Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gardening: Spring 2013

With Marc away at school, I really haven't been cooking as many new recipes.  When I do cook, it's usually been easy familiar favourites that keep really well like stew, meatballs, potato soup, curried chicken, and chicken fried rice). 

This morning I picked up a coffee and took the short drive to my hometown (Brule, Alberta).  It's a small hamlet just west of where I live now.  This is a picture of the view overlooking Solomon hill.  Once this view greets me a wave of nostalgia washes over me and I truly feel as though I am home.  I feel truly blessed to have grown up in such an amazingly beautiful place.


After my morning drive I decided to go to the community greenhouse and plant my tomatoes and carrots.  My Grampa always plants his tomatoes and carrots together, something called "companion gardening".  Since he always has an greenhouse full of awesome vegetables, for the past few years I've been trying to follow suit.  I now devote an entire garden box just to tomatoes and carrots. 

When I arrived at the greenhouse I was excited to see that some of the lettuce seeds I had planted just last week were already sprouting.  I planted a package of seeds called "20 lettuce blend" so I'm really excited to see how that turns out. 

I was surprised when I saw an onion growing already.  Last year a few onions on this side went to seed, so one of the seeds must have laid dormant until spring.   I couldn't believe the onion has a grown so much considering I hadn't watered this bed yet this year.  Needless to say, this definitely changes my perspective of how often I'll be watering my gardens this summer! 

I recently started taking web design classes at NAIT which has been a lot of fun.  My first class was Adobe Illustrator and I made a few fun designs including these ones:

Using my new found skills, I made my own garden markers this year.  After printing my images off, I laminated them and then taped them to a popsicle stick.  Voila - homemade garden markers. 

As you can see, I went a little overboard on the seed buying this year!  If everything goes as planned, I won't have to buy veggies all summer and I'll get a ton of canning done for the winter! 

How did you spend your weekend?   

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May Long 2013

Happy May Long Weekend!  Marc was finally able to come home for a visit this weekend (he's living with my brother in Edmonton while he's in school - his 4th and final year of Electrical).  It's his first time home in 6 weeks so we have been making the most of our weekend together. 
Yesterday we had a really great day playing in the sun.  We hiked the Sulphur Skyline in Jasper National Park (6 km of a straight incline, I am still feeling the burn a day later, while I write this.).  The view was AMAZING - I can't wait to take this hike again.

After hiking in the mountains all day, we drove into Jasper and had dinner and drinks at a restaurant with a rooftop patio. 

After hiking all day, we both had steaks on the mind so we each ordered a New York Steak with baked macaroni. 

For dessert we went to The Fudgery in Jasper.  This place is really great because you get to watch the candy makers creating the delicious masterpieces you are about to consume.  It's also the first place that Marc and I met.  
Back in the summer of 2000 when Marc was first living in Jasper, he was one of the candy makers at this very shop. One of my first jobs was also in Jasper, coincidently right next door.  Fast forward a few years later to when we had started dating.  We were having one of those "get to know you" conversations and discussing the fact that we both worked in Jasper the same year.  Suddenly we put 2 and 2 together and realized who the other was.  He was the cute guy I used to buy watermelon popcorn from after my shift, and I was the girl that his roommate (and fellow candy maker) Pierce had a crush on!  Years later when he reconnected with Pierce, he told him that he ended up marrying "that cute girl from Jasper".   Now, every time we go into Jasper together, we make sure to stop at The Fudgery and pick up some candy.

I love how they name the candy after the beautiful nearby scenery "Mountains, Ice Fields, Glaciers, Iceburg..."

After we snacked on our candy we texted a couple of friends and made plans to meet up at Miette for a soak in the mineral filled hot springs.  We ended the night completely relaxed - needless to say after all that fresh air we both had a great night's sleep! 
Today while Marc gets some homework done, I plan on catching up on some work (though I would hardly consider gardening, writing, and studying my wine's hard work!  Sounds like the perfect way to spend a Sunday to me!  :) 
So tell me, how are you spending your long weekend? 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Corn Chowder

Here is my recipe for May that was published in last week's The Hinton Voice (my local newspaper). 

 [When I was a teenager I used to make "homemade" corn chowder by combining a can of cream of chicken soup with a can of creamed corn.  It was quick, easy, and in my teenage opinion, tasted great.  Corn chowder is still one of my favorite kinds of soup, and I make it often - though now I’ve traded in cans of pre-made items for fresh ingredients.

The key to any good soup is sautéing the vegetables first.  This not only deepens the vegetables flavors, it also cuts down on the overall cooking time by enabling the vegetables to cook faster.  I’ll never forget the time I tried to skip this step and boiled the vegetables directly in the creamy base instead.  It was during my husband and I’s early days of marriage and we had invited all of my in-laws over for dinner (of course this couldn’t have happened while we were dining solo).  The last time I made soup for company it was proclaimed, “the best soup they had ever had” so I was fairly confident that another soup would be well received.  I was in a bit of a hurry so I figured I could just boil the veggies in the milk and call it a day.  Worst. Idea. Ever.  No matter how long I cooked the soup, the vegetables just wouldn’t turn soft.  I turned the heat up too high and ended up completely burning the soup (at least the vegetables were cooked though!).  This wouldn’t have been so bad if I would have noticed before I had already served everyone.  By the time I took my first bite, everyone had already started eating.  The second the burnt soup hit my lips I was instantly mortified. Being the kind people that they are, no one said anything to me and just politely continued to eat their dinner.  Needless to say, no one went back for seconds and I’m pretty sure I saw someone devouring the remainder of the extra toppings that were sitting on the table. To this day my sister in law swears she doesn’t remember the time I burned the soup. My theory is that it was so awful she may have perhaps blocked it from her memory (either that or she is still just being really polite about it). 

So now you know why I am always sure to sauté my veggies first whenever making soup.  I am happy to report using this method has enabled the soup to turn out every single time, and now as a rule I always try a quick taste before I serve anything to company.]

-      -   ½ cup crumbled bacon (optional)
-      -   1 tbsp butter
-      -   2 lbs baby red potatoes (or 4 medium)
-       -  ½ onion, chopped
-      -   4 ears of corn (or 3 cups frozen)
-      -   2 cups chicken broth
-       -  3 cups milk
-       -  salt & pepper to taste
-       -  fresh chives, for garnish


Pre-heat a large saucepan over medium heat and fry chopped bacon.  Set cooked bacon aside, and wipe out pan with paper towel. 

Chop potatoes into small cubes and sauté in butter until lightly translucent (about 5-7 minutes). 

Add chopped onions and corn, cooking until onions are tender.   Stir in broth and milk, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.   Turn down heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until soup has thickened to desired consistency.

Add salt & pepper and garnish with chives and reserved bacon.

- Nutritional Info (1 cup) -

Calories - 189   Fat - 7    Carbs – 25     Protein - 8   Fibre – 2

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