Sunday, December 1, 2019

Homemade Gifts From Your Kitchen

The thought, time and effort involved in homemade gifts from your kitchen show you care, and are gifted with love. 

One of my favorite standby gifts any time of year, is Caramel Nut Popcorn... it is a much appreciated treat at my house compared to the store bought versions! It can be made with or without nuts... if using nuts try; peanuts, a fancy nut mix or specific nuts that are favorites.
Caramel Nut Popcorn
Cellophane food grade bags can be found at Craft Supply Stores and sometimes Dollar Stores. With the addition of a personalized label and fancy twist tie or ribbon, it makes a thoughtful parting gift to dinner guests, stocking stuffer or ... package the whole recipe in a one gallon fancy container for that 'big kid' in your household! (No names mentioned!!) With 14 cups of popcorn and nuts, this recipe makes quite a few small gift bags, so it goes a long way.

At the other end of the homemade 'foodie gift' spectrum is the elegant French Macaron. Make these sweet little gems for a very special gift. They are time consuming and a bit fussy but oh so elegant! 
Elegant French Macarons

Hand dipped Chocolate Truffles
Gingerbread Boys, Girls and Reindeer
For a quick, easy and decadent gift try Chocolate Nut Bark for the chocoholics on your list. Chocolate Bark satisfies the cravings without the time and labor intensity involved in making hand dipped Chocolate Truffles.

If you are an avid baker, a fancy assortment of festive cookies and squares packaged in a pretty tin make a tasty, caring gift. 

Asst. Pickles and Pickled Quail Eggs
On the savory side, small jars of homemade fermented pickles, pickled eggs (think tiny quail or Bantam hen eggs) or even sauerkraut are great gifts but please be sure the recipient knows these gifts must be kept in the fridge at all times!! 

If you are a gardener, gift a small braid of your home grown garlic adorned with dried herbs or flowers and a pretty ribbon. Or an assortment of fruit jams, vinaigrette or condiments prepared from your garden produce.
How about a fancy bottle of Homemade Liqueur ... or my cookbook 'For the Love of Food'? There are links to my Blog recipes offered on most of these suggestions above, just hover over them and click.

I hope these suggestions have your creative juices flowing. To get you started, a recipe from my cookbook 'For the Love of Food', enjoy my Caramel Nut Popcorn!

CARAMEL NUT POPCORN           Yield:  About 14 cups
Fill colorful tins or cellophane bags with this treat for an inexpensive holiday gift that both kids and adults will enjoy receiving.

12 cups popped popcorn
2 cups mixed nuts or peanuts
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
½ cup butter
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking soda
Without stirring, boil 5 minutes

Spray a large roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine popcorn and nuts in pan; place in a 250°F oven while preparing the glaze. In a saucepan combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Stirring constantly bring to a boil over medium heat. Without stirring, boil 5 minutes.

Break apart and cool on bake sheets
Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over popcorn and nuts; stir to coat well. Place in pre-heated oven 60 minutes, stirring occasionally (every 20 minutes works well).

When done, remove from the oven and divide the mixture onto 2 non-stick bake sheets with sides. Quickly break apart or into chunks while warm. Allow to cool. Store in tightly covered container. 

Until next time... Have fun in your kitchen ... and Bon Appétit! 

Photos by Sally Rae 
Recipes by Sally Rae

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Low-Carb 'Seedy Crackers'

Changing to a Low-Carb, Keto or Paleo Diet presents plenty of food omissions, challenges and a lifestyle overhaul. Bread and crackers are difficult to replicate without the use of grains. Confronted with avoiding nuts and nut meal creates another difficulty, besides the fact that nut meal and flours produce a buttery, rich flavor to baked breads, crackers, pancakes, cookies etc.

Finding a crispy, delicious cracker is solved with these egg free, nut free, grain free, gluten free, crunchy, 'Low-Carb 'Seedy Crackers'. They are a bit delicate, not suitable for heavy dips but give them a try in softer dips and enjoy the crunch and flavor! They are fast and super easy to prepare and will be gobbled up quickly. The crunch factor is very satisfying and they are tasty. What more can one ask for?

The great benefit of making your food from scratch is to adjust recipes for your dietary needs. *Instead of ground flax meal you can substitute flax seeds or pulse the whole flax seed in a blender or coffee grinder. Ground flax provides a higher level of nutritional value than the whole seed. You can also adjust the salt to your taste. I use 1 tsp. of Celtic Sea Salt because I like the salty flavor. The salt can be reduced to 1/2 tsp. or no salt at all.

Low-Carb 'Seedy Crackers'
Completely cool and break into pieces

1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
*1/4 cup flax seeds
*1/4 cup ground flax meal
1+1/2 Tbsp. psyllium husk powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. avocado oil
1+1/2 cups boiling water

Heat oven to 350F. Line two 18"x13" jelly roll sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mats to prevent the mixture from sticking.

Into a large mixing bowl, pour all the seeds, psyllium husk powder and salt. Gently mix well with a whisk. Add the oil and boiling water. Stir gently with a whisk until well combined and the mixture starts to thicken. Let it rest for a few minutes in the bowl, this gives the psyllium a chance to gel.

Divide mixture and spread thinly
Once the mixture has gelled, divide it between the two prepared pans and spread it as thinly and evenly as you can on the parchment. I use a silicone spatula to spread it in a back and forth motion, almost like icing a cake. If using your hands, have a small bowl of water to dip your fingers into from time to time to reduce the sticky factor.

Place in the oven and set the timer to 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the pans and using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, score the mixture into cracker shapes, if desired. Put them back in the oven and set the timer for another 10-15 minutes. Your crackers will likely take between 45 mins – 60 minutes to crisp up depending on the thickness. Seeds burn easily so you will have to watch them after the timer goes off. You can remove outer edges if they are done and return the center, uncooked parts to the oven. You’re aiming for crisp crackers but keep in mind they continue to cook a little when you get them out of the oven.

Store in a 2-quart sealer
Once they’re done and completely cooled, remove from the parchment and break along the scored lines or just break into pieces. Gently put them in a sealed container and enjoy!

  • It’s important that you have the right amount of psyllium husk powder. This is what forms the gel and that is what allows it to turn into a nice cracker.
  • Make sure to pat out the mixture as thin as you can. Not only will it speed up the cooking process, but it also makes it more likely to get crispy, which is exactly what we want.
  • Make sure to give it plenty of time to crisp up after it is done baking. No gobbling it while it’s still hot!
  • Though you can use whatever seeds you like, it’s important that you use seeds are on the small side, like sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and things like that.
  • These will keep for about a week or two (if they last that long!) when stored in a 2-quart sealer.
Soup and Low-Carb Seedy Crackers

Until next time... Bon Appétit!

Recipe by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Putting the Garden To Bed and Harvest Recipe

The garden is 'put to bed'
Fall is in the air... the evenings are cool and there are patches of frost in the yard come morning. The garlic is planted and mulched with my new experiment of using a compressed, chopped straw bale.  It is the beautiful golden colored mulch on the back bed, second from the left. Another experiment was to amend my garden soil with the addition of local horse manure on top of all the beds without winter crops. Once the rains wet the manure and soil, these beds will be covered with black plastic through the winter, then turned over in the Spring before planting. The carrots are still covered with Remay to protect from carrot rust flies, and will remain that way until the end of October. The strawberries have been cut down and mulched with the new chopped straw at ground level then a light layer of maple leaves. The winter cabbage and kale have been mulched and the large Lennox cabbages that were planted earlier have been picked. The largest weighing in at almost nine pounds... that's a lot of cabbage!!
Lennox Organic Cabbage
I have covered the garden walk ways with cardboard to keep the weeds down. Our climate is warm enough to keep some weeds growing almost year round. By Spring they can really take off before I start spending time in the garden to keep them under control. I tried this last year and it was great! Once I started working in the garden, I had to just put time into the beds and planting rather than weeding ... my least favorite job anyway. 

Thanksgiving this weekend marks the last big Saturday Market and Apple Fest on Denman Island. I wanted to share a hearty, thick 'Cabbage and Beet Borscht' recipe I've been working on. It makes a big pot and is a great addition to feed a crowd or fill your freezer with individual serving containers for the cold weather that is on its way. If you don't have the ingredients in your garden they will be available through our wonderful, dedicated, local farmers this Saturday. See you at the Market!

BEET AND CABBAGE BORSCHT      Yield: 10-12 servings
This soup is thick with seasonal, hearty vegetables ... it is Paleo friendly and Night-Shade Free.

4-6 fresh beets (about 1-1/2 pounds) unpeeled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. coarse salt
3 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced crosswise
2 large onions, cut in half, then quarters and thinly sliced
1 leek, cut in half lengthwise then thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 carrots, sliced into coins 
1/2 head green cabbage, cored, cut into 1" wedges and shredded
1/2 lb. green beans, tips removed and cut into 1" pieces, optional 
Beet and Cabbage Borscht
4 parsley sprigs, minced
3 tsp. dried thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
12 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar 
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. minced fresh dill   
Sour cream or Greek yogurt for serving
Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar for serving 

In a large saucepan, cover the beets with cold water by 1 inch. Stir in 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and 2 Tbsp coarse salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered, until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, cool and slip the skins off the beets. Dice beets and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onions, leek, garlic and carrots and cook covered, stirring occasionally until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook stirring until wilted.

To the pot add beets, beans, minced parsley, thyme, bay leaves, apple cider vinegar and stock. Bring to a boil stirring often, lower heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes to marry the flavors.

Stir in the 1/4 cup of red wine or balsamic vinegar, 2-3 teaspoons salt and season with pepper to taste. Remove about a third of the soup and puree it in a blender, then add back to the pot.

To serve, divide among warm soup bowls, top with dollops of sour cream and a sprinkle of minced dill. Serve with additional vinegar at the table.

Until next time... Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae
Recipe by Sally Rae

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Ginormous Tomato, Proteknet and Flexzilla in My Garden!

Sally's Outdoor Salsa, heavy on the vine
This weekend has turned to overcast with the odd rain shower. Evenings are already cool and mornings are damp with dew prompting  powdery mildew on leaves. With shorter days the plants are slowing down production. 
Time to wrap it up for Fall and Winter!

The weather was all over the map this summer; very warm early on, then cool, minimal rain, a shorter heat wave than the past few years and thankfully, no smoke from forest fires. The flora and fauna were confused it seemed. 
A record breaking 2 lb. 5-3/4 oz. Sally's Outdoor Salsa!

I did not see many pollinators around and although I planted more flowers than usual, I had to take on the task of hand pollinating the tomatoes, greenhouse cucumbers and winter squash. Through all my efforts, the harvest was not as bountiful as it could have been.

Most of the tomatoes struggled with small fruit or only 2-3 per plant! However, my 'Outdoor Salsa' tomato (that has become quite famous on Denman and sold by Annie as 'Sally's Salsa') produced a record breaking tomato this year tipping the scale at 2 lb. 5-3/4 oz! I have been saving select seed from this unknown, heirloom variety for about 20 years. My goal was and still is, to save from the largest fruit, that have a minimal amount of seeds. 
Sally's Salsa- very few seeds and meaty, perfect to save seed

Therefore I chose the name 'Salsa' because they are very meaty, not juicy or sloppy and make an incredible, thick salsa or tomato sauce. Some years in the beginning, they were completely seedless and I panicked, for fear I would lose my species! That is when I began sharing seed with friends and the 'Denman Seed Savers' ... and my 'Sally's Salsa' variety came to be! 

Winter Squash ~ Sunshine and Butternut
The Sunshine and Butternut winter squash struggled with the on and off again weather, even with hand pollinating. Feeling that my soil needs more nutrients, I now have a manure supplier and the raised vegetable beds will be amended with composted manure ... once it dries off a bit out there. After the beds are topped up with a mixture of new soil and a good dose of manure, they will be covered with heavy black plastic for winter. This will keep the rain from leaching them out over winter, keeps the weeds controlled and promotes the soil to heat earlier in the Spring. 

The winter carrots have been weeded, thinned and are still covered with Remay to keep the carrot rust flies out. According to Linda Gilkeson, the covers must stay in place until the end of October. They are a pain to deal with so I've found a new solution.
Proteknet-100' in a small package

In preparation for next Spring, I have already purchased 100 feet of 'Proteknet' insect netting and 25 pvc hoops through William Dam Seeds. Organic Market Gardens on Denman Island cover all their crops with this amazing material. Providing it is suspended above the crop on (the recommended) pvc hoops, insects cannot penetrate to lay eggs or munch on your plants! It is a synthetic knitted mesh that allows about 89% light transmission and about 60% moisture transmission and allows air to travel through so the plants don't become too hot. It is UV resistant and lasts about 1-3 seasons. I have heard from Veronica of Alveroni Gardens on Denman, that it is also machine washable on the gentle cycle. I'll have photos next year and am looking forward to using the Proteknet insect netting rather than Remay, floating row cover.

My new favorite thing in the garden for 2019!!
Another new purchase for my yard and garden this year was the 'Flexzilla Swivel-Grip Garden Hose' ... what a dream!! Light weight, supple with no spool memory, flexible even in cooler weather and lies flat when in use. The new 'Swivel-Grip' connectors are worth the extra few dollars and make it easy to tighten or loosen the thread fittings at either end and also serve as anti-kink cuffs. A word of caution though when unraveling it from the packaging, it will kink and knot up. I'd suggest especially with the longer hoses, to unravel it carefully when first out of the packaging. 

Most of us still have lots of work to finish outside to wrap it up for the Winter months. I'm thankful for the rain, it has given me a change of pace to get a much delayed Blog Post out!! Also the break from daily watering has been a welcome reprieve. I've spent many hours at the end of my new Flexzilla this summer. I have set aside my garlic seed from this summer's harvest and the red onions are drying in the garage on racks with fans for air circulation. This is just the beginning, still so much to get done, let's hope for some dry September and October weather! 

Until next time... Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

July Garden Update

Full view of my Denman Island 'garden in the forest'
Yikes!! It's the end of July already!
I've been so busy with the early, warm spring and summer; planting, shading newly emerged winter crops and watering, that I've had little time to sit at the computer these days. I've taken a few weeks off from the salon for my annual summer staycation. Don't get too excited about that, it's 2 weeks I take every summer to 'catch up' on weeding, defrosting freezers, removing thistle seed heads on the property, pruning back Grandma's lilac so clients can get through the gate, cleaning the salon and if I have time ... making some freezer meals and soups for when I'm back at work. And that's the short list!!
Winter carrots and beets under remay
I took some photos in the garden on July 18th and this morning (10 days later) while watering, realized the winter carrots and beets have almost doubled in size, so it's time to get a July update happening! 
Garlic Harvest - 2 varieties July 18th, 2019

I pulled the garlic between rain showers a week earlier than last year. I was worried it would get too wet and a test pull of 2 heads proved there were 5 skin wrappers left, proof it was ready to be pulled and dried. Because the roots were a little more damp that I wanted, I cleaned the heads and removed most of the stalks to hopefully speed drying time. A few years ago I set up some old window screens and a fan system in the garage for drying. It is easy to manage and no threat from the weather.
2019 garlic drying

Most crops for winter harvest on the West Coast need to be in by July 1st. 
I have not grown winter carrots for about 4 years because of the damage from the carrot rust fly. To avoid this pest, the carrot beds need to be covered with remay or an insect mesh until at least October. Remay is great in that it provides extra heat, so the seeds germinate well and grow quickly, but it is a challenge in that it must be elevated by supports to allow the carrot tops room to grow and lifted off the bed to water properly.
Carrot bed #1 covered with remay

I'm so excited for winter carrots that I've put in 2 beds. A small bed first then a second bed including some beets with the Lennox cabbage, a 120 day variety. 

Winter garden bed - carrots, beets (remay) and cabbage       

Carrot bed #1 uncovered for watering

 The beets and carrots will be heavily mulched in the fall and we will use them starting in December and through the winter till March. The Lennox cabbage will be harvested in January. 

I've noticed lower than normal pollination this year. Although I've planted more flowers, including marigolds and nasturtiums between the vegetables, I have been hand pollinating the tomatoes, Mercury cucumbers in the greenhouse and winter squash. 
Sunshine and Butternut winter squash
Next year I will plant more pollinator flowers both in the garden and up near the house and greenhouse.

The second crop of Seascape Strawberries are just starting. A few huge, red berries every few days with stems heavy with fruit to come. The Desert King Fig is almost finished ripening. A crafty squirrel has discovered the figs this year and damaged/eaten quite a few of the fruits. 
Seascape Strawberries and Desert King Fig

For the past 2 years I've been pruning the fig tree into a structure that will produce a high breba crop. Breba is the first crop and this method is best suited to the Desert King that I grow and is in the photo. Because of the heavy pruning each spring, my fig crops have been very small ... and that darn squirrel hasn't helped the harvest this summer! 

Until next time... Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Celebrating My Family Roots

All of my followers who have read my food column and/or have a signed copy of my cookbook have read and heard many stories of my family's Market Garden and Greenhouse business, Wallish Greenhouses. My grandparents John and Sally Wallish started out in 1919 and eventually the business moved to Bremner which is now called Sherwood Park, Alberta. 

Jean and Charlie in the wagon, with big brother Robert in 1932
I have many fond memories of growing up a short mile down the road from the 'Greenhouse' business where my Grandma Sally and Uncle Robert lived. By this time the second generation had taken on the business with the three families as partners. I was there almost daily either with my parents or a short bike ride or walk down the road for a visit, 'tea time' or to lend a helping hand. I am the second grandchild and loved being in the fields around our house to help with planting and harvest. It was not unusual for me to pick a head of lettuce or fresh corn cob and eat it right there in the field! When I was too young for the heavier work, I was out there anyways and used to come to the house early to get lunch ready for the family. Through my teen years I took on more jobs; from weeding never ending rows of onions, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower ... to this day I hate weeding, to pruning long quonsets of English cucumbers to 2' off the ground, transplanting bedding plants, mowing lawns, dragging the corn sack while Uncle Robert expertly picked ripe cobs and eventually a weekly Saturday job at the Edmonton City Market. Then there was the onion harvest from the fields at my family's property, loaded onto wagons and moved to the drying room at the Greenhouse. Once dried, the onion necks had to removed by 'wringing' them to create a seal to keep the onion in storage longer. The dried onions were stored and taken to the Market. In this same area of the property there was a root cellar and eventually a large walk in cooler beside the vintage gas pump for the tractors.

My Uncle Robert was the face of Wallish Greenhouses at the Edmonton City Market after my grandma stopped going. My older sister and I remember the old City Market but it wasn't until I was a bit older that I got to go help Uncle Robert every Saturday morning. I loved the Market and Wallish Greenhouses had a permanent stall there for 49 years. Bedding plants in the spring, fresh vegetables, geraniums and 'spikes' through the summer, sacks of dried onions into the winter months. Every Saturday morning my Mom would wake me early (not my style for those who know me!), Uncle Robert would pick me up with the truck loaded and ready for a Market day. I loved the Market, bustling with friends and fellow stall holders, shoppers, aromas of soil, flowers and food, a social atmosphere with talk and laughter.  

My cousins have taken the family business into the third generation and it has changed a lot from what I knew. This year is 100 years since my grandparents started Wallish Greenhouses and I am celebrating my family roots and history. Although with great sadness, two business partners of the second generation are no longer with us. 

Today is a year since my Mom passed away, on the same day as my Dad 18 years before. Uncle Robert is also gone ... may they Rest In Peace. My Uncle Chuck, in semi-retirement has moved to the old Greenhouse property that I knew so well... growing up, it was my second home.

In honor of my family history and those who are no longer with us, I Celebrate My Family Roots.

Until next time... Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit

Photo archive from my Mom

Sunday, May 26, 2019

First Miniature Harvest

I was pretty excited this morning to pick the first small zucchini and Corentine cucumbers!! It's no use leaving these tiny specimens to mature, I would rather let the plant put its energy into growth right now... so tonight I get a delicious miniature salad for dinner!

The nights are still cool, so these 2 beds of delicate plants are covered and tucked in with remay over hoops. In the morning I lift the remay cover around the edges for air circulation, then add an additional shade cloth over top... the delicate, small, pickling cucumber plants were not doing well in the sun. 

First of the Season!  Partenon and Cassia Zucchini,
 Winter Kale, Red Orach, Corentine Cucumbers, Dill Weed
Most of the winter kale has gone to seed but I have one unknown variety that was from a 'Winter Kale Mix' packet of seed that is still tender and sweet. The Red Orach is allowed to volunteer in the garden, so I have it in 3 of the raised beds and have numerous beautiful fuchsia plants to pick from. Even Canadian Living Magazine featured an article May 2016 stating "Orach is the new kale!" It is a distant relative of spinach, simple to grow and a good ornamental plant because of its beautiful color. 

Dinner is served! Salad garnished with crumbled  
goat cheese and toasted pine nuts
On another gardening note... I've had it with fighting my collection of heavy, stiff, kinking, commercial grade, 80' garden hoses. A few days ago I decided to trade up with the new "Flexzilla Swivel-Grip" 100' garden hose through Lee Valley Tools. Flexzilla has been around for a while and when my friend got hers a few years back and suggested I 'drag it around her garden' I was impressed at how lightweight and kink free it was! 

Watch for my reviews of the Flexzilla in a future post... and Denmanites, guaranteed, the commercial grade hoses will be part of my summer Garage Sale! 

Until next time... Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photo by Sally Rae