Category: Local Food
I’ve spent the day in the kitchen. I can’t decide if this is a fine and lovely thing, for which I am appreciative, or if it’s a bit of a waste, and I should have been outside in the sunshine, or off to church this morning, or participating in one of the many community events going on today …
Instead, I woke up, started the laundry, hung a load from last night on the line outside, and turned on the radio, which is my constant companion on kitchen days. Then I began. I started by mixing and kneading a batch of bread and setting it to rise on the counter. I chopped and stewed plums and pears, which had been going to mush on the counter. In another pot, I sauteed onions, garlic, and herbs, and on a baking sheet arranged whole, cored tomatoes. I fired up the BBQ to about 375, and roasted the tomatoes with the sauteed veggies for several hours. I heated milk and washed jars and made yogurt. I mixed up cookie dough and baked the worst cookies ever. (And I followed the recipe. I have no explanation, except that maybe the kitchen is politely telling me to scram).
And I hung a second load of laundry on the line.
Could that be all? I started before 9am, and it is now nearly 4pm. For my efforts, I have arrayed before me: 2 jars of plum-pearsauce; 4 loaves of bread; several litres of roasted tomato sauce; 6 jars of yogurt; and a batch of barely edible cookies. The week ahead, and its necessary meals, remains unplanned. I am, therefore, going to throw on my running gear and go for a looooooooong run in today’s remaining sunshine. Fooey and Kevin are in charge of supper: pita pizzas on the BBQ using that roasted tomato sauce (I scraped the roasted ingredients into a pot and macerated them using a hand blender).
As the school year begins again, my mind returns to the necessity of producing weekday suppers, frequently to be eaten at a ridiculously early hour, or immediately upon arriving home, due to after-school and evening activities. And so this blog will also return to a reprised version of The Week in Suppers. First edition coming tomorrow. Look for (mostly) vegetarian meal ideas, as our family attempts to go vegetarian for a month. Stay tuned.
I bought a half-bushel of zucchini from Bailey’s Local Foods. I happen to love zucchini, though apparently I’m alone, in the family, in this regard, though everyone else will eat it disguised in muffins and zucchini bread without objection. (Odd side note: Kevin can’t tell cucumbers from zucchinis; he really can’t, on visual inspection. Neither can several of his children. This has made for some sandwich-related disappointment over the years).
All of which is to say that the zucchini bruschetta, pictured above, was enjoyed only by me. But let me tell you, it’s such an excellent lunch.
To make it yourself: Slice one or two zucchinis length-wise into two to four pieces, and brush lightly with olive oil (sprinkle of salt optional). On a tray, bake or broil the slices for a few minutes, until somewhat softened. Remove from oven and top with red sauce (in the photo above, that’s actually a leftover sauce made with chopped zucchini and eggplant, so basically I was eating zucchini garnished with zucchini). Sprinkle on some feta. Broil on high until bubbly.
Eat. Feed to children at your own risk.
The black-raspberry canes in our back yard are enjoying a fruitful season. Which makes for an excellent serve-yourself anytime snack. The very definition of local food. Get ’em while the gettin’s good.
And if you’re of an entrepreneurial spirit, like AppleApple, you’ll spend a good half hour on a Saturday picking a pint of berries to sell to your mother (even better, you’ll employ your younger siblings at one penny per berry picked).
Monday supper. Ginger beef in crockpot, with tofu and brocolli. Baked rice on the side. The kids were off school today, but Kevin had to go to work (Easter Monday). I swam and ran early, and napped early, too, before Kevin left for work. I managed to file a story while the kids played. Or maybe they played wii, truth be told. In the afternoon, the kids and I went to a super-delicious “soup party” to which I contributed a big cake-shaped paska. It rained most of the day, but the kids played outside — soccer and hockey. We dashed home to get changed for swim lessons. CJ and I had many long chats about going in the pool alone, and he mostly said, “NO!” but was swayed, sort of, by the idea of a treat afterward (oh bribery!). When we arrived at the pool, my heart fell — his regular teachers were both sick; two substitutes instead. It turned out not to matter, though; the teachers kindly let me get in the water, too, and CJ willingly went with them, while occasionally leaping with a fake pout toward me. Mid-lesson we took a bathroom break (curses! this happens every time!), and when we got back, the kids were putting on life-jackets and playing with toys. CJ was thrilled. He didn’t even noticed when I climbed out of the water, and he waved happily to me for the rest of the lesson. Afterward, he got his treat: to spend a quarter at the candy machines. Of course the other kids got in on the quarter action, too. Dentist appointment next week. Is this a case of short-term gain for long-term pain? We squeezed in drum and guitar lessons after eating supper together. Kevin practiced soccer at 10pm.
Tuesday supper. Roasted red pepper soup with homemade croutons. Gallo pinto on the side. Green salad. (Gallo pinto is beans and rice fried together: always delicious, and an easy way to use up leftover rice and/or beans). The soup was delicious: I used red peppers roasted and frozen last summer. I had my last spin class of the season (everyone’s riding outside now). The little kids and I enjoyed a quiet morning together, and then our babysitter arrived for an extra afternoon (thank heavens — I missed two writing days due to Easter!). Kevin came home early so I could go to yoga. We waited and ate supper together, though AppleApple ate late, due to soccer practice (successful carpooling!). There were playdates all around after school. And the sun was shining.
Wednesday supper. “Roast” chicken in the crockpot: seasoned with garlic, onion, and sage. Green salad. I peeled and sliced the potatoes first thing in the morning, and kept them covered in cold water until arriving home from music class: then I boiled and mashed them up fresh. No one had to race off anywhere, so we could eat at our leisure: big thumbs up around the table. Today was an unusual day and I did not get a lot of writing done. Instead, Kevin and I met for lunch, and I decided to go ahead and buy a road bicycle and all the accoutrements. Exciting, and terrifying. (I hate spending money, especially on myself). After supper, I walked Albus to piano, and then jogged over to my dad’s to practice, along with my siblings, for his upcoming retirement dinner. We are singing and playing two songs together. My sister Edna and I worked out some pretty harmonies. We didn’t even know we could harmonize together. It took longer than expected. I ran home after Montreal tied up their game seven to go into overtime; and wasn’t home long before the goal that killed their playoff dreams was scored. Kevin was watching, of course.
Thursday supper. Sweet and sour chicken and tofu in the crockpot (oh, and a bit of leftover beef and brocolli, too). Served with baked rice. Kevin got up early this morning for yoga, so we are back to our regular schedule. The kids and I enjoyed playing with friends in the morning, then dashed to the grocery store. I also baked bread, made yogurt, and supper, and hung laundry in the early afternoon: domestic multi-tasking hell, to be perfectly frank. But it all got done in time for me to go to a vinyasa yoga class before supper where we tried a crazy upside-down hand-stand. We cancelled our babysitter due to AppleaApple’s soccer practice, which was then cancelled last-minute due to rain. Oh well. My dad and sister came over to practice the harmonies some more. Good feelings all around.
Friday supper. Braised squash, yams, and chickpeas in the crockpot, with couscous on the side; devilled eggs, too. (Leftovers were also served). The braised squash was a pitiful fail. I think it was the mushrooms I added to the mix. It was something. There was a funky scent going on. Sometimes crockpot meals seem to go from delicious to overcooked in the waning hours of the day. Next time, no mushrooms. At least the buttery couscous was delicious, and everyone liked the devilled eggs. After supper, we dumped the squash straight into the compost, though Kevin and I did eat a fair share; weirdly, it tasted okay, it was just smelled disgusting. I didn’t blame anyone for not trying it. Albus had a friend over who politely thanked me for supper. I felt like apologizing: sorry, kid, I know it was gross and you ate cold leftovers instead. Don’t tell your mother. I had a writing day, and started the morning with a swim. Kevin and I got some tv time together after the kids were in bed. We also met with a different contractor about the porch/office project, and with more optimistic results. We both like this man, we like his work, and his quote was significantly less than the previous quote, and within our budget. It looks like we will be getting the ball rolling over the course of the summer. AppleApple and Albus are already plotting who will get to claim the spare room upstairs (and Fooey and CJ would like to share a room). Lots of groundwork ahead: architectural drawings, permits, etc. We are all dreaming.
Saturday supper. Homemade pizza. The grownup portion had sliced cauliflower and hot pepper flakes, in addition to the kid version of roasted red pepper and cheese. I served nothing else, and we ate every last slice. Uh oh. Double batches, here we come. This was a fairly low-key day, and we finally enjoyed sunshine and warm breezes. There was soccer, of course, and AppleApple’s rehearsal for her theatre performance coming up at the end of the month, and errands, a birthday party, and also my first bike ride ever on a road bike. I only fell once, and it was at a stand-still into grass (the clip-in pedals take some getting used to). I’d meant to take the day off to rest for race-day tomorrow, but oh well. It was just too fun getting out into the sun and riding fast.
Sunday supper. Homemade burgers, nitrate-free hot dogs, homemade french fries, cut-up veggies. Kevin did most of the work, though it was supposed to be “cooking with kids”: Albus’s turn. He and his friend chopped the veggies, then went outside to play (messy, muddy, sandy play = ridiculous amounts of laundry!). The french fries were delicious. I ate more than my fair share. The morning was focused on my 10km race: my maiden voyage. It was so hard. I was chilled to the bone afterward, though I didn’t notice it until we got home and Kevin said: “Your lips are blue.” I took a long, hot bath. The kids gamely came along despite the rain, and my mom even got to see part of the race: she walked over from her church, which was nearby. Fooey’s favourite part was the hot chocolate: “I love hot chocolate,” she reported when someone asked her how the race was. I tried to nap, but was very physically wound up. Instead, I wandered around uselessly, and did a bunch of laundry. My dad and sister, and one of my brothers came over to practice again. I think we’re all set for Tuesday’s performance. One more chance to practice with the mics and the sound on Tuesday afternoon. The kids and I finished off the day together, watching an episode of The Amazing Race. We’re starting a bit late in the season, but it’s an easy show to follow. I really really enjoyed it. Sometimes tv is alright. I fell asleep last night just before the Obama announcement, though I did see it coming on Twitter. I heard the news about OBL early this morning, when I was running on the indoor track: two old men were discussing it. Funny, my Royal Wedding moment happened in the same building on Friday morning. I was swimming, and I looked up through my foggy goggles and saw the tv in the snack area: there were William and Kate pledging their vows. I watched for a breath or two, and thought, there it is, my wedding moment.
And there it is: our week in suppers.
Monday supper. Grilled sausages (breakfast, because that’s all we had left in the freezer). Mashed potato casserole (lots of cheese). Squash and beets cooked whole in the crockpot. Swim lessons were cancelled, so I had more time than expected after school to prepare supper. Not that it mattered. I’d made the casserole the night before and popped it into the fridge. It needed about twenty minutes in the oven. Most of us liked it. I would make it again, as a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes. Anyone out there have ideas for leftover potatoes? I’m stuck in a cottage pie/shepherd’s pie/casserole groove. I mashed the squash with a touch of maple syrup, and butter; always good. That was the last “keeper” squash and it was a bit soft at the top. The beets were so far gone I wasn’t sure they could be ressurected, but they steamed up nicely, and despite a slight overall rubberiness, when sliced and salted, they were sweet and tasty. But I’m tired of beets. And no one else will eat them. Kevin had soccer. I swam in the morning. In between, the kids had school, and CJ stayed for the “lunch bunch” at his nursery school, giving me an extra half hour to work. Or to nap, as the case may be. Then we went shoe shopping (for him) and clothes shopping (for me). It felt very car-based and suburban. Especially when I filled up the truck with gas. Good grief!
Tuesday supper. Curried carrot soup. Quinoa. Squash and egg casserole (big-time 70s recipe). On the soup, which should have been good: the curry flavours needed to be stronger. A friend sent the suggestion when I complained about the blandness of last batch of carrot soup (thank God, this batch marked the end of our carrot invasion). She suggested grating in fresh ginger at the very end to add an extra pop. But I cooked everything together and was far too conservative with my spice amounts. I froze the leftovers for a quick meal another time: will bump up the spices upon reheating. I would call this meal not a flop, exactly, but tinged with disappointment; nobody but Kevin and me ate the squash casserole, which was almost dessert-like and delicious, but decidedly unattractive. I napped early, almost immediately after getting home from spin class, and had lots of energy all day, enough to make it to yoga before supper. AppleApple had an outdoor soccer practice, so Kevin had the unenviable job of packing up CJ, and driving to pick up Fooey (on a playdate), then AppleApple (on a playdate), then Albus (on a playdate), and then racing to the soccer field. We ended up eating supper together, minus AppleApple, whom I picked up after supper. She’d eaten a bunch of snacks on the way there, but was famished enough to have a helping of squash casserole. CJ insisted on riding along to the soccer field, but I made him promise to listen to the federal leaders’ debate on the way. It put him to sleep (gah!), but somehow we managed to transfer him from truck to bed, and then to fool him into thinking it was very very late at night when he woke restlessly around 8pm. He must have been tired. He slept for a full 12 hours. The rest of the family stayed up watching the whole debate, and talking about what we’d heard. Then Kevin went to hockey.
Wednesday supper. Crockpot lentil soup: the harira recipe on this blog, over rice. Nice. Could have used a side veg, but I had nothing convenient on hand. This was an oddball day. CJ stayed for lunch bunch again, and my friend J picked him up, and I got to go for a massage instead! Woot! It was my gift to myself post-race. I also met with my brother in the morning to talk about cookbooks. I was floating the idea–the underdeveloped notion, more like it–of making a cookbook loosely based on this “week in suppers” theme. Talking to him (he works for a company that publishes a lot of cookbooks) put it into perspective. The work involved would be staggering. It might not be the best use of my time. Unless I do it slowly, over time, gradually gathering recipes and photos until I have enough material to justify putting a book together–and then arranging for recipe testing, etc. Fiction-writing is a better use of my time: that’s what it confirmed for me. Other nice things happened today: I went for a morning run with my friend N; I ran a quick errand uptown all by myself; I ate a spinach and feta pastry for lunch; my friend M took the little girls to their music class so I didn’t have to leave the house; and Kevin came home early so I could go to yoga. I took Albus to his piano lesson and read Annabel, by Kathleen Winter, a book I liked so much–loved might be the word for it–that I think I will blog about it soon.
Thursday supper. Beans and rice, with quesedillas and red cabbage salad. This entire week had flop written all over it. I don’t know how I managed it, since beans are my specialty, but somehow, when suppertime arrived, these were still hard in the pot and required a full hour of extra cooking time. So I fired up the cast-iron skillet and made a pile of quesedillas using corn tortillas (like a Latin American grilled cheese sandwich). Albus ate about six. AppleApple was at a birthday party, from which Kevin picked her up early to go to another soccer practice. The little kids played outside, and no one complained (too much) about being hungry. We ate late, when the beans finally softened. I forgot to take a photo. Instead, here’s AppleApple from another afternoon this week: yay! We have new space to play, now: it’s called Outside! (Or we did last week, before it decided to snow again). And we have big plans for backyard improvements (though I think we’ll pass on the water slide from Albus’s bedroom window down to a trampoline, as was brainstormed during Saturday night’s supper). Kevin and I had kundalini yoga, and then I put on my dancing shoes, and drove to nearby Guelph with two friends to go dancing. My siblings’ band was playing a show. Here’s a link to their latest video. If you ever get a chance to see Kidstreet play live, go go go! They throw down an instant dance party. That was a late night, especially considering my day had started at 5:15–to go swimming. But that’s okay. I told Kevin just before I ran the half that this coming week would be my party week.
Friday supper. Finally, success!!! I made miso soup and pad thai. Both were fabulous. The pad thai recipe was different from the usual ones involving ketchup: the sauce was 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, and a whole lot of sugar. I had some frozen cilantro that I added to the mix. The miso soup is so good and so simple that I made it again for the kids’ lunch the next day: it’s basically instant soup, if you have the ingredients on hand (miso paste, seaweed, and tofu). I was thrilled to have made a meal that everyone loved. AppleApple was at a playdate after school and arrived home toward the end of the meal. My late night/early morning combo (plus a morning run) caught up with me around 7pm, so Kevin did the dishes while I crashed out on the couch for about an hour and a half (!!!). Woke in time to tuck kids in, then we flopped and watched tv: Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock, and we tried out Modern Family, which I liked more than I’d expected to. Albus tried to stay up too. “What are you up to?” I asked him, when I discovered him hanging around the kitchen past his bedtime. “I’m observing,” he said.
Saturday supper. Take-out Indian from our favourite spot in town: Masala Bay! Kevin worked today, and I was tired. I managed to bake bread and granola, and to take the kids to the little park in a rainstorm, and to arrange transport for AppleApple, who has both Singer’s Theatre in the morning, and soccer practice in the afternoon (I asked her yesterday, picking her up from her FOURTH practice of the week, whether she feels she’s doing too much, to which she replied, “No!!!” She loves soccer. She likes being busy. She had difficulty imagining that a parent could push a child to do something the child wouldn’t want to do, anyway.) I had zero inspiration for supper. What a treat to order food that would have taken me an inordinate amount of effort to prepare. Samosas, pakoras, nan, black lentils in cream and butter, a fiery eggplant dish, butter chicken, chicken in chili and coriander. We feasted. We stayed at the table for over an hour, talking and laughing. CJ is still a bit young to participate fully, and he does end up interrupting and yelling sometimes, or dropping his fork to get attention, but I am otherwise relishing the stage that our family is at, and how much pleasure we get just from spending time together around the table. That evening Kevin and I got to party some more, to celebrate my friend J’s graduation from midwifery school. More dancing, and free drinks. Another late night.
Sunday supper. Leftovers and scrambled eggs. There were enough Indian leftovers for an entire second supper, to which AppleApple added scrambled eggs made-to-order. I’ve been giving the older kids more freedom in the kitchen, and they spent a lot of time last week making tea (after getting permission to use the stove). AppleApple was keen to learn how to make scrambled eggs, envisioning herself rising early to cook herself breakfast (which would be, frankly, awesome). It was a fairly tricky process, but by the end, she made a batch without anyone watching over her shoulder. The gas stove makes it feel more dangerous, but it’s time for the kids to find real independence in the kitchen. And it’s time for me to ease up and let them. (On a side note: CJ agreed to be three this week: because he wanted to take a turn at cooking, and I told him that it starts when you turn four. “And you’re still two, so that’s a long way to go.” He considered his options briefly, and told me, “I’m three now.”) We’ve noticed some improvements in responsibility, and I think it’s more to do with my own expectations than with their initiative (or lack thereof). Tidying the house yesterday was so much easier with everyone responsible for their own spaces, and helping out overall: they helped because they were expected to help, and they got that. But I’m a bit of a control freak in the kitchen (just ask Kevin), so I’m reminding myself to back off and make space for everyone else to help out here, too. No exercise yesterday or today. Yup, it was a party week. We ended the day with homework completed, piano practiced, and a planning meeting over a pot of tea: always a good entry into the new week ahead.
Some food stores well in our cold cellar. Some food does not. The sweet keeper squash is still going strong, but all other squashes are turning, uh, squishy. Squishes. We’ve kept them past their prime. Note to self: buy in bulk early in the season, eat lots, and by January at the very latest, shred and freeze the rest. Late February is too late. Although also note: some slightly squishy squash may be peeled and turned into soup.
Excellent keepers: garlic, stored in brown paper bags (I love my Ontario garlic! If you think you know garlic, and you’ve only ever met grocery store Chinese-grown garlic, I would like to introduce you to a whole different vegetable [is it a vegetable?]); potatoes, as long as you root through the big bag and compost any soft specimens–they keep best stored in smaller amounts in brown paper bags; beets, just like potatoes, only everyone gets much more tired of them, and kind of wishes they wouldn’t keep so well (though they do make good pickles).
Good keepers: apples. Our cold cellar can’t preserve them as well as Martin’s, our local apple farm, but we buy half a bushel or more at a time, and, stored in our cold cellar, they stay crispy ’til eaten. But we can go through half a bushel in two weeks, so it’s hard to put a fine end date on their cold cellar lives.
Decent keepers: yams, turnips, green cabbage, napa cabbage, pears. Lower your expectations. Don’t leave them to linger all winter long. Eat within the month (even sooner for the napa). We store them loose on wire shelves, with the exception of the pears, which are stored, like the apples, in a handy bin. The pears must been eaten within two weeks, we’ve found, and they rot deceptively, from the inside out.
Not to be kept in the cold cellar: onions, which apparently have an ill effect on apples, so we store them in a dark cupboard in the kitchen; and carrots, which keep best in the refrigerator. It’s not practical to have more than 10 lbs in the bottom drawer of the fridge, but luckily, through Bailey’s Local Foods, I can buy a new 10 lb bag every month. And when that’s not enough, I can drive to Martin’s farm and buy more.
In the freezer, which I’m digging into with ever more gratitude for last summer’s kept harvest, I wish there were more: corn and green beans. And less peas and beet greens. I am absolutely thrilled with the amount of plums and apricots, and the happy surprise of blueberries, (enough to get us through til April or May). But the frozen applesauce is wasted space. Note to self: can the stuff! My canned pearsauce has lasted til now (last jar opened last night). My tomatoes are hanging in there, but with an upswing in soup and stew production, the jolly red jars are beginning to dwindle. I must do a head count. I want them to last through May, and it’s time to start rationing. The frozen roasted red peppers continue to delight. And finally, I am happy with my frozen herbs, but could have frozen far more cilantro and basil, the latter particularly, because there is nothing like a heaping bowl of pasta with pesto to make a winter’s supper sing. But I would like to critique my own freezing method–packing fresh leaves into ice cube trays and covering with water to freeze, then removing to store in bags. Note to self: less water, more leaves.
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