Tuesday 31 July 2018

Burn Barrel

When you live in a rural area, you burn things. It's just a fact. Our friendly neighbourhood landfill is open one day a week for your convenience and you still have to pay to use it even though we pay taxes. If we want to put out garbage bags (every two weeks in clear plastic bags only) we must affix a sticker for our municipality which costs us $2.00 a bag. Which we do. We don't burn our garbage. We also get recycling pick up every two weeks as well.

I have a compost container which takes almost all leftover food items as well as perennial clippings, etc. I do not put badly behaved weeds in my compost because they survive there quite nicely. As well, husband is a do it yourselfer and accumulates a lot of scrap.

We have a burn barrel. It is a nice tall barrel with holes cut out of the bottom for good air flow. It is sitting on four big cement pavers. The pavers sit on sand. Today I spent a couple of hours burning. I literally stand close by, garden hose at the ready, large bucket filled with water. We had a burn ban in our municipality for quite a while, but with recent rains the ban has been lifted. Still, I am a cautious burner. Dried plant material, cuttings from trees, scrap old chipboard from chicken coop renovation, etc. burn really well, but I don't ever want to be responsible for setting something on fire that shouldn't be. I am especially cautious due to the death of three people in our local area in a house fire. We are not California or other parts of Ontario, who are of course, currently dealing with terrible fires. But I still am diligent.

We have so many cut limbs /branches from trees that we have trimmed or have had to cut down part of due to the fact that Manitoba maples are like weeds that tend to bend over and break off that a burn of all of those would be insane. Instead we are planning to rent ($$$) a wood chipper and make mulch which I will use in all of my perennial beds. The humungous pile of branches and limbs reminds me of a scene I read about in Pet Semetery (Stephen King) and yes, that is how it is spelled for the book. Anyone remember reading about the deadfall in that book? (Teenage years of reading Stephen King).

What about the rest of you? Any burn barrel  or wood chipper people out there?

Saturday 28 July 2018

Key Lime Pie and Late July Gardening

As previously mentioned, I intended to make a key lime pie (with just regular limes). I looked around on the world wide web and found good ol' Ree Drummond's version of key lime pie. I liked it because she doesn't use key limes either and she had great pictures. I printed out the printable version of the recipe and got started.

The only issue I had was the graham cracker crust. What I thought was going to produce enough crumbs for one pie ended up making enough for about two and a half! (with additional melted butter required). Maybe the packaging of graham crackers is different in Canada than in the States, but maybe the recipe was wrong.

Regardless of the crust issue (I just made another crust and froze it for future use), the rest of the pie was fantastic. There was a lot of zesting and squeezing to be done, but ohhhhh the fragrance of lime while I was doing all of this was wonderful. Man, I love lime! So kudos to The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, who I remember when she was just a regular blogger like the rest of us (well, maybe she was never just a regular blogger, but she did start out small and now she takes up part of an aisle in Walmart with her kitchen items).

Here is the pie after it was baked, but before I whipped up some cream and adorned the top.

The little flecks that you see are bits of lime zest.  We had friends over for dinner last night and all proclaimed the pie to be very good. I forgot to take a picture of the completed pie with whipped cream on top, so this is all I can offer:

This is the final piece (broken in half) which had been stuck in the fridge after everyone went home last night. No, I did not eat it for breakfast. I was tempted, however.

Would I make it again? Most definitely. I don't think the kind of lime I used mattered. I don't think I even pay attention to the "species" of lime when I am at the grocery store. Here in Ontario, we get what we get.

Now, onward to gardens. July began hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry. This past week, we have had some good rains and this morning it was positively chilly!! (fifteen degrees Celsius - I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit). The rain and the heat got everything growing even more. Here is what is blooming on July 28.

Crocosmia, which has been popping up in a few other blogs (Lynn, Birdie...). I love this stuff. So tropical and exotic.

Daylilies showing off their gorgeous colour combo.

Exquisite veining in this pink hollyhock (with crocosmia being all cheeky and peeking in from behind).

Purple cone flower sporting another fabulous colour combination. Well done, nature, well done.

Window boxes and urns in front of the shed are full and luscious filled predominantly with sweet potato vine, geraniums and impatiens (and some lacy looking white filler that I forget the name of). You just can't go wrong with that sweet potato vine.

Now let's mosey over to the little vegetable garden which has responded so well to recent rains. I've harvested one zucchini, a few cucumbers and keep going out to see if another "baby tomato" has ripened.

Green beans in flower and with very small beans. Tender Green is the specific kind. Shouldn't be too long now. I've also planted another couple of small rows to keep us going through until early fall.

Another potential zucchini. I planted three plants in total. I may regret that, but stuffed zucchini is a good thing.

Some lovely leaf lettuce. I love the purple colour! It is called Prize head.

Peas are just starting to develop. I never grow enough to freeze (and had a horrible harvest last year), most peas get eaten while standing out in the garden! I planted Laxton Progress this year.

There will not be a shortage of cucumbers. Ever. And all I planted was two plants. This kind is Salad Crop. (Note the purslane growing rampantly through my garden - they say you can eat purslane- I think I'll stick with the cucumbers).

I've not planted this kind of pepper before. It's a Hungarian Sweet yellow pepper and coming along so much better than my other New Ace red peppers.

Holy basil, Batman! This has been a fantastic year for basil. I wish my tomatoes were ripe so I could be enjoying caprese salad (tomato, basil, soft mozzarella cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar).

My "baby tomatoes". These are called Candyland and they are much smaller than a cherry tomato. They are about the size of marbles and are, quite frankly, adorable. I've only had a few ripe ones so far, but the plant is laden, so there will be plenty.

There are some "normal" sized tomatoes developing as well. This one is Bonny Best. I also planted Beefsteak. It makes me so happy because for the past two years I have had a horrible time with blight and barely had any tomatoes, while in years gone by I've canned and frozen and given away tomatoes. I'm very much looking forward to canning my own tomatoes again this year.

I'm going to go eat something healthy now so I can justify eating that last piece of key lime pie later!

Thursday 26 July 2018

Barbecue Summer Supper

Sorry people, no key lime pie yet. Hang in there.

I love vegetables grilled on the barbecue. I especially love to grill them in this kind of basket.

Ah, no, I don't grill them in the plastic bag. First I chop up, in big pieces, whatever vegetables I have on hand which would work. This is zucchini (my first out of my garden!), red onion, red pepper, green pepper, and mushroom. I put the cup up veggies in a large zip lock bag with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I also throw in some seasoning and give everything a good shake.

This was the seasoning I used this time. Sometimes I use Greek Seasoning. Sometimes I just toss in my own combination of basil, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, really whatever is on hand.

Tonight, I had some bone-in chicken breasts which I cut open to help them cook quicker and more evenly. I drizzled some olive oil and Greek salad dressing on them first so they wouldn't stick to the grill. I put those on a hot grill first, before the vegetables.

Whilst grilling I had a nice cold beer. Bud Light Lime is a great summer beer. I've been busy all day long dragging branches from the far reaches of our property to be put through a wood chipper.

Then the veggies get tipped into the grill basket and put onto the grill. Every once in a while I closed the top of the barbecue to give everything a good "bake".

Can you smell it?? When I cook meat on the grill, I think of this blog all about Greek life, culture, and food. Local Kiwi Alien is a really interesting blog written by a woman from New Zealand who has lived in Greece for a long time and reading it makes me want to visit.

We are fortunate here in that we don't have to concern ourselves with forest fires, but of course people in Greece, Eastern Ontario, and California are in different circumstances. I'm probably leaving out some areas. My heart goes out to all.

This meal was served on a bed of romaine lettuce, but I've also served it over rice. Sometimes I crumble up some feta cheese with it as well. If you don't have a grilling basket and you enjoy barbecuing, I highly recommend it. I've also done cut up chicken in it and I would imagine shrimp would be great, too. Happy grilling!

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Whisker Wednesday?

Just popping in for a quick post on a Wednesday. Just got back from getting propane for the barbecue, arranging to have my rings resized at the jewelers, buying necessary ingredients to make a key lime pie (I've been having a hankering - I'll let you know how it goes), and putting gas in my vehicle which hardly ever gets driven by me (hmmmmm, children...).

Here are some whiskery pictures of Samson (son did not want his face in my blog) and a sleepy Scooter cooling off on a leather couch.

Sunday 22 July 2018

How to Make Homemade Burgers for Freezing

Today was a perfect day for doing a very satisfying task. First of all it was raining (yay!!! my plants are happy!), and secondly, medium ground beef was on sale for a great price. I bought two of the family size large packs of ground beef. (I've come back to edit that one pack was 1.3 kg which converts to about 3 pounds). You want medium ground beef for burgers because that extra bit of fat gives it flavour and juiciness.

I used two large mixing bowls, emptying one package of ground beef into each bowl so I would have plenty of space for adding ingredients and mixing them up.

Into the beef, you want to add:

-ketchup and barbecue sauce. I like Diana Sauce original because it is not too "hickory" and it is fairly thick. I don't measure, but I think anywhere from a half a cup to three-quarters of a cup in total of ketchup / barbecue sauce per big bowl of ground beef will be enough.

-chopped onion and egg. I used almost a whole chopped onion divided between the two bowls, and mixed up three eggs and divided the mixture between the two bowls as well. The egg is important to help bind the burger meat together.

-Italian style bread crumbs. If you aren't familiar with this type of bread crumb, give it a try. Italian style crumbs include lovely herbs and parmesan cheese as well as bread crumbs, so you get extra flavour. You might use about a cup of bread crumbs per bowl.

-burger seasoning. I like even more flavour and discovered this mixture a while ago. This takes care of any salt or pepper you need to add, too. I took the lid off and probably dumped in at least a tablespoon in each bowl, if not more.

The next step is to wash your hands and get in there and mix it all up. You want to make sure you have incorporated all the bread crumbs and that the onions are evenly distributed.

Now it is time to rip off a whole bunch of sheets of wax paper and cut them into "squares". Don't worry if they are more rectangles than squares. The purpose of these is to stack your burgers between pieces of waxed paper to make it easy to separate them after they are frozen.

You will end up with piles like this. You'll need more wax paper squares than you think, if you are doing a big quantity of burgers.

I like to use a metal measuring cup to form my burgers. This is a one-third cup. It is a good size for a generous burger that suits most people. By using a measuring cup, your burgers will be the same size and will cook at the same rate.

Lay down a wax paper square, press your beef mixture into your measuring cup, invert the measuring up over the wax paper and give it a downward smack. Your beef will then slide out onto the wax paper.

Press your burger down, maintaining a circular shape. You don't want it to be too thin, however, so that it holds together and grills well.

You can get more finicky than this, rounding off the edge of the burger, but I think a homemade burger should look like a homemade, assembled with love, kind of food!

Place another square of wax paper overtop of your burger and add it to your stack. And here's the key!! You always want two squares of wax paper between the burgers so that you can easily separate them when they are frozen. Wax paper will not stick to wax paper. The last thing you want to do, which trust me, I have done with purchased burgers and even hot dogs, is to try to pry a knife between frozen burgers and accidentally slip and hurt yourself.

I like to put a stack on a paper plate (perfect way to use up your seasonal / special event leftover paper plates!) to keep them flat, so they don't freeze in an awkward shape when you cram them into your freezer (if it's anything like mine!), in large size zip lock freezer bags. Try to squeeze out at much air as possible before you zip them up!

My two family size packages of ground beef ended up making about thirty burgers altogether - delicious, consistent in size, and ready for grilling whenever people drop by in the summer. Like purchased burgers, you can cook them from frozen. A great way to spend some time on a rainy day.

Just so you know... I'm not being paid by President's Choice, or Gray Ridge Eggs, or French's or anyone else, but they are welcome to, if they wish, ha ha!!

Saturday 21 July 2018

Happy Anniversary

If you are of a similar "vintage" to me, you may remember the Flintstones song to Wilma. This little song always pops up in my head at the mention of an anniversary.

Yes, it is our anniversary, or was yesterday. Twenty-seven years of wedded bliss (sarcasm, I don't think there is anyone out there who can claim "wedded bliss" - it's all a series of ups and downs and a whole lot of in between).

Our "big" anniversary celebration was two years ago for our twenty-fifth when we took a trip to England. This year was much more laid back and local. We drove to Creemore, a cute little village a little more than an hour from us. Creemore has lots of cute shops with an emphasis on home d├ęcor, vintage, art, and beer. Yes, beer. The Creemore brewery takes up about a block of this village. They've done a fantastic job of making an experience for the visitor. You can taste three beers of your choice and take a tour of the facilities. Being as it was Friday, there wasn't anybody on the production line, but the inner workings were interesting nonetheless. Apparently beer is to have only four ingredients: barley, hops, yeast, and something else which I have forgotten. Guess I'm not making beer. Maybe it was water?? We were surprised at how small the facility actually was considering how much they make. Here are some captivating photographs for those of you who wish to create your own brewery some day:

Everything looked shiny and pristine. 
This last photo is a giant collection of kegs which would be sent out to restaurants for beer on tap. I did find out that Creemore Springs beer is not found in the U.S. because it is not pasteurized and cannot be exported to the states.
The village has done a great job of making things look pretty with signage, flower boxes and plenty of benches to sit on, complete with throw cushions. They must all take them in at night.

This is the outside of the Creemore Springs brewery building(s).  After we were all done with our beer tour (our favourite was the Premium Lager), we went for a drive up a long road which we could see from the village that just kept going up and up and up. At the top was a place to pull in. I took a picture of the beautiful valley. There are also many gorgeous homes in the area which are situated right at the tops of the "mountains" to take advantage of the beautiful views.

I didn't think it proper to take pictures of the homes, but I kept wondering, "What do these people do that they can afford these amazing homes?"

We continued our jaunt and ended up in Thornbury, another gorgeous small town on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay (the southern part of Georgian Bay) in the Blue Mountains region. We had been there earlier this summer for a car show. As recommended by our tourism daughter, we went to the cidery in Thornbury.

I've never been a fan of cider, but after a tasting (Yes, another tasting, and no, this isn't all we do) I think I could be a convert. They have not just regular apple cider (my least favourite), but they also have cranberry, blueberry, and blood orange. Husband's favourite was the blood orange cider, but I think I may prefer the blueberry.

The glasses look huge in this picture, but they aren't. They are only allowed to serve small glasses as part of the $10 tasting (called a Flight). I decided to try the four wines that were being featured. Then husband and I tried each other's selections.

Pinot Grigio, Reisling, Cabernet Merlot, and Syrah, in that order. They were all good but the Syrah is too "heavy and dark" for me. We would have purchased some blood orange cider, but they were all out at the moment.

We ended up the day at a restaurant we've already been to, The Dam Pub. We ate outside and had the steak in a peppercorn mushroom sauce (did not take a picture this time!) which was excellent. We were so full that I didn't have dessert even though they had Sticky Toffee Pudding which is one of my all time favourites. And to top off the day, we actually had RAIN, glorious rain, in the evening. We literally just sat in silence and listened to the rain. (Can you tell we needed it?) I'm pretty sure we could hear the plants sighing.