New kitchen goodies

Christmas has come and gone in our little home but with it came lots of baking, an excellent turkey, skiing and a wonderful visit with my brother.

Happily, with the holidays came all of my requested kitchen items. If I can only get over this silly cold, I can start making use of them. In the meantime, I'm imagining good things.

Finally! Unfortunately it doesn't fit in any of my baking pans but I'll use it in anyway and just kinda fit it in there as best I can. And it's an excuse to get a commercial size half sheet pan in the future. According to their website I'm envisioning even, stick-free cooking. 

Roasting pan
My brother lives next door to ikea and picked this up for me. I used it for the turkey and enjoyed handles that fold down and a removable tray to remove the bird from the drippings. Speaking of turkey,  I tried brining for the first time. It's my new favourite method and Craig and my brother said it was the best turkey ever. I followed these directions
Citrus juicer
I juice lots of lemons, at least half of one per day in my morning water. It's coming in handy for my less than healthy self; making lots of lemon, honey & ginger tea.

(sharp) Kitchen scissors
Mine were getting sooooo dull about a year ago. These actually cut stuff. I use them almost daily for chopping herbs, opening packages, etc.

Glass straws
This was a gift to myself. I checked the mail everyday for like 3 weeks waiting for them. These little guys are hard to get a hold of! Initially, it was only going to be a smoothie straw (that's it on the left) but I ended up getting a few more. 

**If you are in the market for your own glass straw, I noticed (where I bought mine) has a short-term deal: Until midnight January 3rd, get free shipping on orders of $35 or more. Use coupon code SHIPJAN13
Well, I'm going to juice a few more lemons for tea and read a book on the couch for a while near the fire. Wishing you a happy healthy day!

Easy everyday bread

Today, I've made a detailed post on how to make this simple, virtually foolproof bread.

Only 6 ingredients!

Maple syrup
Olive oil

But first, I finally figured out what these red metal posts are for. Ok, it didn't take me long but I was curious after they started showing up around mail boxes, garbages & benches.

It's for the snow! It gets so high that the plows need them as markers to know where stuff. Yes. That's all. I thought it was interesting.
Back to bread. When I first started baking it, it seemed like a lot of work for something easily bought. But the lack of good bread available drove me to persevere. It quickly got easier and now we only eat 'my' bread. Our home smells amazing when it's baking and I feel a little like a pioneer woman.

Bread making can be a little intimidating. I thought it was almost impossible to make a decent loaf at home unless you were some bread artisan guru. I'm happy to say that we can all be bread artisans with this one. This recipe is truly very easy and the bread you'll make is a perfect 'everyday' kind of bread that slices well, freezes great and keeps up to 5 days on the counter. 
sliced bread on potter and sliced bread with the rest of the loaf on a cutting board
A couple things I've learned: 
  • Use scales. Much easier, faster & consistent. My measures are in grams for that reason. 
  • Try to use a proper bread pan. It makes a difference (I've included pics below to compare).
Yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients and Directions
Mix in a large bowl
  • 800 grams bread flour  (I used to use 100% whole wheat but I've started to use 50% white and 50% whole wheat. It's a little softer and easier to slice than the 100% version. But the other is still really good if you're looking for a 100% loaf)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp instant yeast

Then pour in the bowl with the flour
  • 100 grams of extra virgin olive oil 
  • 50 grams maple syrup
  • 450 grams of warm water
Stir with a spatula until well combined. Scrape sides of the bowl.
large stainless bowl with flour in it on a scale
It should be messy and look shaggy. Get it mostly together and then dump on a lightly oiled surface. Start to work it together with your hands. You may need to add a little more flour but don't add too much. Try oiling your hands with a little olive oil if you've already added some additional flour to the dough and feel the need to add more (you may not need more, just your oiled hands). It should start to get elastic and smooth as you knead.
3 pictures of dough. The first one of rough dough in a bowl, the second on a work surface and the third after kneading.
After kneading for 10 minutes (if you feel your shoulders & arms burn, you're doing something right) settle the dough in a round shape. It should look like that last picture above. Spread about 1 tsp of oil in the bowl you were using to mix (saves on dishes!) and put dough in. Cover. After 1-2 hours (a warmer kitchen will need less time), POOF! It should about double in size. 

Dough before and after the first rise. In a stainless steel bowl.
After rising, dump dough out on work surface. Fold the dough in half and cut. Work each half down and shape into a log. Place in a buttered bread pan.  

Cover bread pans with a sheet of parchment paper and let rest 1-2 hours. POOF again, I love that part.
Raw dough in the bread pan X2. Covered with parchment paper then after it has risen for 2 hours.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to keep the crust from overly browning. There's that smell........yummmmm.

FYI. The loaf on the left was made using a bread pan while the one on the right is more like a banana loaf pan. They both taste fine of course, but the bread pan makes one that looks more like a loaf of bread. 
Baked bread from 2 different styles of baking pan. Shows how the commercial style baking pan creates a more traditional style of loaf.

After loaves have cooled completely, double bag what you don't plan to use right away and stick in the freezer. For the loaf you plan to eat now, store it in a plastic bag on the counter and use within 5 days. Don't refrigerate, it dries out faster. Don't worry, if it felt a little fussy and time consuming, stick with it and I promise, it will get so easy you'll never buy bread again.

5 handmade gift ideas

Being one who enjoys making the gifts I give, I'm always on the lookout for ideas. But not any idea will do.....My criteria is: 
  • easy to do
  • easy to find supplies
  • something useful
  • looks polished / not too homemade
So far, I'm making hemp kitchen cloths ...and they're coming along nicely. But here are 5 more I'm seriously considering (I made the belt hanger already thingy and it's awesome-I kept 2 for me). 

1. Etched glass

I have been wanting to try this. Apparently, all you need is etching cream (this is the one item I'm worried about finding around here but I'm hoping for the best), masking tape/stencils and thrift store glass. Here's an Etsy inspiration. 

photo, urbanbelle couture

2. Body scrub/ bath salt

So easy it's almost silly that people buy this stuff (no offense if you have, of course). But it seems like it must be harder than it is, so makes for a great gift! You can find everything at a drug store. Package in a pretty container, tie on a custom tag. 


Candy cane sugar scrub
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil (like sweet almond or olive oil)
5 drops vanilla essential oil

5 drops peppermint essential oil

Lavender bath salt 
2 cups Epsom salts 
1 cup baking soda
10 drops lavender essential oil 
optional: add a handful of whole dried lavender (they look nice but I usually leave them out of my mixes as it's a pain to clean the tub after)

3. Belt hanger

I made one of these for Craig last year but he prefers to hang belts on the curtain rod in our bedroom. I think clothing organized people would appreciate it. I have 2 of them (now) and they keep all my belts tidy and awesome. 

photo, Martha Stewart

Drill holes into a wooden hanger about 2 inches apart then hand screw hooks into it. You might have to snip the ends of the screws if they're too long, I had to. 

Another super easy one. All you need is a food processor. Use organic sugar and lemons to make it a little more special and put the ingredients on a homemade tag. It will keep several months in the fridge.  

photo, Martha Stewart

5. Dark chocolate bark

One of my favourite treats during the holidays! I buy the big dark bars when I'm at PC to start with. Here's a recipe for Chocolate bark with fruits and nuts that looks amazing. The more stuff in there the better I think. Wrap in parchment paper and place in a small, coloured paper bag. Tie with twine or ribbon. 


More gift-making ideas of mine...hand cream...3-card sets...natural room spray

Happy gifting! Have any handmade gift ideas to share?

Crocheted hemp kitchen cloth

Happy Monday!! I'm trying out some enthusiasm since I don't really feel it. It was a rainy weekend (again). I did a bunch of cooking last week but didn't do much since Friday. We went to Vernon on Saturday to buy a new toilet and new kitchen lighting (3 spot lights and now I can see what I'm doing!). And a nice surprise was that Vernon was sunny. Sunny and like 8 degrees. It was like going to Mexico for the day.
a box of parchment baking cup liners

So, I recently got addicted to baking with parchment paper and I noticed they had parchment liners too.  Compared to regular paper cups that for me leave like 1/3 of the muffin stuck to the paper, these ones are great! Nothing sticks to them AT ALL.  Really, they are lovely and perfect. If they have any fault I would say that they are too non-sticky and the paper comes off on its own if you handle it too much.

On to other things. Being December 3, that means getting my hand-made cards ready and making simple crafts. My crafting supplies are strewn around on the kitchen table and probably will be for a while since I've only made 5 cards. It's a 'tree & stars' theme (I think it was last year too-you can't really go wrong).
5 handmade christmas cards laying on a wooden table
I'm making kitchen dish cloths. After making them last year, I got hooked on using them. They machine wash and don't smell bad like synthetic cloths tend to. They last like crazy (I used one daily for a year washing it at least once a week and it lasted beautifully-I was going to include a photo but it was pretty ugly in then end). Here's my brand new one I stitched up last night. I could only find hemp yarn locally but I think it will work out better than cotton. I did a little research and learned that hemp fibres are super strong, not itchy and they dry extremely quickly naturally. Made for kitchen cloths I'd say.
hemp yarn, crocheted kitchen cloth, scissors and crochet hook on a wooden tableThe pattern is super basic; a single crochet rectangle with a triple single crochet border using a #4 or #5 hook. If you need some help with that, here's directions from someone who already made a great little video. 

Of course I tried it out right away. The sturdiness of the yarn made for perfect scrubbing action.
Crocheted hemp kitchen cloth held over the sink by a hand

Asian quinoa turkey soldiers

The sun came out today! It's been grey and dreary for the past month, so this is pretty good stuff. I spent the morning making applesauce muffins and an applesauce tart. All the while, the sun was streaming in. making everything seem better...and making me appreciate it.

Ok, on with the soldiers. My inspiration came from a cookbook purchase 'Quinoa Revolution'. Plus, I recently discovered ground turkey- my first attempt was this stew from Food Network Mag. 
Blue plate with 4 turkey soldiers with dipping sauce and chop sticks. A hand is holding the side of the plate.

glass bowl with spatula mixing spices and sauce with bottles of sauces in the background

Prep time: 10 mins (plus 15 mins to sit, optional)
Cook time: 12-15 mins

Yield: 15-17 soldiers

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp tamari sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic chili sauce (depending how hot you like it, this amount makes it medium hot)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar or lime juice
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa


  1. Combine in a bowl first 8 ingredients. Optional: Let sit for 15 minutes for the flavours to incorporate.
  2. Add ground turkey and quinoa. 
  3. Mix fairly well but not overly.
  4. Form into log shapes with slightly moist hands. 
  5. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. They're not the prettiest things at this point but try not to judge them.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

ground turkey mixture in a stainless bowl with a parchment lined cookie sheet with formed raw fingers ready for cooking Sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Serve with garlic chili sauce, plum sauce or soya sauce. Versatile little guys: dipping, snacking, put on a big salad. They taste good cold as well.
4 cooked quinoa turkey fingers in close up on a blue and green plate with a small scoop of chili garlic sauce
Grey out there again...but I got my pink hat (and coat!) on and and headed out to the greenbelt (although it's more of a brownbelt at the moment). 
Jill in pink coat and pink touque outside near rolling mountains and meadowsEnjoy your day!

Applesauce tart with oats and almond cookie crust

applesauce tart in cooking pan with piece of the cut tart on a pottery plate

I've been processing apples like crazy lately. And I finally did it. No more apples! Instead I have vats of frozen applesauce that I can use throughout the next 5 years winter. No wonder apples have been in all my baking lately: breads, muffins and now this tart. Eating this tart actually renewed my love of applesauce -which is pretty amazing considering how much of it I've eaten lately. Oat flour and almond meal make the cookie base with maple syrup for sweetness. 

Prepare apples:
  • slice 2 small apples for the top (using a mandoline nearly cost me the top of my finger...slicing a little thicker with a paring knife works just fine). My apples were of some  unknown variety from my tree. But if I didn't have these, I would use any baking apple. 
quick oats in coffee grinder and then after when they have been ground into oat flour
Cookie base
1 cup oat flour (for 1 cup of flour, use 1 cup + 2 Tbsp quick oats and grind in a coffee grinder)
1/2 cup almonds (plain, raw)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (plain, raw)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Place ingredients into a food processor. Blend until it gets medium-fine. Add 1/3 cup maple syrup and blend. It will clump together like dough. You might have to scrape the sides down once or twice. When well mixed, remove and press firmly into a buttered baking dish (8' X 8') using damp fingers. 
dry baking ingredients in the food processor and then after processing the base has been pressed into the square baking pan

applesauce being spread on the pre-cooked cookie base with a spatula, then apple slices arranged neatly on top of the applesauce
Bake for 5 mins at 350. Remove from oven. Let cool 5 mins.

While it cools, melt 1tsp coconut oil and 1 tsp honey in a saucepan on low heat. Spread 3/4 cup of applesauce on the cookie base. Arrange the sliced apples on top. Spoon the melted mixture of coconut oil and honey over the apples.
Bake for 20 mins, then turn to broil until the apples edges start to brown. My broiler took 5 minutes. Remove from oven and revel in the loveliness of your tart. 

Applesauce tart in the square baking tray after being cooked. Apples are browned on edges.

Decadent and satisfying. And not bad for you as far as desserts go. Indulge!
applesauce tart on small pottery plate with a fork in the foreground with a piece of the tart on it

My homemade applesauce is a little thicker than commercial but I think it would work just fine. If you try it out, let me know how it goes.

5 healthy convenience foods to love

More rain. We dragged ourselves out for a run on Sunday. Another diversion was the local craft sale. I picked up a pair of soft, handmade mittens from a lovely senior who made them & a huge pail of honey. I also confess, I made these bars AGAIN. That's 3 times in less than a month. So much for an occasional treat. The rain makes me do it.
handmade knit mitten with tag attached with a little thread and 3kg pail of local honey

Before I get to the list, I just discovered 'comments' were turned off the blog. They are on now (at least I hope they are). Please try it out, I really look forward to hearing from you!

This list includes foods that are nutritious and quick. I also love things like avocados and chives and they are pretty quick but they would fit on another kind of list. 

These are 5 products I think are great. I use them a lot and the companies seem like good ones to buy stuff from. All of them are healthy choices (in my opinion). All but one are Canadian companies, which is kinda nice too.

1. Hemp hearts

hemp hearts package on a background of wood

I first heard about HH's on Dragon's den. They are a Manitoba company. Mild and slightly nutty, you can put them on almost anything. Mainly I put them on oatmeal, salads and in smoothies. They have a website (I just discovered today) with interesting recipes like mint chocolate brownie protein bars. Yum!

2. Nature's path crispy rice

Nature's path crispy rice cereal
When you are craving cold cereal and don't want to eat something with 45 ingredients. We have it for breakfast (with hemp hearts sprinkled on top). Great for making granola bars (and those bars I mentioned up top). They are a Canadian company, family owned and started in B.C. in 1985. Even though they have got fairly big, they still seem to care about nature and their products. In browsing their website, I found these delicious looking chocolate clusters- made with 'love crunch'. Cute name. 

3. Krisda

package of Krisda on a background of wood

They were on Dragon's Den too. Krisda is refined stevia. Delicious in earl grey tea, I love making my own 'pop' with it using sparkling mineral water and lime juice. They have their own pop (I reviewed the root beer when I was in Ontario). If you are used to white sugar, it may take time to get used to the flavour (my dad is not convinced). 

 4. Amy's burrito

package of unopened Amy's burrito on a background of wood

I pick these up by the box-full at Costco. They work out to $1.50 each. Craig eats them as a snack, it makes lunch for me. Basic ingredients (compared to other frozen burritos).

5. Almond milk

Container of Almond fresh milk on a wood table

Earth's Own is a Burnaby B.C. company that used to be called Soyaworld (catchy?). I started using this milk about 6 months ago and I'm a little obsessed. Before buying earth's own, I made my own but the almond meal started multiplying by the freezer-ful (what to do with it?).

That's my top 5 list right now. What foods would make it to your top 5?

Finally, if you aren't feeling pumped by stevia and hemp hearts, try this tune I discovered by Rodrigo y Gabriela (amazing the way their hands move).

Applesauce spice muffins

4 applesauce muffins on a blue pottery plate. Muffins have a thin slice of apple baked into the top.

3 photos of snowfall on vegetation and backyardMy apple crop is getting smaller but as you can see, I still have lots left. I was hoping to eat them through the winter but they seem to be going spongy. Maybe I stored them improperly or picked them at the wrong time? 

It finally snowed last week. I thought winter had arrived but it all melted 2 days later. Looked nice while it lasted.
2 boxes and 1 plastic laundry hamper full with this season's golden apples
Yesterday, I switched into high gear with applesauce making. The biggest pot on the stove and 2 batches in the slow-cooker. Just apples with cinnamon. I have more to do but it made a dent in the reserves.  
pot on stove with sliced apples and crockery pot filled with sliced applesSadly, yesterday was the death of my slow cooker. The pot cracked in a moment of stupidity. Can't add cold water to hot clay!!!! 

With so much applesauce, I needed a plan. Muffins would be the most practical (I so love practical) so, I experimented with muffin making (and ate about 8 muffins in the course of the day). 

The first one, a rye/rice flour combo. O.K. but a little flat and dense. Too much applesauce (I'm trying to use it up, don't you know). Other batches: whole wheat bread flour & maple syrup, pretty, but chewy as heck. 
2 kinds of muffins. Ones with honey-glazed pecan on top and a denser muffin spread with peanut butter
Best batch of the day, finally!! A mix of whole wheat bread flour and rye flour (top picture).

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes at 350 degrees
Yield:  12 muffins


3/4 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Natural factors, Whey factors)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk (of your choice)
1/4 cup finely chopped apple

  1. Mix applesauce, sugar, egg, vanilla and milk in a large bowl. 
  2. In a smaller bowl mix flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and the rest of the dry stuff. 
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and then add the finely chopped apple.
  4. Spoon into a greased or lined 12-muffin tin. Add a thinly sliced piece of apple on top.
  5. Bake at 350 for 15mins.
  6. Cool on a wire rack.

bowl with liquid ingredients with a spatula in it and another bowl with finely chopped apples on top with a metal spoon in it.

I'm over apples! For a few days anyway. I do have a few other ideas in mind for the future...
  • quinoa apple cake
  • some kind of soup with apples in it
  • applesauce granola bars
  • apple spread with honey and blueberries
  • applesauce tart

Get inspired with owls

owl themed items including spoon rest, mug, bowls, pillow, owl cupcake set, metal owl figure Owls!

Owls seem to be everywhere right now. I don't shop a lot, so maybe they've been around all along? But I'm definitely liking them! The height of owl-ness for me was recently at Pier 1 Imports. They literally had owl everything. I especially enjoyed the owl spoon rest. The giant owl mug was a little tacky but I could definitely find a spot for the owl pillow. 

Getting inspired by owls, I decided to make a phone cover I saw at Westelm. I don't like to sew (mostly because I don't have patience for it) but this guy was easy. I glued most of it. The material is felt. The closure is hemp twine and two buttons, one at the front and one at the back. Mine is the one with the orange button. The inspiration one (from Westelm) is the top right. I think mine's cuter!  
homemade felt owl phone holder
Need more owl in your day?

a linen towel from Simons.

linen dishcloth with owl theme hanging on a cupboard handle

 248 items when I searched 'owl trivets' on Etsy. Who would think?

various metal owl trivets, a blue one, black ones and a green ceramic one
Etsy: resin drawer knob, such nice detail
owl themed resin drawer pull
 reusable lunch baggie
owl themed re-useable sandwich bag laying on a table with the zipper open
tiny owl stamp
owl stamp on its side with examples of what the stamp looks like on paper in front of it

apron from modcloth

an owl themed apron hanging on a manequin

Other future craft projects I'm considering:

  • Kitchen towels made from old 100% cotton sheets or pillowcases. Make a motif with a stamp
  • Owl magnets 
  • Owl gift cards 
  • Owl labels for gift-giving packaging or for homemade wine labels

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