Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Trick or Treat!!

Why do I have to choose? I want everyone to do neat tricks for my amusement whilst giving me treats! Is that really so much to ask?


It's great finally having a place of my own again so I can decorate for the holidays, and Samhain/Halloween/All Hallows Eve/whatever you want to call it is my absolute favourite of them all! 

I got started with just a couple things, and added throughout the month. Next year, I'll have all my belongings unpacked and will be able to have a better setup, and I eventually plan on having decor to rival some of my Halloween scenes of old (olde?). 

Of course, I don't have a late 1800s built, big house anymore like I did back then, so no spooky eyes staring from an attic window, or blacklighted porch with creepy sounds. It's all smaller scale.

 On the other hand, technology has come a LONNNNG way, and supplies are a click away nowadays, so it's a trade off. 

I LOVE Amazon! They sell everything!

This was the first time I made Jack-O-NOT-Lanterns.
AKA, drawing the faces on instead of carving the pumpkin.
 It's also the first time I thought to use other squash in addition to pumpkins for decorating purposes. I have NO idea why I never thought of that before!
 Yes... Yes that kitty-cat-o-not-a-lantern DOES say, "Happy Meow-Loween". And  yes, I AM aware of just how terrible that is. Look at the kitty! Now, think of the bad joke again!
You're welcome.
The butternut Jack is meant to be wearing a top hat. It's the first time I've attempted to draw a top hat - EVER - let alone drawing it on a non flat surface. 
Ahh well. I still think it turned out looking alright.  



At least the face looks cool. Maybe I'll use paints instead of just Sharpies next time.

All in all, not a bad setup on limited time and supplies, I think. 

 I had been planning  a pretty elaborate Queen of Hearts costume since last year, and then wound up having my stuff held hostage for almost 5 months after I moved.
 Unfortunately, by the time I FINALLY got everything, it was far too late to finish constructing it, so I had to throw something together at the last minute. 

Add funky socks, a weird wig, and some makeup to a dress I already had, and it's a costume! I couldn't tell you what, exactly, I'm meant to be.



 A witch, perhaps? I dunno. Either way, I got lots of compliments on the costume, and I had FUN! So, I'm happy. 





Monday, 16 October 2017

Presto Pesto Potato Roast

  As promised in this post, here is another of the recipes born of my extra large produce haul. 

Ingredients: 
  • about 1 lb fingerling potatoes, cut as needed to bite size pieces
  • 2-3 large carrots, sliced thickly, greens removed (don't throw them out! You can use them for the pesto.)
  • about 1 lb fresh green beans, ends snapped off and broken to bite size pieces 
  • several healthy shakes Montreal steak seasoning 
  • about 1 cup presto pesto (recipe here)
 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Prep/cut veggies and toss them in a large, cast iron skillet or roasting pan with the seasoning and pesto. 
  3. Roast in 400°F until veggies are tender and slightly browned (about 30-40 minutes), stirring a couple times to make sure everything browns/cooks evenly. 
  4. Serve with a flourish (optional)
  5. Pretend/allow your family or guests to think it took a lot more time and effort to prepare (optional)
  6.  Enjoy! (Probably not optional)
The finished product isn't nearly as pretty as it is in progress, I admit. That said, the textures and flavour more than make up for the presentation. If you really want to make it look better, garnish with a dollop of uncooked pesto and a bit of carrot greens. That will dress it up nicely. My batch got eaten up too fast to allow for any fancy looking garnishes!
 



 









Wednesday, 11 October 2017

What's in a Name?

Just a short, observational note today. 

I was asked the other day what the nickname, "teapot" had to do with submission.
Of course, there is the back story of how the name came to be in the first place. In addition to that though, there are several points to be made regarding the nick.

A tea pot is an object used for serving. It is a vessel, constructed to contain and dispense whatever its owner or user desires. Most are constructed in such a way as to be pleasing to the eye, in addition to being convenient to grip, hold, and otherwise put to use.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Save those seeds! It's not just pumpkin seeds that make great roasting!

It's Thrifty Food Tip time again, and since it's a classic fall morning here at the Wolf Den, I figured this would be the perfect thing for the season.


Roasted pumpkin seeds are definitely one of those things we associate with autumn. Their warm, toasty, nutty, slightly salty flavour makes for a great, healthy snack. While the pre-packaged ones are ok, nothing beats having them fresh, just as soon as they're cooled off enough from the oven! 
(Hmm.. Speaking of which, now I've got a craving! That's a hazard of writing the food-related portions of this blog. LOL)


As tasty as they are, what's even better is a medley of roasted/toasted seeds. You can roast up the seeds from cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and pretty much any other gourd, squash, or melon you can think of, with delicious and nutritious results. 

That's right; I said nutritious!
Squash and melon seeds are simply teeming with health benefits.


Cantaloupe, honeydew, and other "muskmelon" seeds are super high in antioxidant vitamins, minerals, amino acids, as well as being a great source of fibre and healthy fats. 
Watermelon seeds contain all those too, in addition to a good dose of folate (AKA vitamin B9), iron, and the plant protein, lycopene, which, in addition to being a great protein source, is another heart health booster.

Not to be outdone, squash seeds contain all the above vitamins and minerals, plus zinc, which is another immune system benefactor. Zinc also promotes healthy cell growth and division, sleep, mood, senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and increases prostate health.

 Vitamins A, C, and E can improve and preserve your vision by helping to prevent macular degeneration, and, of course, we all know that vitamin C gives us a great boost to our immune system, which, considering that fall also marks the start of cold and flu season, is an especially good thing.

Important minerals contained in the seeds, like magnesium, phosphorous, iron, calcium, and potassium help control cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular function, improve bone density, immunity, metabolism, and brain function, and decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cancer
The heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases by lowering the levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.

Finally, a diet high in fibre adds its own cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose lowering properties, as well as promoting bowel health, for the prevention of things like IBS, diverticulosis, and diverticulitis. 

SO...
With all those health perks, great taste, and a FREE price tag, what's not to love?

Oh! And did I mention that it's mega simple to roast them, you can give them just about any flavour profile you want, and it's a great, fun activity to do with kids? 




Ingredients: 
  • seeds
  • enough oil (coconut, olive, grapeseed, peanut, etc.. whatever you want) to lightly coat the seeds
  • salt, pepper, and/or whatever spices/seasonings you like


Directions:
  1. separate seeds from the bulk of the pulp and give them a quick rinse. Don't worry about removing all of the pulp/flesh. It will roast up nicely and add the flavour and fibre content.
  2. Preheat oven to 300°F. (you can use a higher temp, however, keeping it at or below
    300°F will retain most of the nutrients which high heat will destroy.)
  3. Toss together all ingredients until seeds are coated evenly with oil and seasonings
  4. Spread seeds in a single layer in a cast iron skillet, stoneware, or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake, checking and stirring every 15 minutes, until seeds are crisp and pulp is caramelized, probably about 20-40 minutes. 
  5. Let cool completely before serving/eating (OK.. Who am I kidding? At least let them cool enough to avoid burning yourself or others!)

Seasoning suggestions:
  • Olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper medley
  • Peanut oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add extra flavour and texture with some dried seaweed flakes and/or kick it up a notch with some hot chilli oil. 
  • More savoury seasoning ideas: curry, cumin, chilli powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ranch dressing powdered mix, other dry soup or dip mixes
  • coconut oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Add a little sweetness with a drizzle of honey
  • coconut oil, cocoa powder and cinnamon
  • coconut oil, ground cloves and cardamom

What to do with roasted seeds:
  • Use as a coating for fried chicken
  • Add to home made granola
  • Bake into granola bars
  • Top your yogurt
  • Mix into your oatmeal
  • Add to dry cereal
  • Put them in trail mix
  • Add to smoothies
  • Use in whole grain and seed breads
  • Add to muffins, coffee cake, and other baked goods
  • Add to salads
  • Use them in pesto
  • And, of course, you can just munch on them by themselves!

I don't happen to have any photos or seeds to roast on hand today, so I'll be adding pics to this post at a later time, as well as linking some more recipes once they are posted.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Presto Pesto Squashta Pasta

The last batch of summer squash of the season, plenty of my newly invented Presto Pesto Norwesto, some tortellini in the freezer that needed using, and my, perhaps unfortunate at times, penchant for having fun with words conspired to make me invent another new recipe last week. Introducing, Presto Pesto Squashta Pasta!

This is a SUPER quick and simple dish, and if you're using a stuffed pasta containing a protein source, or if you throw in some leftover roast chicken, turkey, or any other sort of meat or meat substitute, you've got an entire meal in 15-20 minutes, tops!

You can make this ahead and chill it as a pasta salad, or serve it hot. It tastes great either way. 


 Ingredients:
  • 16oz (or so) pasta of choice
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 or more medium to large summer squash (any variety - thickly sliced)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Cup pesto
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1-2 Tbsp roasted red pepper flakes
  • Italian seasoning (to taste) 
  • Freshly ground pepper medley (to taste) 
  • Sea salt (to taste) 

Directions: 
  1.   Cook pasta according to package directions 
  2.   Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet, add  squash, sun dried tomatoes, pepper flakes, and spices and sauté on medium-high heat until squash is barely tender. 
  3.   Toss pasta and squash with pesto
  4.   Serve hot or cold and enjoy!
Variations: 
  • Add meat or other protein source to make it a meal.
  • Experiment with other spices to change up the flavour. 
  • Add in a few dollops of Alfredo sauce

Thursday, 5 October 2017

It's probably not the Zombie Apocalypse! (Realistic SHTF scenarios for regular people)

"Khaos is waiting for the zombie apocalypse! LOLOLOLOL!"
 
"We'll all just come to your house when the world ends! Harharhar!"
"Don't you mean BUNKER? Trololololol"
 "She runs a Costco on the side! Hahaha!"
Yup. Hilarity! I routinely hear these, and all sorts of other knee-slapping, solid bronze comedic content from friends and family.

The sad fact is, most "ordinary" people, it seems, still view stocking up beyond next week, having emergency supplies on hand, knowing how to do things without modern conveniences (and having the tools and materials to do so!), are silly, pessimistic, foolish, "asking for trouble" (WHAT!?), or downright crazy. Somehow, they equate being prepared for any eventuality with hoping for or hastening some looming, doomsday scenario.

Reality check, folks:
Being unprepared for an emergency won't keep one from happening! All it does is make you and those who depend on you more likely to suffer the consequences.

Being prepared frequently means the  difference between an emergency or survival situation and an inconvenience. In true disaster conditions, it can mean the difference between surviving and not.

If your car dies on the side of the road and you've gotta wait a couple hours for assistance, it could mean you have a "bathroom", plenty of water (and coffee!), something to snack on, protection from the weather, and maybe something to keep the kids (and grownups) entertained while you wait.

If the power goes out right before supper, it could mean you can still have a good meal, instead of scrounging for something that doesn't need electricity to prepare or having to go out to get something.

If the roads, power, and water are out in a good sized area for a few days or a week and you have taken the trouble to even stock up on a few days worth of food, water, extra medications, an outdoor cooking method, candles and/or battery powered lighting, and a few other supplies, things may be a little uncomfortable, but you're going to be just fine. Conversely, those people who refuse to plan ahead even in the slightest will have a true emergency on their hands. Not only are their own lives and well being, and that of their dependents, in danger. No - their (in)actions have endangered countless others as well. They've placed additional burden on their neighbours, communities, and emergency services. Now, rather than just having to worry about getting needed services and care to those who legitimately rely on electricity, special equipment, and such for medical reasons, first responders and rescue personnel have to spend precious moments and supplies bailing out some asshole who had the means to look after themselves, and chose not to. If it were up to me, I'd probably let them hang! Oh.. I'd take in their young kids and pets if I could, since they didn't have a say in the matter. The idiots though - those same folks who laugh the loudest about how stupid "preppers" are? They'd be on their own! Cause guess what? Nope. You're NOT coming to my house (or bunker, or BOL, or...) when the SHTF! And if you decide to try anyway, just remember your "Rambo" wisecracks regarding my gear, training, "paranoia", and defences, and think again.

Those few who happen to have been in my company when things have gone wrong... who enjoyed hot food and coffee, clean water, warmth, a safe and comfortable place to sleep, and that sort of thing when they would have otherwise been cold, hungry, afraid, and otherwise ill prepared when power or water has gone out, a vehicle has broken down in the middle of nowhere, roads have become impassable and the city (transit, emergency services, power, stores and other businesses closed) basically shut down, and the like, no longer join in the heckling. Of course, they don't risk being lumped in with the "loony" by standing up and saying anything either. Ya can't win 'em all!





Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Presto Pesto Norwesto! (Delicious pesto for almost free!)

Today's thrifty food tip is also a recipe, just cause I can. 😎 If you want to go directly to the recipe, without reading the article, click here, and please rate and review!

Pesto is, oddly, at once underrated and overpriced.

Dishes made with the warm, nutty, aromatic blend, as well as the ready-made stuff in a jar are nearly always outrageously priced. Perhaps that's what leads folks to think it is expensive or difficult to make, and why so few people make regular use of it in their own kitchens and cooking. 

The truth is that it takes a few minutes to make in a blender or food processor, and, even using the "finest" ingredients, the stuff is literally pennies a serving.

It's basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, parmesan, and a little salt and pepper. That's it. So, already, it's super economical to make it at home, especially if you or someone you know grows their own basil.
Many folk cut the basil with spinach to save money and/or tone down the flavour a bit. 


The thing is though, you don't even need those specific ingredients to make delicious pesto! You can literally make it with just about ANY greens and nuts/seeds you have on hand, as long as they're edible.

The greens in the batch I just made last week was primarily radish and carrot greens and fresh spinach, with a little bit of chives and Thai basil I snipped from my garden for good measure.


My rosemary isn't robust enough for harvesting any just yet, though I'm sure by next fall, I'll have plenty! My Thai basil, on the other hand, is going to town!
I've got some sweet, Italian basil just sprouted too. It'll be ready to harvest by next season, I'm sure.

Anyway, since you can use almost all ingredients that would often end up in the compost bin or landfill, this versatile paste of the gods is between dirt cheap and almost free. YAY!


So, as mentioned, the greens in this batch are carrot and radish tops, spinach, and just a bit of chives and Thai basil. For the nuts, I used mostly walnuts, with a small amount of pine nuts thrown in for good measure.
No seeds this time, though I'm definitely planning on making a batch (or two!) using roasted pumpkin/other fall squash seeds once I've got enough seeds saved up for that.

The cheese is a mix of Parmesan and Romano. Fresh (or frozen) cheese is always best, however, you can sub in the dried stuff in the can if it's
all you've got.


I also added a splash of lime juice in this batch, just cause it sounded good, and the results were, indeed, good! I'll be doing that again for sure. 
It gave it a kind of extra brightness that really brought out the flavours in everything it's gone into so far (stay tuned for more recipes!)   
My clean up crew helpers agree that it tastes great! They each give it two paws up.
 
 I almost never have to scrape or soak anything before it goes into the dishwasher, with such an enthusiastic set of trusty assistants.
Alright; Enough of my rambling. Lets get to the recipe itself, for those who are still reading.


Presto Pesto Norwesto!

 Ingredients:

  •  ¼ – ½  cup nuts/seeds (pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, toasted pumpkin, melon, or squash seeds, sunflower seeds, etc...)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 - 3 cups packed carrot/radish/beet tops, spinach, kale, or other greens and/or fresh herbs (arugula, dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, chives...whatever sounds good and is on hand!), roughly chopped.
  • ½ - ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  •     ¼ – ½  cup shredded/grated parmesan, romano, or other hard cheese (optional)
  •     salt and/or pepper, to taste (optional)
  •     other spices, as desired (optional)
  
Directions:

  • Put everything except olive oil, salt, and pepper into the food processor/blender and pulse until VERY finely minced or almost a paste-like consistency (to preference).
  • Add about ¼ cup of the olive oil and blend, drizzling in additional oil, as needed until desired consistency.
  • Stir in salt, pepper, and spices, if used, to taste.
  • Refrigerate or freeze in air tight container(s) until ready to use.
  • Presto Pesto!!
I usually vacuum seal things before they go into the freezer. It keeps them fresher, longer, and keeps them from getting freezer burnt. I've read a few places that pesto with cheese in it doesn't hold up well to freezing. I haven't found that to be the case. There's been no discernable difference between frozen and not frozen, so I suspect the people who wrote that didn't actually try it, or didn't package it properly before freezing. 

Yes, that label does say "lime Jews". It's an old family joke which has nothing to do with discriminating against anyone and everything to do with the funny things little kids say when trying to master speaking and language and words. So many things sound similar to one another! LOL For a good-to-print version of the recipe, click on over to AllRecipes.com, and click the print icon. Or tap on over.. I keep forgetting everyone does everything on their phones these days. (Dang kids! Get off my lawn!)

 Ginger doesn't care about words, language, talking, or writing down recipes. She just wants more of that yummy stuff!

Sugar appears to be in full agreement on that note.

We'll take it under advisement.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Potato Carrot Soup with Leeks and Kale



This hearty, fall garden soup gets its lovely, golden colour from the carrots. 

Potato Carrot Soup with Leeks and Kale

I prefer to use all organic produce, and think it tastes better, though it isn't required.

I make it in the Instant Pot, however, I've included instructions for other methods as well.

For an easy to print version, click here to be taken to this recipe on All Recipes, and, if you like it
(or even if you don't), please leave a review!

Yield, approx 6 quarts
Ingredients:

• 8 - 10 medium sized potatoes (or equivalent - any variety/ies) - chopped into bite sized pieces
• 2-3 leeks - thickly sliced
• 1 good sized bunch of kale
• • 1-2 large carrots with greens
• 1/4 lb bacon, chopped small
• 1-2 Cups shredded, sharp cheddar
• 1/4 - 1/2 Cup sour cream
• Sea salt to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper or pepper medley to taste
• Several healthy shakes Hungarian paprika (or the regular stuff, if you must)
• Enough Beef/chicken/vegetable broth to reach max fill line/almost top of pot (home made vegetable/bone broth is ideal!)

Directions:

• Cook bacon in large Dutch oven or soup/stock pot/
Instant pot (on sauté setting) until nearly crisped, stirring regularly.

• While bacon is cooking, cut the greens off the carrots and stalks off the kale. Set aside tender greens. Chop/slice carrots and kale stalks and add to sauté when bacon is almost crisp, then thickly slice leeks and toss them in. Keep stirring, and be sure to scrape bottom of pot regularly!

• Add kale, carrot greens, and spices and sauté briefly (stir/scrape more).

• Add potatoes and broth and give a good stir.(If using Instant pot, lock lid on with valve set to pressure and set it for 13 minutes on manual - let pressure release naturally for at least 10 minutes or so - then ok to manually release. Skip steps 5 & 6).

• Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

• Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender.

• Add cheese and sour cream and stir in well.

• Serve garnished with carrot leaves.
Notes:
• I like to double the bacon and vegetable sauté amounts, and scoop out half the mixture to freeze for another batch (or other soup/stew) before adding the potatoes and broth

• If you prefer a vegetarian/vegan version, omit the bacon and sauté the veggies in your oil of choice.

• Feel free to add other veggies, meats, spices, etc to personalise the dish!