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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Taking a bite out of Summer

Given that Summer Solstice - the longest day of the year and the first day of summer has recently come and gone, it seems only fitting that I have spent much of the week in my kitchen enjoying the 'fruits' of my labor...

Living in the northern climate that we do, when summer hits, I make a point of buying up the abundance of inexpensive fruit that comes our way and figuring out ways in which to store it.

First up?  Mango puree (with a few strawberries thrown in for good measure).  All you do is cut up mangoes (and anything else that you want in there), chuck them in a food processor and then pour the puree into ice cube trays for freezing.  After they are frozen, they can be removed from the trays and stored in ziplock bags in the freezer.  Then, when you want to use them (they are delicious added into sauces, stews, dressings and smoothies) just take them out and thaw them or even put them into the blender frozen.  Easy, delicious and right now, very cheap!

I am pretty sure that the next concoction will help most of you with a little 'food problem' that crops up in the summer... watermelon sorbet!  I don't know about you but I always have way, way too much of that stuff laying around and I end up 'overindulging' just to make sure that I don't waste any.  This is a great way to use up about 5 lbs. of the humongous fruit.

To make it you'll need:
6 cups of diced watermelon (it should be about 4 cups when pureed)
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tbs fresh lime juice
1 tbs freshly chopped mint (not necessary, but it makes a really nice touch) - plus, you might as well use up those herbs that you've been working on growing right?
1/2 cup of honey

More Lime Juice!!!

Using a blender or food processor, puree the watermelon.  Then, in a medium-sized saucepan, add one cup of the pureed melon with the sugar, lime juice and mint.  Heat on medium until the sugar is dissolved.  Whisk in the honey and the rest of the puree until it is well blended.  Pour into a square cake pan and freeze overnight or until solid.  Once frozen, remove from freezer and let thaw on the counter for 5 minutes.  When you can remove it in chunks using a butter knife, add it into the food processor again and puree until smooth.  Here I added another tbs. or 2 of lime juice - until it was nice and tart.  Then, put it into a air-tight container for freezing and enjoy whenever the mood strikes you! 


Another good summer recipe that I like is: Pasta with fresh herbs, garlic and lemon...

To make it you'll need:
Any kind of pasta that you like (fresh pasta is the best, but you can also used dried)
Any fresh herbs that you have pain-stakingly grown (or fresh ones from the market)... I like to use varying combinations of chives, rosemary, oregano, and basil... - about 1 tsp of each finely chopped
Drizzle of Olive oil
2 diced garlic cloves
1 tbs. of lemon juice (fresh is best)
Salt and Pepper to taste

For this one, simply cook the pasta to your preferred degree, rinse it in a colander with cool water and return it to the pot.  Drizzle with olive oil and stir in garlic, lemon juice and herbs.  Season with S & P to your liking and ENJOY! 

For a funkier, more exciting version, you can also add chopped cherry tomoatoes, olives, capers, and/or freshly grated hard cheeses such as parmesan, asiago or romano.  Have fun with it!

Cheers and Happy Summer!

Marebare

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A foraging we will go...

One of the 'side effects' of reading Michael Pollan's books, especially The Ominvore's Dilemma, is that I have this new-found obsession with trying to forage edibles from my yard/property.  So, last week, armed with my rainsuit-clad son and my camera, I went on a walkabout in my yard to see what I could 'rustle' up for dinner...

Now, it must first be said that I have little to no knowledge of which wild species of plants/fungi are edible.  I did some research yesterday (for like about 2 minutes) looking up photos of some species that grow/live here in Alberta, but that's it.  Given my lack of knowledge, I decided that on my first foraging adventure, I would take only my camera and take photos of those plants/fungi which I though might be edible and look them up when I get home (after all, no one needs to get sick, or worse, even die from my efforts to 'find' my dinner). 

Here is what I found within a stone's throw of my house - and we are talking a girly-girl's throw!
  • 2 different kind of mushrooms
  • Wild chives - which I am totally going to put in tonight's dinner!
  • Rosehips
  • A few patches of wild strawberries which aren't yet producing berries, but look like they will be soon
  • More dandelion greens than I could ever hope (or want) to consume
And that is just the stuff that I could identify!!! 

I am also super fortunate to live on a huge chunk of land which is partially forested and I know that many, many more edibles are dwelling in there, just waiting to be picked, eaten, or... photographed.  There are a ton of wild raspberry bushes for example, and Trent told me last night that his mom used to forage for Morales in those woods as well...  I think a foraging lesson from my dear mother-in-law might be in order very soon!

One more thing - I am super interested in finding edible greens, and I read that Lamb's Quarters are super nutritious and plentiful (aka a weed)... but, I am just not familiar with this plant... and I can't seem to 'find' any out here... does anyone have some pictures of this plant that you could send me?

Well, that's all for now - happy foraging!

Marebare xoxo

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Times are a changin'

Alright, so I haven't been writing much lately... and no, it is certainly not because I have fallen off the wagon... quite the opposite in fact.  The truth is, I am in the process of re-evaluating my values (yes, again) thanks in part to a certain journalist named Michael Pollan.  I think that I have mentioned his name before when I wrote about the movie Food Inc.  Anyway, Pollan has written two extremely thorough books about the industrialization of our food chain here in the West (and increasingly, the rest of the world as well).  The two books: The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food are both amazing reads and I highly recommend reading both of them.  Upon making this recommendation to others, I have had a lot of people say, "Oh no, I don't think that I want to know about the horrible things in our food because I really feel like I can't do anything about it."  To this I fervently answer: "This isn't true any longer, in other words, WE ARE NO LONGER AT THE MERCY OF THE BIG CORPORATIONS!!!  In fact, we do have other options, so find out about them and take advantage of them!"

As I have alluded to in earlier posts, 'living with less' has become about so much more than simply saving money (although that has certainly been a side benefit).  Increasingly, this project has resulted in more of a lifestyle change for myself and my family than anything else.  What I am saying is, I now hold the belief that certain things (like my family's health and the well being of our planet and the organisms that sustain it) are much more important than saving a dollar here or a dollar there.  As a result, I have entirely changed the way that I think about food, cook/prepare/serve food, and shop for food.  For me (thanks to Mr. Pollan), I have a few basic tenets that I am trying to live by that I will share here:

1. Priority #1: Buy local (and organic if possible) (or better yet, grow as much of your own food as you can!)

For fresh fruits/vegetables, this is certainly a challenge for us Canadians who choose to live in such a Northern climate where the growing season is so darned short.  But, summer is upon us and there are some good choices out there.
  • For local and pastured meat, check out this link: http://www.eatwild.com/ to find a farm near you that sells this superior product (it is amazing how many farms that I was unaware of in Alberta, and this way, you can buy right from the farmer and even visit the animals if you want, talk about taking out the middle man!)
  • Go to the farmer's market in your area.  These types of local markets have more than doubled in recent years and it can sure be a fun outing for you and your family on the weekend.
  • Start a garden, or if you don't have much room, start a container garden.  You can grow all that you need for salads in containers for example and you can then enjoy fresh salads all year round!  It really isn't as hard as it sounds!
Priority #2: Buy organic whenever possible
  • This is also a tricky one for us Canadians because our food has to travel so darned far to get here that organics often can't make the trek (because they aren't covered in preserving chemicals)
  • Also, I do realize that organic produce does cost more, so if you have to be discerning, here is a list that I found on-line to help you make the choice a little easier:
The Dirty Dozen: contain from between 47-67 chemicals PER SERVING!
1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Peppers
8. Spinach, Kale, Greens
9. Cherries
10. Potatoes
11. Grapes
12. Lettuce

The Clean Fifteen:
1. Onions
2. Avocados
3. Corn
4. Pineapples
5. Mangoes
6. Peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet potatoes
15. Sweet onions

Priority #3: Avoid any/all processed foods as much as possible!

Pollan has some great tips on how to avoid these crazy 'food science' products:
  • Don't eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food (love this one!)
  • Shop the outsides of your supermarket and stay out of the middle
  • Read the label: if there are more than five ingredients and you can't pronounce one(or more) of them, PUT IT BACK!
If all else fails, just remember Mr. Pollan's tag-line from 'In Defense of Food': EAT FOOD, NOT TOO MUCH, MOSTLY PLANTS!

Happy Eating!
Cheers,

Marebare

The above images are not mine, but taken from the web, to view the source of the image(s) please click on the picture to be taken to the image's homepage.  Thanks.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Living Green = Saving Some Green - Actually, A LOT of Green!


Hmmm... on second thought, maybe the title should read: Saving Some Red, Green, Purple, Blue and Brown? (Silly Canadian money)

This week has been all about getting it 'done'.  I have tried to catch up on my housework, my paperwork, and my work-work.  I love actually getting to tick things off the never-ending 'list'.  In the process, I updated the database that charts our spending from month-to-month and year-to-year... and you'll never believe what I found out...

In four months: from January to April, we have managed to cut our spending in HALF compared to what we spent in the same timeframe last year...  To give you an indication of how significant this is: we spent $11,000 LESS than we spent in 2009!  While I knew that we were doing 'well' on this project, and managing to spend less, I didn't realize just how much less we were spending!  It is a very rewarding (and yet bewildering) feeling.

Most significantly though (even more significant than saving all of that money), is that fact that our lives are fuller, happier and better than ever.  I am living, walking proof that 'less truly can be more'.  Of course, it also inspires me to do EVEN MORE!  Now I wish that I had entered this project with a group of people and made it a real challenge (there's my competitive nature shining through!)

On that note, I would love to hear from some of my readers who have some lived experiences on the "Less is More" theme... Please share either in the comments section or send me an e-mail and I can post it on the blog.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Have a wonderful day all!


Marebare xoxo