Best Week!

Recently, I had the BEST week this summer. First of all, it had been 3 or 4 days since it rained!! Yeah! It has rained nearly EVERY SINGLE DAY this summer. And torrential downpours too; not sissy little sprinkling of rain “showers”. Since spring, my yard has suffered major floods three times when the river overflowed it’s banks plus spotty minor floods where the yard sprouts large “puddles” filled with rain water. So needless to say, several days of NO rain and sunshine is extremely welcomed around here! And to make matters even more delicious, the temperatures had been just warm enough (20-25 Celsius) to keep my toes from getting cold and NO humidity. What more could I ask for?

more rain

Rain!  Rain!  Rain!

So I asked my granddaughters Kalia and Olivia if they wanted to come to Gramma’s for a sleepover. And a Harry Potter movie marathon! We planned to watch ALL 8 HP movies IN A ROW. That’s about 16+ hours of movie watching! I was quite surprised when my almost 12 & 14 year old granddaughters enthusiastically wanted to come spend time with their ol’ granny.

When they arrived at 10 a.m., we drove into town for ‘snacks’. You HAVE to have snacks and junk food for movie marathons don’t ya know. We shopped at several stores for an hour an a half then we were ready (and armed) to come home and start the marathon! Chips, juice, chocolate bars, gummy worms, popcorn. A feast fit for a queen.

Wmmmm

Homemade Lasagna

I planned to make homemade lasagna for dinner (recipe here) because I wanted us to have a nutritious meal amidst all the other food-like items they were snacking on. I know both girls love my lasagna and everyone ate heartily. After dinner, we went for a bike ride to “shake the sillies out” and get ready for an evening of MORE movies. We saw one of our ‘resident’ White Tail Deer and the flock of wild Turkeys in the field.

Bike ride

Bike ride in the neighbourhood

Back to the movie-watching. We made it until 10 p.m. then started to get tired. Everyone went into Nellie’s room to do a couple of word search puzzles before snuggling down to sleep. The girls shared the bed in the spare room – Livi tucked around Kalia to keep warm.

The next morning, we started watching more Harry Potter movies. We made it through 6 movies before it was time for the girls to go home. We only have the last two movies from the last book to watch. Maybe the first PDDay during school?

I’ve watched all these HP movies many times and I still love them. It’s great to share something with my grandchildren and grown daughter Nellie that we ALL love. And who doesn’t love Harry Potter!!

Having my granddaughters here for a sleepover was the BEST part of the week for me!

And likely even the whole summer……

Harry Potter Books

Harry Potter books

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There’s a First Time for Everything!

 

It’s been a very wet and cool, even cold, spring. Last month, we had record amounts of rain with flooding around the area. We’ve had unseasonably below average temperatures barely in the teens at times.

Today, it’s raining again and barely 10C degrees with a forecast high of 14. And I did something that I’ve never done in June before: I made a fire in my cookstove to warm up the house! The wind is blowing at around 35 km/hr. keeping my Canadian flag whipping in the wind.

Christmas 003

Cookstove

 

So what better way to celebrate a cold and rainy day but to make a beef stew (recipe here). I had some grass-fed, local beef left over from Sunday’s roast and added cut-up chunks to the turnip, onion, carrots, and celery and let it simmer all afternoon. This adds to the heat from the dwindling fire in the cookstove, steaming up the windows. The smell is intoxicating. Potatoes are added about an hour before supper as well as the leftover homemade gravy.

 
Beef stew in June. Who’d of thunk!

Flag2WM

Backyard flag at the river

 

Banana Bread

 

A few days ago, I bought a large bag of very ripe bananas at the insanely reduced price of $1 at my local store. There were TEN ripe, medium sized bananas in the bag! Wow, I thought, it looks like I’ll be making some banana bread!

When I peeled the bananas this morning, all but two were perfect inside – no bruises. Amazing that they’d want to get ride of a perfect product just because it ‘looks’ bad on the outside. I guess this is my commentary of how the world is in general: just because someone or something appears less than perfect on the outside doesn’t mean that they are imperfect on the inside. And so what if someone or something isn’t perfect anyway! My sweet Mother used to always say “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – a mantra I’ve always embraced.

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Mashing Ripe Bananas

Back to banana bread.

So first thing this morning, after my breakfast, I got busy making banana bread. I got out my loaf pans and prepared them by oiling all the inside and lightly dusting the bottom with flour.

I assembled all my bowls, measuring cups (one for dry ingredients and one for wet), measuring spoons, and ingredients. Then I began mashing the bananas one at a time on a plate with a fork – it’s really quite easy. I added each banana to the measuring cup after mashing it but I know from past experience that I’ll need 5-6 bananas for this recipe. This recipe is for 2 loaves – which freeze nicely if you want to save one for later. With the rest of the leftover bananas, I mashed up another 2 cups of banana to store in the freezer for later use. You can also simply put a very overripe whole banana in the freezer to use later.

Once baked, this banana bread should cool on a wire rack in their pans for about a half an hour. Then it’s ready for taste-testing. A slice of warm banana bread, with butter spread generously on top, and a cup of tea is to die for.

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Banana Bread Recipe (2 loaves)

2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5-6 bananas)
2/3 cup oil or melted butter (please don’t use margarine)
1 cup honey or brown sugar
4 eggs (I use local free-run eggs where the chickens aren’t caged)
3 1/2 cups of flour, preferably whole wheat
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup hot water

Beat the oil and honey/sugar together. I like to use as few dishes as possible so I crack the eggs, one at a time, in the measuring cup I just used for the oil. I beat each egg, then add it to the mixture before going on to the next egg. Mix well after all the eggs have been added. Add the mashed bananas. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the hot water, to the banana mixture and mix until smooth. Pour equally into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake at 325F degrees for 55 – 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for half an hour. Slice and enjoy!

 

from my family cookbook Mom’s Recipes

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Nettle Tea

I love tea – yes, I’m a real ‘tea granny’. I also like iced tea. When I went to Florida a few years ago with some of my grown kids/grandkids, I learned that you had to ask for ‘hot tea’ is you did not want ice tea.

NettlesWM

 
I’ve already harvested my first batch of Stinging Nettle found growing wild around my yard near the pond, river, and (unfortunately) the playhouse, where a big bunch was leaning into the porch blocking the door just waiting to brush against bare skin, stinging it for hours. Nettle is one of those amazing plants that I love and dislike. I don’t like how the raw plant stings my skin but I just love the great, healthy tea that it makes.
I picked the leaves with heavy garden gloves on to avoid the sting. I actually cut off each leaf and put it in a bag closepinned to my pants. When I got back up to the house, I blew off each leaf and placed it in my dehydrator to dry overnight.

Drying Nettles

Nettles in the Dehydrator

The next morning it was done – shrunken, crisp and ready to crumble into a glass jar to store. But first I had to make a batch of nettle ice tea to keep in the fridge for the upcoming days of heat and humidity. I fill a large tea strainer with as much dried nettle as I can stuff in. Then I place it in a glass Mason jar and fill it with boiling water. It takes hours to cool before I put it in the fridge. I leave in the strainer for at least a day to get all the flavour and nutrients I can.
I love nettle ice tea sweetened with my own maple syrup that I made this spring and with a slice of frozen lemon (to keep it cold) – especially after I come in from working outdoors in the garden for a few hours. Usually after I’m done with a glass of nettle ice tea, I refill it with water, keeping the lemon to add a delicious tarty flavour.
I wrote about Nettles a few years ago if you want to read about it here  https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/nettles/ .

Nettle2WM

Poison Ivy

 

It loves me. It stalks me. It finds me. Every single year. No matter how careful I am to avoid it, Poison Ivy hunts me down and infects me. “Leaves of three, let them be”. Ya, right……

I wear long sleeves and gloves and try to stay away from this monstrous plant which resides under the cedars out front. Poison Ivy releases Urushiol oil which is so potent that only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. The problem is that I sweat a lot when I work, especially with long sleeves and pants, so my open pores absorb the resin deeply into my skin. I’m aware that poison ivy is out to get me so I’m careful about removing my outer clothing in the mudroom before I come in the house.

poison ivy
I wash my exposed face and neck with Sunlight laundry bar soap as soon as a get in the house to get off any Poison Ivy residue. But it LOVES me too much to let me go! I saw two plants this week while I was mulching and I didn’t touch them but covered them with about 6″ of mulch. TWO PLANTS!! Two lousy plants!
The ‘blisters’ started to come out the next day. First below my lower lip then beside my right eye. Then my forearms had tons of little spots that started to itch. Two years ago, the poison ivy was so bad on my face that my eyes were swollen shut – it was time for medical intervention. My daughter drove me to the doctors and I was prescribed Prednisone. I hated to take it but I was desperate – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve tried many remedies to reduce the itching: Calamine lotion; rubbing alcohol; hydrocortisone cream; letting Sunlight laundry soap bar dry on my skin; taking mega doses of garlic and vitamin C; you name it! But nothing really works for me – it just has to run it’s course which takes about 3-4 weeks. This year, when my right eye started to swell shut and the itchy blisters covered my forearms, I had to resign to a 5 day course of Prednisone and benadryl. 😦

WM

Two years ago my eyes swelled shut

I made some forearm ‘sleeves’ from old socks to cover the oozing blisters and prevent me from scratching. I’m trying to avoid scratching which can be a real test.
I have tried, in the past, to eradicate each plant – vinegar; covering it with a jar or can (hopefully it would suffocate); leaving it alone and hoping it would go away. One year I was SO desperate that I even bought RoundUp to kill it. Then I couldn’t bear to use it on all of them (maybe I should have…..) because I’m a supporter of a healthy ecosystem.
Maybe all I have to do is simply stay away from that part of my garden and let the whole area run wild! I’m just a sucker for punishment I guess.

Candied Squash

I love squash. My favourites are the winter types like Acorn, Butternut, and Buttercup but my overall, hands-down best is Butternut. During the summer, I like to BBQ sliced Zucchini squash brushed with my homemade Italian salad dressing.
I’ve roasted Butternut squash halves in my oven while I cook dinner. I’ve also made a yummy Curried Squash Soup (recipe here) that my DIL Jeanette introduced me to. Lately though, I’ve been craving for squash nearly every day – it’s probably due to my body’s need for more squash-specific nutrition. Afterall, squash is the new Superfood. It contains a huge amount of vitamins A, C, E, B6, B2, B3, K, niacin, thiamin, manganese, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, omega 3 fats, magnesium, and fiber.

homegrown squash

Organic Homegrown Squash

I grow squash in my garden or purchase locally grown produce in the fall – one of the best things about squash is that it’s locally grown and available all winter long. It’s not suprising why North American Natives grew “the three sisters”, corn, squash, and beans as a dietary staple. I store it every fall in my mudroom in a basket on the floor. It’s pretty cool in there all winter and I know squash probably doesn’t like it THAT cool (45F degrees/7C) but they seem to be just fine. It’s easy to cut off a hunk from the neck or half a squash and cook it randomly inside the oven of my wood cookstove.
I decided to add a little zest to my squash and now this has become my favourite! I call it Candied Squash.  It’s not really candy but it might as well be to me!   Here’s the recipe:

1WM

 
Candied Squash Recipe

1/2 butternut squash or the neck of a butternut squash
Butter – please, please do NOT use margarine (a bucket of chemicals)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
cinnamon
Scoop out any seeds inside the squash half you are using. I cover the open end of the other piece with a leftover plastic bag and put it back in storage with the rest.
Slice into one inch pieces. Peel off the outer skin. Cut into one inch cubes.

2WM

Butter lightly a baking dish or piece of tin foil. Put in the squash. Add 4-5 small pieces of butter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover or wrap the tinfoil to completely cover it.

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Bake for at least an hour at 325F degrees. I left mine in the cookstove yesterday for 4 hours because I forgot about it and it was deliciously ‘well-done’!
I usually simply pour it into a bowl and eat. Sometimes, if I’ve planned ahead, I add it as a side to my dinner meal.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and discover that squash tastes as good as it looks.

4WM

Christmas Baking Recipes

It’s that time of year again for Christmas baking.  Even though Christmas is less than two weeks away, I still haven’t started any of my baking yet and I blame it all on global warming.  Yes, that’s right, global warming a.k.a. climate change.  IT’S +10C OUTSIDE these days and the temperature doesn’t go below zero overnight!   Two all-time record high temperatures were shattered in the last two days.  There has been no snow (this time last year we had 25 cms of snow) and the grass is still emerald green and growing!  How’s a person supposed to get into the Christmas mood?  I’ve tried by getting out my Christmas village and decorating the house to raise my Christmas spirit…..  I usually do most of my Christmas baking a few weeks before Christmas and freeze the baked goods in tins in my garage but since it’s unusually warm, my garage isn’t cold inside.  This year, I’ll be baking the day before Christmas unless we get a sudden cold snap.

I want to share my favourite Christmas recipes including Hello Dollies, Chocolate Chow Mein Clusters, and Rice Krispy Squares.  You’ll find my other Christmas recipes I previously posted for Cherry Cheesecake, Chocolate Cocoanut Macaroons, and Peanut Brittle by clicking on their names.

Macaroon

Chocolate Cocoanut Macaroons

 

Hello Dolly Recipe

I have no idea where this name came from!  I got this recipe from Karen Sibbett almost 45 years ago.  My son Darin really, really likes these.

¼ cup butter

1 cup graham wafer crumbs

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded, unsweetened cocoanut

1 cup of chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Melt butter in a 9X13” pan and spread around including sides.   Add graham wafer crumbs, spreading evenly around.  Add the walnuts, cocoanut, and chocolate chips sprinkling evenly.  Top with sweetened condensed milk.

Bake at 325F for 20 minutes on the oven rack that is place one slot higher.

Cool completely and then cut into one inch, bite-size squares.  These freeze very well.

 

Chocolate Chow Mein Clusters Recipe

I believe that my son Taylor prefers these.

In the top of a double boiler, combine:

½ cup butter

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

½ cup butterscotch chips

¼ cup peanut butter

Stir often until melted.

In a bowl, mix:

2 cups dry chow mein noodles

1 cup peanuts

Add to melted mixture, stirring well to combine all the ingredients.  Spoon blobs on a cookie sheet.  Cool then store in a container with a well-fitting lid.  Freezes well.  Serve at room temperature.

 

Rice Krispie Squares Recipe

Of course, who wouldn’t love these anytime – my grandchildren sure do!

In a large pot, melt:

¼ cup butter

1 package of marshmallows

Add and quickly mix:

½ teaspoon vanilla

5 cups Rice Krispies

Press into a buttered 9X13” pan.  Cool.  Cut into bite-size squares…… or bigger.

Enjoy!

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Cherry Cheesecake

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