Thursday, September 27, 2012

KAT'S COOKING KORNER: From the Orchard

The weather has been kind of funky around these parts this year. Way back in March, we had temperatures that soared into double digits, when we should have still had a blanket of snow covering everything. Beautiful and all, with barbeques getting dusted off all over town, but there was just one problem. It wasn't just the people who were fooled into thinking it was spring; the plants were as well. What's the problem with that, you  might wonder?

LOTS!

Warm weather in March is fine to shed the scarves, but when the trees and bulbs think about getting into the swing of things too, bad omens hang in the air. I don't care if temperatures fluctuate on my behalf, as I can get used to slopping around in my winter boots again, but when the trees start to bloom, they can't change their minds and go back into hibernation mode again so easily. Winter is bound to be back again and this past Spring it returned indeed. The result was instant death to the flowers that had valiantly attempted to awaken to the falsely-promised Spring. Magnolias molted their blooms in an instant. Lilacs luckily paused with buds on the verge of unfurling. The many fruit trees in the area were not so blessed though. Their pretty, scented flowers curled into brown petals that would never bear anything.

That equated to an absolute dearth of fresh fruit this summer.

Well, not exactly a complete dearth, as we still enjoyed strawberry picking in June and my raspberries are scrumptious even today. As far as the poor apples went though, I heard tell that 85% of the crops were destroyed when the impending frosts returned, killing fruit blossoms rampantly.

Last Year's Apple Picking
"No!", I cried, when I read the dismal facts. We are a family of foragers and I love traipsing around the countryside collecting fresh fruits and veg in season. We have gone apple picking since the girls were babes! Apple Land was apple-less. What were we to do?

Never fear my friends. I am an industrious individual and I've got computer access to the world. If there was an apple to be picked in Southwestern Ontario, I was determined to find it.

Click, click, click...

And don't you know, I found a place! A little closer to the lake is apparently a little more protected by the warmer winds. The lucky folks at Great Lakes Farms weren't completely immune to the early blooms and subsequent frosts, but they had apples! While it's early in the season, knowing that apples will be at a premium this year encouraged me to act fast. When I read that they had Galas and Macintoshes, we were out the door like a shot!

These trees were plenty full!
The apples looked even better close up!
Concensus was - Delicious!
We managed to collect a slight 25lbs worth of fresh, tasty apples for our consumption. The kids have had apples in their lunch every day since then. Today they got applesauce too! My favourite recipe for apples though is smooth and delicious Apple Butter. Pies are perfect for holidays, but butter is better for all the nut-picky schools around Ontario. Apple Butter makes a sandwich a scrumptious snack and this recipe comes from a favourite cookbook of mine called jam it, pickle it, cure it, by Karen Solomon.

APPLE BUTTER

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs sweet apples (try using 3 different varieties for a more complex taste)
  • 2Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Directions:

  • Peel, core and quarter apples. Place them on 2 lightly greased cookie sheets in a 350F oven for 2 hours. After 1 hour, rotate the trays 180 degrees and switch the trays from bottom to top and vice versa.
  • Remove apples from oven and puree in a food processor or blender until very smooth (approx 4 min). Add remaining ingredients and process for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Store in a covered glass container in the fridge for up to 1 month (if it lasts that long!)

*Oh, and by the way. If you didn't figure out what my mystery gadget was the other day, it was an antique apple/potato peeler. Not near as handy as I would have liked, but none the less, it helped. Now get buttering and Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Mystery

Anybody know what this is?


What about if I show it to you from this angle?

This antique gadget just might show up again in a post in the near future!

Any guesses what it might be about?

Monday, September 24, 2012

searching

~
heightened hiatus
of the almighty poetics
dried up written words
~


*Hope you find more words PK

Saturday, September 22, 2012

silent words

tangled in a quagmire of silent words
that refuse to be born

isn't that a fate that so many of us,
writers aplenty,
struggle, scrape and
...

now I am lost there as well
that last word refusing,
 - Refusing
to be born

and again
a  blank  page
that mocks creativity
leaves  me  staring  at

the
blinking
c u r s o r...

once more ~


*Hope your creative muse finds you this weekend

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

aglow


I've met an angel of understanding 
that lights my path with love,
peace and 
pieces of me
gently given back
all aglow
~




Monday, September 17, 2012

Integrity

How do you spell integrity?

"I" belongs in there somewhere, of that I am sure
"N" reminds me that nothing but me really matters
"T" ah time, and we have to respect it
"E" Egos, they are there for a reason
"G" So are goals, which make us who we are
"R" but reason needs to be recognized
"I" if you are to be true to yourself, then you will know it
"T" Trust in your decisions and it will be alright
"Y" You are the only one that can stand up for you - So DO It!



Debating how much of it I have tonight...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern; © 2011 Anchor Canada


I haven't written a book review in a while, but The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern is the first book that we will be discussing for my book club's fourth season. The fact that we have been going strong for four years is quite exciting, as none of us really knew what we were getting into when we started this thing. We figured you read a book, drank some wine and chatted intellectually about the fine prose that we were exposed to over canapes. It is something like that, but we talk just as much about our children, jobs and life changes that occur for all of us, as we do about any of the books that we read. That being said, we always get around to the book of the month as well. And I have to say that this book should be a pleasure to discuss.

The Night Circus is Morgenstern's first novel. As I know a little bit about the writing and publishing industries (not enough to be considered expert or even claim a first novel of my own YET!), first novels are often the best that a writer might ever produce. Morgenstern should be proud, as this is a novel that anyone would be thrilled to claim penmanship to. From the first pages, she creates beautiful images that enchant the reader and encourage the pages to turn ever faster. The uncertainty of the world you are entering is replaced by a longing to be able to enter the Night Circus oneself to behold its magnificent exhibits. If only you could wander the Labyrinth, explore the Cloud Maze or hear your fate at the fortune teller. As you are drawn further into the story, Morgenstern convinces you to believe in the unbelievable and trust in your instincts even when the cold hard world tells you not to.

The circus is only one side of this beautiful fairy-tale like novel though. On the surface, this novel is about the fantastical circus acts that beg you to suspend your belief in everything that you see and know. As the story unwinds though, a romance unfolds in the pleats of the tents. Celia is a magician that performs the unbelievable just well enough to keep the audience guessing if what they saw was truly real or indeed magic. Marco is an assistant to the manager of the circus, but seems to be the driving force behind making the circus the spectacle that it is. Both of them hold special gifts and powers that affects everything around them, from people to objects, to a unique relationship that sparks between them. What most people don't realize though is that these two strangers were sworn into a competition years before they ever met; a competition with no solid rules of engagement or understanding of how it will ever end. Not even the players understand the game, but their instructors constantly goad them into ever more spectacular feats to proclaim a victor.

While I won't give away the outcome of this delightful tale, I will share that the imagery Morgenstern paints is more than enough reason for you to pick up this book. She draws you in with her beautiful prose and lets you know that you will be safe for the duration of your reading - probably. If you don't believe me, you could always ask her yourself. She has a website with an attached blog, where she writes 10-sentence flash fiction, entitled flax-golden tales, every Friday. Plus, she will be on Twitter this evening at 9:30pm EST to discuss The Night Circus with the Yummy Mummy Book Club, which I also have to thank as I even won the book in a contest that YMBC hosted. Cool! Just for that alone, I might have to pop in for a tweet!

What about you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

KAT'S COOKING KORNER: From the Garden

Along with the end of summer, back-to-school beginnings and a return to routine, I have fit in one of my favourite pastimes at present. With Farmer's Markets choke-a-block full of fresh produce and my gardens exploding with tasty new tidbits to try, I have pulled out my canner again. I already have dill pickles, sweet pickles, pickled onions, pickled beets and salsa lining my larder, as well as plenty of jars of jam set aside for school lunches. The new produce of choice this year comes from my Community Garden plot and I have to say, before starting to experiment with it, I was at a loss as to what to do with it. Are you familiar with this member of the nightshade family?


Give up? 

These green fruits, which are surrounded by a papery covering, are related to the Cape Gooseberry, but harken from much further afield. While I grew these in Southwestern Ontario, they originated in Mexico. These firm specimens are identified as Physalis Ixocarpa or Tomatillos

So with the handful of plants that we decided to plant on a whim, producing vast quantities of these small green lanterns, what was I to do with them? Check the internet for recipes, of course! While I suppose I could have asked you, my lovely readers, if you had a recipe or two, I strode into a Google search that turned up millions of recipes. Over 5 million to be exact, but I suspect the vast majority of them were for salsa. Great, but after making a batch of Salsa Verde, what else was I going to do with this sink full of a foreign vegetable? Keep searching, I guess!

Those green bits are tomatillos!
You know what I found? You can make lots of things with tomatillos. I made a few batches of Salsa Verde, the second of which has a nice bite to it compliments of the jalapeƱos and serrano peppers. I made a couple of batches of tomatillo jam, that is delicate and delicious. Just like a marmalade! I made a tomatillo sauce for a fish dish that I cooked up last week, which was to die for. I even added them into my tacos tonight, to fill out the ground turkey, since the kids aren't overly keen on the usual Mexican spices that are called for in traditional tacos. Added a tangy kick, as well as a hint more sauce. Yum! Wowee, what a find! Kid friendly and adult too!

The spices that went into tonight's tacos.
Note the Salsa Verde in this jar 
is already 1/2 gone!
And who knew these slightly lemony tomatoes would be so prolific? Not us! It would seem that when the thick stems hit the ground, they root and send off another shoot to produce more fruit. Bonus! Err, I think. Only last week, I was by our community plot and plucked a cloth grocery bag full of tomatillos. I knew with a certainty that I would be back sooner rather than later to gather more of these green globes, seeing as how there were still plenty of lanterns to be seen and the plant was still thriving. They don't seem to be anywhere near ready to quit! I have a bag full of them frozen and might have to dig up some new recipes to use up the last of the ones that are on my counter, before heading back for more from the garden. Not that I'm complaining though!

So if you have ever thought about trying out a new plant for your veggie garden, this one is worth a try. I'm not sure what made these plants so happy, whether it was the hot season we had, or the lack of attention, but I think that I'm hooked. In case you were wondering, you pick them when the papery coating splits. It will be dry and might even turn brown and peel off. The actual tomatillos have a slightly sticky coating, but are easily rinsed and chopped up. They have a fairly thick skin, but the inner seeds aren't near so wet and slippery as regular tomatoes. For the health conscious among us, they contain vitamin C, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fibre. All in a pretty package to boot. 

And what did my kids have to say? Dig in!

Open-Face Taco with Tomatillos

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ode to Summer

As much as January is a time of rebirth and renewal, September isn't far behind it. Children return to school. Summer holidays cease and routines begin again. Reality seems to come crashing down with the gentle waves of time with it. Sigh...

It is time though. I am ready. I am going to try to renew some writing here, even as other changes transform the rest of my world. It has been too long and I miss this creative space. On that note, I will toss a little ode to summer poem into the ring for my friend G-Man's perusal and see if he will take me back into the Flash Friday ring.

Have a great weekend, my friends!


~
I skipped through summer,
like a school girl without care.
Lazy days by the water,
only to be thrown in unawares.
Idle books dangled
with pages flipped, like none were there.
Mealtimes;
Whenever…
Bedtime;
Who cares!
But September stole in,
now Responsibility -
everywhere!
So I’ll write those memories
to keep close
as winter glares.


Goodbye summer river!

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