Tomato & Avocado Salad

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I had a pretty good garden crop this year, especially the tomatoes.  A bumper crop of the luscious round globes had me eating them in a variety of ways, especially with the extended summer heat of September.  The thought of having to prepare and cook a hot meal on days where the mercury climbed above 30C had me melting into a puddle.  Salads became a staple for lunches and dinners.

A favourite is this super simple and super tasty tomato and avocado salad.  With so few ingredients, you are done in a snap!

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Ingredients
4 Garden Fresh Tomatoes (for a prettier plate, use multi-coloured tomatoes like Golden Queen and Heirloom varieties)
2 ripe Haas Avocados
1/4 cup diced Red or Sweet Onion
6 fresh sprigs of Cilantro
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Juice of 2 Limes
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with the fresh lime juice and set aside.

Slice tomatoes and arrange on 2 plates.  Peel, pit and slice avocados and arrange over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle onion over tomatoes and avocados.  Drizzle with the olive oil and lime dressing and top with fresh cilantro leaves. That’s it! You are done!  To make this into a satisfying and healthy dinner salad, just add some grilled chicken or salmon along with a nice crusty loaf of whole grain bread.

Serve immediately.  Makes 2 servings.

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First Garden Produce Of 2017

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Radishes are always fast producers as they prefer the early, cooler Spring days to germinate and grow.  I pulled these beauties out this morning and after a dip in a bucket of water to get the dirt off, I squirreled them off to the kitchen for further washing and get them tucked into the fridge.
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If left too long in the ground and once Mother Nature heats up, radishes will bolt (go into flowering mode) and the root will then get woody.  So best to harvest these ruby gems as soon as you see a large portion of the root sticking up above the soil.
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The remainder will be harvested over the next week which will then give the Tiny Tim tomatoes some room as you can hardly see them nestled between the rows of radishes.
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Meanwhile, the peppers that I planted last week are diggin’ their new digs so much that flowers are opening and I even have one teeny-tiny pepper starting!
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I finally learned the secret for planting happy peppers.  Start them a month earlier than I normally do.  Usually mid-March is seed planting time, but to give the slower growing peppers more time to mature before going in the ground, I started them mid-February.  Definitely my strategy is paying off this year.
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Looking forward to a fabulous harvest this year for not only radishes, peppers and tomatoes, but chard, beets, carrots, garlic and green onions too.  If I can scrounge up a little space after I harvest the garlic in early July I may just plant some more kale too.  You have to be careful with kale though, it grows rapidly and soon you are leaving baskets of kale on the neighbour’s porch whether they like it or not.
Like zucchini ….. a little goes a long way in the kale world.
Happy Gardening!
Deborah
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Cheddar Chive Cornbread

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Today I was waffling.  Waffling about whether to make cheddar chive biscuits, or cheddar chive muffins.

So I made cheddar chive cornbread instead.  I know, sometimes what I think I want, I don’t want at all.  The mind of a woman was clearly at work here.

Since I had just given my rapidly sprouting chive plant a trim last weekend, it was a good time to rummage through my recipe files for an appropriate dish to use some of them up.

No big fanfare here, just a simple, delicious cornbread to enjoy with a Tex-Mex dinner menu (or anytime!).

DSC06019Cheddar Chive Cornbread

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 tbsp minced fresh chives

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

1. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. In another bowl, whisk eggs, butter and buttermilk.

3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.

4. Gently fold in cheese and chives.

5. Spread mixture in a greased 9″ x 13″ baking dish and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 18 pieces that are 1″ x 2″

Enjoy!

Deborah

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Spring has Sprung!

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Thank goodness the cold and snow is now behind us and we can look forward to (in my opinion) the shortest and BEST season we have ~ SUMMER!

I have been so busy this past 6-8 weeks, not just with work (my busiest time of year) but also ramping up my gardening chores.  The raised  beds have had their plastic rolled down to thaw the frozen earth and 2 weeks ago I was lucky enough to get some radishes, chard, beets and lettuce seeds sown.  These are cool weather veggies and have a much better appreciation of early Spring cold spells than the summer loving tomatoes and peppers.

Speaking of peppers, I am gobsmacked with how well they are growing now that we downsized our southern home to a condo.  It is so blasted hot in here that it is the perfect nursery for my plant babies.  Have a look see for yourself! DSC06002Some of the pepper varieties are now over a foot tall!  I started them a month earlier than normal too, mainly because I have the plastic on the raised beds, I can extend the growing season on both ends. DSC06008The tomatoes were started mid-March, and will quickly catch up and surpass the peppers, they grow like weeds once the seeds sprout.  I do give them a very weak fertilizer solution every 2 weeks though to get them in optimum green leafiness before planting.  I have also been saving up eggshells for the tomatoes.  Whenever I use eggs, I wash the shells and keep them in a baggie in the freezer, more on that in the next post though.

Aside from gardening, I have been up to my eyeballs in Alpaca fleece.  I lucked out on getting about 15 lbs of raw alpaca fiber from a nearby ranch (aren’t they the most adorable looking creatures below?)DSC05863 DSC05860 In the process, I scored my first “baby” alpaca fleece.  Just to be clear, they don’t shear the babies after they are born, “Baby Alpaca” fleece is considered the animals first shearing, which is usually when they are a year old.  It is much finer than adult fleece, so very soft and silky, and I managed to get a jet black one that spun up like silk in my test sample, which is so lusciously smooshy and soft (I have a special project in mind for this very special fibre) and is much darker than the photo shows.  It is very hard to photograph black!

DSC06000Along with the bags of alpaca fleece, I have also been weaving, finishing up a couple projects that were started at the beginning of the year.  My piñata fabric is done, and I have one of two straps left to weave on the little inkle loom, then I can start my big sewing project (saving that for another post too…most likely in the summer). DSC05829 I also gave my rear end some reprieve with a woven cushion for my loom bench.  Sitting on a board was getting old real quick! DSC05840 Not to leave any other fibre related items out, I have been knitting up a storm in the evenings (my down time while watching Jeopardy) as I had a request from my Aunt for a cowl and some more socks.  Cowl and one pair of socks done, 2 more pairs to go.

So when do I have time for myself you say? Well, when the gardens are mostly looking after themselves in a month or so, and work has slowed for the summer, I will be on the deck looking at the pristine view of the lake listening to the loons and sipping my tea and either spinning or knitting for the next project.  I can never sit still.  A rolling stone gathers no moss so the saying goes…and that is me to a tee ;)

DSC04767Deborah

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Almost there…

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9 months has passed since we moved and I can say that finally, F-I-N-A-L-L-Y, the painting has come to an end in the Colourful House of Frightenstein.  Yes, we did the major painting prior to moving in, but there was still the kitchen, baths and all interior doors and door frames to be done.

They can now be crossed of the to-do list save for a few touch-ups after my kitchen is renovated in a few weeks. Woo!

With the bulk of the updates/fixes now done, I can settle into some serious loom time before the Northern Homestead gets opened from its short winter nap, as well get the rest of my seeds started for summer gardening.  I have a few sprouts happening already as you can see here… Curly Parsley (top photo) and Basil (bottom photo)

DSC04163 DSC04165and remember these?  Grocery store green onions that I planted a few weeks ago?

DSC04153Well, here they are today….

DSC04168I have to prune them as they are getting totally out of control, which is easy as pie, just snip and add to your cooking.  Super simple to grow, just get some potting soil and when your green onions are about down to the last 4″ from the root end, plunk them in a little pot, water and watch them grow again and again.

DSC04169Guarding my little wee plants is my obedient kitty.  He sits there staring out the window all day, waiting for the summer warmth to arrive (me too) and never lays a paw on the sheers. What a good kitty!

I have a couple weeks before I get the rest of the pots and seeds out, for now, it is off to the loom and spinning wheels and get down to business!

Deborah

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Huevos Rancheros

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If you love eggs (like I do), and if you love Mexican food (like I do), then you will love this breakfast staple.  How can it be better? If you use my leftover Charro Beans as the base, that’s how.

Making huevos rancheros can be time consuming due to all the chopping/sauteing of veggies/beans, but utilizing the leftover charro beans has made for a breakfast that is ready in under 30 minutes instead of almost an hour.

DSC04157Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small baking dish (spray with cooking spray first), press a warmed 6″ flour (or corn) tortilla into place.

Add 3/4 cup of charro beans

Top with 2 tbsp shredded cheese (mozz/cheddar or monterey jack, whatever suits your tastebuds)

Crack one egg onto the top, season the egg with salt and pepper and pop into the oven for about 20 minutes or until egg is done to your liking.

Garnish with cilantro. Salud!

Easy-peasy…. and boy, was it tasty.  I have enough charro beans in the fridge for one more breakfast.  I am so looking forward to tomorrow morning.

Deborah

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My New Planting Table

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I love my hubby.
He is resourceful.
He is creative.
He is a very good problem solver.
and he can build just about anything.

Now that we have downsized to condo life, planning and planting my seeds for this years garden came with a bit of a dilemma.  I had an enormous window sill in the living room at the house that pretty much handled all the plant pots and trays.  The condo…not so much.  I could use the floor I guess, but with the sectional couch in front of the window, it would be a pain to gain access to watering, etc.

So hubby, seeing said dilemma, stepped up and built this fabulously useful planting table that fits perfectly behind the couch in front of the large span of windows.

DSC04151Built with a depth wide enough to hold the standard plant trays and a length about the size of a football field (or thereabouts), I now have oodles of room for the many pots that will soon be gracing the raw beauty of the plywood top.  Simple to make from regular 2×4′s and plywood, it is sturdy and comes with a lower shelf to hold bags of soil and excess trays/pots.

DSC04153Right now I just have the bare minimum started.  Basil, Cilantro and Parsley and some perennial flower seeds (Arabis) that are to be started this time of year as well as some leftover green onions from the fridge.

I discovered last summer that green onions, after you have used the green part and before taking them too far down the white part, you can plant in the ground and they start to regrow.  The last couple years I have grown green onions from seeds, but by August, they are barely thicker than chives.  So I had a brain wave to stick them in the ground and see what happens.  From this point forward, I will not have to buy green onions from the store as these will continue to grow and I can snip off what I need, when I need it.

I love spur of the moment ideas, sometimes they work out, sometimes not.  In this case, happy results indeed!

Deborah

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It is that time of year again!

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Seed planting time!!!

I am all ready to roll, well, almost.  First I need all my little pots and seed starting mix which is up north currently, but we will be going to get them in a week or so, as well as my new plant table that hubby built for me.  Since we moved last Spring, I lost my big window sill in the living room that held all the plant trays in the warm sunshine.

So hubby put together a long, tall, narrow table made from 2 x 4′s and plywood (very elegant looking, just you wait and see) so I have a place to start all my little garden buddies in the condo.

Here is the array of seeds to be grown this year, some new pepper and tomato varieties as well as a couple new flowering plants to use for dye purposes.

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New this year will be trying my hand at growing Milkweed, yes, it is a common weed, but it is also the only plant that the larvae of the Monarch Butterfly feed upon.  Their population has been on a steady decline over recent years so I am doing my part to provide habitat (food) for the butterflies to raise their larvae on.  With any luck, I will have Monarch chrysalis’ hanging from the undersides of the leaves this summer!

More to come on the seed starting once I get the rest of my supplies here, but I am just so excited my seeds arrived that I just had to write about it now, and yes, little things like seeds make me deliriously happy, not unlike shopping for yarn….

Deborah

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2016 ~ The Year of the Wheel!

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Happy New Year to everyone!  Yes, it has been awhile, but how many of you had the time to try and keep up a blog AND do all things Christmas-y?  Baking, cooking, shopping, wrapping, visiting, etc?

That is my defence and I am sticking to it.

I can also add spinning, knitting and weaving into the above as many of you who follow me on Facebook can attest to as I  regularly post pics of FO’s or WIP’s (Finished Objects or Work in Progress) to brighten the days of those cruising on FB.

Now that the holidays are fading in the rear view mirror, it’s time to concentrate on a New Year.  I have a couple resolutions, but these ones I am sure to stick too.  I gave up on the ‘must lose 10 lbs!’ or ‘stop eating chocolate!’ resolutions a couple years back.  Moderation is the key, you can still have your chocolate, just make sure you walk that stuff off the day you eat it.

My resolutions this year are to refine and hone the skills of my latest obsessions um…hobbies.  Weaving and Spinning.  I am well on my way in the weaving world, but there is always room for improvement and while spinning is a fairly recent craft, I am generally happy with where my spinning skills are at, but again, there is always room for improvement.  I am spinning yarn to not only knit with, but to weave with on my looms.  There is something so satisfying from taking a lump of fluffy fleece and turning it into yarn, then weaving it into a finished product.  Whether it is a scarf, blanket or fabric for clothing, it’s like taking raw food ingredients and assembling them into a Five Star restaurant type meal.

To aid me in my quest to hone my spinning is the addition of another wheel.  Yes, I clearly hear you when you scoff – “another wheel?! she’s turning into the crazy cat lady of the fibre world!”  No, not really, as there are many others that have many more wheels than I do.

20160105_134117Each of these 3 wheels are vastly different in function and spinning style.  The one on the far right, the small, boxy shaped one is a Spin-Well.  Made in the 1930′s in Sifton, Manitoba, she is the youngest of the herd and is a workhorse of a wheel.  She was built mainly to make thicker yarns, but I love her for plying 2 or more yarns together as the bobbins on her are just huge.  This is the one that I *obtained* from my Aunt & Uncle a year and a half ago that started me on my spinning odyssey.

Next up, the one in the middle, is the wheel I picked this past summer.  She is a sturdy little wheel that will spin miles and miles of thinner yarn, and even though her bobbins are small, I can fill them to the max and then use the Spin-Well for plying.  I am not sure on her pedigree as there is no maker’s mark on her but she is similar in style to the Young family of wheels (there were 4 makers in the family) from Nova Scotia back in the 1800′s, which is where she came from and is estimated to be between 150 and 200 yrs old.  She is in exceptional condition for her age too.

My latest wheel is the largest of all, she certainly didn’t look that big when I picked her up yesterday.  Not until I brought her home and set her beside the other two – eek! her drive wheel is huge!   This means she can spin thinner yarn, faster than the others.  This wheel also has no maker’s mark but the owner said she was made in Quebec, which is info she received when she obtained the wheel last year.  I am currently on a hunt to narrow down her style/maker and while she is similar in stance to a CPW (Canadian Production Wheel), she lacks the tilt-tension which is the key to her not being one.  She is also very, very similar to a Louis Bisson, but again, lacks a very important detail, a swooping treadling piece along  with no maker’s mark.  She was incredibly filthy too, I spent a good hour cleaning her up with Murphy’s Oil Soap (excellent product for any wood furniture), she now functions as she should and looks much better for it.

20160106_081914And if I haven’t sounded crazy enough, I have names for all the wheels (and looms too).  As soon as I brought the new wheel home and sat her beside the other two, she just paled in colour against them…so I named her Blanch.  The Spin-Well (Grand Dame I call her) is much darker and Beth, is more reddish-orange in tone, so I have Grand Dame, Beth and Blanch.

I am looking forward to finding out as much as I can on these wheels, as well as to further my knowledge and skill in using them.  Cheers to 2016! ~ The Year of the Wheel will be a fun journey!

Deborah

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Guacamole Grilled Cheese With Basil

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The title of this post sounds absolutely awful doesn’t it?  But trust me, it was truly delicious in a weird sort of way.

T’was the night before grocery shopping, and all through the fridge, hardly a decent damn thing was in there, save for an avocado and some cheese…(pretty good poem I have going there, I will have to expand on it at some point in the future).

I was starving, and standing in front of the fridge with the doors open surveying what little food I had left wasn’t helping quell the rumblies.  So I grabbed my little tablet and googled “what herb goes with avocado and cheese?”

Cilantro was the first and most obvious choice, but I was all out of that.  Thyme? none, Marjoram, zippo, hmmmm…the only thing I had was a couple sprigs of basil drooping pathetically in a glass of water on the kitchen table along with the last of the tomatoes from the garden that were starting to wrinkle.

My next thought was what the heck could I do with these?  I wasn’t in the mood for Mexican (ha! never thought you’d hear that from me now would you?) as Mexican can be time consuming.  I wanted something quick and easy and tasty.

Grilled cheese… I could do a grilled cheese sammie extraordinaire.  So this is what I came up with.  Don’t scoff at the ingredients, like I said above, it all went together very weirdly.

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Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sammie with Basil

Ingredients

2 slices 12 Grain Bread (or any bread, it’s what was in the freezer)
1 Avocado, mashed and amount divided in half
1 small tomato, sliced
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
1 slice Monterey Jack cheese with Jalapeño
1 slice sharp Cheddar
1 tsp Lime juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Basil leaf, torn into little pieces
Butter

Directions

Mash avocado innards (sans pit) with the lime juice, salt and pepper and set aside.

Butter one side of one bread slice and place butter side down in a frying pan over medium-low heat.  Place Monterey jack cheese slice on top.  Next spread half the mashed avocado mixture over the cheese.  Layer tomato slice and basil next.  Sprinkle red pepper flakes overtop and then place the slice of sharp cheddar on top.  Cover with the other bread slice and butter the top.

Once the bottom bread is browned, flip gently and cook the other side until the cheese is melted, about 5-6 minutes.  Oh, and I bet you are wondering when does the other half of the mashed avocado get used?  While the sammie is cooking, grab a spoon and finish it off, I hate recipes that call for half an avocado…ever try to keep one from browning no matter how much lime juice you submerge it under?

Enjoy….seriously, it was deelish!  Next time I make it I will have cilantro on hand, THAT would make it an over the top grilled cheese sammie.

Deborah

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