This is gonna hurt….

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While the gardens kept me busy throughout the summer, it is time to get back into an exercise routine now that the last of my canning/gardening chores are behind me.  I need to focus on getting my beach bod in shape for my January trip to sunny Mexico, not to mention build some upper body strength to deal with the impending white stuff.

So I pulled my exercise runners and Pilates DVD’s out of mothballed storage and got to work first thing this morning.  After 45 minutes of huffing, puffing and feeling like a bloated cow wearing a size x-small sausage skin, I thankfully was done.

exercise stuffI found out two things.

First….I am out of shape.

Second…. I am very much out of shape.

But I am looking forward to Day Two.  Right now at least.  I know my mind (and body) will have something different to say tomorrow morning.  Therefore I will be looking for some extra motivation once I bounce out of bed with all the energy of a slug.

For those that are faithful gym bunnies, what makes you get up in the morning and hit the gym?  Are there any tips or tricks you have implemented to talk yourself into keeping the exercise momentum going?

At the moment my motivation is my bathing suit for Mexico. I have it taped to the fridge, along with a giant pink pig made from construction paper….hope it works…

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Ukrainian Vushka

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One of my all time favourite Ukrainian meal items are Vushka (although we call them Oushka, pronounced ‘oosh-ka’).

These plump, mushroom filled dumplings are usually served with Borscht, placed right into the bowl of soup served with smetana (sour cream) on top.  They are little mushroom filled pillows from heaven and I could eat a plateful (and have been known to) all to myself.

A couple weeks ago my daughter, her husband and myself headed up to visit my Aunt and Uncle who live over 2 hours farther north than the Homestead.  Hence why we made the trip from the Homestead as opposed to driving from Southern Ontario….6 hours one way is a looong way.  As the kids were coming up to the Homestead for the weekend anyway, we decided a side trip to see Lydia and Jack was necessary.

Once my Aunt found out we were coming, she promptly switched into Ukrainian Food Overdrive (known as UFO, not to be confused with that other UFO meaning).  Out came the Borscht pot, rich soft dinner rolls were prepared and of course….Vushka….lots of them.

Son-in-law had never had them before, but he loves anything mushroom related, food in general actually, so he was up for anything.

Lunch was pretty much ready just after our arrival.  We stepped into her farm kitchen and our noses were immediately smacked with the aroma of the fresh, home-made dinner rolls coming from the oven.  One of the best smells to walk into, along with apple pie, which was sitting on the stove, also pulled fresh from the oven.

As we sat down to a long awaited treat, I was immediately brought back to Christmas Eve dinners when I was young, watching my Baba plop heavily laden platters of Varenyky (Perogie) and Vushka onto the table.  Heaven, I was in absolute heaven.

Here is how you can make your own Vushka, I urge you to try them the next time you get your soup pot out.  Borscht isn’t the only soup they go in, they also would go very well in a beef vegetable soup.  I hope you enjoy them.

Vushka_2Vushka

 Filling:

1 small onion, finely chopped
2 – 3 tbsp butter
2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 Egg yolks

Cook onion over medium-low heat in butter until tender, add mushrooms and cook together until mushrooms are cooked through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove mixture from heat and beat in the egg yolks.  Let the mixture cool thoroughly.

Basic Varenyky (Perogie) Dough:

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg or 2 egg yolks
½ cup cold water (approx.)

Mix flour and salt in a deep bowl.  Add egg (or egg yolks) and enough water to make a medium soft dough.  Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth, do not overknead as the dough will then be tough.  Divide dough into 2 parts.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.  Roll dough as thin as possible on a floured surface and cut dough into 3” squares, rerolling scraps until used up  ** making perogie dough is something you need to get a feel for, add half the water first, then add small amounts until you get the consistency you are looking for.  Adding more if necessary.

To Assemble:

Place a heaping tsp of filling in the centre of each square.  Bring one corner to another (diagonally) to form a triangle.  Take the 2 sides of the triangle and pinch together, this forms an ‘ear’ shape with the top point, hence the name Vushka, which translates to ‘Little Ears’ in Ukrainian.  Boil as you would perogies until they float.  Excellent served in borscht or sauté the leftovers on their own with a little butter…a piece of Ukrainian heaven!

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No Time For…

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POSTS

I am cleaning out the garden, cleaning up the house, knitting up a storm, making tomatillo salsa, drying herbs, doing laundry, catching up on my accounting (dang HST return), packing for our trip on Thursday AND working in between.

So…. I am officially on vacation until at least October 16th.  Adios. Hasta Luego, Catch y’all later!

For my Canadian family and friends ~ Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

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Next Weeks Menu

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This will only be a partial weeks menu as hubby and I are going on a weekend jaunt to the States next week.

Woo-Hoo!  No cooking for me for 5 whole days!!

We are leaving Thursday and will not return until Monday, so restaurant fare will be had every night (there goes all the diet restraint out the window).  As we return on Monday evening (Canadian Thanksgiving Day), we will not be having our usual turkey day either, but hope to squeeze it in over the next week or so.

I bet you are wondering where we are off to….the first thing in most ladies minds when you mention heading state-side is…SHOPPING!…yes, a little of that will be done, but the main reason we are headed south is to fill our Need for Speed.  We are traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina for a NASCAR race.  Yes, I am (and hubby) are NASCAR nuts (if you read my ‘About Me’ section, you would have known that) and usually once a year we head off to a different track location to fill our noses with the smell of racing fuel and exhaust and listen to the deafening roar of 43 race cars sporting over 900 horsepower each.

In the words of Darryl Waltrip….Boogity Boogity Boogity!!!!

So here is next weeks short but sweet menu, plus, I will not be making any posts until after I get back, so in effect…I am on vacation after Wednesday, October 9th and returning on October 15th…hopefully, maybe, probably….but it might be the 16th.

Meanwhile, warm up them tires and lets go Racing!

maple leaves green frameEnjoy the weekend everyone!

P.S.  Here is the link to the Texas Roadhouse Steakhouse where they have the most awesome dinner rolls that I call ‘little pillows of buttery goodness’.  Don’t tell my arteries what’s coming though.

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When Is Garlic Planting Time?

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Unless you have Vampires pestering you nightly, now is the optimum time to plant your garlic for harvesting next summer.  There is a relatively short window of opportunity to get the job done.  Usually Mid-September to Mid-October is when to plant the cloves in the ground, thus giving them the opportunity to set roots before winter comes.

Garlic is a perennial (hence the bulb type root), but we treat it as an annual by planting it in the Fall to be harvested the following summer.  It is also very easy to grow and is one of the garden staples that require very little tending to, unlike other vegetables (tomatoes) that require a little more coddling.

What type of garlic to use though?  There are literally dozens available, each with it’s own unique characteristics, as is evident from the following link to a seed company catalogue like this one.  I just use store bought heads and have never had any difficulty growing them.  Garlic is garlic in my opinion.  They all stink-purdy.

Garlic HeadsTo plant garlic, first, carefully separate a head of garlic into individual cloves.  Keeping as much of the papery husk intact on each one.

Dirt FurrowGarlic doesn’t need much room to grow.  Each row should be at least 8 inches wide and as long as needed for how many you are planting.  Loosen the soil to a depth of about 6 inches, making sure it is thoroughly worked and leveled out.  Make a furrow about 4 inches deep and place one clove into the middle of the furrow (pointy end up) and push it down in the dirt so that just the tip is showing, making sure they are spaced about 4 inches apart.

Garlic TipsCover the tips with the dirt from either side of the furrow and tamp lightly and water thoroughly.  Voila!   Wasn’t that easy?

Now if you live in an area where you get several freeze/thaw cycles before the dead of winter sets in, you will need to protect the bulbs by placing a layer of mulch at least 4″ thick over top of them.  This protects the bulbs from being damaged by the repeated freezing and thawing until the ground freezes for good.

Come Spring, you will see shoots emerging as early as April, depending on Mother Nature’s mood of course.  If you end up having a surprise spell of warm weather this Fall and your garlic starts sprouting before the ground freezes, don’t worry, keep it covered with mulch and it will be fine come next Spring.

Stay tuned for an update in early May on the continuing care of your garlic, until then, start compiling your many recipes for using garlic now as you will soon be over run with them.

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The Results Are In…

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This year I expanded my garden repertoire not only in produce, but in size and location.  Hubby built a raised garden bed last Fall up at the Homestead and this year was it’s first year in use…to a resounding success.  Along with the main garden bed at home, I had some pretty good bounty….and some downright failures.

We’ll start with the failures…

Pea ShootsPeas

I had such hopes for these tasty little green balls, but the local rabbit population thought otherwise.  Twice they grew to about 2″ in height, then they were promptly mowed down to the roots.  After their 2nd attempt to sprout, they keeled over for good.

 

radishesRadishes

I planted these in the raised garden bed, in a window box as well as into the ground.  I think I harvested 4 teeny radishes about the size of marbles out of 2 packages of radish seeds.  The rest grew, but had only a long, thin tap root.  Then the summer heat  had them bolting.  Total fail with the radishes.

Beets_1Beets

I love beets.  Steamed Beets.  Roasted Beets.  Pickled Beets.  But so do rabbits.  Apparently they love beet tops as much as they love pea plants.  I harvested 3 beets from the home garden plot and maybe 6 or 7 small ones that were grown in a container at the Northern Homestead.

Now for my Successes….

Monster Tomatillo_AThe Green Monster

AKA The Tomatillo Plant.  This thing grew and grew and grew and grew.  More prolific than mint.  I have no idea how many I actually harvested (and still am), but suffice it to say I have enough salsa in the freezer and canned to last me at least 2 years.  Next year, I do not need to grow a Green Monster.

 

Carrot5Carrots

I used up 3 packages of carrot seeds between the Northern and Southern gardens.  To a resounding success.  Some people say they have trouble with germination.  Mine were more prolific than a herd of bunnies.  Definitely will be growing more next year.

tomatoes_roastedTomatoes

I grew 3 different kinds of toms this year.  Beefsteak.  Roma.  Cherry.  The clear winner hands down had to be the Beefsteak followed closely by the Romas.  The cherries struggled in the Southern garden, 2 produced a meager amount in the raised bed up north and 2 that were in a tote planter on the deck had Best in Show.

PeppersPeppers

Lots and lots of Peppers.  Serranos,  Poblanos and  Jalapeños.  The Serranos are hands down the best pepper plant for obtaining a boatload of produce.  I grew 6 plants and they did not disappoint.  I love to pickle them as well as use them in my Tomatillo Salsa and fresh Pico de Gallo.

The Poblanos struggled this year due to 2 factors.  I need to enrich the Southern garden bed soil this fall and a few of the plants were in the shadow of the Green Monster which didn’t allow as much sun on them.  They are starting to rebound now with the sun being lower in the sky, so we’ll see if I get any substantial harvest off the remaining plants.

HerbsHerbs

Herbs out the ying yang.  Parsley, both flat leaf and curly, Cilantro – 4 separate plantings staggered throughout the season as it bolts quickly, Chives, Basil, Oregano, Mint and Thyme.  All did well in both locations, either in the ground or in pots.

 

FlowersFlowers were also a large part of the gardens.  Lilies, Nasturtiums, Sweet Peas, Fuschia, Black-eyed Susans, Nicotina, Forge-Me-Nots, Cardinal Flowers, Poppies, Geraniums, Daffodils, Mini Irises and Crocuses all staggering their bloom times so that at any given time from early Spring to Fall, something was blooming.  The Hummingbirds and FuzzyButts (Bumblebees) definitely enjoyed the showy offerings, as did I.

Next year there will be more trial and error experiments to do.  I planted garlic last week up north and next week will be doing the same down south.  20 cloves went into the ground last week and about another 30 to go.  I went through over 30 full garlic bulbs making my tomato sauce this year so I am hoping for a good success rate for them.  I may try onions too next year, if I can carve some space out for them.

I do keep a journal of what grows well, what doesn’t, when seeds sprout and how long they take, etc. so if you are wanting to start a vegetable garden for yourself, I highly recommend picking a cheap, plain journal notebook to record everything from the start.  This way you can look back upon your successes and failures and adjust accordingly the following year.

Overall, I am pretty happy with the outcome and am already looking forward to next year’s growing season.

Happy Growing!

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Quinoa Stuffed White Swan Squash

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That is a mouthful.  Figuratively as well as satiatingly…is that even a word?  I must call Webster’s to confirm, but since I made it up and I like it, I am going to use it anyway.  Basically, you will feel just as stuffed from all the stuff stuffed in the squash.

White Swan SquashThe White Swan Squash is actually an Acorn Squash (aka Pepper Squash) wearing a ghost costume and is only available up until Halloween, then it mysteriously vanishes into the misty night until next Fall.  Ok, major fib there, but it sounded spooky didn’t it?  The only difference from a regular Acorn Squash is a creamy white skin.  There is also a Golden variety with a sun-kissed golden hued skin.  They both taste the same and look exactly the same aside from their skin colour.

So I was at my local market last week and spotted the ghostly squash and figured I would give it a whirl.  I love squash, pretty much any squash, except Zucchini, those things are horrid, I have no idea why anyone likes those things.  But back to the white acorn squash.  I brought the little ghost home and set about devising a suitable stuffing for it.  A vegetarian stuffing as our daughter is a vegetarian and I am always on the hunt or thinking up new things for her to eat when she visits.  Side plates of carrot sticks and green beans are wearing thin these days.

So this is what I came up, it may sound long, convoluted and involved, but be patient, the end result is delicious!  Enjoy!

Quinoa Stuffed White Swan SquashQuinoa Stuffed White Swan Squash

Ingredients

1 White Swan Squash (or regular Acorn Squash)
1 Cup Cooked Quinoa (red, black or white quinoa, I used black as it contrasted nicely with the light colour of the squash flesh)
1/2 Cup diced Green Bell Pepper
1/2 Cup diced White Onion
1/2 Cup diced Mushrooms (I will be omitting these for my daughter, she may be a vegetarian, but she hates mushrooms)
1/2 Cup roasted Tomatoes with Basil and Oregano (recipe at the end)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Directions

Cut squash in half (lengthwise) and remove seeds and stringy pulp.  Place cut sides down on a foil lined baking sheet.  Add water to halfway up the cookie sheet and bake in a 350°F oven for approximately 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool; set aside.  Can be cooked a day ahead.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa to package directions *but* use vegetable broth instead of water, it gives a much nicer flavour; set aside to cool.  Can also be cooked a day in advance.

In a medium saucepan, heat the Olive Oil over medium-low heat, add the peppers, onions and mushrooms and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and quinoa and stir to combine, cooking for another 2-3 minutes until heated through.

Divide mixture in half and stuff each half of the squash.  Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

This is great as a stand alone dish but also shines as a 2 in 1 side dish consisting of a grain + vegetables.

Serves 2

Oven Roasted Tomatoes with Basil and Oregano

Roasted tomatoes5 – 6 large plum tomatoes or regular tomatoes (the roasting will take longer with regular tomatoes as they are juicier), sliced into 1/4″ to 3/8″ slices
8 Basil leaves
4 Springs fresh Oregano
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

On a large cookie sheet lined with parchment, lay out tomato slices, filling the entire tray.  Season with salt and pepper, then scatter basil and oregano over tomatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over all and roast in a 350°F oven for at least an hour.  The longer you roast them, the sweeter they become so this is really a personal preference.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Store in a container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a container for storage in the freezer.  These are also excellent as a pizza topping or added to your favourite pasta dish.

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