Monday, 10 May 2010

Fields of Gold

There is nothing quite like jumping into fresh week after having spent a wonderful weekend with those you love. After being away for a few days to visit my parents in the Annapolis Valley, I enjoyed a bustling morning in the kitchen, organizing and preparing food for the week ahead. With a fresh batch of yogurt out of the pot and straining, I set to work on a double batch of homemade crackers. Crackers are always a quick and easy snack for the boys, so they are convenient to have on hand when Mama is tired (or feeling lazy). A recent Bulk Barn shopping spree has my pantry cupboard overflowing with a fabulous selection of grains and seeds. I'm taking a baby step approach to eliminating as many pre-packaged foods from our lives as possible. Last week was the yogurt experiment, this week I'm "cracking down" on boxed crackers! Muffy served as the taste-taster this morning and the results of my efforts received glowing reviews. The crackers were gobbled up in an instant the the yogurt bowl was licked clean. I always get a warm, cozy feeling of satisfaction when I witness my children truly enjoying wholesome, healthy foods.

Here is the cracker recipe that I compiled from a few sources, one being an old photocopy from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup bulger
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk (I used the left over whey from the yogurt making)

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter. Add buttermilk and stir well.
Shape into 6 balls and roll out on a floured surface as thin as you can.
Transfer to a baking sheet.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes
Let cool on wire rack until crips. Break into smaller pieces.
Hide from your husband and children and ration out carefully so they last more than one day.

Since I found myself working in the kitchen, I figured it would be rather efficient of me to get a bit of wool dyeing done! I came home with a bushel of dandelion blooms from my trip to the Valley. The fields last week were a breathtaking and brilliant yellow. Isn't it funny how these flowers get such a bad reputation? I was so taken by the stunning beauty of these fields. I'm not so sure the results from the dyepot will be as vibrant or awe-inspiring! My experience with the nettles was a tad drab and disappointing. I suppose it is more about the process of slowing down, gathering, preparing, creating.....and the fact I feel just the tiniest bit like Laura Ingalls while I'm out foraging!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Yes You Can...Yogurt!

Last Saturday evening I settled down with a nice cup of tea and my laptop to take a leisurely stroll though some of my favorite blogs. After having completed a fair amount of sewing projects the previous week, I felt a little down time was in order. My first click lead me to Sherrie over at Twenty Two Pleasant. She pointed me over here for instructions on do-it-yourself homemade yogurt. So much for some down time! Before I could even empty my teacup I was on my way back to the kitchen to give this recipe a whirl. It seemed so simple and too good to be true.

The next morning I was up with Rocky the Rooster (he serves as the alarm clock around here....but I can't seem to change the setting to something more reasonable!!). I must say, I was pretty impressed when I opened the lid and discovered a yummy, tangy batch of homemade yogurt. In no time I found myself throwing together a batch of homemade granola to pair up with my yogurt. Though our Sunday mornings usually call for pancakes, we strayed from tradition and served homemade yogurt and granola topped with maple syrup and strawberries. Absolutely divine! I'm hooked and so excited to add another little do-it-yourself trick to my limited repertoire. I made another batch mid week as the first was gobbled up in no time, and success once again. Give it a try! I swear it is fool proof!

Yes, my stove top has seen lots of action over the last few days. The dye pot has been going non-stop. The fresh spring air and sunshine always get me in the mood to hang freshly dyed skeins on the line. I just recently started tinkering with natural dyes. I treated myself to an early Mother's Day gift - The Craft of Natural Dyeing by Jenny Dean. Ironically I opened this week's CSA box from Taproot Farms and discovered a bag of stinging nettle calling out to me. What a dilemma - feed these amazing nutrient packed greens to my family, or sacrifice them to the dye pot. I guess I'm a selfish person. I chose the later. I'm dreaming of a pair of nettle mittens for myself next winter! Perhaps we'll get more nettles next week and I promise, we will eat every single one....or maybe the whole family should have nettle mittens. What's a Wool Fairy to do?

I received another early Mother's Day gift this week from my sweet little boy, Muffy. He presented this gorgeous arrangement to me that he created at preschool yesterday. Honestly, I'm in awe of the work of this little three year old boy. It is sitting proudly at the centre of our dining room table, bringing joy to me at each glance. The children have been doing Ikebana arrangements at their Montessori preschool for the last couple of months. It is amazing to see what these small children are capable of when given the opportunity and tools. It's just a reminder to me of why I have always been so drawn to Montessori.

So of course I've got a Montessori inspired activity going on today with Chi-Chi and Muffy working away on the latest task - gathering dandelion blooms for the dye pot. Why am I not feeling that guilty about this dye job?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Celebrate Good Times!

Wahoo! It is a cause for celebration in our house. Yesterday marked the official end of tax season. Yipee! Yay! Yipee! (Did I mention I was excited). Although I wasn't the one who was burning the midnight oil, we've all missed Hubby during this busy time. Now that the deadline is behind us, I'm looking forward to a more regular and normal routine.

Hats off to Daddy for making a solid effort this year to get home for as many bedtimes as possible. Meals were a bit more tricky, especially with two hungry and growing boys who start hounding for supper earlier and earlier each day. Meal planning has definitely been a lot simpler during this busy time. I'm looking forward to getting back on track, trying out new recipes and enjoying the bountiful selection of fresh food from Taproot Farms- as a family. I've got a cabbage the size of a basketball in my fridge that I've been nibbling away at. I need that big strong man of mine to eat a good chunk of it for me!!

In anticipation of the return to normalcy around here, I spent a couple of evenings last week stitching up a fresh new set of place mats to add some fun and beauty to our family dinner hour. This has been on my to-do list for quite some time. Our faithful old set of mats has gotten pretty darn grungy over the last while. Quite frankly, they are really quite digusting and not very appetizing. Something clean and fresh was in order. I had been stewing over possible color and fabric combinations when I came across a few yards of a basic red and white checker pattern at Value Village the other day. I snatched it up for $1.99 and had enough to complete a set of eight place mats. I think they have a fun summer picnic feel to them. I appliqued a gnome friend on two of the mats to add a twist for the boys. This fabric was left over from Chi-Chi's quilt and both boys were quite tickled about their new mats. Chi-Chi exclaimed, "Mommy, the table looks so beautiful tonight!" I noticed that he, in particular, sat up a little straighter in his chair tonight and was on his best behaviour. He even gobbled up his full serving of nutrient-packed fiddle heads! A few simple touches including the candles and a vase of spring branches seemed to added to the warm and cozy atmosphere of our time together as a family.

I was so inspired by the mere thought of summer that I dug into my stash of frozen strawberries and baked up some stawberry short cake as a celebratory dessert. Yum! So much to look forward to in the months ahead!