so i’m back! but more on that later. first things first.
jam. in my profile, i mentioned that last year, i started experimenting with jams and preserves. i went a little wild (my cold store had a ginormous shelf, covered with half pint jars, lined up like colourful, fruity soldiers) but it was a success. everyone got a jar at christmas and now my friends and family keep asking for more! i knew i had to do it again. besides, the fruit at the market is too hard to resist. (shhhh…. i did spend $30 on cherries one week!)
i documented bits and pieces of my process of a few different batches so here goes:
the boring parts are jar sterilization and the boiling of the jars after. i did not photograph this. everything else is beautiful, vibrant and positively delicious.
first cut up the fruit into chunks. you only have to do this if you have big fruit, like these apricots. raspberries can remain whole. cherries should be partially cut (you have to leave at least 25% whole so people can see all your hard work pitting!)
in a pot, with the sugar (about 40-50% of the total). did you notice that i switched to plum?
and boil and boil
wrinkle test. put a white plate in the freezer right as you start your jam. when it seems like it might be done, spoon a dollop onto the plate and put it back in the freezer for a few minutes. if you can push it with your finger and see wrinkles, as above, your jam is done. stop boiling and proceed. if it’s still too liquidy, carry on.
take a sterilized jar out of the dishwasher or boiling water bath. the funnel is invaluable. you have got to keep the rim of the jar clean for a proper seal.
spoon your jam carefully into the jar, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace at the top.
grab a lid out of the boiling water bath (for sterilization) with your magnetic wand. place it on the jar and tighten your ring.
then put the jars in boiling water, covered by at least 1 inch of water and the lid of the pot and boil for 5-10 minutes, as directed.
plum and apricot soldiers
so i’m going to the healthy living summit in boston this coming weekend. i am beyond excited! i love boston and it has been a handful of years since my last visit. plus the conference sounds super fun and i’m really looking forward to meeting all the people behind my favorite blogs and making loads of new friends. caitlin sent out an email to attendees the other week, asking for donations for a silent auction “bake sale” to raise money for her Team in Training for the Disney Marathon at the summit. i thought of all the things i could bake that would transport well by plane AND be different from what everyone else would be bringing. all the usual suspects came to mind: trail mix, granola, bars, cookies, blah blah blah. but then JAM! caitlin thought it would be a great idea, so i picked a selection from my so far hoard to package up for bidding. if you are a lucky summit attendee, this is what you can get your hands on:
the labels aren’t super clear from this photo, but from top left, going clockwise: apricot-thyme preserves, plum and vanilla preserves, apple butter (i made this in the fall), and strawberry-basil-lemon preserves. all fruit is locally source from small family growers. herbs were picked from my backyard. yum! all for the highest bidder
i’ll be blogging at the summit and i have a few awesome(ly funny) posts lined up. i’m going to try and have much less time between posts. life keeps getting in the way.
so last weekend, i went camping. seems the last time jon and i actually camped was in 2007, when we rented a tandem and biked from waterloo to the elora gorge, which was a pretty crazy adventure in itself. this outing was much less hardcore.
1) we had the enormous tent (it is crazy easy to set up, but doesn’t exactly fit in a bob trailer on the back of a bike
2) we had not one but two stoves to make supper on. a real backpacking stove and a table top coleman.
we boiled the pasta water on the dragonfly and cooked the sausages on the coleman. someone (probably me) forgot to pack salt for our pasta water, so instead we had the brilliant idea to dump in the contents of a few hammer endurolytes, which are basically salt tabs. well. that didn’t work out so well. in fact, it was kind of gross.
endurolytes don’t dissolve all that well.
we went to bed early so we could wake up and get to the bike race early. well. there was a pretty steady pitter patter of raindrops on our tent in the morning and that slowed things down a bunch. additionally, the triathlon whose T1 was in the middle of the road we were on made us even later. we hustled and jon started his race with only a short warmup.
he had a good race and podiumed for the second time this season (third if you count the team effort at the 24 hour race). goooo singlespeed!
(next time i’ll remember to pack a clean, dry jersey to wear for awards after, just in case!) check out the cutie with the truck on the right.
after the race, i hung out at the feedzone to give bottles to our other racing friend and we checked out some neat stuff at the race site.
check that baby out. it’s like a unicycle with a giant wheel, plus some help with balance. no drivetrain. looks like it’d be fun to ride, but maybe also a little scary!
back to work this week. 3 more days and i have a mini five day holiday when we plan to spend some time at the cottage and on the farm. it’ll be a good getaway.
on thursday, i scored 10lbs of sweet and sour cherries (5 of each) which i pitted all of for future projects. 1/2 a cup of the sweet ones have gone into a loaf of chocolate zucchini bread (which was only a minor success. i wouldn’t say it was really that delicious). the rest are in the fridge, waiting for me. what will their fate be? probably a bunch of dehydrating, since dried cherries are awesome in everything. maybe some more jam? (i promise an upcoming jam post some time) maybe a slab pie even.
life really is like a bowl of cherries. mostly sweet, some sour, generally delicious!
Tags: exercise, food, plan, work
it’s only wednesday and so far my week has been filled with at least 14 days worth of awesome.
1) two days totally off from work, and at least one but maybe two (or three) more days of nice, quiet empty office, perfect for me to get tons done.
2) booked vacation tickets to colorado and have a hotel room in a place that looks like a castle and also has excellent reviews on the interwebs. i plan to pretend to be a princess and be rescued from a dragon at least once.
3) extra extra good news at work. will discuss more later.
4) FUN package from marianne for winning the coconut BSI. not only did i get two lovely big bags of the absolutely amazing coconut mango lime biscotti (they will be gone before i know it – guess i’ll have to learn to make them myself), she also threw in an awesome bar of fair trade + organic chocolate (pineapple, coconut, banana & lime. how appropriate!) and a super cute card. thanks marianne! i have decided that the world definitely needs more mailed baked goods.
my tempo run this evening was good. i’m down to only being 2 seconds per km slower than my target pace which is completely negligible. i am happy about that. feels like i’m getting back on track, after the bike race. tomorrow morning, i’ll do a swim workout to give my knees a break before the weekend’s 11 mile run.
and before i hit the pillows, i will make note of a few more awesome things i found this week:
– yoga is yummy! *love* yogadownloads has a new rival in my life.
– live simple – bobbi’s challenge after my own heart for you to greenify yourself
and finally, the craziest bag that i absolutely *must* get for the biker in my life. i see it making our race mornings smooth and easy.
take good care!
Tags: biking, exercise, food, race, weekend
i registered for next weekend’s 35km bike race (my first ever!) so now there’s no going back! well, i guess there is, but it’ll cost me $45. it’s a pretty unique race in that it’s not a mountain bike race and it’s not really a road race either. it’s 11km of gravel and dirt roads, 8km of rail trail, 6km of singletrack (1-3km sections) and 10km of paved road. i have no idea what to expect on the rail trail and i’m a little worried about the single track, but i think i’ll be okay.
today we practiced drafting again. it’s hard! at least i’m fairly comfortable with the shoes/pedals and being clipped in now. it’s amazing what a difference that makes with my speed and climbs especially. we also practiced changing tubes, in the event that i flat in the race. it will cost me a whole lot of time, since i’m pretty slow, but i’m just doing this for fun so it’s no big deal. i’ll try it a few more times tomorrow to make sure i’m completely comfortable with all the steps and using my CO2 inflator.
easter weekend was pretty lovely and continues tomorrow! thumbs up for 4 day weekends. i plan to do my long run in the morning, go grocery shopping (since the stores were closed today) and then spend the rest of the time chilling at home (watching tv and making turkey stock). my almost-last-minute easter dinner was a huge success. luckily i had a turkey in the freezer that i pulled out and most of the ingredients for the awesome stuffing recipe (with dried cherries, maple syrup, pecans and sausage) i’ve been dreaming about for a while. we had mashed sweet potatoes on the side. dessert was some homemade butterscotch pecan ice cream. i’m pretty sure i’ll be eating leftovers all week, though i did send half of everything home with the boy.
Tags: dried fruit, exercise, food, running, swimming, weather
what a crazy week! i am certainly glad for a glorious 4 day weekend. hurray for easter!
the week started with snow. i rationally know that it almost always snows in april, but this was enough to throw me off! i went from wearing shorts on my run last thursday to having a pair of long johns under my pants on tuesday. what what?? not cool. it also made my tuesday speedwork run impossible (the sidewalks were covered by a few inches of slushy white that wasn’t getting cleared like it would have in february).
then there was this work deadline, that we had exactly 3 days to meet. my group was handicapped by 1/3 (passover holiday) and by the fact that i’m still new to this stuff. my coworker and i put in a lot of long hours and overtime days, but in the end, we did it! we were not the last group across the country to be done AND we had the most stuff to get through. given that it was just the two of us, i’d say we did pretty awesomely. the long weekend is extremely well deserved.
the weather totally turned around by friday thursday morning. spring showed its face again! i pulled out my bike and the cute new swimsuit i bought to leave at work (for on-a-whim lunch time swims) and did a backwards tri brick workout (biking 8 miles, then swimming 600m). the 10 minutes of stretching in the therapy pool felt amazing! i’d like to start more of my days with a swim. the bike ride home was a bit challenging because of some wind, but i zoomed here as fast as i could. i’m a little sore today and holding off on my tempo run (scheduled for yesterday but after my other workouts, i just didn’t have it in me). we’re still not sure what we are doing for easter because jon has a paper to finish and a bunch of exams to mark, but whatever we do, even if we can’t make it to the farm or to the grandparents’ for turkey, i plan to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
a new experiment: dry me up
we saw dried kiwi at the grocery store the other day and it looked intriguing. it was super sugary and expensive though, so we passed, but i had to try it for myself! i think i left these in a touch too long – they turned out slightly crunchier than i’d like on the outside, but the inside is still chewy and the seeds give a really interesting texture. i’ve got a pint of cranapple sauce i made in the fall in the dehydrator now, potentially to become fruit leather. i’ll let you know how that goes!
Tags: baking, dessert, exercise, food, ice cream, recipes
for an only 4 day week, this one was intense! just when i thought it was at the peak of insanity, work got just a little crazier. i cry a little* when i think of all i have to do in the next month or so.
i did get an awesome voicemail message on my phone. it went something like this “hi. we need our report from you. we’ve got our contractor and are ready to go. thanks. bye”. it was golden! she didn’t leave her name, her number or give any indication of the title of the project she was referring to. as far as i know, it could be one of at least 10-15 different reports.
in addition to all the work crazy, my week was also pretty exercise-heavy:
monday – 13km long run
tuesday – pyramid speedwork
wednesday – 45 minutes of biking on my new pedals
thursday – bike 16 miles + 8km tempo run
friday – 30 minutes of swimming
saturdays are supposed to be the day for my long run, but i’m giving my muscles a rest. besides, it is COLD. and also very windy. i’ll wait till tomorrow to bang out the next 15km.
swimming was fantastic. i discovered an olympic size swimming pool a 5 minute walk away from work. admission ranges from 2.50-3.00$ which is a whole lot cheaper than for me to pay $52 a month for the gym membership of which i was only interested in the pool (since i loathe working out at the gym on machines. i just can’t make myself do it) which turned out to be silly small (18 metres??) and not that nice. a 50 metre pool is far more awesome AND there is a lovely big hot tub/jacuzzi thing and a sauna (which i didn’t have time to check out). it melted all of the friday morning stress right away. i plan to go at least once a week from now on. this will be good for cross training and also for any potential triathlons i decide on a whim to do.
i am finally happy and safe with the clipless pedals. if you bike a lot, you should really give these serious consideration. it seems scary at first (and you’ll fall off a couple times, like i did) but once you get it, you’ll have twice as much power! thumbs up.
the boy requested coconut sorbet and roasted pineapple for dessert tonight, so that’s what i’m working on, in addition to the weekly batch of cookies (martha oatmeal/chocolate chip/skor bit) and some granola. we got a bunch of not-so-jumbo pineapples on sale for $2 this week, so i’ve got the dehydrator stacked, and the rest in the fridge waiting for roasting time. i piña coladaed-up the sorbet recipe with a little malibu rum.
even though we’re going back into negative celsius territory this week, we’ll be able to pretend we’re in the tropics. coconut sorbet is so freaking easy. 3 ingredients! no ice cream maker required (though i will obviously use mine). i have made it no less than 10 times to varying degrees of fancyness/whimsy (like here). when coconut milk was 57 cents a can, it was by far the cheapest, creamiest treat we could have. cans are up to $1, but for at least 5 servings of delicious sorbet, that’s still pretty good.
my grocery challenge is not going so well. it seems like every time i go to the store, things are more expensive than they were the last time. sticking to $30 has been hard! i am keeping it close to 40 though, which i think is not too bad.
they turned out a little thin this week. maybe i’ll up the flour and dial back on the butter as per these instructions
dried pineapple rings waiting to be used in homemade meusli, coconut rice, more muffins, or just eaten plain!
*it’s not because i don’t love my job, it’s just that there’s only so much one girl can handle. you know?
Tags: baking, food, muffins, recipes
it’s my favorite oasis album AND a really yummy muffin. ever since i saw them on kerf a couple weeks ago, i’ve been wanting a really good morning glory. i’ve never made them myself and i’ve only actually had them on a few occasions so i didn’t have much to work with besides kath’s brief list of ingredients and vague memories. i only consulted one recipe before setting to the kitchen. as i am very loyal to local eats, foodland ontario is a good source of everything for me, so this is what i turned to.
i suspect i had approximately double the amount of shredded carrot and diced apple required, though i followed their instructions for 2 of each. i skipped the cinnamon/sugar topping and made a few other substitutions (skipped the raisins and threw in dried cranberries instead, no pecans, and added diced dried pineapple). the batter was extremely thick. fruit/veg only thinly bound together by the wet flour mixture. i wasn’t banking on success.
as it happened, the muffins turned out extremely delicious and probably super healthy, given all that fibre and fruit/veg. next time i’ll cut back on the oil because i doubt it’s necessary (apple sauce sounds great). they are extremely moist and super flavourful and have been the perfect wake up second breakfast for when i arrive at work. (yes, i did use ontario apples and carrots, as specified). i only ended up making 10 large muffins and i had to cook mine for a lot longer than the 22 minutes suggested, but still. thumbs up, foodland. you win!
Tags: biking, food, running, work
even though it’s the last full week of the fiscal year and there is all kinds of crazy nonsense going on at work and we didn’t have the most lovely weather, i am still having a great week!
lots of good:
– fun package in the mail
– a great job interview
– a weekend road trip to look forward to
– a sad but very inspiring retirement party at work (we are losing a legend)
– a few quality runs. the training plan is hard, in fact, i’m not quite fast enough yet but i’m working on it! today’s tempo run wasn’t as good as the intervals but i’m still happy
– some new (to me) awesome tunes (discovered through working on the below project. who knew punk would be so fun to dance around to?) the album is indestructible by rancid
– i have a batch of potentially delicious tuffies, waiting to be enjoyed with some tea
– i finished the fun bike video that i’ve been working on. enjoy!
(blerg! wordpress does not embed vimeo and youtube is obnoxious. so. i’m just leaving the link here. i encourage you to check it out because it’s fun fun fun!)
Tags: food, grocery challenge, money, spending, stockpiling
this is me, in my past life.
i admit that i have a problem, squirreling things away. i like to stockpile and i feel better knowing that i’m not going to run out of anything, but i suspect it has reached an unreasonable extreme. i am fairly certain that if there were to be an apocalypse tomorrow, i’d be the last one alive, for a few more months.
this is my cold store. you can’t even see all of it, because it is a whole room and there is a lot of stuff on the floor (more squash, potatoes, the remainder of my last half bushel of apples, a 25kg bag of flour etc).
as you can see, i have nuts to feed a thousand squirrels for a season, a shelf of my own canning (a few jars of jam left, lots of apple sauce, more pear and apple butter than i know what to do with. hello pork tenderloin), tomato products, a variety of squash (i actually think i have to toss the ones on the shelf because they are past their happy time), campbell’s reduced sodium chicken stock to make at least 13 batches of soup, etc etc. i know. it’s ridiculous. i’m not even going to show you my kitchen pantry, the fridge/freezer or the nut/dried fruit cabinet in the kitchen for fear of ridicule.
i’m pretty good with money. i don’t spend a lot (almost never go out to eat, for example) and i am an extremely dilligent saver. putting money away (just like putting food away for the winter, i guess) makes me kind of giddy – i do it right when i get paid, instead of waiting till the end of the month and saving whatever is left over, which does not work.
in these difficult economic times, we all need to be more careful with our money. food is clearly where most of my spending goes and i am aware that this needs to be cut. my challenge for the next month (or two or three!) is to keep my grocery bills to a minimum of perishables (fruits and veg though even these i don’t need too much of since my freezer is stocked with raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, other wild berries and other frozen vegetables like peppers and corn, and dairy).
i don’t really know what is a reasonable amount for one person to spend weekly, since 1 is somehow more than half of what 2 would need. how much do you spend on groceries?? i’ve also noticed that prices of stuff are starting to go up here again (even though gas is down). i’m giving myself $30 a week, which i feel is pretty fair. it won’t result in deprivation (which i don’t need to resort to, clearly) but it will force me to eat what i’ve got a bit more creatively. if i find that 30 is too much and not getting any results, i’ll scale back.
so far this week, i’m at $29.30 i did buy a bunch of chocolate milk that was on sale and a few staples (like cans of coconut milk and some wheat germ). i still have a drawerful of citrus and carrots, so my fruit/veg purchases were limited to bananas, sweet potatoes, and kale.
since my sam’s club recently closed and i don’t have a car, driving around to different grocery stores to shop the sales isn’t very feasible. i guess i will just do what i can. i’ll let you know how things go.
Tags: appliances, favorites, food
i decided to put together a list of my top five kitchen appliances that increase the quality of my life.
1) the immersion blender. i use this almost every day, sometimes twice. it’s fantastic for smoothies, hummus, soups, apple butter, etc. i like to refer to it as, from c&z, le mixeur girafe.
favorite application: butternut squash soup
2) the ice cream maker. when i originally expressed interest in having one of these a few years ago, there were many naysayers. “you will never use it” and “it will collect dust on your shelf” etc etc. well, lucky for me, david lebovitz wrote an awesome book and making your own ice cream is all the rage these days. i love ice cream. i love making really yummy things. i love being able to make fantastic kinds of ice cream that i probably would not be able to afford on a regular basis, which are totally natural and made with whole foods and local ingredients.
favorite application: goat cheese ice cream sandwiched between double chocolate cookies.
3) the rice cooker. i scored this one for free with grocery store points, which makes it doubly awesome. i make way more than just rice in here – oatmeal, rice dishes with mixins (my favorite so far is coconut milk, frozen peppers and edamame), bulgar, wheatberries, etc. i love that i don’t need to babysit it. i can throw some grain in, push the button and go to the basement to work out or have a shower or do something that is not staying near the stove to keep an eye on my pot of rice. i eat rice a lot more than i ever did because it is so easy!
favorite application: stuffing for acorn squash – 1/2 brown rice, 1/2 bulgar, craisins, chopped up dried apricots, and other dried fruit you’ve got around. 2X liquid – chicken stock is good but water works. apple cider is excellent in a pinch. bake the squash while the rice cooks, and when it’s done scoop the filling in and top with some goat cheese. yum.
4) the slow cooker. another appliance that needs no babysitting. do you see a theme? nothing better than coming home to delicious smells and supper (or something else) ready to go, right into my tummy!
favorite application: chili. apple butter is also a winner, because it takes freaking forever and have i mentioned i hate babysitting my food? i made a crockpot roast chicken a few weeks ago and it was awesome.
5) the food dehydrator. like with my ice cream maker, there were many anti-folk. the dehydrator is an appliance that you’re supposed to borrow from friends. well. i don’t have any friends that own food dehydrators. i love dried fruit. took the plunge and it has been delicious. it’s a great (and really easy! no babysitting! i set it up on a plug in timer because they don’t come with autoshut offs) way to preserve food. you can make your own camping meals, it contributes to my eating local longer throughout the year, and it cuts down on the amount of packaged stuff i have to buy.
favorite application: niagara seedless concord grapes make kickass raisins! i never thought i’d ever make my own raisins, but these are the best i’ve ever had. rings of pineapple are also really yummy. apple chips make a great crispy super healthy snack. i haven’t made fruit leather or beef jerky yet, but there’s no stopping me!
so there you have it. these are the things i would be sad to have to live without!
up next: favorite tools (or gadgets, it depends how you look at it)