Harvesting veggies (small and all...)

colourful Fall leaf on a wood grain background
Hmmmmm....enjoying a slice of apple bread and a cup of earl grey looking out the window. My favourite season without a doubt. I love summer too but I don't like being too hot. And my fingers are perpetually cold in the winter. Fall is perfect: crisply leaves, cozy sweaters and firing up the wood stove.

Plus, it's harvesting time for some of my veggiesrecently harvested onions drying on a wooden table
These onions grew from sets (my first attempt and I'm not convinced it isn't better to buy them). Most turned out about the size of golf balls. Alas...

harvested onions with greens stalks on

handful of beets being held up over the area where they grewThat's my beet harvest. I'm pretty excited about them! I love beets and they were easy to grow. 

green tomatoes still on the vine

Unfortunately, my tomatoes are all still green.

How was your harvest this year?

Looking for a decadent dessert without sugar?

hand holding a glass cup of avocado chocolate pudding with fresh mint leaves on top
With a terrible sweet tooth, it's been a lifelong struggle for me to eat less sugar. Living on my own, I was able to keep it out of the house. But now living with Craig, he likes his sugar and I find myself adding it to baking and eating it more and more. Most of the time I use maple syrup or honey, so I feel a little better about it...but it's still sugar.

Often (very often if I'm being honest here) I want to have a creamy, sweet, chocolatey treat with none of the negative affects of refined sugar. This chocolate pudding satisfies & is nutritious and filling. Its sweetness is from banana and stevia.  I've made it hundreds of times and tweaked the ingredients here and there. This is one of the best combinations. 

Chocolate pudding (for one)

1 ripe avocado
1/2 ripe banana
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp stevia powder (like Krisda)
1/4 cup almond milk (or more depending on desired consistency-I like it thick)
1 scoop french vanilla protein powder (I use Natural Factors, it is sweetened with stevia)
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp natural vanilla (optional)

ingredients laid out on a bamboo cutting board with measuring spoons, cocoa powder and almond milk beside it

Put all in a container. I use the tall one that came with my immersion blender. Blend on med-high for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until everything is blended and creamy.

ingredients in a plastic container on a bamboo cutting board with measuring spoons and an immersion blender beside it

Add some fresh mint leaves if you like such things. And that's all there is to it!

avocado pudding in a wine glass with a bamboo cutting board beside it with fresh mint on it

Do you struggle with a sweet tooth? What kinds of things have worked for you?

300 mini apples

this post has been updated

First off, I hate waste. This led me to picking (at least) 300 tiny apples from our overgrown, in-desperate-need-of pruning apple tree. But they tasted ok & are pretty cute. 

plastic laundry basket partially full of tiny yellow and red apples sitting on a bamboo mat

hand holding a tiny apple with many tiny apples slightly blurred in the background

Applesauce is the plan. Cook them whole, run them through a sieve to strain out pits and stems and voila!?  I can't think of anything else to do with them and I really don't want to core miniature apples.

October 8th update:
Failure! I made applesauce. Blended them whole in the vitamix instead of trying to run them through a sieve later. I boiled this resulting slop of seeds and stems and apples then simmered in a large pot for several hours to reduce the water. The result was a bitter, aftertaste. Even with added cinnamon and honey, it was yuck.

Split pea soup

Last time at Costco, I picked beef bacon for the first time (love those incentive rebates). It's quite good, Canadian and gluten-free. We cooked up one pack for Sunday brunch (of course it came in 2 packs!), and I thought the other I would save for soup. It isn't nearly as fatty as regular bacon so I didn't have to drain the fat. With other bacon you absolutely have to, in my opinion. Anyway, the soup turned out incredibly flavourful and hearty!pea soup, bacon, autumn, hearty, savory
Slice the beef bacon* into small pieces with kitchen scissors. In a large stock pot cook the bacon on medium heat.

*I think you could use any other quality bacon. But this package is smaller than regular bacon packages. If using regular bacon, you would only need half the pack or less. Cook it first, drain the fat.

After 5 minutes, add:

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
11/2 cups dry organic split peas (rinsed and drained until water runs clear)
pea soup, bacon, split peas, onions

Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Stir occasionally.

2 X 946ml chicken stock (plus a little more as it thickens if needed)
1 piece of hidaka kelp
1 bay leaf
3 medium potatoes cut in small cubes
2 pieces celery diced

Bring to a boil then let simmer for 2 hours until the peas are softened. Use an immersion blender on low setting to briefly blend the soup. I didn't keep the blender on for too long as I like some whole pieces in this soup.

 Serve with organic corn chips. 
Soup, Split Pea, Bacon, tortilla chips

Applesauce spice loaf

Using up applesauce can get boring, quick (especially if you have bucket-loads of it). I was trying to think of ways to use applesauce and be tasty and healthy and was inspired by an issue of O magazine where alternative whole grain flours are used, like Rye. Rye flour has lots going for it including being low in gluten and high in protein. 
sliced breakfast bread on a heavy pottery plate, bread spread with almond and plum butters

This loaf has no added sugar. It's perfect with almond and plum butter (or apple butter). Craig is skeptical at my attempts at no sugar baking but gave this one a thumbs up.

Applesauce spice loaf with rye & brown rice flour

Prep time: 15 mins
Bake time: 45 mins

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients & Instructions

combine in a medium bowl:
  • 2 scoops unflavoured protein powder (I use Natural Factors Whey Factors)
  • 1 cup organic rye flour
  • 1/2 cup organic brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp stevia powder (I use Krisda)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

combine in large bowl:
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk of your choice
Add dry ingredients to the wet. Mix. Pour in a buttered loaf pan. 

Bake at 350 for 45 mins. Tent with aluminum foil after 30 mins. Make a compact yet fluffy loaf. 

freshly baked loaf of apple breakfast bread cooling on a wire rack

Spanish Turkey Meatball Stew -A Food Network Mag review

My first issue of Food Network magazine arrived today. I'm excited and I hope it can shake my food up a little (the pressure is on magazine). You know how you just buy the same things and make the same things over and over??

The first inspiring dish that caught my eye: Spanish Turkey Meatball Stew. I think it's the 'Spanish' that does it. Turkey meatball stew? Not so much...

page 96 of Food Network magazine with picture of the stew

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (couldn't find, so, I used regular)
  • 1 cup sliced small carrots (don't like too many carrots so used 1/2 cup yams, 1/2 cup carrots)
  • 2 14-ounce cans low-sodium diced fire-roasted tomatoes (couldn't find, used regular ones)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley (about 1 bunch), chopped, plus more for topping
  • Freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer half of the mixture to a large bowl.
Add the paprika and carrots to the remaining onion mixture in the skillet and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and chickpeas; bring to a rapid simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the ground turkey, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the bowl with the reserved onion mixture and mix with your hands. Form the turkey mixture into 20 meatballs. Place the meatballs in the skillet with the sauce and simmer, turning once, until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Serve with more pepper and parsley.
raw ground turkey, chopped parsley in a glass bowl
yams and carrots on a bamboo cutting board
red dutch oven on stove with finished stew inside
  • easy to prepare
  • more like a soup than a stew
  • Craig said it would be nice if I made it again
  • I liked that it worked fine with substitutions
  • good by itself or served on rice
Do you get Food Network Magazine? What's the best recipe you've tried?

Rednecking with gusto

Dirt, engines, the beach and apples....the weekend was forecasting amazing weather. Thinking it would be the last opportunity to do summer 'things', we decided to get out there and 'do' them. Plus, Craig had a dirt-bike race he dreaded was looking forward to.

Mara beach on the way to Vernon is one our favourite spots. We love, love this beach. Not everyone felt 18 degrees beach-day, as you can see. Us: embracing the beach.

An apple tree back a little from the beach. Craig climbed it and threw down the fruit. I caught them as gently as I could but these were super sensitive apples! I could see all my fingertips turned to bruises where I caught them. Yay, applesauce!

Leaving the beach we travelled further west to the 'campground' at the race. When we arrived, nope, wait, it was another 11km of painful, slow, uphill, dirt full of potholes. I was surprised to see large RV's that made it intact though I don't know how. The field was lumpy with little level spots & power lines. I could hear the buzzing and clicking of electricity. Probably not a place to spend too much time if you value your brain.
Just before the race everyone heads to the pre-race speech to find out how many laps you need to endure,

Here's Craig at the enduro course. Tires, logs and rocks that everyone is expected to get through. Watching the first round was fun! But by watching, you must be ok with having your person coated in dust and your ears subjected to noise. Not too much.....99% of the race takes place in the woods where you can't see anything.

The starting line for Craig's class! After they take off, there is nil to see until the enduro course at the end. Poor Craig. A back injury early in the race on meant he pulled out early (he thinks climbing the apple tree did it).

Here are the bruised, unknown variety we picked.

Overall, a great weekend with a little bit of everything. Going to these races is a fascinating study in a sub-culture I'm not exposed to.  It's noisy, dirty and everyone is walking around in coordinated dirt bike gear. People bring their kids. Little ones, barely 5 riding around on tiny gas powered bikes. It's a different world but fun to be a part of it for a day or two.

What did you get up to this weekend?

Peanut butter chia seed granola bars

plastic wrapped granola bar on a wooden surface

Today on the blog, an easy granola bar that's just as easy to customize. It sticks together really well and isn't too sweet. 

ingredients on the counter with a large empty stainless steel bowl

bowl containing oats, chia seeds, sunflower seedsPrep time: 20 mins
Chill time: 1 hour
Yield: 14 bars

  • 2 1/2 cups crisped rice cereal (I use Nature's Path)
  • 1 1/4 cups large flake oats 
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (loose)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder 

  1. Line a 8 X 12 baking dish with wax paper. Tape down the sides to keep it from moving around. 
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside
  3. In a medium stock pot on low heat combine honey, brown sugar and peanut butter.
  4. Add dry to wet and mix well. It will be a little hard to stir.
  5. Once mixed, press firmly into the prepared dish. Use slightly dampened fingers. For uniform flatness, I use a large metal lid to press it down.
  6. Put in the fridge to chill for an hour. 
  7. When firm, cut into bars. Wrap with plastic wrap.

glass baking tray lined with wax paper and taped in place on sides

stockpot with wet and dry ingredients being mixed with a spatula

glass dish with pressed down granola bar batter

cut granola bars in a glass baking dish
Makes about 12 bars. Keeps 2 weeks in the fridge. 

Other options to try out:
  • sesame seeds
  • pepita seeds
  • chopped almonds
  • hemp hearts
  • almond butter

customize your lotions

Since I moved to 'moister' pastures (from Alberta to BC), my skin has been thankful. But I still use cream/lotion occasionally. I'm particular about what I'll use-- preferring no scent (or a 100% natural scent) & no greasiness. Not too much to ask in the world of a million cream choices? Actually it is, so I find it easier to whip up a batch using a base and adding my own oils.

I researched the ingredients in this one by New Directions and have used it for several years. My mom likes it too (jut got her the 1kg tub!). It's thick but not greasy. 
This cream has a nice scent. Natural but not floral or overly sweet. It contains grapefruit, bergamot, sweet basil and lemon. 3-4 drops of each works well for this size container. 2 drops of the basil. Experiment! It's fun.

Mix the oils in the bottom of the container first. Then add the cream a little at a time completely mixing it with the oil until you have your container filled.
Flatten the top of the cream with the back of a spoon (so you can get the lid on). If you wish, add a decorative lid and tag. Not a bad personalized gift either. The blend I use on my face is lavender & rosemary.
A few more things to do with your essential oils: 
  1. Customized shower gel (this one is gentle on skin and way cheaper). I make labels and give as gifts-the one below is our utilitarian well-used bottle. 
  2. Diffusers 
  3. Personalized 'perfume'. Mix a neutral oil (like sweet almond) and your scented oils in a roller bottle (that's one behind the peppermint oil). 
  4. Room spray 

Have you used essential oils? What do you do with yours?

Card sets to make for gifts

Getting and giving handmade cards is something I've done since I was little. Not everyone has the time (and there are some beautiful cards out there), but with nice paper and pre-made card & envelope sets, it won't take as long as you might think. This morning, I pulled out the supplies and spread everything on the kitchen table (a.k.a. the craft nook until I win the lottery). 

  • small paper cutter
  • card stock (or pre-made blank cards & envelopes)
  • scissors
  • coloured and textured paper
  • tape runner (a glue stick works but once you go tape runner, it's hard to go back)
  • glitter gel pen
  • ribbon
  • hole punch

I picked up this pad on sale at Michael's. 

Mix patterns and colours; you can't really go wrong. 

Here's what I ended up with.....

I use a signature on the back. Still haven't found the 'one'. A custom stamp would be nice (one day). 

Include 3 envelopes, tie with a bit of ribbon, add a tag and you've got a gift!

How about you? Have you ever tried to make your own cards? How'd they turn out?

the Wood pile

The woodpile is growing, thank goodness! I'm getting chilly indoors and it's only September. This will be my first winter without a forced air furnace. I'm going to see how long we can hold off before needing a fire during the day. We need more but we chopped wood on the weekend. We cut down 5 (dead standing) fir trees. Most of them were dragged out of the woods with a long rope attached to the truck. The piles stacked here were cut with a log splitter (they are wonderful). It's super satisfying making these piles. Appeals to my love of orderliness. And wow, the smell! That's Craig's dirt biking gear in the corner. Getting a little tight on space in there.
Do you burn wood in the winter?

Pretty-n-pink applesauce

One of my favourite desserts. I bought a 15lb bag of Sunrise apples in Salmon Arm last weekend. They're great for making sauce- they cook fast (turning almost immediately to mush). And if you leave the skins on, they make a pretty pink sauce.
cut apples with skins on in a large cast iron skillet on the stove
I cored 6 apples, peel left on. Cook at medium-low heat for 20 mins in a heavy skillet. Turn heat off. Leave to cool for 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the peel into the sauce.
pink applesauce in a glass container with a spoon
This is a great way to use up extra apples since it freezes so well. Use applesauce to make baked goods like apple-spice bread, cinnamon-y applesauce muffins or this popular almond & oat crust tart.

Any other ideas?

Coconut-banana cookies

baked cookies on parchment paper on a cookie sheet
I was craving a cookie today but was trying to eat healthy. This one fits both since it is mostly good-for-you. Even craig loves them and he hates raisins 'in things'. Perfect with a cup of earl grey. I am physically not able to eat just one. 

Yield: 20 cookies

Mix in a large bowl:

3 large ripe bananas mashed (the riper the better) 
2 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

Set aside.

In another bowl, mix:

2 1/2 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup almond meal (grind almonds in a coffee grinder)
1 tsp teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup organic raisins (or dark choc chips)

Add to the banana mixture. The dough will be the texture of porridge.

whole almonds in a coffee grinderblended almonds in a coffee grinder

Preheat oven to 350°F

Drop by heaping teaspoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet. 
Bake for 14 minutes. Let cool to set. Enjoy (try to eat just one).

baked cookies on parchment paper on a cooking sheet cooling

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