Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Works in Progress...

My sock (yes, still the first one :-)

My freezer project happily underway; food for when The Bump arrives (so far we've got curry, spaghetti sauce, cookies, pancakes, soups, and some slices of the amazing toasted walnut and sundried tomato polenta that Mr. S. made on Friday...)

The Bump :-) A little over 2 months to go and all of the sudden, there seems so little time...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Shop Update!

In defiance of the snow and cold, I'm thinking warmer weather and hoping you are too! I've listed a couple of cutlery rolls in my shop, and I'm looking forward to sending them out with dreams of picnics with lots of yummy food and sunny days....

And for fighting off the cold now or for the chilly spring days coming up, Safiya gamely modeled some of the new legwarmers/leggings for me, trying to sneak her favourites away in between :-)


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

More Root Vegetables, Please!

It's that time of year. I long for the farmers' markets. Our box of (mostly local) produce comes and I haul turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, storage apples, carrots and so on into the kitchen....and then stare at the abundance for a while.

One of my standbys is The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein, which, beyond having fantastic easily veganised recipes suitable for a northern climate, is a wonderful read full of food history and stories. It's a cuddle up in the bleak weather treat.

However, looking for new inspiration and building on my experience with the best salad ever a couple of years ago (a strawberry and onion chutney at an Indian restaurant), lately I've found that one of the most delightful ways to face root vegetables is east. A lot of south asian cuisine actually lends itself really well to root vegetables other than the usual potatoes and carrots. Try turnips simmered in a tomato based sauce with Indian spices and you'll see what I mean. This might be obvious for a lot of people, but it was such a welcome discovery for me that I'm kicking myself for not being more adventurous with my rutabagas sooner :-)

So, I introduce to you my very own grated celery root and apple salad with black mustard seed dressing:


1 smallish celery root, peeled and grated
4-5 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
juice from half a lemon
1 or 2 green onions, chopped
about 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

Toast a couple of teaspoons of black mustard seeds in a couple of tablespoons of oil (I used canola) until they start popping (remove before they explode all over your kitchen!) and pour the warm dressing on top on the salad. Mix well and salt to taste.


Monday, 15 February 2010

The 1900 House and Making Toothpaste

Safiya is enamoured of The 1900 House. I took the DVD's out of the library one day, intending them for myself, and one day when I wasn't feeling particularly well, I popped it in. In general Safiya is adverse to unfamiliar media, but when they started talking about not having electricity and having to use the outhouse outside, she peaked around the corner and said "watcha' watchin'?"

And so starts Homeschooling History 101 :-)

One of the things which I do on-and-off but which Safiya now helps with with increased fervor after watching the show (a gazillion times) is making toothpaste. She likes to raise her eyebrows at the idea of having to brush your teeth with just baking soda - yucccch!, and thinks our recipe is greatly improved over what they did in the 1900's (after having tried the plain baking soda :-) She actually prefers it to the fruity kids' toothpaste that she had.

Here's the recipe, adapted from my well-worn copy of Jackie French's Natural Solutions:

3 parts baking soda
2 parts calcium carbonate (which I easily ordered from the pharmacy)
1 part vegetable glycerin
drops of peppermint essential oil, as desired

Mix well. Store in whatever way is easiest for you.

The first time she made it with me we decided to use an old, well-cleaned toothpaste tube and then duct-tape the end, which worked o.k. at the beginning, but then it leaked a bit at the end.

This time we wracked our brains and found a better solution. We increased the amount of glycerin to make it a bit more runny and reused old honey bears! Perfect!

Oh, and we're well on our way with the reality-tv-show based history curriculum. We've gone through Frontier House (she's trying to convince Mr. S. to keep chickens for eggs in our backyard) and are starting Manor House (originally The Edwardian Country House). This is proper education, right? ;-)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Preparing for The Bump: Food

Our freezer, which was on a power bar (brilliant, I know), was turned off accidentally (I blame the cats, as they can't defend themselves). There was very little to rescue by the time we noticed what was going on. So, start all over again, right?

Thinking ahead to the very likely scenario of our family resorting to all-takeout-all-the-time when The Bump is born, and realising that in reality I prefer the taste (and cost!) of our homemade food, I've implemented a little planning that's actually been pretty easy so far.

Anything that I can make double batches of that freezes easily I'm doing now. This also has the added benefit of me not having to negotiate take-out ingredients, especially when I'll be tired with new baby and my defenses are down and I'm inclined to say "whatever, I don't care, I just need to eat something, damn the consequences!" :-)

Now, Mr. S. is a great cook, and I'll be able to rely on him to cook for us too, but some of this has to do with budget as well. I'm really really looking forward to the four months that he's taking in paternity leave, and wouldn't change that for the world. It also means that there will be a cut in funds to be creatively confronted for those four months, which is fine by me.

And it allows me to start playing in a small way with something I just learned from one of the new people who helps cook in our community kitchen for the free lunches on Tuesdays. We always prepare really good food with enough options so that no matter who walks in, there will be something to eat for them, carnivores and vegan celiac freaks like me alike. We do have budget and availability to consider, and we're trying to do what little we can to ease people into to the idea of eating seasonally and frugally. But then this new person (who is a phenomenal cook) comes in and starts asking if we have things like cream and cheese and sour cream! The decadence! The cost! :-) However, he made a really good point: Everyone deserves the best food we can possibly make, presented in a manner pleasing to the eye, because that's a way of feeding people too. So we've been making a little extra effort with presentation, which makes a bigger impact, even on me as a cook, than I imagined. We all know this, right? Any menu at a good restaurant teases you with the description and presentation of the food, not just what shows up on your plate. "Smoked chipotle chili" sounds better than just "chili". And that extra effort shows respect and consideration for the person eating the food.

So, after all that, what's the point? I guess when I look into my freezer, instead of trying to navigate unlabeled food of dubious origin dumped unceremoniously in a rush before it goes bad in the fridge, I think it'll be nicer to see things like this:

Even the cooks need to nourish their souls :-)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

...And Then There Are Socks

Isn't that a lovely scene? Indulgent and practical at the same time - the perfect combination. I really loved this class. Nevermind that coffee and yarn and needles was included; two hours on each of two Saturdays in the warm sunshine at the front of The Purple Purl and ta-da! my fear of knitting socks is a thing of the past, courtesy of Kate Atherly, our instructor. (She's the Technical Editor for Socks at Knitty - I love that there is such a person). I wish I had taken a picture of the inspiring, decadent pile of hand-knit socks that she brought with her - they were gorgeous! And, she showed us how to calculate the pattern for custom-fit socks - be still my beating heart (and ginormous feet!)

She was patient ("oh, that's o.k. - the swatch was really supposed to be ribbing instead of garter stitch, but why don't you go ahead and work a few rows while I talk about this next thing"), straightforward and helpful ("you're really twisted up here, I'll just rip out this little bit and get you started again"), and observant ("hmmmm, I'm not sure about your purl stitch - if you try it this way, you find your knit stitch easier to do). This is why, for me and knitting, a class is the way to go :-)

I like the light in this next photo, because really, it's a sacred moment, me actually having knit that much of a sock (and that photo is a day or two old, so there's almost double that now :-)....

I also learned that I cannot knit socks and talk at the same time, although I'm working on it. Also, fitting knitting into the day is a skill in and of itself. But I love the portability of knitting, and that even if I only put a few rows on each day, socks work up pretty quickly. And did I mention that I love wool socks? I'm committed, now...thanks Kate!

There Are Socks...

These are my favourite socks. Wollen, warm, cozy, cushiony - they are the perfect cold weather socks. Consigned to the back of the sock drawer (if Mr. S. detects holey socks he chucks them!), they lay there forlorn until, inspired by Becky's darning post, I decided to rescue them.

I probably could have winged it, but I approach any new skill with hesitation (what if I mess up darning socks? what horrible unremovable mistakes could result?), so I used a Very Instructive Video.

This is my fuzzy in-process-shot (having no darning mushroom around, I instead availed myself of a lightbulb):

And this is my not-much-better results shot (black-on-black yarn doesn't show well, sorry, but look - no hole!):

And now they are cozy-comfy on my feet again! Oh thrift, how I love thee.....