Monday, May 30, 2011

Kids + Dirt = Fun

Wow, this weekend was very busy indeed!  A lot of time was spent out doors, which is nice since the weather was beautiful.  Saturday morning was spent at the school on a little project that has been brewing for a few years now. is finally done.
As we left our yard, pushing our wheel barrow filled with tools, we could hear the banging from the dump truck as it left a load of soil on the school field.  We were right on time!  
People were sorted into groups....some constructed the planting beds while others measured and cleared sod.  And the kids wanted to help too, which was nice.
It all came together much quicker than we had thought it might, and the weather cooperated perfectly!
We even had extra soil..... You can never have too much dirt!  Soon the classes will be out planting their little crops.  The kids that showed up that morning to help got to plant up some flowers...............................
and a rhubarb plant too.  We finished up just in time ..........we could hear thunder in the distance as we pushed our wheel barrow home.  Hope your weekend was enjoyable:)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring in the Yard

Lot's of things are happening outside now.  We are seeing more neighbours out and doing yard work. This past weekend (Victoria Day weekend) is the typical weekend for yard work and for planting annuals for this region.  I braved the crowds in the garden center and purchased most of what I needed to fill the flower bed along the front of the house.  I also got myself a little treat.  I purchased a 'Juliet' sour cherry shrub for my yard.  Now comes the debate over where to plant it.  I have little doubt that this decision will cause some controversy as DH has a simple plan of having nothing in his way when he mows the lawn.  We shall soon see who gets their way I suppose. This sour cherry is compact, hardy to Zone 2 and is a very prolific producer, producing dark red cherries suitable to eat fresh or to process. 
I managed to spend a few hours putzing around the back yard as well, cleaning out dead foliage from last year's blooms and removing the dead canes from the raspberries.  I don't know why I always wait until the spring to do this....oh  yes....because I am a procrastinator!  I was very excited to see if the onions that my friend's parents gave me last summer had survived the winter......And yeah!!! They had!
They are an intriguing little plant called an Egyptian Walking onion because of the way they spread.  Interesting and useful little plants:)  I have already been in and used quite a few of the greens already.  I am really liking this little plant.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A First Try at Gumbo

I have honestly never even thought of making gumbo.  But as it happens.....Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.
As I read through the instructions....I mean the recipe..... I was intrigued by the process.  I didn't want to have to go and buy a whole bunch of ingredients so I tried to work for the most part with what I had on hand.  I know I have seen andouille sausage in town here....but I did not feel like going 30 minutes clear across town to 'maybe' find it......So I substituted for a farmers smoked sausage.  I had chicken breast and shrimp in the freezer and my neighbourhood grocery store had frozen okra so my plan was taking shape.  I used an Emeril recipe off the internet and scaled it down a little bit as I was not sure how this was going to be received.  In the end I think it was pretty good!  Here is what I did.
Smoked Sausage, Chicken Breast and Shrimp Gumbo
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup onion diced
2/3 cup celery diced
2/3 cup bell peppers diced
2 tsp garlic minced
1 1/2 L (quarts) of chicken broth
500g smoked sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick, browned and drained
1 1/2 cups chopped okra fresh or frozen
2 bay leaves
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
dash hot sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
500g peeled raw shrimp
300g chicken breast, sliced
1 tsp Emeril Essence seasoning
1/4 cup onion greens
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp thyme
 You will want to dice all your vegetables, brown the sausage, peel the shrimp, and slice the chicken before you start.  I cut the chicken breast in pieces the size of your thumb so they would cook in roughly the same time as the shrimp.  Season the peeled shrimp and sliced chicken breast with the 1 tsp of Emeril Essence and set aside in the fridge until you need it.
Start  making a roux with the flour and oil.  Do this in a large heavy bottom pan. Stir the flour and oil constantly over medium heat with a whisk to make sure the flour does not burn.  You must continue to stir the whole time you are making the roux...this might take a while. You want to slowly develop the colour of the roux until it is a medium brown colour.  Like a dark peanut butter colour.  This took me about 45 minutes.
Once the roux is the right colour, add the diced vegetables and continue to stir scraping the bottom of the pot so the roux does not burn.  Cook this way for another 5-10 minutes.  The roux will darken a bit.  Add minced garlic and stir another minute.  Slowly add the chicken broth while stirring with a whisk to ensure not to leave any lumps behind.  Add browned sausages, okra, bay leaves, worcester sauce, hot sauce salt and pepper and cayenne pepper.  Let simmer for 50 minutes. 
Add chicken then 2 minutes later add the shrimp.  Cook about 5 minutes or until the chicken pieces and shrimp are opaque when sliced through.  Season with parsley, thyme and onion greens.  Serve over steamed rice.

Emeril Essence Spice Mix
2 1/2 parts paprika
2 parts salt
2 parts garlic powder
1 part black pepper
1 part onion powder
1 part cayenne
1 part oregano
1 part thyme
Mix all and store remainder in a sealed container.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lemon Crazy

We've had good prices here on lemons lately......and I love me some lemons.  A while back I had a delicious lemon loaf that I could have sat down and eaten all by myself.  After buying too many lemons....I decided to make some lemon loaf myself.  It is really the lemon syrup or glaze that makes this loaf yummy.  Very fitting for our fine spring weather.....with a cup of tea, coffee or what ever.  The flavour is bright and lemony and the texture is coarse but moist.......I really like that you can make this with seemingly next to no special ingredients.  If you have a very likely will have everything else.  You totally have to try this one....yes I mean you!  I dare you to make just one.  I'm just about to make my fifth one to bring over to my neighbour......her father is doing some volunteer work for our school while up for a visit.......and he's just as cute as a button too!  And number six will be for my other neighbour's birthday........ It's like a lemon loaf factory here!
Lemon Loaf
1/2 cup butter or margarine (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (large)
1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
the zest of one lemon
Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add one egg and beat in.  Add second egg and beat in.  Mix in the milk.  Set aside.  Into a second bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Grate in the zest of the lemon into the dry ingredients.  Pour the dry ingredients over the top of the wet ingredients and mix just enough to not beat this mixture.  Pour into a lightly greased loaf pan (or line the bottom and long sides with baking paper to make it easier to remove) and bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
While loaf is baking.....make the glaze by heating and stirring the juice of one lemon and 1/4 cup sugar over medium heat just until the sugar is all dissolved.
The Glaze
the juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar

When the loaf is finished baking, poke holes all over the top of the loaf with a toothpick and slowly spoon the glaze over the top allowing it to seep through the loaf.  After letting set for 10 minutes, remove the loaf from the pan and set it on a cake rack to finish cooling.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Quick Bar Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Spring is slow to come here.....but we knew it would be that way, with the large amount of snow fall accumulated in the winter.  Signs of spring are coming though and maybe it is good that the snow has not all left, piling on a new type of yard work for me.  It has been very busy here with work and life and I have been trying to sort out a crochet pattern which seemed so easy at the start, but which has lead to quite a few attempts being ripped and restarted many times already.  I am not quite ready to give up though....since I feel pretty close to figuring it out.
After making such a frustrating job of all this crochet 'busy work'.....I nearly ran myself out of time to  make a lunch box snack for  Ike this week.  So I decided to make something really quick. I have not made these in many years.  They are quick and easy and chewy if you don't over bake them.

Chocolate Chip Bar Cookies
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
Melt butter and set aside to cool.  In large mixing bowl, beat slightly cooled melted butter with sugars, eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl mix flour, soda and salt together, then fold the dry mixture into the wet without over mixing.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Lightly press into a greased 9 X 13 inch pan and bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes until slightly golden.  Top should be slightly risen and sides should just be beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. When cool slice into serving sized squares.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easter Bunnies, Horses and Flowers

Last weekend took us on a visit to see friends and relatives in Alberta.  Time has been a little short here, so I am just getting around to this now.  We are back home and pretty deep into school work, work work, and very soon to have yard work added to the list.  
Ike had such fun in Oyen that I think we might need to get him a job there:)  He loves to visit Auntie Lee and Uncle Bill's Green Houses and this trip got a special treat when he got to ride Uncle Bill's horse too.  
He was pretty pleased with himself.  The drive was pretty through the mountains and prairies and there was lost of wildlife to be seen.  We saw trumpeter swans, cranes, mallards, antelope, deer, gophers......and bunnies (of the chocolate variety) as well.  Hope your Easter Weekend was fun too!