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!

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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

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Once the onion was soft, we added:

1L fresh beans, snapped in half, ends removed

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4 Tbsp fish sauce

6 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp lemon grass paste

2 Tbsp water

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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!!

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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.

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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!

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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

Eating Local – Oh. My. Goodness. Leftover Roasted Potato, Bacon, Beer and Corn Chowder

Joining the 50% Local Club for September has been a great experience for us!  I have to admit that I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to stick to it – there are so many local options this time of year to pick from and with a  little digging through product, many ingredients can be found that I didn’t even know could be produced locally can be found.  I have even heard the kids lecturing each other about their choices when packing lunches, it is quite cute.

Last weekend, my hubby had a milestone birthday and we planned a big surprise party for him – including 40 cobs of fresh corn and 20 pounds of herb roasted potatoes along with a bazillion other dishes. And beer – a whole lot of Alexander Keith’s (except that we don’t drink beer…what to do with the leftovers?!)  Needless to say, there was a lot of corn, potatoes and beer leftover the next morning.  4 vacuum sealed bags of corn went into the freezer for the winter, and I decided to try to create a chowder of sorts by combining a few different recipes with what we had leftover and what I could find in the fridge or garden.  SUCCESS!!!  Oh. my. goodness.

Everything except the olive oil, salt and pepper in this recipe came from the garden or a local source!

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Here is our recipe (ish)

8 strips of bacon (Martock Glen) – cooked, cut and set aside. I drained most of the drippings but left a little in the pot.

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3 tbsp Tatamagouche butter

1 onion

4 leek scapes

3 cloves garlic

These 3 were sautéed together until the onions were almost soft in the butter and bacon drippings in the pot.

3 cups chopped carrots – added after the onions were almost done with the following herbs…

1 tbsp fresh thyme

½ tsp fresh rosemary

3 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs of fresh dill

2 bottles Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale – Yup, I poured it right over the veggies and herbs, turned the heat to medium low and let it all simmer until the carrots were almost done – about 15 minutes.

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Then we added:

5 cups Leftover local Oven Roasted Potatoes (Spuds, Olive oil (okay, this wasn’t local…), garlic, thyme, basil, chives, oregano, crushed red chilis, salt and pepper – roasted at 425 degrees for roughly an hour)

5 cups leftover local Corn on the Cob, niblets stripped and separated.

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Once it was all warm and the flavours were nicely blending – about another 15 minutes on medium low, we added:

5 cups of Farmer’s half and half (enough to cover the veggies)

Salt and Pepper

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Once hot, but not boiling, we added:

Fox Hill smoked Gouda, parsley and chives to garnish

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We also made a batch of cheddar rosemary biscuits – and then we gobbled it up until our bellies hurt.  It was even better the next day for lunch!

Beautiful Blooms – September 21st

A few Sunday morning coffee shots from the past week to brighten your day in the rain we are having today in Nova Scotia.  What a beautiful September – we still have day lilies in bloom!! Can you tell that sunflowers are a favourite of my photography team?  They must take after their mother. My favourite is the planter filled with flowers grown so lovingly by my wee girl – they turned out to be so beautiful! Have a wonderful week!

 “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” – Helen Keller 

EPIC Tomato Identification Error! HELP!!

We have discovered an epic error in tomato identification during our tomato taste-off….

Back in the early Spring when little hands were seeding they were very careful to label each seed tray (even if she did plant faaaaaaar too many seeds).

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These little hands wrote out over 100 little tags so each tomato seedling would have a name under the lights.

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Each little tag got placed very carefully next to the plants for whom they had been so carefully made.

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Yet SOMEHOW during our Taste-off, we misidentified one of our favourites.  The second place finalist to be specific.  Each plant in the garden bearing this fruit had the same tag on it leading us to believe that either the seed tray had been tagged in error (that could not have possibly happened with a seven year old running the show, could it?!) OR the seed packet had the wrong type of seed in it. That had to be it, surely…

We realized the mistake just the other day when we researching whether “Mennonite” tomatoes were open pollinated so that we could save some seed from it.  It turns out that “Mennonite” is actually called “Mennonite Orange”. OOPS.  We dug through the old packets and sure enough, the envelope and Incredible Seeds website clearly states, “The Mennonite Orange Heirloom Tomato is most certainly one of the top slicer tomatoes! This large, bright orange tomato is very pretty inside & out with even colour through the skin & flesh. Mennonite Orange is very juicy, very flavourful & so sweet its almost fruity. Super! Another fave! 4-5’ plants require support.” I bet it is….but I wouldn’t know!

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Our “Mennonite” tomatoes are not orange.  At all.  So in fairness and open honesty – our second place winner in the 2015 Tomato Taste Off goes to….NOT A CLUE!!!

Does anyone know what type of tomato this may be?  We are going to save some seeds and keep our fingers crossed, because whatever it is, it is Yummy!!

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“If confusion is the first step towards knowledge, I must be a genius!” ~ Larry Leissner

Eating Local – Kid Style! Maple Balsamic Caprese Kabobs

I am not sure why but my kids love anything that has been stabbed by a tooth pick!  We were having company over and instead of salad the girls were far more interested in making kabobs – they used the classic Caprese salad fixings, only on a stick and “dunked” instead of drizzling.  Despite these little treats having a grown up taste, they were definitely a hit with the under 12 crowd!

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From the Garden:

Sun Gold baby tomatoes

Genovese Basil

Sweet Basil

Purple Opal Basil

From the Store:

Liquid Gold Maple Balsamic Vinegar (Local!)

Fresh Mozzarella mini balls

How they did it:

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Simplicity is the key to success!  The girls stabbed a tomato, then a basil leaf or two, then a cheese ball.  After arranging them on a plate, they dunked them in Maple Balsamic Vinegar.  My Hubby preferred to dunk them in a mixture of Olive Oil, traditional Balsamic vinegar, garlic and sea salt (I had some dressing made from another night, the maple was too sweet for him…)

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They did not last long enough to get a picture of the full tray!

Eating Local – Sweet and Spicy Peach Blackberry Salsa

The fall is such a great time to make fresh salsa.  It doesn’t keep as long as cooked salsa, but the flavour is so good that it doesn’t last in our house anyways!  Because we seem to be completely inept at growing bell peppers we have been substituting with other yummy fruits and veggies that are ready.  Tomatillos have been the main substitution for peppers but we went a little crazy tonight and tried fresh peaches from our CSA box and blackberries that we have been picking along the woodline of our backyard. We have found a winner – the girls are even packing little containers of it in their lunches which is a glowing endorsement in my book!

This batch made a large salad bowl full, around 1.5 L, but it could easily be cut in half or thirds.

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Here is our recipe(ish)

From the Garden:

3 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped chunky

2 medium onions; one red, one white, chopped the way you like it

2 Jalapeños, seeded and chopped fine – very spicy!

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Roughly 12 large basil leaves, chopped

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 cup blackberries

4 small peaches, chopped (okay…these came from our TapRoot/Noggins Farm CSA box, not our garden – but they were grown locally!)

From the Store:

1/3 cup white vinegar (I bet a flavoured White Balsamic Vinegar from Liquid Gold would be amazing. No, they didn’t pay me to say that, but I am addicted to their coconut vinegar; too bad I ran out!)

2 Tbsp sugar (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste.

How we did it:

Chop, combine, let sit to allow the flavours to blend and then gobble!!!

We are eating this salsa on grilled haddock with brown rice but it is also going quickly with just nacho chips!

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“I wish my PMS would manifest itself in a desire to clean rather than a desire to invent foods to put salsa on!” ~ BAHAHAHA – whoever came up with this one has my full support!

Tomato Taste-off!

The big day has finally arrived!  All 9 varieties of tomatoes that we specifically selected, started from seed under lights, nurtured, rescued from snapped stems and gave away when over 100 grew into viable plants had fruit ripen all on the same morning! We have had a great tomato season, full of fun growing experiments and incidents with little hands seeding far more plants than necessary. Now the time has arrived to post the results of the main event – the tomato taste off!!! Drumroll please…..

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Round 1 Results

The Red Guys: Scotia, followed by Subarctic and finally Big Beef. This was a close round with the winner being debatable to the point of Rock, Scissors Paper…actually Scotia won in a 2-2 tie, but since both kids preferred the provincial namesake, it won round 1.

Round 2 Results

The colourful guys: In first place we had Lemon Boy, followed closely by Gold Dust. Sadly Black Plum was a very distant 3rd place and was in fact last overall. I am hoping Black Plum will redeem itself when I make sauce with them because they have been left behind in the fresh eating department.

Round 3 Results

The other fellas: Sun Gold was so far ahead in this heat that it won a buy to the gold medal position. Hands down. Second place, which would have actually been better suited in the red category, was Menonnite. This was my personal favourite red tomato this year; oddly enough, they were terrible last year. Finally in this category was the little heirloom, Alaska.

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The Final Results

Gold: Living up to it’s name – Sun Gold!!

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Silver: Menonnite – the top red!

Bronze: Lemon Boy, but definitely one of the prettiest varieties

Runner Up: Scotia, you make our province proud!

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Judging by the left overs they were all winners!! What should we try next year?!

“It is difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts when eating a homegrown tomato!” ~ Lewis Grizzard

Save Seeds, Save Money

This is the first time I have ever reblogged a post, but it is one to be shared – saving seeds not only saves money but protects diversity and creates a legacy! Wonderfully written and the photos are very helpful!!

That Bloomin' Garden

Save seeds, save money

Last week I taught a class about the importance of seed saving. Seed saving has been done for thousands of years. You can save seeds from plants in your garden and dry them to use for years to come. Plants produce thousands of seeds, usually many more than they need. You see, not all seeds survive when they drop to the ground. Seeds must have the right environmental conditions to be able to grow. That’s why you see so many seeds on plants such as dandelions or poppies. I like to think of it as survival of the fittest. 

Save Seeds, Save Money

People wonder why I save seeds. I like to think that I am not only saving money but perhaps I am saving seeds from plants that you wouldn’t normally see in the garden centers. I save seeds from heirloom tomatoes, unusual cucumbers and old-fashioned flowers that are not as readily available…

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Eating Local – Rainbow Hodge Podge

I love Hodge Podge, an East Coast traditional vegetable soup/chowder of sorts.  It celebrates simplicity, deliciousness and fresh garden treasures.  There are many ways to make Hodge Podge, but in honour of my wee girl’s delight in planting pink and purple veggies, we made a rainbow version today with what we could pick fresh this morning.  Being a wee bit different with the pink and purple beans and carrots, we thought it would be okay the break the rules a bit further and add a red onion and a few chives. The great part about hodge hodge is that there is no real rules, you throw stuff in the pot as you prep the next step (and if you are really good you can even have a batch of biscuits in and baked by the time the process is done!)  And the best part – it is almost completely sourced from the backyard or a local market this time of year; the slat and pepper are the only renegades!

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Here is our recipe(ish)

From the Garden:

1 Red onion, chopped fine

3 cups Pink Chieftain Potatoes, chopped chunky

2 cups Purple Gem Potatoes, chopped chunky

A handful of chives

3 cups Orange, purple and white carrots, cut chunky

3 cups Pink, purple and green beans, snapped

Snap peas (as many as I could salvage)

From the Store:

1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream, 2 1/2 cups milk – that is what we had in the fridge (or half and half) – Local!

1/4 cup Real Butter –  Local!

Salt and Pepper

From the family – Grandma’s Butter Biscuits 

Sorry, this one is top secret!

How we did it:

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Simmer the onions in butter until clear (ish)

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Add chopped potatoes and chives, add water just to cover. Bring to gentle boil until the carrots are chopped.

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Add the carrots, cook for 5-10 minutes, then add the beans and reduce the heat.

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While the carrots are cooking – prep the biscuits (only knead 20 times – 21 would be against the time honoured rules!!)

Once the beans go in, cook for 10 minutes and put the biscuits in the oven (mine stay in 16 minutes).

Once the beans are just tender, drain off the water.  Add the milk, cream, 1/4 cup of butter and as much salt and pepper as needed to taste.

Heat over medium low heat to hot (the biscuits should be done just on time!).  Do not boil.

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Of course, the biscuits are for dunking…if they last!!

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They don’t last long in our house….