Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Heat Wave

From June 25th to 29th, 2021 we were locked in a Heat Wave. Record breaking daytime temperatures in BC that (for us) were 34-38 degrees Celsius, with the humidex taking us into the mid 40C range. There was little relief through the night with temperatures higher than what our normal daytime would have been. The sweltering temperatures were due to what climatologists call a “heat dome” – a strong ridge of high pressure that traps warm air underneath it like a dome, allowing the sun to bake the earth below, creating a heat wave that lingers for days. So from cold, wet Juneuary to sweltering, record breaking heat, it has been quite a month for the record books!

Chicken Shantytown with Dr. Bonnie and Peeps
The first few days I wasn't prepared well enough to keep the chickens cool. We have never experienced temperatures that high in our 31 years on Denman. The chicken run is in a partial shaded area but the afternoon sun just baked them. They were panting with their wings held away from their bodies even in the shade. By afternoon the thermometer inside the Ritz reached 110F. After a day of that, I put up their rain tarps but it was still too hot so out came the old bed sheets and panels from the old greenhouse. It looked like a shantytown but it worked to keep most of their enclosure in the shade. 

Frozen fruit and vegetables, cool down treat
In the evenings I took in the hose and wet down the yard hoping to bring the temperature down a bit with the cold water. They have an old kiddie pool with sand for dust bathing so I poured in a pail of cool water and the older birds were in immediately cooling their feet in the mud. I tried ice cubes to cool their drinking water, only to see them melt before my eyes. So I started freezing big ice blocks in stainless steel bowls to float in their water dishes. Also at night I put a block of ice in each house when the birds were closed in, hoping again, to reduce the temperature a bit inside. In the heat of the afternoon I froze a larger stainless steel bowl with some cooked rice, diced frozen vegetables, old berries from the freezer and other vegetable and herb scraps. The big frozen blob freaked them out at first but once Buffy realized there were blueberries in that frozen blob she was pecking and getting a nice cold treat along with being entertained.

Greenhouse; burlap shades and fan
The garden and greenhouse were another story... I hung burlap along the south side of the greenhouse and put in a fan to blow the heat through. Everything is thriving but I watered every morning and evening for an hour or so. From the wet, cold early June, I still had the burlap on the ground around the garden boxes and hoops over the beds. The hoops were used to suspend burlap, double remay and shade cloth over the delicate or newly seeded beds. One bed that isn't doing well are the strawberries, I didn't shade them and in hindsight I think that might have helped. The fantastic picking I got in my last Blog post is no longer. The berries are small and some either shriveled and dry or have white, burn marks on them. The only good thing is that they become more food to put in the chickens fruit and veg frozen treat!

Garden shades on hoops; remay, burlap, shade cloth
Today our temperature is bearable, everyone is more comfortable and we can have the house windows open again. There is a breeze off the ocean and we can see the Coastal mountains again so the haze of pollution is blowing out a bit. I have continued with the watering and making ice blocks for the chickens. Our local News has said, "welcome to the new normal of climate change" ... we have never used the air conditioning of the heat pump but finally on day three I was tired of toughing it with just fans. Even though the dogs were groomed short, they were having a hard time in the heat, so we all appreciated the cooler house. It did cross my mind to find a way to bring the chickens into the cool house ... but I think that was just the heat getting to me.

Most of BC broke temperature records for the month of June and also broke all time records for heat. I don't look forward to this experience every summer but at least this was a learning experience of how to keep everyone here safe and healthy in the extreme heat.  

Until next time ... Stay cool ... and Bon Appétit 

Photos by Sally Rae 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice, the first day of summer, the longest day of daylight hours in the year, June 20th. However you name it ... it's summer ... and finally we have hot sunshine with a beautiful ocean breeze!

Black Copper Marans in the playpen
It has been very busy around here with getting the garden planted, trying to keep it alive through our cold and unpredictable early Juneuary, watering, pulling weeds, integrating the 4 Olive Egger chicks into the flock and now a pair of adorable Black Copper Maran, 9 week old chicks. They are the final addition to my future colorful egg basket! 'Harriet' and 'Speck' are housed inside a 'playpen' with a big cat cage for a house, all set up inside the chicken enclosure. This allows a safe 'meet and greet' with the 3 older hens and the 4 Olive Eggers. It keeps the new, smaller young birds safe from the chasing and pecking from the existing flock. For the photo I have removed the greenhouse panel that covers the pen to keep everyone in their allotted areas. The new babies have been here a week and the past few days I have let them investigate inside the Ritz. Twice I have let them in the big enclosure under my supervision, to attempt to integrate them. Both times they were chased by a few of the Olive Eggers. The new babies run to and pace around the outside of their playpen trying to get back to safety, so they are not ready yet.

Kale Feast
This morning I finally thinned the volunteer kale and dill weed from the strawberry bed. The chickens were very happy recipients of the extra greens. I also pulled them a Napa Cabbage, for some reason the earwigs are totally destroying the outer leaves but some of the larger heads have a nice clean center that we can use... not so with the one I pulled today, so again the chickens got the greens and the bugs as a bonus!

Since cleaning up the strawberry bed today, there is better air circulation around the plants and nutrients will all now go to the berries. I always complain about the poor June crop of Seascape Strawberries, well, not this year!! I had the 3 older hens 'working' in the garden this Spring in their Chicken Emporium ... digging and eating bugs. They did a great job and left a bit of fertilizer behind!

Solstice Harvest 2021
My Solstice Harvest today ... tons of beautiful dill weed, an impressive bowl of strawberries for June, the first broccoli heads, first Partenon zucchini and 2 fresh eggs in the coop!

I will be busy watering this week with temperatures predicted in the high 20's to low 30C.

Until next time ... Happy Solstice, Happy Gardening ... and Bon Appétit 

Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Bin 4 Burger Lounge - Nanaimo, BC

My Big Fat Greek Burger (half), Chippies, Rings and 2 dips
New Covid-19 restrictions are in place for restaurants in BC ... some establishments with outdoor patios can retain outdoor service with limited seating and otherwise all are restricted to take-out only. 

A while back I saw a segment on CHEK News, Victoria featuring 'Bin 4 Burger Lounge'. I immediately checked out their website, burger menu, found a location in Nanaimo and emailed a friend suggesting when we can get together, "... let's meet at Bin 4 in Nanaimo!!!"

I was in Nanaimo last week, a rare occasion through Covid and made the trip equipped with my take out order, phone number and address for Bin 4 Burger Lounge. An easy to find location in the little strip mall right next to Costco. The young woman on the phone was friendly, pleasant and helpful. I placed a large order, enough for at least two people but I had one burger for lunch and another to bring home for dinner. I couldn't make a decision on just one burger and because of Covid stay close to home, so I wanted to order a good assortment. I was not disappointed!! 

Personalized Thank You!
I placed my order by phone, was told it would be ready in 15 minutes, got directions then drove to the restaurant. I was thrilled that they ask if you want cutlery ... which I did not ... so they get points for that detail! I entered the deserted dining room, paid with a VISA tap and went outside for a few minutes while I waited for my food to be finished and packed. While waiting, a Police officer got out of a black Chevy crew cab truck with a canopy and trailer hitch, walked inside, came out and carried on to the next restaurant. I assumed checking that the Covid restrictions were being followed.

I eagerly unpacked my BIG bag of take out in the car and noticed even though there was next to no personal interaction because of Covid, there were notes written on everything ... including the outside of the bag! 'Thank you!' on one side below the logo and a heart with my name on the other side. A heart warming, personal touch in this physically distanced world we live in right now. Each crisp, white box had beautiful penmanship of what was inside... 'Chicken of the Sea Burger', 'Biggest Fattest Greek Burger', 'Chippies', 'Diparoos', '1/2 Rings' and '1/2 Fries'. Yup lots of food and the personal touch of 'notes' in all this Covid weirdness!! 

Chicken of the Sea Burger with Truffle Aioli
Each burger comes with a choice from 3 sides; I had their 'Spiced Potato Chips' with both burgers, a dip, and Irene's Bakery Signature Bun (also available a Butter Lettuce Stack), a gluten free bun is available for an additional $2.

It was early afternoon and I was famished, so dug into the 'Chicken of the Sea Burger' ~seared rare sesame crusted Ahi tuna, olive tapenade, chipotle aioli, fresh cucumber, cilantro yogurt, tomato, butter lettuce and red onion. 

My Big Fat Greek Burger
The bun was incredible; tender yet firm enough to hold all the fixins'. I chose truffle aioli as the dip and was more than half way through devouring the burger and realized I had not taken a photo!!! Ooops!!

The 'My Big Fat Greek Burger' ~BC lamb, olive tapenade, oregano yogurt, goat cheese, fresh cucumber, roasted garlic aioli, tomato, butter lettuce and red onion... came home for super. The side was 'Spiced Potato Chips' (that became movie snacks a few days later) and bacon aioli dip. 

Mega Red Onion Rings
Even though it was too much to eat while 'on the road' I had to try their 'Half and Half' Starter ~half house cut Kennebec French Fries and half Panko crusted Red Onion Rings adorned with shaved parmigiano and another 2 dips... I chose roasted garlic aioli and chipotle bourbon bbq sauce.

The Red Onion Rings are very wide slices of luscious sweet, red onion in a crunchy Panko crust with a shaving of parmigiano and a dip. The photos taken in the car with my phone don't do justice to this burger, chips and ring feast from Bin 4 Burger Lounge. I fell off the Paleo Diet wagon on this take out but it was so worth it! I highly recommend Bin 4 Burger Lounge the next time you are in ... or traveling through Nanaimo! Support your local restaurants through Covid ... order take out!

Until next time ... Bon Appétit  ...stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

Photos by Sally Rae
Take-out food order by 'Bin 4 Burger Lounge', Nanaimo, BC

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Covid Chicken Crazy

Custom 'Chicken Ritz' by Peter Karsten
My 3 older hens have been moved back to the garden with their portable Chicken Emporium. They will spend time on each raised garden bed, digging and foraging for all the delicious bugs emerging in the Spring soil before I plant the vegetable garden.

I have really enjoyed the hens being near the house this winter. They are now more comfortable with me and come running when I go outside, so adorable!! I have discovered dry, Black Soldier Fly Larvae that are high calcium and desirable treats for backyard chickens. Two of the older hens now eat these special treats from my hand!

I had a larger, custom hen house built by Peter Karsten, he named it the 'Chicken Ritz'. This gives the hens much more floor space than the tiny portable house used in the garden. 

New  paint job!
It is a permanent structure in the yard, near the house for the summer and winter when the hens are not working in the garden. More floor space gives me the opportunity to get a few more hens that lay different colored eggs... I'm a bit obsessed with color and the Ameraucana blue eggs in the fridge make me soooo happy!! I want to add 3 more hens, one of each; an Olive Egger (olive green egg shell), a Black Copper Maran (dark chocolate brown egg shell) and a Barred Rock (pale pink egg shell). The color of the egg shell does not impact what the egg looks or tastes like inside ... an egg is an egg, but it sure is fun seeing an Easter basket of naturally colored eggs every day in the fridge!

Olive Egger chicks at 1 week
In February I got 4 Olive Egger chicks at 3 days old, in hopes that there will be one hen. The problem with straight run (unsexed) chicks is that more than half will be roosters. At 4 weeks it looks like I have 3 hens and one rooster! Of course they all have names... in the 1 week photo; back left is 'Sylvester', back right is 'Two Step', front center is 'Dr. Bonnie' and far right is 'Peeps'. It will be difficult to select the one that I  keep and hopefully re-home the other three.

'Peeps' at 4 weeks
By 4 weeks they were happy, messy chicks! 

They love a hanging broccoli crown (tether ball style), or a few leaves of romaine lettuce or garden kale in their cage. As a team they aggressively devour it in no time. They have a small sand box for dust bathing and I give up trying to keep their area clean. I remove the mess and put in clean bedding, sand and feed, soon as those little chicken feet reach all that clean, they are scratching it everywhere ... not to mention the poop that goes along with all the food consumption!!

Escapees!! Peeps, Two Step and Sylvester at 5 weeks
They are quickly losing their fluff and feathers are now growing on top of their heads leaving just a little halo ring of fluff. I have had to put a cover on their cage because they have been flying for about two weeks now and I found Sylvester out of the cage, on the cold floor.

At 5 weeks they are aggressive with food and treats and fly on top of the cage at every opportunity. I turned by back to fill the feeder, only to find 3 of them sitting on top of the enclosure! It seems their tails have grown overnight and Sylvester has feathers completely covering his outer legs and now has feathers growing out of his center toes. His little red comb looks like a tiny jagged saw blade. So I am quite sure there are 3 girls and 1 boy in my Olive Egger brood.

In a few more weeks ... or once they are fully feathered and no longer using the infrared brooder light, they will get moved into the Chicken Ritz and kept inside for a while to acclimatize to new surroundings. 

This is the other side of the Ritz, with a double nest box and lid to collect eggs from outside of the house. And yes, that is a 'chicken window' in the door! I was surprised to find Peter had added this adorable feature. The house is raised 20" off the ground on 8" square cedar posts. This allows the birds to be outside but still sheltered from our 'Wet Coast' weather. It also gives them a place to dust bath. We are working on the chicken yard when the weather is dry. With rain today I finally had a minute to sit at the computer to send news of the chicks just in time for Easter!

Until next time ... Happy Easter, Bon Appétit  ...stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

Photos by Sally Rae
Chicken Ritz design and construction by Peter Karsten 
Chicken Ritz paint job by Sally Rae

Monday, February 22, 2021

Crêpes S’il Vous Plait

The French Crêpe ~ Impressive, delicate, yet durable
Thick or thin, small to large, every country has a version of the pancake. The most elegant and glamorous of them all is the French Crêpe. These lacy, pliable rounds are delicate yet durable, easy to make and impressive to serve. They can be an appetizer, main course or dessert. They are a magical way to re-create leftovers into an impressive dish.

 
The marvelous fact about crêpes is that they are a perfect cook-ahead food. They keep in the fridge separated by wax paper and wrapped in plastic for 2 days and when frozen, they keep for 2 months. Thaw frozen crêpes totally and they are ready to be filled, sauced, heated if called for and served. *It is not advised to freeze filled crêpes. Best of all, you cook the crêpes when you want, at your leisure, with no one breathing over your shoulder!

To make a thin and delicate crêpe you need a good pan. It must be heavy enough to distribute the heat evenly, hold the heat and light enough to handle with ease. The many choices may seem bewildering, but any well-made crêpe pan will do the job. There are essentially two kinds of crêpe cookers. The first is the conventional skillet type, in this category are classic stainless steel pans, copper, non-stick and electric ones. The second is a bottom-dip pan where the pan is first heated, dipped in a bowl of batter then inverted over a heating element or flame. Once you have chosen a pan, follow the manufacturer's directions for seasoning the pan or preparation if any is required. Practice with your new pan. The better you know your equipment the more useful it becomes.

Assemble your mise en place; a shallow bowl of batter for the bottom-dip method, a ladle or small pitcher for the skillet type pan. Have oil, a pastry brush, cooling rack or cotton tea towel and wax paper squares to place between finished, cooled crêpes.

Follow any of the ‘Basic Folding Techniques' below, roll or fold crêpes so the best side, the one cooked first, shows. For the performing cook, a 'finishing pan' will be needed to flambé food. The finishing pan is large, flat, beautiful and heat proof. To flambé, gently warm the spirit to be burned, so the alcohol will ignite easily but be certain that it does not come to a boil or all the alcohol will be cooked off and there will not be any flames to dazzle your guests. Never pour the spirit directly from the bottle into flaming sauce. The fire can follow the spirit into the bottle and cause more of a spectacle than you bargained for!

SECRETS TO SUCCESS
  • Let the batter stand for an hour or more after you have mixed it, before frying the crêpe. As it stands, the starch in the flour absorbs liquid, making more tender crêpes. Batters that sit will thicken slightly; dilute them with a little water to the consistency of heavy cream.
  • Always have your crêpe pan heated to a point where a small amount of water dropped on the pan will bounce and dance about. If the pan is either too hot or too cool, the batter will not adhere.
  • Grease the pan well with coconut or avocado oil between crêpes.
  • Remove pan from heat to add the batter. Pour 1½-2 oz. batter directly into the center of the pan, and then quickly roll the pan about so that the batter covers the bottom. If the batter is too thick add a teaspoon of water at a time. If crêpes have a ‘lacey’ look, add more flour.
  • Cook briefly until crêpe starts to brown on bottom. It is not necessary, but you can turn over and cook a few seconds on the other side, or slip it under a broiler for a moment. Slide onto a tea towel or cooling rack. Continue until all batter is used.
  • Cool and use immediately, or stack with wax paper between each crêpe. Wrap well and refrigerate for later use or freeze wrapped in plastic.
Crêpes offer infinite opportunities for improvisation; in the crêpe batter, the fillings, toppings, sauces and folding techniques you use. Sophisticated diners and kids alike will love the elegant yet simple crêpe!

BASIC FOLDING TECHNIQUES

CRÊPE ROLLS- spread filling on each crêpe and roll tightly from one side, to form a cigar shape.
CORNUCOPIAS- cut the crêpes in half. Place filling to one side and roll into a cone shape.
CLASSIC FOLD OR ENVELOPE- place filling in the center and fold the two sides over the center.
CRÊPE POCKETS- begin with ‘Classic/Envelope Fold’ then tuck the two open ends into the crêpe.
TRIANGLE FOLD- spread filling on half and fold in half to cover, then fold in half again to form a triangle.
DOUBLE STUFFED TRIANGLE- place filling on one quarter and fold in half, place more filling over the previously filled quarter and then fold in half again to form a double stuffed triangle.
STACKED OR LAYERED CRÊPES- place filling on one crêpe then top with a second, place filing on that one, add another and proceed to desired height. Serve by cutting in wedges.

Basic Folds - left to right ... Rolls, Cornucopias, Envelope, Pocket, Triangles

BASIC CRÊPES                    Yield: about 12 crêpes
This recipe can be varied to suit the filling. For example, if you are serving a curry inside the crêpe you can add a touch of curry powder to the batter. Flavorful chicken or beef stock can be added for all or part of the milk. 
 
2 large eggs
1¼ cup milk
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Beat eggs well, add milk, flour and salt. Beat to a smooth batter then blend in melted butter. Let batter stand for 1 hour for more perfect crêpes. To cook, see ‘Secrets to Success' above.

Fresh Strawberries, Whipped Cream and Maple Syrup

DESSERT CRÊPES           Yield: about 12 crêpes
If you are using fruit or berries inside the crêpes, add a bit of orange zest to the batter and 1-3 Tbsp. liqueur as part of the liquid.
 
1 recipe ‘Basic Crêpes’ (recipe above)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Prepare ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter, whisk in sugar and vanilla. Let batter stand for 1 hour. To cook, see ‘Secrets to Success’ above.
 

CHOCOLATE CRÊPES    Yield: about 12 crêpes 
I have used this recipe for years, from the Food Network~Laura Calder’s ‘French Food at Home’. Stuff these crêpes simply with sweetened whipped cream and fresh summer berries or sliced bananas. Serve with ‘Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce’ (recipe below).

1 Tbsp. butter
1½ oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup milk
2 eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan combine butter, chocolate and milk and heat to melt. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl. Add vanilla stir, then add flour. Beat in chocolate mixture. Let batter stand for 1 hour. To cook, see ‘Secrets to Success’ above.
 
CRÊPES NEPTUNE                  Yield: 12 crêpes – 12 appetizers
One of my signature recipes... The addition of minced dill and lemon zest to this crêpe batter is a delicious alternative for seafood fillings. Scallops, lobster or salmon also work well in this recipe.

1 recipe ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter (recipe above)
1½ Tbsp. minced baby dill weed
Zest of 1-2 lemons
2 Tbsp. butter
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup button mushrooms, cut in quarters
½ cup dry Sherry, divided
1½ Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
8 oz. crab meat
8 oz. shrimp meat
1½ cups Béchamel sauce, divided
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
12 lemon twists and sprigs of baby dill for garnish

Prepare ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter, whisk in minced dill weed and lemon zest. Let batter stand for 1 hour.
Meanwhile prepare the filling. Melt butter in a medium sauté pan. Add scallions and mushrooms, sauté but do not brown. Add ¼ cup Sherry and thyme, simmer over medium heat until reduced by one third. Add crab, shrimp and 1 cup Béchamel sauce. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate.

Cook the crêpes. Divide seafood filling between 12 crêpes, roll each tightly into a ‘Crêpe Roll’ and place in a baking dish seam sides down. Thin remaining ½ cup Béchamel sauce with Sherry to desired consistency, drizzle over rolled crêpes and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot through and lightly browned. Garnish with a lemon twist and a sprig of dill.

FRESH MUSHROOM CRÊPES           Yield: 8 crêpes – 4 servings
Crimini mushrooms are also known as brown or Italian. They are young Portobello mushrooms with a hearty, earthy flavor, tan to dark brown with smooth tops.

1 recipe ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter (recipe above)
1½ Tbsp. minced fresh thyme or sage
3 cups sliced fresh crimini mushrooms
¼ cup scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup thick Béchamel sauce
½ cup grated medium Cheddar cheese
¼ cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. grated Gruyère cheese
Sprigs of thyme for garnish

Prepare ‘Basic Crêpe’ batter, whisk in minced fresh thyme. Let batter stand for 1 hour.
Sauté mushrooms and scallions in butter until tender. Stir in Béchamel and cheddar cheese, add wine. Spoon mixture into crêpes then use the ‘Triangle Fold’. Sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and broil for 2 minutes. Garnish with sprig of thyme.

HAZELNUT STACKED CRÊPES WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE       Yield: 6 servings
Crunchy, caramelized hazelnuts layered between delicate crêpes, served with a rich chocolate sauce… an elegant dessert!

10-12 ‘Dessert or Chocolate Crêpes’ (recipes above)
8 oz. hazelnuts
2 tsp. avocado oil
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
 
Coarsely chop hazelnuts and heat in oil. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and stir until well caramelized. ‘Stack Crêpes’ with caramelized nuts between each crêpe. Distribute nuts to the edge and lightly press down each crêpe before adding the next layer. Drizzle a small amount of sauce over the stack. Cut crêpe stack into 6 wedges and serve with warm ‘Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce’.

Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce         Yield: about 1 1/4 cup
This sauce when served warm is a decadent, liquid ganache.

¾ cup whipping cream
9 oz. top quality dark chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tsp. instant Espresso powder
3 Tbsp. Frangelico liqueur

Combine cream and chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir frequently until chocolate is melted. Dissolve Espresso powder in liqueur and add to chocolate mixture until well combined.Drizzle over dessert crêpes, cake or ice cream

Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!
 
Photos by Sally Rae
Recipes by Sally Rae
Chocolate Crêpe Recipe by Laura Calder