Friday, July 21, 2017

Tomatoes! Monthly Meal Planning Nearly Done

The last three days have been hot, humid and (finally) SUMMERY!! Everything in the garden seems to have popped! I saw a few regular tomatoes growing in Tomato Land.

And some cherry tomatoes too! :) The Romas are flowering now since I pruned off the yellow leaves, fingers crossed!

My potatoes are starting to flower too, aren't those flowers pretty?

I've been spending most of the last few days with my nose in cookbooks and flyers. This is my baking and cheese making list for the month. I usually always make more stuff but these are the planned items. Alex and I have made so many different cherry concoctions lately! One of the liqueurs will be ready to taste on Tuesday which means we'll have lots of brandy-soaked cherries - thus the ice cream and the cake!!

Speaking of cherries, we're at it again! They're back to being a good price! I'll have to check the quality at the store, but if they're good, we will be making more spirit-infused cherries and various liqueurs!

Monday is my monthly shopping day so I had 30 days of meal planning to do. I'm on Day Three of the Planning. 

Day One: Download and look through all the grocery flyers for this week; make a list of things we need and update the freezer and pantry inventory. - done!

Day Two: Go through the cookbooks, my online recipes and my recipe idea list and plan 30 dinners based on flyer sales and what I have on hand. - done!

Day Three: Make a shopping list for each dinner, baking and cheese making item, make a list of what needs labeling and "reserving". Schedule each dinner to a date. - done! 

If anyone wants dinner ideas, I'm starting to post my menu planning on separate pages. Here is my 30-Day Menu for July 24th through to August 22nd page. I've included links to recipes where I could, if they're online or I've posted them before.

I always schedule the fresher meals right after I buy the produce. If necessary though, I'll drop by the local store to buy more produce if I need it. I can't wait until the day that I don't have to plan to BUY day... :)

So the last step is to make an actual shopping list and estimate the prices based on flyer sales and past shopping bills. If I'm over budget, I need to cut things out or change the meal plan a bit. That's Day Four of my process!

It sounds like a lot, but I've found I'm less stressed when I take four days to plan for a month, then get it all over with in one day. It works for me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Pea and a Beet Walk Into A Bar...and a Cheesy Weekend

So a pea and a beet walk into a bar.
Pea: "Hey, you're looking tired my friend."
Beet: "Yeah, it's been a long day, I'm just beet."

Har har...Yes, I made that one up on my own. My talents are endless! ;)

This was yesterday's harvest. I think my peas are done for the year! But...I did get my first ever beet! I also noticed that the green beans and yellow beans are starting to show some buds! Exciting!

Boo hoo...Pavlov is gone. :(  Our friend decided to take him home. I'm really going to miss him! I hope our little husky Charlie is okay, she really clung to Pavlov...every young gal needs a crush!

Here's Alex with the 5-pack. We had one last walk in the woods with the big pack. Pavlov was reunited with his mom Stella after they were apart for two months, they're pretty happy! There were a few grumblings between Mom Stella and Charlie in Charge (maybe over Pavlov? lol)...but other than that, it was a nice visit!

We made the Spoiled Dog Cake again for Pavlov's "bon voyage" party! Mmm...bacon-flavoured Pupperonis! It was funny, Alex kept saying how moist the cake looked...I told him to dig right in, but he respectfully declined saying he didn't want to take anything away from the dogs! :)

For dinner on Monday I made my version of a Cobb Salad. I used my homemade Mozzarella, home grown lettuce, chives and parsley too.

After a walk in the woods yesterday morning and then a dip in the river, we came home to a beautiful cheese and paté board with fresh strawberries and homemade bread! I didn't realize until I looked at the photos today how cheese-heavy the weekend was! (no complaints!)

Note: I was going to change the last sentence because our friend came on Monday...which is not really a "weekend" visit is it? But it's just a testament to the fact that time means nothing to us here in the mountains!

To give us some comfort after having to say goodbye to Pavlov, Alex and I had a fondue dinner! Have you ever had Welsh Rabbit? It's a melted cheese sauce poured over bread. In our case, it's a Cheddar and ale fondue. We made ours with Newcastle brown ale and added some bacon to it. It was pure comfort, mind you we had trouble doing much else but nodding off after! Don't plan on operating large equipment after you make this about a food coma!!

I served ours with sausages, apples and homemade bread. Correct me anyone if I'm wrong, but I read that the name has been changed over the years to Welsh Rarebit because the general population in North America got confused over the fact that is was a cheese sauce and not an actual rabbit from Wales that they were preparing and eating. Sounds silly doesn't it? I'll still call it a Welsh Rabbit!

We're going to take a break from the cholesterol party for a while this week and eat more clean for a few days. I always say we just need a little red wine to counter the fat cheese effect, it might have merit to it right? ;)

I may have mentioned this in one of the comments, but it's kind of nice having our "small" pack of three dogs and three cats again. I do miss Pavlov but it was a good lesson to learn that four dogs would be too much for us as this point. We got back to our routine of a morning walk in the woods and it felt great! I've just been bragging about the hot summer weather we've had the last few days and as I type this, it's cooled off and is pouring rain again...sigh...I built shelters for my tomatoes for long rainy days, I hope that gets them back on track and the yellow leaves don't come back (I pruned them).

My monthly shopping day is coming up quick so I'll be planning out breakfasts and dinners for thirty days plus the shopping list and budget for the rest of the week! I hope everyone is enjoying their week!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Garden and Year of Projects Update (YOP Week 3)

Enchiladas! I made these slightly different than I normally do. I usually use black beans, but had none so I used corn instead. They were delicious! We're still using store-bought Monteray Jack cheese until I can figure out how to make my own. :)

Speaking of is an update on two of my Year Of Projects projects. (I'm a day early for posting, but the next few days will be kind of busy preparing for a house guest!) I have links on my sidebar to other members who have posted so far if you would like to check out their projects too! (YOP-ers, if your link isn't there, let me know please!)

1. Beach Cover Up: I got some good progress done, I started the back and knitted about an inch. See the arrow? See all the loose yarn and slipped stitches? Who was responsible?

GUILTY: my lovely pack of bratty canines decided to have a little fun with my knitting bag. fault for leaving it within I will be starting over again this week! I can't stay mad at them!

2. Cheese Making: SUCCESS!!! I made my second batch of Mozzarella and it was amazing! Please read the whole post on Rainy Day Cheese Making if you're interested! (I'm so happy about this batch!) We put together a little plate with some homemade bread and sprinkled fresh chives on the cheese - oooh la la!

My Cheddar adventure begins this week! I'm just waiting on a 12-quart pot that I ordered - I neglected to even think that my 6-quart pot (5.6 liters) was too small for anything, but each batch of Cheddar requires 2 gallons (7.5 liters) of milk plus other stuff...(Dianna, you might want to note that!) I had to return an 8-quart pot I bought last week because it would have been a little too small.

Those are my two summer projects and I'll post my progress weekly. On to the garden!

Check out my garbage bin potatoes! This is one of the bins and the other is behind it..they are really growing tall. I "hilled" them as much as I could, so now it's the waiting game!

The pumpkin patch is also thriving! It's not too visible but the plants are starting to flower, I can't wait to see some pumpkins!

From left to right in the round containers: Orange peppers, Chamomile, Strawberries, Ground Cherries:

BUBKIS: officially definition of bubkis: nothing, lame, goofy; all of these apply!

Either they have stalled or I'll get nothing at all. The rectangle bin with the third round of lettuce is doing well though! All of my other plants are slow to grow. My tomato plant's leaves are turning yellow...way too much rain and not enough sun this summer. I will have to build "umbrellas" to protect them from now on. The Romas look so sad... :( But my herbs are thriving...I take the good with the bad!

Aah, young love :) Our husky Charlie has taken a real shine to our house guest Pavlov. She was kind of a loner for a while, but when Pavlov came to visit, she brightened up so much and the two of them are joined at the hip, always playing and wrestling. Our friend is coming over on Monday for a few days; and we'll see if he decides to take Pavlov home with him or not. There is a small chance he'll leave Pavlov with his mom Stella for the summer while he gets his life more organized. I have to admit, a small part of me would love the rest of the summer with FIVE dogs in the house! I know Charlie would!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Year Of Projects (YOP Week 2)

Inspired by Sam I Am (who has limitless energy and projects going!), I have decided to join the Ravelry group A Year Of Projects (YOP) . The group is open to anyone and the rules are simple, you set yourself a list of projects to knit (sew, crochet, any craft), post on the group's board, and blog about it weekly every Sunday with your progress (which makes my post 3 days late, I'll work on that!!). The YOP runs from July 1st through to June 30th the next year and you can really start anytime. I've been working on my project list for a few weeks while I've been waiting for my circular needles to arrive in the mail!

I knitted these two Halloween pals a long time ago and have since lost the patterns, but I remember having so much fun creating knitted crafts. My winters here in the mountains are long and now that I am powered by painkilling Arnica gel for my hands, I am giving knitting another go! I think this is a great idea if you need a little support and motivation to get projects done.

So here is my Project List for 2017 (July 1 2017 - June 30 2018), I have eight of them:

1. Weekend Beach Cover Up: This is my first project, and I'll be starting this today. I now have the yarn, needles and pattern ready to go! In the summer when it's nice and hot outside, I spend most of the time on the porch in beach wear. I have one cover up, but I really would like to make one of my own.
Status: Starting today!

This is the colour I chose for the cover-up, a nice grey. The yarn is so soft and not too heavy. I've only knitted small projects before so this will be the most challenging one to date! :)

2. Hudson's Bay Blanket: I found this pattern online a long time ago. It's for a baby blanket, but my goal is to make one that fits our Queen sized bed. I grew up with Hudson's Bay colours - they were everywhere from winter coats, to blankets to even coffee mugs! I looked into buying one last winter, but oh my gosh are they expensive....they are not priced from the 1980's anymore that's for sure! I want this to be my main project for the winter.
Status: Planned

3. Early Morning Meadow Sweater: I've always wanted to knit myself a sweater, but I always lacked the confidence, so this will be my second winter project. I think I might choose a light grey or white colour. I hope I'm smiling like the gal in the photo when I'm done! :)
Status: Planned

4. Cheese Making: If you ask me, cheese making is a craft in itself! I'll be reporting all of my cheesy projects on my other blog Rainy Day Cheese Making. I have lofty cheese goals this year and here they are:

- Pizza Mozzarella
- 3 month aged Cheddar
- 6 month aged Cheddar
- 12 month aged Cheddar
- 6 to 12 month aged Red Wine Infused Cheddar
- Cream Cheese
- Camembert
- Blue Cheese (this is a maybe, it's complicated, needs good aging atmosphere and more equipment)

Status: Ongoing; Year Long

5. Memory Board: In my office, the wall space is limited because I like to put up all of my paintings. On one wall, I have a small cork board that I made years ago. It's adhesive cork on an old piece of cardboard box, with dark brown tape around it. It works, but it's very flimsy! My goal is to make a sturdy Memory Board on a plywood base. I look at this board several times a day and it makes me so happy. :)
Status: Planned

6. Organization Station: I'm a sucker for routine and planning! Every week or so, I update my little dry/erase board with my planned brunches and dinners. But I need a better system because I'm constantly looking for things and going back and forth to my laptop for more information...I have our shopping list taped to the fridge, our inventory list sitting on my desk...

I saw this on Pinterest and I love the idea. I haven't figured out quite what I'll be doing yet, but by the end of this year, I'll be much more organized!!
Status: Planned

7. Cold Frame(s) for Winter Gardening: After building my own screened-in porch this summer, I think that building a cold frame or two will be a cinch. :) At least I hope so! I can always ask Alex for help, but there is something about building your own projects that is extra rewarding! The plan is to make two of them, and I'll likely need to build raised beds as well. I have two spots on either side of the porch that I'll use for greens and winter-hardy veggies. Very exciting!
Status: Planned

8. Painting: For whatever reason, I have stopped my painting projects. I'm saddened by this because it gives me so much pleasure. When I'm painting, I'm very creative and I really relax and enjoy myself.

As some of my Blogger friends already know, I started painting watercolours of our pets. Charlie and Jack are done. My painting project for the summer and fall is to paint Marlene and the three cats Dana, Oscar and Leo. Our friend will be here this weekend to pick up Pavlov but there is a slight possibility that he will leave him for the summer with his other dog Stella (Pavlov's Mom). If so, I'll add those two to my painting list.

During the winter, I would like to challenge myself to at least one watercolour per month. I used to paint with oils and acrylics, so I might go back into that as well, but watercolours are just so vibrant!
Status: Planned

Feel free to join in casually or officially with the Ravelry group! Let's motivate each other! :)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Kitchen Creations! Ice Cream, Cheese, Cherries

The past weekend, Alex and I were really creative in the kitchen! That's what happens when it's stormy outside and weekenders are loud. It keeps us indoors and when we have the motivation, we are very creative! :) I started my cheese making this weekend! The above picture is the before shot of Mozzarella...

And here is the after shot! :) Please check out the full post on my other (new) blog Rainy Day Cheese Making! I admit, I had some ifs/ands/ors and buts...but for my first attempt at making cheese, it was a great experience and a well-deserved notch under my cheese making belt! The next cheese will be Cheddar!

Summertime is pretty much the only time we eat fruit; well, other than frozen berries all winter in our smoothies. We bought a watermelon the other day and Alex had the idea of adding some spiced rum to it. Most recipes call for an entire bottle of rum for a watermelon, yeesh! I don't want to get drunk off my fruit lol...I just want flavour. So we kind of put together some "winter" spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise) and added orange rinds and fresh vanilla bean to the rum.

We're going to let that sit for 24 hours, taste it, then add half to the watermelon. I really enjoy Captain Morgan's White Spiced Rum and we're hoping we can recreate that flavour on our own. I'll report the results in a few days!

I made this Country Peach Ice Cream a few weeks back, but never had the chance to post about it! It's made very differently from the other ice creams I've made. This one is made with egg yolks. A custard is cooked and then everything is strained and brought together a day later in the ice cream maker. I can't say I'm a big fan of this style of ice cream, called "French Style". Alex loves it though, so I'll keep making this one for him with different flavours.

We still had about six pounds of cherries left so Alex spent some time pitting them. He used a wine bottle to hold the cherry and pushed the pit out with a chop stick. If we venture further into cherry stuff, we'll definitely be investing in a cherry pitter! We kept the pits because...

Alex decided on trying out some Cherry Pit liqueurs! Disclaimer: YES...I know that cherry pits DO contain I'll be feeding Alex a little bit of this liqueur daily for the insurance watch too many old movies. Actually there is so little cyanide in these that you need to actually consume over a thousand cherry pits (chewing them) to suffer any kind of poisoning, so we're good! :) We tasted it last night after simmering it for a while and wow...have you ever had Peter Heering Cherry liqueur? Well, it's close! This will sit undisturbed for a good 3 months as well.

Another new creation! I made a "Croque Monsieur" pizza! :) That made two days in a row of pizza, lovely! :) We had leftover "all-dressed" from Saturday night (using the new Mozzarella I made!) and last night I made a cheese sauce (from my Croque Monsieur recipe), loaded it with ham and sprinkled on some Gruyere and ground thyme...I can't describe the deliciousneess of this in words! :) Definitely a keeper!

More ice cream making! :) I made Coffee Ice Cream this morning. I decided at the last minute to add some Bailey's and it was just wonderful. Ice cream making has become a nice hobby for me!

This is the last of the fresh (inexpensive) strawberries! Gosh these fruit "seasons" don't last too long. I'm making another strawberry ice cream - but this time I'm making a "coulis" type of syrup and straining it before I freeze it. The last Strawberry Ice Cream was good, but the strawberry bits were too icy to enjoy. I'll report how this turns out in a few days! The rest of the strawberries will likely go to dessert tonight.

So I'll end my Monday post with some pets...always a sweet way to end a post! :)
(I had to actually verify that today was Monday...I'm so content with my lifestyle, I lose track of time!)

Oscar and "Mr. Wrinkles".

Pavlov and Marlene. Anyone seeing Pavlov in this photo might think he'd have us for dinner! He was just in the middle of a yawn when I got this photo!

Happy Monday to all! :))