Sunday, 10 November 2013

Pineapple Salsa

You know how some days you just don't feel like cooking. Well today was one of those days for me. The two older boys were with their dad, and the farmer had some leftovers that he was content to eat. So I was free to make myself whatever I wanted, trust me, it doesn't happen often. By the time that I remembered to take a picture, it was half gone :)

We got some pineapple for a good price this week and I had one that I needed to use up. In our family, it is cut up and eaten raw, and that is about it, except for me. I love pineapple any way I can get it. So imagine my delight when I had this opportunity to make one of my favourites.

If you have read anything about how I cook you will know that I don't follow a recipe. To me they are more of a guide than a road-map.

For the sake of making it easier to read I will try and put it in a recipe format.

Pineapple Salsa

2 cups pineapple
1/2 cup red onion
3 TBSP diced jalapeno
Cilantro - fresh or dried
Splash of lime juice

1. Dice the pineapple, red onion, and jalapeno.
2. Add cilantro to taste. I used about 2 TBSP dried.
3. Pour lime juice over.
4. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, longer is better. This will allow the flavours to blend and mingle.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Welcome To Our Farm

Welcome to Jasper Creek Farm! Come on in, pull up a chair, and let me put the kettle on.
Jasper Creek Farm is located in beautiful NW Ontario, on the edges of the Canadian Shield, not ideal farming land I know. We started with 160 acres of raw land.

What was once a thriving dairy farm was abandoned,

taken over by scrub brush and beavers,

then irresponsibly clear cut and left a mess.

We bought a cow,

got some chickens, 

built a barn,

and before you ask, yes, it was in that order!
Our family is striving towards becoming as self sufficient as possible. We hope to grow and raise a large portion of our own food. We cook from scratch whenever possible, and are starting to explore many DIY crafts and techniques.
We believe in small scale farming, which is both economically and ecologically responsible. No large scale farming with equipment that costs more than our house here! Providing for ourselves first, and hopefully, down the road, others who share the same vision and desire for home grown, ethically raised food as ours, but lack the space or ability to grow it for themselves.
I hope that you will join me, my husband, and three boys on our homestead as we work together to reach this goal that has been pressed upon our hearts.

Canning Dried Beans

My husband is a chili aficionado. He LOVES the stuff, he likes to make it, and it’s usually pretty darn good. So I have relegated all chili making tasks to him. During the winter months we have chili about once every two weeks or so. We usually make a HUGE pot (in our 7 qt slowcooker), and use anywhere between two and three cans of kidney beans. When we can get them on sale, it is usually for about $0.88 a can, but lately I have noticed the non sale price to be about $1.25 a can. Since we are using 2-3 cans per batch of chili, what would normally be a fairly economical meal adds up quickly. Our solution? Enter dried kidney beans – much cheaper than cans, at about $5.50 for a 4 pound bag, but who knows an entire day in advance that they are going to cook chili. Oh wait, there are some of you that meal plan that far in advance, and trust me it is one of those things on my “to-do” list. However, in the meantime, I needed a better solution – home canned kidney beans.

Here’s how I did it.

Beans Soaking
Beans Soaking
Step 1: I started with 2 – 1.8kg (about 4lb) bags of kidney beans plus some remnants of a bag that I had leftover so I am estimating just shy of 10 pounds. Start the night before you want to do your canning by soaking the beans, I put them in my cheese making pot (a 30 qt stock pot) added water to about double above the level of the beans, I always like to add too much water instead of too little, and let them sit overnight.

Step 2: Drain the beans, rinse, and refill the pot to about 3 inches above the level of the beans. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil. Note: according the the canning gurus at ball you are supposed to let the beans boil for 30 minutes. Mine actually boiled for about 5 and simmered for another 10 while I got the jars ready.
Filling the jars.
Filling the jars.
Step 3: Fill up those jars. I used the handy red scoop to scoop the almost cooked beans out of the pot. You don’t want to strain the water off of the beans, because you are going to use that almost boiling temperature water to top off your jars. I filled the jars to the threads, then shook them which settled the beans down to about the shoulder of the jar. At this point you can add whatever seasonings you would like to the jar. I just stuck with salt, about 1 tsp per quart jar. Top off the jars with the hot liquid, leaving about one inch of head space in each jar.
Step 4: Wipe down the rims and put on the lids. Don’t forget to simmer your lids. Ask me how I know…
Step 5: I am not going to go into a lot of detail in the “canning” section. The way I figure, if you are looking for a guide on how to can dried beans you are already probably a competent canner. Please follow the instructions for your pressure canner. Load up your jars, lock down your lid, and wait for the steam to start exhausting.
Step 6: Wonder why after almost an hour you have no steam exhausting. Realize that you forgot to oil your seal and steam is escaping out of the back where it is not obvious. Turn off the heat and start all over again….GRRRR. Oh wait, that was just me. The rest of you can just skip to step 7.
Up to pressure - finally.
Up to pressure – finally.
Step 7: Once you are up to up to pressure, 10 pounds in the case. Let her go for 90 minutes for quarts and 75 minutes for pints.
Step 8: Turn off the heat and let the pressure return to zero before opening.
Step 9: Remove jars. I like to put my jars on a folded towel on the counter where I let them sit for 12-24 hours before removing the rings and putting them away.
10 pounds of dried kidney beans ended up being 18 quart jars, so I put on a batch dried chick peas so that I had something to run with the extra 5 quarts in the second run. While the kidney beans were canning I brought the chick peas to a boil, let them boil hard for 10 minutes, then turned off the heat, covered, and let soak. When I turned the heat off the pressure cooked I drained the chick peas added new water and put them on to re-heat. From a 4.4 pound bag of chick peas I ended up with 7 quarts of finished chick peas.
All done.
Enjoy all your hard work.
Now for the math. Did this really save us money?
  • $11.00 for the two bags of kidney beans
  • $2.50 for two boxes of lids
  • the jars were recycled.
Each jar holds about the equivalent to 2 cans of beans, and there are 18 jars which would equal 36 cans of beans that we did not have to buy. The cost for those 36 cans @ $1.00 a can would be $36.00. My cost for ingredients was $13.50. So yes, I did save money, $22.50.
The other factor that comes into play here is the time, because I understand that this is an easy but time consuming project. It does not take a lot of “hands-on” time, BUT, you do have to be close to the kitchen for at least 5 hours for a two canner load batch like I did. Actual hands on time was likely less than an hour.
So what do you think? Is a savings of over $20 worth spending 5 hours close to the kitchen? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Baking Day

Ready to go into the preheated oven
Yesterday was a baking day at my house. The Farmer decided at 3:00pm that he would really like some cinnamon rolls for dessert. If I am going to go through the hassle of making dough for cinnamon rolls, I am not going to do just one recipe with it. Yesterday it was bread, cinnamon rolls, and something we call pizza rolls. I will post all the recipes over the course of the next week, but today I am going to talk about just the basic dough, and making the bread.
For Christmas this year, my parents gifted me with a wonderful Bosch mixer. After being very disappointed in the so-called “professional” Kitchen-Aid mixer. I am finding that this machine has a steeper learning curve than the KA did, but I am already enjoying how flexible being able to do one large batch of dough like this, and use it for bread for the week, supper for that night, and treats. This is actually a small batch of dough, the Bosch can make up to 9 loaves at a time!
You can find the recipe below in the more typical “recipe” format. For now, I am just going to walk through a generic bread recipe step by step. I adapted this recipe from this one at Paula’s Bread.
SONY DSCStep 1: Add your warm water, yeast, oil, honey, dough enhancer (if using), vital wheat gluten (if using), and half your flour. Basically you want to add whatever your recipe calls for, minus half your flour, and your salt. Let this sit for at least 10 minutes, up to, well 8-12 hours really. The longer you leave it the more flavour will develop. After you leave it for about 3 hours would be called a bulk ferment, under 3 hours and you are really only allowing the flour to fully hydrate before you mix it. Sounds like I know what I’m doing huh? Yeah, I don’t ;) Trust me, there are people who spend their whole LIVES baking bread.
Step 2: Add your salt now, and then start adding the rest of your flour. You want your mixture to look something like the photo on the left. I apologize for the awful picture, the camera kept wanting to focus on the hook instead of the dough. If you look where the dough meets the bowl you can see that it is not leaving any residue behind. This would be the “dough clearing the sides of the bowl” and is an sign that you have enough flour. When the humidity is high, you will need more flour than when it is low. With my recipe that calls for 10 cups of flour, I typically add 9 cups, and see how it is, then add the last cup slowly. The least I have ever needed was 9 cups and the most was 10 1/2 cups.
SONY DSCStep 3: Let the dough knead for about 5 minutes. At this point you want to test if your dough is ready to go. What I do is break of a small piece and feel it. You want the dough soft, slightly tacky but not sticky, and able to stretch a bit without breaking. The dough on the left is ready to go. Notice how it has lost that “shaggy” look? One of the key selling features of the Bosch – at least to me – was that you don’t have to let your dough rise bulk rise before you put it in the pans to rise again. But, I do like to pan up my bread last which does give it a little time to rise first.
SONY DSCStep 4:  If I am adding seasonings to my bread I like to pat it out in a rectangular shape, and add the seasonings. To this loaf of bread I added oregano and basil, you can add whatever suits your fancy. Note: Another option would be to add the seasonings while you are mixing the dough, but don’t do this if you are planning on using some of the dough for something sweet. Ask me how I know…..

SONY DSCStep 5: Roll up the dough as if you were making cinnamon rolls. Tuck the ends under, and plop it into the bread pan. I like to put on mine on the stove near the vent while I am preheating the oven as I tend to get a quicker rise that way. You want to let your bread rise until you poke it and it holds a bit of an indent. Yes, you read that right. Poke your bread dough. If it makes you feel better maybe you could cut out a picture of the Pillsbury dough boy and poke that instead? Anyways….

SONY DSCStep 6: When your dough has risen, put it in the over at 375F for about 25 minutes. Honestly, I don’t time it. When it starts to smell like bread in the house you are getting close, and I start checking on it. When it looks like this, it’s done.

Basic Bread
Recipe type: Bread
This is a very flexible recipe. I have done it using all whole wheat flour, all white flour, and a mixture of both. When using whole wheat flour, I have found that I get the best results adding dough enhancer, and vital wheat gluten in the amount recommended on the package (not all are the same). If I am using over 50% white flour these are not necessary. I adapted this recipe from Paula’s Bread.
  • 3½ cups warm water
  • 3 TBS yeast
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 10 cups of flour (divided)
  • 1 TBS salt
  • 1 TBS dough enhancer (optional)
  • Vital Wheat Gluten (optional)
  1. These are the instructions for making bread in a mixer:
  2. Add water, yeast, oil, honey, dough enhancer, vital wheat gluten, and 5 cups of flour into bowl.
  3. Mix on speed 1 until combined.
  4. Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Turn on mixer and start adding the remaining flour a cup at a time, allowing each addition to be worked in.
  6. Knead dough for about 5 minutes, longer if needed, to develop the gluten. It will feel tacky but not sticky when finished.
  7. Separate into three balls.
  8. Form into loaves.
  9. Place in lightly oiled bread pan.
  10. Bake at 375F for approximately 25 minutes.

Icing sugar from a blender?

While doing my big batch of dough that I divided into three different recipes I realized that I ran out of icing sugar.

Now a lot of people have asked me, is the Vitamix worth almost $500? Why can’t I just use a regular blender instead. Well for one, I burnt up two blenders before taking the plunge. For two, can a regular old blender do this?
SONY DSCTake two cups of sugar, put in intoSONY DSCthe “dry” container. Turn on the blender, increase speed to 10, turn on high and let her go for about 30 seconds. You will know when it’s finished because it will look like, well, icing sugar!


So, after being informed that my blog hosting was going to increase to over $200 per year, I decided it was time for a change. To free!

Maybe at some point I will be making money off of this blog and will be able to go back to a fully customizable website, but in the interim, I am going to take advantage of the free hosting by blogger.

So in the next couple of days you will see posts from the other website show up here. I figure since they are my posts anyways that I am well within my rights to just copy and paste them here. Especially since I don't know how else to do it :)

I don't know what will happen to my pictures after the hosting ends. So if one day you come here and all of my pictures are gone, oh well. It's only a couple of postings. I suppose.

Pizza Roll

I am a fly by the seat of your pants type of cook. My cooking style is the reason I love to cook, and hate to bake. Baking is too rigid. Cooking is flexible, I add whatever I want to a dish, and cross my fingers that it works. So far, it has! There are very few recipes for main dishes in this house!

Typically when I do a large batch of dough, I split it into three balls, one for pizza, one for a treat, and one for bread, or some combination of the above. So far, since getting my Bosch mixer I haven’t strayed far from the bread dough recipe I was given with it. Hey, if it works….and well, if I have to follow a recipe it might as well be one that I know works, and tastes good.
The following “recipe” is one of my hmm, I wonder if this will work experiments, which, did! Work that is.
I started offSONY DSCby making the filling. All I knew at this point was that I wanted something that was going to play off pulled pork. The farmer doesn’t eat pork, except for the occasional bacon, so I started with some chicken that we canned when we processed our chickens this summer. Let me tell you this stuff is PHE-NO-MI-NAL. Love it! Makes suppers SO easy. It’s like having instant shredded chicken any time, AND its shelf stable. What’s not to love?  I will be posting a tutorial the next time we process chickens. But for now, back to this recipe.

SONY DSCI put this into a frying pan, along with some, onions, garlic, and some yellow peppers that were getting close to their expiry date.
Yes, it is not your imagination, the pile of garlic is just as big as the other two. That is how we like it around here!
I sautéed these until the onions were just starting to lose their bite.

SONY DSCNext, I rolled out the dough and slathered it with our favourite BBQ sauce, President’s Choice tequila and habanero. Yes, that is a picture of the bottle, and no, I am not being compensated in any way for telling you that we LOVE the stuff. It has a bit of heat, but is not overpowering, with a slightly sweet undertone. Seriously, if you live in Canada and have access to PC brand products, you should try it.

SONY DSCI topped the BBQ sauce with my chicken, onion, garlic, and pepper mixture, then on my half put pineapple, and on the farmer’s half put some sliced banana peppers. At this point I rolled it up like a gigantic cinnamon roll, and tucked the end under to trap all the deliciousness inside. I had planned on putting cheese on it, but I forgot, and in all honesty, it really didn’t need the cheese, it was absolutely delish just the was it was. I baked it at 375F for about 30 minutes. Since the filling was already cooked and hot, all that we were trying to do was bake the bread. I took it out when the bread was starting to brown, and it was perfect.