Fed up. Hoops Up!

This is a post from last April as we gave up waiting for Old Man Winter to leave us alone. I am hoping to get some therapeutic alone time in the dirt this weekend and set up some hoops to get a jump on this season – a whole month earlier than last year!! If all goes as planned, I hope to get some spinach, asian greens, beets, onions, radish and turnip in the ground under tunnels and some snow peas under frost blankets. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty!!

Nova Scotia Roots

It snowed again today.  No accumulation, but big, wet, yucky flakes came down.  Again.  Mother Nature and I are having a time out.  A pause.  I am trying to be the bigger person and not throw a full on hissy fit – it is pretty tough, but so far I am in for the win.  This past weekend was glorious!  A large amount of snow had melted and by Sunday evening I had 4 raised beds thawed and moist and the main veggie bed almost visible.  There was hope!  I even started hardening off the early veggie babies and the perennial seedlings on the porch.  Apparently Mother Nature put her big old arctic mukluk wearing foot down.  But I am no schmuck – I got prepared. That does’t mean I am happy about it.

I am now a full 3 weeks behind where I was 2 years ago, not…

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Chilly Carrots and Kale

Adversity? Nope – Hard core gardening!!  Fit for a deer?! We aren’t going to let a snow get in our way…



Who said you can’t have fresh back yard garden veggies in the Canadian winter?! It takes some planning, some luck and a bit of crazy – but seeing little faces light up when they find veggies they planted last summer under the snow is pretty cool.

It was actually warm enough to dig under the snow with some garden gloves in the winter tunnel this morning (a balmy +3 degrees celsius!).  The strong winds and piles of snow destroyed our pitiful little tunnel, but the straw insulation managed to protect the few precious carrots we had left!!  Hubby thought he had picked most of them for Christmas dinner but there were enough little guys left for a quick snack!!  The kale is still going strong – that “vile weed” seems to survive everything we throw at it.  Thank goodness it tastes good in soup and pasta…

The beet, turnip, leek and onion tunnel is still covered in ice and feet of snow (completely unaccessible on crutches), hopefully we will be blessed enough with a few more warmer days before winter sets in again and we will be able to see some green under there as well!

Worth a try next year in your yard?


“Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.” ~ Og Mandino

Pantry Shopping – Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

As promised (though delayed thanks to life), we had leftover sauce from our veggie lasagna and some spaghetti squash from the garden in the cold room (it will last all winter in a cool dark space after picking in the fall).  Instead of noodles, the girls love spaghetti squash roasted in the oven and stuffed with spaghetti toppings.  I prefer it to pasta; it is not nearly as filling, obviously not processed and doesn’t leave me feeling so stuffed!  Plus – it is way more fun to “pick our pasta”! We have made veggie stuffing alternatives using mushrooms, butternut squash chunks, onions and beans instead of the meat but I will admit that my 2 meat-a-tarians prefer it this way.


Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

From the cold room

1 large spaghetti squash, dried oregano, thyme, chives and crushed chilis peppers

From the freezer

1 pound each of local hot Italian sausage (Cavicci’s meats makes great sausage!) and ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey, browned.

Ingredients for tomato sauce – We had left over sauce to use, about 3 cups worth.  If we have none prepped, to make enough for 1 large squash we normally use the equivalent of 1 large can of frozen tomatoes (about 15 frozen paste tomatoes), 2 chunks of frozen basil (about 2 tbsp), dried herbs and some garlic scapes.

For this recipe, if I don’t have any sauce actually cooked, I will just blender the tomatoes with the basil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp each of dried thyme, oregano, chives and salt and pepper. We then add the “sauce smoothie” directly into the meat and warm it in the browning pan. Easy, easy cheat!!

From the fridge

1 cup each of cottage cheese, ricotta and mozzarella cheese

How we did it…

After halving and seeding the squash, we roasted it face down with a bit of olive oil at 350 degrees for roughly an hour (or until for fork tender.)


In the meantime we combined the meats and left over sauce. In a separate bowl we combined the ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/2 tsp of crushed chilis and 1/2 tsp each of extra oregano and thyme.

Once roasted we filled the bottom 1/2 of each side of the squash with the cheese mixture and the top 1/2 with the meat and tomato sauce mixture. We covered the top with grated mozzarella and returned to the oven to bake until bubbly. We devoured this with a green salad with pears, seeds, dried cranberries and apples – all local!  Yum.


LEFT OVER BONUS!  If the squash is a bit smaller, the left over meat and cheese mixtures can be added to brown rice with some black beans and salsa to make another great quick meal!

Now what to do with all of the frozen kale and carrots….? Soup!!


Freezer Shopping – Veggie Lasagna


Winter hit us this week; snow storm, strong winds, school cancelled, the works.  Being temporarily out of commission due to a pesky set of crutches that seem to be particularly fond of me I couldn’t get to the grocery store.

Ba-ba-da-da!! (Insert catchy lilting “eureka” sound byte here…)

It hit me suddenly – We have a deep freeze full of everything wholesome, home grown and nutritious we needed to make some comforting cold weather, “I just want to wear crocheted slippers and an ugly sweater in front of the fireplace” food!!!!  I had stocked up on fresh seafood and meat from the market who sources from local farmers and had the few remaining ingredients on hand, so not only would we not need to get to the store, at least 75% of the ingredients would be locally sourced as well!  May I re-iterate it is January and not much is growing fresh in our neck of the woods = score 1 for the freezer!


After hobbling down the stairs on one crutch (so I could carry stuff with my free hand), I found everything I needed for 2 pots of soup, a veggie lasagna and stuffed spaghetti squash between the freezer and cold room. I would have gotten the girls to help, but they were too cute sledding in the front yard I didn’t have the heart to call them in…ahhh to be so excited about snow to be oblivious to the actual weather conditions…

So if you are chilly and need a warm, filling, hug from a bowl of soup or a good hearty pasta alternative, the next four posts will include recipes to warm you up!  The first one is Veggie Lasagna because it was the recipe posted on Italian Kitchen that got me craving lasagna in the first place, thanks!

Veggie and 3 Cheese Lasagna (adapted from Italian Home Kitchen)


From the Freezer (Vacuum sealed fresh from the garden)

2 cups cubed Zucchini (thawed), 4 basil chunks (see Kitty’s Presto Pesto post if you’d like to see how we froze our EPIC basil harvest this year!) – about 4 tbsp, the equivalent of 3 large cans of frozen tomatoes and 1/4 cup chopped garlic scapes

Fresh Veggies

2 big handfuls of spinach and 1 1/2 cups (ish) of mushrooms

From the “Cold Room”

4 cloves of dried garlic, thyme, oregano, chives, chilis and 1 small butternut squash

From the Cupboard/Fridge

2 cups of grated mozzarella, 2 cups cottage cheese, 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, 3 eggs

1 box of lasagna noodles (I didn’t have any fresh zucchini to slice into “noodles” with the mandolin).

Sea salt and Fresh ground pepper

How I did it..

The sauce: In a pot, I put all of the whole frozen tomatoes (about 20 or 2L), the garlic, basil, herbs and scapes with 1/2 cup of water and then let it all simmer until it was hot and bubbly.  The few skins that I had been too lazy to remove before freezing floated to the top and I just skimmed them out.

Once it smelled amazing and the juice had the right taste to my liking, I blendered it into a sauce and left it to continue reducing until I was ready for it.


In 2 separate bowls, I made the filling layers.  The first bowl contained the eggs, well beaten, the cottage cheese and 2 big handfuls of fresh chopped spinach seasoned with sea salt and ground pepper.  The second bowl had the zucchini (liquid mostly drained after it had thawed), mushrooms and thinly sliced butternut squash.


Layering: Starting with a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a stone lasagna pan, I alternately layered uncooked noodles, the spinach and cheese mixture, the veggies then more sauce.  I sprinkled each layer with a bit of mozzarella before starting the next noodle level. On the very top, I spread the mozzarella and the parmesan.

Into the preheated oven it went – 350 degrees for about an hour and a half – I covered it with foil for the first 45 minutes.  Once the noodles could be pierced with a fork and everything was bubbly, it was all ready!

The verdict – success!  I served it with a loaf of bread I had found in the freezer from a baking marathon earlier in the winter and a green salad.  Only my wee girl complained about the mushrooms, but she conceded that it was easier for her to pick them out than for the rest of us to put them in! It was a bit runny, the next day for leftovers it was perfect. The only other feedback from the carnivore section was that there was a serious lack of meat, but they too grudgingly admitted that it was delicious without it!

Thankfully I have enough sauce left over to make the meat-a-tarians happy and will make stuffed spaghetti squash tonight. Check back – I might get the girls to take more pictures of that one too!

The flurries have begun and the 2015 garden $$ totals are in…Picked (but not so much planted) Sept 22nd – Nov 18th

The garden is tucked in for the impending winter season.  Will it be soft, gentle, fluffy and peaceful or a raging onslaught of freezing rain, blizzards and hurricane speed winds?  In Nova Scotia one never knows.  I have been holding off on doing the final tally of what we picked, weighed and calculated this season thinking that we would have stopped bringing in a regular harvest long before now.  But blessings be acknowledged, the girls continued to haul in buckets of treasures up until last weekend!  We did have to buy some tender veggies and extra salad greens from the market last week – the first real time since June!!  There are still beets, carrots, kale, chard, leeks, onions and mixed greens tucked under hoop tunnels and snuggled under frost blankets for special treats between now and full freeze up, but I think it is safe to say that the majority of our harvest is now in! We had our first flurry today, winter is unavoidable.


When we began asking ourselves how much we could be saving in produce, we never expected that the totals would be so high.  We also never anticipated the volume of veggies that we could actually consume as a family of four during 1 season, nor how much we would be able to freeze and jar to extend our feasting. And we certainly didn’t even stop to think about how much fun it would be to weigh, track and tally our bounty – who knew kids could get so excited about book keeping?!


In the end it is safe to say that this experience has been far more worthwhile to us than any actual $$ total.  It has taught us to be less wasteful by ensuring we consumed what we picked, less picky because even ugly cucumbers taste great and save us money and to be even more grateful for our ability to “shop” for dinner right in our own backyard.  It is amazing how much more we appreciated our own produce when we compared what the weekly prices were in the market for what the kids simply pulled out of the (non-chemically treated, clean earth, worm filled and flower kissed) dirt. Dirt is amazing!  And seeds, well they are just mind blowing. Really.


So without further adieu…..drumroll please…..the totals for Sept 22- Nov 18th of our 2015 season are:

Approx savings compared to local market: $972.75!!!!

Total since May 26th – $2355.45 WOW!!!

Total weight picked this period: 136.09 pounds!!  That is almost as much as I weigh….

Total to date: 341.15 pounds (That is a lot of veggies!!!)

These totals are compared to local produce when possible but not specifically organic produce – we would prefer to eat local than purchase organic food that has had to travel very long distances, using wasteful packaging and not being allowed to ripen to perfect.  We do use organic methods in our own garden, so the estimated savings would likely be much more significant had we compared to local AND organic produce!  Not to mention the savings in jams, jellies, spreads, sauces, salsas, dried and frozen herbs, saved seeds, compost, cut flowers…you get the picture!


Dollars and cents may speak to some, time outdoors and exercise to others, quality conversations and relationship building to most…how do we put a price on the value of our family garden?!




Kitty’s Presto Pesto Pasta



What on earth do we do with 6 pounds of beautiful basil?  We knew we had a great crop this year – we have been picking and enjoying fresh basil seemingly without end since July, but we were not expecting to harvest 6 pounds when frost threatened!!  Thankfully we LOVE basil and it freezes really well for the winter.

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Not only do we love to eat basil, it helps us in our battle against weeds.  Battle against weeds you ask?  YOU BET!  We sprinkle basil seeds around the bases of freshly planted tomato and pepper plants and as they grow, they create a lovely, tasty, fragrant weed barrier – bonus score!  We planted 3 varieties this year – Genovese, Sweet and Opal (purple) basil. They taste similar and I cannot honestly say I prefer one to the other.


Even the bees love basil!!

Soooo….what to do with all of this green gold (literally – 2 ounces of fresh basil was $2.49 at the market this week….)?  My wee girl and I set to work and we spent the morning blending, pesto-ing and cooking!  The house smelled amazing and our bellies were full and happy – as is the freezer.


We began by pulling the leaves off the stems…


This is the square footage 6 pounds of basil covers!! But it packs down pretty tight.

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For simple freezing, we added 10 cups of leaves and 1 cup of olive oil to the blender.  I don’t have nearly enough ice cube trays, so once blender-ed to “smizereens”, we spread it over plastic plates, covered them and popped them in the freezer. Once frozen, I pull them off the plates, cut into chunks and store in freezer bags to pull out and add to sauces and salad dressings all winter.

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And of course, we made pesto!!


Our recipe that we like to use is:

8 cloves of garlic

1 cup of pine nuts

4 cups of packed basil leaves

1 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of grated fresh parmesan

Salt and pepper

Presto! Once blended, we freeze this as well on plastic trays – I am hesitant to jar pesto for long term storage given the risks of botulism with garlic but we do keep a few in the fridge.


So with all the work done, my wee girl’s belly was grumbling, a perfect excuse to make fresh pasta to serve with our pesto and some tomatoes picked that morning!


For the homemade pasta we mix 3 1/2 cups of flour with 3 fresh eggs, 1 cup of local wine and 3 cloves of pressed garlic.  Kneading the dough with an extra 1/2 – 1 cup of flour until it is no longer sticky is key – and fun for little hands!

Once the dough is set, we cut off small chunks, dust them with flour and run them through the pasta mill – first through the pasta sheet side, then through the fettucini noodle attachment. The noodles are spread on cloth until they firm up a bit – about 30 minutes. Boil in salted water for roughly 5 minutes until cooked to the right texture. Once drained, we toss them with the fresh pesto and chopped tomatoes.  My hubby the “meat-a-tarian” added some local sausage to his before we sprinkled the plates with more grated parmesan.  And of course, we always have to sip some paired wine (grape juice for Kitty…) and belt out Andrea Bocelli for full Italian effect while eating (feel free to have a listen and a sing-along with us!)

The finished product – Kitty’s Presto Pesto Pasta!  Mama Mia, delizioso!


What do you do with your beautiful basil?


Hehehe, this made me giggle!


End of the month photo garden tour – September

I know we are well into October now, but I thought I would still share the end of the month pictures from the September garden before a large portion of it got harvested for storing!  Shorthly after these pictures were taken we pulled roughly 50 pounds of potatoes, 25 more pounds of tomatoes, 6 pounds of basil (more in another post on that haul!!!) and 15 pounds of beans before the frost threatened!  Most of what remains now is cold hardy and can left for a few more weeks.

My fall green plantings have sadly been ravaged by slugs and we have had to replant the winter greens, asian greens and spinach again in planters on the deck, fingers crossed we get a decent pile of greens for fall salads!

The fall radish and market turnip crop are doing very well and should be ready to pick and enjoy in the next week – it is amazing how hardy these cool season veggies can be.  With a little straw and some hoop tunnels over top as the frost sets, we should be able to pick carrots, beets, kale, chard and onions until well into December.  Bring on the cool weather, we are ready!!

Eating Local – “Roadside” Squash, Sage and Pancetta Rissoto

September raced by in a blur of back to school, back to sports and dirty harvest hands!  September is by far our favourite month in Nova Scotia; the sun shines bright and warm during the day and the welcome cool evenings allow for comfortable sleeps and a break from the humidity of the summer.  It also brings an abundance of beautiful harvest – squash, pumpkin, herbs, potatoes and of course the best pile of fresh tomatoes! Roadside farmer’s stands wait with piles of fresh treasure and little jars to drop in coins.  The simple trust placed in the “would be” consumers is such a heart warming sight – in a world where it is often scary to turn on the evening news there is a peace to be found in an afternoon drive through the country side seeking out the perfect squash, the clink of a toonie in the bottom of a jar when the prize is scored and the satisfaction of knowing it can’t get much more local than the end of the farmer’s driveway! We picked our own squash from the garden but we couldn’t help ourselves when we found the motherload of Butternut squash on a back road in Sheffield Mills last weekend – I couldn’t let it pass by and of course my tummy growled for my favourite squash recipe – Sage, Pancetta and Squash risotto. It can easily be made with bacon or without any meat at all as a vegetarian option – my “Meat-a-tarian” husband wouldn’t hear of that option! So as a final recipe in our 50% September Local Eating challenge, here is our recipe-ish…


Our roadside bounty! $2 each and a rogue melon for $1- best price in town!

Local Ingredients

2-3 cups Butternut squash, cut into small cubes

8-10 sage leaves

3 Tbsp olive oil – From Liquid Gold!

4 cups homemade chicken stock (I had some frozen)

4 tablespoons Tatamagouche butter

1 medium onion, cut fine

8-10 sage leaves, chopped

2 1/2 cups of white wine – I used Jost Kabinett because I like a lighter taste, but a dry wine would work very well too (I would use less wine and more stock though…)

From the Store

1/4 pound pancetta, in small pieces

2 1/2 cups of Arborio Rice

1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

How we did it…


In a skillet, we cooked the pancetta to almost crispy. Once cooked I drained it (leaving a few drippings in the pan) and set it aside.  To the skillet I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and the squash over medium high heat until almost soft.  The sage, salt and pepper were added for about 1 minute at the end. The smell is amazing!

In the meantime…

In a large pot, we melted 3 tbsps of butter with 2 tbsps of olive oil and sauteed the onion until clear over medium heat. Then we added the rice and stirred constantly for 2 minutes.  (My minions helped, this is key to multi-task recipes!)

To the rice we added the wine, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed.  Then we added the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time (while I sipped a glass of wine of course) until it was all absorbed – roughly 25 minutes.


Once the risotto was soft and oh-so-creamy, we added the last tbsp of butter, the squash, sage and the pancetta to the pot with most of the parmesan, gently folding it all together.

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Obviously, it was served with the matching wine and sprinkled with the parmesan cheese on top.

Who knew bargain roadside produce could be so rich?!


Eating Local – Magic Bean, Beef and Basil Thai Stir fry

My girls love “magic beans” – the ones that start off as purple, pink or speckled, but turn green when they are cooked!  They think they are very smart beans because they let us know when they are ready to eat simply by changing colour – keeps us from eating too many soggy beans!  Our garden is pumping out more beans than we can keep up with up so we decided to add them to a family favourite – Beef and Basil Thai stir fry and it turned out to be better with the beans than we could have imagined.  I will admit that there are more non-local ingredients in this one because of the Thai ingredients in the sauce, but we still meet the 50% target!  This one will be back on our plates again soon for sure!


Here is our recipe (ish):

On medium high heat, in a large non-stick skillet we combined:

1 Tbsp fresh chopped garlic

1 Dried jalapeno, chopped fine

2 tbsps olive oil

1 medium onion


Once the onion was soft, we added:

1L fresh beans, snapped in half, ends removed


4 Tbsp fish sauce

6 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp lemon grass paste

2 Tbsp water


Just before the magic beans had turned colour we added:

4 large steaks, grilled and sliced (if using fresh meat, cook after step 1 in garlic and chilis and set aside).  There are so many wonderful grass fed beef farmers in our province!!


Finally, once the beans were tender crisp and the steak was hot, we added 1 cup chopped fresh purple and green basil from our garden.


We served it with hot jasmine rice, but it could easily be enjoyed on it’s own to get that “Local” percentage of ingredients a bit higher!


Just typing this post made me want to make another batch!!

Picked and Planted – Sept 1st – 21st

These past weeks we picked:

September has been a lovely month in Nova Scotia.  It has been very warm, even hot on quite a few days – this weekend reached over 30 degrees. We have had some good rains and cooler nights but thankfully no frost or hurricanes. The garden has continued to thrive, allowing us to pick a great volume of vegetables for the freezer and the salsa production line!  I will admit that we have not been out picking as much as we could be with the start of school, sports and the end of vacation, but we are still not paying  for produce…though I will admit that I picked up come gorgeous butternut squash from a farmer’s driveway when we were in the Annapolis Valley blueberry picking, I simply couldn’t help myself – it is so fun putting coins in a jar and picking out fresh treasures with the farmer trusting you completely to pay for what you take!

Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and herbs have been the big hitters, but we have also picked a lot of kale, chard, zucchini, onions, leeks, celery and beets.  We also started picking eggplant and jalapeño peppers! Squash should be ready for harvesting by next week and the new fall crops of greens and radish will be close behind. Fingers crossed we will be hauling in freshness for at least another month!

Approx savings compared to local market: 264.24

Total since May 26th – $1382.70.46

Total weight picked this period: 72.45 pounds!!  That is more than my 8 year old – our minds are blown again!

Total to date: 305.04 pounds

This month we planted:

Fall greens – Bok Choy, Spinach, mixed salad greens and beet greens

Market turnip (30 days!!)

Cherry Belle radish – 4th planting of the season!

I covered the seedlings with frost blankets to keep the soil moist and to help fend off the birds and slugs. So far the battle with the slugs has been awful!

“Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.” ~ Unknown