over buttons from dresses made for relatives long ago....the cut off pant bottoms from hemming Uncle Billy's and Uncle Ivan's work pants. Each uncle had a different colour preference in work wear so you can quite accurately guess which one came from which uncle. And snippets of lace, rickrack and ribbon that is just a little different from what you might find in today's fabric stores. The one thing that surprised me the most when cleaning out the drawers....was all of the old spools of thread. I fully expected to find bunches of wooden spools.....and I certainly did.....but I did not expect to find spools of silk thread. I sew mostly with cotton my self and expected to find that and some polyester....but not silk. It was actually the feel of it that I first noticed. It is absolutely gorgeous to touch. Go figure....I'd have to say it was silky smooth, if I were to describe it. Now I wonder what project Grama might have been working on to need silk thread. My grama lived through the depression (born in 1903) and she was one of the most 'thrifty' people you might ever hope to meet. I imagine that silk thread would have been some kind of luxury. I'm even more curious now to image what she might have been sewing. The green spool standing and the one of the extreme left are both spools from silk threads.
Well it took 3 days to get the machine running properly. I the end that the upper tensioning dial was assembled with one piece in backwards putting too much tension on the top thread. After replacing the bobbin spring and some fiddling with the top tension arrangement it seems to be sewing as it should. There still needs to be some adjustment with the tension as it all needs to be a touch lower on top and bottom....but at least it's up and running now. I am looking forward to making a project on it on another visit.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Skate.... a Daring Cooks Challenge

I must appoligize for the terrible picture...but is all I have. I've had an unfortunate event with the camera and I think I toasted an entire 16GB SD card when I took part in a shocking experiment at a historic park. OOPS! So much for the vacation pictures from Yellowstone. We have yet to see what can be salvaged.
This months Daring Cooks challenge gave me the opportunity to try something new. I had never before tried to cook skate and I was pretty interested to give it a go. After quite a bit of convincing....I got the go ahead from my husband to try the skate....he was a bit squeamish about eating such a flippy floppy thing. The recipe called for poaching skate in a butter and water emulsion that I felt was a bit of a waste of butter.....but for the sake of the challenge I let it go. The seasonings for the dish were 'Powders' made from drying and pulverizing quite a few different herbs and vegetables. The one which caused the dehydrator to be placed outside was the capers. Some of us could not handle the was pretty strong.

The skate cooked up very well and had a texture that I can only describe as interesting. Both my husband and I could only manage a small taste of it (and I am not at all a picky or a squeamish diner)..........the cat seemed to enjoy the rest. I'm not certain if it was the texture of the squidgy fish or the oddly fishy smell from the powdered capers or the layer of cartilage .......but we found the dish inedible because of it. I also would likely never go through the bother of all the dehydrating required to make the 'powders'. While some of them were good, I'm going to have to blame the smelly caper one for souring my attitude towards them all. I'm not sure what we will do with the remaining 4 pieces of skate in the freezer...just cannot get past the super soft cartilage that freaked me out. It was too easy to cut through it with the fork, and once in your mouth was so soft it was hard to separate it from the fish. When I do cook the remaining pieces, I'll figure out whether our issue was with the fish or the caper powder.

This challenge was organized by Sketchy , from Sketchy's Kitchen . The recipe is as follows and you can substitute the skate with cod.

The Challenge: Skate, traditional flavors powdered (slightly altered)Reveal Date: July 14th

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered - with changes
4 skate wings
* Beurre monte
* 300g fresh green beans
sea salt/kosher salt
1 banana
454g butter - 4 sticks
300g lemons
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
150g cilantro
150g parsley
100g dried banana chips
300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
100g cup minced red onion
200g capers (brined, not oil)
* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.
Powders - prepare ahead of time caper / onion lemon powder cilantro/parsley powder'brown butter' powder

Powders once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.
citrus powder300g lemons1000g simple syrup5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times. dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray. 130 for 12 hours. pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.
If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder. Once dried, follow the other instructions.

cilantro/parsley powder150g cilantro150g parsley
blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray. 130 for 12 hours. grind and pass through chinois.
If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and microwave for another thirty seconds. They should be dry by now, pulse in coffee grinder, pass through chinois and reserve.

onion powder100g cup minced red onions
dehydrator - 130 for 12 hours microwave at medium power for 20 minutes.
pulse in grinder, pass through chinois
Caper powder200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)
run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees.microwave instructions are unclear. Dry them as much a possible with paper towels, the microwave on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir them. repeat for 30 second intervals until they are dry. If you use this method, pleas post the time needed to dry the capers.
Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix it with the onion powder.

Brown Butter powder
100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible - many are coated in honey - the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)300g spray dried cream powder
If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob's red mill non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea.
preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds.
grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a chinois and reserve.

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.
SkatePrepare the skate - 50G v shaped cuts are recommended Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt
bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.


Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion-caper powder, and the cilantro parsley-powder. Swirl these around in a hurricane type pattern. I found that it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.
peel the remaining banana into very think slices (3mm) fan three slices on the plate, place green beans on top and place skate wing portion on top. On the tall edge, sprinkle the brown butter powder.